You show her your garden, where you grow pinwheels and goofy pickles and flowers that never shut up because what else would you do if you had two lips? She oohs and aahs over them, and is properly appreciative of your Thinking Tree, and she thinks the Skalboggen is adorable. During the tea party, you make the tea sandwiches into butterflies that flit around the room, and when it's time for sandwiches you give Fluttershy a butterfly net and she chases after the sandwiches, managing to catch your head instead. When the ginseng bags go in the teapot, the teapot whistles a jaunty tune, and the tea itself hums when poured in a cup.

Everything is wonderfully silly and Fluttershy spends nearly the entire time laughing and giggling, when she isn't stuffing her face, which makes you laugh because she's obviously decided that filling her mouth with sandwiches like a chipmunk continues to be an entertaining thing to do, and you can't believe you thought she would want you to be different. You know Fluttershy. You know what she likes in her personal life, yes, but you also know she likes you. Except you can't believe it. She shows it to you time and time again and you still can't believe it. You just nearly destroyed yourself because you can't believe it. But you don't want to think about that, not while she's here, not while the fun is going on.

When it's time for her to go, she says, "I had a lovely time, Discord. Your house is wonderful."

"Thank you," you say.

"But..." She hesitates. "I'm worried about you, okay? You – you could have been badly hurt, today." She means dead. Fading out of existence hadn't been painful at all. "I don't like the thought of losing you, and I especially don't like the thought of losing you because you're afraid of losing me. You know you can come to me if you're worried about something, right?"

You take a deep breath. "I know," you say. "But, Fluttershy... if what I'm worried about is that you won't like me if you know something about me, how could I possibly come to you with that? Because if I'd been right, and I tell you the thing that I think means you won't like me, then you won't like me, and..."

"I've seen you do some terrible things, though. And I still like you."

You sigh. "But what if?"

"I guess that is a problem," Fluttershy says. "I don't suppose... if I told you you could go to one of our other friends, you wouldn't believe me, would you?"

"If it's something that makes me think you wouldn't be friends with me anymore, then there's a chance it would make them not be friends with me, wouldn't it?"

"You could have gone to Twilight with this problem, though. She's been to your house before; she knows what it's like. That's how I knew there were supposed to be stairs to nowhere. And Constant told me about the singing ginseng—"


"She runs the tea shop. You met her. Constant Comment? She said it was sweet how much you seemed to care about me."

"She's the one who asked me if I was really friends with you!" You are indignant.

"Um, yes, I'm sorry she did that... she kind of, uh, has no filter? She just says things that come into her head even if they're rude, but she doesn't mean to be rude, she's just kind of inconsiderate. She's not just named after a kind of tea." Fluttershy sighs. "I'm going to have to have a word with her, because what she said to you was really hurtful, and I'm sure she has no idea how much damage she almost did." She brightens. "But the part about knowing that you don't like gravity, I didn't have any hints about that," she almost-brags. "That's just me knowing you."

"You do know me quite well," you admit happily.

"But anyway? You could have asked Twilight, because she knows how chaotic your house is normally, and she's the Princess of Friendship. Or you could have talked to Pinkie. She's pretty chaotic and pretty different from, um, nearly every pony ever, except for Cheese Sandwich, but she has lots of friends and they all know what she's like."

"I suppose so, but it just seemed obvious." You summon Specs just so you can glare at him. "And I got some bad advice."

"Hey, don't look at me, pal. I'm you. You're the one who made me to worry more about friendship and less about chaos, and if you're insecure, then I'm insecure."

"Your advice almost got me—" You can't bring yourself to say "killed" in front of Fluttershy, to make it real in words what nearly happened. "—in a lot of trouble!"

"You're the one who decided to take it. I trusted you to be able to stay true to yourself no matter what I told you; didn't that used to be the most important thing to you? It's not my job to make sure there's enough chaos in our lives, it's yours."

"Please don't fight," Fluttershy says. "Discord, it's obvious that, uh, Glasses Discord—"

"We call him Specs for short," you say.

"I hate that name," Specs grouses, even though he usually doesn't.

"What would you prefer to be called?" Fluttershy asks.

"Oh, I hadn't even thought about it." Specs is plainly discombobulated by being treated by Fluttershy as a separate person, not just another copy of you. "Maybe Steve." You roll your eyes. Seriously? Steve?

"Okay, then," Fluttershy says. "It's obvious that Steve's advice was well-intentioned. But if you make extra yous to bounce your ideas off of... that's still you. They don't know anything you don't, they feel what you feel, and they don't have any perspective you don't have."

"But I made him to focus on friendship mattering," you say. "So that I wouldn't... you know. Things like what I did at the Gala to Tree Hugger that one time. Or, uh... Tirek." You slump. "I needed there to be someone who was me but who wouldn't do things just because they cause chaos. Someone who'll always remember that I should care more about my friends than about my chaos. Because that is what I think I should feel, but sometimes... I get carried away. You know."

"I do," Fluttershy says warmly. "And I'm sure having someone like that to advise you would be great in a lot of circumstances. But, Discord... a friend who wants you to completely become the opposite of who you are isn't a good friend. You have to balance your need for friendship with the need to be, well, you. I never thought I would have to tell you that because I always thought you were so confident in being you. I had no idea you felt this way."

"Well, normally I am confident. It's just... the tea shop pony... Constant Annoyance or whatever her name is... and the teapot store pony too! She thought it was weird that we were friends too!"

"Raspberry and Constant are both new in town... they don't know you that well, and they don't know me that well. I only know them because, well, I buy a lot of tea. But does it really make sense to listen to what total strangers have to say about our friendship, when they don't know either of us? All the rest of our friends understand."

"They didn't. For a long time. I'm still not sure Rainbow or Rarity do."

"Princess Celestia asked me to make friends with you, and she's thousands of years old and knows practically everything. Surely her opinion that we would make good friends is more important than Raspberry Vinaigrette's or Constant Comment!"

Princess Celestia said no such thing; she told Fluttershy to reform you. Fluttershy was the one who came up with the idea of doing it with friendship. You don't point that out. "I suppose... maybe I should have consulted Twilight. Pinkie wasn't actually any help. She told me to make you comfortable. I couldn't imagine you being comfortable here!"

"Discord, I'm comfortable with you because you're my friend. Pinkie was really just telling you to be yourself. But I admit what she said sounded a little vague, so probably you should have asked Twilight because she would have given you a lot more details and then maybe you wouldn't have misunderstood." She gives you a hug. "I've got to get back home, but please don't be too mad at Steve. His advice wasn't very good, but that's because most of the time, when you're worried about a friendship problem, the problem is you think too much chaos is a good idea. Steve can't possibly help you with a problem where you think that maybe all of your chaos is a bad idea. He's just going to tell you you're right, because he's the part of you that's insecure about what your chaos can do to your friends. And it's a good idea to have him around and bounce ideas off of him, but I think maybe you should look at an outside perspective too, the next time this happens? Talk to Twilight. She'll help you."

"His name isn't Steve," you say, disgruntled.

"Well, if he wants to be called Steve, then that's my name for him," Fluttershy says emphatically. "Anyway, please send me back home, and I'll see you next Tuesday?"

"I wouldn't dream of missing it."

"Maybe you could come by sooner than that and we could have a picnic or go somewhere," Fluttershy says. "I do worry about you."

"Oh, I'm right as rain now, Fluttershy. Don't worry about me. But if you absolutely insist we go on an outing together, who am I to say no? I'll drop by sometime before Tuesday. Unexpectedly."

She laughs. "There you go. That's my real Discord." She lets go of you and flits back out of your personal space. You miss her already. She waves. "Good night, Discord!"

"Good night," you and Specs both say, and you snap to send her home.

You turn to Specs. "Steve?"

"She's right, you know." Specs' head is hanging dejectedly. "I never imagined that focusing on her rather than on chaos might kill us."

"Well, I'm glad you admit your advice was a terrible, awful idea, but it all worked out in the end so all's forgiven. Mostly."

"Don't sweep this under the rug," Specs snaps, catching you out in the act of sweeping air under a floating rug. "What was all that business about 'oh, it's okay to peacefully fade out of existence because life is terrible and no one loves chaos' and all that?"

"I don't know," you snap. "Probably a perfectly normal side effect of being about to die from lack of energy. What, would you have preferred that I recite poetry? 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light!'"

"Yes," Specs snaps back, "because I don't want to die!" He snaps a paw, and another you appears, dressed all in black with the thick black mane of your youth as an unruly mop on his head.

"Life is pain," Emo Discord intones. "Oh, how hard it is to be a chaotic draconequus in a world that appreciates only harmony!" He starts using a nail file to try to cut the back of his paw, futilely.

Angrily you snap him out of existence. "Stop it."

"You stop it! You can't deny it anymore. That guy is in us and if you don't take measures to contain him, sooner or later someone's going to cast a spell of despair on you and it's actually going to get through."

"I fought off Apep on the moon. Don't talk to me about giving in to despair."

"I am going to talk to you about it because I don't want to die and you're an idiot who likes to hide from his problems until they turn him to stone, or worse. You need help. Someone who isn't Fluttershy or me, to talk to."

"Is this more 'Oh, I should go to Princess Twilight?'" you sneer.

"Are you kidding? I know why you don't want to go to Twilight with your problems, and I agree! She'll never look up to us or respect us if we come whining to her with a friendship problem! I'm thinking Cadance."

You blink. "Cadance is the Princess of Love. Why am I going to her with a friendship problem?"

Specs facepalms. "Please tell me you're not really this stupid."

"No. Seriously. Why Cadance?"

Specs sighs deeply. "Since I need to spell it out for you? You betrayed our oldest, most sacred principle because I told you to, and I told you to so we wouldn't lose Fluttershy, even though now that everything's happened, in retrospect I can see that we were total idiots to think we might lose Fluttershy as a friend or that we had to go all the way overboard into psychotic order to keep her. Ponies don't, generally, practically die to keep a friend unless there's something else involved."

"Really? So Starlight Glimmer engaging in a lifelong crusade against cutie marks doesn't count?"

Specs snorts. "Bad example. You've seen how she looks at her pal in the Crystal Empire, the foalsitter for Cadance's mutant alicorn filly."

"Okay, then, what about that friend of Twilight's in Canterlot who went crazy because Twilight wouldn't go to her party?"

"The jury's out on that one. I kinda think she might be a bad example, too, but I just don't care enough to investigate. Now if Twilight was interested back, that might change matters, but otherwise... pony has crush on Twilight, news at eleven. Ho hum." Specs pokes you in the chest. "Face it, you've got it bad."

This time you're the one who sighs. "What does it matter? Fluttershy's not interested in being that kind of friend."

"How do you know? You never asked her."

Now you're the one to give Specs a condescending look. He wilts. "Right." Then he perks up. "But she hugs you spontaneously, and that's more than you get from most of them, so there's a chance! You should talk to Cadance."

"If I agree to talk to Cadance, will you shut up about it?"

"Not unless you also talk to Cadance about... that other thing. Not like she would be able to help with it, most likely, but... maybe she can help you find help."

"That other thing?" You know perfectly well what he's talking about, but you hate thinking about it.

Specs is suddenly sporting Emo Discord's hair. "Oh, how beautiful it is to fade away into the darkness," he says, head back and arms akimbo as if he's soliloquizing, his gruff and scratchy variant of your voice distorted by his parody of a bad actor in a Spear Shaker play.

"Look, you were there. I was running out of energy."

"But you didn't fight!" Specs is in your face. "As soon as you saw Fluttershy do something that was funny enough that you wanted to participate, you did fight it. So you could have all along! But no, it's 'ah, how sweet it is to drift away to nonexistence on the tides of Fluttershy's concern for me'—"

"So what do you expect me to do?" you asked harshly. You're lying on a couch, with Specs in a high-backed chair wearing a lab coat and holding a notebook. "Go to therapy?"

"I don't know! But we need to do something!" Specs stands up and paces frantically in mid-air, his tail swishing. "We've fought so many entities that have tried to make us give in to despair, and we've never lost a battle before. But Fluttershy – Fluttershy makes us feel things we've been able to pretend for centuries that we don't feel, or we don't need to feel, and now we have a hole in our defenses that could kill us! Are you getting this? You almost gave up and died because it was too much work to fight for your life! When Fluttershy said to your face that you were destroying yourself and you needed to stop, you said 'How interesting' and then pulled some crap off a conversation card! You knew being orderly was killing us and you didn't care! You doubled down on it! When it started hurting you just turned off the pain and then you didn't even notice you were dying!"

"Yes, probably I shouldn't do that again."

"You shouldn't do any of it again!" Specs is frantic. You made him to be an embodiment of your rationality so it's a little odd to see him panicking like this. "We have to do something! We have a self-destructive killer inside us!"

"We always did," you say somberly.

This brings Specs up short. "Come again?"

"You don't remember dying," you say, "because I didn't give you access to that. But every time I die, I'm tempted to stay there. Or back when I unruled Equestria. I had everything I could possibly want – chaos, everywhere. Me, in charge of anything I'd decided I was in charge of that day, and then I could just hand it off to whoever wanted to be in charge of it when I was sick of it. It should have been perfect." You sit down heavily in a floating chair. "But every so often I'd go to worlds where my powers didn't even work, because the only way I could distract myself from how empty I felt was to risk my life, and it's hard to risk danger when you're omnipotent."

"How come I don't remember any of that?" Specs asks with just a touch of belligerence.

"Because you didn't need to," you tell him. "Believe me, I'm doing you a favor. I hate remembering those things. But, if you must know the completely honest truth... that overly dramatic fellow who wishes he could just painlessly fade away and die? He's always been there. Well, for a very, very, very long time, anyway. He was there all of those times in the past when I successfully fought off despair attacks, and I still won."

"But today you almost lost."

"I did. Yes." You put your chin in your paw. "Do you know why?"

"No, why?"

"I'm asking you. I certainly have no idea."

"Well, why would I know it if you don't know it?"

"I don't know!"

"Well, you need to find out!" Specs mimics your chin in paw gesture, stroking his goatee, as he realizes something. "Wait. I mean you need to find out why you almost lost, not why I would know something you don't know."

"I know that." You sigh. "So what have we learned today?"

Specs takes out a clipboard. "Let's write this down so you don't forget." He arches an eyebrow at you. "Well?"

"Oh, you expect me to answer? I was asking you."

"You're the boss. You're the one who needs to remember."

You sigh again. "Fluttershy cares about us even though she knows perfectly well how chaotic we are."

"Good, that's good." He writes it down. "Anything else?"

"Chaos avatars can die if they expend too much magic trying to make things orderly. At least, in Chaosville. That might not happen if we did it in Equestria."

Specs shudders. "Please don't test it."

"Wasn't planning on it. Um. Singing ginseng is very tasty and really boosts your energy."

"Okay, I don't think that's as important as the other things you haven't mentioned yet, but fine, I'll write it down." He scribbles. He's not actually writing anything down, because you'd have a hard time reading it anyway. "What else?"

"When the levels of chaos get so low that my energy drops to nothing..." You swallow. "I don't have anything left to fight the part of me that wants to be dead."

"Right. So never get in that situation again. Anything else?"

You shrug. "That seems to me to be all the important stuff."

Specs raises both eyebrows. "Well, I think you're leaving out at least two things. Firstly, remember at all times: who cares what ponies think? Unless they're Fluttershy, her friends, or ponies who are your friends."

"Seems fair." You shake your head. "I can't believe I forgot that."

"The other thing is that neither of us have any idea what to do about the little draconequus inside that wants us all dead, so you need to ask someone. Maybe Fluttershy! That seems like the kind of problem she could help us with."

Shaking your head, you say, "I don't want to worry her. Did you see how upset she got when we were fading out?"

"Couldn't miss it. Ugh! I'll have nightmares for months."

"Technically I'm the one who's going to have the nightmares," you say dejectedly, because Specs isn't enough of a separate entity to have his own dreams.

"If we can't go to Fluttershy with the problem... we still need to find somepony we can talk to. Don't try to stick this out with just you, me and the guys! We've already established this is beyond all of us!"

"I'm really not sure I need help with it, per se. Maybe I just need to know it's there and compensate for it – Ow!" Specs has hit you in the snout with a rolled-up newspaper.

"No! Bad Discord! We need help or you're going to get us all killed!" Specs sighs. "I know how much you don't want to go to anyone else with your problems. I don't either! But I don't want to fade out of existence, either!"

"Well, neither do I!"

"Good! Then do something!"

Specs demanifests himself, leaving you alone with your thoughts, which right now is a bad place to be. You still haven't slept since the night before last, and you probably should go to bed – after the stress of the day you've had, you're definitely very tired. But you don't want to stop the chaos and stop moving and open yourself up to dreams, or to the silence and stillness of sleep, not right now. Normally you'd go to Fluttershy when you feel this way and crash on her couch, but you don't want to impose and you don't want to worry her with the knowledge of how badly shaken you are and you don't want to hear another lecture about how you should tell Twilight all about your problems.

Instead, you teleport into Pinkie's room, into her bed, and pull her into a hug. Pinkie's not interested in you romantically or sexually, and you've been burned too many times by trying to get it on with one of your own cognates from another dimension to want a relationship with anyone as chaotic as you are, but right after the Tirek thing when Pinkie was living in Twilight's castle and Twilight still hadn't ironed out exactly how she was going to go about spreading Friendship, you lived there too and Pinkie spent more time in your bedroom, treating you as a living bed while you treated her like a living plushie, than she did in her own.

"Discord?" Pinkie doesn't sound impossibly bright and cheery, for once. "I gotta get up in the morning..."

"I'm not here to talk," you tell her. "I just..."

"Did something bad happen with the tea party with Fluttershy?"

"Sort of. Not really. Yes. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. Fluttershy was wonderful but. Um."

"What did you do?" she asks, in the tone of a pony scolding a naughty dog who'd chewed a hat.

"Not like that! I did something stupid, but not the usual way I do something stupid, and... I'll tell you about it tomorrow. Nothing bad happened between Fluttershy and me, it was all something that happened to me, but... I, um, don't want to go to sleep."

"Oh! So you need a pony plushie to sleep with!"

"More or less."

"Okay." She snuggles back against you. "Your Aunt Pinkie has it all under control. I am a great plushie."

You grin in the dark. "I know, Pinkie."

And then her breathing evens out and just like that, she's asleep again. She's soft and she's fluffy and she's solid and warm, a comforting weight in your arms. You wish she was Fluttershy instead, but if she was you'd have a much harder time keeping your emotions under control and actually getting to sleep.

For a while you stare into the darkness, remembering what it felt like to disappear into nothing, until the warmth of the pony sleeping next to you and the rhythm of her breathing finally lull you to sleep.

Notes: I am particularly fond of Constant Comment as a name for the tea pony, since it's the name of a tea blend and also implies why she's willing to ask eldritch forces of chaos if they're really friends with ponies. Raspberry Vinaigrette was supplied by the creators of the transcript, so probably that's the official unofficial name for the china shop pony.

Pinkie sleeping with Discord came from No Escape From Yourself; so did Discord fighting off Apep (aka the Nightmare Forces) on the moon, but I haven't published that part yet. Gardens growing pinwheels in the chaos dimension comes from Signal to Noise.