Fluttershy tells the story of her brother, and the family that rejected him.
I always loved my little brother. He has always been one of the friendliest, sweetest, and most unique colts you would ever meet. But I always had the knowledge that he was different, and a lot of ponies would hate him for it. It wasn't until this most recent spring that the cruel reality of the world would break him down. From that moment on, Celestia could only tell what his fate would bring. My name is Fluttershy, and this is the story of my brother, Mockingbird.
Rated Teen: For language, strong homophobic slurs, violence, and sexual content.
I sit in the quiet comfort of my cottage on the outskirts of Ponyville. My many animal friends flock, fly, hop, scurry, run, climb and rest within my many walls and cupboards. My love for all living things is what allows me to give them a warm home, such as this, and I am proud for it. My unconditional love for all has touched several animals and ponies alike.
But even a powerful heart is given its limits.
In front of me, my hooves press the keys of an ancient typewriter, musically chiming the words of my mind. I think of all that has happened to me with a still conflicted mind. I type memories that I wish I could forget, names that either pierce or warm my heart and the story that can never be forgotten.
I have always been told that my greatest virtue is my kindness. It has blessed my life with many wonderful things: friends, compassion, empathy, love, even an Element of Harmony. It has always come to me as naturally as breathing. Without kindness, there can be no friendship, love, or beauty; this is who I am—Kindness.
But I had to learn that even the kindest of ponies can only hold so much tolerance for those plagued with so much hatred.
Hatred speaks more than just a harmful word. Hatred is a virus that begins with the infection of one pony, then spreads through deadly words to others around them. When hatred kills one pony, many others follow them to the grave. Hatred shortens the patience of a saint. Hatred breaks down the wall that barricades anger away from a life of happiness. Witnessing the very crimes of hatred can cause the most peaceful ponies to cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.
When hatred came for the young colt whom I loved more than anypony else in Equestria, I became just as much a victim as himself. When hatred came, I learned that a parent’s love CAN be conditional. When hatred came, the world I once painted beautiful took a new canvas of a gloomy, dark reality. When hatred came, I almost lost the very kindness that has given me a wonderful life.
Please, I wish you would stay with me… if you wouldn’t mind that is. He never asked me to tell our story; I WANT to tell our story. For him. For me. For all those who almost lost everything…
When the bonds of a family broke beyond repair.
When children fought against their parents.
When cowardliness became courage.
When the voice of an angel became the voice of defiance.
We had another successful Winter Wrap Up. As always, the tradition of preparing for spring was a long, exhausting, and big race against the clock. But we achieved our goal once again, thanks to careful planning and organization by my friend, Twilight.
Mission accomplished, I thought to myself, as I gazed out into the Everfree Forest. My efforts to wake the animals had payed off, and I've been rewarded. My hooves were sinking into the slippery new-born grass. I watched my animal friends welcome spring like an old friend, settling into their new, cozy homes. I felt the warmth of the sun, casting a radiant light over the field. The fresh aroma of the earth, trees and flowers filled my nostrils. My cotton candy pink mane flowed like a river, being softly caressed by the cool, gentle breeze.
Above me, I heard the voice of a mockingbird, joyfully celebrating the end of the long, cold winter. Every note felt like a sweet drop of bliss to my ears. I closed my eyes and politely listened to his song. I always loved the sound of a mockingbird. Their singing reminds me so much of him.
Yes, this was the moment that I've waited three months too long for. Spring was here at last. Watching the re-birth of mother nature has always been my favorite time of the year. Seeing all of my animal friends again brought happy tears to my eye. Everything was fitting into place so perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. However, despite its familiarity, there was one detail that I missed: this was to be no ordinary spring.
I snapped out of my trance when a voice, without warning, came from behind me. "What's up, Fluttershy?"
I yelped and jumped behind a tree stump. I carefully peaked my right eye above my hiding place to see Rainbow Dash, who mischiefly enjoyed a small giggle at my antics. "Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to scare ya, but you looked like you were kind of zoning out."
I grinned as my face turned a hot shade of scarlet. It's very easy to startle me, but whenever one of my friends did it, I couldn't help but feel a warmth of embarrassment. I picked myself off the ground.
"Don't worry, Rainbow Dash," I replied. "It's fine, really. I was just listening to the mockingbird."
She placed a hoof to her ear, and listened to the song. I could tell she enjoyed it, because I noticed a tiny smile that she was trying to hide. Since Dash was a very athletic mare, I knew she never cared much for my interest in animals. But when it came to a mockingbird's singing, even she couldn't fail to enjoy the soothing melody.
"You know, they are known for their endless singing and beautiful songs," I said to break the silence. "That's all they were meant to naturally do. Give nature a song and enchant us with their music."
"Kind of like your brother, Shy," Rainbow Dash added. At that mention, my mind started to fill with happy times of when I was a filly. How could I not remember my brother on a day like that day?
I smiled. "Yes, Dashie, they sound just like him. He has the sweetest singing voice. It's been an awfully long time since I've actually seen him. We've only been able to keep in touch with letters." Realizing what I just said, my smile started to fade.
Letters. All of our letters in the past have been so pleasant. We shared jokes, gossip and even reflected on our days from foal hood. I told him about my many adventures with my friends, he always kept me up to date with the family. However, the last letter I received from him was different. It brought the usual cheer and good news, but most of it came with something else that filled my heart with dread. Something that made me want to rush home and save him. My thoughts began to race. I lowered my head to the ground as I pictured what was going on with him, right at that moment.
"Something wrong?" Rainbow asked, wrapping her hoof around my shoulder. I raised myself to meet her violet eyes. While growing up, Rainbow Dash was as much of a friend to my brother as she was to me. I thought it would be fair for her to know.
"Well, today is his birthday," I began, anxiety starting to creep into my voice. Just hearing the news from him was terrifying enough, let alone trying to explain it. I tried to articulate some words, only to have my mind draw a complete blank.
Instead, I reached over to my saddle bag, opened the front pocket compartment, and took out a small folded piece of paper. I carefully unfolded the letter until it was completely opened. The message, from several weeks prior, crinkled in my grasp, but it was still readable to me—after looking at it so many times. I read aloud,
Things have been going well here in Cloudsdale. Mom and Dad have been trying their best to stay warm, but you know it's never easy with the clouds constantly making snow. On a side note, I have some great news: I got in! Remember when I auditioned for The Canterlot Academy of Music? Well, I finally got a response yesterday, and they're giving me a full-paid scholarship! Guess I know where I'm going in the fall. Business with serving at the Sky Café has been slow as usual and I wish I was already in school; then again, what else can you expect from somepony who graduated flight school a year early?
Now, Shy, I have something very important that I need to tell you. I'm sure you know that the first day of spring this year will be my eighteenth birthday, and to tell you the truth, I don't think I can hold in my secret any longer. So far, the only two ponies who actually know about this are you and Rainbow Dash. I know Mom and Dad's beliefs don't necessarily support this, but it was already bad enough when I had to hide it in school. I plan on telling them on my birthday. I think I'm ready, and they are, too.
If you're wondering if I'm scared about this, the answer is obviously yes, but I can't spend my whole life living a lie to them. Who knows? Maybe if I tell them, they'll probably become more open minded when they realize their son is like this. I'm at least trying to think optimistically about this, Fluttershy. Please don't worry about me, I'll be fine. But if things don't go exactly as planned, I just want you to know that I love you very much, and that you're the best big sister that anypony could ever ask for.
Rainbow Dash's eyes widened. Her brows tightened to the center of her forehead. "Is he actually serious about this?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Oh, I just hope they'll still love him," I said, as my voice started to shake. "I can't handle to think of what will happen if he tells them." I could feel a tear starting to swim up to the surface of my eye, causing my vision to blur. My poor brother.
Dash pulled me into a gentle hug and lightly patted my back. "It's going to be fine, Fluttershy," she whispered in my ear. "Maybe he decided to back out, and hold off on it for a while. You know he can't make up his mind about these things." I understood that she was trying to make me feel hopeful, but I just couldn't believe her.
Still, I wanted her to know that I appreciated her efforts, so I just nodded and said, "Okay." It was the least I could've done.
She broke the embrace and ran her hoof through her rainbow striped mane. "Um, Pinkie Pie wanted me to tell you that her 'First Day of Spring Party' is going on right now at the town center. If you wanted to come, it will probably help you take your mind off of Mockingbird."
Maybe she was right. Spending some time with my friends has always been the best thing for me to calm my nerves. "Okay, Rainbow, that sounds fun," I said in a feeble attempt to sound excited. I tried to smile, but I knew nothing would make me cheerful at that time. However, much to my surprise, she still bought it.
"Alright!" Rainbow cheered. "Race you there!"
My memories of the party remain a complete blur to me. Pinkie Pie always loved it when I came to her parties, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't take my mind off my brother. When I saw the sun starting to set, I decided it was time to go home and feed Angel, my pet bunny. After I said goodbye to my friends, wishing them each a happy spring, I made my way for my cottage.
I didn't pay attention to time on the walk home. Generally, it was about a short five minute path from my house to the town, but that night the stroll felt even slower and longer than usual. The dirt road felt like fresh powder in my every step. The sky transitioned from a filtered bright blue, to a glowing orange as the day bridged from afternoon to evening.
When I finally arrived at the bottom of the hill of my house, there was somepony familiar at my door. I froze in my tracks. A young and slim stallion pegasus with a grey coat, long black mane, and treble clef cutie mark was leaning against the door. His hoof weakly rapped the wood. He wept as if he was about to die.
"Fluttershy!" the stallion cried out, in his watered down, raw sounding youthful voice. "I know you're home! Why won't you answer? Please open the door!" He continued wailing, slowly falling deeper and deeper to the ground.
Was this reality? My heart sank like a stone. Time stood still. I didn't move, cry, faint, or even blink. This can't be real, I thought. But no, it was all far too real. I could already feel the fragile world around collapsing. I was standing there frozen for about a minute, until I finally snapped back to full consciousness and found my voice.
"Mockingbird!" I called out to him.
I galloped up to my brother, who was laying face first on the welcome mat. He looked up at me, his face drenched in a waterfall of tears. Mucus trailed down from his nose. His orange eyes took the terrifying vision of two pools of blood. I lowered myself down to him, and placed my hooves on both his shoulders. They began to vibrate against his trembling body.
"Dammit, Shy," he cursed under his croaking voice. "I've been at this door for hours. Where have you been?"
My heart sank even deeper than my stomach, tears stinging my own eyes. I was beginning to wish that I never went to the party, just so I could of been there sooner to help him. "Mockingbird, I'm so sorry. What happened?"
He didn't speak, but kept scratching the door like a dog wanting to go in. I got the hint that he didn't want to stay outside any longer. Of course, I should've opened the door immediately, what was I thinking? I assisted him up on his hooves until he stood a head taller than me, unlocked the door and escorted him inside.
After I shut the door, Angel bunny hopped off from his spot on the couch and ran up to us. I could tell he was waiting for me to come home and feed him, so I snatched a whole carrot off the table and tossed it to him. Usually I take the time to make him a veggie salad. I only give him a full carrot when I'm in a hurry and he needs to eat. But with the crisis I was now dealing with, I wasn't focused on making his usual dinner. Still, the bunny accepted his vegetable, and scurried to a corner to dine.
With my hooves wrapped around Mockingbird, I continued to guide him across the room. His legs wobbled like jello with every step he took. His thin, but heavy, wheezing haunted my ears, sending the sensation of ice down my spine. Seconds began to feel like minutes, as the warmth of the room disappeared with the sunlight through the windows.
When we got to the couch, I lowered him into the soft felt cushion where Angel was laying. He lifelessly sank into the seat, the wooden legs creaking under his weight. I sat right down next to him and prepared myself to hear the unimaginable.
"What's the matter?" I asked nervously. He didn't even speak, but my face was already beginning to twitch.
There was a long pause. He choked on his voice and wiped his eyes dry. "Well, it happened after I got back from work at noon," Mockingbird began. His usually high voice sounded much deeper. I could tell that he was forcing himself to tell me this. I simply nodded my head, encouraging him to go on.
"Mom and Dad were waiting for me in the dining room. They made me my favorite lunch: hay stuffed pasta with tomato sauce and wheat balls. The room was decorated with balloons, streamers, and a banner that said, 'HAPPY EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY, MOCKINGBIRD! WE LOVE YOU!' In the center of the table, they had a birthday cake with the exact same message." That was one of the happiest traditions that my parents loved to participate in. For every birthday, they would each take a whole day off from work, just to celebrate with the entire family. A normal day, right?
"I don't know why I did it, but something was just making me want to tell them at that moment. So I sat down, took a deep breath, and said, 'Mom, Dad, there is something I have to tell you...'" He didn't even get to the bad news yet, but I could already tell what happened next. There could have been only one possible solution that made him this upset and broken. I knew that he told them the secret.
"I-I-I like colts," he forced out. Wheezing replaced his breathing. He took in a very deep breath before continuing. "For the longest time they just sat there silently. They did nothing but give me this very blank stare. Dad was the only one to speak. 'Is this true, son?' he asked. 'Are you telling us, that you are a coltcuddler?'" He stopped and started to sniff loudly as his nose became congested again. When he continued, his voice picked up speed like a train engine. "I was too afraid to respond. I could already tell that he was angry, so I just nodded. Then we tried to c-calmy talk about it, but we kept disagreeing and he only got more angry; he p-probably th-thought I wasn't listening or something. Then he rose up, and slammed his hooves on the table. I could feel the ground shake!"
"He shouted, 'My son is not a faggot!' He began ripping down all the decorations and tearing everything up. Then, he stormed over to me and violently whispered in my ear, 'We did not raise you to be an unnatural, sinning, filthy abomination to Celestia. There is no way you are a coltcuddler.' I snapped back saying, 'Yes, I am, Dad. I'm not lying. Please just listen to me.'" His face twitched. His voice became just barely audible under his sniffling.
No! No, it can't be true! I horrifically thought to myself. My breathing turned choppy. I began shaking, a thin stream of tears running from my eyes without control. I clapped both of my hooves over my muzzle. The story's words felt like a knife plunging down to the deepest pit of my heart.
Mockingbird uneasily continued, "He started raising his hoof, I was afraid he was going to hit me or something. But before he actually did anything, I grabbed his wrist and threw him to the wall."
WHAT?! My father never laid a hoof on either of us when we were children. He would have never done that. The knife twisted, causing me to painfully whimper. My pupils shrank to the size of pinheads. I refused to picture the scene in my mind. There was no way my dad could have possibly turned into a monster that quickly. He wasn't telling me a story anymore, he was telling me a nightmare!
"He became furious! His face turned a fiery red! He y-yelled, 'If you won't obey your father then you have no place in this home! Get out!' I looked to m-mom to h-help me, but s-she just sat there, doing n-nothing. Dad grabbed me, dragged me to the door, opened it, and threw me onto the lawn! H-He screamed, 'If you ever come near this house again, I'll have no problem calling the police! Enjoy the streets!' Then he slammed t-the door, and I just flew off!"
Did all of that really happen? It couldn't have, I thought. His birthday was supposed to be the happiest day of the year for him, but that day, it became his darkest. How could anypony's family stop loving them, after learning just one small thing about them?
I sat next to him in a phase of horror. My heart was officially butchered to bits. All light and happiness was gone from the world. It was like a black hole sucked out every little strength I had. My lips quivered. The skin under my yellow coat burned. My eyes painfully reddened from the salty substance silently gushing down my cheeks.
"D-Dear Celestia," I uneasily uttered. "I-I'm s-so sorry, Mockingbird, th-that I wasn't there to protect you."
Mockingbird couldn't hold it in anymore. He wailed to the sky. The tears cascaded once more. His breathing became hard labor, his chest rapidly rising up and down.
On instinct, I wrapped one hoof around his head, the other around his back, and pulled him in tightly. His weeping gradually soiled my shoulder. His moaning muffled against my chest. I gave my best effort to clench my eyes shut to halt my own crying, with little success. I softened my voice. "Shhh... shhh... it's okay. It's okay. Everything is going to be alright."
I didn't even know if what I said was the truth. Was everything going to be alright? I wanted to comfort him, but not if it was going to be with lies. He was just kicked out of our family. All those happy memories of him growing up and enriching our lives, now meant nothing to my parents. How could they have been so heartless? I held him even tighter.
As the sky grew pitch black and the clock ticked away, I proceeded to gingerly stroke his mane, accompanied with the soothing hushes of my voice. It was very rare to see him cry. I remember when we were both very young, our grandma, Nightingale, died. He was the one who stayed strong during the mourning, despite being four years younger than me. For about a week, I balled my eyes out like a foal, but he stayed at my side the whole time and gave me support.
He was always there for me, but that night, I had to be there for him. I never thought I'd see that day, but for the first time I had to be the strong one. Nothing else mattered to me at that moment. I just wanted to hold my baby brother and protect him from the world. I didn't want to ever let go. I only wished that it was actually possible for love to heal any kind of wound or injury.
When he finally lifted his head and sat up, his face was redder than before. I observed my shoulder and chest, to find a large Island of cold, wet and sticky residue. Mockingbird gave me a guilty look, like he thought I was angry because he got me all messy. Why would he think such a thing? I had no reason at all to be mad. He needed a shoulder to cry on and I was there. I gently nuzzled his nose, showing him that it was alright.
"I promise, we are going to get through this together," I said in my usual motherly tone. "Maybe they were just surprised, and needed some time to think it out."
Mockingbird shook his head. "No, you don't understand, Fluttershy. Mom and Dad now think I'm the worst thing in the world. They're never going to love me again!"
"That's not true. I know they still love you; it's all probably just a misunderstanding to them." I knew he didn't agree with me, but I didn't want him to feel hopeless. "How about I go visit them in a couple of days and try talking to them about it? I'm sure if they listen to reason, they'll let you come home again."
Mockingbird's voice raised in volume. "Fluttershy, you know very well that Dad is the president of that Traditional Pegasus Family group and Mom always followed his lead. What makes you think they'll listen to you?"
"Mocking, we're their children. Parents can never stop loving their children."
"They haven't even talked about you ever since you moved down here to Ponyville."
I sighed, beginning to wish that he didn't remind me of that. Still, I decided to put that memory aside for his sake. I carried on while massaging his arms. "Tell you what, you can stay here with me until we get this whole thing sorted out. You can stay here and still commute to your job, right?"
There was a moment of silence as he slouched over and thought about my offer. Did he really need to think about it? Where else did he have to go?
"Alright," he answered. "As long as I'm not a burden to you, I'll stay. But I don't think I'll be going to work for a while. I'm not exactly emotionally fit to be a bus pony."
"That's completely fine. Anything you need to feel comfortable, do so by all means. You won't be a burden at all. I couldn't ask for a better house guest other than my own little brother."
He grinned. "Thank you, Fluttershy. At least you still love me."
"I'll always love you, Mockingbird." I leaned in and gave him a tender kiss on his forehead. "No matter who you are, I'm always going to be your big sister."
Our moment was interrupted by my stomach, doing its Harry the Bear impersonation. I looked up at the clock and saw it was ten o'clock. Oh dear, it was that late and I didn't even eat yet.
"Are you hungry?" I asked him. "I can make something for both of us if you are." Mockingbird shook his head. I returned with a nod. "Okay, then, I'm going to have a nice spring salad. Feel free to join me if you change your mind."
I got up and went over to my kitchen counter. I took out my largest salad bowl, and all the ingredients needed. After preparing the meal, I sat at a spot at my table so Mockingbird was still in view. I began taking forkfuls of the dinner, small particles of lettuce escaping my lips.
"This sure is delicious," I said temptingly to him. "It's just so big. I wish I had somepony to share this with me." He didn't get up. He just sat at the couch, his arms crossed and his nose pointing to the floor. Periodically between bites, I would pierce a bunch with my fork and waved it in his line of vision, hoping he would come eat with me. He never came. I eventually realized that I couldn't make him eat if he didn't want to. Like animals, you can't just force feed them when they are not hungry. I just had to remind myself that he'll eat when he's ready. So, I finished my meal in peace.
After I placed the empty bowl and silverware in the sink, I decided it was probably time for both of us to go to bed. I flew to the storage closet and took out the guest bed linen sheets and pillows. When I got back over to the couch, Mockingbird silently rose and moved out of the way so I could make his bed for him. It wasn't much, but it was still a place for him to sleep.
I turned to him. "Okay, so if you need anything, my room is just upstairs. The bathroom down here is next to the den on your right; the one upstairs is the first door at the top of the stairs. Under the sink, there is a fresh toothbrush you can use with the toothpaste. The fridge is full of food if you ever get hungry in the night." He remained silent, but nodded in appreciation. I took him by the hoof. "We will all be a family again. I can guarantee you that."
He looked up, his eyes whiter than the moon. "Goodnight, Fluttershy," he said. "If you don't mind, I just want to be alone right now."
"Oh, okay," I said in understanding. "Goodnight, sweetheart." Right when I got to the stairs, I froze for a second. I thought he should go to bed with a positive thought. It would have been the best thing to say to make him feel better. I tilted my head in his direction and said, "Happy Birthday. I love you."
He gave me a smile. "I love you too." He then sat on the couch. Without another word, I went upstairs to my bedroom.
As I laid in my bed, a million thoughts ran through my mind. Why did this happen to him? He didn't deserve it. Will Mom and Dad ever love him again? I didn't know what to think of my parents. All at the same time, I felt neglect, betrayal, hurt, sorrow, suffering, shock, confusion, anger, rage, and a need for revenge. Why was I feeling that way? I'm the element of kindness; It wasn't me.
"He just loves colts," I whispered to myself. "It's not a crime. How could a colt, who just loves colts, possibly be a bad pony?" There was nopony I could go to to find the answers for these questions, but there had to be explanations. Where were they? Above all, I didn't know what I could do or say to fix this mess. I didn't even feel confident enough to fix it, but I couldn't let Mockingbird down.
I was praying to Luna that this was all just a bad dream. Yes, it had to be nothing more than a nightmare. Wake up, Fluttershy. Wake up. I hoped that it was still Winter Wrap Up. After I closed my eyes, I would wake up next to the bear cave, and continue my duties. Yes, that had to be the case. I surrendered myself to the spell of slumber, my lids closing independently. All went dark, and the rest was silence.
It wasn't a dream. The next day I woke to the strong rays of the Saturday morning sun, peaking through the veils of my curtains. I shielded the light with my foreleg and turned to my side. Everything still felt so surreal and I still felt denial.
I rubbed my grainy eyes and lazily tossed the layers of sheets off the bed. My fore hooves pushed down, lifting me from the cloud like mattress. My bottom hooves swept off the edge and onto the wooden floor.
Before advancing further, I swallowed my new reality like a marble sized pill. My brother was really downstairs. Everything from the previous night actually happened. My parents didn't want Mockingbird in the family anymore because he's gay. The leftover tears I bottled from the previous evening started to well back up. Accepting this endeavor felt like forcing myself to kill a suffering animal. I never wanted to and I never hoped to, but I knew that I had to, or it would just get worse. Without further a do, I sat up and made my way out the door.
Each step squeaked their own musical note on cue as I descended my wooden staircase. This would often signal the eagerly awaiting critters that I was on my way. One of the things I enjoy thinking about when I'm down is seeing the happy faces of my animal friends. So adorable, sweet and lovable. Hearing their early chirps that morning could've helped put a much needed smile on my face, but only time could tell if it would last. When I made my touchdown after the last plank, I was welcomed by the usual crowd of bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and badgers; but also by Mockingbird.
It appeared as if he hadn't moved at all after I left him. He slouched over the couch with his eyes glued to his hooves. A pair of black half-moon crescents bordered his pink filtered eyes. The unwrinkled sheets lacked evidence of use. Their wasn't any head crater or strands of mane on the still fluffy pillow. I didn't even bother asking if he got a good night's sleep.
"Good morning, Mockingbird," was all I said. The only response I got from him was a weary sigh. I figured that he was still dealing with his exile, so I really didn't blame him for his lack of communication. I also know that when ponies are upset, they may want some time to think to themselves, rather than talk. That being said, I carried on.
After heaving a large bag of animal chow from my pantry, I poured its contents of small bits into each individual dish at the center of the room. The colony of critters surrounded the feast to enjoy themselves. For Angel, I threw together a small dish of greens and pellets, with a tiny piece of carrot. He was such a good boy for being patient.
For myself, I flew over to my cabinet and took out my cereal with two bowls, then crossed over to my fridge for the milk.
"You want some cereal?" I asked my brother. After taking out the gallon of cold dairy, he still hadn't given me an answer. Maybe he just wasn't hungry, but how could I have been sure without some sort of answer? I wouldn't have been a very good hostess to deny him a meal. Trying to not be too intrusive, I went back into the living room and found him still frozen. "Mockingbird, do you want some breakfast?"
He finally lifted his head. Through his watery eyes, he fixed himself on me. "I'm not hungry," he mumbled.
"Please, you have to eat something. I don't want you to starve. It's not healthy to go this long without eating."
Mockingbird turned away, swinging his hind legs onto the couch. "Everypony is going to hate me now anyway. Why should I care about my health?"
He wouldn't even eat. What have my parents done to him? I wasn't going to sit back and watch my closest relative whither away, but I felt like I was talking to Angel during his picky eater phase. "Look, I understand that you're upset, but going on a hunger strike will not make things any better."
"And who says things will get better? This is the real world, Fluttershy. We both know that my life is over."
The painful feeling in my chest from the previous night came back. I couldn't stand to see what would happen if he gave up. "Please don't give up so easily," I begged him. "How about I go see them today? Would you like that?"
Mockingbird exasperatedly covered his eyes with his hoof. "Are you still serious about that? You're just wasting your time if you go there. I feel like I don't even deserve to be in this family anymore."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing from him. He has changed so much. About a year previous to that day, he sent me a copy of his senior graduation photo from flight school. Looking into those sunny eyes and cheerful smile brought a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. A feeling that told me he could go out and conquer the world with his true talents and confidence. Unlike myself, he was always the confident one, the social one and very headstrong. Now, the young colt in that photo was gone. A mere phantom of my memories. It was like I didn't even know him anymore. The stallion I was talking to was no longer Mockingbird, but somepony who was on the road to giving up on existing itself.
"How will I know that it's a waste of time if I don't even try?" I asked. "And you do deserve this family. No more or less than Mom, Dad, or myself do. If you just hang in there, things will be looking up."
His head tilted back, shooting to the ceiling. "When?"
Our conversation was cut short by a noise. Across the room, I heard three knocks on my front door. I figured whoever was there would help break the tension for at least a short period of time. "I'll get that," I announced hastily.
Opening the door, I found that my visitor was Pinkie Pie. She was wearing her permanent smile that could bring the warmest feelings into the saddest of times. Her bubble gum pink mane bounced beyond average full volume. On the top of her head was strapped a brown flower pot. A bright red azalea sprouted from the soil, bobbing around in place with her slightest gestures.
"Hello, Fluttershy!" Pinkie cheered. "I just thought I'd stop by and bring you your parting gift from yesterday's party." She glanced up at the flower. I quickly pasted on a little smile. It would have been very rude not to, and I don't enjoy having ponies thinking that I'm angry or upset.
"Thank you so much, Pinkie, I must have forgotten it," I said, taking the package off her head and settling it near the door. "I think this would make a lovely addition to my garden."
"Oh, boy! Are you going to do some gardening today? I want to help! That sounds like fun!" The pink mare started hopping up and down like a bouncing ball.
"Oh, uh, I'm sorry, but not today. I'm actually going through a slight dilemma, and—" Before I could finish, Pinkie was already glancing over my shoulder and looking at Mockingbird.
Her eyes popped out of her head as she gasped in delight. "A new pony! What's his name? What does he like? I have to welcome him and be his friend!" Oh, no. Mockingbird might not have been ready to be around other ponies yet. What if she scared him by accident? What if he was rude to her when she just wanted to say hello? He was already so fragile and broken. But before I could protest, she began winding up her legs. Quick as a flash, Pinkie charged past me like Rainbow Dash in a cloud race, my mane dancing in her breeze.
I caught up to her standing a foot away from Mockingbird, her curious eyes inspecting him from top to bottom. As Pinkie zoomed in her head, he reacted by sinking into the back couch cushions like he wanted to hide.
"Hello!" she beamed.
Mockingbird's face twisted into a puzzled expression. His pupils played ping-pong as he tried to find a proper reaction to her random greeting. He answered her with a cautious, "Hi?"
The party pony took in a heavy breath and went off. "I see that you're a new pony in town. I love meeting new ponies. I know just about everypony in Ponyville and they know me, which is why I'm their friend and they're my friends, too. But I don't know you, and I want to be your friend. But I can't unless I know your name, because if I don't know your name then I can't say hello to you and I won't be a very good friend at all if I don't say hi. What kind of friends don't say hi to each other any way? That's just rude—and probably a sign that they might have something against you. But I wouldn't know; I never have that problem because I'm everypony's friend! So, what is your name?"
After she finished her lengthy introduction, I decided that it might have been best for me to step back and let her take the reigns. Why was I so worried? I forgot that Pinkie Pie had a natural born talent for cheering ponies up and making them smile. She hasn't failed once. I realized that she was exactly whom Mockingbird needed. My friend welcoming him and earning his friendship could have been the sunshine to break up his raincloud of sorrow. I still stayed close between the two, just to ensure that everything was okay.
Mockingbird looked at me like he was asking for help. I just flinched my head to Pinkie as if to say, Tell her your name. After a brief pause, he did so. "My name is Mockingbird. I'm Fluttershy's brother—."
Immediately, Pinkie Pie broke out into an upbeat song and dance. Random band music played from thin air, causing me to jump and yelp, alarmed. She pulled out a party hat from behind her back—I have no idea where she got that from! She placed it on his head and sang,
Oh, you say your name is Mockingbird And you're the brother of Fluttershy. Now you've met me and can rest assured, 'Cause I'm your new friend, Pinkie Pie!
Pinkie froze for about three seconds then exploded into a loud cheer. "You have a brother?" she excitedly asked me. "This is so wonderful! I get to make a new friend who's also family of one of my friends! WOOHOO!" She presumed her overly energetic spring like hopping, but with much more force. The whole ground shook like an earthquake, my floor getting abused and bruised with scuff marks. This was very forgivable to me. Pinkie Pie was just being her usual carefree self, but not causing any real harm. Besides, I could've always covered that place up.
"Oh, so you must be Pinkie Pie," Mockingbird interrupted. The floor stood still again as Pinkie settled back down. When I was almost certain he would have turned her away, he decided to interact. I was so proud.
"The one and only!" she declared.
"Fluttershy told me about you from her letters. So, you're the one who throws all those big parties?"
"You bet! In fact, I'm currently planning one for tonight for a very special pony." She gave him a sly wink.
"That sounds nice. I hope you have fun," he returned.
"No, I want you to have fun: It's for you, silly!"
Mockingbird squinted his eyes at her like she was explaining advanced chemistry. "But, didn't we just meet?"
"Of course we did, but how else will you make new friends if you don't have a big party to get to know everypony in town? I gave one for Fluttershy when she first came here, and now she has made tons of new friends!" My cheeks burned with her flattering, but true, comment. I did make many wonderful friends, starting with her. That, I definitely could not deny.
He remained quiet. I had a bad feeling that he was going to turn her down. He never knew of a mare who throws parties for random ponies, so of course it might have felt strange and a little scary. But that would not have made Pinkie Pie very happy. She was always kind enough to welcome complete strangers to town with a celebration.
This was when I decided to step back in. "She's right, you know," I said to Mockingbird. "I told you before that Pinkie Pie throws some of the best parties you will ever see. She would love to have you as a guest of honor." I turned to my pink friend. "We would be delighted to come, Pinkie."
I don't normally do what I did. I actually feel very uncomfortable with making personal decisions for others. It kind of makes me feel like I'm being bossy, or overly assertive, or something. But I just couldn't think of Mockingbird isolating himself in this scenario. I thought if I could get him out of the house to do at least some socializing, then it might have helped him get back onto his hooves again. Mom and Dad would've just had to wait another day or two. My main focus shifted to lifting my brother's spirits.
"Okie Dokie Lokie!" Pinkie exclaimed. "I'll see you two at Sugarcube corner tonight at six o'clock! Prepare to have your minds blown by the best welcome party ever!" Quicker than you could blink, Pinkie shot out my front door like a cannon, leaving us behind in the trail of her speed exhaust.
Mockingbird glared at me, taking off the party hat. "Why did you just do that?" It sounded like he was having trouble controlling the pitch of his voice. He breathed in a whisper.
Oh no. I might have made him upset. See what I mean? "Mockingbird, please don't be mad. I'm sorry if you didn't want to go, but I think it will be good for you."
"Why? Cloudsdale already hates coltcuddlers enough as it is, I don't need to be around other ponies who will judge me."
Of course, how could I have forgotten? Cloudsdale was never one of the friendliest places for gays or lesbians. My home was always so conservative and strict in value. That's why I preferred Ponyville. Where nopony judged any other pony for their differences.
"Mocking, there are very friendly ponies in this town. I can assure you they won't think any badly of you if you're good to them. I just want you to get out and maybe make some new friends. Don't you think that sounds better than sitting here?"
He lost his glare and started looking at me naturally again. "Are you sure nopony will judge me?"
He sighed heavily, then surrendered the argument. "Alright, I'll go. Just promise me one thing, okay?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"Don't out me to anypony."
"Now, don't feel nervous, my friends are very friendly and welcoming," I assured him as we approached Sugarcube Corner. The town clock tower read two minutes to six. Our shadows danced with our hoof steps as they thinned with the setting sun.
Mockingbird kept grabbing his stomach as it repeatedly roared. "I'll be fine as long as there's food."
I sighed as I told him in an 'I told you so' voice, "You should've eaten before we left the cottage."
"I didn't feel like eating then." He plastered on a faux-smile when we arrived at the stoop of the bakery. We opened the entrance to the sound of a welcome bell.
The very first thing I saw was the tiny building overcrowded with almost everypony in town, the loud music and sudden noises clinking and clanking from left to right. Oh, dear, my claustrophobia began to set in. Any of those loud noises was just enough to send me running in a panic. And all those ponies. What if I was humiliated by getting punch spilled on me or something? I wouldn't have been able to show my face in town for weeks.
With my heart leaping against my rib cage, my brain began telling me to back out and retreat. But then, I remembered why I was there and why I had to ignore my instincts: to help Mockingbird. That night was about him, not me. Once again, I had to be the brave one. So, putting my own social fear aside—well, at least attempting to—we walked in.
A rainbow ensemble of colorful balloons were tied to all the chairs and pillars. Some floated so high they kissed the ceiling. Confetti and streamers provided an endless glitter as they scattered the floor and table tops. A banner that read in large, bold, purple print, "WELCOME TO PONYVILLE, MOCKINGBIRD", hung high from beam to beam. A long, feast like table was stationed parallel to the back wall. It was topped with a variety of punches and a large assortment of party snacks.
My ears were filled with the combined styles of the soft, plucking strings of a cello, along with the upbeat rhythm of hip-hop. My eyes followed the musical path to the stage. There I found Ponyville's own premier musicians: Cellist Octavia and DJ Vinyl Scratch. Octavia, with her grand and poised posture, soared her bow back and forth, showcasing the beauty of her string instrument. Vinyl, with her trademark purple shades, brightly glowed her turntables with her horn to enjoy her craft hoof free. Not one pony's hoof on the dance floor rested to their duet.
Our attention, however, was not focused on any of these things. Instead, I directed my brother through the sea like crowd towards the group of my closest friends waiting near the center. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack and Twilight found us and came forward.
"Hello, girls," I greeted. "I want you all to meet my little brother, Mockingbird. Mockingbird these are my friends. You've already met Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. These are Applejack, Rarity and Twilight."
Rainbow's face was sunken in. Her mouth dropped open. I assumed it didn't take her long to do the math. She still appeared subtle and greeted Mockingbird to the best of her ability. "Uh, hi, Mockingbird. Long time no see. I'm glad to see you again."
Gazing at the cerulean blue pegasus, it appeared as if Mockingbird was able to read the hidden empathy of her voice. He tried his best to keep the conversation natural. "I'm glad to see you again, too."
"You two already know each other?" Pinkie Pie interjected. "How long have you been friends?"
Rainbow's bleak expression was quickly erased, as she came back to her usual brashness. "Oh, me and Mocking here, we go way back to summer flight camp. I've known him just as long as I've known Fluttershy."
I nodded. "That's right, she has. We met at camp. It was the same summer I got my cutie mark. Our activity schedules turned out to be almost exactly the same. So we ended up seeing each other a lot of the time and sticking together for the whole stay."
"Heh, ya, those were the good 'ole days," Rainbow added.
Rarity was the first to step forward. "Good evening, darling," she cooed, mustering up a delicate smile and extending her hoof to Mockingbird.
"Nice to meet you, Rarity," he returned, nervously, shaking her hoof.
My fashionista friend turned a flattered shade of red upon him correctly guessing her name. "My, so polite." She flipped her perfectly coifed purple mane out of her eyes. "How did you know my name?"
"Well, Fluttershy told me about you all in her letters," he answered.
"Well, you're certainly going to love it here," said Rarity.
It was now Applejack's turn. "Howdy, sugarcube," she addressed, tipping her stetson hat. "Welcome to Ponyville."
"That's right, and this here is Princess Twilight Sparkle. Ya know, royalty." She lightly jabbed him with her elbow, nodding.
It was still hard for me to adjust to Twilight's new look after being inducted as a princess not too long ago. While she was very modest about her new title, I still had to get used to seeing the alicorn—whom I met as a unicorn—constantly ruffle her wings. I was very happy for her, but I knew things would never be the same again. Nonetheless, she was still the same Twilight to me.
"Oh, uh... I... um... good evening, your majesty," Mockingbird nervously stammered while lowering himself to Twilight.
She respectfully bowed her head. "Hello, Mockingbird, it's great to meet you." Twilight lifted an eyebrow when she noticed him frozen in place, his body quivering like a bow string. She gave a small, but friendly, giggle and gently placed her hoof under his chin. "You may rise."
Mockingbird obeyed. "Oh, um, I'm sorry, your highness. It's just that I'm not so used to meeting princesses."
Twilight waved her hoof aside. "Please, call me Twilight, and don't worry, you actually did pretty well. Cadence told me most ponies panic the first time." I laughed silently under my breath at that comment. I remembered the visible anxiety I expressed when I first met Princess Celestia, and how I used to feel complete dread around her sister, Luna. However, I have gotten better over time.
Twilight shifted to me. "Fluttershy, you never told us that you had a brother."
"Oh, well, it never came up, so I never said anything," I answered, feeling slightly embarrassed.
"Well it's about time you brought him out of the shadows!" Applejack chimed in, jokingly. She wrapped her foreleg around Mockingbird's neck. "So, you're Fluttershy's brother? What brings ya here to Ponyville?"
"Nothing. I'm just here for a visit." He was quick to respond, almost like he rehearsed the answer to that question. He choked back on his own voice.
"How long will you be staying, sweetie?" Rarity asked.
His head turned downwards. "I don't know."
Rainbow Dash interrupted by placing her hoof on one of my front legs. "Hey, Fluttershy, you mind if I talk to you for a minute in private?"
"Oh, not at all, Dash," I said.
She casually brushed me aside as we trotted to a private corner of the room, where we could only hear ourselves. She looked at me, her face of confidence draining to grief. "He told them yesterday, didn't he?" Rainbow's voice cracked while asking.
My voice began squealing as I released the hidden truth to her. "It was so horrible. I have no idea what h-he was thinking."
"Did they try to beat him?"
I forced out my answer like a cough. "From what he told me, y-y-yes." The visions from the previous night began playing back in my mind like a movie. A film that I wish I could un-see. Please, make it stop. I don't want to relive this anymore.
The rainbow maned mare stroked my cheek and ran her hoof through the silk of my mane. "Fluttershy, don't give up. It's going to be alright."
I looked into her eyes. The warmth of my friend's contact served as a strong invite for me to keep engaging with her. "I'm planning on talking with mom and dad soon, but Mockingbird doesn't think it will be worth it. I just hope he doesn't give up."
"Don't worry, Mockingbird is in good hooves here, he'll do great; but you're the one who has to help him get through it. He needs you now more than ever. If you guys need anything I'll be around. You know where to find me." I couldn't feel any more proud at that moment to have Rainbow Dash as a friend. I always loved her like a sister. So loyal and brave. It never surprised me that she always stayed true to her element.
I grinned. "Thanks, Rainbow, it's great to have as much support as I can get."
"Just remember, Shy, you've been through much worse. I know you can get out of this one." Rainbow escorted me back to the group. Twilight stepped away, giving a reluctant look towards the exit.
"I'm afraid I can only stop by just to say hi," she confessed in an apologetic tone. "I have a meeting with Luna tonight about some nocturnal vandalism going on in Cloudsdale."
"Nocturnal vandalism?" I repeated.
"Yes, Fluttershy, it has been all over the papers," Rarity answered. "According to the Ponyville Express, there's been some crime going on in Cloudsdale at night. Sources claim that some pegasi have been leaving very rude messages on a lot of homes." I don't normally read the paper, so of course I didn't hear about it.
"Oh, my, that sounds horrible," I said, cringing at the news. I knew for sure if that happened to me or one of my friends, I would not have been very happy at all. I would have actually been very hurt and upset. Who could do such a thing to hurt so many others?
"Exactly," Twilight commented. "Luna needs as much help as she can get patrolling the skies in Cloudsdale. The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the better." Before taking her leave, the lavender alicorn turned towards me. "Are we still good to meet for our catch up lunch on Monday, Fluttershy?"
I smiled. "Yes, Twilight, my schedule is still open. 12:30 at the café?"
"Sound like a plan. I better get going. I don't want to keep Luna and Spike waiting much longer. Have a good night, girls." She almost made her way out the door before suddenly halting and turning to my brother. "And, Mockingbird, welcome to Ponyville." We watched her wave goodbye, gallop outside and kick the ground before flying off into the dusk.
Pinkie Pie broke the brief silence. "So, Mockingbird, you were telling us that you're a singer? I love singing! It's one of my favorite things to do!"
"Um, yes, it's one of the defining traits of my name and my cutie mark." He gestured to the white treble clef imprinted on his flank.
"One of 'em?" Applejack asked.
"Yes," Mockingbird said. "I earned this about a year after Fluttershy earned hers. I had a solo in my school choir concert. On the night of the performance, I sang my part, but something strange happened: the audience started signing with me. Once the song was over, my mark appeared. I realized that I had a special talent, not just for singing, but also for sharing a deep connection with those who listen and encouraging them to join me in song. That was really something to be proud of."
It was at that moment when my brother finally smiled. It was the first true smile of the evening and for his visit so far. I believe him telling the story that reminded him of who he was served as the medicine he needed.
"Hmmm... this party sure could use some karaoke," Pinkie thought out loud. "Would you like to sing for us, now?"
Mockingbird took a step back, trying to hide his face under the curtain of his mane—I'm guessing he learned that trick from me. "Oh, uh, I don't know."
Pinkie Pie went from a smile, to a face that resembled a pouting puppy. "Come on, please?"
"I don't think I can perform now."
"I'm sure you sound fabulous," Rarity encouraged. "We'd be delighted for you to give us a show."
Applejack gave a supporting pat on his back. "It ain't a great hoe down without some live singing."
"Come on, Mockingbird, I know you're amazing," Rainbow Dash joined in.
He looked at me and gestured his head to the door, saying non-verbally, I want to go home now.
I massaged his shoulders. "Please? I know you're more confident than this. Singing always made you feel better. Just one little song. For me." I focused my cyan eyes into his pupils. After a moment, he sighed.
"Alright, maybe just a small number," he agreed.
"Woo Hoo!" Pinkie shouted. She grabbed Mocking by the arm and took off like a rocket for the stage. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the microphone. Octavia and Vinyl unevenly silenced their tune on Pinkie Pie's command. Just like that, the room fell quiet. Everypony directed their eyes to the stage.
"Attention, party goers," Pinkie Pie announced. "Our guest of honor, and newcomer to Ponyville, Mockingbird, will like to sing for us all! He says his special talent is having a voice that's so super duper incredible, you will all want to sing along with him!" She turned her shining face to my brother. "So, what will you be singing for us?"
Mockingbird looked like he was struck mute. He stared at the ground, flicking his hoof off the edge of the platform. His eyes darted to and fro until he was able to pin point me in the mob of eagerly awaiting ponies. "Well... first I'll need a piano—"
"No problem!" Pinkie declared. She zipped off the stage, and one second later, charged back on with an old keyboard and a stool. She plugged the instrument into one of Vinyl's amplifiers and hopped aside.
The singer gulped in his throat as he took hold of the mic, making his way toward the stool. He sat in front of the keyboard, comfortably in his seat. Gingerly, he stretched out his hooves and plucked a few practice notes on the black and white keys.
"Now," he uneasily began, "this song may not be one that you all know, but it's something that means a lot to me. You kind of have to go through what I've experienced to really understand it."
The sole sound that I heard was a distant cough. Not a single hoof stirred. Mockingbird turned his head away from the crowd. His lips broke apart for the microphone in front of him. The lids of his eyes sealed. He took a deep inhale through the nose, then a long and relaxing exhale through the mouth, his breath booming through the speakers.
His hooves pressed each note on the piano as the melody was created. The tune made me slowly sway left to right. This was a movement that I did not wish to control. After a couple of measures of the instrumental solo, he began singing. His sweet, but powerful, and lyrical tenor voice graced my ears as it flooded across the audience. He sang:
I turn my head away from home Equestria is where I'll roam For what I said I have to go 'Cause now they finally know.
I remember when they loved me so Now it all seems too long ago Their little colt has grown so fast Now I am myself at last.
Celestia, please forgive me For being what I'm meant to be Your sun shines warm, but my heart is cold I feel the blueness of my soul.
Just after the first chorus, the piano was no longer the only instrument. I saw Octavia delicately working her bow against the cello, while Vinyl re-glowed her horn to operate her synthesizer. They both looked like they were hypnotized. The musicians were uniting with Mockingbird rather than competing with him. It was a song they were hearing for the first time, but somehow they knew exactly how to play along. They were perfectly in tune, too.
They say that I'm not allowed to love So I look to the Princess above To tell me why it is my faith That those I love see me to hate?
The one who loves me is always true Her voice is sweet like honey dew She stroked my mane, said, I'll be fine But it's such a waste of time. Yes, it's such a waste of time.
Celestia, please forgive me For being what I'm meant to be Your sun shines warm, but my heart is cold I fell the blueness of my soul.
I finally realized he was singing about the day before. It was so incredible that he could come up with such an emotional and personal song right on the spot. I noticed a tiny glisten come from his eyes, like a diamond. It now looked like a challenge for him to hide his own sadness. As it was for myself.
You cherished me then, now you turn away Why so cruel today?
So I step away and walk the line How can anypony say it's fine For their love to end leaving me to stray? Their son has gone away.
Then, out of the blue, everypony in the crowd started to join him in perfect harmony. Our united voices filled Sugarcube Corner like a choir. None of us knew how we were able to match him so well or even why we were doing it, but we didn't question. We were all too enchanted under his spell to care. Our hearts were telling us to join him, and join we did.
Celestia, please forgive me For being what I'm meant to be Your sun shines warm, but my heart is cold I feel the blueness of my soul.
Now I must say my last goodbye I will love no more I will love no more I... will love... no more.
The instruments faded. His voice started to steadily decrescendo into silence. The show closed with the fast stomping of wildly enthusiastic hooves. This moment, when he poured out his own heart to the patrons of his homecoming, would turn into a memory that I will never forget. I couldn't have been any more glad that he decided to leave the cottage and share the night with us all.
Mockingbird took his bow to the audience and thanked Octavia and Vinyl for performing with him. After he received acknowledgement from the cellist and DJ, the stallion took his leave from the stage, finding his way back to me.
I nuzzled my cheek against his. "You still got it."
He sighed in relief. "I never lost it, but it felt great to let that feeling out."
"Fluttershy, we didn't know your brother had the voice of an angel," Applejack complimented.
Rarity glided towards him, her lashes fluttering. "Quite a lovely song from such a handsome young stallion."
Rainbow Dash intercepted him with a headlock, ruffling the top of his mane. "That was so awesome, Mocking! You never disappoint me!"
He playfully wrestled his way out of her grip to land on Pinkie Pie, who was now balling an overdramatic waterfall. "That was so amazing! You can perform at any of my parties from now on." Pinkie whipped out a handkerchief and dried herself off, before returning to her energetic self. "Now, it's time to really get this party started. Come on, everypony, let's dance!"
The celebration proceeded, Octavia and Vinyl resuming their original symphony. In response, all the patrons multiplied around the dance floor. I took a glance at Mockingbird. "So, are you ready to go home?"
To my surprise, the corners of his mouth reached his ears. "Actually, I think we can stay for a few more hours." And we did.
The tempo of Sugarcube Corner changed sharply. The music made dancing irresistible. The rainbow colored club lights illuminated the bakery with a sense of new life. The food was much sweeter than your usual dinner. Cynicism ceased to exist at Pinkie Pie's parties. Hours only felt like half-hours, while half-hours felt like quarter hours, and so on.
It was hard for Mockingbird to have a private moment. From all directions, a never-ending pack of ponies approached and praised him for his song.
"You have quite the special talent, kid."
"Can I have your autograph, mister?"
"I think you may be a thief, because you just stole my heart!"
"Would you mind singing for my daughter's Cute-Ceañera next weekend?"
I watched him make conversation with them all, answering each patron with a simple "Thanks" or "Glad you enjoyed it." Despite his incredible gift, Mockingbird was never the prima donna who enjoyed boasting in the limelight. Instead, he just let his talent speak for itself.
I was pleased even further when I saw him munching on a slice of pizza and cupcakes. It wasn't exactly the healthiest meal, but I was just glad to see him eating again. If that was what he felt like eating at the time, I had no reason to stop him, or judge.
He was even in the mood to dance with me and my friends. I'm really not much of a dancer, nor do I enjoy the spotlight as much as others. In fact, I was only out there after Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash practically dragged me onto the floor—despite of my protesting—after they saw Mockingbird dancing by himself. I did it all for him.
Remember when I said that he needed time away from the house? Well, I couldn't have been anymore right. His fear of rejection and intolerance was conquered with love, acceptance and the wide open arms of his new family.
It was all bliss until it happened. All I remember was that it was late in the evening. At one point, while we were dancing, Mockingbird left us to use the colts' room. A couple of minutes later, I felt a small tap on my shoulder. I reacted with shuffling hooves to find the source: Applejack. Her lips were moving but I couldn't understand her words due to the blasting of Vinyl's amplifiers. Once AJ got the gist, she thrusted her head to a far off table and towed me off the dance floor, much to my relief. We took a pair of vacant seats at her desired location as I rubbed my ears to silence the ringing.
"This is a much better place to talk," Applejack said in a relaxing tone. "So, how ya been lately, Fluttershy?"
"Things have been just fine, thank you for asking." I said calmly. "What did you want to talk about?"
She reclined in her chair, crossing her hind hooves on to the table. "Nothing much, I was just wondering if you were lonely or anything."
Applejack never asked me something like that out in the open. I cocked my head. "What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing, I'm just curious. Big Macintosh is pretty lonely, too." After she said that, her real intention became clear to me. When I was just a teenager back home, my parents always tried to set me up with random dates to get me to socialize. They asked me that exact same question with a similar explanation.
"Applejack, are you suggesting that Big Macintosh and I should... g-go out?" My face flushed to a rosy pink. Please, don't get me wrong. I always thought that Applejack's brother was very, very handsome. Attractive even. But I never saw us as coltfriend and marefriend. I'll admit, while I do sometimes find the occasional stallion to be a bit, um, eye catching, I've always just been too shy to go out with anypony. I suppose dating isn't necessarily for everypony.
Applejack leaned in closer. "Come on, sugarcube. Just one dinner or something?"
"Uh, I'm sorry, Applejack, but I don't know," I answered, trying to cover up my blushing. "I mean, no offense, I know that he's a great stallion, but I just don't see us together."
"Are ya sure? You might really enjoy his company."
I nodded. "I'm sure, I'm sorry."
Applejack fell into a proper sitting position, throwing down her front hooves. A disappointed sigh escaped through her lips. "It's alright, Fluttershy. I'm just so worried about him. Every day it's the same. All he does is work, work, work, and no play!" I jumped a little as her voice crescendoed. "He's a great hoof to have on the farm and a very devoted member of the Apple family, but I really wish he had a more active social life. I swear to Celestia, his only friend is that creepy Smarty Pants doll he found. All the mares in town are going all googly eyed over him, yet he doesn't pay attention to any of them. Seventy percent of our town's population is female, why can't he just choose one?!" She slapped the table, hanging her head in defeat.
I always knew that Applejack went to great lengths to provide what she thought was best for her family, but I never saw her as a matchmaker. I hated seeing her so frustrated, but I always knew I could make her feel better. After I was sure that her rant was done, It was my turn to speak again. "I don't think you should be too worried about him, Applejack."
"Really?" she asked.
I shifted my focus and practiced what I was going to say in my head before speaking out loud. "Well, yeah. I don't think there is anything wrong with Big Mac as long as he is happy with himself." Just like me.
Applejack thought to herself for a moment. She closed her eyes, let her head fall back and tapped her hoof to an imaginary rhythm. The farmer shrugged. "Well I suppose you're right, but I just imagine how boring it is for him. He's always been so anti-social and reserved. I wish I could know for a fact if he is truly happy. Whenever I ask him if he's okay, he just answers with the usual 'Eeyup.'" She said the last word in an almost perfect impression of her brother. It actually kind of scared me a little.
"Well, Applejack, if you're that concerned about him, I think you should talk to him about what you're feeling and maybe he will open up more," I suggested.
Applejack looked at me through slanted eyes. "Ya really think he would listen?"
"Of course. He's your brother and he loves you. If anything was really wrong, I'm sure he would want to talk to you for support."
Applejack now had a trustworthy smile being directed at me. "Ya think so?"
I responded with a smile of reassurance. "I know so."
Then it happened. It just seemed so fast. We both heard a loud bang from the bathroom doors in the back. Applejack only gave a slightly startled jump. I ended up falling out of my seat in complete shock. I was smacked with the hard surface of the floor boards, my disoriented head rebounding skywards. I caught a glimpse of Mockingbird.
His wings flapped like fan propellers. He soared like he was in an invisible race towards the door. Panic was slapped across his face. I heard a small bit of his heavy breathing. Before I could note anything else, gravity dropped me again. Those short one in a half seconds were just enough to tell me that something was wrong.
My arms and legs flailed around as I scrambled back up. I didn't even respond to Applejack when she asked me if I was alright. On my right temple, I felt the swelling of a bump the size of a golf ball. I found the bakery door swinging open. The room fell so quiet, that everypony could hear the bell above the frame playing its chime. I galloped to the exit when Rainbow Dash sprinted up to me.
"What happened?" she asked. I didn't answer, but kept my focus on his path. I made my way out, Dash following me. When we were both outside, I shot to the sky and found a small grey and black dot, that I identified as Mockingbird. Not wasting time to hesitate, Rainbow and I pursued him.
We finally caught up to Mockingbird as he charged through my cottage door like a battering ram. His impact made a clap as loud as thunder. The family of Blue Jays on my roof cowered from their nest in a state of terror. The door slowly swung back, cracking as it clung to the hinges.
Rainbow Dash and I made our way in and came to a quick stop on the center rug. My lungs begged for mercy, while I huffed and puffed for air. My heart thumped against my breast like a rabbit's foot. My wings went numb and plopped to my sides, tingling to reanimate. Beads of sweat surfaced from the roots of my mane. My brain rattled against every corner of my skull. I didn't even fly that far, but I already felt like fainting. I haven't felt that exhausted since participating in that pegasi tornado a while ago.
When Rainbow and I recovered, I caught Mockingbird squatting over one of Angel's beds. His labored breathing revealed a mixture of angst, panic, shock, fatigue, and sadness in his voice. A thin stream of tears trailed off his muzzle and fell like raindrops onto the bunny's cushion.
Rainbow Dash was the first to speak. "Mocking, what was up with that? You can't just run out like a mad pony, you had us worried sick."
He didn't respond. Trying not to startle him, I approached Mockingbird in the same fashion I would for a young fawn.
He turned to me. "I knew tonight was a bad idea. I should've just stayed home."
My stomach began to shrivel up. "Mockingbird, you were having such a great time. What's going on?"
He pulled himself up and uncoiled his spine until he stood fully erect. "You said there were no ponies who would judge me in this town."
Rainbow's head shot up. "Judge you? Who would judge you? Did you offend somepony?"
"No, I didn't do anything wrong," he answered. "But I already know that this town isn't as friendly as I thought."
How did he get this impression, after being accepted by all of my friends? While some ponies in this town may be a bit, um, intimidating, I never knew of anypony in Ponyville who would mistreat others.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
My brother gave his last sniffle, then wiped his reddening eyes dry. "It happened when I went into the bathroom..."
Mockingbird entered the colts' room of Sugarcube Corner, the party music muffling against the closed door. Scanning the lavatory, he found and trotted up to the all white urinals. The stallion lifted himself onto his hind legs, rested his two front hooves against the cream colored walls and began to... um... relieve himself.
I really need to start cutting back on the punch, he thought to himself. I could've sworn I saw a baby alligator swimming in one of the bowls. He chortled at the thought, thinking it was only a part of his imagination. After what felt like a whole two minutes, the stream ended and Mockingbird let himself drop back on all fours. Then, he found some company.
A large crimson stallion, with a dark blonde mane and a green apple cutie mark, came dashing into the bathroom. The colt's puffed up face was heated to an alarming red. His watery eyes aimed for the basin shaped sinks.
"Water! Water! Water!" he boomed out in his southern bass voice. The patron jumped to the closest faucet, turned the cold water dial and broke open his mouth under the splashing fountain. Mockingbird glanced at him.
"You okay, bud?" he asked.
Big Macintosh lifted his head out of the sink upon hearing the question. The remains of his drink drizzled down his chin, as he swallowed the water that made it in his mouth. After taking a short series of deep breaths, he answered with a low, "Eeyup."
Mockingbird bit on the flush pull string, yanked it down and the urinal did its duty on command. "Good, I didn't want to have to call an ambulance for you."
"Oh, no, it wasn't really anything that serious," Big Mac returned. "I just had a bad cupcake, that's all."
The tenor squinted his eyes. "Cupcake? What kind of a cupcake is spicy?"
Big Macintosh looked at the ground and sighed. "Somepony tricked me into eating an apple cupcake that was topped with hot sauce."
Mockingbird imagined the pastry, causing his tongue to inevitably taste the odd combination. "Ick, thanks for the heads up."
The grey pegasus began trotting over to the sink, silently observing his fellow stallion. Big Macintosh was very tall and well-built. The jagged mane on his head ran down to the edge of his work collar, while his banes shaded his emerald green eyes. His traditionally masculine face was emphasized by his large round muzzle, smoothly aligned jawbones and visible cleft on his chin. His wide and broad shoulders helped even out his thick neck and muscled structure, that toned every part of his body; especially his hindquarters. Those smooth... big... curvaceous... delicious hindquarters.
With every step that Mockingbird took closer to Big Macintosh, his heart began to feel more and more tender. His pupils widened. All the blood in his body heated up like a pot of boiling water. A fuzzy sensation, that felt like a swarm of butterflies, fluttered around in his stomach. His tongue tasted the dry, salty flavor of beach sand. The corners of his mouth flinched up to a little grin. When he arrived at the sink, his legs began to slightly buckle without consent.
Attraction is the strongest drug of the mind, that can turn even the wisest of ponies into fools. Big Macintosh's striking features, combined with his friendly smile, calm demeanor and pleasant tone, only excited the teenage pegasus. The vision of being held and protected by the earth pony, resting his head on his big soft chest like a pillow, enticed his mind beyond control. How wonderful it would've felt for him.
Remembering where he was, Mockingbird snapped back into reality. "So, uh, that's a nice... structure your body has," he awkwardly complimented. "Do you work out?"
With a trembling hoof, Mockingbird quickly grasped the sink dial, turned the water on and began washing. "D-do you work mainly with your legs?"
"Uh, yeah, why do you ask?" Big Macintosh asked, now sounding suspicious.
"Well, uh, I-I just noticed that most of your strength appears to be in your hindquarters." The anxiety of hiding his most recent fantasy caused a dabble of sweat to soak on his temple.
"Well, you're actually right. My legs do do most of the work for my line of business." There was a lift in Big Macintosh's voice, that sounded much more conversational than before. A very large contrast from the usual stallion of few words.
"And what kind of work is that?" Mockingbird asked.
"Applebucking, for Sweet Apple Acres. Founded, owned and run by my family for generations; since the establishment of Ponyville." Mac displayed a proud smile.
Mockingbird scrubbed his hooves, forming bubbles of soap suds under the running water. "Oh, are you Applejack's brother? She told me how the Apple Family always sells the best top quality cider, pies, fritters, cobblers, apple sauce and jam all year round." He finished his cleansing and began drying his hooves with a towel.
"Eeyup, you've met my little sister, Applejack," he answered. The farm colt extended his freshly trimmed hoof. "Name's Big Macintosh, but everypony usually calls me Big Mac, for short."
Mockingbird returned the gesture, taking the hoof and shaking it. "I'm Mockingbird. Fluttershy's brother."
Big Macintosh's face brightened. "Oh, so you sang that song earlier tonight? That was really beautiful. I think you have an excellent voice." Mac's face began flushing to pink, looking like he was almost embarrassed to say something like that.
The pegasus smiled and nodded. "Thank you, I actually hope to make a living out of it one day."
"Well I'm sure you'll do great. So, what brings ya here to Ponyville?"
Mockingbird's ears flattened. Not again. The one question that everypony keeps asking me, and it has to be because I got kicked out, he thought to himself. Again, he had to lie. "Nothing special, I'm just in town visiting Fluttershy for a while."
Big Mac arched an eyebrow. "You look pretty young. Aren't ya suppose to be in school or something?"
"I turned eighteen yesterday, and I don't go to school anymore. I finished early."
"Oh, okay then. Happy belayed birthday."
"Thank you." Mockingbird felt an uninvited force pushing up his throat. A force that sounded more like a question trying to pass out of his vocals. His mouth remained sealed, but his mind kept repeating the desired line over and over: Do you want to get together sometime?
Mockingbird saw how Big Macintosh was beautiful, but was silenced by his own heart pounding. He could recall earlier in the day when he took his personal vow to not out himself to anypony in town. This was when he attempted to cut the conversation short. "Well, it, um, was great getting to meet you, Big Macintosh. I hope we see each other again soon."
"Eeyup. Feel free to swing by Sweet Apple Acres anytime ya like."
"Sure, maybe I'll find you working."
Mockingbird turned to head out the door with visible ease. Big Mac just stood still behind, watching him exit. But before anypony could leave, another patron entered. A young, snow white pegasus, with a greasy black mane, telescope cutie mark and treasure gold eyes, swung the door open. He appeared to be slightly older than Mockingbird.
The new arrival stretched a smirk with his lips, eyeing Big Macintosh. "Hey, Mackey," he scoffed intrusively at him.
Big Mac, bowed his head. "Hi, Milky Way."
Milky Way swaggered into the restroom past Mockingbird. "You enjoy my little treat?"
"Nope." Mac lifted his head and tried to turn it away.
"What? Why? I thought you enjoyed hot sauce cupcakes." he asked teasingly.
"I don't," Big Macintosh answered. "Ya told me it was an applesauce cupcake."
"Oops, did I get them mixed up... Again?" Milky Way rudely laughed at his own bad joke. A strong sense of discomfort washed over Mockingbird. A sense that he felt all too familiar with.
Macintosh sighed in exasperation. "What do ya want this time?"
The older pegasus looked at Mockingbird. "You know, I was really hoping to be alone with you for this, but I think it's safe for our friend here to have a fair warning."
Mockingbird took a small step back. What warning? Warned about... Big Macintosh? He appeared to be so friendly, what was there to be warned about?
"What do you mean?" Mockingbird asked.
Milky Way began waving his hooves. "Oh no, don't worry. It's nothing too bad." He flicked a hoof to Big Mac. "Just, be sure to stay away from Big Fruitcake, here."
Macintosh covered his eyes with his own foreleg. "Milky Way, can you please not call me that?"
"Well maybe next time, you should think twice before staring at my flank!" he defensively snapped back.
"What? I wasn't even looking at ya!" Big Mac claimed.
The white pegasus advanced onto the muscular stallion, grabbing him by the work collar and violently shoving him against the tiled wall. "Listen, apple boy, I don't do any of that cuddling you're into. Don't say you were not doing it. I saw you out there on the dance floor, eyeballing my cutie mark. I have a marefriend back in Cloudsdale. If you ever check me out again, I will make sure you get a flanking from your granny."
"Leave him alone!" Mockingbird interjected. Realizing what he just did, his vocals began to close. His whole coat was soaked in sweat. He knew that this action would come with a price.
The bully turned from the farmer to the singer with a menacing grin. "Why should I? Are you trying to be his knight in shining armor? Come on, kid, I recognize you from Cloudsdale. We're better than this sissy cuddler. He has to learn what happens if he gawks at the wrong ponies."
Big Macintosh regained some energy in his vocals. "Don't argue with him, Mockingbird. He's just trying to get a rise from you."
"Shut up, you pussy!" Milky Way yelled to him. "Kid, are you in love with him or something? Are you actually so disgusting, vile and psycho enough to accept this kind of lifestyle? There are foals around this town. What will happen if they see him doing this kind of thing. It's too obscene to let it slide. I'm giving him what he deserves, so either join me, or get out!"
"Well, uh, actual—, you see—, I, um— ugh!" Mockingbird pulled his mane by the roots. His breathing became more demanding for air at every millisecond. He could feel the pizza and cupcakes from his last meal swimming up for an encore appearance. The room started to rotate like a carousel. His heart burned like the sun.
Was Ponyville really as safe as he was told? Could he trust being his true self around all these other ponies? What about Pinkie Pie? The Two Musicians he performed with earlier? Princess Twilight Sparkle? Did they secretly hide these prejudices? Did everypony at that party want to take a beating on him if they ever knew who he truly was? His brain gave him the sole instruction that seemed fit for this scenario: Run.
"I have to go!" Mockingbird cried. With his brain now on survival mode, he spread his wings and charged like a bull through the door. The loud BANG from the slam echoed throughout the bakery, silencing the celebration. He propelled his way through the party, never looked back and dashed out the main exit, leaving all the partygoers in a lost state of confusion and anxiety.
I remained seated on my haunches in the center of the living room. My hoof covered my mouth on its own accord. I just didn't know the proper response to that incident that left me hocked and paralyzed to stiffness. The same ponies, that I showed so much kindness to for many years, treated other ponies that way? It couldn't be. I was beginning to hope that Big Macintosh was okay and that nothing bad happened to him. Poor thing. Wait? Big Mac, into colts? All these years and it never even occurred for me to think of that possibility. Could it really be true?
"Did that r-really happen t-to you?" I asked Mockingbird. I wasn't sure whether the tears were just delayed, or I was just getting better at this.
He wiped a streak of sweat off his forehead and said, "I wouldn't be telling you if it didn't."
Rainbow Dash shot up and hovered in a defense position, throwing practice punches at her invisible foe. She was obviously not trying to hold back any anger. "I'm gonna have a good talk with that Milky Way! If he thinks he can say stuff like that and get away with it, well he didn't see what's coming! Maybe he's forgetting how much flank I kicked at the Wonderbolt Academy."
Gasping, I reached up and placed a hoof on her flank. "Rainbow, can we please not escalate this to violence? Doing that won't make us any better than he is."
She looked down at me with skepticism. "Fluttershy, are you just going to let him get away with something like that? This happened to your brother."
"No, I think what he did was terrible," I answered, "but that doesn't mean we have to sink to his level."
"Fluttershy's right, Dashie," Mockingbird spoke up. "Besides, it will just happen too much around here anyway."
I turned to him. "What? Mocking, I don't know of many other ponies in town that would ever—"
"Exactly!" he interrupted. "You don't know. Shy, the reason why I don't want to be outed here is because of what happened in that bathroom. I don't want to get bullied again like in flight school."
My ears shot up, breath emptying from my lungs. Did he really get picked on in school? Why didn't he tell me? My mind continued to draw a very long blank.
"Bullied?" Rainbow asked in disbelief.
Mockingbird forced himself to nod. "The worst years of my life. Going to school every single day was a living tartarus. Why do you think I was in such a hurry to graduate?"
Like the incident from the previous day, my brain was refusing to process the new information. In all the letters he sent me, he always talked about the good at home, but was he really neglecting the bad? He always sent me messages like 'I passed all my classes,' or 'I got the lead in the upcoming school musical.' Bullying never came up, but why?
"Mockingbird, don't you realize that you could've told me about all of this?" I asked him. "I've been there before. I know what it's like to be picked on constantly. You could've gotten through so much easier if you just talked to me."
His muzzle aimed for the carpet. "I thought it was better for you not to know. It would've made you upset, and I thought you've already dealt with enough."
"The only thing that would've happened, was me offering you my full sympathy and support."
"What good would that have done, Fluttershy? It wouldn't have made them go away. Did you seriously want to hear about all the hazing, black eyes, bathroom harassing, and obscene locker messages they gave me? One time, a stallion tried to pluck all the feathers off of my wings because he thought I was checking him out." His lips quivered. His nose immediately clogged with mucus. He sealed his eyes and held back the tears of those dreadful memories.
A deep pang came to my heart like a gong. My eyes began to well. My knowledge of him having a wonderful flight school experience was shattered like a broken vase. The one time he truly needed me for support and he never told me. Why couldn't I be there to protect him?
"You didn't have to go through any of that alone," Rainbow Dash interrupted. "You could've even come to me, and I would've kicked some serious flank, just for you."
"Rainbow!" I shot up from my seat.
"What? They would've deserved it. They can't just treat somepony like that."
"GIRLS!" Mockingbird jumped up, then took a step back, exhaling. "I appreciate the fact that you have support for me, but when they had their suspicions, there was no stopping them. If anypony in Ponyville has those same thoughts, then I'll re-live it all like some living nightmare. Besides, it would all just be easier for everypony if I wasn't even here."
My eyes widened. Wasn't even here? What was that supposed to mean? Did he mean not with me? Not in Ponyville? Not in Equestria? But if not here, then where? "Mockingbird, what are you talking about?"
"It's just a thought," he answered. He trotted over to the kitchen window, fixing his sight on the dusk. "Every day, I just live in so much fear of being something I have no control over. Everypony thinks I decided who I'm attracted to and they believe that somehow, it's alright to judge me harshly for it. Because apparently, my personal life has everything to do with them. Whenever I try to defend myself, it just fans their fire. I keep telling myself that things will get better, but better never comes."
Mockingbird reached over to my cutlery and drew one of my larger knives from its sheath. He closely examined his own reflection along the silver blade with a grim look in his, now moon white, eye. "I feel like they won't stop until I leave. It's probably what they really want. Probably the only way out of this. I feel like there's no place for me in Equestria. It's like I've been a mistake. Whatever's on the other side can't possibly be any worse than what I'm living."
Why was he saying all this? I never knew that my brother could be so dark, or let alone think about doing something so frightening. But as I observed him gazing out into Luna's night, I developed the uneasy feeling that he was craving the same haunting nothingness that the evening sky possessed. Falling asleep, to never wake up, seeing nothing but blackness for all eternity—how could that possibly be any better than living? I glanced at Rainbow Dash, her hoof covering her heart as she stepped away. This was a pony who won't even let terror drive her to shelter, but watching the descent of somepony close was just enough to make her skeleton tremble.
Enough was enough! I trotted to him and gripped my hoof around his that wielded the knife. "Mockingbird!" He redirected his focus to me. "Mockingbird, I'm starting to get very worried. Please tell me you're not serious!" My voice was shaking like a leaf. Tears of concern were stinging my bulging eyes. Rainbow remained silent in the other room. I just knew that things had to get better soon. If not, then his dark desire would've been granted. I just didn't know what I would do with myself if that actually came true.
"Please," I whispered, softly.
He began to frown while looking into my face, and snapped out of his trance. It was like he could sense how much he was hurting me by saying all that alone. The knife slipped from his hoof and fell, with a shimmering thud, to the wooden floor. He gripped his forehead like it was burning and massaged it.
"I'm so sorry, Fluttershy," Mockingbird said. "It's just a thought I get when I'm frustrated. I don't really mean it. I'm sorry to scare you like that."
"So you won't do it? Ever?"
He shook his head. In relief, I threw my arms around his neck and gave him a squeeze. "Oh, apology accepted, Mockingbird. But, please remember, if you don't mind that is, to talk to me if you ever feel that way, okay?"
"Alright," he began, "I'll try looking for a better tomorrow. I'll even try to apologize to Pinkie Pie for running out, when the time comes."
"Whatever you feel is right to do, I'll support it." I gently nuzzled my head under his neck, as we made our way back into the living room. "I'm sure Pinkie Pie will forgive you for tonight's incident. She cares very deeply about how her friends feel."
"Hey, Fluttershy, there's something on your door." Rainbow Dash was looking at the front entrance, still swinging open. On the center of the outdoor side, there was a small, manilla colored, envelope pinned to the wood. It was probably something that was there for sometime, but none of us noticed until that moment.
I went over to the marking, ejected the pin and caught the envelope as it sailed down. I read the return address at the top left hoof corner: Mr. and Mrs. Barrister and April Shower, 4 Cloud Drive, Cloudsdale, Equestria. The center of the envelope simply said, 'Fluttershy.' I shut the door. Four years of separating themselves from me, and now they want me back? I pondered. Rainbow Dash and Mockingbird circled me in curiosity.
"Who is it from?" Mockingbird asked.
"Mom and Dad," I said. "I wonder what they want?"
Rainbow peered at the mystery message yet to be revealed. "Well, Fluttershy, open it and find out."
Without further ado, I flipped to the backside, tore off the waxy stamp seal and slipped out a white parchment that was the letter. I unfolded the paper, smoothing the creases from its original position before reading it aloud.
How has life been for you? It's been a very long time since we last spoke with you, but we figured it would be nice to do some catching up. We imagine there's probably loads of exciting things that you would like to share with us and we have some news for you, as well. That's why we would like you to come home for a little Sunday morning brunch tomorrow at ten. We have some things that we would like to discuss. Something just happened to our family and we would like you to be here to talk it out with us. Also, feel free to bring Rainbow Dash along; we're assuming that you both are still close. We look forward to seeing you again and will not take no for an answer.
— Love, Mom and Dad.
P.S. You remember Zeus, right? Well he will also be joining us, so make sure to look your best for him.
As Rainbow Dash and I ascended to Cloudsdale the next morning, an ensemble of questions danced around my head. Why do they want to see me now? Why were they so cruel to Mockingbird, but sounding so nice in the letter? Do they know how much pain they have already caused me in just a few days? Above all else, I couldn't stop thinking about how I would react to seeing my father. He turned so cold-hearted and violent, he ended up hurting somepony I love very dearly—that he loves very dearly. Since he was family, I wasn't sure whether to feel either angry or calm.
I started wondering if my parents had changed much since I last saw them, or how much home has changed. What did they do with my old bedroom? Do they still have pictures of me on the wall? Are they aware of the amazing things, that I've seen and accomplished with my friends? I was still able to remember so much about them.
My father, Barrister, has always been a pretty strict stallion. Hard working, competitive, and very devoted to his beliefs. He was the kind of pegasus who would do anything to get what he wanted, without letting anything get in his way. Father always expected a lot from all of us to achieve greatness in the highest ways possible. A standard that I was never able to fully live up to.
My mother, April Shower, was somewhat different. A very intelligent mare, and very beautiful too, she was always the nurturing kind who told us we were loved every day. A lot of ponies said that I take strongly after her. Sweet, sensitive, and caring. Whenever I was around Mother, I always felt loved.
Ever since I left them, I haven't thought too much about going back. I always knew that I wouldn't have been welcomed, but for some reason, I still loved and cared about the family I left behind. I realized, however, that the invitation I received the previous night gave me an excellent opportunity to convince them to reconcile with Mockingbird.
Maybe that's the reason why I decided to go to brunch. Maybe I felt a great urge to bring us all together once more. We could've revived so many more wonderful memories of camping, holidays, and vacations to Las Pegasus every summer. There would still be room for more in the years to come. Oh, I thought It would've been so wonderful to be a family again. If only I knew.
After making our morning commute through the bustling and congested streets of Cloudsdale, we finally arrived at 4, Cloud Drive, my old home. As I have predicted, the outside of the house still looked the same. The large two in a half story castle-like building, that was sculpted from pure cumulus, towered against Celestia's sun. Two rows of four stained glass windows, painted red, looked out into the clear blue sky. The front yard stretched out for about ten yards up to the edge of its cloud island.
The sight alone, brought back so much.
Our little selves frolicked around the cloud yard on a golden autumn afternoon. Me and my brother's giggles and carefree spirits brightened the already gleaming city in the sky. The small colt swooshed out an imaginary sword, protecting me.
"Aargh! Back I say, ye scalawags! If ye lay one hoof on me sissy, I shall have yer booty!" he commanded in a fake swashbuckler tone.
I backed off timidly. "Um, Mockingbird? Maybe we shouldn't be playing pirates if you're going to threaten anypony... if that's okay with you, of course." I insisted to my little brother.
He broke character, rolling his eyes. "Fluttershy, I'm trying to protect you from the sailors of Gilda, The Evil Griffin Pirate! How am I supposed to save you, and claim the treasure of Candy Island, if I don't fight like a pirate?"
"Oh, well, I just don't want to cause any trouble or fighting, that's all. I don't want to see you get hurt."
"Flutters, you don't have to worry about that. I'll be proud to protect you no matter what."
"Of course! That's what brothers and sisters do!"
How young and innocent we were then. I cherished our days of playtime, when we went on imaginary adventures to far off places. It was a wonderful chance for me to get away from my reality of being isolated at school. I would've loved to go back to those days and be a kid again. Growing up and seeing the world for what it really is can be so hard.
"Shall we?" Rainbow asked. I snapped out of my day dream. I didn't know what to expect from this gathering. How would they treat me? Were they still furious? Would I have even been glad to make this appointment? I was about to find out.
"Y-Yes, let's," I said, quietly.
After making our way down the front path, we arrived at the door. After about half a minute of trying to control my shaking hoof, I rang the doorbell. The tiny button produced a loud, but melodic, chime. Almost immediately after, we were welcomed by a middle-aged mare.
She was about my height, her coat a very rich butter yellow. She had a pair of lime green eyes. Her radiant flaxen red mane showered past her front shoulders like a waterfall. Her cutie mark was a triplet of tiny raindrops, descending from a grey cloud. She smiled brightly as I was wrapped in her tight embrace.
"Oh, Fluttershy, sweetheart, it's been so long," my mother joyfully cooed next to my ear. Her hugs were always the warmest. How I've missed them so much. She broke off from me, turned to Rainbow Dash and repeated the loving gesture. "And, Rainbow Dash, it's so lovely that you could make it."
Dash rolled her eyes to me and unraveled her tongue from her mouth, as if to make a gagging noise. I gently shook my head in disapproval, signaling her to drop it before Mom had a chance to let go.
I tried my best to give my warmest smile possible. "Um, hello, Mom. How are you?"
She clapped her hooves together. "Wonderful. We have to catch up with you. I imagine you have loads to share with us. My baby girl is finally home! Please, come inside, you two."
Rainbow and I did as we were told, while mom shut the door behind us. I was almost blinded by the shining, all white, interior of the house. Specks of sun ray peeped through small holes in the ceiling. A winding staircase thrusted out in front of the main entrance. A series of family pictures covered every wall of the downstairs corridors. Memories of each birthday, vacation, holiday, graduation, and other special occasions were documented in each golden frame.
"Barrister, honey, the girls are here!" Mother called upstairs. An elder stallion exited from the second floor washroom and descended the steps. My father looked very similar to Mockingbird, except he was much taller and his jet black mane was powdered with white from aging. A pair of thick, black squared, eyeglasses rested on his muzzle in front of his citrus orange eyes. He wore a deep blue suit jacket that came down to his flank; which was tattooed with an off-balance scale of justice cutie mark.
Upon seeing me, he revealed his yellowing teeth with a smile. "Fluttershy, my girl. Welcome home!" He inevitably came up and gave me a small hug, with a pat on my shoulder.
"H-Hi, Dad," I stuttered.
He turned to Rainbow and gave her an even tighter embrace. "Ah, Rainbow Dash, toughest mare in Cloudsdale! Finally, I get to see you again."
My friend kept a straight face and nodded. "Uh, yeah. Hi, Mister Barrister. It's good to see you too." Her pupils were floating away to another corner on the ceiling, making it obvious that she didn't want any contact with him.
I breathed deeply and smiled. "So, um, I like what you did with the place. You kept it looking so pretty."
Mother blushed at my compliment. "Honey, that is so sweet of you. But It has all been the same since you were last here."
Father nodded in agreement. "Exactly right, April. We never changed. We are still the lucky parents of a young and beautiful mare, we still bring in our splendid fortunes from our careers, and we still live in this lovely home." He waved his hoof around with a prideful smile.
"You sure like being consistent, don't you?" Rainbow Dash mumbled to herself.
"What was that, dear?" Mom asked.
"Nothing," Dash replied, turning her head to observe the stair railing.
I cleared my throat. "Well, I'm certainly glad to be back as a guest."
"A guest?" Dad asked. "Fluttershy, you know you are welcomed here anytime. You are still in this family, so don't you think any differently."
I wanted to thank him for being so sweet, but that wasn't enough to make me forget my mixed feelings. Rainbow Dash started looking at me like she noticed something odd. Something doesn't seem right with their behavior, was the non-verbal message she sent me. I felt like agreeing.
Father turned to Mom. "April, is the table all set for brunch?"
"Oh, yes, I know the girls will love what we have for them," she returned with a nod. They lead us into the living room on the left.
This was probably the least void room in the whole house. Two large sofas, made of cloud, sat facing each other on the sides of a long coffee table in the center. The setting was assorted with homemade and grown fruits, vegetables, bagels, danishes, cinnamon buns, orange juice and coffee. Mom has done it again.
A crystal chandelier dangled from the ceiling, reflecting off the shimmer of the glowing sun through the windows. The shelves on the walls were occupied with more old photographs of me and Mockingbird. All the pictures were arranged in chronological order, as if to make a timeline that watched us grow over the years.
Except I noticed that all the pictures with Mockingbird had his face cut out, leaving a dark hole over his own past. Were my parents really trying that hard to forget him? They were acting all happy like his coming out never even happened.
Dad escorted us to a registration booth. "Okay, kids, I hope you two have a great first summer at flight camp!"
I glanced up to my father with big and begging eyes. "B-But, Daddy, what if the other fillies don't like me?"
"Of course they'll like you, Fluttershy. You come from an amazing family with Mommy and Daddy, and you have your brother here to protect you." He turned to his little colt with a wink. "Isn't that right, Mockingbird?"
He saluted Father like a soldier following an order. "Yes, Daddy! Nothing bad will ever happen to my sis!"
"That's my boy! Just remember that no matter how far away we are from each other, Mommy and Daddy will love you both very much."
Even I'll admit it, the first hour of the brunch was kind of boring. My parents had the upper hoof in the conversation as they went on and on about all the court cases Dad won, Mom's projects in the Rain Department of the Cloudsdale Weather Factory, the number of expensive trips they took, or how they were thinking of renovating the house. They never brought Mockingbird up once. Did they even remember that they had a son at all?
Rainbow Dash and I remained seated in the plush couch across from them. Our only activity while listening to their stories was taking random nibbles at some food, forcing down the bitter tasting coffee past my throat and putting on an occasional smile and nod whenever they wanted us to agree with them. It was great to hear that they were doing well, but the whole time I felt this mysterious urge to speak up.
My brain kept reminding me of how I told Mockingbird that I would go speak to them and try to persuade them a little. My thoughts were rehearsing this speech on repeat. My heart was in the right place. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted to lead a conversation. But the opportunity didn't come.
I know what you're probably thinking right now: why couldn't I just interrupt them? Um, yes, I suppose I could've done that, but that just sounds so rude. Mother always taught me to let others finish talking before you speak, so I wasn't going to disrespect her like that. Especially when they invited me over themselves.
Finally, after Dad finished up his last story, he gave me my chance. "So, Fluttershy, it's been a whole four years since we last saw or spoke with you. Tell us, what exactly have you been doing with your life?"
Oh, dear, now I couldn't speak at all. The moment I have the floor and I go blank. What have I been doing with my life? I could've told him so much. About how I made so many wonderful friends and all of my unforgettable adventures with them. Memories that I have permanently sewn to my heart, to never forget until the day I die.
But no, Instead, I said the only thing that could come to mind. "I've been living a very nice life in Ponyville. I now work as the town's official animal caretaker." I nervously smiled, even though I knew he wouldn't be pleased.
The stallion rolled his eyes. "Oh, I see. Still throwing your life away on a bunch of filthy vermin with earth ponies?"
With an offended gasp, I was surprisingly quick to react. "What? My animals are not filthy. They are all very sweet little critters, who—"
Father raised a hoof, and I stopped. There I go being a push over again. "Fluttershy, do you remember why we asked you to move out?" That day was a terrible memory. A memory that I succeeded in erasing from my mind, up until that moment. I just shook my head, knowing that there was no way to avoid it.
He continued. "You had so much at your hooves. True, you never had the skills to get into the advanced flight academy on your own, but you were lucky enough that I had ties for your acceptance. You could've improved so much as a flier and learned to assert yourself for competition. A successful life was waiting right there for you. Instead, you denied all of those wonderful opportunities to live like some lowly life hippie near the forest. We gave, and gave, and gave, but you never appreciated it. You turned down your only opportunity to be great. Animals do not lead to greatness, Fluttershy."
I lowered my head. My eyes started to feel very moist and salty. Was any of that really necessary?
"Hey, Fluttershy doesn't need your approval to know that she's great!" I jumped to see that Rainbow Dash was aggressively hovering over my dad, jotting a hoof at him.
He arched a brow. "Oh, and how is that so, Rainbow Dash?"
"If you've kept in touch with her, you would've known." Dash gestured to me. "She has scolded a full-grown dragon, won a staring match against a cockatrice, tamed a cerberus, saved the pegasus tornado last year, and reformed the god of chaos! What else do you want from your only daughter?"
It was very sweet what Rainbow was doing for me, but I could tell that she was unintentionally daring him to argue—A challenge he could not resist. Father was the kind who wanted to be right about everything; they didn't nickname him 'The Iron Barrister' for nothing. He would even go as far as to use the scary tactic of shouting, mudslinging and name calling just to get his point across. Was he very intimidating? Yes, but I still loved him. At least, I think I did.
He got up to refill his coffee mug. "You see, there's a lot more to being great, other than just a couple of occasional achievements," my father claimed, tightly clenching his hoof. "You have to have the passion for competition. The willingness to kill whatever's in your path to reach the ultimate goal, while leaving no concern or empathy for others. My daughter here has failed to show any hint of that in her life." The patriarch relaxed back in his seat and sipped his hot beverage, posing a cocky smirk of victory. Mom sat next to him and only nodded in, what appeared to be, forced agreement.
Why did he have to say all those mean things to me? I understood that I took a different path from what they wanted for me, but I had to back then. If I had done things their way, I would've been completely miserable. My life would've been very different, but not for the better. I might have been able to please them, but it would've came at my own expense. In the end, it just wasn't worth it.
After a lengthy silence, I took a very deep breath and tried to argue back. "W-Well, Daddy, I-I actually think that I am happy with what I do."
"As long as you feel that way, we're proud of you, sweetheart." My ears peaked at the sound of my mother's voice. After staying quiet for such a long time it was the first time I heard her. She spoke words of encouragement to me for the first time. My heart leaped like a frog. A smile started to spread when—
"Dammit, April! You're not helping!" Dad yelled to her. The room fell quiet again. My mother shrank back into hiding behind her mane. No. That couldn't have happened. Father would never snap like that to his family... would he?
"Fluttershy, if you really want to be successful, then tell me: when are you going to start being serious, stop playing with animals and look for a real job?" he inquired.
"Um, well, what I do is a real job," I stated. "I keep the animals in town and around the forest safe. I heal them, feed them, help fix their homes, watch over pets, find potential loving owners for them, and make sure they all feel loved and have a place in this world."
Dad crossed his forelegs and scrunched his nose with heavy disinterest. "Do you make much?"
"Um, you see, uh, no. But that's not—"
"Then, you're pretty freaking lucky that you have all that Will money from your Grandma Nightingale, my mother, to dip into. Or else you would've never survived."
Rainbow Dash leaned close to Father, widening her eyes. "And who says money is important? She still makes a good amount of bits to spend. If she's been living well on her own, she's successful in any sane pony's eyes!" Dash's opponent went frozen. His face remained unhinged from his own frustration of the debate.
Rainbow wrapped her foreleg around my shoulder and slid up against me. I continued to sit in high anxiety. True, Dad was making me feel upset, but the insult throwing wasn't necessary at all. "Like I said," Dash continued, "she doesn't need your approval to know that she is happy. Fluttershy knows that she is successful on her own terms. Right, Fluttershy?"
A gulp blocked the vocals in my throat. I cautiously nodded my head, fearing whatever I said next would only anger him even further.
Dad turned his head away. "Fine, I don't want to hear anymore of it." He never gave up like that before. Was that his own way of silencing me? The tension was eased a bit when a knock came at the door.
"I'll get that," mom volunteered. She got off her haunches and crossed over to the entrance. After she opened the door, a familiar stallion pegasus entered.
This pony showed more age than my father, but was not exactly elderly. He was tall, but still a bit shorter than Dad. He had a very dark brown coat and wore a black suit top. His mane was a faded blonde that covered most of his head—except for one large bald spot on the back. On his flank a cutie mark of a black cloud, with three golden thunder bolts erupting, stood out for a mile.
Mom stepped aside for the new guest to enter. "Hello, Zeus, we're glad you could make it."
Zeus nodded. "My pleasure to be here today, April Shower." He trotted into the living room and greeted my father. "Barrister, my friend! Having a good Sunday, I'm assuming?"
Dad got up. "Excellent, now that you're here," he responded in an embrace. "How did your mission go last night?"
Zeus smiled menacingly. "Well, let's just say they should definitely get the message now."
"Fantastic! I knew you'd be right for the job."
I noticed some spots on Zeus' hoof—red spots to be exact—that resembled dried paint. His inner palm looked swollen like he had been trying to scrub it off earlier. The color chipped from his dry skin and floated down to the floor. What kind of "mission" was he on? I asked myself. Why would he needed to paint his hooves for it?
Dad turned and gestured to me and Rainbow Dash. "And look who decided to join us for our talk."
Zeus' face brightened. "Well hello, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. It is so good to see you both again." As he approached my seat, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand. As the blonde stallion brushed my chin, I looked up to see him smile with a hungry look in his sea blue eyes. "Fluttershy, you have grown up into quite the beautiful young mare. Your parents should be very lucky."
I thought of trying to shift away, but quickly realized that I was too boxed in to do so. He quickly leaned in and planted a long kiss on my cheek. Oh, my goodness, that was such an... awful feeling.
Instead of warmth, a nauseating taste came to my tongue. The air felt like somepony turned up the thermostat, but I was the only one feeling the heat. My heart quaked. My brain tingled with a very fuzzy dizziness. My stomach felt like it was injected with a vomit inducing substance. I began to squeal in the same manner when I get very nervous or scared. It came as a surprise to me that I didn't faint.
Zeus was the kind of stallion whom I've never felt completely safe around, or trusting of. I know, it's a terrible thing to say about anypony, but he was different. Whenever he saw me when I was little, he always overemphasized how pretty I looked, tried to sit near me, or even give me these weird kisses like he wanted to... um... l-like he... you know, right? I always tried my best to avoid him, but the fact that he was best friends with my father, and my mother's boss, didn't make it very easy at all.
Mom came back into the room. "Please, Zeus, have a seat." She gestured to an open armchair next to me. Zeus took his place. My dad turned back to me.
"So, Fluttershy, tell us. How's Mockingbird been doing with you?" he asked.
My brows curved, my head cocking a little to the side. "How did you know he was with me?"
Mom sighed and shifted her focus out a window. "Just a feeling. You two were always so close, we kind of knew that he would find you. You were so much like a second mother to him while growing up."
Now was finally my chance to take the floor. After taking a deep breath, I went on to tell them everything that happened between me and Mockingbird over the past two days.
Dad just nodded and took a tiny sip of his coffee. "I see, and you took him in?"
"Well, of course I did," I answered. "He's my brother. I love him."
My father started to shake his head. "No, no, no, no, no. You see, Fluttershy, he might be your brother and my son, but what you did was actually very wrong."
My brows furrowed. He never said anything like that before... at least not about his own family. "What? Why was it wrong? What else was I supposed to do?"
The elder stallion sighed and placed his mug on the table. "Fluttershy, I now know Mockingbird just as well as you do. It's true that he was never the strongest flyer around, or the brightest when it came to weather making and handling, but I had faith in that boy. I knew that with his special talent, he would've surely succeeded out there and made me proud, but not anymore."
Zeus took the lead. "What your brother has done was choose a lifestyle that is very unnatural," he explained to me. "You see, stallions and mares were meant to be together under one union. Together, they create families. If two stallions or two mares partake in such cuddling or fooling together, what they are not doing is love, but offending Princess Celestia herself. This is one of our core beliefs of the Traditional Pegasus Family Coalition, and what we strive to promote for a better Equestria. We even discussed the effects at our meeting last night."
Offend Celestia? That didn't sound very true at all. Rainbow Dash was the next one to speak. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! You don't even know the princess. How can you tell if she is not okay with the personal lives of two ponies?"
Mom cleared her throat. "W-well, that's b-because Equestria needs families to thrive."
She looked to Dad. He nodded to her. "Exactly right, April. Our society needs the family to survive. Something that cuddlers are obviously incapable of providing. If there is no standard family with a mother and father, then many fillies raised by cuddlers and foolers will grow up with severe dysfunction. Equestria cannot afford to see that happen."
I tried to counter argue, but ended up stuttering, "B-But I just d-don't th-think that Mockingbird is any different f-from any other pony. He just wants to be himself, how is that harming anypony."
Father shot up in frustration and paced over to the fireplace. "Fluttershy, what you are failing to understand is that Mockingbird has disharmony messing with his brain. Can't you see how obscene it is? If we accept that lifestyle, then before we know it, we would also be allowing ponies to marry squirrels, siblings to inbreed, and pedoponies to touch every little filly they see! Do you know why? Because they'll all use the same excuse: 'It's love!' That is everything that my coalition goes against, and I will not live to watch this world crumble because of my son!"
He was really starting to get angry. You would've had to really upset him to make him this mad. I was shaking like a leaf as my mind went dead.
Rainbow slammed her hooves on the coffee table, the plates and silverware shimmering and clanking loudly. "So, trying to beat the child you love and kicking him out was better than some harmless love? That's just sick!"
"I kicked him out because he wouldn't listen, or cooperate!" He was shouting at this point. I began to wish that I was like a turtle, so I could hide in my shell and wait for all the danger to pass. "For eighteen years, I did my best to raise him on the values of a good family and what was important. I gave him everything: a home, an education, my support and my confidence. How does he repay me? He takes my values and lessons, chews them up and spits them all out onto my hooves. Everything that I know to be morally wrong is what he's doing. I will not have a son to be betray me!"
Dad flew over my head, landed next to my seat and craned over me. "And you! What you're doing is only making it worse. He has a problem, but you're encouraging him to accept himself like that. Like it is perfectly okay to promote such an unhealthy habit. He will never get well if you continue."
My family flew out from the school auditorium and into the night time sky. Mother and Father wore the warmest of smiles, while escorting me and my little brother at their sides. The little colt looked at the fresh mark on his flank.
"Oh, boy! I can't believe this! I discovered my special talent!" he cheered, looking up at me. "You see this, Fluttershy? Now I finally have a cutie mark, just like you!"
I smiled to him. "Mockingbird, you were so great up there. I'm very proud of you."
"We're all very proud of you, Son," Father added. "I will always be proud of you."
"Always. There is nothing you can ever do to make me stop loving you."
"Of course, sweetheart," Mother chirped. "Families will always love each other. There is no magic, corruption, or any other power in this world that could ever change that."
My heart burned and burned and melted like wax at the mercy of his words. I took a sip of coffee. It's almost impossible to cry if you're drinking. I spoke after a passing silence. "But, don't you think it was still a little harsh to just kick him out? If you don't mind me asking that is."
To this day, I still don't know why that question came up. My father already made it pretty clear that he didn't approve. At that point my heart was so broken that I couldn't even think straight. It just seemed so pointless, but I had to try.
The answer he gave me, however, came as a surprise. Father lightly trotted over to a shelf that held Mockingbird's graduation photo. He traced his hoof over the cutout hole that used to have his face. "Twenty years, I've been president of Traditional Pegasus Family in Cloudsdale. All those years we've tried to spread the message of how a normal family is important. 'If the traditional family falls apart, then we all will fall apart,' I always preached. But throwing out my only son, when he needs help, was very hypocritical. It was wrong."
Did that actually work? I asked myself. Was it really possible that I changed my father's mind that quickly? It couldn't have been. Looking back, that didn't seem very natural at all. He didn't even take a minute to think about it. Had I known what he had in store, I would've been much more careful about what he proposed next.
He turned back to me with a mysterious smile painted on his face. "I would like to see him again. Discuss this with him, one on one. I want you to bring him to me, Fluttershy. Tomorrow, at one o'clock, for lunch."
My own train of thought derailed. That didn't seem right. I didn't want to accept the offer, but I didn't want to decline either. I believe that with a little kindness, patience, compromise, and understanding, ponies can change for the better. But it rarely happens this fast. I really wanted to believe him at the time. It was a chance to reunite the family again for good.
But wait. I just remembered. Twilight. "Um, actually, I'm sorry. That is not going to work. I have lunch tomorrow in town with a friend."
Zeus reclined further in the armchair. "How about Saturday night, then? It'll be another chance for us to catch up and I want to be here for that. I'll be very busy running the Rain Department this week." He waved a hoof to my mother. "We're preparing a massive lightning cloud for a huge storm that's scheduled to hit Canterlot in about three weeks time."
"Zeus, I'm still not so sure about this project," Mom claimed, concerned. "A lightning cloud that big could cause a lot more damage, shock and injury than the average—"
"Why are you trying to take over my position?" Zeus rudely interrupted. "You are only my assistant manager. I'm not paying you to criticize my projects."
"I'm not criticizing you," she argued. "All I'm saying is that if we break it up into smaller clouds and distribute it more evenly, then we would be risking a lot less—"
"April, please don't argue with Zeus about his work," Dad interjected. "I didn't become one of Equestria's top lawyers by taking criticism from assistants." My mother lowered her head and sighed in sadness.
She has always been mostly quiet when it came to opinions or beliefs. Most of the time, she would often agree with my father or just sit on the sidelines when an argument came up. Mother always followed her spouse without question, force or protest. Perhaps my extreme shyness was another major trait that I developed from her? I could never be too sure. Poor Mom. It sounded like she just wanted to help better their project. She had every right to her opinion as a weather pegasus. How I wish I could've helped her at that moment.
Dad refocused back on me. "Alright, Fluttershy, how about we meet back here on Saturday at around seven? There will be tons of ponies here for support."
With all the rudeness, intimidating hospitality and harsh viewpoints they just showed, I really didn't feel so sure about his idea anymore. Rainbow Dash looked at me with a disapproving look like she predicted what was going to happen. I just spoke my mind. "Um, I don't know. I'm sorry, I just have to kind of think about it." I hid my right eye under my mane, prepared for another outburst. Except there was no need to.
Dad smiled. "Don't worry, I'll give you another day to change your mind. Tomorrow we'll be sure to send you a friendly reminder, just to push you in the right direction." By that I thought he meant a note, not what was to ensue.
I nodded with some uncertainty. "Oh, um, okay. I'll talk about it with Mockingbird when I get home."
"Excellent!" my father exclaimed. "We hope to see you then."
Mom started to smile again, like her own silencing never even occurred. "That will be wonderful, Fluttershy. I look forward to seeing my little angel again." A tear of joy started to twinkle on the corner of her eye.
Zeus crossed his legs onto the coffee table. "I can't wait. I imagine it will be a fine rendezvous."
Rainbow Dash took my foreleg and pulled me off the couch for the exit. "Uh, well, okay. So if that's all, we should really get going. I have some, uh, Wonderbolt practicing to do." I could understand why Dash didn't want to stay much longer, so I followed her lead.
"Uh, yes, I have a lot of cleaning to do," I lied. "But this was very nice. Thank you for inviting us."
Father halted us. "Before you go, something came in for Mockingbird yesterday." He crossed over to a stand and picked up a sealed pink envelope. "It's from the Sky Café. We contacted them about your brother and they sent us this in return."
I took it from him and placed it under my wing. "Thank you. I'll be sure he gets it."
The lawyer pegasus began walking Rainbow and I over to the door and opened it for us. "Excellent, darling. We'll see you on Saturday."
After waving a quick goodbye to everypony in the room, the two of us headed out, leaving my past behind.
After we were well out of the range of the house and flying back down to the earth, Rainbow Dash looked to me and asked, "Are you sure it's a good idea to meet with them again?"
I gulped. "I don't know."
I couldn't make heads or tails on anything that happened. I always knew about their views and expectations, but to actually be that crude to me when I'm just being my usual kind self? Who were those ponies?
On the way home, my mind couldn't shake off this dark prediction. There's a storm coming, it kept telling me. What storm? What was making me think this? Could it have been my parents?
This thinking made me feel like there was an angry lioness waiting to jump out of me. When a mother lion feels that her cub is threatened, her very first instinct is to protect him from the dangerous predator. The carnivorous feline inside awoke from her slumber. Discovering the impending threat, she began to growl.
Was this feeling... anger? A desire for me to rage against Mother and Father? Letting them know how much they've hurt me and made me upset? Was I bottling it all in? No! That couldn't have been me. I would never dream of doing such a thing to hurt my own family. Would I?
Long after Rainbow Dash parted from me to her cloud duties, I made my landing in front of my cottage. I couldn't feel more relieved to be back home. Looking down, I noticed the Red Azalea that Pinkie Pie gave me. The flower bowed, the bright color on the pedals starting to fade with dryness. I probably should've gotten to it earlier, but I was just so distracted. "I'll plant it today, for sure," I told myself. "Just, after I finish helping Mr. Beaverton Beaverteeth repair his dam." I was so glad that it wasn't near Sweet Apple Acres again.
When I opened the door, I saw that I had visitors. Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie were all looking down on Mockingbird, sitting on the couch.
"Are you sure you didn't not like the party last night?" Pinkie Pie asked, sounding worried and upset at the same time.
"It had nothing to do with the party. I had a great time," Mockingbird assured her with a little grin. "I just wasn't feeling too well, that's all."
Rarity sat down next to him on the neighboring cushion. Her hoof rubbed in circles along his back, showing the same maternal instincts she usually gives her sister, Sweetie Belle. "Are you sure, darling? When we saw you last night, it looked like you were more terrified than ill."
"Oh, I was ill. It just felt like an emergency, so I had to rush home."
"Without even telling your sister about it?" Applejack asked in confusion. "You know, ya really scared the willies out of her, sugarcube. Heck, I was scared too. Big Macintosh came out just a minute later and he didn't wanna talk to me about anything. In fact, he really wanted to go home, himself." She massaged the back of her neck. "It looked like somepony was trying to hurt him. I hope he's feeling alright. He hasn't even gotten up yet this morning."
I quietly closed the door and approached everypony. "Oh, I'm sure he's doing okay, Applejack." All four performed a small jump as their heads shot up in unison and turned to me.
Rarity stopped her rubbing. "Fluttershy, dear, how long have you been there?"
I took a step back and lowered my head. "Oh, I just came home. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt or scare anypony."
Pinkie jumped onto her hooves and hopped in front of me, giggling. "Oh, silly Fluttershy." She began patting my head with an unintended force, causing my eyes to squint. "Don't you worry your pretty little head about interrupting. Auntie Pinkie Pie and friends are just making sure your brother is A-Okay!"
My brows scrunched. It always kind of annoyed me that she called herself my aunt, even though she knew that I was a year older than her. But it was never enough for me to be angry with her. I could never imagine myself being angry at either of my friends.
Rarity coughed to clear her throat. "What Pinkie Pie is trying to say, Fluttershy, is that we saw Mockingbird run out last night, and we were just stopping by to make sure he was alright."
My heart was starting to warm as I smiled. "Thank you, girls. That's very sweet of you all. Mockingbird just had a little rough night last night, that's all."
Applejack turned back to him. "You don't look too sick anymore. That mean you're feeling better?"
Mockingbird nodded. "Uh, yeah. Much better. Couldn't be healthier." I noticed a similar tone in his voice. The same one he used at the party when he wouldn't tell them the real reason why he was in town. My friends never had the ability I had to understand what others felt on the inside.
Rarity smiled and nuzzled against his neck. "A very good bit of news to hear, sweetness." She perked her head up and pursed her lips. "And remember, if you ever need somepony to talk to, you can always find me at either the Carousel Boutique, or the Ponyville Spa. I would be more than happy to listen to you. Why, you can come and talk to any of us, and we would all lend an ear."
"Thank you, all of you," Mockingbird gestured to my friends. "I really appreciate it." The three mares nodded to him, showing that they were glad to help.
Rarity got off from the couch. "Well then, I have a lot of orders to fill so I should probably get going." She began trotting across the living room.
Pinkie Pie followed suit. "Okie Dokie Lokie!" she cheered, trailing behind the white unicorn.
The last to leave was Applejack. "Well, certainly good to hear you're doing well, Mockingbird. I suppose I better head on back to the orchard. Those apple trees can't plant themselves. I'll catch y'all later." And with that she was gone.
Mockingbird and I were alone together again. He got up from his seat and asked the first thing on his mind. "How was brunch?"
"Um, i-it was okay, I guess," I answered.
"You guess? What do you mean?"
"Well..." I went on to tell him all about the reunion and Dad's offer.
My brother bore a blank face, scratching his head. "So, he really wants to talk to me again, huh?" He didn't sound very enthusiastic or thrilled. In fact, I don't think he even wanted this meeting to happen at all. "Do you really think we should go? It sounds kind of suspicious."
I looked up into his eyes and told him my truth. "That's what I'm trying to decide."
The rest of the day passed quietly. While Mockingbird had a daisy sandwich for his lunch, I spend some time fluffing Angel's tail. The task of trying to properly place the curlers into the usually stubborn bunny's behind felt like hours to me, but in the end it was worth it for both of us. He always loved how his tail poofed out once the styling tools were removed, giving it that soft bouncy feeling whenever he ran, scurried, thumped, or hopped. I enjoyed seeing how cute he was to have a fresh start to his new clean self.
Once that was done, it was time for me to go and help fix the local beaver dam. I went to my closet to retrieve my good pair of yellow rubber boots for the river, and a spool full of twine.
"Mockingbird, I'm about to head out to care for some beavers!" I called to him as he fiddled with a chip of wood at the top of the staircase.
"I won't wait up for you," he returned.
"You won't have to. I shouldn't be gone long." After I went and opened the door, before me stood an unexpected guest: Big Macintosh. He had his hoof hovering in a curled position like he, himself, was about to knock. The farmer chewed on the stem of a wheat straw. A pair of bags dangled under his weary eyes. I noticed a small black and blue bruise against his chest. It looked fresh, too.
"Oh, hello, Fluttershy," Big Mac addressed. He lowered his hoof, rotating his pupils in a circle.
I smiled shyly at him. "Hello, Big Macintosh, how are you?"
He sighed. "Uh, okay, I guess. I just had a very late morning, so I'm a bit drowsy." He yawned deeply and rubbed the bits of sleep grain from his eyes.
After a brief awkward silence, I was the first to speak. "Is there anything I can do for you."
He nodded. "Yes, there is, actually." Macintosh paused for about a minute. Why was he coming to see me? What could I have done for him? Was he even coming to see me at all? "I-Is your brother home? I kind of wanna talk to him." He shut his eyes into a tight fortress. Was he preparing for an attack or something? I didn't understand why it sounded like a challenge to ask that. It was just a harmless request. I never saw him act so nervous before.
"Sure, he's just upstairs. I'll get him for you," I answered, trotting to the bottom of the stairwell. "Mockingbird? There's somepony here to see you. Can you please come down... if you're not too busy, that is?"
Mockingbird floated his way down the steps. He landed beside me and caught his sight of Big Macintosh, patiently waiting for him.
"Uh, hi, Big Mac," my brother said, sending a small wave in the red stallion's direction. "How have ya been since last night? Everything alright?"
"Eeyup," the earth pony answered. "I just came by to ask you for something." He turned to me. "In private, if ya don't mind, Fluttershy."
I tilted my head, wondering why I couldn't be there for it. "Oh, um, okay. I was just about to head out anyway. I'll see you later, Mockingbird." Ask him for what? The curiosity was already beginning to brew. But of course, I always knew better than to get nosey in another pony's business. Invasion of privacy just seems so... frightening.
Deciding not to snoop or interrogate, I simply headed out my cottage door and trailed off to help Mr. Beaverton Beaverteeth.
The cottage door closed. The two stallions stood alone. They faced each other in solemn silence. Big Macintosh scratched the back of his neck, exhaling.
"Hey, Mockingbird, I'm really sorry about last night," he spoke, his head drooping in a shameful manner.
The pegasus only wrinkled his forehead. "Sorry? What are you apologizing to me for?"
Big Mac looked up and locked eyes. "Look, it's nothing. Maybe I'm being a little imposing here, but I just don't want ya to get the wrong impression about me."
"I still don't see what you mean," Mockingbird said. "You got attacked, and you're apologizing to me for it?"
The earth pony pawed at the floor board. "I guess, what I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry if I made ya feel uncomfortable, or anything."
Mockingbird took a step closer. "You didn't make me feel uncomfortable at all; it was that Milky Way who caused all that trouble, remember?"
Big Macintosh nodded. "But still, you didn't deserve to see any of that, especially not on your first night here, and I want to make it up to you."
"Uh, alright, what did you want, then?"
Nopony said anything. The only noise was that of the ticking clock. Big Macintosh eyed around to any inanimate object he could find and focused on it. After what felt like a whole five minutes of the quiet game, Mac finally blurted out in one large strung together word, "IsitalrightifImaybetakeyatolunchtomorrow?" He anxiously turned away.
It was never common for Big Macintosh to talk so fast. Give him a simple foal's story book, and it would've taken him at least half a day to finish reading it out loud. What could it have been that made him such a fast talker?
Mockingbird stood in his place, scratching his head. "Uh, didn't quite catch that."
The house guest made a face like he just made a fool of himself. Remembering to control his pacing of his speech, he slowly asked a second time, "Is it alright... if I maybe... take ya... to lunch... tomorrow?"
Mockingbird suddenly felt himself forcing back a grin. "You mean, like a... date?"
Mac shot up, quickly shaking his head. "What? No, no, no! Not a 'date!'" An urgent force pushed his voice to the point of desperation. His tone turned to an all-business frankness before continuing. "I-I just want to show you that there shouldn't be any hard feelings between us. I don't want to think anything bad of you, and I don't want you to think anything bad of me."
"I don't think anything bad about you," Mockingbird returned. "To me, it just kind of sounded like you were asking me out."
Macintosh exhaled in deep relief. "So, you do understand? I'm not asking ya out on a date, just to have a simple lunch together. Everything that Milky Way said was a lie. Ya should never listen to him." His usually quiet voice escalated to a wide speech tone. The very mention of his enemy sounded like it made him want to kick a hole right through a giant oak.
The young pegasus observed this, and easily brushed the farmer's shoulder. "Yes, I understand. You just want to hang out for lunch. I appreciate the invite, but I don't want you to feel like you have to do this."
"I insist," Big Mac said. "I want to invite you. To tell you the truth, I feel like we might've gotten off on the wrong hoof last night with that encounter. I kind of wanna start off again in a fresh way."
Mockingbird thought to himself, If he's not asking me out, then why is he getting all twitchy like a nerd with a popular cheerleader? Out of anypony Big Macintosh could've asked this to, he chose the new kid. How could it not sound like a date question?
But then again, he tried really hard to sound like he just wanted to be his friend and nothing more. There was nothing intimidating, scary, dark, or even dangerous about the gentle giant. Maybe the bully from the previous evening got a little paranoid? Perhaps. After all, it was just lunch. There was nothing to feel suspicious about. The decision was made.
"Okay, Big Macintosh, I'll go to lunch with you tomorrow," Mockingbird answered with a smile.
"Okay, then, that sounds great!" the red stallion exclaimed. "How about we meet at the local café tomorrow at 12:30? There's a small terrace outside, so we could eat under the sun if ya want to."
Mockingbird nodded. "Sure, that sounds like a good plan. So, I guess I'll see you, then?"
"Eeyup, just don't expect me to be too clean, that's all. I'll just be finishing up my morning work on the farm around that time."
"It's fine. It's just us, two stallions, hanging out, not a date, right?"
"Oh, yeah, that's right. Just wanted to give ya a heads up." Macintosh nervously laughed under his breath. He looked out the window to see the sun starting to sink. "I'd better get going. Applejack probably really needs me back by now."
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Eeyup." Big Mac turned away and headed out the door.
"That sounds great, Mockingbird. That was very nice of Big Macintosh to invite you to lunch." I sat on my haunches in the center of my living room, my fore hooves dipped in a metal tub of lukewarm water. The vibrating rings in the pool parted from my wrists, the epsom salt painfully seeping into my many cuts. Mockingbird flittered up to my side with a thick role of medical gauze, tape and a hoof towel.
"Yeah, uh, really great," he replied. "Let me see your hoof." I pulled one of my bloodied hooves out of the bath and gave it to him. His face twitched in discomfort. "So, how did this happen again?"
I sighed. "One of the larger tree branches drifted too far into the pond. When it stopped, it got wedged between two really large boulders. I tried yanking it out with my teeth, but it was too slippery; so, I tried to pull out from between the trench with my hooves. I guess I ended up scraping myself, in the process." In hindsight, it would've been a better idea to just find another branch, but his whole family really wanted to get it done before dark. It would have only delayed the project further if we went scouting for more wood.
Mockingbird nodded as he gently dabbed the towel to my wounds, causing me to flinch at the stinging pain. "You were always the pony willing to get hurt, if it meant helping animals."
"Well, it's always worth it to know that you helped make their lives a little easier," I said with a smile as I looked at my injury. "Besides, these aren't so bad. They should heal by morning. Thank you very much, by the way."
He finished the drying and began wrapping my hoof in the gauze like a blanket. Small spots of red stained the fabric as my circulation slowed. After he finished bandaging my first hoof, I offered him the other, so he could repeat the process.
"Kind of like old times, huh, Flutters?" he asked me with a laugh in his throat.
My ears perked at the sound of the nickname. I glanced at him with a blushing grin. "Oh, Mockingbird, you haven't called me that in a long time."
"Well I used to call you that whenever we played, remember?" I shook my head.
Mockingbird looked at me, like he thought I didn't understand how a cutie mark is earned. "No? Come on. When we used to play 'Hospital' together. You were 'Dr. Flutters' I was the patient in need? We used to play that game all the time when we were kids! How can you not remember?"
I think it took me about half a minute until my eyes widened at the memory he was talking about. How silly it was for me to not recall any of those games. Where else would I have gotten my caretaker nickname, 'Dr. Fluttershy?'
"Oh, that's right! I remember," I finally responded. My smile only widened as pictures of those joyful times flashed through my mind's eye. I looked back at my brother. "I would dress up in an over-sized white coat with a stethoscope, while you would lay on the bed. I had to always be the one to treat you for all your 'injuries.'"
Mockingbird laughed. "Yep. I can remember a few that you treated: paper cuts, splinters, pony pox, feather flu, hay fever, and even a broken wing here and there."
I nodded in agreement. "True. No injury or sickness was too much for me. I always knew the perfect cure for all of them. You remember what they were?" I didn't even notice how unusually upbeat my tone was getting.
Mockingbird shrugged. "Uh... I don't know, it was something that only children could imagine, probably."
A part of me on the inside frowned a little. How could he not remember our own little cure? Whenever either of us needed some cheering up, 'Hospital' was the perfect thing to put both of us in a better mood.
But I remembered. "I'll remind you. It was so simple." With a sly grin, I started to re-enact the 'healing procedure.' "First, all you needed was a magic band-aid," I said, patting one of my gauzes. "Then, I would give you a kiss." I gave a tiny peck on his cheek. "Then I promised to never leave your side, and always love you. All of your 'injuries' were healed with my love."
He wore a smile that looked like a product of Pinkie Pie. "Yeah, it was always the perfect cure. We thought that love could help fix and cure everything." His joy was short lived, however, after realizing what he said.
A sigh escaped his lips. "What happened to those days, Fluttershy? Whenever either of us were feeling upset, we just needed to say that we loved each other to feel good again. Then everything just... changed. There was this huge role reversal between us. You became so shy, that you never had to make me feel better anymore. I became the one comforting you all the time. What happened?"
I glanced at him. Did he miss those days just as much as I did? Those days when we thought magic was all around us and the world was one big happy place. A time when we lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly of childhood. But the only memories we could recall were the positive ones.
"I don't know, Mockingbird," was all I said. "I just don't know. But we're still the same brother and sister, aren't we? Maybe we could still have love cure all of our sicknesses. Maybe we can still have those happy times. As long as you're you, and I'm me, we can still find our way back. You understand how close we are."
He nodded. "You're right, I guess. Maybe I'm just over thinking." No, he wasn't. It's only pony nature to have nostalgic moments when growing up. Couldn't he understand that I was sharing his thoughts, as well? Neither of us spoke of it again after that.
After he was done cleaning me up and placing all of the medical equipment into the first aid kit, I decided to take the liberty of flying it back to its home on the top shelf in the kitchen. Mockingbird followed me in and took a look at the clock. "Hey, Fluttershy, how about I go get the hoof bath and you can get dinner started? Please?" Still so polite.
"Okay, I was just thinking about eating, too. Does hay sandwiches sound good?"
"Delicious. I'll go dump the water." As he went back to the living room to get the tub, I crossed over to my further left hoof counter for my knife. I was just about to reach for the loaf of bread when...
"Fluttershy, what's this?" Mockingbird trotted his way into the kitchen, clenching the pink envelope that father delivered earlier between his teeth. "I found it next to the hoof bath, any idea where it came from?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, but I meant to give that to you earlier," I answered. I must have spent a whole afternoon with that piece of paper tucked beneath my wings. How it didn't get wet at the dam was a mystery. "Father gave it to me when Rainbow Dash and I made our way out of the house. He said it was from work."
"Work?" Mockingbird flipped the letter to the backside. As his hoof slowly tore open the sealing, he had a look on his face like he was expecting an F on a report card. How much more bad news could he take?
The letter unfolded to a large vertical rectangle. His eyes ran from left to right as he began reading aloud,
It has come to my concern that you have failed to arrive for your shift on Saturday, March 21st. While your attendance, and overall work performance, has been outstanding in the past, you have neglected to notify any of us about your mysterious leave. For the duration of your absence, I had to put an already busy bus pony in your position; this has caused numerous mix ups in orders, slow service, and a less than steady atmosphere, resulting in customers walking out. Five minutes after your supposed shift ended, I finally received a notification from your father, who stated that you left home the day before and had not yet returned.
The Sky Café does not tolerate any incidents of 'No call, no show' under any circumstances, whatsoever. Despite this being your first absence, I cannot afford to risk having this act of carelessness occur again. Thus, I'm afraid you leave me with no choice but to terminate your position with us.
Your work schedule has been cancelled, and you will not be considered for rehiring. Your final paycheck will be transferred to your bank account by the end of this current cycle. Once you receive this pink slip please arrive back, at your earliest convenience, to clean out your locker so that there may be room for your replacement.
You have been an excellent employee, but I expected much better from you. I am very disappointed.
-Your former manager, Ms. Angel Food Cake.
He looked up with a sullen face, that looked like a dam trying to hold back a flood of anger. "Well, this is perfect, just perfect! This has officially become the worst weekend of my life."
My stomach felt like it dropped down a trap door. He wouldn't have been able to work that day, even if he did show.
"Mockingbird, I'm so sorry," I guiltily apologized. Where would he work? What kind of job? How would he get it? These are questions that nopony wishes to ever find themselves asking.
Mockingbird took a deep breath and raised his hoof. "It's fine, Fluttershy, it's done. It was my fault for not notifying them, and now I'm paying the price."
"What? No, it wasn't. I should've reminded you, or something. Then you—"
"Shy, I appreciate you trying to take the heat, but the fault is mine. No matter how I was feeling, I shouldn't have been so lazy. And besides, there are worse things that can happen to ponies than just losing their jobs."
And he accepted the sack just like that. To that day, I have never seen anypony act so subtle and calm over something as horrible as unemployment. Could it have been that he was starting to become numb to rejection and misfortune? Only time could tell if he would ever cave.
The next morning was a quiet setting. The sun was the sole light and warmth of my cottage. I don't remember much from that morning. All I can recall is that once again Mockingbird declined breakfast. I was beginning to wonder if he forgot that there was even a meal for mornings; no wonder why he was so thin.
I listened to my brother silently humming to himself from across the way, as I laid with Angel Bunny near my fireplace. Sadness was evident in my slow breathing while my ears were open to his sorrowful tune. Then, unexpectedly, Angel rubbed his head against my chest. It was like he could sense all the stress that I had been putting myself through the past few days. I was never surprised when he showed me affection, but it was rare. Whenever I truly needed it he always showed me love, at the right times and in the right ways.
I returned his gesture by gently nuzzling him on his pink nose. "Oh, Angel, you know Mommy loves you, don't you?" I took a glance at Mockingbird and softly shook my head, my voice lowering to a whisper. "But you don't understand how hard it is to be a mother; trying to show so much love and care for those you truly love, only for them to end up being downtrodden. I wish there was more I could do than just watch on the side. Do you think he appreciates what I'm doing for him?"
Angel looked into my hopeful eyes, and gave me a supportive nod. He hopped closer to me and continued burying his head into the warmth of my fur. I giggled and wrapped my hoof around him in a hug. "Angel, you always know how to make Mamma feel better. What would I do without you?"
A knock came at the door. Answering, Twilight stood on my welcome mat, bearing her friendly grin. I welcomed my friend with a warm hug, as she patted my back in a hearty fashion. "Twilight, it's so good to see you again. Have you been busy?"
She nodded with a heavy yawn. "Yeah, I've been wicked busy, actually. Pulled another all nighter last night. But thankfully, I'm flexible with my schedule, so I still have time with you and the other girls."
"You about to head out, Fluttershy?" I heard Mockingbird ask from behind.
I turned around to face him. "Yes. I'm about to head to lunch with Twilight. I won't be out long."
"I'll probably be seeing you in town," he said. "I'm heading out to meet Big Mac at the café in a few."
Twilight looked in on him with curiosity. "Oh, you're going out to lunch, too?"
She smiled. "Well, would you like to join me and Fluttershy? There will be plenty of room at the table."
Mockingbird kindly shook his head. "Oh, uh, no thank you. I don't want to be a third wheel or anything."
Twilight dismissed his refusal with her hoof. "It won't be a problem. I feel like we didn't talk much on Saturday. I want to know a little more about you."
She was right. Mockingbird got to know all of my friends very well at the party, except for Twilight. It wouldn't have been fair for her. That's why I decided to join in. "It will be fun, Mockingbird. I'm sure Big Macintosh wouldn't mind eating with a few more ponies than he expected."
He thought for a moment, then answered, "Alright, as long as it won't be too much."
"Not at all," Twilight said. "I have Spike already there, reserving our table. So I can get him to make a few adjustments if needed. I'm also sure he'll like meeting you, as well."
Mockingbird smiled and nodded. "Okay, then. I guess I'll see you two in a bit."
Twilight and I waved goodbye to him as we left the cottage. We didn't even take three hoof steps before she sparked the conversation. "So, Fluttershy, how have you been lately? Anything new or exciting?"
Anything new or exciting? The only things that occurred for me up until that day was my story so far. What could I have told her? She had known me for so long and could have predicted that I wanted to talk about animals or something. But my mind was nowhere else except for the tragedy that was becoming my life.
"Um... nothing, Twilight. How have you been? Read any good books lately?" I asked.
Twilight looked at me like she wanted to be subtle with pointing out the obvious. "I've read a few. One particularly large one on governing the law as a princess. But I'm sure even you could've guessed that. What's going on with you?"
"Nothing," I repeated. "My life has been very simple as usual. Nothing exciting."
Twilight shook her head. "Come on, Fluttershy, I really want to spend this afternoon talking with you and catching up with the ponies who matter the most to me. Your brother is in town for a visit, how is that not exciting?"
She was really starting to push me at this point. Her consistent eagerness to know and learn everything never left her usual self, even as a princess. Whenever Twilight wanted to know something, she would stop at nothing until she had the right answers. I was no exception; lying to her would've just made her want to know even more.
By the time we reached the dirt road, I decided to stop playing the lying game and take a deep breath. "Well, it all started on Friday, after Winter Wrap Up..."
"...And that's what led up to today." At that time we had just reached the outside entrance into Ponyville. Twilight unexpectedly froze like a mannequin, her face looking like she witnessed an innocent foal being abused by a school teacher. A very thin whisper of breath was the only sound she was able to make. Her violet eyes moistened on their own accord.
"Is all of this really true, Fluttershy?" she asked. "Out of all the ponies in Equestria, all of this has to be happening to you and your brother?"
I forced myself to nod. "I just don't know what to do, Twilight. There's a part of me that wants to reunite my family, but then... I don't know. I just feel so angry, all at the same time."
"You should feel angry," Twilight said as we started walking again. "Fluttershy, your own family turned against him with hateful motives. It would be wiser to take legal action for what they're doing."
A mortified expression engulfed my face. Why would Twilight even suggest fighting against my own parents, when there could've still been a chance for hope? "W-What do you mean?"
"You can call them to be tried," she explained. "You live as an independent. Even if you are of your parents' flesh and blood, you can still call them to a hearing, if they are threatening you, or other relatives."
"Twilight! Are you suggesting that I put my own family on trial? No, no, I can't; it just doesn't seem right."
She hooked her hoof onto my shoulder. "Fluttershy, it may not seem right, but to me, it sounds like they're up to doing some very illegal things."
"What kind of illegal things?"
Twilight's eyes fell into my own. "You remember on Saturday, when I told you about my appointment with Luna?"
"Yes, of course," I answered.
"Well, we've been doing some extra investigating, and we believe that the vandalism issue may be connected to your father's organization." Her voice became stern, like she forced herself to tell me this.
That couldn't have been true. Strong denial began shaking my head. "Twilight, I don't know what to say. I'm not sure if I can possibly believe that."
Twilight took a very deep breath. "I'm sorry to tell you that, but I'm not lying. And to be honest, I don't think you can just make all of this stop by trying to reason with them. You have to wake up to reality, Fluttershy. You and Mockingbird can be in a lot of danger right now! Very bad things have happened to ponies who tried reasoning with criminals; I don't want the same thing to happen to you."
So much concern. I was always intimidated whenever somepony felt like they had to come down hard on me, but I still realized that they were doing it because they cared. I just had to take what she said with a grain of salt.
"Twilight, thank you," I answered. "I appreciate that you want what's best for me. But the thought of it all seems so unbearable. I guess if I don't have a choice, I would be open to your suggestion. I just don't like thinking about it."
To this day, as I'm telling you all of this, I am still stunned by my response. I couldn't tell whether it was anger, rebellion, sisterly love, or justice that made me say that. All I could feel was the lioness within me leaving from her resting spot, and going out in search of her enemy.
Twilight wrapped her foreleg around my shoulders, pulling me in for a sympathetic hug. "I don't like thinking about those things either." She sighed in, what sounded like, regret. "But as a princess I have to understand when a true injustice is being committed, and the right action to take for it. I care about all of Equestria, and I don't want to see anypony be mistreated. Especially not my friends."
I masked on a smile with a nod. "I understand. But please just promise me that you won't tell anypony else? Mockingbird might think I'm a terrible sister if he finds out that I outed him to you. If you wouldn't mind, of course."
"You don't have to worry, Fluttershy," Twilight assured. "His secret is safe with me. You have my oath as a friend. 'Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.'" I didn't even feel the need to thank her. Once she sealed it with Pinkie Pie's unbreakable vow, that was all the proof I needed for her to be trusted.
"Um, excuse me, ladies? May I assist you?" We didn't even notice at first, but once we heard the voice of a unicorn waiter, we realized that we had already arrived at the café.
Twilight stepped forward. "Uh, yes. I had a reservation for 12:30."
He skimmed down his black book behind his podium. "Ah, yes, Princess Twilight Sparkle. Please, right this way." Levitating some lunch menus in his aura, he escorted us to our awaiting table, which was occupied by a slightly impatient Spike.
"There you are, Twilight," he called. "It's about time you got here, it felt like forever."
"Sorry, Spike, but I didn't think that I was gone for that long," Twilight apologized. I smiled at the assistant and waved my hoof, thinking it would perhaps brighten up his mood. Telling from the bags under his swollen eyes, it looked like he needed it. I noticed that I was successful when he returned with his own smile and wave of his claw.
We both took our seats as the waiter gave us our menus. "Okay, I will give you a few minutes to decide on your order."
"Uh, actually, there has been a last minute addition to our party," Twilight interrupted. "There's going to be about two other ponies joining us soon."
He nodded. "I see. Very well, no problem." He hauled over two more chairs and a small table, via magic, conjoining them next to us. With a grin, he turned and left us alone.
Spike was the first among us to start the conversation. "So, Fluttershy, long time no see."
I turned my head to the young drake at my side, smiling warmly. "I know, Spike, I've missed talking with you. How have things been?"
He yawned rather deeply as if he wanted to fall into hibernation. "Very tiring. Who knew Twilight's coronation would mean more work for me, huh?" His scaly lids started to roll down his eyeballs before rapidly snapping back up. "But, even if I am only getting five hours of sleep every night, it is still worth it!"
Only five hours? My mind thought. He was no older than most of the little fillies and colts around town—if not, younger. There was no way he could have possibly survived day to day with so little rest. The poor little guy. I frowned a little. "Oh, Spike, you have to take care of yourself. Surely, your personal health is more important than helping Twilight."
Twilight nodded. "That's exactly what I've been trying to tell him. I don't think what he's doing is good for him."
Spike rolled his eyes. "I told you that I can handle it, Twilight. I'm your number one assistant, I will never let you down."
My friend sighed, likely knowing that there was no way in trying to persuade her loyal companion. "Just promise me you'll try to fit more sleep in. I'm actually getting very concerned."
The dragon rubbed a thin layer of crust from the corner of his eyes before yawning a second time. With obvious reluctance, he grumbled, "Ugh, okay, I'll go to bed early tonight. So, why do we need two other chairs?"
"Fluttershy's brother will be eating with us," Twilight said. "He's also meeting with Big Macintosh for lunch."
Spike raised a brow. "Oh, you mean that pony you mentioned to me and Princess Luna on Saturday night? What was his name again?"
"Mockingbird," I said. "He is very nice. I think you will like him."
"I hope he does," said a voice from behind. I lightly jumped and turned to see Mockingbird standing right behind me.
Though the surprise was harmless, I still felt like I had to briefly catch my breath. "Oh, Mockingbird, you startled me. How long have you been there?"
"Just got here," he answered. "I left the house not long after you did, and don't worry, I made sure Angel was inside."
He trotted up, taking the empty seat on my right.
Twilight gave a friendly wave. "Hello, Mockingbird, how have you been lately?"
"Everything's going fine, Twilight, thank you for asking," Mockingbird said. His attention drifted toward the dragon who was still considered foreign to him. An action that Twilight apparently noticed.
"Oh, Mockingbird, this is Spike, my assistant," Twilight said.
"Number ONE assistant," Spike corrected.
Mockingbird extended his hoof across me and offered it to the little dragon. "Very nice to meet you, Spike. As you probably already know, I'm Mockingbird, Fluttershy's younger brother."
"Awesome." Spike curled his claw into a fist and gave a hoof bump to my brother. "Welcome to town. Maybe I'll see you around some more."
"Maybe. Depending on how long I'll be here." I could see his face grow more quiet and preserved.
I heard the sound of Twilight gulping back on her own saliva. "Well, hopefully you will get that sorted out, soon." She then looked at me as if to send the same message into my mind.
"Is this the colt that you're supposedly dinning with, sir?" asked the waiter's voice from behind. I looked around to see Big Macintosh, dusted in a thin layer of earth. Despite the filth in his coat, I saw something oddly different about his overall appearance: he had his mane combed back, and I could have sworn that I whiffed at least a tiny bit of cologne.
"Eeyup," he answered, circling around the table and taking his seat in the chair opposite Mockingbird. Upon eye contact, Macintosh greeted Mocking with an awkward smile, looking like he wanted to appear friendly but was worried about humiliating himself. It was very similar to a smile that I always do whenever I'm nervous around other ponies.
Mockingbird simply nodded in recognition of his appearance. "Hey, good to see you."
"Eeyup." His voice sounded like it raised up an octave. But that never usually happened with him.
The waiter cleared his throat. "Are we all ready to order?"
"Um, actually," I nervously began. "If it's okay with you, can we maybe have a few more minutes? I'm sorry, it's just that we didn't have a chance to look at the menus much and—" He cut me off with a stopping hoof gesture.
"It's alright, I'll come back later."
From that point on, a good half-hour passed. Over my salad and Twilight's sandwich, we sat chatting idly over several things. Nothing really relevant, but rather casual subjects that friends often discuss: opinions of events around town, bits of news we each heard from the others, even what's been causing trouble in our lives.
Spike would occasionally jump on to contribute, whenever he wasn't about to doze off. He ordered a plate of hay fries with a large latte; it looked like he really needed the caffeine. I was very surprised myself that he didn't comically drop his head onto the table in a sudden deep sleep, like he usually did when he was exhausted.
The only really quiet ones at the table were Big Macintosh and Mockingbird. I'm not sure how to exactly describe it, but the two stallions did almost nothing, except sit there mute. It was like they were waiting for one another to start speaking. I didn't get it. Were they only able to comfortably talk when they were alone? It appeared so.
At least it did appear so until Big Mac randomly asked, "So, Mockingbird, are ya enjoying Ponyville so far?"
After taking a sip of lemonade, Mockingbird placed his tall glass down near his half eaten bagel and sighed. "Yeah, I guess it's okay. Quiet little town. It's kind of a nice break from all the craziness in Cloudsdale."
Mac nodded. "Oh, so what's it like living up there?"
The pegasus shrugged, answering with a dry, monotone voice, "Well, it has its pros and cons. It's almost always sunny because you're above the clouds that make all the rain and snow. So if you enjoy lots of sunlight, you can never get too much of it. On the other hoof, the clouds are very easy to stumble off of, because they always break apart and leave a lot of cliffs."
It made me cringe to think about it. I know that I can fly, but just the thought of falling off a cloud is such a scary thought. Which is why I prefer to stay grounded.
After taking a bite of his apple fritter, Big Macintosh continued asking the questions. "So, do ya have much experience with managing the weather?"
"What do you mean?" Mockingbird returned, sounding like he really didn't feel like talking at all.
"Well, I was just curious," Big Mac answered. "Is weather something that all pegasi learn in their lives, or does it come later on?"
My brother bit his lip, taking a breath. "Weather is something that we learn in school. We learn about how it's made and controlled, then we figure out later on if it's apart of our special talent."
"But that's not the case for you?"
Mocking shook his head. "I didn't exactly excel in my weather science courses. I slept through most of my lectures and barely passed with C's."
"It wasn't as bad as hardly being able to fly," I uttered. They both looked at me. Naturally reacting, I shielded my face with my mane. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."
Mockingbird smiled, patting my shoulder. "It's fine, Shy." He turned back to Big Mac, his voice sounding much more friendly, welcoming and conversational. "But she is right, though. They make fun of you a lot for being a weak flyer up there." I am living evidence of that fact. Flight camp was never a pleasant time for me.
The earth stallion frowned. "That sounds terrible. Just because somepony's different, that doesn't mean they deserve to be teased."
"Well I was lucky enough to be a decent flyer," Mockingbird said. "But never good enough to have a talent that involved weather or flying. It's almost rare to find pegasi like that."
Twilight had a puzzled look on her face as she inquired, "Now, Mockingbird, I'm a little confused; I thought Fluttershy told me that you graduated school a year early. How were you able to do that with low grades?"
Mockingbird crossed his forelegs and reclined. "I joined a special program. It was something that helped me get my major requirements out of the way early, so I would be eligible enough for a diploma. It's something that's only available if you do well enough in certain subjects."
Twilight washed down a bite of her daisy sandwich with iced tea, nodding with interest. "I see, so what subjects did you do well in?"
The pegasus sat back up straight. "Well, obviously I did excellent in the fine arts. They were really the only subjects that I was actually good at. I mean, I did okay with writing and history, but I was never able to concentrate, or enjoy them, as much as my music courses."
"Oh, well given your special talent, I suppose I could've guessed that." The alicorn looked down with a pair of light rosy cheeks. Twilight never liked it if she felt like she was asking a question with an obvious answer.
Big Macintosh took back the lead. "Now, do you do any singing for work?"
There wasn't an answer. Mockingbird lost the casual smile he had during the talk. He turned to the side, gazing at the violets along the side walk. Why didn't he want to respond? Was it because of the slip he received? I wasn't entirely sure, but it could have been. It could have been perfectly understandable why he didn't want to talk about work.
To end the dead silence I answered Big Macintosh for him. "Uh, Mockingbird is going to attend school in the fall for some professional training." I put on a smile in an attempt to keep things looking natural.
Mac leaned in closer. I've never seen him more engaged in a conversation. "And where are you going for that?"
Mockingbird's attention awoke from its nap, probably realizing that he was accidentally being rude. I could tell this because his voice sounded somewhat apologetic while saying, "I was granted a full-paid scholarship to The Canterlot Academy of Music."
Twilight's eyes brightened with stars. "You got into a Canterlot school?!" The excitement in her voice sounded like she was talking to Celestia's very next student.
Spike rubbed at his temples, clenching his eyes. "Ow! Twilight, not so loud. I'm still recovering from yesterday's study session."
She smiled sheepishly at him. "Oh, sorry," she apologized, her magic bringing Spike a small container of aspirin from her saddle bag. He poured two tablets into his palm and washed them down his throat with what was left of his beverage.
Twilight continued, "It's just that the Canterlot schools and universities are amongst the highest ranked in Equestria. You have to be very talented in whatever you do to get accepted."
"Well, I'm not at all surprised," Big Macintosh agreed. "You should've seen him at the party, his voice is pretty darn amazing." I was beginning to wonder if this was the real Big Mac and not a changeling. I have never seen him compliment any pony like that before. Why was my brother so special?
I glanced at Mockingbird to see that it was now his turn to blush. His mouth muscles tensed as he fought against what might have been an embarrassing smile. "Thank you, Big Mac. I can tell that you're also pretty darn amazing at getting dirty." The stallions laughed in a joking manner.
"If by dirty you mean bucking apples like a real stallion, then thank you for noticing," the farmer responded. He took some slow breaths to regain control. "But seriously, what do you do now? Do you work?"
The smile on Mocking's face retreated. His hoof circled around the brim of his glass for about a minute. "I... uh, used to, but not anymore. I recently lost my job."
The whole table fell quiet. None of us could come up with a proper response. Mac looked down at him, his lids closing half way with his head shaking. "I'm, uh, really sorry to hear that. Very unfortunate."
"I hope you find another job soon," Twilight wished him. "If you want, I can probably recommend you to a place, or something."
My ears perked up. "Can you really do that, Twilight?"
She nodded. "Being a princess has its advantages. I now know a lot of merchants because of my duties."
"Well, what if he is offered something right here in town?" Big Macintosh suggested.
Mockingbird squinted his eyes. "Here in town? Where?"
Big Mac wrested his elbows on the table and put his two hooves together. "We're always looking for some assistance at Sweet Apple Acres. The orchard is about to enter the beginning of harvesting season, so this is usually one of our busiest times of the year. The pay is not extraordinary, but if you want some temporary working experience, you can definitely come by the farm and help out."
Mockingbird scratched his head. "How often would you want me to come by?"
"Every day, unless there are not many chores, but that is a rare exception. You will also have to be willing to get dirty a lot." So nice of him to offer. This would've certainly led to a good change of pace for Mockingbird. It must have gotten so boring, doing nothing all day around the house.
"It would give you a good chance to get out of the cottage," I said encouragingly to my brother. "You know, if you really want to."
There was a pause. Mockingbird breathed another sigh. I could tell it didn't look like he was all that interested in the job. Which was understandable to me. I could never see the colt, who enjoyed his music and performing, to work a filthy day of hard labor on a farm.
He then shrugged. "Can I at least think about it? I'm not very experienced with farm work."
"Eeyup," Big Macintosh answered. "If you decide you want to, just arrive at Sweet Apple Acres tomorrow morning at around 6:30. We start working right on the dot; no sooner, no later."
My brother nodded. "Okay, I'll think about it. Thank you for the offer."
The lunch was going much better than I expected. I got to spend some time with Twilight, Mockingbird was starting to open up and have a friendly talk with all of us, he even received a very generous job offer from Big Macintosh. I found it to be a rather therapeutic meal. Just a chance to get myself away from all the madness and try to enjoy myself. But then, it just had to happen.
Big Macintosh looked over Mocking's shoulder to have his own eyes pop on cue. He started to frantically push himself out of his seat. "Uh, I'm sorry, but I gotta go."
Mockingbird scrunched his brows. "Wait, what did I say?"
Mac shook his head. "Nothing, it wasn't you. I just really need to go. You should, too." He pivoted around only to end up falling to the ground.
"I don't understand, Big Mac? What's wrong? What's the rush?" Mockingbird asked, now seriously sounding worried. He received his answer with a deep and unexpected voice addressing them.
"Having a nice little date, are we?" it joked. It belonged to a youthful pony who I didn't hear around town very often. We all looked to come face-to-face with a white pegasus stallion, with a greasy black mane.
"What are you doing here?" Mockingbird asked in an anxious, shaky tone. He looked and sounded like he was about to panic and run like at the party.
"Oh, hey, hero. Funny how we keep running into each other, isn't it?" The intruder chuckled.
Big Macintosh stumbled to his hooves with his nostrils flaring. "Milky Way! I thought I told you to leave me alone! Go away!"
The white colt raised his hoof. "Whoa, whoa. Let's take it easy. I just want to deliver a simple message, that's all."
Twilight rose from her seat. "Excuse me, we are having a private lunch."
Once he met his eyes with hers, Milky Way immediately snapped to a position that mocked respect, and bowed. "Oh, Princess Twilight Sparkle, so sorry to have interrupted your oh so glorious Ponyville feast." He laughed some more.
Twilight shaped her brows in a V-formation. "I'm being serious! You're clearly bothering my friends and making them very uncomfortable. Please go."
"I have every right to this public place as you do!" he snapped back. "Or are you just going to abuse your power and dominate me, like you princesses always do?"
Responding in a form of defense, Spike jumped up and stormed up next to the bully. "Hey! Don't you ever say that about Twilight! She's the smartest, friendliest and most respectful alicorn there is. You should know better when you're talking to her!"
"Zip it, you disgusting reptile!" Milky Way scowled, pushing Spike down. The baby dragon quickly picked himself up and dusted the dirt off his tail. He then stomped back to his chair, mumbling what I guessed were obscenities.
No. I couldn't take any of that. Insults, rudeness, carelessness, pushing others around. If these happened to any of my friends, it has always been just enough to snap me into defense mode. Enough, was enough.
"Do you think you can say those nasty things and get away with it!?" I yelled at Milky Way, as I abruptly shot up from my chair. With my hooves feeling like iron and my teeth grinding, I advanced on him to the point where our muzzles pressed, my eyes menacingly staring into the very center of his pupils.
He just smiled. "Oh, aren't we the frisky little one, today? I never expected this from you, Fluttershy."
Hearing my name, I loosened the tension of my face, but didn't erase my anger. "How do you know my name?"
He looked at me like I just said I wasn't a pegasus. "What? You don't remember me? Milky Way. Zeus' son. My dad is friends with your dad! He told me all about you."
I drew my head back. To tell the truth, I knew he sounded familiar when Mockingbird first told me about his encounter with him. The problem was I just couldn't place my hoof on it. Maybe because those memories of him were ones that I'd rather not remember.
"Oh, I remember now," I said, dumbstruck.
We heard the waiter's very angry voice from the side. "Excuse me, Sir! I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave!"
My pupils darted around to see that all the ponies out on the terrace were now looking at us. The last thing I ever wanted to do was cause a scene. So embarrassing. But at the time, I didn't feel like backing off.
"Just give us a moment, please," I told the waiter through the corner of my mouth. "He has something he needs to tell us." The service pony then backed to the side, before I refocused on the ride stallion in front of me.
"What do you want?" I hissed, coldly.
Milky Way finally fixed his face to a semi-calm expression. "My dad and Barrister both want to know if you and your brother still plan on coming this Saturday. Seven o'clock, no later."
I realized that I actually didn't give my father's supposed appointment much thought. After that confrontation during brunch, I just didn't feel very comfortable with going. I couldn't risk facing another shaming from my own family. But on another thought, when was I going to have another chance to have my mother, father and brother under the same roof again? When else would I have had the chance to persuade them? I had to make my decision and fast.
I took a deep breath and gave him my answer. "If I say that we'll go, will you leave us alone?"
I sighed. Answering felt like making an unsure decision on a big exam. If I answered, would it be correct? Would things turn out for the best or the worst? "Okay, then. We'll be there on Saturday."
"Excellent!" Milky Way exclaimed, trotting away backwards in a celebratory fashion. "But just remember, my dad also wants you to know that worse things can happen if a promise or demand is not met. So be sure to not disappoint us, or we might just punish you." He finally exited through the iron gate and flew off. My lioness could now sense her enemy in the air.
The atmosphere of the restaurant lost its life. The ponies quietly returned to their meals as if they tried to shake off the confrontation that just occurred. I looked back at the table to see Spike, Twilight, Mockingbird and Big Macintosh with their own concerned faces. The waiter, still by my side, looked like he just wanted to be done with the day.
"Miss, is everything alright?" he asked me.
After a heavy set of breaths, I decided that we experienced enough drama for the day. With lunch officially ruined, I could sense that none of us wanted to stay any longer.
I mumbled to the waiter, "Check, please."
Mockingbird kept a good distance ahead of me as we made our way back to the cottage door. Like he forgot that I was behind him, he opened the entrance and threw it shut behind him, without even waiting for me. Oh, I hope he isn't too upset. Just one happy day couldn't have been too much to ask for.
"Ugh, I cannot believe it, Fluttershy," said Twilight, distress straining her voice. "The fact that anypony can just come up to me and think they can say those rude things to me and my friends is far beyond my knowledge."
I kept my head down, but still patted her back with the gentleness of my support. If only I answered my dad sooner, that probably never would've happened. "Just try to forget it ever happened and move on, Twilight. That's what I generally try to do."
She looked at me. "I know, but I am a princess; I understand that ponies have different opinions about me, but to do that in a public place was just inappropriate." We stopped when we arrived on my welcome mat. "Are you still sure about this meeting, Fluttershy?"
I shook my head. "I'm actually starting to wish that I refused." I tried to take a rare breath of confidence. "But, I have some optimism. If I can reform Discord, then I can probably handle my family, right?"
Twilight glanced away. I could tell that what she was going to say next was just an attempt to hide her skepticism. "Well, alright. I just hope you know what you're doing."
"I hope so, too. But if I can befriend them and show them how much we can still love each other, I think there may be some hope."
Twilight sighed. "Okay, Fluttershy." She started to turn away down the hill before pausing. "Just promise me something?"
"Promise me that you will tell me how it goes. Tell me everything they talk about, plan and what they want for Mockingbird. I don't want to have to look in on your family's privacy, but they are now under my radar. I can't take any chances."
At that moment, I was beginning to understand why Twilight had to take that sort of measure. Even while I was reforming Discord, I never took off my element of harmony at the beginning; I couldn't have been too safe. It wasn't until after he started to really earn my trust as a friend, that I felt safe with removing my necklace. I nodded to her once more.
"Thanks for understanding, Fluttershy. I'll see you around, okay? Good luck, with everything." Twilight waved goodbye and trotted down the path towards town.
I looked down with heavy doubt. I was beginning to wander if this really was all a very bad dream. A very deep hypnotic sleep that was impossible for me to emerge from. At least I wanted it to be.
Once again, I noticed the azalea by my door. The flower was now bending in a 40 degree angle, the red petals fading to a very light pink. If it was a pony, it would've been groveling to me for water.
I should really take care of you. I thought. I still don't know why I didn't, though. It was right there, I could've planted it, but I didn't. Why? It was like all of my misfortunes was just pulling me away from tending to the beauty that could've been.
I'll get to you soon, don't worry. I walked to my door, and turned the knob. My hooves felt like feathers as I lightly trotted into the house. I never tended to the azalea.
As you may have guessed earlier, my passion is caring for animals. This is something that I purely do out of the kindness of my heart, expecting nothing in return. When I say that we all need to be shown a little kindness, I mean all living creatures of Celestia, big and small. I feel like I am giving them the love that other ponies often neglect to share with them. To them, I am their mother; to me, they are my children. My children, whom I love dearly, unconditionally and forever. I will do anything to help an animal in need.
Now, being an animal caretaker, my work schedule is often very spastic. I only work whenever an animal comes to me for help or a pony's pet needs tending to. Only about two or three animals a day come to me in need and I always help them to the best of my ability, with the greatest of care. Since I never know what my day will be like, I always leave myself lots of open time, so I will be prepared. I generally find plenty of time to settle down.
But that one week, after the lunch incident, I felt like I didn't even want to relax. On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, my days were filled with jumping from one animal chore to the next. Instead of having the animals come to me, I was—most of the time—going to the animals.
I fixed birds' nests. I cleaned tree holes for chipmunks. I walked dogs. I brushed cats. I fluffed Angel's tail an extra three days. I gave massages to Harry the Bear. I gave flight lessons for baby birds. I bathed bunnies. I cleaned my chicken coop. I probably ended up building around thirty or so bird houses with any spare time I had.
Whether they needed my help or not, I gave it to them. Keeping myself busy felt like the only solution to take my mind off of what was to come. Anything, as long as it would get me to think of something else.
That Friday afternoon had a golden sunset. A small gathering of seven birds perched themselves upon a small tree branch. Lightly hovering above the ground, I had my hooves raised at the ready.
"Alright, now follow me, please," I said to them. "One... two... one, two, three." I flicked my hoof in a fluid motion, waving to the tune. My bird choir followed with their high, sweet voices. A fairly simple, but still very lovely melody they sang. Each canary, blue jay, robin, and mockingbird right on key, almost flawless. Except...
"Oh, dear, stop, please," I ordered, making a cutting motion. "Um, okay, everyone, that sounded very nice, but you were all a bit, uh, choppy. This is a song that needs to be a little more smooth."
"Maybe that's something I can help with," came my brother's voice. My head spun around to see Mockingbird trotting up the trail to meet me. Naturally, I fluttered down to greet him.
"Mockingbird, I haven't seen you around for days," I called to the advancing pegasus, as he met me pitching the grass. His mane was a tangled mess, dusted with dirt. Tiny chunks of earth and mud knotted into his fur. Despite his filthy appearance, his face showcased a one million bit smile. An emotional gesture that I didn't see from him for a whole week.
"Sorry, Fluttershy, but didn't you read my notes?" he asked.
My eyes widened. "Oh, yes, I did. I'm sorry, I forgot that you were there everyday."
Mockingbird brushed his hoof through his mane, a cloud of grime rising and evaporating. "It's fine, as long as you weren't freaking out or anything." He turned his focus to the bird choir. "So, this is the bird choir that you told me about?"
"Oh, yes," I answered. "Don't they sound just wonderful?"
He nodded. "They do, but I heard you were trying to get them to sound less staccato and more legato."
"Um, yes. I've actually been working with them on it for a while now."
He lightly tapped his chin, before turning back to me. "Have you tried getting them to work on tunes with more sustained notes?"
I shook my head. "No, why do you think I should?"
Mockingbird started to hover just above me, with an upbeat tone like he was giving a lecture. "You see, sometimes our voices can play tricks on us when we sing. For instance, when we sing tunes with short notes, that randomly jump from one to another, our minds may tell us to sing them disconnected. However, if you work some more with tunes that contain long and full notes that tie together, you will have a much smoother transition with the melody. Which will also help avoid unwanted breaks in the measure."
I just stood there and blinked at him. I never thought of trying to work with my birds like that. I was so unsure of how much their little lungs could take.
"Oh, I see," I replied. "So what did you have in mind?"
"Well, since you're working with birds, you might want to work with a tune that's short, single voweled and easy to remember. Maybe something like this."
He motioned to the birds to listen closely to him; they responded with leaning heads. Mockingbird cleared his throat, took a deep breath and rang his voice like a bell. The tune was short, but very pleasant to hear. Telling by the few breaks he took, I could tell it was something that required a lot of breath support. If I can remember correctly, it went something like this:
So sweet and beautiful he always sounded. he then raised his own hooves like a conductor at a concert, and the birds obediently straightened their backs. Mockingbird then waved his hooves to his tune and the chorus sang, belting exactly like he did and in perfect key. Finally, they sounded so connected and smooth. Like they were all united as one.
Once they ended, I applauded with stamping hooves and an excited smile. "Oh, that sounded so wonderful! Thank you, Mockingbird, that was amazing!"
Mockingbird grinned as he floated back down to me. "No problem, Shy. Just remember to practice some more with them on that, and they'll soar."
The sinking sun produced a bright orange glow. The cool breeze of the approaching twilight brushed through my coat.
"Uh, that will be all for today, everyone," I called to the birds. "Please go home and make yourselves warm, and we'll see each other next week." They all leapt from the branch and glided to the trees for their respective homes. Mocking and I then made our way back to my home.
Only a thin ray of sun illuminated the sky outside my window. A spicy atmosphere filled my kitchen. The exotic aroma of the quinoa rose from my metal pot, tickling my nostrils. In response, my tongue watered in delight—only to taste the wooden spoon clenched between my teeth. By my side, Angel poured the final touches of tofu into the already sizzling cuisine that was soon to be enjoyed.
He'll love this, I thought, as my neck rotated in the repeated stirring motion required. After a long week of work, I know he'll enjoy something warm and spicy.
The end of my preparation was signaled by the timer right on my window sill. Angel hushed the nuanced ringing with a light tap on the clock's head. I released the spoon, knowing that I gave the dish just what it needed for perfection.
On cue, my ears followed the light sound of hooves tapping their way down my stairs. Mockingbird entered through the doorframe. His matted fur soiled the white towel hugging his waist. His soaked mane and tail dangled, like wet vines. His earlier stench of dirt was replaced with the scent of a fresh spring.
His muzzle picked up the enticing vapor that was the calling of dinner. "Hey, Fluttershy. So, what's on the menu?"
"Oh, I just made some quinoa," I said as I turned off the stove and removed the pot with my kitchen glove. "I hope that's okay. I thought it might be good after doing what you were doing all week."
He answered with a highly satisfied smile, "Sounds delightful. Smells delicious, too. Just like all the meals you make." He then started to cross over to the table, but in a different... fashion. He wasn't exactly skipping, but his hooves kind of lifted off the ground lightly like it was some musical tempo. His wings fluttered at a volume more quiet than a whisper. He floated himself into his chair, letting his mane fall back.
Definitely a change in mood from how I've seen him act over the past week. Feeling so cheery and optimistic, but how? Why? Playing along, I took the pot, flew over to the table and settled it right in the center.
"Mockingbird, you seem to be in a pretty good mood tonight," I began to inquire. "Did something good happen to you today?"
He looked back up at me. "All week, actually. I'm assuming you got all my notes?"
I nodded. "Um, yes, I did. You were always out so early and back so late, I never saw you... oh, I'll be right back." Realizing my mistake, I flew to my cabinet and collected two ceramic plates. I returned to the table and set each down for Mockingbird and myself.
"Well, it looks like I have a lot to tell you then," he said.
Dishing out the first of the quinoa onto his plate, I nodded my head to confirm that I was listening.
For Mockingbird, getting up early in the morning was never something that brought excitement. But there must've been a reason why he could have been seen walking all the way across town in the dawn of that Tuesday morning. The colt repeatedly shook his head, causing his own brain to rattle. His groggy state of mind merely put a spell over his eyelids. His brain kept whispering to his ear to just go back home and rest in his nice warm bed. As much as he liked the sound of that, it was an order he denied.
The teenage pegasus could still remember the note he left before taking his leave. The words he left could still be recited by heart.
I've been thinking a little about yesterday's lunch, when Big Macintosh offered me the job at his farm. I'll confess, I'm not the biggest fan of getting dirty, or working outdoors. But with everything that's going on, I think I really need some time to clear my head. Anything to think of something else, if you catch my drift.
You were right to say that this would also be a good chance for me to get out of the house more. And to be honest, what else was I going to do all day? It wasn't like I was really going to have many other options. This was kind of a last minute decision, but if you need me today, you can find me at Sweet Apple Acres.
Don't wait up for me because I have no idea when I might be coming back.
The rogue rays of the rising sun flashed in his vision as he arrived at his destination. As Mockingbird made his way up the dirt pathway, leading to the wooden fence, he got a better look at the Apple home. The red and white paint chipped and faded against their forever aging wooden surface. The windmill at the very top of their tower loudly squealed with its twisting push, brought forth by the chilling morning wind. Mother Nature's gentle blow produced a groan and creek from her target house. It was loud enough to be heard for a quarter of a mile outside.
Around the orchard, the several rows of trees that stood looked deeply hollow. Their bark was a dark brown after three months of being isolated from any warmth. The only things missing were the bright red apples, ornamenting off the branches. New lives yet to be awoken from winter.
In the yard, a large crowd of pigs and chickens scattered about their territory, marked off by the chicken wire. Their moments of running through the mud to their breakfasts were accompanied by their calls of delightful squealing and squawking. These were further enhanced upon noticing the pegasus just opening the barn gate. They were eventually silenced with the hollering command of their master.
"Whoa, now! Settle down, y'all! What's all this jabberwocky? Y’all are gonna wake all of Ponyville if you keep up that hootenanny!" Applejack trotted out the sty door and into the open. There, she made first contact with the source for their bewilderment.
"Mockingbird," she greeted with a smile. "What can I do for ya this morning?"
As the stallion opened his mouth to answer, he was interrupted by another voice from within the house. "Mockingbird? Did I just hear that Mockingbird was here?" Big Macintosh came out the front door and up to the scene. He was followed by a small yellow filly, with a red mane and bow. The last one out of the house was an elderly green coated mare, with an apple spotted orange scarf and an apple pie cutie mark.
The filly came forward with a burst of fresh morning excitement. The type of energetic rush that well rested children often feel on a bright, sunny day. She curiously gazed at the pegasus.
"Applejack, who's this feller?" she asked.
"Apple Bloom, this here's Mockingbird," Applejack answered. "He's Fluttershy's brother. I told ya 'bout him, remember?" She returned to the colt. "Mockingbird, this here's my little sister, Apple Bloom."
Mockingbird looked down and greeted with a gentle smile, "Hello. It's great to meet you." He extended his hoof to the little filly.
Apple Bloom bumped his hoof with a brightened face. "Oh, so you're the one with the magic voice? Amazing! Maybe I can get my cutie mark in singing, too!" She leapt in an exciting state of thought.
Applejack glanced at her guest as if to say, Don't encourage her.
Gently moving her brittle legs, one after the other, the elder mare slowly approached the group. "Wha-What's that? Oh, who’s this young colt?"
"Granny, this is Fluttershy's brother, Mockingbird,” Applejack returned.
The grandmother leaned her head in closer to the stallion who was still foreign to her. Her eyes squinted, then widened with an approving smile. She extended him her sagging and wrinkled hoof. "Well, hello there, Son. Very nice to acquaint with ya. My name's Granny Smith."
Mockingbird smiled back and gently shook the awaiting hoof, her skin feeling very warm, but moist. "Very nice to meet you, Granny Smith. I hope I wasn't intruding on your land, or anything."
"Actually, we've kind of been waiting for you," Big Macintosh interrupted. The corners of his mouth started to flinch upwards and fall back down in a repeating motion. Almost like he was trying to hold back a certain excitement.
Mockingbird scrunched his eyebrows. "Really? I don't think I gave an official yes or no yesterday."
"Big Mac told us that you might be coming over," Applejack said. "But we're very glad that ya came. We're going to need a lot of help to get the season started."
Mockingbird pawed the soil, his two upper teeth biting down on his lower lip before confessing, "I should probably let you know that I might not be so good at yard work. I mean, I haven't been down to earth so often."
Big Macintosh, however, dismissed his claim, shaking his head. "You won't have to worry much about it. We'll be doing most of the work, you'll be our helping hoof."
Mockingbird nodded in understanding.
Applejack cleared her throat. "Right, we especially need ya for today. We're gonna be re-plowing our fields to re-fertilize our crop soil. Apple Bloom has school in just a few hours, so we only have her for a little while.
"And that's just the beginning!" Apple Bloom cheered. "The garden needs weeding, the chicken coop needs cleaning, the pigs need bathing, and so much more!" Mockingbird cocked his head at her enthusiasm. That was probably the very first time he has ever seen a child get that excited to do both house and field work.
"That's the spirit, Half-pint!" Granny Smith praised. "She's right. We've got lots to do to awake this farm from hibernation. So no more lollygagging, let's shake a leg!"
"C'mon, Big Mac, let's get harnessed up," Applejack ordered her brother.
"Eeyup. I'll meet you down in the field, Mockingbird." As the siblings turned away for the harness shed, Big Macintosh showed a small grin on the corners of his mouth, being sent to Mockingbird. A smile that would usually be given to intimate ones who are near. But to the colt, it only appeared as if he was just glad to have a friend to lend him a hoof for the day.
Granny Smith turned to Mockingbird and Apple Bloom. "All righty, then. You two, follow me."
"Yes, Granny," Apple Bloom answered. She trotted alongside her grandmother for the rising sun with Mockingbird in tow.
The three made their way to the edge of the land of dead soil, Applejack and Big Macintosh galloping from behind. A mountain of mulch bags was sitting next to the field, waiting to be poured. Granny took the first step forward and breathed in the familiar smell of dirt. She then pointed her hoof at two oddly shaped structures in the closest corner, covered in a wet, black tarp.
"Applejack, Big Mac, you both know what to do."
They walked over and ripped off the blanketing covers to reveal their tools for the day. The sun reflected off the large iron plows shaped like shark fins. The wooden hooks for the harnesses branched out from the very tops. They looked like they would've required a pony with the strength of a tree to move.
"Time to get back into shape, eh, big brother?" Applejack thought out loud.
Once they hooked themselves in, respectively, Granny Smith stepped further, jotting her hoof out into the open. "Okay, now this year, I want the pattern to be absolutely straight. Our goal is to plough forward and back again. If Applejack takes one end and Big Macintosh takes the other, we should have this work done quicker. Apple Bloom, take some mulch and trail behind Applejack; Mockingbird, you trail behind Big Mac. I want to have the field done by sundown. Understand?"
"Yes, Granny," everypony answered in unison.
"Good. Now, get a move on. I gotta go make sure the pigs are well-fed." Granny turned to her youngest granddaughter. “Apple Bloom, I’ll be back at around eight to check up on y’all and take ya to school.” After the filly nodded, the matriarch started to make her way back to the house. The day's work officially began.
Once Apple Bloom snagged her first bag, barely being able to heave the weight of the mulch, she immediately started behind Applejack. The elder sister pulled the plow like it was nothing more than a sack of flour. The soil rained in a very light pitter-patter pattern, blanketing the old dirt with the new. In just one minute, the sisters were already half way up the field without looking like they broke a sweat.
As Mockingbird watched in awe at how the girls made a demanding chore look so simple, Big Macintosh took in a very heavy breath, clearing his throat. "Ahem, Mockingbird? Ya ready to follow behind?"
"Oh, yeah. Let's get started." Mockingbird ran over to the mulch pile, snagged a bag, and ran back behind Big Macintosh, who was already starting out on dragging the plow to the other end. Having a basic understanding of the project, the pegasus began sprinkling the bag's contents onto the ground, starting from the edge of Applejack's dirt trail. He hastily filled Mac's path, trotting as fast as he could to catch up.
For Big Macintosh, strength was his greatest skill when it came to the farm. For him, a plow carried no weight. Like his sister, he pulled the iron tool like it was an everyday routine for him, without a drip of sweat trailing down his forehead. The only difference was that he looked more believable, due to his size.
Mockingbird could already start to feel the bag getting progressively lighter when he caught up to his partner, halfway to the end. Looking up from the ground, his eyes unintentionally caught the rear of Macintosh, his toned red flank flexing in and out while his hind hooves pushed deep into the earth.
The air was still cool, but began to feel like a scorching heat wave for Mockingbird. Watching the natural motion in front of him only raised the thermometer. While he didn't want the humiliation of getting caught staring, he couldn't help but keep his eyes glued. Nor could he help the expanding stiffness of his suddenly hard wings.
The plow came to a halt, right when the bag dumped the last of its dirt. Big Macintosh lifted up his head, wiping his hoof over his eyes. "Ugh, this dirt dust can really be blinding. Mockingbird, go and get another bag for the run up."
Hearing himself being called to attention, Mockingbird snapped his wings back to position and responded, "Oh, am I out of dirt already?" He surveyed his sack to see that it could now serve as a pillow case.
"Eeyup, it really goes fast," Big Macintosh confirmed. "Now get a move on. We wanna get done as soon as we can."
Mockingbird followed the command, trotting back to the mulch. Apple Bloom ran up to his side, almost as if they were in a race.
"Ya having fun yet, newbie?" she asked with a playful smile.
"I don't know how this would necessarily be called fun, but I guess it's better than doing nothing in my sister's house all day."
"You’ll get used to it. The time flies once you get in the routine."
Mockingbird and Apple Bloom retrieved their respective bags and returned to their partners. Once Big Mac was all straightened out again, the pulling continued.
Should probably talk with him, just to pass the time, Mockingbird thought to himself. Who knew? He might've come up with something very fascinating to say. "So, Mac, you, uh, come out here often?"
Still pulling, Big Macintosh raised his head to the question, keeping his eyes focused on the path. "Uh, yeah. Pretty much everyday. What else would you think I do?"
Mockingbird shrugged. "I dunno, just trying to get a conversation going, I guess."
Big Mac chortled. "At least you're better at starting conversations than myself."
"But what about yesterday at lunch, when you asked all the questions?"
Macintosh shook his head. "There is only so much silence I could handle when surrounded by ponies. Most of the time, I really don't have much to say and other ponies do the talking for me. I guess I just really wanted to get to know ya better."
Mockingbird tilted his head. "Are you really this silent, Big Mac? You seem to talk a lot when you're around me."
Then, without a signal or command, Big Macintosh slowed his ploughing like an extra hundred pounds was added to the load. His muzzle drifted over to his two little sisters across the way. Hearing their joy and giggle over their special bond seemed to trigger a single tear to run from the corner of his eye.
"I guess I've just been the quiet type for as long as I can remember," he uttered, his usual monotone sliding down to the lowest possible note. "When Applejack, Apple Bloom and myself were all very little, our parents were killed while harvesting for the season. During a thunderstorm, they both insisted on staying out and bucking the trees until the job was done. But a lightning bolt struck close to 'em on the ground. The folks at the hospital couldn't do anything for 'em."
The farmer started to take heavy breaths in through his nose, his eyes pooling to the point of overflowing like buckets. "I was so shell shocked, I just didn't know what to say. I have always prayed that ponies would just ask me simple questions that could be replied with either a 'eeyup' or 'nope.' Believe it or not, I used to be talkative; everypony wanted to talk with me. But that incident just took a toll on us all."
He sniffled before continuing. "Granny stayed the strongest and raised all three of us with the barn. Applejack became so stubborn and always swore to work hard, as a tribute to Ma and Pa. And Apple Bloom... she was just a baby. It was so hard for us to tell her that they would never again come home to see her, hug her, kiss her, tuck her into bed and say goodnight, or love her.
"It was like my socialization died with 'em. Their death still makes me so preserved every single day. Losing a big part of my family took away so much. Once that happens, nothing will ever be the same, and nothing can ever change that."
Mockingbird's eyes blurred. It took him a while to realize that he, too, was beginning to softly cry during the story. A family falling apart became something that he was recently too familiar with. Maybe the strong stallion in front of him was right. Maybe once a tragedy tears apart a strong family bond, it could never be the same again—no matter what changes occur.
"Big Mac, I'm very sorry to hear this," Mockingbird said. "I've had a very similar incident happen to my family."
Big Macintosh—who was now trying to pick back up on the speed of his chore—took a very deep breath to soothe his uneasy voice. "Oh, is that so?"
Mockingbird nodded. "My grandmother. One spring night, when I was really little, a stray thunder cloud erupted outside her house. A weather team was held responsible for not keeping track of its course. She ended up dying of a heart attack from the close eruption and wasn't able to get help in time. Poor Fluttershy was really upset. She wouldn't stop crying for about a week. I did everything I could to make her feel better, but it was so painful for me, too."
They reached their next end of the field. Big Macintosh, rustling his hoof through his mane, turned to Mockingbird with a frown. While the loss of relatives is never an easy plight to endure, it can certainly bring others together through a common experience and empathy. "Oh, well, I'm very sorry to hear about that."
"Don't worry about it. But thank you for your kind words."
Big Mac put a hoof to his chin. "Mockingbird, I know it's still very early in the day, but would ya like to stay for dinner?"
Mockingbird scratched behind his ear. "Um, I don't know. I left a note for Fluttershy not to wait up for me, but she is just so protective she might stay up 'till the cows come home."
"I'm sure Fluttershy wouldn't be too worried if you arrived home a little late tonight," Big Macintosh replied. "Besides, I like you. I think the family has taken a liking to you, as well. It would be no trouble at all having ya as a guest."
What was the harm in just having a nice dinner? Certainly not much. While Mockingbird looked into Big Mac's glowing emerald eyes, he felt an inner pull that made him want to be close with the stallion. A pull that could have been a sign of a blossoming friendship. For most ponies, saying no to this pull would've meant missing out on a golden opportunity.
"Okay, Big Macintosh, I'll stay," Mockingbird said. "I appreciate the offer."
In response, the larger stallion brightly smiled from ear to ear. "Excellent! I look forward to it. Now how about you go and get a refill, so we don't fall behind my sisters?"
"Okay." Mockingbird ran off to retrieve his third bag.
"Oh, so that's why you came home late on Tuesday?" I asked. The remains of the quinoa sat at the very bottom of the pot. Our dinner left small puddles of olive oil on the plates. Over the course of his story, the sun has faded and the sky turned completely dark.
Mockingbird took his napkin and wiped his muzzle. "On Wednesday and Thursday, too. I tell you, they really know how to keep their guests entertained."
As I rose from my seat and started to collect the plates and silverware, he raised his hoof. "Um, Fluttershy, I noticed that you have been doing all the cooking, cleaning and dishes alone. How about I give you a hoof tonight?"
I smiled. I didn't even realize that I was doing so much work on my own while he was with me. "Of course, Mockingbird. That is, if you really want to."
"Well, considering everything you've done for me so far, I only think it's fair if I contribute to cleaning up a meal we shared together." He got out of his chair and took the empty pot and plates over to the sink with me. The faucet dials squeaked, water splashing onto the dishes and draining all the food and grease with soap suds.
As our hooves got damp in the wash, I decided to ask Mockingbird to continue his story. "So, what happened with dinner on Tuesday?"
He shook his head. "Can't remember much from that night. But the food was always really good and they always had a lot to share."
"What kind of things did they talk about?" I asked.
He replied, "The one dinner that I remember very well was on Wednesday night..."
The Apple family circled the table of their dining room. A long hard day always came with a reward for their efforts. Wednesday night's menu consisted of bread, mashed potatoes, casserole, and of course, apple sauce. The labored ponies, with fork and knife in each hoof, came close to the speed of shoveling the dinner into their mouths.
"Ya did good today, Mockingbird," Applejack said to the pegasus two seats down, drops of potato falling through her lips and landing on her chin. "Ya have a really good eye."
Mockingbird sighed. "All I did was separate the good apples from the bad. A filly could've done that—"
He looked to the youngest sister, sitting across the way. "No offense, Apple Bloom."
"None taken," she assured, shaking her head with a smile.
“Don’t think that what you did was so unimportant,” Big Macintosh interjected next to him.
Granny Smith lifted her eyes to her grandson. “Oh, Macintosh, you’ve been awfully quiet this evening up 'till now. But you are absolutely right.” Settling her pair of silverware to the side, she glanced at Mockingbird. “Son, even the smallest jobs can either make or break the way our business works, both as farmers and as a family.”
Mockingbird dabbed his lips clean with his napkin. “I know you want to have your sales be the best quality, but I don’t think I really held the most important job on the orchard today.”
Applejack placed her mug of cider onto the table, fixating her eyes on the pegasus. “You definitely held one of the most important jobs. One bad apple in a market bunch, and that could mean actual damage to our business and reputation. We do not sell bad apples. Never had and never will. Not one.”
She talked as if selling one piece of rotten fruit would've been a situation of life and death itself. The mare’s serious tone left Mockingbird at a loss for speech. Had he really offended her that much? His head lowered. “Oh, um, I’m really sorry, Applejack. I wasn’t trying to make fun of you, or anything.”
“I think she was just thanking you for keeping our reputation today.” The reassuring sound of Big Macintosh’s voice perked the young stallion’s ears with a new positive spark. He turned to Mac to see a comforting smile that showed his mint white teeth. A beam granting love and support, making the younger stallion feel safe. Made him feel valued and belonged.
After his friend nodded to confirm that he was listening, Big Mac continued, “You see, Mockingbird, I think of jobs on the orchard to be similar to the way I buck a tree or do other heavy work that Applejack can’t handle. Every muscle in my body plays an important role. I have the strength to do all that work, because my muscles work together as a team to give me all the energy I need. If I strain, it’s because a muscle is not working properly. I would end up hurting myself and my whole system would crash like a run away band wagon.”
Mockingbird tilted his head with squinting eyes. Macintosh continued, “Now, just think of the muscles as jobs on a family orchard. We always need to have a clean barn, gardeners, buckers, plowers, and sorters. These are all parts of a muscle. Remove one of them from the equation, then it all crashes down. How would our apple storage stay sanitary without a clean barn to keep them in? How can our trees and other vegetables grow strong and healthy without the gardeners? How can we tell if we have enough good apples to sell if we don’t have somepony sorting them?”
Mockingbird stared at his companion in awe. Who knew that Big Macintosh could be so supportive, knowledgeable and wise? He felt a strong shooting of warmth through his veins when Macintosh placed his hoof on his shoulder, giving a surprisingly gentle pat. “We are very glad to have you here. Never think differently about anything.” The pegasus’ face heated, cheeks burning to the intensity of a summer sun.
“Awe, your face is turning so red,” Apple Bloom noted. “I think my brother loves you like a brother.” She winked and giggled at her own statement.
A knock at the door made the family jump from their seats. Applejack trotted over and answered. Rainbow Dash, sporting a raincoat, stood outside the entrance frame with a bundle of pamphlets.
“Rainbow Dash? Why you wearing that poncho?” Applejack asked. "It ain't raining."
Dash sighed. “Correction: not raining yet.” She handed her friend one of the notices. “My weather team is calling for a last minute rainstorm to happen within a few minutes. Just be sure to stay indoors until tomorrow morning, or so.”
The announcement caused Mockingbird to erupt from his seat. “Rainstorm? I have to get home soon.”
Rainbow looked over at the unexpected guest. “Mockingbird? What are you doing here?”
“He’s been working with us,” Applejack said. “Big Mac’s idea. He needed something to do other than stay cooped up in the cottage.”
Rainbow Dash scratched her mane, trying to comprehend this strange new piece of information. “Oh, uh, okay. But I’m sorry, Mockingbird. You’re not going to be able to fly home in this weather. The first weather storms of the season can be very brutal and dangerous for pegasi to fly in. Even earth ponies and unicorns need to take shelter for this. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules, I just work for them.”
Mockingbird lowered his head and sank back into his chair.
“Hey, don’t feel too down,” Big Macintosh said to him. “How about you stay with us for the night? You can sleep with me in my room and tomorrow morning, we can start the day without having to wait for you.”
Mockingbird smiled at the offer. “That’s very nice of you, Macintosh, but I don’t want to have Fluttershy worry about me.”
“Oh, I can take care of her for you,” Rainbow interrupted. “She is actually on my path for notices, so I can just tell her that you’re staying here.”
“Oh, thanks, Dashie.” He turned back around. “Okay, Big Macintosh, I guess I can stay for tonight.”
Rainbow Dash faced away towards her exit. “Okay, then, Apples, stay safe.” With that, she zoomed out into the night.
Mockingbird stood with wandering eyes at the center of Big Mac’s room. The living space was really nothing special: only a large cube of deep red walls, a wooden night stand, a desk with a lamp, and a queen size bed. The only source for any outside observation was the double paneled window, where the raindrops violently pelting like falling rocks could be heard.
The only other thing to give brightness to the rather dull living space was a framed photo on the night stand. Mockingbird took note of this and curiously observed the picture inside.
Encased was Big Macintosh, except with a much younger feature. He had his straw mane combed back while wearing a green suit jacket with a matching tie. Judging by the tight stretch marks surfacing in the muscle areas, the outfit looked like it was obviously two sizes too small on the stallion. However, he was still able to show a very quiet and humble smile to the camera.
“Hey, Mac, is this you? You look good!” Mockingbird called out the door and down the hall.
“What?” Big Mac’s somewhat distant voice replied.
“This photo on your stand, is this from when you were younger or something?”
After the sound of a running faucet could be heard, followed by a squeaking silence, Macintosh entered the room and looked at the photograph. “Eeyup, Ponyville High, senior class photo.”
Mockingbird winked to him. “You look good. Probably could've chosen a better outfit, though.”
The larger stallion chuckled lightly in response. “Eeyup, that was not the best week for me to do my laundry with a sick Granny.”
The pegasus laughed, giving a friendly pat on Mac’s arm. “At least you still had a nice face. That’s all that counts.” He started to glance around the room. “So, where do I sleep?”
Big Mac pulled a layer of sheets off his bed, settling his haunches on the mattress that creaked under his massive weight. “Oh, well you can sleep up here, if you wanna. Sorry, we don’t have a guest room and we’re short on cots. Apple Bloom had to give up her bed when my little cousin, Babs Seed, came to town.”
“Uh, okay. As long as I don’t bother you in my sleep, I guess this can work.” Mockingbird trotted around the foot of the bed, over to Macintosh’s neighboring side.
“You won’t have to worry,” Big Macintosh said. “I’m a pretty heavy sleeper; it would take a very big earthquake to wake me up. Just hope you won’t mind the snoring.”
Getting comfortable into the warmth engulfing mattress and sheets, Mockingbird stretched out his forelegs with a yawn. “I was just about to say the same to you. My poor sister has to listen to my nocturnal whale songs all the way from upstairs.”
“Okay. Hope this isn’t too awkward for you, but now it’s time to get some shut eye. Bright and early tomorrow, we get back to work.”
Big Mac reached over for his apple patterned lamp and pulled down on the metal string. A small click cloaked the room in a darkness that was only accompanied by a deep blue hue, filtering through the bombarded window.
“Goodnight, Mockingbird.” Big Macintosh rested his head into the pillow and softly closed his eyelids. Almost immediately, a deep breathing entering and exiting through his nose could be heard. It’s amazing how quickly a hard day of work can take a stallion off into dream land.
Looking upon his sleep mate, Mockingbird noticed how serene and calm he looked. Almost as if he could see the peaceful nature of Big Macintosh amidst the slumber. While the eldest Apple brother looked like he could beat up anypony, the younger stallion saw no harm or violence possibly arising.
Lowering his own head to a resting spot, Mockingbird noticed a strong sensation of comfort come over him. Like he was at peace and safety with the gentle giant. Under the moonlight, he only appeared to be even more beautiful and attractive than before.
Ever so carefully, Mockingbird shifted his lips forward until they softly pressed against Mac’s smooth forehead. The stirring stallion deeply moaned in his reverie with an unconscious smile. Rings of pink surfaced and widened across his freckled cheeks.
“Goodnight, Big Mac.” The colt nestled his head into the spare pillow and laid under the numbness of relaxation. As his eyes began to blink gradually slower, he took advantage of the opportunity to spend his final moments awake, admiring the stallion across from him. He blinked slower, and slower, until finally, Big Macintosh’s form blurred away to be replaced by the darkness of the eyelids.
I blinked at the last part of his story. My right eyebrow curled with a small grin. “You kissed him?”
“You didn’t hear this from me.”
I stepped forward, eager with curiosity. “Mockingbird, are you attracted to Big Macintosh?”
He massaged the back of his neck with his soapy hoof. “Well, he’s good looking. But that was just a friendly gesture. Nothing more.” He double patted his neck, then brought his hoof to the center of his focus. My brother then flailed his sud covered foreleg, grabbing a towel.
I giggled, and began placing the wet silverware into the tray to dry. I have never been an expert when it came to romance, but I wasn’t so gullible to not believe attraction when it was right in front of me. “Okay, if you say so. But you also came home late last night. One of your notes said that you were out?”
“I was. Probably should've sent word about that or something.”
“Oh, that’s okay. What did you end up doing?”
Mockingbird slapped the damp towel over the oven handle and trotted into the living room. As he sat himself in a chair, he leaned back and cracked his neck. “Well, yesterday, I was approached by Big Mac after I finished pulling some weeds…"
The afternoon sun beat down harshly on the grey pegasus on bended knees. As he ripped the final intruding weed from the garden, he swiftly wiped his forehead clear of sweat, tossing the dead plant into a wagon.
“Not too shabby, Mocking,” came Big Macintosh’s approval from behind.
Mockingbird picked himself up, clapping his hooves clean on a job well done. “I’m just glad that this garden wasn’t any bigger,” he commented with a chuckle.
“Eeyup.” Mac took notice of the way that his friend smiled in the sunlight. The glistening of his teeth and the playful feeling behind the face brought joy to the farmer. Seeing the younger stallion enjoy himself, and be happy to be there, could only lift his spirits for all to notice. “Hey, uh, Mockingbird, I was just wondering if you were busy or something tonight.”
“Uh, no, I don’t have any plans. Why do you ask?”
Macintosh exhaled. “Well, I was going to head into town tonight for this social that Applejack has been trying to get me to go to. And I was just wondering… ya know… if ya wanted to just…”
“Of course I’ll go with you.”
“How did ya know I was gonna ask that?”
“Just a feeling.”
The little town of Ponyville buzzed under the festivities of its nightlife. All the restaurants and inns welcomed all ponies out and looking for a good time. The streets glowed under the white party lights that hooked and wrapped each street lamp, forming a square filled with mares and stallions from all over town.
Deep within the bustling and chattering crowd, the two young stallions sat at their own picnic table, deep in conversation.
Big Macintosh emphasized his words with his hooves. “I’m just saying, Fleetfoot would more than likely strain her own wings if she were to fly up against Soarin.”
Mockingbird laughed, waving away his own hoof. “Please, pretty colt Soarin can only fly like lightning if somepony tells him there’s apple pie at the finish line. Fleetfoot has more experience. Fleetfoot has won the most medals out of any of the Wonderbolts—”
“Which shows exactly how dated she is. By this time, next season, she will be doing more resting in the hospital than flying.”
“You mean like how Soarin will be doing more chasing than practicing?”
“What do ya mean by chasing? The mares, or our pies?”
They ended the debate with a heartfelt laughter that required a break for breathing. After a heavy inhale, Mockingbird was the first to pick up the conversation again. “Wow, Mac, I didn’t even know you were into The Wonderbolts, let alone aerobatic sports.”
Big Mac took a sip of his water. “Well, when one of our best customers for pie is on the team, it’s kind of hard to turn down the free tickets to their shows and events on the ground.”
Mocking rested his head onto his hoof. “I always used to go with Shy and Rainbow Dash when we were little. Rainbow was always the most enthusiastic one and always wanted to sneak into the locker rooms. It actually got us kicked out one time.”
The red stallion chortled. “Eeyup. I just recently discovered The Wonderbolts. I never thought I would be so into them, either. When I was younger, my former guilty pleasure was relaxing away my troubles, while Marezart played on Granny’s old gramophone.”
Mockingbird’s eyes widened. “No way. You like Marezart?”
Big Mac smiled. “Eeyup.”
The pegasus’ voice excitedly picked up energy. “I always enjoyed listening to her earlier scores, but always struggled with learning them.”
Mac tilted his head. “You struggled? I thought singing was your special talent.”
“Believe it or not, Big Mac, Opera is the one music genre I genuinely struggle with. I don’t have the voice.” He cleared his throat and attempted to belt out a tenor B in a forced heavy timbre. The resulting sound was the resemblance of a hungry grizzly bear yawning, rather than a powerful and commanding hero’s voice. The ponies surrounding the two unpleasantly covered their ears, glaring at the disrupting noise.
Once Mockingbird cut himself off, he looked around at the annoyed expressions, and sheepishly flushed before trying to hide his face. Big Mac placed a supportive hoof on his shoulder. “And I take your word for it.”
They both chuckled before Macintosh continued his part of the conversation. “But, yeah. Those records belonged to my great grandfather, who sold to the Canterlot Opera Company. He enjoyed the music so much, that they offered him a collection of some of their recordings. They are all still in working condition, too.”
“You know what I always enjoyed about Opera?” Mockingbird asked, dreamily. “It gives the world much needed music. I just look around and think of how much better it would be if the world was actually a song. Everything would be so much more beautiful and exciting. We would always know the hero, the villain, the maiden, and the supporting cast members. Nopony would be afraid to show emotion or love either.”
Big Macintosh nodded. “Eeyup.”
“You actually agree? You don’t think I’m being silly?”
“Nope.” The earth stallion reclined and placed both hind hooves on the table. “I actually think what you said was very nice.” He pointed to himself. “When I heard you sing on Saturday, it actually felt like the party was right from the gramophone. I felt comfortable, happy and relieved to sing with you. I enjoy listening to that music because it helps me relax from always being the strong one and the heavy lifter. When I listen to beautiful music, I’m free. Just because I’m a tough looking farmer, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate art.”
“I think it’s great,” Mockingbird commented.
Mac sat back up right. “Wow, I just realized that you’re the very first pony I’ve ever told that to. Nopony else knows now except for you and me.”
While the party and social music surrounded the two stallions, the atmosphere went warm. Mockingbird could feel goosebumps run down his spine. They gazed at one another, content with living in the now. Like the two were brought together by faith. The comforting air that surrounded told them not to leave, and only to enjoy the moment they had.
That was until a small, porcelain unicorn filly came running up to the scene. “Big Mac! Big Mac! Big Mac!” she squealed with a high pitched, puppy dog-like voice.
She paused about six inches from the table for a moment to catch her breath. “Apple Bloom forgot this at school.” She pulled out a slightly chewed number two pencil with a rubber apple eraser on top. “Can you be sure to give it back to her, please?”
“Eeyup.” Big Mac took the pencil from the filly and placed it down beside him.
“Sweetie Belle, how many times have I told you not to go running off on me like that?” The next pony to interrupt the moment was Rarity in pursuit. She magically held a bundle of plastic shopping bags while a violet scarf wrapped her neck. She caught up and smiled to see who was at the table before her.
“Oh, Mockingbird, it’s very nice to see you tonight,” Rarity said, her face turning pink. She glanced her eyes away like she was intentionally trying to avoid making contact.
“Hey, Rarity,” Mockingbird answered. “Great to see you too.” He observed the merchandise of skirts and necklaces, floating in her silvery blue aura. “I see you’ve been shopping?”
“Oh, yes. I recently found some new inspiration for my next line up. I… uh… had to use some outside sources for material. I see you’ve met my sister, Sweetie Belle.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mockingbird greeted the filly with a smile. “You’re one of Apple Bloom’s friends?”
Sweetie smiled, a reddish pigment filtering her cheeks. “Uh, yeah… she’s… uh, my friend.” She lightly laughed like she was in front of the cutest colt in her class. The filly glanced up at her older sister with a playful smile. “This is Fluttershy’s brother, Rarity? You’re right, he is a real cutie!”
Rarity’s eyes bulged to the size of bowling balls. Face turning scarlet, sweat soaking, she covered her little sister’s mouth and laughed nervously. “Uh, hehe. Children and their imaginations. What will they think of next?”
Mockingbird simply squinted his eyes in suspicion. “Yeah… right.”
“Well, we better be getting home,” Rarity said, consulting an imaginary watch on her wrist. “It is way past Sweetie’s bedtime and she really needs her sleep.”
The younger sister tried to wrestle the grasping hoof free from her mouth. “No, it's not, Rarity, I’m not even tired!”
“Yes, you are!” She started to make her way out with shopping bags and Sweetie Belle in tow. “Goodnight, Mockingbird and Big Macintosh. Tell Fluttershy that I really enjoyed our spa appointment today!”
“Will do,” Mockingbird answered her call as the siblings left the crowd. After a brief moment of trying to process the recent happenings, the stallions turned back to each other as Mockingbird commented, “Well, that was weird.”
Mac shrugged. “I’m used to that happening to me all the time.”
I giggled. In a seat across from him, Angel Bunny curled in my lap as I gently stroked his long ears. “It’s actually kind of funny that you mentioned that. Rarity did talk about you at the spa.”
“What did she say about me?” Mockingbird asked.
“Oh, nothing much. She just wanted to see how you were doing and kept complimenting on how wonderful you sounded at the party.”
“Heh, yeah. I always get a lot of compliments days after a perform... ow!” My brother gasped in sudden pain, and began rubbing the middle of his spine.
I glanced to him with a worried expression. “Are you okay?”
“I think I might've twisted this today,” he grunted. “It’s actually been bothering me a lot.”
As he continued his attempt at massaging his sore spot, I could easily tell that he was having very minimum success. With a chortle, I lifted Angel from my lap and left my seat. “Would you mind if I gave it a try? I’m pretty experienced with giving massages to bears.”
He looked up at me. “Uh, sure, I guess, if you really want to.” I trotted over to the large chair, as he shifted himself further down. He turned around so his back was facing me, as I took my seat on a hoof rest.
“Okay, so where does it hurt?” I asked.
He answered by circling his hoof around the lower end of the right side of his back. “Around here. It’s really driving me nuts.”
“Well you won’t have to worry for long. Dr. Fluttershy is in the house.” We both laughed as my hoof tenderly dug into his aching muscles, the skin lifting and flexing with every motion I made.
Mockingbird took in steady breaths and softly moaned in relief. “Mmh, that feels really good, Fluttershy. Where did you learn to be a chiropractor?”
“Well, if you’ve been with bears as much as I have, you learn how to relax even the largest of muscles. So, what happened on the orchard today? You came home pretty happy.
He smiled. “That I did, Shy. That I did.
The sun beat down over the two stallions as they pulled the apple cart. The hollow containers inside rattled along the beat of the dirt path, loose extra apples rolling about on the cart floor. Mockingbird, by Big Macintosh’s side, sustained a potential laugh before finishing his story, “And that’s when Fluttershy said, ‘I’d like to be a tree—' Why do I feel like I’m telling that wrong?”
But his company did not care. Big Mac chortled heavily, wiping a tear of laughter from the corner of his eye. “Ha, that’s a good one! I can’t believe Applejack never told me that story from Appleoosa.” He lowered his head. The wind continued to whistle through his ears as he gazed at the oncoming farm. He sighed. “Though, I do wish there were some things that she wouldn’t tell me.”
“What do you mean?” Mockingbird asked.
Macintosh shook his head. “Do ya remember when we met about a week ago at the party? Well, the only reason I was there was because Applejack made me come.” His eyes darted to and fro, confirming that the area was clear. “She was trying to hook me up with your sister.”
If it weren’t for the fact that they were pulling a wagon, Mockingbird would've paused dead in his tracks. “My sister?”
Big Macintosh huffed through his mouth. “Eeyup. I don’t mind going out to events. If she wants me to be more social, I can try to be more social. But I just wish she could see that I don’t want to date mares.”
At those last six words, Mockingbird’s heart skipped a beat. His eyes widened. He felt a sense of bafflement, having not been able to see it earlier. There remained a huge supporting possibility that the closest friend he made in Ponyville was much more like him than he thought. Though he could not tell whether or not this would lead to anything special, Mockingbird felt that he could finally find comfort in seeing that he was not alone.
Big Mac continued, “I don’t see you having a problem with that in my life, do ya, Mockingbird?”
“Oh, no, of course not. I think your dating preference is very understandable.”
Mac leaned his head in closer. “Then do ya think that we can keep this between us? I’m pretty confident that my family will still accept me, but my gut is telling me otherwise? So, until then, can we just keep this as a secret? Stallion to stallion?”
Mockingbird had a very familiar past of not wanting a secret to get out. Hearing the urgence in Big Macintosh’s voice sounded like a familiar plea that he would make to his own conscious. Being too familiar with a sense of uncertainty only makes it easier to keep a secret, especially if it’s for a friend.
Mockingbird nodded. “Okay, Big Mac, you don’t have to worry. Your secret is safe with me.”
“Thank you very much.” Mac thanked him like he was almost about to cry. The Apples seemed like such a nice family. Surely, his work partner would have guessed that his relatives and loved ones would be more open to him.
Once the two reached the gate of the farm, Applejack trotted up to unlatch the lock, allowing them to pass. As they pulled into Sweet Apple Acres, Apple Bloom and Granny Smith soon joined them in anticipation. Mockingbird and Big Macintosh both un-harnessed themselves and massaged the stress marks left on their sides.
“Alright, boys,” Granny Smith said. “Way to bring in the bread!” She reached into the wagon and scooped out a hefty brown bag, jingling the sound of bits like a musical instrument.
“I can’t believe y’all really sold that much!” Apple Bloom cheered. “This is gonna be a great start to the season.”
The stallions gave the harnesses to Applejack, who settled them to her side. “So, Big Mac, did you two have a nice day in Ponyville with the booth?”
“Eeyup,” he answered plainly. The eldest sibling turned away from the sister, clearly looking annoyed. What could have possibly been so irritating about a simple question like that?
Noticing the lack of enthusiasm in his voice, she tried to continue with, “Okay, did any big customers like Filthy Rich buy ‘em out?”
“Did you two talk to anypony a lot during the shift?”
“Why are ya being so short with me, Mac? Ya sure ya had a good day?”
“Eeyup!” Mac answered the last question with a strong hint of aggravation. Well, that certainly came out of nowhere. He stomped off and headed for the closest well to dunk and cool his head.
The other four simply stood stunned and confused at what just happened, mostly Applejack. She shook her head, rolling her eyes with a grunt. She looked at the pegasus beside her. “Do ya know what’s going on with him, Mockingbird? He rarely says two words to any of us.”
The teenager scratched the back of his head and looked down. “He’s just tired, I guess. I’ll go talk to him.”
Mockingbird trotted over to his destination and met the larger stallion with caution. Big Macintosh looked at the ground, his mane matting the dirt into mud with dripping well water. He looked like the only thing he requested for was some simple peace and quiet.
“Hey, Mac, you alright?” Mockingbird quizzed.
Big Mac lifted his eyes to the clouds, cupping his vision with his hooves. “Every time she begins talking to me, I just think that she’s gonna bring up that question about whether or not I saw anypony I’m interested in. Why can’t she just let me be?”
Mockingbird took a seat next to him. “Seriously, man, you were acting like a child. I don’t think a question like that is anything to really snap about. She’s your sister.”
“But it just gets so annoying, day in and day out. I love her and care for her, but conversations like that always lead to that same question about my love life.” Big Macintosh wiped his head dry and slumped in his seat.
Mockingbird sighed, shook his head and crossed his forearms. “Look, I know that siblings can sometimes be annoying. But soon, she may be the only family you have. What’s the point if you are going to be mad at her for no reason? Do you want to talk with her about it?”
The red stallion looked into the orange eyes of the grey pegasus. Pleading eyes. Begging eyes. Was it really offending Mockingbird that much to see his friend be so upset with his sister? Did he really hate seeing Big Mac like this? Perhaps he really meant more to him? Maybe the farmer’s reaction was a bit ridiculous. Mac found it very hard to say no to his look. Almost like he didn’t want to hurt his feelings by refusing.
“Oh, alright, let’s talk to her,” Big Macintosh said. He lifted himself up and trotted ahead of Mockingbird back to the awaiting family, all wearing concerned expressions. Mac faced Applejack with perfect eye contact. The tension could already be felt beginning to brew.
“Applejack,” Big Mac began, “I’m sorry for snapping like that. It was wrong of me to do so. But, I just think that whenever we talk, you might be digging too much into my personal social life, especially when it comes to dating. I’m already happy as I am, so please be honest: are you willing to accept me being on my own?”
Applejack flicked her hoof at the ground, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry too, I guess, Big Macintosh. Last week, I actually had a talk with Fluttershy at Pinkie Pie’s party, and she told me not to worry so much about it. I suppose I should've told you what she told me first, and we could've avoided this confrontation. I just didn’t realize it was really bothering you that much.”
“I really appreciate it, Applejack,” Big Mac complimented with a blush. Applejack’s face replied with a very similar color shade. A warm feeling spread to all those surrounding the brother and sister. Mockingbird could sense the all too familiar sibling love that he had grown accustomed to his whole life, simply by watching the make up in front of him. He no longer saw the Apples as a normal family, but the family he now envied for. A family with a truly unbreakable bond, and tight knit love.
“You really are a great family, aren’t you?” the younger stallion asked. “You see, Mac and AJ? You two really do love each other. It’s just amazing. I don’t know how to put this, but…”
His imagination began to wonder. He could feel a rhythm move throughout his own body. An uncontrollable urge to truly express what he was feeling. Yes, the musician would have looked rather silly, but he simply didn’t care.
Mockingbird began tapping his hind hooves and clapping together his forehooves. Once he had a tempo going, the rest of the earth ponies looked at him like he was doing something more strange than Pinkie Pie. But, resisting all the orders of his conscious to remain normal, he began singing the lyrics:
You’re Apples forever
You’re family, but so much more
No matter what comes, you will face the weather
You’re Apples to the core!
As you have learned earlier, Mockingbird’s voice is very contagious—easier than catching the flu. But once a pony has caught it, then they wouldn’t want any doctor to cure them.
Steadily, Applejack joined making her rhythm in sync with the composure, stomping her hooves. She eventually picked up a banjo by her side and began strumming each cord. She followed the beat of Mockingbird until the rest of the family began to dance as well. She sang:
We travel the road of generations
Joined by a common bond
We sing our song 'cross the pony nation
From Equestria and beyond
Feeling the spirit spread like fire, Apple Bloom leapt up to her sister and Mockingbird, to join in singing:
(You’re) We're Apples forever, Apples together
(You’re) We're family, but so much more
No matter what comes, (You) we will face the weather
(You’re) We're Apples to the core
It was then Apple Bloom’s turn for a solo:
There's no place that I'd rather be
Than being with my family
Friends all around come to join and see
As we sing out across the land
How could it have even been possible for Big Macintosh to have stayed mad during such a joyful, yet random, occasion. He knew that he was an Apple who loved his family. To be with his family was to join in their celebration. Mustering up his Baritone singing voice, he started to dance and join his sisters in singing the chorus:
(You’re) We're Apples forever, Apples together
(You’re) We're family, but so much more
No matter what comes, (You) we will face the weather
(You’re) We're Apples to the core
Granny Smith was the last to join in on their jubilee. The beautiful melodies, combined with the upbeat tune, gave the grandmother a grande boost in her step. Like all evidence of arthritis disappeared, she danced like she was fifty years younger. She grabbed Mockingbird by the hip and hoof, and swung him around like they were at a square dance. With a large smile, she sang:
We're peas in a pod, we're thick as thieves
Any cliché you can throw at me
We're here for each other, through thick and thin
You're always welcome with your Apple kin
On her final note, she unraveled Mockingbird, spinning him like a top. The excitement and pride he felt at bringing joy to the Apple family sent his heart racing. He felt his own song lift his spirits as well. The young colt could only express how he truly felt when he sang:
You're more bright than the color pink
Or blue jays soaring over your favorite drink
The love I feel here is swim, not sink
As we rejoice across this land
For the first time, since the tragedy that was his birthday, Mockingbird felt the happiest in his life. Being with the love of a family that he wished for was only too good to not be a dream. If this was slumber to him, he didn’t want to wake up. He felt like he could have been with the Apples for hours. They finished the song with a final refrain, singing:
We're Apples forever, Apples together
We're family, but so much more
No matter what comes, we will face the weather
We're Apples to the core!
On the final note, Mockingbird felt a relieving wave wash over him. He wanted nothing more than to rest in optimism on the soft earth below. Letting the laws of gravity take him away, he allowed the air to drop him, but not onto a soft patch of grass like he expected, but into a foul puddle of pig’s mud.
The last of the chores were completed, calling the day to an early end. Caked in mud and dirt, Mockingbird started to make his way out through the gate, Big Macintosh walking beside him.
“Mockingbird, it was really great to have ya helping us out this past week,” Big Mac complimented. “I don’t think we could have nearly gotten as much done if ya weren’t around.”
He received a smile in return from his fellow. “It wasn’t a big deal, really. It gave me some stuff to do, and I’ll admit, I really enjoyed spending time with the family. You have something special here, Big Mac. They should really mean a lot to you.” At least, I wish my own family could feel the same way.
“Yea, I really don’t know what came over me.”
“Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be fine.” Mockingbird placed a supportive hoof on his companion’s shoulder. With this very simple contact, Mac could feel a heat of energy shoot through his body. A good heat. He felt comfort and reassurance from the beautiful stallion looking up at him. To Big macintosh, he felt like he would have been alright with being touched all day.
“Hey, Mockingbird,” Mac began, “you really did help make my days here better. It can sometimes get pretty lonely if it’s just me, my sisters and Granny. But when you were here, I just knew that I had somepony to look forward to seeing at the start of the day.”
Blood began to rapidly rush into Mockingbird’s head. He wanted to respond, but found it impossible with a swelling tongue. “I, uh, really enjoyed it here too, Big Mac,” he successfully returned.
“Do ya wanna do something this weekend?” Macintosh proposed, sounding hopeful. “Maybe we can go out and have fun together, just the two of us.”
A large smile came across the recipient’s face. Whether it could've been just friends hanging out or something more, he didn’t care what it was. As long as he was with Big Mac, he wanted to enjoy it.
“Uh, sure,” Mockingbird answered. “How about on Sunday, we can go to a movie or something?”
“That sounds good enough for me,” Big Macintosh replied. “I guess I will see ya that afternoon, then?”
“It’s a plan. I’ll see ya later.” Turning away from Sweet Apple Acres, Mockingbird felt a new spring in his step. After such a series of unfortunate events for him, he has received days of bliss and acceptance. Those days were shared with somepony he now thought of as special. Somepony who wanted to spend more time with him. Somepony who might've meant more than a friend to him.
All he could have asked for and more came from farm labor. He merrily trotted back to the cottage into the sunset, as if all his woes were sucked from his mind.
I sat beside him with a warm smile. After day in and day out of nothing but negativity and bad things happening, it’s amazing how much the simplest bit of good news can feel for a pony. For Mockingbird, I could feel nopony else more deserving of this feeling than him.
“Mockingbird, it sounds like you had a very wonderful week,” I happily said. “Now didn’t I say that things would soon get better?”
He smiled back at me. “You did say that. Hopefully now, that raincloud will stop following me everywhere I go.”
“Rainbow Dash hasn’t been following you.” His good mood was contagious. I’m never the one to make jokes, but it just felt so right at the moment. As Mockingbird giggled, I left my seat and scooped up Angel into my arms. When I was sure that he would've resisted, he actually made himself comfortable with a tired yawn and almost made my embrace his bed. He was so cute.
“Well, let’s hope she doesn’t start anytime soon,” he stated after a breath.
“Then thank goodness that tomorrow is supposed to be sunn—” I paused. My head lowered. All the negative thinking that kept me anxious all week filtered back into my brain.
“You alright, Shy?” my brother asked. “You seem a bit off.”
I shook my head. “I just remembered, Mockingbird, tomorrow.”
His own eyes widened. As if all the good feelings that he experienced just moments ago were purged. “Oh.”
The next day… um… well, what happened on that Saturday was… uh. Oh, dear, I’m so sorry to stop, but are you sure you still want to listen to my story? It’s okay if you don’t want to anymore, I understand. I just find it to be really hard to talk about. Oh, goodness, I don’t know if I really want to do this.
What’s that? You are absolutely positive that you want to stay with me? Because I’m just saying, it’s not too late to stop here and go read something more enjoyable like Filly Trotter, The Pony Games, or Daring Do. You’re still here? So you DO want to stay with me? Well… okay, I’ll continue. I’m terribly sorry for stopping, but I just wanted to prepare you.
So, where was I? Oh, yes.
The very next day flew by quicker than the batting of an eye. My biggest recollection from that Saturday was towards the evening, when we were to reunite with my parents.
6:30 was the approximate time Mockingbird and I met up with Rainbow Dash to fly up to Cloudsdale. My prediction was wrong; it wasn't a sunny day at all. The day’s gloomy, grey clouds carried into the evening; no warmth in the wind, nor beautiful sunset to bring it to a close. I could feel the chilling breeze brushing through my tail. The beating of my wings echoed softly into my ears. Focusing on the clouds above, I made my best effort to rehearse what I was going to say to them in my mind.
Rainbow Dash, soaring on my left, turned to me with an unsure face. “You know, Fluttershy, we can still go back home. It’s not too late.”
“She has a point, Fluttershy,” Mockingbird said in a serious tone. “I feel incredibly uncomfortable going home right now. I’m sure you can tell how much I really don’t want to do this.”
I understood perfectly well how they were feeling. For myself, going through with this appointment made me feel like I was approaching a dragon. Would I have been surprised by the reptile being friendly, offering me kindness and peace? Or would it have gone down as I predicted, with the beast roasting me like a marshmallow and using my bones as toothpicks?
I gulped. “We can do this. It’s just a talk with Mom and Dad.” I honestly wish I listened to Dashie. But my mind kept replaying our encounter with Milky Way; I could still hear his voice cackling, But just remember, my dad also wants you to know that worse things can happen if a promise or demand is not met. So be sure to not disappoint us, or we might just punish you.
How could I have been so foolish at that time? If any of us could've seen the future into that bleak March evening, we would not have even been flying. We would've just turned around, gone home and tried to move on with our lives like it never even happened. I realize now that was definitely the best option. But I didn’t know. Rainbow Dash didn’t know. Mockingbird didn’t know. So we just kept flying.
All three of us remained pretty quiet until we touched down at the edge of 4, Cloud Drive. Set against the background of the oncoming dusk, the house looked even more intimidating than I could've ever remembered. I wish we never made it to the cloud.
After taking deep breaths, we started trotting up the ten yard lawn. We were slow. Neither of us were in any rush to make it to the entrance. I wish we never took those steps.
Arriving at the dreaded entrance that was the door, I raised my hoof and gently pressed the doorbell. I wish I never did that.
We were answered by Mom, who had her red mane tied up into a bun while sporting a black and white formal dress. My suspicion started to widen. Growing up, I remember very well that she wore that dress for special occasions or grande events, so I knew that something was up.
Her very first focus was Mockingbird to my right. She looked like she was about to cry tears of joy, while coming up to him with full force. “Mockingbird! My sweet boy, you’re home!”
My brother reacted with cautiously raising hooves that rubbed her back. He wore a perplexed face of anxiety and confusion. Trembling, the colt gazed at the mare who said nothing when he needed help. Words lost. Fear setting in.
She released him, then hugged Rainbow and I together. “Thank you, girls, so much for coming tonight. It really means a lot for us.”
Starting to feel a tad uncomfortable, I softly raised a hoof to break free of her embrace. “Of course, Mom. I’m glad that we can finally talk this out.”
Turning her head, she led all three of us into the house. The last opportunity passed. From that point on, there was no turning back.
The door closed. Around the house the walls and floors, once again clean and spotless, gleamed a sunny yellow from the evening lamps. A perfectly cleaned house was another sign that something was up, like we were to have… no that would've been ridiculous. Or so I thought.
My stomach churned, blood flowing slow like molasses. I could feel my own heart igniting into flames. Looking at Rainbow Dash and Mockingbird, I could tell that they practically mirrored my inner thoughts.
Emerging from around the nearest corner, my father stepped out into full view. His black-grey mane was slicked back into a combover. He wore his glasses polished with a freshly ironed black suit top. He smiled warmly at us.
“Welcome home, Mockingbird,” Father greeted in a soft tone.
Mockingbird stood in his place like he was turned to stone. Lips flinching uneasily, he attempted an inhale through his nose. The throat heaved as his pupils zoomed out. I could tell he didn't know what to say. His face looked like it was trying to express a mixture of anxiety, panic, sadness, fear, vulnerability and anger.
“H-Hi, Dad,” Mockingbird almost whispered, with a tremble in his voice. As the air grew denser, I could sense my brother’s courage faltering. Rainbow Dash appeared to be the only one who tried to remain calm on the outside. Though I could tell that she was brewing with enough anger and nerve to buck a fully grown dragon. Oh, she never learns.
That was the first time in many years that we were all under one roof as a family. This picture was the complete opposite of how I envisioned it to be; nopony was happy, nopony was hugging, nopony was showing anypony love. I don’t even remember the most recent time our family had such a happy gathering.
“S-So, Mom, Dad, how was your week?” I asked to break the silence.
Mother smiled. “Fluttershy, it was wonderful. But I hope that tonight will top it all off.” Something funny. She spoke the last sentence almost like it was forced. My brow lifted.
“I... uh, I’m sorry about the fight we had last week,” Mockingbird apologized, diverting his eyes. It looked like he was about to be sick. Sensing this emotion, I put my hoof onto his shoulder and gave a look as if to say, It’s going to be okay. We can do this. If only it could've been that easy.
My dad stepped forward, closing his arms around Mockingbird. “Mocking, Son, that is far behind us. I’ll admit, I lost my temper a little, but now, we can actually talk this out as family. I’m the one who should be sorry. But I was just so angry, I never meant to throw you out.”
In Dad’s arms, Mockingbird looked like a corpse. But I noticed that father said those words like he actually meant it. It was a genuine apology coming from a stallion whom I felt so unsure of. I could not have possibly changed his position that easily the Sunday before.
“Is it alright if we take a look around the house a little?” Rainbow Dash asked. At the time, it seemed like such an odd question to raise. But I never felt more glad that she had the courage to bring it up. I could tell that she wanted a chance to relax and actually think just as much as I did.
“Sure, I don’t see any reason why not,” Mother answered. “Barrister, maybe they can spend some time alone?”
Father nodded. “Of course they can. I’m sure Fluttershy would like to see what we did with the upstairs area.”
Mockingbird quickly nodded and started to scurry up the stairs, only to be stopped by Dad. “Mockingbird.” My brother halted. The patriarch continued, “I actually want to help make things better.”
Mockingbird looked to Dash, then to Mom, then to me. My face showed a look that I could not even put an emotion behind. Still, just so I could get away like him, I reluctantly nodded.
My brother sighed. “I forgive you, Dad. I just hope that we can discuss this like father and son.”
“Will be very much obliged to, Mockingbird,” Father assured. “We’ll give you some time to yourselves.”
Like that, he stepped aside and allowed Rainbow Dash, Mockingbird and myself to pass and make our ways up the stairs.
Leaving my parents behind, we ran up the steps like it was a race. Stepping up the last flight, I looked around to familiarize myself with the home I lost those many years ago. Everything remained the same, the upstairs corridor running left and right with one door marking each end. Out of the other doors on the floor, I still remembered which one to go.
I made a right, and trotted towards the end of the hallway for my bedroom. Opening the door, I stepped inside to be hit with a flood of memories, a warming light. Everything there remained the same, almost like nopony touched it for four years.
My yellow bed with a butterfly pattern sat idly under a window near the back wall. Across was my dresser and mirror. My shelves were both stacked and aligned with an array of nature books, plastic animal models and photographs of me, Rainbow Dash and Mockingbird.
But the one thing I remember most about my room was the walls, painted a bright and warm shade of green—my favorite color. So serene and relaxing. I always felt at peace and happiness whenever surrounded by this hue. It would give me the sense of being engulfed by the nature and friendly animals with whom I’ve grown to cherish. This was a definite time when I felt like I needed to find my own happy place.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it, Fluttershy?” came Rainbow’s voice, her hooves clopping into the room. “Not much has really changed.”
Mockingbird followed in, a tickle in his throat. “Minus the thick layers of dust.” I didn’t even notice.
“I know, it really feels weird,” I answered. “I can’t believe they actually kept everything the same.”
Dash made her way to the shelf and picked up one of the golden picture frames. “Hey, you remember this day?” Mocking and I walked over to observe the memory she held.
A smile crept across my face. In front of a sign that read 'Junior Speedsters Summer Flight Camp' younger counterparts of myself, Rainbow Dash, Mockingbird, Mother and Father faced the camera with gleaming white teeth. With my brother on my side, Dash and I showed our flanks in dignity and pride. Mom and Dad knelt down with loving hooves on our shoulders. I was still surprised to see that Mockingbird’s face was still included, unlike the photographs downstairs.
“Yes, that was the day we earned our cutie marks,” I answered, the pleasant memory filling my mind. “Mom and Dad were so proud of both of us. They took us out to get ice cream and go swimming.” I started to chortle. “Then Dad had that trout go up his swim suit and he did that little dance on the beach.”
“The Trout Twitch!” Mockingbird called. He wiggled his flank and flapped his hind hooves while slapping at his legs, miming the tickling of the fish. Rainbow and I couldn’t help but giggle at his random silliness, reliving that happy day. Almost like he was trying to forget why he was back home in the first place.
“I also remember how they both said they were very proud of me,” I resumed. “Like I made them the happiest parents in the world.”
It started to hit me upon realizing what hypocrites they started to sound like. How could they have said that and still criticize my choice of career and lifestyle? But something kept telling me that deep down they still loved and cared very much for us. Dad was the stallion who stayed home with me every Nightmare Night to give me comfort when I got scared. Mom was the one who always tried to help me with my flying no matter how bad I was. They were both the first ponies I would run and cry to everyday after school, whenever I had an encounter with bullies. They just had to care.
“Glad to be back, Fluttershy?” Mockingbird asked me.
I nodded. “Yeah, couldn’t be any more glad.”
“Hey, Mockingbird,” Rainbow began, “is it still in your room?” A mischievous smile stretched her lips. She raised a brow, tilting her head to us both.
Mockingbird’s eyes brightened with a smirk on his face. “I think it might still be in there,” he replied. “Let’s go find out.”
He started for the doorway, Dash tailing behind. With a soft breath, I gave my old room of memories one last good look, taking in my last dose of comfort, before steadily trotting out and flipping off the switch.
Walking into the hallway, I followed Rainbow into a door on the left wall, entering Mockingbird’s room. I’ll admit that he liked to keep things more decorated than I did. On the wall next to his bed, a mural of records, hanging from fish lines, dangled from the ceiling, swaying inches above his black comforter. His four walls resembled that of a keyboard, with black and white stripes running down vertically. The top of his dresser was crowned with golden and silver trophies and medals, each engraved with musical notes and staffs flowing across a glittering surface. I forgot how many musical competitions he actually won.
After Mockingbird opened his closet in the far corner, he squatted down and began digging with his hoof. “Um, let’s see. It should be right around… here.”
I heard a click from the cupboard that was accompanied by a small yellow light on command. Trying to distract myself with eagerness, I gave a smile and ran up to my friend and brother gathering around the small space. “After you, Mockingbird.” I gestured with my hoof for him to lead.
“With pleasure,” he responded with a wide grin. He got into a position that almost made him lay on his stomach and began crawling inside. Peering into his path, I watched him wiggle into a small square hole in the very back wall towards the light source. Rainbow followed in after him. Then I squirmed my own way through lastly.
The mysterious room on the other side made all three of us huddle onto our haunches; it was like we were pushing ourselves into a house that was ten times too small for adult ponies. A bald lightbulb drooped from the ceiling with a swinging beaded lever. The confined walls of the limited space held many drawings and letters in crayon. The rising dust clouded my nostrils, forcing me to release a soft, high pitched sneeze. Rainbow mimicked. Mockingbird laughed.
“Wow, it has really been forever since we were last in our Secret Meeting Room,” he commented.
“Either way, this was the perfect place to hide away from all those boring meetings that your dad held,” Rainbow Dash added.
“But we only attended one of those meetings, Dashie,” I said. “But I remember that Dad did sound pretty mean during it. So maybe it was for the best.”
She blew a raspberry. “Whatever. They would've still been incredibly boring anyway. In here, we were rulers of our own kingdom. No adults allowed. Just foals being foals.”
“But do you also remember that after those meetings, when he couldn’t find us, he would re-iterate everything they talked about, only to us?” I asked. “He wouldn’t even let us go to bed unless we told him we understood. It was like to him, it was really that important.” Yet he was still so caring to us most of the time. Why?
Mockingbird pawed at the floorboard, wood cracking with his small flick. “It’s really a shame that I grew out of this. I was actually forced to attend a lot of those meetings and I have to tell you, it looks like they got even worse, Fluttershy. I explained them to you in our letters.” He shivered like he spotted a ghost.
I simply nodded. “Which is why we loved this room so much. I’m still surprised that they never found out this existed. It’s like some memories are never meant to die.”
Everything we said made me Imagine myself as a filly again. In our Secret Meeting Room it was our time together as a trio to do whatever we wanted. We played board games, made art, laughed, ate, even shared secrets. This room was a perfect place for the latter.
“Hey, my favorite game is still up here.” Rainbow Dash sifted through the blanket of dust and pulled out a tattered blue box. She blew more debris off the cover and beamed.
“Nice,” Mockingbird began, “I can’t believe I still kept that. Do you think we have time for a quick game?”
“Maybe just a quickie,” Rainbow answered. “You still know that you’ll never be able to beat me, right?” Her competitive, yet friendly and playful, face stretched with cocky eyebrows.
Mockingbird chuckled. “Oh, so you think. Let’s see if Captain Mock can finally vanquish Pilot Dash.”
“I accept the challenge!” Dash turned to me. "Shy, would you mind being our referee and maybe checking to see if the coast is still clear?”
I accepted the position with a nod.
“Awesome! Let’s play.” They opened the package and set the two battle boards against each other. Each grabbed a hoofful of pegs and organized their battlefields, the small pieces punching into the holes.
Time quickly passed while the two scratched heads, made their calls and removed each piece that was shot down.
“You found my seagull!”
“You Zapped my weather pony!”
It brought a warm feeling to my heart that we could still have a moment like this. No matter what was going on, it was like we were kids again. Even if it was just for a short while, it didn’t matter to us; we didn’t want our happiness to fade.
They finished their first round with a sporty hoof bump, each adorning cheerful expressions. “Good game, Rainbow Dash,” Mockingbird complimented.
“You didn’t do too bad, yourself,” she replied. “But It’s without a doubt that I’m still the queen.”
He chuckled. “That you are, Dash, that you are.” He turned to me. “Fluttershy, how about you go see if we still have some time?”
“Of course,” I replied. “I’ll be right back.” I crawled out from the secret room, back into the closet and out into the bedroom.
Standing up and dusting myself off, I was met once again with the black and white keyboard walls. I quickly found the only clock on my brother’s nightstand, a blue and white Wonderbolts design. Trotting over, I quickly learned that the time was about twenty past seven.
Things must be starting late, I anxiously thought, turning back to the open closet door. I really didn’t want to call them out. I just wanted us to stay up there a little while longer so we could still have our fun. My childhood couldn’t end on such a sad note a second time.
I was distracted with a sudden noise coming from outside near the hall.
“No, Milky Way. I am not going to let you leave early for that again!” Zeus’ voice almost turned my stomach to acid. Did I really have to confront him again? And that awful Milky Way? Why couldn’t he just leave us alone?
“Dad, I’ll only be gone for like five minutes,” Milky Way’s voice argued. “What difference will it make?”
“What difference?” angrily snapped the voice of his father. “Tonight is the night we need you the most. I looked over your argument and it’s excellent. Now you tell me that you want to abandon it for that stupid Astronomy project?”
“My special talent is not stupid! I told you since I was a small colt that I wanted to study the constellations of Luna. Why, after all these years of me following them, are you not taking what I do seriously?”
“There are more important things in this world than looking at stars... YOUNG COLT! Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“That’s not what Mom used to tell me!”
“Then why don’t you go visit her tombstone and tell her? I could tell you now that she won’t give a shit about what you say. She won’t even be listening! We have much more important matters to take care of. Maybe if you were ever in the same position I was, you would understand!” He spoke that last sentence with a wobbly voice, like he was going to have an episode or something.
Was there really more to this stallion than what met my eye? I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That conversation. I couldn’t help but think of how familiar it sounded to me.
I couldn’t remember what else I heard from them. But all I know is that when they ended, I swear I could hear a very loud bang and crack that sounded like a kick to the wall, silence following.
Turning back around, I noticed something about Mockingbird’s window on the other side of the room: it was open. There was our chance. Our opportunity to take our flight. To leave this home and put this whole thing behind us.
I hurried back into the closet and through the hole. Reuniting with Rainbow Dash and Mockingbird inside, I announced, “Come on. We have to go, quickly.”
I assumed that they understood the message pretty clearly. After exchanging some looks of concern they pulled out the pieces, slammed the boards shut, stuffed everything back in the box and hid it away. I crawled back out into the room, followed by Dash and Mocking, who extinguished the light and shut the small door on his way out.
Once they finally closed the closet door, I peered my head over to the window, their gazes following. “We can go right now. If we’re quiet but quick, we can just slip right out of here without even getting noti—”
“Having fun, kids?” came Mother’s voice. Spinning my head around, my eyes landed on Mom, standing in the door frame. She bore a face of uncertainty and reluctance. She knew what was to come, yet we had no choice but to talk.
“Oh, yes,” I began. “I forgot how this home has so many memories.”
Mother sighed, her teeth grinding together like rocks. “Fluttershy, Mockingbird, you both realize that we want you in our family again, right?”
“Sure, we do,” I answered.
“And even though we may not necessarily agree on some things and make you do things you don’t want to do, we do it because it’s for the best.” She curled her lips into a motherly smile, very similar to how I smile naturally. Yet none of us felt too trusting of her in a time like this.
“Are the kids ready, April?” came the voice of Father as he joined her side. Zeus, with his usual suit jacket and combed back blonde mane, trailed from behind. Both stallions smiled at each of us. No comfort came.
“They seem to be just about prepared,” Mom said softly.
“Very good to see you again, Mockingbird,” Zeus greeted, walking into the room.
Mockingbird first began to choke, but succeeded in passing his saliva through the throat after a few gulps. “I-It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” He brought a quaking hoof forward as they shook like partners.
“What’s with the clammy hoof?” Zeus quizzed. “Tonight is going to be a great night for you. We’re finally going to have a sit down chat about this and get you through.”
“Sounds like a plan.” My poor brother looked so dreadful. I brought my hoof to his back and gently brushed it up and down his spine. Though his fear was still boiling beneath his skin, I could tell that he started to feel at least a little bit better from the maternal gesture.
“Just a talk, huh?” Rainbow Dash inquired to the three grownups. “What makes you think we’ll like what you want to say?”
Zeus turned to her. “Don’t worry, kiddo. We changed our approach and are now focused on compromising.” He looked to me with a wink. I wanted nothing more than to faint at that moment. Too bad I’m not a very good actress, or I would've faked it, just to get out of the scenario.
“That being said, we shouldn’t hold back any longer,” Dad said. “It would be best to do this now while we still can.”
“Okay,” I said with Rainbow. Now was the time to see if I really could fix this broken family portrait. I should've known better.
“I’m sorry! Can you please just give me a second?!” Mockingbird bursted without warning. Not waiting for an answer, he galloped out of the room, into the bathroom across the hall and slammed the door behind him.
An awkward silence of ten seconds passed. I made my attempt to get out of the scene. “Uh, how about I go check on him? Just to see whether or not my egg salad from this afternoon is causing it.”
I didn’t wait for permission. I dashed out of the room and up to the lavatory. Swiftly opening the door, I spun myself inside and closed it behind me.
Inside the white ceramic colored tub, Mockingbird sat in a tight fetal position, almost like he was trying to imitate an armadillo. He crouched over, tears seeping through clenched eyes. His knees clamped against his chest. He heaved and violently trembled like a startled rabbit.
I fluttered over and sat on the edge of the bath. “Mockingbird, what’s the matter?”
He looked up at me and choked back his vocals. “I-I can’t face them, Fluttershy.” The salty drops ran to his lips and dripped onto his tongue. “Just by looking at their faces, it's making me feel sick. Can we please just go back to the cottage and forget they ever existed? Please!?”
He was practically begging at this point. Fear is a very strong emotion; an invisible block that has held me back many times. I could perfectly understand what he was feeling. But at the same time, I just couldn’t let go of the possibility of changing my parents’ hearts. How foolish I was to give them a second chance.
Like I did on his first night with me, I wrapped my hoof around him and reeled his head against my chest, his ear resting over my slowly beating heart. Still quivering, he laid there motionless, my breasts calmly rising and falling against him. My other hoof repeatedly rubbed up and down his back. “Shhh… it’s all going to be okay, Mockingbird. It’s just going to be a talk. We can convince them. Don’t be scared. Shhh.”
A loud knock came. Dad’s voice called, “Fluttershy, Mockingbird, are you two alright in there?”
Jerking my head, I quickly replied, “Everything’s okay. Just a little food poisoning. We'll be out in a little bit.”
“Okay. Meet us downstairs.” The sound of hooves departing and descending followed.
For what seemed like five minutes, we both sat in the same position. Him in the protection of my arms. Me rubbing his back while whispering soothing hushes into his ear. My mane draping over his head as he hid away from the world. So devastating. So much distress. I tried my very hardest to give him as much of my love and security that he could possibly feel. It was like we were playing ‘Hospital’ without the costumes. The ailment: Panic.
Once he started to feel at least somewhat calm, he lifted himself up and took in a breath. “You sure we can do this?”
I tried to paint on a confident smile. “Absolutely positive, sweetheart.” I leaned down and gave him a kiss on each cheek, then his forehead. “I promised we will be a family again, and I intend to keep it.”
Still looking hesitant to go further, Mockingbird rose from the tub and focused on the door. “Okay, let’s do this.”
He shuddered. His tightening hooves stepped over the brim. I rose and embraced his side, acting as support.
Opening the door, we ran into Rainbow Dash face to face in the hall. “You two doing okay?”
“We just kind of had a little moment,” I answered.
Rainbow bowed her head, looking like she’d rather be modeling for Rarity than being there at that time. “Well, then, I guess there’s no going back now.”
A pregnant silence filled the space. All three of us, not saying another word, lightly trotted to the top of the stairs. Looking down the case seemed so tranquil. So still. So calm. This silence, I could tell, was far from relaxing. The chilling air that came with it gave the quiet an atmosphere similar to a winter’s night.
With my arm still wrapped around Mockingbird, all three of us began our way down. It almost seemed like an eternity to just go from one step to the next. I could feel my own heart race as we went deeper and deeper.
Mockingbird’s breathing increased in both weight and volume. His pupils dilated to tiny holes. He kept his pace slow with a hanging head like he was a death row inmate, marching to his execution.
Rainbow Dash’s hooves sounded like they turned to iron. She walked like a guard for me and my brother. Like if anything bad were to happen to us, she would refrain from showing mercy.
We reached the very bottom of the stairs and stood petrified. In the living room a group of about twenty or so ponies sat patiently in rows of folding chairs. In front of them was a podium where Dad was standing confidently. A projector screen created a large white canvas behind him. A sign in front of the arch read, Traditional Pegasus Family Coalition.
I could not believe this was actually happening. Father lured us to one of his meetings.
I couldn’t even count how many beats my heart skipped. All the ponies in the room turned their eyes to us. So icy. My mind tried its maximum effort to maintain all the thoughts I rehearsed for my parents. I can never speak well in front of other ponies, silently judging every little thing I do. But for him, I had to at least try. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a larger than life rage against my father. How could he have tricked us like that?
No flight response this time, my mind spoke. This is it.
Mockingbird shifted his hooves, looking like he was unsure whether to flight or freeze.
Rainbow Dash only stared at the group of pegasi in the room like she wanted Celestia to send them all to the moon.
Father looked on and grinned. “Feeling better?”
“Uh… I… um… yes,” I uneasily replied. “Everything is okay.”
He nodded. “Oh, good. Remind me to never bring egg salad home ever again.” His comment was followed by a small ensemble of chuckles from the room.
Mother sat in the first row of chairs, of course looking at us. She lifted her own hoof and flicked it to herself, inviting us to come sit with her. For some unknown reason to me, we did so, taking the three open seats right next to her. With Rainbow Dash to Mockingbird’s left, me on his right and myself next to Mom, we sat and waited for the deadly words to come.
Dad stood at his podium like a monarch to give a speech. Behind him, Zeus, Milky Way and a young female pegasus, with a blonde mane and green coat, sat patiently. This was my father’s night to rule; to conquer. This was his kingdom and everypony was his subject, whether they wanted to be or not.
“Good evening, everypony!” he spoke into the black microphone. “And welcome to our weekly meeting for the Traditional Pegasus Family Coalition. To start off for tonight, let’s give the floor to Kettle with our charity report.” He turned to the blonde mare behind him. She rose from her seat and trotted up to the podium, clipboard in hoof.
“Thank you, Barrister,” Kettle said. I assumed this was her, given her cutie mark: a red tin kettle with a golden bit hovering over the slot. She took a glance at her notes before beaming and turning her eyes back up.
Clearing her throat, she leaned in towards the microphone and announced, “Our Hearth’s Warming charity season was once again a major success.” Her cheeks turned a prideful red, her voice excitedly rising in pitch and speed. “From late November and into early January, our Santa Hooves kettle collecting project has raised over 600,000 bits!” Her report was received with stomping hooves of glee in the room, causing me to jump slightly in my seat.
“600,000 bits?!” Zeus exclaimed, leaping from his chair. “Now that is 50,000 more from last year’s charity, is that right?”
“That’s right, Zeus,” Kettle confirmed in a cheery tone. “This has also exceeded our goal of 500,000 bits, bringing us to a new record.”
Father jovially trotted back over to the podium with a cocky lift of his brows. “And how many homes will we build with that total?”
Kettle flipped through the pages of her report until she landed on the end. She skimmed the results closely before saying, “5,000 homes will be built with our total donations.”
An even louder applause was met, Dad whistling into his falsetto and dancing around like he won the lottery.
“That’s right, fellas!” he enthusiastically cheered, grabbing the mic from the charity collector. “Not only did we raise enough to give the gift of 5,000 homes to homeless pegasi families, but we also collected more than enough to fully shelve their pantries for a year!” Again came the thunderous approval, rattling the ground.
My mind fell into purgatory with this announcement. If my parents are good enough ponies to help those in need, then how could they have said such cruel things about Mockingbird? I couldn’t tell if it was either a cover up for their words, or because they purely wanted to help make Equestria a brighter place. If they wanted to do the latter, then why would they say mean things about ponies who are gay? About their own son? About their own daughter?
Father raised his hoof and lowered it, hushing his followers. “Thank you very much, Kettle, this was a great way to kick off the evening.” Kettle nodded her head, joining the rest of the the pegasi amongst the audience. My dad took a moment, then turned his eye out over the sea of ponies, shaping his eyebrows into a large V. He slouched over the podium, taking short breaths in and out through his muzzle.
I turned to Rainbow Dash and Mockingbird. My best friend since fillyhood, who was always so fearless to my eyes, sat like she was watching a horror movie. Her pupils kept jerking towards the exit like she wanted to make a run for it, but she remained in the chair like she was under a binding spell. Mockingbird was starting to look anemic, or like he was about to regurgitate. All I could feel was my usual vulnerability times a hundredfold.
After gritting his yellow teeth, Father finally spoke calmly into the microphone, “Though this past season’s charity was a success, I feel the exact same, year, after year, after year: Disappointed. Disappointed because I always wish we can save more ponies, don’t you all agree?”
“YES!” came the passionate answer from the group around us.
Dad raised himself with a wag of his hoof. “But we have to come to terms and realize that it's just not possible. Not everypony can be saved, and I don’t just mean from homelessness, but from another disastrous consequence. A scar that’s invisible to our eyes. A wound that the injured don’t want healed. An issue that Celestia, Luna and Cadence have all turned a blind eye towards; now the newly coronated Princess Twilight Sparkle will do the same!”
My ears were alarmed with a loud “BOO” from all the voices, their hooves pointing down for emphasis. My mane fell over my eyes, my head craning down.
Father raised his hoof and the silence fell again. “It has become so uncontrollable that it has grabbed a hold of my own son and daughter. They are here with us this evening, as I love them both enough very dearly to care for their own safety. Which is why I would like to invite my good friend Zeus, to join me in reviewing our organization’s history.”
Zeus smiled before reaching towards the side wall to dim the lights. The living room faded to a nighttime shade like a movie theatre. A projector flicked on, casting a translucent spotlight over the white screen.
As the two stallions came to the position the orbs of their eyes locked with me. Little did any of us know that the words of the father would pierce the ears and churn the stomachs. For his ideal of love was to be hammered into our heads.
The projector showed its first image: an emblem of the group name, laying across a golden image of pegasi reaching their hooves out to fillies.
Dad breathed in. “When we established this group twenty years ago, it couldn’t have been at a better time. Throughout all of Equestria, Cloudsdale has always had the highest statistics of concern for coltcuddlers and fillyfoolers. We were around to maintain it all. To make sure we never went astray.”
Zeus stepped out in front of father. “However, this is, unfortunately, no longer the case.”
My ears pointed to the ceiling in a spring of hope. How could I have not heard the possible news that my hometown could be getting better? If I can convince them, then Mockingbird will be safe here for sure.
The next image popped up on the projector screen: a graph. Against the wall of numbers running up from 0-100%, a red line took its perch near the upper half. The bar looked like it maintained its balance atop the years on the ground, until it curved downwards like a slide in the most recent decade.
“According to the latest bureau results,” Zeus continued, fire sparking in his vocals, “when we first had our inception, Cloudsdale had a record homosexuality opposition of 75%.”
“However, in recent years this has taken a drastic turn,” Dad stated, pointing his hoof to the top and tracing it downwards. “As support in other areas—like Canterlot, Manehattan, Baltimare and Las Pegasus—increased, Cloudsdale’s opposition has sank to a new record LOW of 37%!”
This news was met with an even louder siren of disgust from the crowd, their harsh and very obnoxious vocals almost deafening me. I felt like I was about to go into a seizure. Nothing felt like real life anymore. I turned to Mockingbird to catch a lifeless face, almost like he was not exactly living but not exactly dead either. His eyes appeared all white, his pupils so small they looked like little black buttons, swimming in bowls of milk.
With another hoof raise from the leader, the voices hushed. Dad pulled the cordless microphone off the podium and took center stage. “Now when we first began, I had a vision to protect all our fillies and foals from this damaging phenomenon. I remember in the beginning, when pegasi actually cared, this very living room was overcrowded to the point of breaking down the walls. A lot of times I even considered relocating to the recreation center. I thought that my love for our future generations to come was in the right place. I believed that there were enough ponies to offer all their love and peace, so our group could see fruition.”
Tears began soaking the borders of his eyes, accompanied with a watered down voice. “However, as the years went by, I could see clearly that what I thought was strength came to me in the form of a sneaking lie. No matter what we did to protect our children, more of our members turned their backs on us. No matter how strong our protests held, or how much we pushed for our petitions, or how much counseling we gave to those sexually confused ponies, we were losing.”
Zeus intercepted the mic, taking Father’s place. “As we have already discussed in the past, we felt a change in approach was needed: to go radical!”
More cheer from the pegasi in the room. More dread and sickness came to my brain and stomach. Why couldn’t I move?
“If all of you have been reading the papers lately, you can see that our activism has scored the front page! We became celebrities!” Zeus passionately announced. Wiping the sweat off his forehead, he heaved in, giving a detestable glare to the nighttime sky. “I have a fear. A very disturbing fear that haunts me every day. I see it wherever I go. A fear that our beloved nation of Equestria has stopped caring. That all ponies think they are free to do whatever they think is best for themselves, but not for the future.”
With a huff, he fixed back on the sea of ponies in front of him, snake like venom spitting with his words. “I see it everywhere. In the movies, in books, music, advertisements, comics, games, toys, EVERYTHING! As we are speaking at this very moment, ponies are either coming out, or being supportive of those who identify, as Homosexual, Bisexual and Transgendered. Thus forcing us to either join or be called the haters! How dare we be stamped as bigots for helping those on a dangerous path of shame! For expressing our very opinions! Unless we act, my brothers and sisters, Equestria will no longer be the land of love, peace, harmony and family values; but a land of sexual perversion and filth!”
Please no more! I only pray this is a dream!
Before the crowd had a chance to spring into a mob frenzy, Zeus cued the next slide. “Which is why we proposed this!”
The projector clicked. The next image almost made my eyes pop right out of their sockets. The picture was the front of a pegasus cloud home. Written across the door in red lettering was sprayed the message, FAG HOME! SEEK HELP OR FACE A LIFE OF MISERY!
The members, surprisingly, fell silent. I couldn’t tell if it was either shock or humble respect for their efforts. But I didn’t bother to think of their thoughts, I was too pre-occupied with what I was actually facing. I-I can’t even describe how I felt. My mind felt like it stopped working. I was starting to think I was in one of those campfire ghost stories. How did Twilight not catch them doing this?
“Within the past few weeks, we have spread several messages, very much like this, to about twenty-eight homes in Cloudsdale,” Zeus said. “As our usual campaigns failed to show any sign of significant growth, we brought out our loudest weapon.”
“But that will end tonight,” Father chimed back in. He adapted a much calmer tone and posture, his meek attempt to actually appear professional. “Upon talking with my own family about this matter, I have realized how hypocritical we have been. Perhaps attacking other homes or families is a bit too extreme in order to help them. Which is why tonight, I am proposing a new solution. A better solution.”
Mumbling arose amongst the pegasi. I turned to my mother, who still only sat and watched. Nothing more. I could tell that she has grown accustomed to this. That she knew what was to come. Like she wanted to say something comforting or supportive, but was mentally forced to keep silent.
Father turned to Zeus, then Milky Way. Zeus responded with a nodding head; his son, with a face looking into the night sky, slumped in his seat. His outer appearance gave the evidence of longing to be somewhere else. To be free of the bondage of what controlled his life. His daze ended with Zeus shaking him back to life on the shoulder. Milky Way quickly nodded as if to say, Uh, right.
Then, Father looked to us, his un-trusting eyes shooting into my head and freezing my brain. Mockingbird looked as if he was staring at an assassin. The horror of our reality seeped into our veins, boiling our blood to a degree capable of melting skin.
Bringing his lips close to the wind-screen of his microphone, he ordered, “Mockingbird and Fluttershy, will my beloved children please join me up here?”
This was it. I knew that if I was going to win, I had to throw all my cards on the table. Open up when I still had the chance. But why did he want us up where all could see? I really hate speaking in front of an audience, but I knew I just had to do it.
I made the first move with my hooves touching the cloud beneath me. That was all the movement I wanted to do and nothing more. At least it was more than what Mockingbird wanted. Shifting his haunches, he slowly slid off his cushion and met the cloud. I tried to give him the non-verbal message to relax, but this action seemed almost impossible when I couldn’t even convince myself.
Rainbow Dash looked like she wanted to come with us, but also like her own flank was set in stone. I wish she could’ve joined me. Whenever I was with Dash, I always felt safe and secure. That night was my only exception.
Dad, with patience, backed away to give us room. Mockingbird by my side, we took one step at a time until we were both visible to all the ponies in the room.
“We have my own children joining us tonight," Father announced. "Mockingbird, Fluttershy, welcome home.”
“Oh, um, thank you,” I mumbled. Mockingbird only found the response to nod and nothing more. It was rare for him to get stage fright, but this was no performance; this was his own life.
Father shot his eyes to Mockingbird. “Son, I understand that we had a little fall out last week.”
“Um, yes, we did,” Mockingbird said.
“And is it true that it ended with you no longer remaining with us?”
His welcoming voice suddenly turned cold once he commanded, “Both of you, down, now.”
“Wh-What was that?” my voice urged.
“Down,” he repeated.
Without more hesitation, we both did as we were told. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I was listening to his orders like that. But most of all, why was he making us do that in the first place?
“Now, my children,” Dad continued, “I want you to confess.”
My tongue tied. Confess what? Everything at that point has gone beyond nightmare like.
“Wh-What do you want us to say?” Mockingbird asked, letting his mane fall over his eyes.
My dad simply shook his head. “Oh, Fluttershy, Mockingbird, you young ponies have blessed the lives of me and your mother for so many years and brought wonderful memories for us. However, you also both created your own flaws and bad habits as backsliders. Because of these, I find it very hard to help you find what’s best in your own lives.
“Fluttershy, you have defied your parents wishes and lived the life of an earth pony, caring for the wild. You left us when we simply wanted what was best for you. We gave you our love, only to let you reject it and run away like it never even mattered to you. But worst of all, you have enabled your brother’s nasty habits, when he needed serious help to get rid of them.”
To this day, I still find it a miracle that I didn’t vomit right there on the spot. It was bad enough to hear him say those hurtful things to me in private, but in the open? Was he serious? He knew how much I hated that kind of humiliation. To me, he was the one committing the worst habits.
Mockingbird still had that mortified look on his face. Dad lifted his hoof and brushed it through my brother’s mane like he was petting him. It was with this motion that the stallion of the home took his pride and claimed that he owned us. We were nothing but a pair of pets to him, made to follow all his wishes, do what he wants, and become what he wants; only to be given dry treats for following his orders. Never before have I ever felt so sickened with how parents treated their children, holding back our own dreams and goals for their own fantasies.
“Mockingbird,” Father said, “I want you to say it.”
Mockingbird choked. His eyes moistened, accompanied with a fur raising shutter. “What, uh, what do you want me to say?”
“You know very well what I want you to announce, Son.” Dad looked over the crowd, straightening his glasses. “Mockingbird, you have gone against everything I have taught you to believe. Last week, you have left us when we wanted to help. We wanted you to get better because you were sick; but you rejected our hooves when we reached out to you, and you attacked me. I refuse to let you live a life where you will fall even more sick to lust, drugs and abuse. I’m only making you do this because I love you, but you won’t listen any other way. I’m sorry that it has to be like this, but you leave me with no other option. So say to my coalition what you said to me on your birthday.”
Mockingbird closed his eyes like he was preparing to drink arsenic. His breathing went from unsteady whispers to tiny bits of huffing. Sweat rolled down every muscle, forming a small moat around him.
“A-Are you sure?” Mockingbird asked, now terrified.
Dad’s voice grew thin and sharp. He leaned down and whispered into his ear, “I said say it. Now.”
With a crackle of the vocals, Mockingbird softly coughed out, “I-I like colts.”
“Louder, Mockingbird, for all to hear,” Father retorted.
“I like colts,” He repeated with just a small change in volume.
“Celestia and Luna can’t hear you!”
“I like colts.”
“LOUDER, MOCKINGBIRD, OR SO HELP ME—!”
“I LIKE COLTS! I LIKE STALLIONS! I’M GAY; I’M A COLTCUDDLER!” Mockingbird’s spirit was officially broken. He craned his head. Silent for a moment. Then soft breathing. Then a pause. His eye lids leaked with liquid. A small stream slipped and ran down his cheeks. Making a turn down his muzzle, the trail reached its cliff and ran onto the floor.
His breathing escalated to a muffled huff. His tears broke through the dam of his eyes, soaking his face. The floor below him went from a tiny puddle to almost an ocean in a matter of a minute.
My natural instinct to hug and protect him was screaming in my mind’s ear. Of course I wanted to act upon it, but I couldn’t. My legs felt like tree stumps, planted into the soiled earth. Why was I like this? I don’t know, and I don’t think I ever will, please don’t ask me.
There was a mixture of faces from the crowd. Some showed bitter disgust for this discovery, while most showed faces of pity. But no, I could not see the pity I usually feel. They did not feel sorry for him being up there and being humiliated by the stallion who was supposed to love him. This was the pity that said, Let us help you. Or We want you to get better; we can cure you.
I could not believe that these ponies actually thought of their actions as compassion. I almost felt sorry for them, not being able to feel the empathy of the ones they were “helping.” To me, they were nothing but marionettes, mindlessly being controlled by a puppeteer of false charity.
Rainbow Dash looked up with a furious war snarl on her lips. Her nostril flared like a bull ready to charge. She gripped the bottom of her chair like she wanted to split it in twain. But she remained sitting, just as frozen as I was.
Mother also continued to sit, but now with much uncertainty. She clenched her chest and took slow breaths in and out. I swear I could even see her attempt to lift a hoof off her chair, pushing it forward like she wanted to come up. But she never did. And that’s when I had to force myself to accept that I was not slumbering. This was really my life now.
My father performed another action. An action that threw me off guard. I’m not sure if anypony else in the room could see it coming. He knelt down to Mockingbird, wrapping a foreleg around him in a hug. His hoof brushed along his side in an almost comforting motion.
“Shh… I know, Son, it isn’t an easy thing to admit,” he spoke softly. “But the bright news is, there's still hope for you.”
He rose with Mockingbird in his arms, keeping a firm lock around his torso. “And you know why I think there is still a chance? Because I was once in the same situation you’re in.”
Milky Way stepped in front of the scene, cue cards in hoof. He looked to Zeus. The father gave the son an urgent nod.
With a glance of his script, Milky way began his presentation. “Mockingbird, you come here tonight because you want to be with your family again. You may be resisting, because of how much a challenge this may appear to be. At this point you have convinced yourself that your homosexuality cannot be reversed; that you will forever feel this abnormal attraction.
“On behalf of TPF, I want to say that we feel deeply sorry for you, that you have this delusion of accepting yourself this way. But we are here tonight to reveal that there is a silver lining in your storm. Little do you know that there are others just like you, but proved that it’s possible for a brighter future.”
What did he mean by “A brighter future”? Why did my brother need to change? Mockingbird never committed a crime. He never got detention in school. He wouldn’t even dream of harming an animal. All I knew was at that very moment, I wanted nothing more than to smack Milky Way’s skull right off his neck, and use his jaws as a nut cracker.
“Take your father, our own leader Barrister, for example,” Milky Way continued. “For everypony who may not know, Barrister may not be all that he appears to the eye. We all know how he is one of Equestria’s greatest lawyers. We know how he is a very committed stallion to both his causes and his own family. We know that even though the media may portray him as a tyrant, we see him as a caring hero and advocate for healthy pegasi families everywhere.
“But I am here to tell you all what you may not know about Barrister. Though he now has an extraordinary career, a beautiful wife and two fortunate children, he used to not be on this road. Instead, he was heading down a more dangerous path. This, fillies and gentlecolts, was our beloved leader 30 years ago!”
He pointed his hoof to the projector screen. With a loud click and bright flash, the next image appeared. A portrait so unexpected, so shocking and so eye opening, a choir of gasps escaped all mouths. This image caused such a stir of internal pandemonium, that the visible witness of the body could be fooled. It was a younger picture of my father.
He almost looked like a doppelgänger of Mockingbird himself. Inside the old photograph, he had his forearms wrapped around a younger, tan colt with a fiery red mane. A unicorn, I remember him to be. What sent the largest shock of all was what they were doing.
The dad in the picture pursed his lips passionately against the mouth of his male companion, both their cheeks blushing a bright shade of burgundy. Their eyes sealed closed from what looked like pure enjoyment. The stallions lovingly held each other, like a bride and groom would appear before an alter.
My mind found it impossible to comprehend. The very last thing I ever expected to see was him kissing another colt. How could this have happened? How did he turn out this way? Was I not supposed to have even been born, were this to be true? Nothing made sense anymore.
Regaining his composure, father put on his smile and straightened his own back. He glanced at the picture like he was in very deep regret for his memory. Like he hated himself for being in love; like it was more disgusting than eating feces.
“Everypony may be wondering how I turned away from such a corrupted youth,” Dad spoke. “Well, it would be in my defense to say that at Traditional Pegasus Family, we can trump the popular idea of homosexuality, proving that it’s not in the genes, but is rather a lifestyle choice. Milky Way, would you like to share how I overcame this challenge in my life?” He turned to the young colt, now holding the cards with a very sweaty hoof. “Please, explain, son.”
Milky Way gulped in his throat, carrying on his presentation. “Barrister was lucky enough to have received a saving hoof from some very generous ponies. Along with my father Zeus, my family has been successful in running our conversion program for the past 35 years.”
I was not prepared for what was to come next. I wanted to shut my eyes but just couldn’t. Before the next image even appeared, I already regretted every decision I have made to try and negotiate with the ponies whom I thought were my loving parents.
The projector clicked, followed by a sunny image of two ponies—one mare and one stallion—smiling brightly at the camera. Their expressions looked far from genuine, but rather like they were told to display those faces on cue. In the background stood a gleaming recreational like building, formed from cumulus clouds. The center of the photo was filled with the title in a fancy heading: Windsong’s Path For Lost Ponies.
Looks of approval and praise from the audience fixated on the screen. This uncomfortable gaze made me feel an emotion that I couldn’t even read myself. Anger, shock, sadness, pity, confusion, fear and rage all enveloped my brain like a swarm of parasprites. Thinking straight for me was no longer an option. All I could tell was that I finally knew the truth about my father. A poor, unfortunate victim of brainwashing, who was never allowed to love.
Milky Way turned his head down to Mockingbird’s tear running eyes, speaking in a surprisingly gentle voice. “Can’t you see that there is a chance for you to be normal? If your dad can do it, then you can too. If you just let us help you, we can guarantee that you can start feeling better in no time.”
That was the final straw, for after those words passed his lips, I had to act.
“This is ridiculous!” I cried, everypony in the room recoiling in surprise. This anger was truly enough for me to boil over where I thought I could go. My voice turned raspy but loud. “What makes you think it’s okay to force other ponies how to love? What happened to accepting all ponies for who they are? Won’t that be the kindest thing to do? Dad, when you invited me here a week ago, you never told me any of this would happen!”
Before I could assert myself any further, Zeus ran up, wrestling me into a tight bear hug. He kept my head firmly locked to his chest, his hoof stroking very close towards towards my flank.
“Shhh… easy does it, sweetie,” he hushed as I squirmed in his grasp. “This is all for the best, you just have to trust us.” The last thing I wanted at that moment was his lustful, creeping voice, dripping down my ears and melting my brain. My blood felt like it turned to lava. I felt his hoof pinch my cutie mark, causing me to fight even harder, even if it meant resorting to hitting.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing to her?!” Hearing Rainbow Dash’s shout, I could tell at that she was released from her petrified prison. Looking up, I saw her hooves wrap around Zeus’ neck, reeling him backwards. Naturally reacting, the old stallion finally let go, causing me to pedal away like a startled dog.
The wrestling of the mare and stallion was only brief, however, when Milky Way forcefully pulled her off him.
“How about you watch your manners!” Milky Way grunted, Rainbow Dash trying to fight back.
“That’s enough now!” Dad cried. All ceased again. “This meeting is for Mockingbird. He is the only one who shall decide.
Mockingbird didn’t hesitate to lift himself up. Wiping his face clean, he looked like he wanted kill all the ponies in the room. Still shaking, I felt like I could only watch and pray that he could find the right words.
“What makes you think I would go through something like that?” he asked, locked in personal dread. “First you welcome me home after a fight, now you’re trying to tell me I’m sick? I thought you wanted me back.”
“I do!” Dad argued. “Mockingbird, I know what you’re feeling. If I had not gone through the program, I might not even be here now. I never would've met your mother. Fluttershy never would’ve existed. You never would’ve existed. What I wanted was a normal life, and I got it. How do you even know if this is natural for you? How do you know if you haven’t just been convincing yourself of this, to a point of becoming real for you?”
I couldn’t tell how Mockingbird was able to keep his stance. It was like he forgot how to debate or even move independently. “D-Dad, it’s just always been this way for me. I’ve never felt attraction to mares, even if I tried; even if I wanted to. I’m just not like that, okay?”
“Not okay, Mockingbird! The problem is you don’t know what it means to be a real stallion. All I see is you rebelling against me, simply because you’re so naive and stubborn. If I’m living proof that something can be reversed, then the same is meant to happen for you.”
Mockingbird’s face tightened, his nostrils clogging with snot. Sniffling, he rapidly shook his head to deny everything.
Father stomped his hoof in retaliation. “Stop crying! You weak, little ass. Don’t you want to live a life free of fear and denial? Or are you saying you want to be judged, and openly mocked, causing yourself to hide behind a veil of embarrassment?”
“Don’t bully me, Dad!” Mockingbird moaned. “I-I wouldn’t have to feel so afraid if ponies like you never said any of these things.”
Dad’s eyes almost fired like missiles. “Oh, and me going soft while not getting through to you is going to make them stop? You're right! How dare I give you a harsh, but honest, reality of an unhealthy habit. It’s not the yellow brick road you’re on, Mockingbird; you’re just merrily trotting down a path, painted with a sunny sky, that will lead you to appearing as a social threat. I’m not going to let these so called positive reinforcements allow you to harm so many ponies, then eventually yourself!”
No more! I knew that I just had to shake myself off, step in and actually say something. As much as I hate raising my voice, you can’t stand idly on the side when those you love are in distress in front of you. Snapping out of my frozen prison, I galloped between father and Mockingbird, spreading my hooves out to part them. “Please, that’s enough!”
Again, everything went quiet. Only mumbles arose from the audience watching on. Why didn’t anypony do or say anything? Were they enjoying the show or something?
I was joined by Rainbow Dash, breaking from Milky Way’s grasp. Then finally, my mother trotted up to us, wearing a face of anxiety and panic. I couldn’t help but question why she decided to run up then and there. How could it have taken her so long to actually realize it?
An atmosphere of dead air filled the chamber for no longer than half-a minute. If anypony was to speak next, it had to be me. Finally, with a wobbly voice, I pushed out, “Is this really a way for a family to behave?”
No answer. At last, I had my opportunity to speak. “Father, I don’t understand why it bothers you so much. Can’t you see how unhappy Mockingbird is about it? What happened to our dad who always thought of his foals first? Supported us through school? Encouraged us to achieve great things?”
I was very disappointed with myself. I swear, I rehearsed what I was going to say that whole Saturday. The words of my mind were so much more… I don’t know, strong! All I could say in public, again, were meek drones, that sounded like they came from the mouth of a little filly. Though I felt my plea was very readable, I already felt like I lost.
Father gave an exasperated sigh. With a dominating glare, he looked down into my pupils. “Fluttershy, all you had to do was see that we always had your best interest at heart. You could've gone on to do many great things in my eyes, but the only greatness that you and Mockingbird have achieved is become great disappointments. I am trying to get Mockingbird to realize he is very sick and needs attention. I will not have my defying daughter encourage her brother to experience the same shock, confusion and sickness that I faced.”
“He is not confused!” Rainbow Dash barked, almost causing me to stumble backwards. “You know, I’ve always been very surprised that Fluttershy is your daughter. Because she actually understands how ponies feel. She can never judge. I feel like Equestria would be a much better place to live in if there were more ponies like her!”
“Oh that’s exactly what we need!” Milky Way yelled. “We need more ponies to start acting like a bunch of scaredy cats, who are too stupid to even accept what is morally right and wrong—”
With what felt like the wind of a hurricane, his words were blown down by the roaring voice of Mother. “Don’t you EVER say that about my daughter!” She held her hoof like a sword towards the oily maned pegasus. Milky Way immediately silenced himself, lowering his head as if to surrender.
My heart was still thundering many seconds after she shouted. The first time I ever heard her raise her voice. Ever. It sounded so empowering and godly.
A spark almost came to my eyes. Perhaps she could finally break her silence and help us? Mother, who first held me when I was born. Who encouraged me to continue practice flying and make friends. She just had to.
Almost faintly, I uttered, “M-Mom, please, say that you don’t agree with any of this. Say that we can just go on with our lives.”
However, this was not to imply that I would win the fight. This did not mean that my sick father saw the errors of his ways. Never have I been so mislead.
She shied away, bowing her head. “I’m so sorry, Fluttershy and Mockingbird, but this is simply because we love you. I’m sure you’ll be thanking us if you just listen and follow through. I wish there was another way out, but there isn’t. I’m sorry.”
I still don’t understand why I didn’t lash out there. Reality finally poured back into my head, much to my reluctance. A parent would never deny their children humane happiness. I didn’t even want to accept them as my birth mother and father anymore. What was I to call them?
It was probably the angriest I have ever felt in my life. I could feel my brain sizzle and melt like butter on a frying pan. My face shriveled and soured more than an expired grape. If you were to touch my fur, a piece of your skin would’ve been burned clean off.
But no, I didn’t move, didn’t flinch, didn’t budge. All I could do was insult myself in self-hatred, about how stupid I was to think this was a good idea. So much optimism and compassion I kept inside lead to a situation that could’ve easily been avoided. A stupid little fool. That’s all that a kind and loving mare can be in this world. A gullible, naive and simple-minded, little bimbo.
Mockingbird sadly shook his head, tears flowing freely and voice growing raw. “No! No! I’m not going through with it! Whatever you may think there is nothing wrong with me! I just want to be happy with myself, please.”
“And what good would come from ignoring this issue?” Father brashly retorted. “All that enabling and giving you false hope without a shred of reality. Or, let me ask you this: do you even WANT a family?”
“Yes, I do want a family. Me and Fluttershy both want to have one, but not if it means trying to change something that’s as natural as a cutie mark.”
Calls immediately erupted from the rest of the group. Their jeers of disappointment reached every sound barrier of the living room. If my home wasn’t made of cloud, they could've broken down a stone fort.
“Enough! Enough!” cried Zeus in a fit of agitation. The crowd, once again, pulled back in volume and ceased on command. Eyebrows raising and voice setting to a lighter tone, Zeus waltzed over to my brother’s focus. “Now, Mockingbird, you really don’t want to refuse. You are very young, and may not be fully aware of the consequences that may come with certain decisions.”
Milky Way gave his signature bad colt smirk, joining his father. “He’s right, you know. Say, for instance, our vandalism escapades left no obvious traits.”
“Meaning they could lead to anypony,” Zeus picked up. “Just wonder what kind of story that the papers and news would be all over. ‘Closeted Coltcuddler, Tagging Innocent Homes In Self-Hatred And Anger’. You would like that kind of fame, won’t you, Son?”
Sweating became too much to resist for all of us. Mockingbird wore a panicked face, mixed with disbelief. Rainbow Dash looked like she was mentally getting ready to pounce. I had my own trouble trying to control my quickening heart rate and nauseating dizziness.
“N-No, that’s illegal!” I objected, face tightening. “He was with me almost every night this week; his hooves are clean! There’s no way you can possibly pull that off!”
“Are you kidding, Fluttershy?” Zeus quizzed. “Are you forgetting that your father, The Iron Barrister, is one of the most powerful lawyers in Equestria? Who do you think was the one who ordered the operation and knew how not to leave any evidence? He can easily pin anypony he desires, just to get away free.”
Father nodded his head, though somewhat reluctantly. Was it because he was willing to do it out of what he thought was love? Because he thought using scare tactics would work on his children? A scare tactic so cruel and inhumane that it showed desperation for things to go his way?
“I. Said. No!” Mockingbird shouted. My brother trembled, his eyes quenched and sore. His breathing came out in snippets, sounding both gravely and harsh. His frozen stance gave the impression of an impending doom that even I could sense. Why didn’t I act?
Zeus continued to step forward closer and closer towards Mockingbird. The old stallion’s eyes looked like they sparked embers of a wildfire. His cold stone face was enough to make a cockatrice halt. Even my signature stare wouldn’t have been enough to match his look.
“I don’t think you’re aware of living this lifestyle, Mockingbird,” Zeus uttered closely to his face. “It seems that you're ignoring our warnings of a life filled with you being an easy target for violence.”
The stallion raised his hoof, placing it against my brother’s shoulder. His pat turned to a tightening grip. “An easy target for just about anything.” He brought his face closer in, bringing another hoof over the neck.
It was happening so quiet and slow. I didn’t know what to do or how to act. But I knew I had to do something, get out and run away as quickly as possible. But I wasn’t quick enough.
“Just. Like. This.”
Before me or Rainbow Dash could even flinch, my baby cub was attacked. Zeus thrusted Mockingbird against a wall. My brother struggled and flailed his forearms, only to face the raining punches from Zeus’ hoof. The predator’s hoof clawed below the prey’s waist smacking down there. Mockingbird howled in pain and desperation, matching the noise of the shocked crowd.
As if all the anger reached into my forearms, I latched my hooves around Zeus’ neck and angrily tried to pry him away. But that beast attacking my cub was too strong. Rainbow Dash joined me and we pulled together. Still too strong. Then to my surprise, Mother joined in and began her attempt to rip him away.
The room went lopsided, my vision twisting and blurring like I was in a funhouse. All we were able to hear were the torturous cries of Zeus, overpowering the wails of my poor brother. “Is this what you want in life!? Torture after torture being sent down like this!?”
There was another voice banging into my ear. Dad’s voice. But for the first time, I could hear him going against something bad happening to Mockingbird. I could hear him hollering, “Zeus! No! This wasn’t a part of it! What are you doing?! Get off of him!”
Was it possible that he still had some natural paternal love?
Finally, after what felt like three minutes, we succeeded in tearing Zeus away. I grabbed the sweating and crying Mockingbird and took our flight outside, Rainbow by his other side and helping us pick up speed. We ran past the shrieking crowd of my dad’s blind followers. We left behind the purely evil Zeus and Milky Way. We left behind my unreadably quiet mother and unloving father.
We were quickly out of the house and back into the cold black night. Leaving home, and refusing hope of it ever getting better again. My lioness has found her prey, endangering her cub.
“Mockingbird! Please! Listen to me! I had no idea this was going to happen!” My eyes balled as I desperately attempted to communicate with Mockingbird in my cottage. He only shook his head, softly crying into his hooves. I turned to Rainbow Dash who looked the most shell shocked that I’ve ever seen in my life; a mare so tough and stoic, washed into a state of unshakeable terror.
I tried again to apologize. “Mockingbird, I hate them now, too. But I had no idea what was going to happen. Please, understand that I still love you.”
He angrily shot his head up, spinning around to meet me with a glare. “You have a very funny way of showing it!”
I recoiled a whole five steps. He never shouted at me before.
“I said I had a bad feeling about it. Why did you make me do it!” he snarled.
“We had no idea it was going to be a cult meeting!” Rainbow Dash said.
“Then what did you expect?” Mockingbird snipped. “A lovely cocktail party with drinks, laughter and gossip? I can’t believe you were really stupid enough to believe that any good could’ve come out of this!”
Never has Mockingbird called me stupid and sounded like he meant it. But I could feel very deep that I deserved every one of those nasty words. Every. Last. One.
My eyes swelled with guilt. “Mockingbird, please, I’m not lying to you when I say I’m sorry. It’s going to be okay. I promise. Let’s just get some rest, then tomorrow morning I’ll go to Twilight and…”
Oh, Fluttershy, you’re such a loudmouth!
Mockingbird gritted his teeth at me and Rainbow Dash, his eyes shrinking in sheer dread. His face went whiter than snow. His tremble of anxiety returned. “Twilight!? What does she have anything to do with this? Why can’t we just go to the police?”
I could feel an iceberg smack my face. My stomach crumbled like a piece of paper. “Well, uh… Twilight, she kind of—”
“Kind of what, Fluttershy?”
I paused. I knew that he would be upset if I spilled the beans, but I was already backed into a corner. It was all for his safety. I just wish I was more prepared for his response.
I took a long, slow breath and finished, “Listen, I told her about you, and she wants to help us out. I know you didn’t want me to tell anypony, but—”
“You told her?!” Mockingbird snapped, the wind of his voice throwing back my mane. “After I trusted you, Fluttershy, after I told you how terrified I was to be outed, you turned your back on me. I thought you understood!”
I tried to approach him. “Mockingbird, I do understand, but she can also help us out. If you please just calm down, count to ten—”
“Stop lying to me!” I’m still very surprised that his scream didn’t make my ears bleed. The animals of my cottage all poked their heads out to the scene. The poor little dears. Rainbow Dash fell into a chair, gripping her hoof over her rapidly rising chest. This was the first time in my life that I was truly afraid of my brother.
“All of Ponyville is going to know now, are they?” Mockingbird asked with a sniffle. “And it’s all going to come into full circle. Ponies are going to glare at me, judge me, beat me, and grope me for pleasure. All you had to do was keep your mouth shut. You said things will get better, but I don’t see the better coming and staying anytime soon, Fluttershy. I’m kicked out of the family, there are homophobes all around, I was sexually harassed, and now I see you can’t even keep a simple promise. All you can say is you’re sorry. Like all the problems in Equestria can be solved just by saying those words, hugging me and saying a string of empty I love you's.”
Rainbow Dash rose, trying to trot up to him at her unusual gentlest. “Mockingbird, please listen to us, okay, buddy? Fluttershy was just trying to help. That shows she loves you more than anything. It’s not like you to say these kinds of things—”
“Then how do you expect me to react?!” Mockingbird yelled back. “Just laugh all this off, put on a lisp, call my sister a silly loose mouth, and listen to the soundtrack of Hinny of the Hills so I could feel better? This is not something I can forget or live by!”
He whipped his head to me. “Fluttershy! You don’t listen to me anymore! You saw me crying in the bathtub tonight; all you had to do was see how I clearly felt, and we could’ve gone home safe. Look where we’re at now! I can‘t begin to describe how I feel so isolated, terrified and lonely because you went blabbing and acting on your own blind instincts. You don’t know what I want or need! I am not a foal who needs older consent for my decisions. I am Mockingbird! I am a stallion and child of Celestia!”
His words pouring out to me all felt like a toxic chemical I deserved to consume. They were knives and I were their cutlery. My baby brother so broken all because of me. All I wanted to do was help him and I failed.
My knees buckled until they fell to my floor. I crawled toward Mockingbird, reaching up to his chest fur. My vision became so blurry with tears that all I could see of him were colors. My stomach felt like a punctured wound. My voice sounded like I picked up bronchitis.
“Mockingbird, honey,” I begged, him turning his face away. “Please, I truly am very, very, very sorry for all of this. I’m an idiot for not listening to you or thinking things all the way through. More than that; I’m brainless, spineless, selfish even for not paying attention to you. I never should've done anything you felt uncomfortable with. I just wanted us to be a family again.”
I wheezed heavily before making a feeble attempt to continue my testimony. “But I hate them now just as much as you do. You can be mad at me all you want, and I will understand why, but can you please try to see how much I really love you? Can you please understand that I never wanted to cause you any kind of harm?”
Mockingbird looked down, quietly shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy, but I don’t think I can take your word anymore. You meant well, but only made things worse beyond imagination. All I want now is to do what I think is best.”
He shakily raised his own hooves over my own and lowered them to the floor. My heart was a flame, crackling and popping sparks with every hot beat. I couldn’t even make out what he meant by that.
He slowly turned around, softly crying, and marched towards the kitchen. The flashback of the week prior played in front of me. Him. With the knife. It didn’t take me very long to make the dark forecast.
“M-Mockingbird, what are you doing?” I cried out, panicking. Rainbow Dash hastily lifted me onto my hooves. We made our way towards Mockingbird, advancing towards his weapon.
He walked like a zombie. His mind thought of nothing. His eyes focused only on the foreshadowing blackness. Face wet, red, swollen and salty. His hooves pelted against the floor, picking up speed.
“Stop! Listen to us!”
"Can we please just talk about this some more?”
“It’ll be okay, just stop!”
Little did we know that he was already dead, but could still walk and breath. That he was deaf, but could still hear. That he was blind, but could still see. That he desperately wanted to trade the comfort of a bed for the hard coldness of a casket.
Now running ahead of us, his brain instrumented his hoof to reach out and grab the kitchen knife on the counter. My eyes bulged as I lunged onto him, tackling for the silver blade. Rainbow Dash tried to snatch it from his grasp, but to no avail.
And I was forced into a front row seat as Mockingbird lifted the knife to his wrist and sliced apart his skin. His eyes poured waterfalls of tears as his wrist poured a waterfall of crimson fluid, pooling under us and staining his beautiful coat. Through deadly actions come deadly consequences.
He shrieked and pleaded for the loving embrace of the reaper, only to be matched by our protesting screams to rescue him. He squirmed, jerked, kicked and punched. But before his knife could repeat the action, I finally succeeded in knocking the sword from his control, away from our wrestle.
He stopped jerking and laid in my arms, begging to sleep forever. Little did I predict that my folly would lead to craving for death’s kiss. The colt I vowed to protect almost slipped away from me. My eyes watered and flowed like it was a natural cycle.
I could hear Rainbow grabbing my trash bin and hurling loudly in sickness. While I could taste the vile flavor of bile on my own tongue, I didn’t follow her lead. All I could do was slam my hoof against the floor and scream above.
I didn’t bother keeping track of how long we were at the Ponyville Hospital. If there were two things in the world that didn’t matter to me, they were time and sleep. Sitting alone in the waiting room, it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep open my dry, weary eyeballs, turning a harsh hue of red. The chilly atmosphere of the building only increased the feeling of how frozen and sorrowful my heart grew.
My only entertainment to keep me awake was watching numerous ponies coming in and out through the sliding doors and down the aisles. The only sound that kept me alert was the receptionist punching the registration keys at her desk, trying to follow the rapid pleads for help from every sick pony coming and going. As if I didn’t already feel sick or disgusted enough, I felt this hospital was only a stopping point on the train to my own little Tartarus.
I could see a streak of rainbow zooming towards the entrance outside, fighting against the beating of the harsh spring rainfall. Rainbow Dash paused under the awning, shook herself free of the clinging water and hurriedly trotted through the doors up to me. She hung her head low, panting from her own speed.
“O-Okay, I just woke and told Twilight; she’s on her way,” she said, me nodding in reply. Dash made contact with my cold, enraged face, as I sat perfectly still in my chair. “Fluttershy, have you even tried to sleep yet?” I shook my head, as if to point out the obvious. “It’s four o’clock in the morning, they said it was going to be a while.”
“I don’t care how long I have to wait,” I hissed. “I have no reason to sleep at all, so don’t coddle me.” I turned down to my left hoof that was still encrusted with my brother’s blood. I am such an idiot.
“Shy, you can’t keep beating yourself up. It wasn’t your fault that he tried to do it. It wasn’t anypony’s fault. We’re going to make things right again.”
“No, we’re not, Rainbow Dash! I don’t know how things can possibly get better from this point. It’s like I can never do anything right, no matter how much I love him.”
“But you can at least try,” Rainbow insisted. “You’re literally the only family he has left. If you’re not loyal to him, Fluttershy, then I don’t know what has become of you.”
We were interrupted with the doors sliding open once again. Twilight, in a purple rain poncho, came dripping into our view. Her mane was unkempt, her eyes baggy, but she appeared as if sleeping and appearance were the least of her worries.
“Fluttershy, I got here as quickly as I could. Any news yet?” Twilight asked, out of breath. I kept quiet and shook my head. “Fluttershy, I know you’re upset now, but you have to help me help you. Rainbow Dash only gave me a very brief story. What exactly happened at the meeting?”
How could I even begin to explain what happened there? Did she really think it was that easy to just recount the worst night of my life, hours after it occurred, just like that? Of course it wasn’t. I just closed my eyes and tilted my head back against the concrete wall, refusing to participate in the interview.
Before Twilight even had the chance to force me to speak, the clip-clopping of approaching hooves signaled the news I’ve been waiting for. I opened my eyes and peered towards the sound to see the arrival of the nurse.
Her frazzled pink mane, that she kept in a bun, gave the impression of devotion to saving those lives in need, even if it meant sacrificing vanity. Her red cross cutie mark matched the emblem on her uniform hat, completing her heroic ensemble. All I could do was hope she was heroic enough to save my brother.
Lifting myself from the chair, I trotted up and met her with a concerned expression. She wiped the sweat off her brow and returned the look with a professional tone.
“Miss Fluttershy?” the nurse inquired, prompting me to nod. “My name is Nurse Redheart, I’ve been in charge of looking after and testing your brother, Mockingbird.”
My eyes welled. Hearing his name in that sentence only twisted my stomach into a pretzel. “How is he? Will he be okay?”
Nurse Redheart took a deep breath, closing her eyes. “Your brother has suffered some serious trauma and blood loss from his wrist. Fortunately, we were able to repair his injuries on time. However, he is now experiencing some fever and mental instability. He is a very lucky stallion. If you weren’t with him at the time, he certainly would’ve died. We may need to keep him for the next night, depending on how stable his current condition is.”
For a very brief moment, I could feel a tide of relief knock me over. Mockingbird was alive, and we were able to save him. But what would this mean if I saw him and tried to speak to him?
“Can I possibly see him now, please?” I requested.
Nurse Redheart sighed. “He is resting at the moment, and really needs it. Like I said, he is not emotionally stable as of now, so it is best to remain cautious around him.”
Twilight stepped forward next to me. “Can we at least see where his room is? I want to leave him a little message for when he does wake up.”
The nurse nodded. “I can take you to his room, but only if you remain quiet around him.”
“That won’t be a problem,” I quickly replied.
“Very well,” Redheart began, “follow me.”
We walked up to the wooden door, leading into his resting room. Nurse Redheart fumbled with the lock over the knob and slowly opened it.
“Here you girls are,” she confirmed, softly. “Just be sure to not wake him. We don’t want him to be startled or alarmed.”
Twilight, Rainbow Dash and I all nodded our heads in understanding. In return, the nurse stepped aside, granting us consent to lightly trot into Mockingbird’s room. The walls were a clean, pasty white. Their blinding glow was enhanced by the humming translucent light bulbs overhead. My ears immediately picked up the steady beats of a heart moderator, which lead my eyes to the nightmarish sight.
Mockingbird laid almost lifelessly in his bed. The wires of an IV ran their trail into his wounded wrist. His chest raised and deflated in a slow pattern. The rhythm of the moderator keeping him alive continued to play in my ear, feeling like a pang to my heart on each high note.
Such torture to listen but not be able to do anything; a time when my maternal urges were at their highest. I wanted to cradle him in the cocoon my wings and give him warmth like a blanket. I wanted to kiss him until his entire face was coated in lipstick. I wanted my remedy of love from our favorite foalhood game to work its magic. But even I knew that it was a reality that just couldn’t come true.
Rainbow Dash and Twilight both looked on, wearing solemn faces mixed with grief. They said nothing, but only observed as if to show respect at a wake. I knew it was for the best that they didn’t try to say anything to me. Perhaps they could tell that the casual words of comfort would never be enough to mend my mangled, broken heart and mind.
“Mockingbird,” was all I could say, quiet and airy. Even if he did see me at that moment, I knew I was going to be the last face he would want to meet. The face of his sister. The face of the mare who thought she could change the hearts of the intolerant. The one who tried to be the hero she didn’t deserve to be. The one who almost let her beloved brother die because of her foolish actions. Foolish actions that were all done out of love. The consequences of kindness came to fruition.
Nothing kept back the lukewarm tears that slipped through my eyes. The more damp my face became, the lower I sank my face into my hooves. Controlling the volume of my moaning and breathing felt like a chore. Eventually, all my sounds just became too loud to muffle. I’m still surprised that I didn’t wake anypony up.
I felt the gentle brush of Twilight’s soft wing tip against my back, gliding up and down in a repeated motion. Rainbow hooked onto one of my forelegs and began massaging my hoof. I could feel their attempts to show all their love to me, but it was all so useless. Just like when I tried to aide him, after feeling the pain of our parents.
No, Fluttershy, you must be mistaken, my conscience said. A parent always loves, cares and supports their children unconditionally. Never would they abandon a colt for being himself. Do they even deserve to call themselves parents? Of course not! Those ponies are not parents at all; they are murderers. Murderers who tried to attack your cub. It’s time to hunt!
I swear I could feel embers spark in my pupils. As the tears continued to flow, my scrunched face lifted with a huff. Body stiffening, my brows tightened to the center of my forehead.
No more denying. No more trying to convince myself. No more passive aggression. What has being kind to them got us? Nothing. What has being peaceful and trying to compromise got us? Nothing. Seeing Mockingbird lay there, too close to death, was the straw that shattered my spine. I was hungry, and I craved for meat.
All my thoughts switched my brain into autopilot. My hooves started out slow, stepping around the foot of the bed. My nostril flared more and more as I advanced towards the door.
“Fluttershy, what is it?” Twilight asked, sounding concerned. I didn’t answer. I kept moving slowly. “Fluttershy, where are you going?”
“Uh… hello? Earth to Fluttershy?” Rainbow said while waving her hoof in my face. Again, nothing from me.
In the hallway, I pivoted to my right and picked up the pace down the corridor. The escalating thundering of my hooves could’ve been heard for miles. The further down I went, the more my trotting became a charge. “Fluttershy?!”
Before I could even tell, I was back in the lobby. I didn’t hesitate to spin around to the sliding doors and bolt outside. If anypony was in my way, well... it was just their own fault for not moving quick enough.
My rage was released outside, matching the killer winds, chills and blows of the tempest. I’m a weakling when it comes to flying, but that rain wasn’t even a challenge for me; when you’re furious, you do many crazy things out of the ordinary. I kicked off the ground hard, mud flying off my rear hooves. The current was beyond strong, but I was stronger. As my mane and fur started to feel more and more like ice water, I roughly climbed my distance into the black clouds.
The last sound I heard below me was the pleading cries of Twilight and Rainbow Dash. Before I even cared to turn back around to them, I was well above Ponyville, making my way to feed the squatting lioness.
I neither knocked nor rang the bell for my parents’ house. After ramming into the door like a bull, I could hear the lock break in two, sending me tumbling to the entrance floor. A grinding pain shot into my shoulder, eliciting a yelp and groan from me.
As my body dripped and shivered in rainwater, I forced myself to an upright position, a lake forming under my belly. My labored breathing matched the loud stomps of my hooves in front of the main staircase. My hot, exhausted eyes turned up to meet the two ponies, who were once my beloved parents. With Mom in her nightgown and Dad in his bathrobe, they each looked on with perplexed faces.
“Fluttershy… what are you doing here?” Father asked in confusion, following a yawn.
I just kept glaring in anger. My infamous stare was intact, and they could tell.
“Fluttershy, sweetheart, what’s the matter?” Mom asked, anxiously.
I finally decided to give them an answer, but only in a way I thought they would understand. Standing on my hind legs, my wings kept me afloat as I slowly clopped my front hooves together, as if to mock an applause.
“You were both right this whole time,” I said, coldly.
Dad made his first steps down the case. “Fluttershy, listen, I am terribly sorry for last night. I’m serious—”
“No, no, Daddy, it’s okay,” I interrupted. I might have sounded and appeared incredibly calm on the outside, but my inner feelings and emotions blazed more than a forest fire. I started making my way into the living room, the stream of rainwater trailing under me.
Father made his way downstairs, not even taking notice of the swinging door. “Right about what, Fluttershy, what’s going on?”
“Oh, nothing,” I snipped. Giggling like an asylum inmate, I located the wine cabinet, turned the key and ripped out a red bottle. “Oh, Mommy and Daddy, how could I have been so blind? I understand now that it is very necessary to live under the control of my parents. I see that me and Mockingbird both have to obey your every desire, even if it makes us miserable as shit.”
What? Oh, my goodness. I’m still in complete shock of saying that out loud. I never cursed before in my life, up until then.
“Fluttershy, what’s going on?” Mother asked, sounding desperate for a direct answer.
“Oh, everything is just zippity doo dah, Mother,” I chirped, wearing a painted smile like a clown. “I’m just saying: you two were always right. Being gay is worse than being a murderer, but they can still change. It’s either go straight or go die, right? Of course, right! Just like Mockingbird.”
Father’s eyes widened to the size of a platter dish. “Fluttershy, what Zeus did last night was not something I approved of.”
My teeth sank into the wooden wine cork and yanked it out, a loud pop following. Turning my head, I shot out the piece of wood like a boxer would with a broken tooth. “But he was right, Father. So was Milky Way, and you, too.” Feeling my calm demeanor beginning to slip, I raised the bottle by the neck like I was giving a toast. “And may Mockingbird’s desire to die serve as a reminder of what it means to be traditional and happy. To Family!”
Wrapping my lips around the glass rim, I threw my head back and let the wine slide down my throat. The red alcohol tasted like a mixture of grapes and cough medicine. I could feel my throat burn, resulting in my eyes stinging. My head was starting to feel incredibly heavy and fuzzy, but I kept guzzling it all like it was nothing more than water.
I couldn’t even make out a clear reason as to why I was having such a large drink in the first place. I knew I was furious and really off, but even when I’m like that—if I’m ever like that at all—I don’t usually solve my issues with a comfort beverage. The only time I ever do get a little tipsy is for special occasions; even then, I drink in very light moderation. But at that moment, the side of my brain that I usually trust was telling me that I did not want to be sober.
The moment when the final drop soaked on my tongue, I lowered my head with a sigh. Mom and Dad were looking at me like I just swallowed exotic insects. Nopony said anything. We just stared.
The lioness finally found her enemy, standing right in front of her. The foe knew what was to come, for he harmed her baby. Though the matriarch of the wild may be merciful and generous when compared to her male partner, all animals know that it is fowl play to harm her family. Even if that threat is from within the pack.
She crouched and growled, signaling her desire for blood. The enemy in front of her did nothing but waited for his punishment. Showing the weaponry that was her razor claws and teeth, the lioness’ lips pried opened, proceeding to lick them clean of dripping saliva. Knowing that her prey was right where she wanted him to be, she finally roared and pounced!
Hushing the annoyance that was the quiet, I chucked the wine bottle for Dad’s head. He immediately ducked, causing the shattered glass to rain and fly in all directions off the wall behind him. With my blood racing and teeth baring, I shot my hoof out for my next move.
“Fluttershy, stop!” Dad hollered. His plea was no use. There was nothing stopping me from growling, pulling the skin over his chest, twirling him, and launching him towards the fireplace. A loud smack of his head hit all ends of the room. Blood trickled from his temple. His broken glasses sat cracked and bent on the ground. Tartarus was empty, and all demons were inside me.
“Fluttershy, what are you doing?” he meekly asked, dread in his voice.
“What does it look like I’m doing, you old son of a bitch!?” I zipped over and continued to smack his cheek bone. Then a kick. A smack. Then a twist of the arm. Then more loud punching and screaming. The more pain I delivered, the more his face sounded like the splattering of a ripe cantaloupe. Blood flew from my fists like paint off a brush, staining the spotless clouds around.
My arms hoisted Dad to the air as I continued to spin him around and send him flying onto the couch, face down. I didn’t even have the capability to speak logically, or clearly, anymore. Every word that escaped my lips were phrases I thought I would never even think. “F” this, “B” that. I must have shouted every single profanity known to pony kind in just one sentence, alone. I never knew that was possible.
I watched him squirming around like a helpless worm. It sounded like he tried to mumble something to me and beg for mercy, but why would I be paying any attention to how he felt? Did he pay any head or mercy to Mockingbird or myself? Ignoring his cries, I straddled him on the couch and plunged my two front hooves against his blood soaked head. I proceeded in shrieking, “Why didn’t I do this to you sooner?! You never even deserved to be our father! I’m going to bury you and laugh while doing it!”
I could tell that a very different part of me was performing this punishment, not my true self. The part of me that tamed all that anger and rage inside for so many years died. I could feel the very blood and DNA of the Iron Will Fluttershy pumping through my veins. I hated that Fluttershy so much, but there was nothing I could do to stop her. Once she took over my thoughts, I was her own little meat puppet. She enjoyed every bit of torture being delivered to the stallion, who was pinned under my rump. Purely enjoyed it.
Just when I swore I could have heard Father’s terminal breath, I felt something lock around my neck, thrusting me skywards, causing my throat to gag and tighten. My hooves remained clinging to Dad’s mane, who suddenly started gasping for air with his new freedom.
“Fluttershy, please calm down!” Mom’s voice ordered into my ear.
“Are you serious?” I cried back to her, my voice croaking. “Now you’re the peacekeeper? Where were you when Mockingbird was being terrorized on his birthday?!” Neither of us listened to one another. It became a wrestling match of three: Mom versus myself versus Dad. No referee to blow the whistle. No restrictions for safety. It was win or die.
Right as I was about to deliver another blow to Dad’s head, a warm tingle, that engulfed my skin, freezed my actions. While trying to push past the weird sensation over my body, I was lifted off of Father and out of Mother’s grasp. I felt like I weighed zero pounds. I quickly realized that I was glowing a sparkling magenta that dragged me away.
“Fluttershy, what in the name of Celestia is going on here!?” Twilight, with her bright horn aimed directly at me, came into full view of the room, Rainbow Dash following. The two mares, shivering under matted furs, wore faces mixed with seriousness, worry, sadness, anger, and shock.
My eyes glared at my alicorn friend as my teeth trembled together. “Twilight, let me go! I’m finishing the job!”
“Fluttershy, you have to get a grip,” she protested. “I have everything under control.”
“Twilight Sparkle, if you don’t put me down right now, I swear to Luna—”
“What is the meaning of all this!?” Father yelled. We all turned our gazes to see him standing by the sofa, face all red, blue and black. His mane was sweaty and tangled. Blood continued to run freely out his fresh cuts and scrapes. His eyes squinted in blindness.
“What happened here?” Rainbow asked, stepping over the remains of the wine bottle.
“I think we all want to know the same,” Mom uttered, hoof clenching her panicking chest.
All four of my hooves kicked and flailed in Twilight’s aura. Useless. I’ve always hated it whenever she did this to me. “What... are you... even... doing here, Twilight?”
“Fluttershy, you just went bolting out of the hospital. We had to follow you, what did you expect? And Rainbow Dash just told me everything, so I’m also here on some heavy legal business.”
“Your highness, I can assure you that we hold a very respectful and legal home,” Dad tried to insist, looking like he was resisting to cower.
“Not from what I heard,” Twilight retorted as she stepped further into his vision, while keeping me frozen and afloat in her magic. She wore a face that she obviously practiced many times. Even for those outside of Equestrian royalty, it is common knowledge that a princess must rehearse what Twilight was about to do. The very duty that makes everypony bow in respect and almost fear the princesses, no matter how motherly they appear.
Twilight cleared her throat before breathing slowly. She then announced in an official tone, “To the home of Barrister and April Shower of Cloudsdale, Equestria. I, Princess Twilight Sparkle, hereby announce that you have been filed for potential arrest under the following charges: Forced eviction of a family member, repeated acts of vandalism, physical assault, and holding responsibility for the attempted suicide of your own son, Mockingbird.
“Under the official laws of Princess Celestia, you and the organization of Traditional Pegasus Family are to be scheduled for an official hearing to take place in Canterlot. Until an official date is settled, you will be given the time to settle your case and arguments. Failure to comply with this law will result in automatic imprisonment, for a bail fee of no more or less than 500,000 bits.”
Dad stared at Twilight, then to me, with a very fearful, alarmed face. “Mockingbird tried to kill himself? Fluttershy, no, please listen. That wasn’t apart of our plan at all. Zeus overstepped his bounds.”
“You already overstepped your so called bounds when you kicked Mockingbird out!” I snarled. “You have no idea how much distress you have caused both of us. Do you know why I wanted to talk with you and Mom? Because I still loved you! I was very angry, but I still loved you. I thought you could open your heart for once in your life, and show the simplest act of love, but I was wrong. You can never change, your heart is black and I… I just hate you so much!” I continued to kick in another weak attempt to escape Twilight’s magic, but again, nothing.
“Take it easy, Fluttershy, it’ll be alright now,” Twilight said to me. I couldn’t see any reason why she was trying to make me feel better. Twilight returned her focus to my parents. “An official court order from Celestia should be arriving to your home within a day. It will give you the dates of the hearing and all you need to sign.”
“Twilight, I’m calm, now,” I interrupted with my voice going from angry to demure. With my legs motionless on my command, I closed my eyes and breathed slowly. “No more fighting, it’s all out of my system.”
Twilight looked at me, skeptically. “You sure? No more fighting.”
I gently nodded, not showing any more signs of the beast like rage that screamed in my head. As slow and gentle as she could be, Twilight lowered me back to the ground, extinguishing the spell from her horn.
“Looks like you’re gonna get what’s coming to ya,” Rainbow Dash sneered to Dad while making her way towards the door frame. My father said nothing. He kept silent with a stare of disbelief. Mom appeared even more timid and frightened than I’ve ever seen her. Never could they have ever pictured their own daughter bringing them to a justice they deserved.
I tried my hardest to keep calm and follow Twilight towards the exit, but halted. I eyed the many pieces of broken glass next to my hooves. There was my chance! With my royal friend looking away, I could finish what I went there to do.
In a very swift motion without even thinking, my head swooped down, clenched a knife long shard with my teeth, and spun around with a leap. My wings buzzed, causing me to accelerate on my already screaming father. This was the moment to shut him up and prove, once and for all, that I was the strong one. That when you mess with a lioness, you get the claws and teeth. You try to harm her loved ones, you become her dinner.
My head twisted to my right and quickly unraveled. The sliced blood from Dad’s forehead flew with the blade across its path. As I listened to his horrid cries of agony, my eyes once again bursted like water balloons. An action that I never saw myself ever committing happened without my conscience. I was a monster.
Mom and Dad’s shrieks was met with the frantic gasps of my friends—along with the return of the magenta glow, yanking me away. With my whole body quivering under the telekinesis, I continued to sob and curse so furiously, my throat felt like it was bleeding. After being turned a full one hundred-eighty degrees, I was forced to look into the very center of Twilight’s eyes.
My groggy voice screamed, “Twilight, put me—”
“Sleep, Fluttershy,” Twilight cooed, soothingly. Her violet eyes, looking so gentle and peaceful, filled my whole vision. A light, dizzy feeling filled my brain.
Twilight’s presence was all I was able to see. The urge to retaliate was gone. Calming down felt too natural for me. My legs dangled like a rag doll, as my eyelids slowly started to slide down. My crying and breathing died down with my head starting to swoon.
I tried to say something, but ended up mumbling some noises that were barely audible. My eyes finally blurred and closed. All I could feel was a pair of gentle forelegs, wrapping around my waist and head. A soft hush was all I could hear, canceling out all the chaos to make way for the sleep that I fell into.
A lovely autumn afternoon enveloped cloudsdale. My twelve-year-old self sat and watched Rainbow Dash zoom in every direction across my room.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Fluttershy, I wish we had recess three times a day!” my friend squealed in her excited filly voice. She always enjoyed as much free time she could get.
“Oh, Rainbow Dash, if only it was that easy,” I replied, tapping my lips with a chortle. “Whenever class gets boring, I want nothing more than to be outside and fly with all the pretty birds.”
Rainbow landed on the cloud floor, rolling her eyes at my supposed idea of fun. “C’mon, is capture the flag really that scary for you?”
My pupils shrank, accompanied with a shaking body. “I-I’m sorry, I just don’t like Hoops and Dumbbell always trying to push me off the clouds.”
“Don’t pay any attention to them,” she said, sounding exasperated like she has heard it a thousand times before. “You just need to focus on finding the orange in the clouds, and—”
“F-F-Fluttershy?” came a tiny, nervous voice through the crack of the doorframe, cutting Dash short. Turning my head, I saw Mockingbird gently push the door open with his muzzle. Frowning, his little eight-year-old body shuddered on its own accord, his citrus orange eyes brimming with tears.
I wore a face of sisterly concern. “Mockingbird, are you okay?”
He shook his head. “I-I’m sorry, I don’t want to bother you.” He quickly turned away and began making his way out the opposite end.
“You’re not bothering us,” I calmly objected, as I rose and trotted in his direction. Catching up in the hallway, my hoof hooked onto his shoulder, halting him. Mockingbird spun around and looked up into my eyes with fear. My soft hoof touched his face. “Mockingbird, sweetie, you’re shaking like a leaf. What’s the matter?”
He looked over my shoulder and saw Rainbow Dash approaching the scene. After performing a take to his bedroom, then back to us, he ordered, “Secret Room, now!”
The lightbulb clicked above our heads. The yellow fluorescent light illuminated the foal-sized room in the depths of my brother’s closet. With himself in the center, Rainbow Dash and myself to his sides, Mockingbird took a breath.
“Uhm… I’m scared, Fluttershy,” he confessed, voice trembling.
I brought my hoof to my chest. “Oh, is it because of your voice recital this Friday? Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll sound lovely as always.”
He vigorously shook his head.
Rainbow Dash looked prepared to take an defensive stance. “What’s the problem, Mocking? Is there anypony that’s giving you a hard time?”
He shook his head again. “I-I’m a very bad colt.”
Confusion and shock molded the expression of my face. Such a sweet little colt who never did anything wrong to anypony; how could he say such a thing? “Mockingbird, why are you saying that? What could you have possibly done wrong?”
Mockingbird shivered like he was caught in a blizzard. He looked up at me. His stomach puffed and fell with a large heave. “I-I really like Thunderlane.”
“Well, I think that’s great,” I began, “Thunderlane is a very nice colt, and would make a great friend for anyp—”
“No, I mean I REALLY like him!” Mockingbird urgently interrupted. “Like how Daddy likes M-Mommy.” His whole face turned red as a tomato while he continued to force out, “I-I think… that I… that I’m… in love with colts! They’re just so pretty, and handsome, and nice, and I feel super excited around them!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to relax him simultaneously.
“I know colts are supposed to love and marry fillies, but I don’t feel that way! I feel like I want to m-marry a s-stallion! But now you’re going to h-hate me, like Mommy and Daddy hates them! I’m a freak!” His high-pitched crying rang like a siren. Tears soiled his cheeks and muzzle.
As I sat there confused, I could only feel sorry for my poor little brother. Many thoughts kept running through my head. It just sounded like love. I could never see why it would be harmful or bad. Mockingbird wasn’t hurting anypony; to me, he just wanted to love and be happy. Why is it wrong to show kindness and love?
Rainbow Dash only sat, too lost for a reaction.
Doing only what was natural for me, I brought my left hoof forward, causing Mockingbird to shy away. Still, as gentle as my nature would allow, I lightly touched the underside of his chin, turning his focus to my eyes of sorrow. As the volume of his weeps rose, it was my cue to pull him into a hug. His ear rested against my soft, beating heart while my hoof brushed through his mane.
“Shhh… it’s all going to be okay, Mockingbird,” I soothed. “I don’t hate you at all. I don’t think what you’re feeling is wrong.”
“Y-You don’t?” Mockingbird sniffled, his voice crackling.
“Of course not. I can never hate you for wanting to show love. While Mother and Father make it sound like it’s… uhm, strange, I can’t see why they think it’s wrong.”
I looked down to him with a smile of empathy, meeting his unsure eyes. “B-But what if I end up doing bad or hurtful things to everypony, like what Daddy is always telling us?”
“Mockingbird, you would never even harm a mosquito!” Rainbow Dash chimed in. “I think you loving other colts sounds super cool. I don’t know many other ponies like that!” The blood of Mockingbird’s cheeks glowed a revealing hue in reply.
“So, you don’t think I’m a freak, or anything?” he asked, anxiously.
“Would never even think of it,” I answered.
“Never in a gazillion years!” Rainbow declared. “But, how about we keep this as our own little secret for now.” She shot a look at me, waiting for my agreement.
“I think that would sound wonderful,” I said. “The only ponies who will ever know about this are the three of us.”
“S-So we don’t have to tell Mommy and Daddy?” Mockingbird asked, wearing a pleading face.
“You can tell them when you feel ready,” I assured him, sealing my word with a light kiss to his forehead. Rainbow Dash crossed her heart with a nod.
Seeing that my brother was still shaken, I knew what he needed to feel completely loved and assured. Looking to Dash, my hopeful face begged, “Please? Do it for him.” She never liked her role in the game very much, considering how ‘un-cool’, ‘boring’ and ‘overly sappy’ it sounded to her. Though this case seemed like an exception to my athletic friend. Once Rainbow gave a somewhat reluctant nod in consent, my face returned to Mockingbird with a playful grin.
“Mockingbird,” I began in a comforting tone, “the doctor is in.”
With his face brightening up, he immediately jumped in with the game. “Dr. Flutters, I’m not feeling very well. I need some more of your special medicine.”
I gestured my hoof to the door leading out of the crawlspace. “Right this way. Just relax on the bed outside, and Doctor Flutters and Nurse Rainbow will be with you shortly.”
NOTE: This chapter is currently undergoing a re-write. This version will remain only until I have a final product I'm happy with. If you are still interested in this chapter, feel free to carry on, but expect something better coming. Danke.
Chapter Eleven: O Children
As my memory faded, all I could see was blackness, facing resistance from a small slit of light. My sense of hearing started to return in the form of faint echoes from the noises that surrounded me.
You really put her out, didn’t you, Twilight?
I had to, Rainbow. She could have done a lot more damage than she did.
She’s been out for at least sixteen hours! I think that was enough to knock out an ursa minor.
With my vision returning in the form of blinking and blurs, the soft noises grew louder and fuller until I developed a clear view of my bedroom ceiling. I felt my body wrapped in the warmness of my blankets, while resting against the softness that was my mattress and pillow. A sole candle on my nightstand made a meek attempt to illumine the grey, gloomy atmosphere of my chamber. I brought a hoof to massage my forehead, the fogginess of my brain aching on contact. Twilight and Rainbow Dash stood by the foot of my bedpost, glancing back at me.
“Twilight, Rainbow Dash, what’s going on?” I asked, my voice still exhausted.
“A lot, actually,” Twilight answered with angst in her voice. “You were out for a while, Fluttershy. I’m sorry I had to do that to you, but you were really making the situation worse for yourself. Right after… uh, whatever happened up there, we brought you back home. It’s nine o’clock now, still Sunday, if you wanted to know— No, no! Just try to relax now, I have a lot I need to fill you in on.”
Twilight placed her hoof against my forelegs that gripped my bedsheets. I remained sitting upright, unable to keep my mind steady. “What about Mockingbird? Is he okay?”
“He was released a little while ago,” Rainbow Dash began, “I stayed with you while Twilight returned to the hospital to check on him.”
“Mockingbird woke up at around noon today,” Twilight continued. “I told him everything that happened this morning, and about everything that’s going to happen. He was really scared and on edge when he saw me, so I made sure to be subtle and gentle with him. Nurse Redheart says he is still feeling mentally imbalanced, but he could still be released as long as he’s under constant supervision.”
My head nodded to Twilight’s words while trying to hold my own emotional state together. It felt like the only possible motion to try and get me to relax. Even if I already knew that relaxation became a thing in the past. “So he’s home now?”
“He’s downstairs,” Dash confirmed while looking to the door. “He has some company looking over him.”
“What do you mean by company?”
“You’ll see in a little bit,” Twilight said to me, reassuringly. She took in a deep breath before turning her face from calming to that of seriousness. “Fluttershy, there’s a lot of business that we need to talk about.”
My body froze mid-motion. Her voice held full control over the commands of my mind as I rested my legs back onto the bed. Judging by the look in her eyes, I could tell that whatever she had to say was going to be far from pleasant.
“Uhm… okay, what kind of business?” I timidly asked.
Twilight rubbed her hoof against her scrunched up forehead. Her head drifted towards my window as she fixated on the drizzle against the glass—almost like she was trying to think of a non-threatening way to break the news I dreadfully awaited.
“I notified Celestia about my orders,” she started, “I sent her a message that explained the situation, then a few hours later I got her approval.”
Twilight proceeded to display some manilla colored papers in her magic, all marked here and there with scribbles and blots of fresh ink. “A date has been set for the official hearing; it will begin a week from this coming Saturday with your dad’s side to present their defense and case. You and Mockingbird will present the next day—two weeks from today—to present your defense and case.”
The room fell quiet. My mind took advantage of this moment to try and accept the change of my own universe. Too surreal.
Rainbow Dash came up to my eye level and narrowed her eyes. “You’re incredibly lucky that your dad’s not pressing any charges against you, Fluttershy. I know I mentioned before how I wanted to beat them myself, but that was just me being all talk. What was going on with you?”
“I… I’m not getting charged for what I did?” I uttered, both relieved and confused with a mix of guilt.
“It doesn’t look like that,” Twilight answered. “I have yet to receive any notice that you will be tried for attacking Barrister.” She looked at me in both agitation and concern. “What were you thinking, Fluttershy? Attacking your dad over what happened, when you could have easily just reported it to me? Do you have any idea how serious that is? I have no idea why he’s not mentioning the incident, and I’m glad that he isn’t, but this is far beyond you. You could have killed him; you could have been convicted as homicidal.”
I allowed her scolding to pierce beneath my skin. Even as a little filly I was never punished for violence or bad behavior. Never would I have imagined myself with the blood of my family on my hooves. Never would I have thought my demureness and femininity would snap and lead me to violence. But I could tell what it must have felt like to be a criminal. Exactly whom I was.
I committed a crime but was skipping the punishment. While a small part of me was relieved to not have to face prosecution, my larger self only felt shame and disgust for my actions. The sole fact that I almost killed the stallion, who has held and tried to protect me since birth, made me feel like a stranger to myself.
What was even more frightening was that I felt like I was dead. My kindness that has given my life meaning was absent when I confronted my father. Something I would never do could not be undone. No matter how much I try to make up for it or forget it, my golden heart will forever be burned with a black char of a demon’s fire. The element of kindness would never want to kill or fight. Perhaps when I met Twilight and discovered this amazing thing about myself, the element made a mistake? Maybe I wasn’t so deserving of the sacred honor to show compassion and love to my friends and others. Perhaps fate made a mistake in choosing my destiny.
“I know, Twilight, and I wish I can change what happened,” I whispered, sadly. “I wasn’t thinking at all. I just stored up so much anger because they wouldn’t listen. And when Mockingbird tried to do that… I don’t know. I just turned my conscience off and couldn’t even tell the difference between right or wrong anymore.”
“It’s going to be alright, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, switching her face from stern to comforting. “I will be acting as your attorney for this. Now I haven’t gotten everything together quite yet, but I’m going to be with you and Mockingbird every step of the way. The only downside to this is that I won’t be able to have a say in the verdict.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“In the Equestrian justice system, the innocence for all those prosecuted is determined by the alicorn princesses in court,” she began to explain. “However, since you are my friend and that I’ve decided to fight for you, I can only act as a lawyer and not a judge.”
Rainbow Dash cupped her hoof over her eyes with an exasperated moan. “Twilight, why can’t we just put them away and be done with this nightmare already!?”
Twilight rolled her eyes like she had been bantering with Dashie all day. “Rainbow, it isn’t that easy. We need proof for what they did and the consequences they left. They’ll have a chance to prove their actions as justified; if they can’t, then that’s when the sentencing occurs.”
“Please! I really don’t want to talk about this!” I yelled, gripping the sides of my splitting head. They both shot to me, wearing startled faces. “I’m sorry, but can I please just see Mockingbird and try to talk to him? I don’t think I can take any of this legal business right now.”
I could see a large ball of saliva sink down Twilight’s throat. She glanced to the door, then Rainbow, then me. “We can see him, if you want. But listen, you have to keep in mind that he is very tired and distressed right now. He’s already had about two panic attacks today since waking up.”
My eyes glistened, responding to her inevitable warning. I could only pray that he wouldn’t be too angry to still talk with his big sister. “O-Okay, Twilight, thanks for warning me. I understand.”
Rainbow Dash stepped aside, granting me permission to get out of bed. Courage seemed impossible to muster by that point. After hearing him scream at me the previous night, I couldn’t even imagine what it was going to be like for him to see me. But never would I let that keep him away from me. I was the only family he had; he was the only family I had.
We trotted to my door frame and only creeked it open a smudge. My ears pricked at the immediate sound downstairs. Some small sniffles, accompanied by some soft, feminine cooes, echoed and rebounded to me. After opening the door to full view, I trotted to the view looking over the living room to find Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Spike, and Big Macintosh. Sitting in one of the big chairs was Mockingbird, head low, sniffling and shaking as a mug rattled in his loose grasp.
“Do I really have to explain anymore to you?” Mockingbird asked in a thin, quiet whisper.
“Not if ya don’t want to anymore, sugarcube,” Applejack answered, calmly.
“I simply can’t accept what your ‘father’ tried to do!” Rarity seethed in disgust, air-quoting for emphasis.
“I’m really sorry that this happened to you, buddy,” Spike said in remorse. “But I know Twilight can make this right again. She can do anything!”
“You’re all just being nice to me because you know my sister,” my brother hissed. “You can say as much of those words as you want, but they’re not going to make anything any better.”
“They’re here because they really do care, Mockingbird,” I loudly claimed from my post, earning stares from my friends in return. Mockingbird turned his head up to me, shooting daggers of bitterness, resentment, and aggravation. Though his contact was enough to make my blood freeze, I just knew that I had to keep trying to support him through.
“We all do,” I continued as I glided down my flight of stairs, landing softly in front of the group. Twilight and Rainbow Dash quietly followed me down as I began my walk towards my brother. I could tell that I was the very last pony he had any desire of talking to, but what else was I supposed to do?
“Look who’s finally up,” Mockingbird said, coldly. He refused to break his focus on me while taking an uneasy sip from his mug, the scent of hot chocolate evaporating from the surface.
“M-Mockingbird…,” I meekly started. “...” Then nothing. Nothing in my life has ever prepared me for a scene like this. Whatever word I would try to speak, I knew he would dismiss. Whatever affection I would try to show, he would shove me away. The only thing I felt was appropriate was to stand still and only gaze upon the fallen angel I almost lost. My head fell low with clenched eyes, a whimper being my only sound.
“Nothing to say, huh?” Mockingbird asked with a sneer. “That’s exactly what you should have been doing this whole time. Tell me, who am I supposed to trust now? How can I possibly think it’s safe?”
Big Macintosh wiped his eyes dry and turned to Twilight with a nod. “Eeyup.”
Mockingbird sank even lower into the recliner. “I don’t understand how this is not some set-up. None of you even know me that well. Why do you even care? I’m probably just some other pony you all will forget about by tomorrow.”
“Th-That’s not true,” came the high-pitched, yet watery voice of Pinkie Pie. I looked up to her, catching the appearance of a grim mare. Her bubbly pink mane and coat were faded to a dark hue. The poofiness that brought so much life to her tail and mane was gone, leaving them deflated like popped party balloons. Her uncharacteristic face of anxiety and sadness was enough to drain the life out of any joyful foal. Not an ounce of happiness or excitement showed any signs of erupting.
“I kn-know the names of everypony in town,” Pinkie Pie said. “I told you before that I know everypony because everypony's my friend. When I first saw you, Mockingbird, you looked so shy, alone and sad like you never smiled before. When I first saw you, I didn’t want you to feel sad anymore. That’s why I threw the party for you. I just wanted you to have friends. Nothing would ever make me treat you differently, like I’m some big, stinky meanie pants.”
Hearing Pinkie’s gloomy voice struck an indescribable pain from within. When I hoped she would either tell a joke, sing a silly song, or just do anything to make ponies smile, she didn’t even have the strength. Did my friends really deserve to be exposed to this?
“That was very nice of you, Pinkie Pie, but I doubt a party is going to solve any of my problems now,” Mockingbird dismissed, placing his mug on a stand.
“Didn’t it at least brighten your spirits a little?” Rarity asked. “We were only being friendly with you for the past few days because we wanted you to feel welcomed. Fluttershy rarely talked about her family life, so we were both surprised and delighted to meet you.”
Mockingbird replied with hostile glares to my unicorn friend. “Were you also surprised to see that I was a ‘Real Cutie’?” Sparks of fire marked each word he spoke.
We all turned to Rarity, who had shock on her face. “W-Well… all I meant to say was that you have a very nice complexion,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to hint that I was in love with you or anything; it was only meant as a compliment. I would never dream of anything like romance with such a young colt like yourself.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t a proposal to make me your fashion accessory?” Mockingbird fired back. “Did you want to be friendly to me just so you can show me off and keep saying how adorable I am?”
Rarity began breathing in spurts, trying hard to find a way to understand the sudden confrontation. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. Where are you getting an idea like that?”
“I just know what type you are,” Mockingbird almost snarled. “All you want is a little cuddler friend just so you would have a little shopping and gossip buddy. I hate mares like that. They don’t even really care about how their so-called friends feel. I’m not gonna be your dog to ride around in your purse, Rarity!”
Before my mind even had a chance to accept his belittling words, or even notice Rarity’s hurt face, I stepped forward to my brother, almost dominating him. “Mockingbird, please stop saying those mean things. I’ve known Rarity for years now, she would never try to do any such thing. Nopony is trying to degrade you.”
“Like you really understand, Fluttershy?” he shot back to me, rising from his chair. “Please don’t try to tell me you actually know how to properly act around me. If you think a straight mare has any same mental capacity I do, then tell me, why aren’t you me? How do you possibly think anything that anypony is saying right now is helping me?”
He was silenced by the overpowering boom of Big Macintosh. “Mockingbird, we’re here because we actually do care! We want to help you!”
Falling quiet and still like a surprise cannon went off next to him, Mockingbird locked eyes with the distressed sounding Macintosh. Big Mac’s red-pink eyes looked sleep expelled and almost like a racoon. His stance made him appear almost a head shorter than normal, almost like he had his skull clubbed into his body by a foal at an arcade. “Why are you rejecting us when we love you and want to help you feel better?” he gently asked.
Mockingbird almost fell onto his own rump upon the question. “What I’m trying to understand is why you’re all here when I’m just another pony in this world. None of you have known me for more than a week. I don’t understand why you’re all getting sad like I actually matter. Don’t you all have better things to be doing with your lives?”
“Anypony close to Fluttershy is a friend to us, Mocking,” Applejack boldly stated. “When something happens to you, it affects Fluttershy. When something affects her in either way, it affects all of us. You may not see it, but we’re connected; more connected than pickets on a fence. You may not see it as clearly, but it’s there.”
Mockingbird lowered his head and sniffled in through the muzzle. “You can’t be serious. Who here have I possibly had any effect on? Anypony besides my dimwitted sister?” My ears flattened, accompanied with free flowing eyes of tears. I could never realize how he could use such painful words and purposely hurt others, even when he was just trying to heal, himself.
“You had an effect on me,” Big Macintosh answered. All eyes on him, Macintosh lifted a hoof to his forehead and wiped away a sheet of sweat breaking through his skin. Looking to his younger sister by his side, his breathing grew long and drawn like a blow of wind. “Applejack, there’s something I need to tell ya.”
Quiet again. All faces turned to the stallion who longed to confess. Only Applejack spoke. “Big Macintosh, can this wait until later?”
“Eenope, this is very important to what’s going on now.”
“Okay, what is it?”
A lifetime of a secret struggled on Big Mac’s lips. While his desperation for freedom climbed, his conscience of silence fought to halt his desires. But of course, this was a scene that I myself was very familiar with. I knew what was to come.
“Applejack,” he started, “do you know why I always got annoyed when you tried to get too involved with my love life?”
His sister nodded.
It appeared as if a five second pause could have felt like a lifetime to Big Macintosh. The muscles on his body tensed, as if the pressure of the universe was pressing him down. But fortunately, he was able to manage, “That’s because I’m not attracted to mares.”
Our ears perked to the statement that caught everypony off their guard. Applejack returned, “What do ya mean, Big Mac?”
He inhaled, then went on with, “There was a very specific reason why I invited Mockingbird to help on our farm. I knew we have never been desperate for an extra hoof to help us out, even though we knew it would be appreciated. I met Mockingbird at the party last Saturday. His voice was amazing, and he looked so beautiful. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to be with him. Then as I got to know him more and he got to know me, I realized how strong my feelings were. I always felt this way about colts but not like this. If you want it short... I’m gay, Applejack. I’m a coltcuddler. And… I, uh… I’m attracted to Mockingbird.”
Applejack, stood quiet and only blinked. She gazed at Big Macintosh, watching him fight to slow his rising and falling chest to a calmer rhythm. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a stallion so masculine and muscular shake. A deep and personal attraction, that he has tried so hard in his life to mask from his loving family, was finally out. While I knew that he really had nothing to fear when it came to Applejack, I could still understand how fear and anxiety can deeply impact just one pony. Simply from not knowing what to expect.
With her sour apple green eyes brimming with tears, all Applejack could make out was, “Big Mac, if you weren’t attracted to mares, but to colts, then why didn’t ya just tell me sooner?”
“I wasn’t sure how you’d react,” Big Macintosh answered, still sounding like he was trying to calm himself.
“I can’t believe you never told me,” Applejack whispered with a trembling lip. “I just can’t believe it. You’ve been lying to me for such a long time. Worst of all, you felt like you had to.”
“Applejack, please, I know this is a lot for you to take in, but I wanted to wait for the right time,” her brother implored. “Please, I didn’t want to upset you.”
“I ain’t upset because of whom you love,” Applejack said, still shaking. “I’m upset because you felt like you couldn’t tell us. You had nothing to worry about, Big Mac. I still love you, Granny Smith will still love you, and Apple Bloom too, no matter what. Do you really think we’d be that kind? How could you think we’d be so cruel hearted?”
“I… uh, I just don’t know, okay?” Big Mac answered. “Something in my mind was just keeping me away. I couldn’t stop thinking of every possible ‘what if?’ scenario.”
Applejack stepped closer to him with a caring look in her eyes. “Well, you won’t have to listen to them anymore, big brother, nothing will ever make us stop loving you.” She sealed her statement with entwining arms around Big Macintosh’s neck, sealing her love and support for the stallion she has looked up to and loved for her whole lifetime.
Unwittingly, my face started to twitch and turn a shade of green. It just didn’t seem fair how Applejack and her family could be more accepting than my own, taking each hoof step forward to a better world. While I was happy for them and Big Macintosh, I still desperately wished for there to be enough of their love to go around for all of us.
“We can’t be together, Big Mac,” Mockingbird said through strained vocals.
In return, Macintosh looked as if he was hit with all the possible shock in the world. I imagine that hearing those words escape Mockingbird’s lips must’ve sounded like a freight train to his ears. They were having so much fun together. Why?
“What do ya mean, Mockingbird?” Big Macintosh asked.
“We just can’t be together, okay?” Mockingbird draped his head and huddled like he wanted nothing more than to disappear into the floor.
“Mockingbird, you’ve already given me so much,” Big Mac said, stepping closer to my brother. “I don’t remember ever talking this much or being this open and social until you came along. Nopony in this room hates you, or gives a pig’s squeal about who you love. You have nothing to be afraid of when you’re with me.”
“It’s not you that I fear, Mac,” Mockingbird started, “I’m afraid of what will happen to you. I have nothing but bad luck happening to me, I’m easy target for mockery and hate spewing, and just look where I’m at now!” He threw his scarred wrist forward for all to see, triggering my own nausea.
All voices gasped in shock at the stripe of crimson running deep under a large piece of white cotton, bound by medical tape. I could immediately see that to Mockingbird, it would be a symbol representing the walking mistake he thought of himself to be. A sign that he believed himself to not be deserving of his own happiness or life.
“Do you really think scars scare me?” Mac asked. “If there’s one thing I know about harm or injuries, it’s that we may have them deep within, but they heal and they become apart of who we are. They give us more muscle, so we become stronger than who we once were.” He proceeded to grab the injured wrist and present it to Mocking’s eye level. “This shows how you are now strong enough to live through the worst. That you can survive; and that I’ll always be with you to love you.”
Mockingbird lowered his wrist, staring blankly in return. “You think this is something to feel proud of? Almost dying?”
“No, but what it does mean is that you’re not meant to die now. You have a reason to be in this world, but you need the courage to push through. I want to help you find it and serve your purpose.”
I couldn’t help but well up at Big Macintosh’s lovely words. A stallion whom I’ve known to be so stoic and preserved spoke like a poet. I’ll never be able to discard the memory I have of his face at that moment: a strong image of devotion, love and protection like a guard vowing to defend Princess Celestia herself.
If only Mockingbird could’ve felt the same way. He just sulked back in his chair, shaking away and refusing all possible hope he deserved. That was when Mac decided to go further.
“Let’s say, you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to jump,” he began, “you’re scared, trembling and all you have is a parachute to guide you to safety. Your mind is saying that this can go either way: you can land safely or go splat. Though it is almost always a guarantee that it will open, you fear the most that it won’t. But all you have to do is jump and before you know it, you’re gliding toward a bright sunset. A parachute never fails, but you never know for sure unless you make the first leap. If you turn away, you’ll miss all the wonder and beauty that you have wanted to set out for. The only thing you need for your stunt to be successful is the courage. If you have the courage to jump, the parachute will open. Please muster up the courage to jump, and I’ll be your parachute. I will open for you. Please.”
Big Macintosh was on bended knee at this point. His eyes of desperation made the room feel as if my home had become a place of intervention. Mockingbird only shook more.
“I just don’t know if I can be willing to trust that, Macintosh,” he said, before forcing his eyes at me. “You may mean well, but you can definitely screw up big time like SOME PONIES.”
His threatening look of rage almost made me cower. My throat almost closed. Much like the night prior, it felt like I have been struck dumb. But I just knew I had to try and connect again. I didn’t want to drift so far away that we became strangers. So I simply tried to say the only words I could put together. “I… I understand, Mockingbird.”
“Understand what?” he returned in a harsh whisper. “Don’t pretend that you know this, okay? Don’t try to make this your fight.”
“And how am I doing that? Do you really think that I was trying to protect and keep you alive all this time, just so I could receive some reward, a front page in the papers, or to just be seen as some sort of celebrity? I’ve done everything I did because that’s what siblings do, Mockingbird.”
“Really? I don’t think siblings spill secrets behind each other's backs or make uncertain decisions for them.”
“I’ll admit that I did some things that were wrong and without thinking entirely, but I really do want to set things right again.”
It was at this moment when Mockingbird shot again from the chair and advanced on me, trying to imitate my own stare. “That was exactly what you told me a week ago! Don’t assume I’m weak because I’ve had too much shit happen to me all at once!”
“I never said you were weak, but I just know you can’t be fighting this alone. You don’t think I know how this feels?”
“No, you don’t know how this feels!” Mockingbird’s shriek shot through me like an arrow. “You’re straight, Fluttershy. You can never feel what I feel. You’re just trying to be a hero!”
“I’m trying to be a hero by caring for you, and doing something that any other pony should do if they find somepony they love crying on their stoop?”
“No, you don’t think I can decide for myself and that I’m too stupid to solve my own problems.”
“No, no, you know I don’t think that way about you at all—”
“I’m finding that very hard to believe! You’ve gotten so used to playing Mother Nature you don’t even know when to quit, or to take a moment to step back and think, ‘Gee, I wonder if doing something beyond common sense is a good idea!’”
This was the first real fight we’ve ever had between each other. My mind felt like it forgot how to form sentences. Nopony came to my defense but only acted like a stunned audience at a play. Nonetheless, I was trying my hardest to remain calm, though it felt so much like my brain was trying to lift a ton. “I only wanted what was for the best.”
“Best for who, Fluttershy? Me, or yourself?”
Him or myself? I guess I really wasn’t thinking things through as thoroughly as I thought. I just couldn’t understand why it all had to happen to me? To lose a whole family then have Mockingbird share my faith. I couldn’t bear to think of that at all. The holidays, vacations, triumphs, bonding and laughs we all enjoyed suddenly meant nothing more than ghost memories. Just why?
I was so shocked by his harsh inquiry I couldn’t even blink. My silence served as my only defense and reasoning. Stepping away slowly, I knew that I was both forfeiting the argument and doing the first thing that I know I should have done in the first place: Listening!
“O-Okay, Mockingbird, I promise to not make your decisions anymore,” I said. “If you ever want to talk to me about anything, just feel free, okay?”
He thought for a brief moment then sighed. “Fine, but don’t expect me to be quick to forgive you.” from that point on, all I could do was pray that our loving relationship as brother and sister wasn’t dead.
“Mockingbird, please understand that nopony is here to judge, but to help,” Twilight said, gently stepping closer. “I know that you’ve been through a lot already, but it can all change if you simply trust us. I understand that you don’t know us very well, but please don’t take it lightly when we say that we’re here for you.”
Denial was still on Mockingbird’s face as he shook his head. “I still don’t want to go through with this.”
“Darling, they’ve mistreated you so much,” Rarity said. “Don’t you want to receive any justice for what has happened?”
“I just want them gone from my life, that’s it!” Mockingbird argued. “Can’t that be justice enough to know that they won’t bother me anymore?”
“So you’d rather stay up at night, knowing that your homophobic parents got their satisfaction?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“This hearing sounds like the only logical thing to do now, sugarcube,” Applejack added. “Just letting them get away with something so foul will just show how they can do whatever they want to harm ponies.”
Mockingbird shot his focus around, breathing thinly through grinding teeth. “Oh my Celestia, are you all trying to guilt trip me into this? Do you think I need to keep fighting this battle that I never even wanted to happen?”
“Nopony wanted this to happen,” Twilight answered. She took in a deep breath and calmly tried to continue. “Okay, so I can see how you want to make your own decisions and re-control your life. I understand how you don’t want any of this to be happening and you want to forget about it. I know that you’re going through a lot of stress, and want to rest. But understand that none of us are making any decisions for you; we just want to help you feel more confident in what you think is the right choice.
“Mockingbird, you’re in for the fight of your life and I know you want to give in because your future seems hopeless. But I’m the Princess of Friendship. It’s my duty to spread harmony throughout Equestria and maintain the peace of everypony. The alicorn princesses have helped and guided all Equestrians for more than 1,000 years without discrimination or judgement, and we don’t intend on turning our backs now. I can tell you’ve lost a lot of harmony and I want to help you bring it back into your life, but only you can decide whether or not you want to. That being said, you have a choice: you can either pretend this never happened and try to live life with this turn of events on your shoulders, or you can bring those who’ve hurt you to justice, so that you may see that there is still hope in this world. Thus receiving closure that you are in control without judgement being thrown at you.”
The room turned into an icebox. I could tell how it was almost painfully obvious that Mockingbird was being very difficult to persuade. But I just had to keep reminding myself that it was his fight to choose, not ours.
“I don’t even know what ‘control’ is supposed to mean anymore,” Mockingbird stated. He wiped his brow and turned to address all in the room. “Am I really going to be in control, whether or not I decide to go through with this? Will my life ever have any control? Did I ever have any control to begin with? When I came out to my parents? When my parents decided to hate me? When Big Mac and I were harassed by Milky Way? When I lost my job? When my parents tried to convert me? When my soul wanted to die?
“You say I’ll be in control if I do this hearing, but I don’t even know how to grasp those reigns anymore. Could I control myself last night, when I tried to leave this shit hole of a world behind? Could I control anything that has lead up to all of you being in this room?
“If I really had a good control over my life and the ponies that affected it, I wouldn’t even be living this imprisonment. My life would be perfect. There would be nopony hating me, I could trust anypony, and there wouldn’t be any need for violence. Everypony who loved each other would never change and just stay together in one place. If I really had any control I would still have a family.
“If we really had control we would all have better lives. There would always be ponies loving and kind, our friends would never talk behind our backs, and we wouldn’t have to worry about revealing anything. But life can’t be that simple, can it? Life is just sitting around and waiting for the next fire to try and burn us. I don’t know how many more blisters and burns I can take before my fur melts clean off. Eventually the bones will become kindling, we’ll burst into a winter fire, and before we know it, all that will be left of us are dust, ashes and our names carved in granite.
“All I wanted to do in my life was live free, not hurt anypony, make beautiful music, bring ponies together, and help Equestria shine just as bright as the sun. Why is that so impossible for us to grasp? Is that really too much to ask of ponies to do in their lives: just filter out the rage and keep the love? Of course it is! Nopony can control their hatred.
“Unless somepony can give me a legit, solid reason to go through with all of this, I’m not persuaded. Have I given you a solid answer, Twilight?”
As if on cue, our ears caught a rapping at my window. Our trailing eyes caught a glimpse of a red mane and pink bow just peeking through the frame into the gathering. Young eyes looked in with sorrow, just barely being kept together under the chilling raindrops. Without a moment of hesitation, Applejack trotted over, unlatched the window, and pulled in Apple Bloom in a state of worry.
The rain trailed its way through as Applejack patted down and rubbed her shivering little sister, who we could see was now crying. “Apple Bloom, what are ya doing here? I thought we told ya to stay home with Granny Smith!”
“I-I’m… not a baby anymore, Applejack!” The sniveling Apple Bloom protested. “B-but I just could see that something was wrong and I couldn’t stay away.”
Big Macintosh followed suit of his middle sister and approached the drenched filly in a fatherly fashion. “Apple Bloom, you’re freezing to death.”
“I’ll go get some warm towels,” I announced before quickly trotting to my closet and pulling out the freshest and softest green towels I could find. The poor little dear must’ve been out there shivering for at least an hour. I sure hope she doesn’t catch a cold.
Returning to the living room, I immediately found all my friends gathered around Big Macintosh, who cradled the shivering and weeping Apple Bloom in his arms against his chest. Lightly walking up as to not intrude, I approached the group to have Applejack take the towels from my grasp and wrap them around her little sister.
“Not again… not again…” Apple Bloom kept repeating in distress.
“Apple Bloom, how much did ya here?” Applejack asked.
“Almost everything,” Apple Bloom forced out, her voice sounding raw.
“It’s gonna be okay, Apple Bloom, Mockingbird isn’t going anywhere,” Big Macintosh tried to assure. But to no avail.
“It can’t happen to us again! Not like Ma and Pa!” The poor little filly appeared so exhausted and upset that it didn’t even look like she could manage anymore words. Burying her face in the fur of Macintosh’s chest, she continued to wail and and sniffle in her own world of tragedy.
Feeling my own heart snap, I trotted even closer to the brother and sister huddling for warmth. “Oh, Apple Bloom, you poor thing! Shhh… it’s okay, sweetie, we’re going to make things right again.” It’s very natural for me to feel empathy of the innocent and act like I’ve suddenly become their mother. How can I just ignore those in despair and sorrow?
Little have I known just how much the actions of one pony could strike so many others around him. That any action could mean the world to friends. That when hatred tried to take the life of one pony, many others would wallow and mourn for him. That it seemed impossible for love to wash away this black stain in our lives.
I could tell that all others in the living room reflected the pain that Apple Bloom was forced to bare. I even noticed Spike, who remained so quiet and stoic throughout this whole evening, begin to shed tears that trailed to the floor below. He hasn’t said anything for so long, somepony should have noticed. Twilight naturally approached the little dragon and held him close as did Big Mac for his sister.
The very air of my house began to feel like a dense sensation of dread. The only sounds that could be heard was the rain of the clouds, and the rain from poor little Apple Bloom’s and Spike’s faces. And of course, my heart ached for the two.
My thoughts were cut short upon the hearing of a faint vocalization. I quickly noticed Mockingbird raising his head and humming out a small tune. His soft sound grew louder and louder as he approached Apple Bloom to gently rub her back, while I went and did the same to Spike.
When he began to sing, it was as if he didn’t even sound like his own self anymore. His bright tenor voice that I always loved hearing instead took the sound of a grave baritone. But just as he has sang before, his melodic sound and deep emotion felt like it could spread and connect with anypony in my home.
We all took on our role of a chorus as he let his song comfort Apple Bloom and Spike, the two progressively growing more and more quiet to the tune. Soon my whole home was filled with our music and voices, almost as if our differences didn’t matter to anypony anymore. No matter who suffered from this terrible plague, we were all together; together to support and hold each other through the darkest of times. I always knew that his special talent was unique, but never would I have ever guessed that it would have such powerful meaning.
His song ended with a very quiet decrescendo that left a small echo throughout the house. Apple Bloom laid peacefully asleep in Big Mac’s arms. Spike kept himself wrapped around Twilight’s foreleg with closed eyes. It seemed like we all had to sit back and process the turn of events that just occurred. Only Twilight, however, appeared to look like she just experienced a great epiphany. She focused on Mockingbird and gave a face that looked almost like begging.
Mockingbird exchanged looks between Twilight, Big Macintosh, Apple Bloom and Spike for what looked like to be a while until he finally caved in. Almost as if noticing the despair we all felt together, he gave his final answer. “I’m sorry, everypony, for the way I’ve been treating you all tonight. I’m just really upset and fighting a lot. You win, Twilight, I’ll do the trial. Not just for me, but for my friends. It won’t be fair if they have to suffer with me and my parents go free. None of you deserved any of this to happen.”
“I understand, Mockingbird,” Twilight replied. “This won’t be easy, but I think you actually now just gave me an idea. I understand that we’ve all had a pretty long night, and I should get Spike home now. So I think the best thing to do for all of us now is to get some rest. If this is going to happen, then we have to work fast, so I have a feeling we all need as much breathing and sleep as we can possibly fit in.”
Feeling a mix of relief and pride for Mockingbird, I could start to sense how much fire he was beginning to release. I could’ve guessed that the intensity of this war to come could only spark more and more from him until he went off like a firecracker. But even I knew that if I wanted to fight this with him, I couldn’t be a general or his guardian anymore; the best I could do was see myself as a private and do my best to not set him off too soon.
“Th-Thank you all so much for coming tonight, it really means so much to us all,” I said to everypony.
“Fluttershy, it was the very least we could do,” Rarity replied, getting up. “I have to remember and hug Sweetie Belle when I get home tonight.” She paused mid-step towards the door before giving one last look to my brother. “Mockingbird, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t think that anything we said to you tonight were empty words.”
“I would give anything to make you smile again,” Pinkie Pie said, still sounding like she was grieving. She slowly rose and joined Rarity at her side.
“We should get Apple Bloom home, Big Mac,” Applejack said, looking at the sleeping filly in her brother’s arms.
Macintosh looked at his youngest sister with a yearning face before tilting it up to the honest mare. “Make sure she knows that we’re all doing okay. Get her warm at home, AJ, I think I’m going to stay the night with Mockingbird.”
Mockingbird flinched and turned to his admirer. “Big Macintosh, you have your own family to get to. I’m really not sure if I want to be around ponies much longer.”
“Eenope,” the farmer objected. “After everything I just said to you, the last thing I’m gonna do is abandon you in your time of need.”
“Then you should probably take my bed, if that’s okay,” I offered. “it’s much larger and more comfortable.”
“Thank you kindly, Fluttershy,” Big Macintosh answered with a nod of his head.
Applejack took her little sister into her arms with the gentlest hug to follow. “Okay, I’ll take care of Apple Bloom. Don’t leave that boy’s sight for a second.”
“We do hope you all feel better soon,” Rarity wished to us. “If you need anypony to talk to, I’m always here.”
“Me too!” Pinkie Pie announced.
“There isn’t gonna be anymore trouble as long as I’m around,” Rainbow Dash said defiantly. “They messed with the wrong ponies and now they’ll pay.”
Applejack with Applebloom, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight—with a tranquil Spike resting on her back—all headed for the door that lead outside. The leading four mares exited into the now clear nighttime skies of Ponyville, stomping against the wet mud that splattered in all directions. Twilight stopped before the door frame and turned to me.
“Be sure that he’s mentally prepared to go, Fluttershy,” she said to me. “Spike and I are going to spend the next couple of days going through my books and devising our court plan. I hope I still have those volumes on hate crime and family law.”
“Thank you once again, Twilight,” I replied, “I’m not sure if this would be possible if not for you.”
“What else are friends for? But what I want you to do in the meantime is make sure he’s stable enough to travel, and present himself in front of an Equestrian jury. Comfort him. Get him anything he needs. Still try to show that you still love and support him. We leave for Canterlot this Friday at noon.”
“Friday at noon, got it.”
Twilight looked down with a sigh before gazing back towards the direction of her new castle. “I really do hope this all comes out for the best. You’re such a sweet mare, Fluttershy. I don’t understand why all the bad things in the world have to happen to the kindest ponies.” Before I could even think of something to say to make her feel better, Twilight was off with Spike and soaring through the skies back home.
I couldn’t even pin an emotion behind my own reflection of that evening. How I got away with attempted murder, how Mockingbird didn’t want the support of my friends, that the future might be darker than I thought. That the whole world may be darker than I thought.
Turning with my dangled head back to the inside of my home, I once again caught a glimpse of the azalea that Pinkie Pie gave me more than a week prior. Except it didn’t even look like an azalea anymore. The stem of the flower bent so low that it looked like it could snap in two. The shriveled, once red, petals had a shade of maroon and black that looked like dirty blood. The soil that once gave it life served as the flower’s isolation and grave.
My eyes teared over the beautiful flower that could have been. “I’ll get to you soon,” I kept telling it. When did soon come? When was it supposed to be? I bent down and picked up the pot between my hooves. The feeling against the cold, wet ceramic haunted me. If only I gave it what it really needed to live. If only I payed attention to it before it was too late.
I couldn’t think of anything that would have brought even a grin to my face. I became too much a stranger to positive thinking and optimism. I thought about the Equestria around me and saw nothing worth feeling happy about. The very thought of living made me sick.
Gritting my teeth and flaring my nostrils, I released small shots of heavy breaths and chucked the pot down the hill with a yell. My action was answered with a loud shatter right next to the stream near my bridge. It’s all dead now. You can’t even care for a simple flower.
All lost and cold. The beauty that never had a chance because of a naive, neglectful caretaker. What was I to do for anything or anypony anymore? This was a question that forced it’s way into my brain forever more. Before I could force myself to look at the flower any further, I turned into my cottage and slammed the door against Luna’s night.
“Now, are you sure they’ll be safe under there?” I asked the attendant as he lowered my birds into the luggage compartment.
“Nothing to worry about, Miss Fluttershy,” he answered with a grin, my birds chirping loudly as they were put in place. “We’ve had many caged animals travel with us before, and they are always safe one hundred percent.” He proceeded to close the door down, silencing the chirps under the iron.
“Okay, thank you.”
I couldn’t even believe how quickly that Friday snuck up on me. After our gathering on that Sunday, it was almost like keeping track of time didn’t matter within the walls of my cottage. I felt like I lost almost all touch with Mockingbird, not even earning a nod from him on some days. I almost forgot the sound of his voice, both speaking and singing. The fact that he agreed to walk with me to the station at all was what I considered to be a miracle. It was almost as if I was a ghost to him, but was still living. Except this haunting didn’t involve death, but something I knew that was far worse.
I tried to shake these thoughts away as I approached Twilight and the rest of my friends up the train Platform. “Twilight, I still don’t understand why I need to bring my bird choir.”
“You’ll understand everything once we get to the hotel, Fluttershy,” she said as we walked towards the rest of the group. “Spike’s getting our tickets now, make sure Mockingbird’s all ready to go before we board.”
“Ponyville to Canterlot! Departing in five minutes! All aboard!” The conductor announced, after consulting his pocket watch.
“Twilight, Fluttershy! Are sure we can’t come with you?” Pinkie Pie asked, back in her cheery tone. It looks like it really didn’t take her long to lift her spirits again.
“I said that you can come visit us anytime next week,” Twilight began to explain. “I really wish I could bring everypony along, but it already cost more than enough to get Big Macintosh and Rainbow Dash to join Fluttershy, Mockingbird, Spike and myself.”
“Well, we will certainly be making some time in our busy schedules to make the trip,” Rarity declared. “No friend of ours will be facing the justices of Canterlot solo.”
Spike came running and pushing through a moving wall of busy ponies to meet us up half-way. “I got the tickets, Twilight!” he called. “Four pony citizens, one princess, and one baby dragon all riding coach to Canterlot.”
Twilight smiled at him. “Excellent, Spike.” She took the tickets into her magic and placed them in the outer pocket of her travel satchel. “Now we just have to wait for Rainbow Dash and—”
She was interrupted with a streak of Rainbow slamming hard on the ground from the sky, pebbles shaking beneath her hooves.
“Sorry I’m late, Twilight,” Rainbow said, sounding annoyed. “Some new pegasi at the weather station really need to retake their admittance exams before handling the weather duties on their own for a week.”
“That’s okay, Rainbow,” I said, “what matters is that you’re here now.”
“Anything to serve as a reliable witness. That jury won’t even know what hit ‘em when we put your parents away!”
“I’ll be sure to go over your script with you again when we’re in Canterlot, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said bluntly, interrupting her fantasy. “Fluttershy, how about you round up Mockingbird and Big Mac; we’ll meet you on the train.”
“Ponyville to Canterlot! Departing in three minutes! All aboard!”
It was almost hard for me to make my way through the crowd without bumping into, or interrupting, anypony. But eventually, I did succeed in making it into view of Mockingbird, Big Macintosh, and the Apple family.
“Now, be sure to stay safe and really take care, Big Brother,” Applejack said to Big Mac with a hug. “I’ll take good care of the farm. Good luck with serving as testimony for Twilight. Work on that speech!”
“Eeyup,” he replied defiantly.
Granny Smith looked up at him and cupped his face into her hooves. She smiled and tried her hardest to fight back tears. “Take especially good care of this one, Big Mac. He’s so beautiful and precious. Don’t let him get away.”
“Eeyup,” he said again, but with much more love and devotion.
Mockingbird never spoke nor showed desire to speak. All he could do was lower his head so his neck became an arch, keeping eyes closed and off from the world. Big Mac replied with a small nuzzle to my brother’s cheek.
“Don’t worry, honey,” Mac said. “Your dad’s big bad club can’t get you now. We’re all going to be okay.”
“Go get ‘em, Mockingbird!” Apple Bloom cheered with as much energy she could muster. “You’re gonna knock those bullies dead!”
Applejack chuckled and rubbed the top of her little sister’s head. “I’m sure they will, Apple Bloom. But how about we let them go so they don’t miss their train, and you and your friends can start tending to all the critters staying at Fluttershy’s cottage?”
Apple Bloom nodded in agreement before the family said their final goodbyes and let Mockingbird and Big Macintosh approach the train entrance.
“Ponyville to Canterlot! One minute until departure! All Aboard!” The conductor called, giving his final warning.
On that note, Twilight, Spike, Rainbow Dash, Mockingbird, Big Macintosh, and myself flocked onto the train. We took a left down the hall to find our compartment and quickly peered out the window to see everypony in full view, one last time.
“The best of luck from all of us to you!” Applejack announced.
“Don’t forget to really dress to impress!” Rarity insisted.
“Go get ‘em, ya kids!” Granny Smith called.
“When we win this, I’m going to throw the biggest court victory party Equestria’s ever seen!” Pinkie Pie cheered.
We all simply waved and said ‘goodbye’ as the train took it’s first few nudges, then finally gained a steady enough momentum to pull out of the Ponyville train station.
Once our journey officially began, Twilight proceeded to sit us all down and take out a plain manilla folder. “Now, before we get there, there are just a few things I need to discuss with you all. The sooner we’re all up to speed with what we’re going to present the better.”
Before she could get anywhere, however, Twilight, and the rest of us, were completely thrown off-guard by a familiar voice that said, “Then it’s probably a good thing that you have me.”
Right next to us, stood the figure of a much older mare in a trench coat and travel hat, a brown suitcase by her side. However, as I could already tell from her butter yellow coat and red flaxen mane, I didn’t even have to second guess before the mare revealed her identity by lifting her face.