"So Being What We Sow When We Sew"
Written by The Descendant
Two birds died that night, and when she found them in the morning she looked for reasons why.
One was obvious…blood had splattered across the floor. Internal hemorrhages, probably incurred when it first fell to the earth. She could only hope she had made its last days happy and comfortable. The other was a mystery…apart from a broken wing that she had already split and bandaged there was nothing obviously wrong. The wound was not infected…yet, in the veins, there seemed to be blackness…
She buried them in the long trench with their kin, then set about her day. As Celestia's magic worked the sun across the morning sky she carried out her usual routine.
For the first time in years she didn't enjoy it, and in her heart Fluttershy felt doubt.
Tending the seabirds became part of her usual practice as the days sped by. Soon autumn had come and gone and with winter scheduled to begin she completed an aviary.
Here proper cages could be found, and a wood stove fed a hot-water heater that kept the small spare room a comfortable temperature.
So it was that as bare trees awaited the coming of winter she took from the featherless birds their now threadbare and disgusting blankets. She was glad to be done with them, as the constant washing was becoming a chore…Angel had long since become unwilling to help.
Seeing them all settled in and able to walk about in their new roosts Fluttershy smiled and returned, with Rarity's blanket, to her own bed. How she had wanted to sleep there! To be in her own bed or the first time in weeks…
The next morning four were dead, the first to die since that second day more than a month before.
"I…I don't…what…" began a horrified Fluttershy, running back and forth between were the still birds laid in their cages. She looked to the others…and saw them shivering. It had not been enough, the woodstove and water-heater. Her charges had frozen, here in the spare room roosts.
Within minutes a crying Fluttershy was before her living room fireplace, twenty baskets filled with the surviving birds, covered in blankets, soaking up the heat of the fire.
"I'm so sorry…I'm so sorry! I thought…that…that…" she said, sitting among the birds, rocking back and forth with Angel wrapped in her forelegs, his fur collecting her tears. The resigned rabbit, his face a twist of unhappy acceptance of his position, noted that one wing of a dead bird had slipped from the pillowcase in the distance where the occupants awaited burial. Had his mistress noted that the wing of this one bird contained a river of black?
The next morning, something was different. As Fluttershy awoke the world was still…outside snow was falling, her pegasi kin unleashing winter from where the flakes had been prepared over the course of the year.
"Well!" she said, stretching, "Angel bunny, we shall have to get your sweater out of the closet!"
A chirp was her reply.
She looked down to where Angel rested on his nearby basket to see a look of abject horror on his face, and a small seabird resting next to him. Somehow it had escaped the basket, and the blanket restraint, and after how many hours had come to the rabbit, probably seeking warmth. It saw her looking in its direction in surprise. It stood, flapped its wings uselessly, and then hopped across the hearth of the fireplace to where she had moved.
"He…Hello!" said Fluttershy, looking down to the naked bird. It chirped at her once more, and she recognized it as the vocal bird that had spoken with her the second night. Reaching out her hooves she waited and, to no ones surprise more than her own, the seabird jumped up to her awaiting embrace.
"Well…well, aren't you a…a…brave one!" She said, looking down to where it rested in her forelegs. In her mind Fluttershy leapt around, crying joyously, screaming happily. But, in her usual fashion, she was quiet, calm. She looked up to see Angel coming down the stairs, his sweater in his mouth, looking to her accusingly.
"I wonder…I wonder…just how brave?" she said, as a thought went through her mind.
She had raced through her daily schedule, even impeded as it was by the fresh snow. Gingerly, cautiously, she had measured the small bird. Taking a scrap of a quilt, one whose origin and purpose was now long forgotten, she began to sew.
As Angel and the small seabird watched on from the table she went about construction of the piece, remembering the stitches she had learned the season before, humming happily once again.
Yet, when it came time to place the newly sown garment on the little bird, her humming came to a resolute and complete stop.
"Oh my," she said, dejectedly, looking on the confused and uncomfortable form of the seabird. Its wings stood out unevenly, and the stitches made the hems of the little uniform stand at angles, giving the entire assembly the look of a seabird sandwich.
As Fluttershy looked on the buttons, almost by magic, simply dropped off. With a deep sigh she gingerly removed the overcoat from the little seabird and returned it to a basket. Gathering up the sad construct, her practice sewing kit, and her measurements she stepped out into the blinding white off the midday snow. With a few lunges she flew off into the clear sky, the cold of the day flowing around her wings, biting at her lungs as she drew deep breaths.
Before long she touched down in Ponyville, once more outside the familiar shop.
Rarity heard the soft familiar hoof-falls. She did not even need to look up from the sewing machine to know who had entered her shop.
"Hello, Fluttershy, my dear! How are you today?" she spoke as she concentrated on a corner.
"Oh…I'm a…little…I have a prob…I was wondering…if…" came the uncertain words, then a pause. "I'm…I'm not…interrupting, am I?"
Rarity looked down, saw that the embroidery had set just as she had imagined it.
She looked up to see Fluttershy standing in the noonday light that streamed in through her windows, shrinking at Rarity's gaze.
"Of course not, darling!" she said, standing and stretching. She had already burnt half the day on this piece, and some part of her begged for some company outside that of the distant Opal.
"Well, I…I had tried to…make….a…thing," said Fluttershy, retreating a little as Rarity, her glasses sliding down her nose, pondered the little coat.
"Oh dear," said Rarity, catching it up in her magic, turning it over, and over, "What…what was wrong with this…thing, as you called it?"
Fluttershy slowly described the defects of the coat, how it had been too tight, how it had fallen apart, how it had the appearance of a sandwich…
Rarity looked to Fluttershy, saw how with each passing sentence the Pegasus had become a little more depressed. With a smile Rarity collected Fluttershy and her belongings and brought her deeper into her store.
"Well, it was an…interesting…first attempt, my dear," said Rarity. With a simple spin of her magic the unicorn undid all of the blanket stitches, and Fluttershy watched her work return to its basic form of the quilt.
"Darling," continued Rarity, "The blanket stitch won't work for all things. Oh, you've brought the practice kit! Delightful! We shall have ourselves a little bit of a quilting bee, shan't we?"
Fluttershy felt Opalescence jump into her lap, and only then realized she'd been seated in front of the long worktable and sewing machine.
With that Rarity's magic surrounded Fluttershy once more, and she felt her hooves embrace the edges of the quilted surface again. "This," began Rarity, "is called a top stitch! We shall use it when we wish to make a hem from now on, shall we?"
"Oh…oh, yes!" said Fluttershy, watching as her own hooves began to make the tiny little stitches. From her hoof to her mouth and back she let the magic guide her in finding the harmony of it. A smile grew across her face each time she completed one, making it harder to collect the needle. Soon the song in her head began to guide her…and she realized that the magic had left, that she'd been doing it on her own.
"Excellent! Marvelous!" called Rarity, breaking Fluttershy's concentration. "Is it? I mean…is it really?" said Fluttershy, looking down to see Opal's smiling face looking up at her.
Rarity took the measurements and the remaining bits of quilted fabric and headed to the other side of the table. "Of course my dear!" said the unicorn, placing a small tray in front of Fluttershy. The pegasus looked down to see tidy compartments filled with buttons, some matte, some metallic, and some that seemed to shine with magic.
"Select five, my pet," said Rarity, a devilish look crossing her face. "Really…oh, okay," said Fluttershy, looking to the tray.
As she made her selection Rarity crossed back behind her, a strip of fabric in her hooves. Laying it before Fluttershy the unicorn then stood behind her. "Now, no magic this time…we shall learn to sew buttons."
Fluttershy watched as Rarity demonstrated, a new concern growing on her face. When it was her turn, she stared at the needle, the thread, the cloth, and the buttons.
"What's wrong, dear?" asked Rarity, her certainty falling away.
"It…it seems a lot harder…I don't…think…" began Fluttershy. At once though she felt Rarity's hooves surrounding her, saw them gather up the bits by hoof, no magic, and deposit them in hers.
"Well, of course it's hard, darling! Nothing worth the trouble of doing is easy!" said the unicorn, taking Fluttershy's hooves in her own.
The needle slid from behind, up through the button, and with small certain loops Rarity helped the pegasus complete the button.
Moving her hooves to the back of the chair, Rarity looked on as Fluttershy began the next button. A worried looked sped across her face as Fluttershy drew to a halt, the needle waiting behind the fabric.
"What…what if I get poked…when it comes through?" said Fluttershy, her voice returning to the usual tremble, remembering the difficulty she'd had with the buttons before.
"Well," spoke Rarity with a sigh, "You'll say 'ouch'…and then carry on."
Fluttershy looked to the button. Closing her eyes she gave a push…and the needle went straight into the hoof holding the button to the cloth.
Fluttershy yelped, pulling back from the fabric. The button sailed to the floor, the alert Opal racing after it.
Fluttershy looked to her hoof. One tiny dot of blood welled up. As she put it in her mouth she turned to look at Rarity, half expecting to see disappointment.
Instead, there was an understanding smile. "…and then carry on," repeated the unicorn.
Fluttershy looked down to see Opal had returned, the button in her mouth. Taking it she placed it back on the fabric and then, with a resolute look, she pushed the needle forward again. "…and then carry on," she said to herself as she waited. The point of the needle emerged through one of the holes of the button, and she smiled.
The two ponies sat and chatted as Fluttershy practiced and Rarity set about reconstructing the coat. As they did so Celestia's magic worked the sun across Equestria, and the shafts of light coming through the shop windows fell down quickly.
As Fluttershy sewed the buttons onto the coat Rarity looked up and noticed how quickly the winter sun had set, how in homage to the nature around her domain Celestia had made the daylight shorter, had given it over to Luna earlier.
"I…I…can't thank you enough…", said Fluttershy packing away the tidy little coat.
"If you'll be making more, darling, I'd suggest using some quilted tack prêt-à-porter…it should take forever to make a new quilt just for these…"
"I'm…I'm sorry…what?" said Fluttershy, flustered, moving to the door, tripping a bit over Opal as the cat rubbed against her legs, "What…what is…?"
"Oh, dear," said Rarity with a laugh, "It means 'off the rack', or pre-made."
"Oh…I…I see, that…that would be a lot quicker, and I have many to make…" began the Pegasus pony, looking the little coat over and over.
"What, may I ask, is it f…" began Rarity, opening the door. Her question was interrupted as Fluttershy rested her head against hers, moving it from her crest to her withers and back. Rarity returned the hug, and with that Fluttershy took off into the darkened sky of a winter afternoon, racing the last beams of light to her little cottage.
Rarity returned to her workbench and, with a long stretch, returned the ceremonial robe to the forefront of her attention. She had once again spent precious time on the small concern of her friend, and now a long night awaited her, this important order taking her deep into the next morning to complete to the level of professionalism she expected of herself.
"You know Opal," said Rarity, speaking to the cat that sat at the far end of the table, regarding her casually, "I don't mind helping…but should like at least to have known what I had just made!"
With a laugh Rarity's magic spread across the table, her sewing machine, the robe, and the light of it spilled out into the dark streets of Ponyville.
In her little cottage at the edge of the deep and darkened woods Fluttershy slid the little coat over the small seabird. The fit was essentially perfect, the diamond shaped extensions Rarity had added beneath the sleeves allowed the little bird to move its denuded wings naturally. It chirped happily, bouncing about her living room from basket to basket on its webbed feet, its associates looking on.
She would have to make the little coats for all the birds. They would begin to get sores and their muscles would atrophy if they could not move about. As she looked to the other birds she was also very happy that cleaning up after them would become easier, as the coats would not collect detritus as the blankets had.
She looked to the seabirds. Of the twenty survivors some still seemed weak and she was worried about them, but more than half seemed stronger. About half still regarded her as a threat, squawking and clacking at her whenever she approached, and she sighed at this.
Of the half that remained, five were essentially indifferent…and five, including the littlest bird that hopped freely, and the biggest, both his wings broken…liked her.
She smiled to herself, knew what she was doing. She was equestropomorphizing, giving these wild birds the characteristics of ponies. They could not love, like…feel. They were wild birds, driven by instinct alone. These were merely the ones who saw her has a provider of food and safety…
…but it still felt good. It felt so good…good to be useful, capable.
Grabbing up the little seabird she flew to the door, Angel racing her, and up into the night sky. There in the cold and beneath the stars of a cloudless sky she wheeled and dipped, let the little creature feel once more at home in the world which had been robbed from it…she let it feel the wind.
As it beat its wings she smiled, felt the fabric of the coat next to her body, and believed she was indeed able…able to carry on.