A/N: I felt a little down after Return of Harmony Part 2. Discord was such a fun character that it made me sad to see him go, moreso to see it happen with a look of terror frozen on his face. My sadness gave me a rare bout of inspiration, and so I decided to cheer myself up by exploring my mixed thoughts and feelings about the episode's conclusion in the form of a story.
...I just realized that this means I cheered myself up by making Fluttershy cry, and now I feel sad again.
The light of Harmony swept over Ponyville and the surrounding countryside, restoring all to its natural order. As the wave of magic dissipated, the six ponies at its center drifted back toward the ground; four sets of hooves gently touched down, while two pairs of wings kept their owners aloft. Before them, the petrified body of Discord teetered and fell with a resounding thud.
The six friends cheered and shared in their second embrace that day, laughing, crying, overwhelmed with emotion. They stayed that way for a while before gradually, reluctantly, they let go. Rainbow Dash took to the air again, soaring skyward to survey Ponyville and make sure all was as it should be, but also to compose herself and dry her eyes in private. Rarity had managed to procure a handkerchief from somewhere, and was gently dabbing under her eyes with it, careful not to smudge her makeup. Pinkie Pie started trotting around with her nose to the ground, looking for any remaining chocolate puddles; she only found, to her disappointment, that the Elements had indeed cleaned up all traces of Discord's power.
"I'm gonna miss those cotton candy clouds," she sighed.
"Pinkie Pie, ya live at Sugarcube Corner," Applejack said incredulously. "You're surrounded by chocolate every day. Ya eat enough of it to choke a buffalo. What's to miss?"
"Oh, I can have all the cookies and cake and stuff I want, but when I want chocolate milk I gotta make chocolate milk and then drink it out of a glass. I can't just stick my head out the window and say ahh! It's just not the same." She perked up suddenly, bounding over to Twilight, who stepped back in surprise. "Hey! Twilight, I bet you could make it rain chocolate milk! Ooh! Or lemonade! Or—"
While Pinkie prattled on about the different kinds of rain she'd like, Twilight thought she heard a faint sniffling. She tried to look around for its source surreptitiously, not wanting Pinkie to feel like she was being ignored. It definitely wasn't Applejack, who was staring at Pinkie with a mix of amusement and consternation. Rarity had completely composed herself and was now busy touching up her mascara. Rainbow Dash touched down nearby, successfully looking like she'd never shed a tear in the first place.
Fluttershy was standing apart from the five of them, looking down at the contorted white statue with her ears back and head bowed.
"…No, not oatmeal. Wow, what was I thinking?" Pinkie Pie stopped when she noticed Twilight wasn't paying attention anymore, and she quickly saw why.
"Fluttershy?" Twilight said softly, approaching the yellow pegasus.
Fluttershy gasped and recoiled from the statue as if it had moved. Realizing it was only Twilight, she looked at her friend from behind a curtain of hair, sniffling again.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," said Twilight, rubbing one hoof on the other foreleg guiltily. "I just…you're still crying. Is everything okay?"
"That's okay, Twilight." The reply was almost inaudible. "I'm fine."
"You know we don't hold any of what happened earlier against you, right?" Twilight continued with concern, coming up to stand beside Fluttershy. "It wasn't your fault, it was his."
Fluttershy bowed her head lower. "It's not that," she whispered.
"Are you sad about the chocolate rain too?" piped up Pinkie Pie, appearing suddenly on Fluttershy's other side and making her jump again. "'Cause I was just talking to Twilight about how maybe she could bring it back with a spell, and maybe she could also make it rain in even more super delicious flavors, and—"
Fluttershy sunk down still lower and heaved a tiny sob. Twilight gave Pinkie a look, and the pink pony quieted down ruefully.
The other three closed in around their crying friend to lend their support as well.
"You don't have to worry none, sugarcube. Everything's gonna be all right now."
"We're all here for you, dear. If you need to talk about what happened…to you…we're ready to listen."
Five heads nodded in agreement. After a few moments, Fluttershy sighed shakily, and spoke.
"It's just that…he looks so scared."
Rainbow Dash blinked. "What, him? You're crying for this jerk?" She stepped closer to the statue's face, frozen in a mask of terror. Looking at it, she couldn't keep her own face straight for long. "Pfft, bahahaha! Man, he does look scared. Serves him right!"
Pinkie Pie joined Rainbow, turning her head sideways to see Discord right side-up. She giggled and pulled a face. "He looks kinda silly like this."
"He looked silly to begin with," snorted Rainbow Dash.
Fluttershy looked away, her lip quivering.
"Now girls, that is not helping," said Rarity, giving the two a stern look. She moved closer to Fluttershy and placed a hoof on her shoulder. "Darling, why are you so upset? This scoundrel had it coming. Why, you said it yourself: he was, ahem, a 'big, dumb meanie.'"
"He was," agreed Fluttershy, "and he needed to be stopped, but…oh…" Her eyes welled up again. "I just wish there were a better way than this," she squeaked.
Rainbow Dash didn't look convinced; she glared at the statue, sulking over Rarity's admonishment. Pinkie Pie had to look away from Discord to keep herself from laughing again, for Fluttershy's sake; she looked at the normal, whispy, white clouds instead. Twilight and Applejack shared looks of confusion, while Rarity silently offered Fluttershy her handkerchief.
After a few moments, Fluttershy composed herself again, accepting the handkerchief and wiping her eyes.
"It's so horrible to be turned to stone. I remember what it felt like when the cockatrice tried to turn me. My back legs and my wings were already turned, and I couldn't feel them at all, or move them. They were heavy, a-and they sort of…pulled at the rest of me. It...it hurt a little. Not too much, but it felt like…like if I tried to move where part of me was stone and part was still pony, it might…t-tear something." She shuddered, her eyes shut tight. Then they snapped open, looking startled. "Oh! B-but, I mean, that was nothing, I shouldn't complain...I only got half-petrified, but Twilight got turned completely to stone. I can't imagine how awful that must have been." She looked up at Twilight apologetically, as if what she had said must be terribly hurtful.
Twilight bit her lip. "To be honest, I don't really remember it at all. It happened pretty fast, and when I was turned back, it just felt like I'd been asleep. I was a little stiff for a while, but that's it. If it makes you feel any better, it's probably the same for Discord."
"I don't know…I think it might be different. He did say it was lonely the first time."
"And how do you know he wasn't lyin' through his teeth?" Applejack countered bitterly. "That's somethin' he was pretty good at."
Fluttershy had nothing to say to that.
"Your compassion is most admirable. It's what makes you who you are, and I think we all appreciate that more than ever after today." Rarity said warmly, and then she turned stern. "But it's wasted on this creature, my dear, and I hate to see you in pain because of it. If anyone deserves to be trapped in stone, it's Discord."
To Rarity's dismay, Fluttershy looked shamed by her words, hiding behind her hair with a whimper.
"Fluttershy, darling, I didn't mean it like that at all! It's wonderful that you can feel sympathy even for such a villain, but my point is that it's simply not worth crying over!" She punctuated this by stamping a hoof. Then she sighed. "I'm only digging myself a deeper hole, aren't I?"
"No, Rarity, it's okay. I don't blame you. You're right. Discord…deserves this, for the horrible things he did." Fluttershy struggled to get those last words out, and winced after she said them; it was difficult for her to say that anypony deserved to be trapped in stone. "I guess I…I just hoped that the Elements were going to…to help him redeem himself, like they did with Nightmare Moon."
"That was a little different," Twilight pointed out gently. "Nightmare Moon was just a corruption of herself, like...like we all were earlier. The Elements restored Princess Luna to her true form. Discord, on the other hoof, was the very spirit of Disharmony. It's just his nature, Fluttershy, just like kindness is yours."
"But maybe he could change. M-maybe nopony ever gave him the chance."
"Well, what do you want us to do?" Rainbow Dash finally spoke up again. "Let him turn all of Equestria topsy turvy until he gets bored and goes straight? Yeah, that's gonna happen."
"He didn't exactly act like somepony who was lookin' to turn a new leaf," Applejack agreed.
"I get what you're saying, Fluttershy," said Pinkie, suddenly popping up beside Fluttershy again, making her peep. "I keep thinking that a guy with a sense of humor like his can't be all bad. Up until he made us all into a bunch of stupid jerks, I kinda liked him."
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "You'd like anypony who can make it rain chocolate milk."
"Nuh-uh!" Pinkie Pie looked hurt. "I mean, okay, yuh-huh, but that's not the only thing I liked about him! I mean, besides the whole being-evil thing, he seemed like a fun guy. I could totally see hanging out with him, you know? Come on, Dashie, you know he'd be a great pranking buddy!"
"Sorry, Pinkie, but he lost me at the eternal reign of chaos part," said Rainbow Dash, folding her forelegs across her chest.
"Well, duh, but if he'd just stop being such a mean meanie pants and realize that it's way more fun making ponies happy than making ponies unhappy, he'd be a lot of fun to hang out with, right?"
"Okay, sure. And parasprites would make great pets if they'd just stop multiplying and eating everything in sight."
"But that's just what parasprites do!" Pinkie Pie paused. "Hey, that's not fair! That makes my point sound all silly and impossible."
"That's because it is."
"Um…" all heads turned back to Fluttershy, and she shrank back a bit. "It-it's not exactly the same thing. I mean, parasprites just do what they need to do to survive, like any animal would. That doesn't make them bad."
"Well, that only proves my point!" Rainbow Dash said smugly. "Discord's smarter than a parasprite. He didn't have to do any of that stuff, but he did it anyway because he likes making everypony miserable. He's nothing but a huge jerk."
"A huge, nigh-omnipotent jerk," Rarity added. "The very worst kind."
"Again," said Twilight, "spirit of Disharmony. Making chaos is his entire reason for being."
"But don't you see?" Fluttershy protested, her voice quavering. "If that's true, then he is like a parasprite: he's just doing what comes naturally to him. He didn't choose to be that way. He…he never had a choice. That's not fair…it's just not…"
She broke down again, crying silently.
"Maybe you're right, sugarcube. Maybe it ain't fair," Applejack said gently. "But the way he was runnin' things sure wasn't fair to anypony, either."
"I know," Fluttershy got out between sobs. "It was terrible. I hated the things he made me do and say. I hated that he…he made me like it. It was like a horrible nightmare."
"Then you should be happy, dear," said Rarity, passing her the handkerchief again, now magically cleaned. "Be happy that it's all over, and nopony got hurt." She glanced at Twilight sheepishly. "Well…not permanently, in any case."
"I am," Fluttershy sniffled. "I am happy for that, really. I'm so sorry, I must sound just awful, being sorry for Discord…I'm such a traitor."
There was a chorus of protests.
"Fluttershy, you're not a traitor," said Twilight after the din had died down. "Nopony thinks of you like that."
"And you mustn't think it yourself," said Rarity.
"Come on, I'm the one who ditched you guys," added Rainbow Dash with a sheepish grin. "I still think it's pretty crazy to pity the guy, though. No offense."
"None taken," Fluttershy replied, managing a small smile. "It…it is pretty silly. It would sound even sillier if you knew how mad I was at him earlier, before we caught you. I can't even tell you some of the things I wanted to do to him then." She immediately looked horrified with herself for saying even that much, and hid behind her hair with a squeak.
Rainbow Dash laughed. "What, you wanted to slap him on the wrist and tell him you were very disappointed? I wanted to buck the tar out of him and mount his horns on my wall. Maybe turn that stupid fang into a necklace." She put a hoof to her chin, pondering it. "A Discord-tooth necklace. That would look pret-ty cool."
"I'm certain we all thought some…rather un-ladylike things about what we'd like to do with him," Rarity agreed with an impish smile.
"I don't know…I think mine was worse," Fluttershy mumbled, shuffling her hooves. "I must have still had some of that cruelty left over…" she squeaked. "At least, I hope so."
Rainbow Dash looked like she'd like to hear more, but Fluttershy wasn't about to elaborate any further. It was already too embarrassing.
"Well then, maybe he's better off this way," Twilight said with a wry grin. "I'm guessing turning to stone hurt a lot less than what some of us might have done." Then she turned serious again. "I may not know much about exactly how the Elements of Harmony work, but I believe that they're always fair. I think that, if there was any good in Discord, the Elements would have brought it out."
"Maybe they did bring it out," said Rainbow Dash. "Maybe he's really good at being a lawn ornament."
"Dashie, that's mean!" Pinkie Pie's giggling fit made her scolding rather ineffective.
Rarity attempted to give them both another disapproving look, but this, too, was undermined by her amused smirk.
"Are you going to be okay, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked quietly.
"Yes, I think I'm all right now," Fluttershy smiled. "I think I just needed to let that out. Thanks for listening."
"Any time," Twilight replied warmly, returning the smile. There was another chorus from the others, this time of agreement.
Then Twilight looked alarmed. "Oh, gosh, I'd better get back to the library! Spike was pretty sick when I left, and Celestia's probably trying to reach me again by now…" Her eyes widened to a look of horror to rival Discord's statue. "Gotta go, sorry, bye!" She blurted in a rush before winking out.
The others stared for a moment, and then Applejack took on a similar expression. "Oh, horseapples, the farm…I'll catch up with y'all later!"
"Yes, I suppose we've all got things that need tending to back at home," said Rarity, turning to leave as well. There was still a boulder sitting in front of her boutique. "Ta!"
All of them gradually left for home, Fluttershy feeling quite guilty for lingering so long around the statue when she had animals to check on. She was extremely relieved to find Angel back to normal, and he begrudgingly tolerated her prolonged, tearful hug.
After all of her animals were accounted for and their needs met, Fluttershy took a walk into the Everfree Forest.
It wasn't long before a small contingent of Royal Guard arrived in the streets of Ponyville with a cart, onto which they loaded the stone body of Discord for transport back to Canterlot. There was nopony around the body when they got there, but around his neck was a wreath woven of blue leaves.