By Saddlesoap Opera
Episode One of the Pony Psychology Series
"…THE BEST NIGHT EVER!"
The disheveled Ponyville Ponies, Princess Celestia and Spike burst into laughter. The Grand Galloping Gala hadn't turned out the way they'd hoped, but they'd managed to salvage the night anyway. All was well.
Princess Celestia excused herself to go and manage the dozens of shocked and outraged guests still lurking in the grand ballroom a few stories above, leaving the six Ponies and their Dragon companion to enjoy each other's company – and some more doughnuts – before returning to their enchanted apple coach and making the trip back to Ponyville.
Rarity's would-be paramours had seen the fiasco in the ballroom, but a few more dainty bats of her long eyelashes and a tiny peck on the more reluctant stallion's nose convinced them to pull the coach once again. Soon enough, the group was back at the Carousel Boutique, carefully removing the damaged remains of their Gala dresses while Spike snoozed in a basket of yarn. The mayhem at the Gala was still the hot topic of conversation.
"When the Princess and I walked into the ballroom, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!" laughed Twilight Sparkle, her horn glowing as she magicked the starry cloak off her shoulders and into a neatly folded square.
"Aww, cut us some slack, Twilight," said Rainbow Dash, unceremoniously shaking a golden laurel wreath from her multi-coloured mane. "You can't even turn around without somethin' getting' in your way in that palace! Cloudsdale's buildings are made with tons of open spaces – how's a filly supposed to manoeuver in Canterlot with all those statues and columns and crowds and stuff everywhere?" She flapped her wings, hovering in midair for emphasis. "No wonder we made such a mess!"
"Fluttershy's lil' stampede mighta had somethin' to do with it, too," added Applejack as she switched her Gala hat for her standard headwear. "Shucks, fer a second there, I thought everypony was gonna chalk what happened up to plain ol' bad luck. But then – yeehaw! Bird n' bunny rodeo!"
In the corner of the room Fluttershy blushed, her rosy cheeks matching the colour of her mane.
"O-oh my…was it really that bad…?" Fluttershy's voice seemed even meeker than usual. Her wings twitched nervously.
"It was quite the scene, dah-ling," said Rarity from behind a changing screen. The glow of the Unicorn's horn was faintly visible through the screen's golden silk, as was the magicked brush taming the tangles in her coiling purple mane. "But I can hardly fault you, now can I? After all, a moment earlier I was shaking apple-flavoured frosting all over the place like some hyperactive foal!"
"Yay, frosting!" added Pinkie Pie, springing out of her piled Gala clothes like a Colt-in-the-Box. "It's okay, Fluttershy – I'll bet those animals were all stuffy-wuffy boring types, just like all those Ponies in the ballroom. I mean, seriously, who can resist the Pony-Pokey? It's just not natural! It's like totally the funnest song EVER! Yooouuuuu reach your right hoof in…"
"STOP!" said Twilight, cutting off Pinkie before her song and dance could fully begin. "Um, I mean… we're all pretty tired from the Gala, and we wouldn't want to…to…cheapen!…Cheapen the Pony-Pokey with low-effort dance moves." Twilight smiled nervously, her eyes silently begging Pinkie to swallow her excuse.
Pinkie pondered for a moment, still teetering on one hoof in mid-dance-step. "You're right, Twilight!" she said at last. "A great song like that calls for maximum energy!" Twilight sighed in relief, and the other Ponies did likewise.
"Well, I thought that entrance was awesome, Fluttershy," said Dash after a moment. "You were pretty tough facing down that Dragon up on the mountain, but I'd never seen anything like that from you before. Or heard! I didn't know you had it in you!" Dash nudged Fluttershy with an elbow, but the yellow Pegasus didn't react in the slightest. "Say…are you okay?"
Fluttershy was standing stock-still, her eyes staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. Dash's words…I didn't know you had it in you…still echoed in her ears, pulling her down a long and winding path of memories.
She was a foal again, and her earliest memory was of staring up at her mother's vivid yellow flank. The mare's Cutie Mark was a snarled jumble of multi-coloured speckles, like a childish scribble. Slowly, like clouds moving, the patterns would twist, coil and knot, sometimes even changing colours.
As a foal, she'd thought it was pretty. It wasn't until much later that she learned what it meant…and why it was the reason that her father had left them.
It was maybe a year later, and her mother was scaring her. She had woken Fluttershy up in the middle of the night, all hissing whispers and fear-widened eyes. That stare – that wild-eyed stare of a mother fearing for her offspring – pierced Fluttershy to her core, planting seeds of fear and doubt that would haunt her the rest of her days. The mare hustled her foal down the spiral ramp in the middle of their home, all the way to the basement, where the clouds were so thin they almost sagged under the tiny Pony's hooves. Dragons, her mother had insisted. There were Dragons on the hunt, and they needed to be very still and very quiet until they went away. Fluttershy fell asleep listening to her mother softly crooning a lullaby, panic edging her every word.
She was still a foal but older still, and she was reading about sewing. The winter was coming, and without the bits to buy warm clothes, Fluttershy had no choice but to make scarves, boots and padded saddles for her and her mother. A shaft of light from the setting sun reminded her that it was time for her mother to take her medicine. The older mare's Cutie Mark was now a featureless slate-grey circle, but the scribbled patterns were faintly visible around its edges. She didn't want to take the pills. They made everything grey, she said. They made her dull. She needed her wits, she said, in case the Dragons come. Gently, kindly, and for the thousandth time, Fluttershy reminded her mother that there are no Dragons in Cloudsdale.
She was home from the last day of school before Summer vacation, but she wasn't happy. Spending so much time caring for her mother had chipped away at her study time, and her grades had slipped badly. Her flight skills were even worse. Her teacher had told her she would have to repeat the grade next year – and that meant no Summer Flight Camp until the year after. As Fluttershy walked into her home, she instantly knew that her mother was off her meds again. The place was in disarray, and she could hear her mother's paranoid muttering coming from the upper story. As she trotted up the ramp, she stepped on the torn remains of her favourite stuffed toy – Angel the Rabbit. Her mother would later tell her that she'd had no choice; Angel had been spying on them for the Dragons.
It was almost exactly one year later, and two Pegasus stallions in heavy white smocks marked with red crosses were pushing her mother out of the house. You can't take me away, she screamed. I'm all she's got. I have to keep her safe, she said. She accused them of working for the Dragons. Divide and conquer, she said. Split us up so you can eat us one by one.
Softly, firmly, and for the very last time, Fluttershy spoke to her mother. She told her that the Dragons didn't bring the doctors; Fluttershy had asked them to come. She was sick, and these Ponies were here to help her. In an instant, the fear in her mother's gaze was replaced by burning rage.
"You ungrateful, blank-flanked little BUZZARD!" her mother howled as the stallions dragged her away by her back legs. Her front hooves dug furrows into the clouds, releasing rumbles of thunder. "You NEED me! You'll see! You don't know anything about ANYTHING! You've never even seen the GROUND! When I get out, you'll still be right here! You're gonna wait for me, and-"
"You're…going to…LOVE ME!" Fluttershy's demure green Gala dress was in tatters, her heart was pounding in her chest, and her lungs were burning from the exertion of hours spent chasing the palace's menagerie. Her Cutie Marks tingled and itched. As her quarry ran to and fro through the ruins of the grand ballroom, she closed her jaws on a passing squirrel, and wrenched it off its feet. A sick, dark impulse urged her to bite down until she heard a snap, but it was cut short by a shrill whistle from Twilight Sparkle. Realization spread through Fluttershy like a splash of cold water; the tingling in her Cutie Marks vanished. She dropped the squirrel. As the Ponies galloped down the stairs together, she thought to herself: "I have something you didn't, Mother. Something rare and special. Something that will keep my hooves on solid ground, even when I'm flying. I'll never end up like you did, Mother…"
"What?" Rainbow Dash tilted her head in confusion at Fluttershy's sudden statement.
"N-never…never better, Rainbow Dash. Thank you."
"…Oh. Okay then!"
Slowly, warmly, and for the thousandth time, Fluttershy smiled at her fellow Pegasus.
PINKIE PIE: SCHISM