"So Being What We Sow When We Sew"
Written by The Descendant
In all fairness, it was a hard winter for Fluttershy.
In most winters, with all of her little charges either asleep beneath the earth or having flown south her largest responsibility at this time was usually looking after the injured or dependant animals that remained in her care, re-supplying for the next season, and filling out her paperwork for the Royal Wildlife Service.
But, with the birds present, it suddenly became more of a challenge. It became better once all of the coats had been made. Some had fought her, some had been more willing…but none of the coats had been easy to make.
Adjusting the steam heat of the aviary allowed the birds, finally, to be free of the baskets and blankets. Able to walk about the cages the seabirds soon began to rebound. Their morale improved, they became more vocal, they began eating more, and most importantly they began to heal faster.
Mortality dropped. Over that winter one bird alone died. This though was a shock, as it happened almost suddenly, without warning. That morning the bird had been chirping and eating. By the time the dark descended it was stone dead.
"Oh, Angel…I…I don't know…what…" she said, laying the prostrate form out on a towel before the fireplace. In its wings and skin dark channels could be seen, and Fluttershy was at once hurt, confused, and scared.
Together the three of them had gone out into the dark to the root cellar. Angel, using the talents given to his kind, cleared the snow from before the door and pulled it open. As the little seabird sat on Angel's head, the rabbit wrinkling his nose in acceptance of its presence, Fluttershy hid the body, wrapped in a blanket, in a cold corner. There it waited until the spring would thaw the ground.
It was at times like these that Fluttershy looked forward to visiting with Rarity. As the winter ground on Rarity also found herself happy at the presence of the pegasus. They would talk about many things, but mostly sewing, Fluttershy taking an increasing interest as her talents grew.
Terms began to float around, and slowly she learned them. Middy collar, facing, selvedge, toile, piping, gusset, backstitching, darning, and even all of the secrets of embroidery…these and more were laid out before her as she watched Rarity filling her few winter orders.
"...and you should know, darling," Rarity would say, launching into a new tale of how she learned this or that, how she had come to be the consummate professional that she was.
And Fluttershy, in all things earnest and compassionate, listened.
It was therapy for both of them. It let Fluttershy put aside the toil of the birds and allowed Rarity to be around somepony instead of locked here in her shop with only Opal. At times though they spoke not at all, and as the few shafts of light fell through the windows they simply enjoyed being there in the little shop together…just themselves, the cat, and the buttons and scraps and the sounds of scissors and a sewing machine as the winter wind scrambled up the walls.
It was on one miserable wet, muddy day in the late winter, as she made her way to Rarity's, that Fluttershy saw the perytons.
They were a race from beyond Equestria's northwestern borders, one of the hundreds of other races that were making themselves known to the ponies as time went on. These though were not a horde, not like the ones whom had drawn most of the stallions off to The Wars. These instead were a civilized people, one with whom Equestria enjoyed a steady, if distant, peace.
She had met them before, at least a few, and in most circumstances the winged reindeer were magnificent to behold, decorated in the manner of their race, bright garments, drapes, and bells.
But as these stood in a group beneath the canopy of the hotel one berated his fellows in an argumentative tone. As Fluttershy peaked from around the corner a huge stag looked down to where his robes lay in the mud, torn, his retainers scrambling to pick up his belongings from where they had fallen from the cart.
"Jumalani! Luuletko minun tavata heidän prinsessoja että? Minne löydän puku ajoissa, et idiootit?" he raged in their tongue.
Something moved inside Fluttershy. She knew what was going on, could see clearly what the huge peryton was upset about, could see from his grace and bearing that he was a high official, perhaps royalty.
Fluttershy's instincts were to simply fly away. Her old malady, the one that she had been named for, filled her. But as she thought of Rarity's empty shop, her course of action became clear.
"Ex…exc…excu…cuusse me, sir. I…" she began, approaching him. As his majestic head turned to face her she let out a little yelp, and shied away. At once his expression mellowed, and he turned to an officious looking younger peryton next to him and spoke. "Lars, mitä tämä sievä toivoa?""
"Miss," began the smaller peryton, "Is there something which you wish to be speaking of?"
"Oh, I…yes, it's…well, I…saw…his…robe is ruined, and…I know," she closed her eyes, concentrated on Rarity, and knew to carry on, "I have a good friend…one who is…excellent with clothes and uniforms and suits. May…maybe she could…help…"
The smaller peryton bowed to the larger, and spoke. The larger one nodded, and the smaller one bowed to Fluttershy.
"Miss, yes, you will lead us on to such a place?"
"Of...of course…ye…yes!" she stammered, partly from the painful shyness that filled her, but also from joy…the joy of being able to help Rarity.
With that Fluttershy, the smaller peryton at her side and the larger behind with two guards, stepped off and took to the air. The group flew the short distance to Rarity's, the bells in the antlers of the winged reindeer tinkling through the sleeting drizzle.
The peryton stood in Rarity's shop, the moisture of the day evaporating off of him as visible waves of vapor. As Rarity offered tea and cakes Fluttershy returned with a book about the peryton peoples from Twilight's library.
With an ignition of her magic Rarity swept along through the book, the measurements, and the design. Fluttershy looked on in demure amusement as the perytons watched Rarity go about her work, the bewildered expressions of a people whom knew little of magic painted on their faces.
Rarity, being Rarity, soon was talking with the vast stag as the smaller one translated. It seemed that they were here in Ponyville hoping to have an audience with the Sister Sovereigns, and were awaiting their herald. Trade, and perhaps more, drew them into this unusual land where nature was still and colorful ponies ruled in a something not unlike a dream. As Fluttershy listened from the nearby couch, comforting Opal, she heard the sounds of laughter from the large male, and knew that this was as good as a sale.
Within two hours the large peryton stood before Rarity's mirrors, looking over his new suit. It was magnificent, a blend of themes found in the book, yet somehow contemporary, yet overwhelming complimentary of his own frame and stance. He bobbed his head happily, and the bells rang.
At once he turned for the door and made to leave, and Rarity felt her heart sink…how does one demand payment from a visiting noble?
Before he reached the door though he lowered his head and spoke to the smaller one.
"His Righteousness must ask the opinions of the does, yes? Girls, the does. He will return shortly, is promised."
With that Fluttershy and Rarity were left staring at the door. Long moments passed, and the sun began to fade. "Oh, Rarity…I'm…I'm so sorry! I…" began Fluttershy when it seemed hope was lost. Rarity lifted her head, forcing a smile. Before she could answer the door to the shop flew open.
There before them stood the huge peryton, two does drapping themselves on him in a fashion that made Fluttershy, Rarity, and Opal blush. The vast peryton, his face covered in kisses, nodded approvingly. "Is good…is quite good…" he said in broken Equestrian.
With that he nodded to his guards, and three small sacks of gold pieces fell to the floor. Before Rarity could even begin to thank him the entire peryton assembly had vacated her shop and was winging its way into the cold sky.
Rarity stared at the sacks. They heaved with gold, at least five times what she would have asked for the suit. She stared at them, up to Fluttershy, then back to the sacks. Turning once more to Fluttershy, her mouth hanging open, Rarity looked at her blushing friend aghast.
"Oh, Rarity…I'm so happy for you! I'm…" began Fluttershy, but before she could continue Rarity had already scooped her up in a tight hug. Together they went spinning across the shop floor, laughing in the fading light.
That was the night, as she cleaned up her shop, that Rarity knew that she would have to find some excuse, any excuse, to make a dress for Fluttershy.
The winter had to be ending. It simply had to. Winter Wrap-Up had been scheduled. The larder was low. The sun placed higher in the sky by Celestia each day.
It had to be ending. Fluttershy needed it to end.
As she had gone to wash one of the birds she noted something unusual, an unfamiliar texture. "Oh!" she had exclaimed, "What…what could…" she said to herself, rubbing the wing of the bird, the big one that had broken both wings.
At once it occurred to her, and she let out a whoop that shocked even Angel.
"Angel! Angel come see!" she said, flying around the inside of her cottage, gathering up the bunny before he even had the time to protest.
She plopped him down next to the basin where she had been washing the bird. Pulling aside the bandages she ran her hooves over the surface. "Look…look, Angel! They're coming back! The…the feathers are…coming back!"
Angel could see quite clearly where the tips of feathers could be seen extending outward from beneath the skin of the bird. Caring little however, he hopped away. He listened as she went on happily, complimenting the big bird on his pending recovery.
He listened as she collected the smaller bird, pulled aside its quilted coat, and let out another whoop of joy as it too showed signs of the return of its feathers.
He listened as she spoke to him, but mostly to herself: "And soon we'll have to do away with the coats…can't have the coats ruffling the feathers, can we? Oh, no…my little friends! But…but if you can't wear coats, then we can't have snow…or cold."
It was suddenly silent, and Angel looked back to see the worried expression on her face. Had they come this far just to have them freeze to death, just as their feathers were returning?
Angel was jolted from this contemplation by a single plaintive cackle. He turned his head just as one of the birds, somehow free of its cage, splattered itself across the floor in front of him. The rabbit reeled in horror as great thick black veins pulsated across its body.
Angel's movement caught Fluttershy's attention, and as she too looked to the disfigured bird it spewed forth ribbons of green and blue that wafted through the air before evaporating.
"Oh, no…no!" screamed Fluttershy racing to it, grasping it up and taking flight straight out the door. Finally, finally she understood what had killed the other birds…and she hated herself for not seeing it sooner.
She raced, darted across the blue sky, the tiny heaving form of the bird in her forelegs. She streaked into Ponyville, blasted down the streets in a manner that was more reminiscent of Rainbow Dash's style.
She barreled through the door of the library, crying, "Twilight! Help!" as she did so. "Help!" she called again, darting about, looking for someplace to rest the bird as Twilight and Spike sped down the stairs.
"Oh shoot!" said Spike, looking upon the wobbling form of the bird as Fluttershy placed it on the table.
"It's magic! Is it? It…is magic! Right?" said Fluttershy, her eyes going back and forth between the bird and Twilight, the unicorn instantly igniting her horn, using it to contemplate the bird.
With a flash of insight Twilight pelted off to the kitchen. "It is, definitely. It's magica vasto…waste magic. The remains of spells and incantations." She called as she searched out a small box. Flinging the contents into a silver tea strainer with her magic she brought out a teapot.
"It must have gotten a huge dose of it, somehow. It's usually harmless. It can't hurt you unless you ingest it in massive quantities…" she said, fighting to help the water boil in the kettle, adding degrees to the flames with her magic.
"Like from dragon smoke…" said Fluttershy from the distant main room, her voice becoming quieter, stiller.
"Right," added Twilight Sparkle, dabbing the tea strainer through the water, adding it to the teapot. "And then it can't hurt you unless it encounters other parts of its origin spell…like putting an arrow in the…bow…oh…oh, no…"
As Twilight had returned to the living room she found Spike wrapped around Fluttershy's foreleg, his eyes watering, Fluttershy's eyes a portrait of loss, and the small form of the bird. Its eyes were wide to the ceiling and the sky beyond…to the blue skies to which it would now never return.
Fluttershy shrank to the floor, her knees giving out beneath her. Spike embraced her around her neck, and Twilight too came around, slipped down, and let Fluttershy rest her head on her flank.
She'd had months to figure I out. She should have realized it right away. But she hadn't…and four little graves were the result.
After long moments Fluttershy stood, Twilight and Spike falling away as she did. Fluttershy looked to the bird, where it lay before her on the table. The magic had faded, and only a trace of the blackness remained. It looked…ready…like it was ready to fly off, a lack of feathers a mere complication.
"We'll take care of…of the remains, okay?" said Twilight, looking to Fluttershy.
"Do you have any more of the tea?" asked Fluttershy, her voice cracking only slightly.
"Yes…yes, of course. Here, take the whole box. I'll get more from Zecora. Careful, it's a purgative. Is...is it for you, Fluttershy? Are…are you okay?"
Silence reigned; appropriate enough for a library, but at this moment there was nothing less that Twilight and Spike wanted. They wanted to know she was okay.
Fluttershy felt a small hand rub her leg. She looked down to Spike, saw him looking up to her, his own eyes watering…beginning to cry because he knew her to be sad…broken, hurting.
"Are, are you okay?" said the baby dragon, blinking away the tears.
Fluttershy forced a smile, looked to the dragon and the unicorn, and spoke.
"Sometimes, Spike, Twilight, we…we just have…have to say 'Ouch'…and then carry on."
Within minutes she was at the Carousel Boutique, sobbing. Rarity held her, once again lending her comfort, not asking why, just…being there.
That day had been one of tremendous ups and downs. It had began with the joy of seeing the promise of the feathers, dropped into the deep sadness of the death of the bird, and ended with the hilarity of eighteen birds puking up magic spells.
That night Fluttershy slept in her own bed. Rarity's blanket, now as familiar and welcome as any she had ever owned, was draped across her. Winter had to end. It simply had to…she didn't have the strength to do this any more.
Winter of course, ended. It ended exactly when scheduled to end, with the annual Winter Wrap-Up. This time it was happily guided to completion, after some difficulty, by Twilight.
As her animal and bird friends returned the pegasus rejoiced in them, and as Celestia's magic lifted the sun higher each day she felt it filling her, giving her strength.
It looked to be a happy time, this new spring. As she stared at the ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala where it levitated above the heart-box upon her vanity she imagined that she could already hear the buzzards buzzing.
Her animal friends were of course happy to see her, and she greeted them all as they came up to the cottage, or as they came to the stream. "Hello!" she would say, or "How are you? Is your family well?"
As she checked on the birds, each now looking a bit bedraggled as their new feathers arrived, she smiled and soon was off to Ponyville.
Within a few hours she would be standing…shrinking, before Rarity, and the happiness of these times would come to a sudden and resolute end.
"Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me!" brayed Rarity, backing Fluttershy into the pillar. The pegasus clamped her wings down around her, fear rising up through her.
It should have gone so much better. The dress had been nice, it had been quite nice. It was…well, nice. How else to put it? Perhaps, just perhaps…there were a few things she would have differently. That, maybe, she thought, could have been a bit different…that she herself, would have…no, could have done! With her newfound knowledge, taught to her over the winter, now mercifully passed, by the very unicorn that was now before her. Why was she terrifying her so…
…this one who was supposed to be her friend?
Rarity steamed, fumed. Why was Fluttershy being so…obstinate? Had it not been Fluttershy in whom she had confided all winter long? Had it not been Fluttershy whom had delivered her from her loneliness, and perhaps from destitution? Was she not happy with this gift? Had not Rarity poured herself into its construction, as she had the others? Had she not thrown her hooves wide when she entered, glad to see her? Why was she being this way…
…this one who was supposed to be her friend?
Inside Fluttershy something stirred, and she felt all that she had bottled up within her, the long struggles in the cold and dark and the losses at tending the birds…they bubbled forth in a cascade.
"All right, if you really want to know," she began, taking a long breath, the painful shyness fading. She found the words, the words Rarity herself had taught her…and gave them all back.
"The arm's a size tight, the middy collar doesn't go with the shawl lapel, the hems are clearly machine-stitched, the pleats are uneven," she said, straightening herself before Rarity, looking over the dress with a critical eye, "the fabric looks like toile, you used a backstitch here when it clearly called for a topstitch , or maybe a traditional blanket stitch, and the over-design is reminiscent of prêt-à-porter and not true French haute couture…"
With a toss of her head Fluttershy looked to Rarity, saw the expression painted on the face of the unicorn.
"But…uh," she said, feeling something dragging her down into the old uncertainty, "you know…whatever you want to do is fine…"
Rarity however was beyond help. What had just happened? Had her friend just disassembled the dress, just as easily as she had deconstructed the…thing…she had brought her months before?
Fluttershy looked up to Rarity, her head bowed in her demure expression. Rarity looked on, her mouth open in shock. As the spring day wore on outside something between the two faded and dripped away just as certainly as if it were the snows of the dead winter dripping away to the lakes and streams.