A/N: And here it is, the final one of these. A bit of a change up from the last two chapters. A touch darker, with a little violence. Just be expecting it. Please enjoy.
Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic belongs to Hasbro.
Applejack tried her best to keep face as she trotted slowly through the bleak darkness of the Everfree forest. Applejack hated to admit it, but this place scared her. It was just really creepy. Just going into the spooky place completely unsettled her. And why shouldn't it? There were untold horrors lurking at every corner of the damn place. Manticores, ursas, those horrible little parasprites, every one of the terrible things Ponyville had seen in recent memory all came from this place.
Though these frightening, unnatural things really unnerved Applejack, she was trying her best not to let it show. Fluttershy was trying to be strong after all. Applejack had to stand tall for her sake. As hard as this was for Applejack, it had to be even harder for the meek pegasus. Looking in Fluttershy's direction, she could see a stiff, nervous expression on her face. She was clearly terrified but trying to keep it hidden, refusing to look anywhere but directly ahead of herself. Applejack was sure that the pegasus pony would just scream at any stimuli.
Their other companion, Twilight Sparkle, looked absolutely fearless on the other hand. Applejack was sure this was because, at that moment, there were more sparkles in the unicorn's eyes then there were on her flank. Twilight could get kind of odd when she was really excited about something as Applejack remembered learning first hand during that sleepover they had had with Rarity. Whatever these books were, they had Twilight even more excited than that. In her excitement, the unicorn pony seemed blind to the danger around her.
"So how much longer you think we got, Twilight?" Applejack asked as the three of them trot ahead quietly. "It's a might bit unsettling in this place..."
"What?" Twilight started, tilting her head. "Oh, it shouldn't be too long. Zecora said she caught a glimpse of a chimera in parts of the forest not too far from here..."
"Well ain't that just swell," said Applejack, looking downward. "And we're going just on what Zecora said? How we know this ain't a different one of these camera things all together?"
"It's 'chimera'..." said Twilight, smirking. "And it's because they're so rare," she nodded her head. "In fact, they don't even occur naturally, even here in the Everfree forest."
"D-don't occur naturally?" Fluttershy started in a timid voice. "What does that mean?"
"A chimera is a creature created powerful magic," said Twilight, seeming eager to explain.
"Magic? How do you make some kind of beast with magic?" asked Applejack, confused.
"Well, as I said before, the chimera is a combination of a goat, a lion and a snake," said Twilight, nodding excitedly as she spoke. "You just use magic to combine them and you have a chimera."
"That's horrible..." said Fluttershy, gasping. "The poor things... to be used like that... it's sad..."
"Princess Celestia eventually decided the same thing," said Twilight, nodding to the pegasus. "She made it illegal to use magic like that. It's been pretty much unheard of for a millennia now."
"That's a relief," Fluttershy said with sadness still in her voice, giving a heavy sigh.
"Yes," Twilight said. "But that's why me and Zecora are positive this is the same chimera as the one from the old legend we heard..."
"Wait," said Applejack. "I gotta question. If this thing's so darn old, how's it still alive even?"
"Hmm... Hadn't thought of that..." said Twilight, stopping to think for a few moments. "Maybe it isn't...?"
"Now hold on just a second..." Applejack started, narrowing her eyes. "What do you mean it ain't alive?"
"This legendary mage who made the chimera used a spell to bind it forever to his library," said Twilight in a low voice. "It's my belief that the spell may have kept the chimera's body animated well past the end of it's lifespan."
Fluttershy gave a low shriek, her body beginning to quiver. Applejack really didn't blame her.
"Twilight, you're a good friend..." Applejack said in a strong voice, shaking her head. "But do you really not see just how darn creepy and downright disturbin' that is?"
"Yeah..." Twilight started, gritting her teeth somewhat nervously. "Now that I think about it... it's kind of..."
"Did ya really think it was a good thing to do draggin' me and a sweet pony like Fluttershy into something like this?" Applejack said, raising her voice a little.
"I'm sorry..." Twilight said, giving a low sigh. "I was just so excited when I realized this legend might be true. I wasn't fair to you... and especially to you, Fluttershy..." She nodded to the pegasus pony. "I never should have asked you to do this with me..."
"It's okay..." said Fluttershy, forcing a nervous smile. "I forgive you, Twilight."
Applejack continued to glare a little at the unicorn. "A little late to be realizin' this was a bad idea, ya know? We're already this deep into it..."
"Yeah..." said Twilight, clearly feeling bad. "Maybe we should turn back?"
Fluttershy stepped forward. Nervousness still in her eyes, she shook her head at Twilight. "N-no... We've already come this far..." She looked down. "I know you'd be awfully disappointed to just go back now..."
"You'd really be willing to keep going, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked, smiling awkwardly at her friend.
"Ya don't have to, Fluttershy. Think it over. Twilight's your friend... but that ain't reason enough to stick around for some magic-made fire-breathing zombie monster..." Applejack said, honestly kind of hoping for a moment Fluttershy's fear would beat out her no doubt strong desire to do good by her friends.
"It's really scary..." said Fluttershy looking down, her voice becoming. "But also... hearing about it... it kind of makes me angry..."
"Angry?" Applejack started, surprised to hear Fluttershy say this.
"All the horrible, cruel things done to them... the ones used to make the chimera, I mean... It just make me mad," Fluttershy said, starting to scowl a little. "That's why... if I possibly can... I want to put an end to it and help those three poor creatures finally find a peace..."
Applejack couldn't reply for a moment. She was just impressed. Fluttershy's heart was so strong and kind. It was beautiful. Applejack suddenly felt a little bad. She remembered what Big Macintosh had told her the night before. She wasn't going to help Fluttershy get anywhere by acting timid and scared herself. She had to toughen up. This was damn scary, but she couldn't let herself be afraid of anything. For Fluttershy's sake, she had to be the strongest pony she could be.
"Then it's settled," said Applejack, straightening her posture, all fear suddenly leaving her. "Let's get goin' Twilight. Ain't nopony turning tail and runnin' away today."
"Applejack...?" Twilight started tentatively, lifting her head. "Do you ponies really mean it?"
"Course we do," said Applejack with confidence. "Now, let's get movin'. Standin' here ain't doing nopony no good."
"Yeah," said Fluttershy, nodding in agreement.
Twilight smiled. Her eyes glossed over like before as if there was a big switch in her head that had just been flipped back to on. "Awesome! You ponies are the best!" She started energetically, bouncing ahead in an almost Pinkie Pie like fashion. "Now, let's go. It shouldn't be that far now!"
The unicorn pony began to move ahead rather quickly. Applejack tried her best to keep pace with her, but Fluttershy was moving ahead at a more casual trot so she let Twilight stay just a little ahead of them as she walked alongside the pegasus. The three continued on for a very long while, things falling fairly silent save for the occasional conversation and the haunting sounds of the forest itself. After half an hour or so, the sun had set, giving way to near complete darkness within the forest. This certainly made things creepier, but Applejack wasn't about to let it get to her now. Determination had finally found her.
The sound of a distant howl pierced the still air very suddenly, sending a chill down Applejack's spine. Applejack kept her cool despite the sound. Fluttershy was less successful. She gave a shriek and began to run ahead. Applejack grabbed a hold of her tail with her mouth and pulled her back toward her.
"Now hold your horses, Fluttershy," Applejack said, walking up close to the pegasus pony. "Whatever that was, it ain't nowhere near us, ya hear?"
"Yeah..." said Fluttershy, shaking her head, looking kind of ashamed of her outburst. "I'm sorry..."
"You don't need to apologize. It's okay to still be a little scared. I know how you're feelin' about wanting to help Twilight and that camera thing, but no one expects you to be fearless in a place like this," said Applejack, smiling at her friend. "It's just important the three of us stay together..."
"I know..." said Fluttershy in a very low voice. "Thanks..." she added warmly.
Applejack nodded at the pegasus, closing her eyes. "Now then... Twilight, about how long you reckon we have to go?"
No response came.
"Applejack, Twilight is missing..." Fluttershy said, fear in her quiet voice.
Applejack's eyes shot open. She looked all around. Sure enough, Twilight Sparkle was nowhere to be seen. She had vanished off into the forest.
"That stupid pony... just what in the hay is she thinking leaving us all by our lonesome...?" Applejack asked, indignant.
"I-I'm sure she'll realize really soon that we're not with her..." said Fluttershy, looking about ready to panic. "At least... a-at least I hope so..."
"Come on, Fluttershy..." said Applejack. "We gotta try to catch up with her..."
"Yeah..." Fluttershy started. The two of them began to move ahead fairly quickly.
"Twilight!" Applejack called out, hoping to reach the unicorn pony's ears. "Twilight Sparkle!"
"Twilight..." Fluttershy tried calling out herself, her voice just barely raised. Applejack had to shake her head. There was no way Twilight Sparkle was going to hear something like that in a place like the forest.
"Damn it, Twilight..." Applejack cursed in high frustration, as she ran from dark corner to dark corner. "This is exactly what we couldn't let happen!"
"We'll find her..." said Fluttershy as she also searched frantically. "She couldn't have wandered off too far..."
The two ran ahead rapidly from spot to spot, calling out the unicorn's name while they searched for her. Through it all, Twilight was absolutely nowhere to be found. After several minutes, the two of them stopped in their tracks. They were staring at a very old, ruined stone structure there in the depths of the forest. Applejack stepped ahead tentatively, Fluttershy just behind her.
"Twilight Sparkle? Ya in there?" Applejack called out as she approached. No reply was heard.
Then, suddenly, something emerged from the old structure. In the darkness of the forest at night, it was impossible to make out, but by it's shadow, it looked like the head of a pony poking out from the ruin. Fluttershy stepped forward.
"Twilight, there you are!" she said, giving a relieved sigh. Applejack stepped ahead after her, toward the shadowed form.
It was then that some clouds above them suddenly cleared, allowing the faint moonlight to penetrate into the forest. It fell upon the figure in the ruin's door, revealing it. Fluttershy screamed and ran backwards. Applejack could only stare and tremble. It wasn't a pony's head at all. It was goat's. It's eyes were lifeless, it's skin looked cold and blue, chunks of it were missing.
More forms emerged from the ruins. These were massive claws, reminiscent of the manticore's. With them came the head of a ferocious looking lion which emerged with a horrifying roar, it's flesh looking just as mangled and decayed as the goat's. Slowly, the whole beast came forth, revealing its downright unnatural form, which ended with a gigantic snake tail, which snapped and hissed about in the air. The whole thing was surrounded by an unearthly blue magic glow. This was the beast they had sought, just as Twilight had described it. The chimera.
Applejack's eyes widened. The was just no helping it, this was the most terrifying thing she had ever seen. Even so, she swallowed her fear and tried to stand tall. She glanced toward Fluttershy, who was cowering behind a nearby tree.
The lion head roared and then the goat head reared forward. A stream of fire emerged from it and collided with the tree Fluttershy was using as cover, causing it to just incinerate. Fluttershy ran from it in a panic. In the process, she tripped over a rock in her path and fell to the ground. The chimera jumped toward her.
"I ain't about to let you touch her!" Applejack called out with force and she bravely rushed ahead, getting between Fluttershy and the beast. Turning quickly, with every ounce of her apple-bucking strength she slammed her hind legs into the beast's chest.
To Applejack's shock and horror, this didn't deter the beast as she had hoped. Her hooves pounded a gaping hole right into the chimera's dead flesh, but this didn't even cause it to blink. All it changed was its target. Instead of Fluttershy, it was Applejack who got the powerful sweep of the monster's claws. It's immense strength sent the earth pony flying into a nearby tree. Her eyes spun in her head as she fell to the ground at the foot of the tree.
"Applejack!" Fluttershy called out, clearly scared. "No..."
"Fluttershy..." Applejack said, the pain she felt agonizing. She was finding it hard to move. "Please body... don't you dare fail me..." she muttered as she struggled to force herself upright. She still needed to protect Fluttershy.
"Enough!" Fluttershy shouted loudly, taking the tone she had in the encounter with the dragon, flapping her wings and flying in front of the chimera. "I won't stand by and let you hurt Applejack anymore!"
"No Fluttershy... it's not even alive... you can't..." Applejack started, finally able to stand. "You can't scare it... you can't reason with it... you can't..."
The lion head of the chimera roared triumphantly, completely unintimidated while the goat snarled and reared back. Applejack, seeing this, forced her body into motion. She galloped ahead at full speed, throwing herself into the air and bringing Fluttershy down and out of the way of the blast of fire that shot from the goat head's mouth. As she forced herself back up, the lion roared again. The snake head then hissed and snapped at her. She slammed one of her front hooves into it, causing it to recoil, but the lion looked ready to swipe at her again.
"Stop..." Fluttershy started, her tone returning to a more normal one for her as she stepped toward the beast. "Please... you don't want this. You're in 're suffering. I know, deep down... the three of you... you don't want to hurt anyone..."
The lion seemed to hesitate for a moment. Then it gave a small snort. Then, without warning, it dug its razor sharp claws deep into Applejack's flank. The earth pony screamed out in agony as body gave out and collapsed.
"Applejack!" Fluttershy cried, horrified.
"I will protect Fluttershy from you... I swear it..." Applejack said with strained breaths, truly meaning it. She could bear this pain. She could take far worse for Fluttershy. For the sake of the gentle hearted pegasus, who even now hadn't given up on the undead beast, Applejack would take on absolutely any burden. That decided, Applejack forced herself up again. She addressed the beast. "I don't care what you do. I don't care how much it hurts! I won't let you touch Fluttershy, ya big ugly brute!"
"Applejack... no..." Fluttershy said, trembling horribly.
The chimera gave a grunt and then it roared. Applejack, even in her pain, was able to punch away the snake head again with her hoof as it snapped at her. However, as the goat head reared back, ready to spew out its flames, Applejack knew she wouldn't be able to get away in time.
"Please... listen to me!" Fluttershy shouted, suddenly flying directly toward the chimera. She stared directly into the goat head's eyes. "I know you're still in there... I know you don't want this... Somepony was very cruel to you, but that pony isn't alive anymore. It's over... You're free to stop this all..."
The goat head seemed to hesitate, pulling back and stopping its attack entirely. The snake head writhed around and hissed. The lion started to raise it claw for another swipe. Applejack, watching stepped forward, staring the beast down herself.
"Don't you get what Fluttershy is sayin'?" Applejack shouted, staring the beast down. "She hasn't given up on you! Even after all this time, there's still one pony with a kind enough heart not to fear or look down on you! Don't that mean anything? This pony still has faith in you! And because of that, I have faith in you too!"
The chimera hesitated again. Slowly it lowered it's claw. The snake tail continue to hiss and thrash about. Fluttershy flew over to it, gazing into its eyes this time.
"You have it in you to end your suffering," she said in a warm voice. "The nightmare... it's over. You were hurt, but that doesn't mean you have to continue to hurt others. Please... rest now..."
The snake head stopped moving gradually, eventually coming to hang its head. The entire chimera soon became calm. All the heads looked at Fluttershy. She smiled at them kindly. Docile expressions came to grace every one of the three heads as the beast laid forward on the ground.
"That's right..." said Fluttershy softly, her voice full of kindness. "Just go to sleep. You'll find that all of this... it was just one big long nightmare..."
All six eyes of the chimera then closed. The blue glow that surrounded the beast slowly began to dissipate. Seconds after this enchantment had dispersed, the body of the beast suddenly turned all at once into a fine black dust. Fluttershy smiled, tears in her eyes.
Applejack, piercing pain in her every step, slowly trotted over to Fluttershy's side. She smiled at the pegasus pony. Fluttershy stepped toward her suddenly, threw her arms over her and began to cry. Fluttershy's weight was a little painful in her condition, but Applejack wouldn't have traded that embrace for anything. Fluttershy was incredibly and so very strong.
"You were amazing, Fluttershy..." Applejack said in a low voice. "Ain't nopony see what I just saw could argue that..."
"I was so scared... Applejack..." said Fluttershy still crying. "I was scared I wouldn't get through to them. I was so scared I wouldn't be able to stop them from hurting you even more..."
"I'm just fine, Fluttershy. This pony's stronger than she looks," said Applejack with a soft laugh.
Fluttershy pulled back a little, still teary-eyed. "Your seriously injured..." she said, looking at Applejack's still bleeding flank. "You put yourself through so much to protect me..."
"It was nothing," said Applejack, becoming conscious of the pain again.
"That's not right," said Fluttershy, shaking her head. "It could have been worse. You could have been..." Tears left Fluttershy's eyes again. "That just isn't a risk you should be taking for anypony..."
"I know that..." Applejack said. "I knew the risk I was takin'. Believe me, I was scared right near out of my horseshoes too. That ain't the sort of thing I'd do for just anypony, Fluttershy. But for you, I'd do it any time..."
"Applejack..." Fluttershy gasped. She then blushed slightly. "I really mean so much to you?"
Applejack looked away for a moment, then she looked Fluttershy in the eyes. How exactly she felt about Fluttershy had been eluding her the past two days, but at that moment, it was crystal clear. She wasn't about to run from it either.
"As long as we've been friends, I've tried to go the extra mile for your sake," said Applejack in a soft voice. "I always thought it was just cause you was my friend. Even yesterday and this morning, I might have said it was just the sort of thing I'd do for anypony I considered a friend..." Applejack straightened herself up further. With confidence, she said. "But that ain't it at all! You mean far more to me than just that, Fluttershy. I know that much for sure now."
"A-Applejack..." Fluttershy said, looking away shyly, her face red. She stepped forward then and tentatively restored eye contact. "To have such a wonderful pony say that about me... it's almost too much..."
"There ain't nopony more wonderful than you yourself, Fluttershy," Applejack, her tone affectionate.
"I've never had many friends outside the animals..." said Fluttershy, her voice quite meek though she didn't avert her eyes. "To hear somepony say things like that about me... it's-"
"So how do you feel, Fluttershy?" Applejack asked tentatively. "Can you see me as more than just a friend?"
Fluttershy smiled pleasantly and stepped toward the earth pony so they were directly face to face. In a warm voice, she said. "I don't think that will be a problem at all. In fact... it sounds wonderful..."
"Fluttershy... you wouldn't mind if I-" Applejack started, looking the other in the eyes, suddenly becoming incredibly nervous.
Before Applejack could finish her sentence, Fluttershy took the final step toward her, uniting the two of them in a warm, affectionate kiss. Applejack's flank still hurt like never before, but like that, she couldn't feel any of it. All she felt was happiness. She didn't want that magical moment to ever end. It was just too perfect.
"Applejack! Fluttershy! Where are you? I heard some strange-" a voice called out into the forest, falling very suddenly dead as it got near.
Applejack broke off her kiss with Fluttershy to turn her head. Sure enough, Twilight Sparkle was standing there, looking completely stunned, her body completely motionless, her jaw slack.
"Ah... Twilight Sparkle..." said Applejack, giving an awkward laugh. "You worried us going off like that..."
Twilight blinked several times and made some strange sounds, but seemed completely unable to articulate herself.
"Umm..." Fluttershy started, looking equally embarrased. "Oh yeah!" she exclaimed suddenly. "We met the chimera, Twilight."
This startled Twilight from her shock, pepping her right up. "Chimera? Where? Where is it?" she started, shaking her head and bouncing forward.
"Actually, that's it right there..." Applejack said, pointing out the pile of ash lying nearby with her hoof.
"What?" Twilight said, approaching the ash. "What happened to it?"
"Fluttershy here helped it finally pass on," Applejack said, smiling.
"But I never would have been able to get through to it if Applejack wasn't here to risk her life to protect me until I did..." said Fluttershy in an affectionate voice.
"Really?" Twilight started, surprised. "You two sure are amazing ponies..."
"Don't sell yourself so short, Twilight," said Applejack, her voice kind of strained. "If you'd been here, I reckon I woulda gotten outtta there with my flank in tact..."
Twilight's eyes then shot to Applejack's flank. "Oh... Applejack... That looks really terrible... " she said, looking at the injury. "Here. Let me help."
Before Applejack could reply, Twilight went into action. Using her telekinesis, she retrieved a first aid kit from the supply bag she was wearing at her flank and opened it. With haste, the unicorn began to treat Applejack's wound and then wrap it with bandaging. The process stung, but Applejack was nothing but grateful when it was completed.
"Thanks, Twilight," she said, smiling, feeling a little less pain, though it still certainly didn't feel good.
"But where did you go for all that time?" asked Fluttershy, stepping toward Twilight.
"Well..." said Twilight, looking down, kind of embarrassed. "I thought I saw something so I went between some trees. Then I kind of fell in a hole I didn't see..." Twilight looked down some more. "I hit my head when I did... and kind of blacked out for a few minutes..." She gave a long sigh. "When I woke up and got out of there, I didn't see you guys around anywhere..."
"We should have checked around a little more..." said Fluttershy. "But we thought you had run off ahead or something..."
"No..." said Twilight, looking still a little ashamed. "And it looks like I missed out on a lot because of it..."
"With the exception of this here pain in my side, everything still looks to have turned out fine," said Applejack. "I'm just glad nothing happened to any of us."
"Yes, that's the important part," said Twilight nodding. Her eyes darting ahead, locking onto the old ruin from which the chimera had emerged. "That's it... That has to be it!"
Applejack and Fluttershy both laughed. "Let's all go check it out," said Applejack, limping ahead. The three of them slowly approached the old structure. Applejack honestly was quite eager to see what was inside. Though she didn't care so much for old dusty books, after all that she had to say she was at least curious. Before long, they were at the door.
Twilight bounced inside, a huge smile on her face. Applejack and Fluttershy stepped in after her. Applejack watched as Twilight's expression changed entirely in an instant, her glee transforming into bitter disappointment. Looking around, Applejack could see why. There was nothing in that old building but a few small piles of ash.
"What is this?" Twilight said. "Where is everything...?"
Applejack shook her head. She took a step ahead. "Hate to break it to you, Twilight, but I don't think this unicorn was all that smart..."
"What?" Twilight asked, confused. "But he was a legendary genius magician..."
"Books are flammable Twilight," said Applejack in a simple voice. "It really don't make a lick of sense to put no fire breathing monster in charge of guardin' them. It don't take no genius to see that..."
Twilight gave an awkward laugh. She looked around, likely still hoping to find something, but there was clearly nothing of value in that entire structure. "Yeah... I guess I see your point... I hadn't thought about that..."
"After seeing what he did to those poor creatures, I don't think this is the kind of unicorn you want to be learning from anyway, Twilight," said Fluttershy in a low voice.
"You know what," said Twilight in a low voice. "You're probably right. I was so excited about the idea of lost knowledge, but really... there's probably some knowledge best lost..."
"Still, sorry you had to come all this way only to just be disappointed," said Fluttershy softly.
"No," said Twilight giving a sigh. "It's okay. Besides, I think I learned some valuable lessons for Princess Celestia today."
"Yeah?" said Applejack, nodding.
"Yeah... while their still on the top of my head..." Twilight started, suddenly retrieving a blank scroll and her writing tools from her bag. "I think I'll write them down."
"Alright," said Fluttershy, looking curious.
Twilight began to write her letter. As she did, she read it aloud. "Dear Princess Celestia, today I went on an adventure that taught me a number of important lessons about friendship. For starters, I now know if you wander off from your friends on your own you can miss out on a lot, not to mention get yourself and others hurt..." Twilight gave a short laugh. "But perhaps more importantly I learned not to get so excited about something that you ignore how your friends feel about it. There is no treasure in all of Equestria with more value than friendship, after all." Twilight's quill pen stopped in the air for a moment. She then started a new line. "Also, one more thing. Sometimes, you really can just not tell the sorts of things that are happening between your friends without you..."
"Twilight..." Applejack said, giving a short laugh, feeling that perhaps she needed to explain some things.
"But it's okay," Twilight continued to right. "They're still your friends after all. Even if things change, friendship is much stronger than just that. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight smiled proudly as she finished the letter, rolled it and stowed it and her pen and ink back in her bag. She nodded.
"Thanks, Twilight," said Fluttershy, blushing. "I'm glad you understand..."
"I gotta say it's still a little odd to me," said Twilight, looking down. "But I'm sure I can get used to anything. We are friends after all."
"That's right," said Applejack cheerfully..
"Now then," said Twilight. "Let's go home. I'm eager to get this letter to Spike. Not to mention get Applejack to a doctor..."
"I'll be fine," said Applejack, nodding. She was still really sore all over, but she wasn't completely out of energy just yet. "Don't you worry too much about it."
"Still, Twilight's right, Applejack," said Fluttershy. "We really need to get back before it gets too horribly late."
"Let's get our hooves moving then ponies," said Applejack nodding, turning around. Twilight and Fluttershy joined her.
The three of them began the journey back to Ponyville. Even in her pain, the journey was a pleasant one. Applejack's heart was satisfied with Fluttershy there at her side. She was a pony in love after all. Not only that, but she had seen Fluttershy really come out of her shell a lot that day, culminating in her doing something absolutely amazing. Seeing something like that, feelings things like this, Applejack figured that was worth just about anything.
Fluttershy smiled as she trotted down the streets of Ponyville. It had been a day since the ordeal in the Everfree forest. They had returned to Ponyville quite late that night. They had taken Applejack to get treatment for her injuries. According to the doctors, it wasn't anything horribly serious, she just needed to take it easy for a while. She had stayed at the hospital for the night, but release was planned for that morning. Fluttershy planned to stay close to her and help her out while she was still weak.
Fluttershy was actually just then on her way to meet with the earth pony. Once they did meet, the two of them planned to go and finally talk with Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy had been thinking about Applejack nonstop since the previous night, so at that moment she was just a little nervous. She wasn't sure what would happen when they did meet back up.
That was when, out of the very corner of her eye, Fluttershy saw her. Applejack was trotting slowly in her direction, looking a little tired, her flank wound and a few other scrapes and cuts she had suffered in the fight with the chimera still bandaged. Her eyes perked up when they met Fluttershy's. The pegasus pony increased the speed of her trot as she moved to join her friend.
"Fluttershy..." Applejack said, smiling. Fluttershy went up and nuzzled her affectionately a little then placed a short kiss on her cheek. She'd have gone further, but that would be too bold... and there were other ponies around.
"Well ain't that a greeting," Applejack said, her face turning red.
"It was kind of hard being apart from you after so much happened," said Fluttershy with matching blush.
"Yeah...I know what ya mean," said Applejack, giving a sigh, relaxing. "I sure am glad to see ya, Fluttershy."
"Me too," Fluttershy said, her voice softening.
"So, you still want to go head over and talk to Dash?" Applejack asked, smiling at the pony she loved.
"Yes," said Fluttershy softly.
"Then let's stop dragging our hooves," said Applejack cheerfully, stepping forward. Fluttershy nodded and started to trot along with the other pony.
The two passed slowly through Ponyville, enjoying every moment spent together, even if not many words were exchanged. Applejack moved a little more languidly than usual, but she seemed genuinely happy at Fluttershy's presence, which made the pegasus happy in turn. Before she even knew it, the two of them were at the small open area where everything had started for Fluttersy two days before. Sure enough, Rainbow Dash was flying high in the sky above, clearly working on her daily training routine.
Fluttershy flapped her wings to give her some elevation, hoping to get the other pegasus pony's attention. This usually failed. It was hard to get the attention of someone like Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy would usually have to try calling out, which didn't usually help much...
However, that day, Rainbow Dash noticed her at once and swooped down instantly at first sight of her. Her expression was a little more serious than usual.
"Fluttershy," Dash said, in a low voice, looking kind of sad and kind of relieved. "I thought about it, and I really wanted to apologize for the other day. It really just wasn't a cool thing for me to do, forcing you around like that without asking you if you wanted to or not..."
"It's okay," said Fluttershy. "I'm not angry about it, though I do accept your apology."
"That's a relief," said Dash. "I tried to find you yesterday, but I couldn't find you anywhere, even though Pinkie Pie and Rarity both said they saw you around. I thought you might be hiding from me..."
"It wasn't that," Fluttershy said in a warm voice. "Twilight pulled me and Applejack along for some kind of adventure." Fluttershy nodded to Applejack below, which caused Dash to look down.
"Whoa..." she said before suddenly swooping down. Fluttershy followed much slower. "Something did a real number on you, Applejack. How'd you get these awesome battle scars?" the rainbow pegasus pony excitedly started.
"There's nothing awesome about it," said Fluttershy, shaking her head. "She was seriously hurt."
"Yeah, I got it," said Dash, nodding respectfully. "But seriously, what exactly did I miss out on yesterday...?"
"It was nothin'" Applejack started, giving a kind of playful laugh. "Just your average battle with an ancient undead fire-breathin' monster," she added boastfully, clearly just to rile Dash up.
"That sounds awesome!" Dash shouted, looking shocked. "No fair! How come no one told the coolest, bravest pony in all of Ponyville you were doing something so incredibly cool! I would have been there with you ponies quicker than I could clear this sky!" As it were, there were only two or three clouds in the sky that day, so this was quite the boast.
Applejack laughed and smiled at her friend. "It really was a mighty exciting day," she said.
"Sure sounds like it," said Dash, flying around, looking even closer at Applejack's bandages. "This thing got you pretty good. Tell me you kicked it's ugly flank in the end?"
"Actually, it weren't even me who defeated it," said Applejack nodding her head.
"No... Don't tell me you let that bookworm take all the glory with her fancy magic," said Dash, shaking her head. "That's so not as cool..."
"Twilight weren't even there for the fight," said Applejack nodding.
"Huh? Then what?" Dash started, her head tilted. "You don't expect me to believe Fluttershy beat some super cool monster, do you?"
"Well it is what happened," said Applejack, nodding. "Guess it ain't up to me if your gonna believe it or ya ain't."
"Fluttershy defeated it?" Dash started, looking shocked. She turned and stared at Fluttershy for a moment.
"That's right," Applejack said. "Fluttershy found it's weakness and sure enough, reduced that horrible beast to a pile of ash..."
Dash looked shocked and confused. "But that's- When did Fluttershy get so cool?"
"I couldn't have done it without Applejack," Fluttershy spoke, smiling fondly as she did.
"You ponies are really serious?" Dash started in, still in disbelief. "How'd you possibly do something like that?"
"Sometimes, no matter who or what they are, all someone needs is a little extra love and affection," said Fluttershy, casting her eyes toward Applejack. "That alone can even work miracles."
"Exactly!" Applejack said, giving a cheerful nod. Fluttershy smiled.
"I don't get it," said Dash, oblivious. "I thought you turned this thing to dust? What's that got to do with love?"
"We'll tell you the full story some time, I promise" said Fluttershy with a smile. "But right now, there is something else I wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh?" Dash asked, curious. "What's that, Fluttershy?"
"About those flight lessons you were going to give me..." Fluttershy started in a soft voice.
"Forget all about it," said Dash, shaking her head. "It was a stupid thing for me to even suggest. It obviously just isn't your style."
"Actually..." Fluttershy muttered, giving a nod. "I wanted to accept the offer..."
"You did?" Applejack and Dash both spoke in unison.
"Yeah..." said Fluttershy in a soft voice. "I'm not sure I'll ever be able to keep stride with you, Dash... but I have always been just a little self conscious about my inability to fly as well as other pegasus ponies."
"Ya sure?" Applejack asked. "You did tell me ya were goin' to turn her down..."
"I know..." said Fluttershy quietly. "But I changed my mind. As I just said, sometimes a little love and affection can have miraculous results."
"Ya don't say?" Applejack exclaimed, blushing. "In that case, all I can do is wish ya the best of luck!"
"Thanks," said Fluttershy giggling. She turned to Rainbow Dash.
"You really want to?" Dash asked. Fluttershy gave a nod to the affirmative. "Awesome! In that case, let's hit the skies. For starters, follow me!"
With that, Rainbow Dash very suddenly thrust herself upwards, soaring into the skies, well past the height where Fluttershy would usually ever dare to go. Fluttershy nodded. She looked at Applejack one last time. The pony gave a nod and a soft smile of encouragement. This was all Fluttershy needed to take flight. Her wings spread freely and she used them to propel herself into the sky.
Gradually, she increased her speed as she climbed upwards. It wasn't long at all before she passed the height beyond which was comfortable. She continued ever upward. She could really do this, she thought. When she was just over halfway to where Rainbow Dash she glanced down.
For a second, she panicked, wondering perhaps if she wasn't going too fast, doing too much too soon. Then, out of the corner of her eyes, looking so small from the distance, Fluttershy made out the figure of Applejack far bellow her. That was all it took to give her the final push into the clouds.
A/N:The end. Wow. this chapter went long. Wasn't expecting I'd write so much. But I think this turned out really good. I actually think I tied things together better than I thought I would. So yeah, zombie chimera. Figured I needed to make the story about 20 percent cooler; that was my solution. And then there's the romance, which I suppose was the point. Also, I got a good chance to write a lot more Twilight here, which is good for when I plan to work with her in the future. Speaking of, it's still up for debate which pairing is next for me. I suppose Twilight/Pinkie Pie would be the obvious one if I intend to use all the ponies from the mane cast before doing repeats. It I don't get a better idea, I'll attempt that, I suppose. Also, check the pony pairing poll on my profile (love the alliteration); this really has no direct correlation to what I'll write next, but I will make use of the results somehow.