"Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice"

by Donny's Boy

Synopsis: There are costs to being nice, to being the pony who's always kind, to being the pony who tries so hard to make everyone smile. Terrible, terrible costs.

This is (not) a love story.

"I don't care if it hurts.
I want to have control.
I want a perfect body.
I want a perfect soul."
-Radiohead, "Creep"

During the day, Fluttershy visited Sugarcube Corner for any number of reasons. Sometimes she simply wanted a cookie and a cup of tea, and other times she'd stop by to get a slice of carrot cake to take home to Angel. Once in a while, she'd drop by the bakery with the simple hope of running into one of her friends, which was a hope that would end up being fulfilled oftener than not.

But during the night? During the night, Fluttershy only visited Sugarcube Corner for one reason and one reason alone.

When Fluttershy knocked on the door to the bakery, quietly yet firmly, it was well past closing hours and well past sunset. Almost immediately the door opened, as though someone had been standing there just waiting to do so, and then Pinkie Pie was in the doorway, silhouetted against the warm lights streaming out from inside the shop.

"Hi," Fluttershy murmured, ducking her head slightly.

"Hiya, 'Shy." Pinkie stepped to the side and, as the pegasus entered, offered up a small smile. "I maybe kinda heard about what happened with you, and Rarity, and the dress, when Rainbow Dash dropped by the bakery earlier. So I sorta figured you'd be coming over tonight."

Fluttershy nodded. She wasn't sure whether to feel embarrassed or relieved.

In a tone of voice that was easy and casual, but unusually soft, Pinkie continued, "I already brewed up that tea you like. I've got it all set up in my apartment, if you wanna come up?"

The pegasus didn't answer, and the earth pony didn't wait for an answer. Pinkie simply began trotting upstairs, with Fluttershy right on her heels. Their hoof-steps echoed almost painfully loud in the still, silent bakery.

Once they'd reached Pinkie's apartment, Fluttershy found herself assaulted with the scent of air that was thick and warm and sickly sweet. It never failed to surprise her, how she had to repress the urge to gag whenever she stepped into Pinkie's place, no matter how many times she visited. She tried to school her facial expression into something pleasant, though, and to cover up her disgust. It wouldn't be nice to be rude to her hostess, after all.

They sat down at the long dining room table, and Fluttershy silently sipped her tea while Pinkie began babbling about the events of the day. The earth pony regaled her with a recounting of the flour shipment's delay that morning, a mournful elegy to the unfortunate demise of the experimental espresso muffins, a glowing review of Rainbow Dash's newest set of aerial stunts. Pinkie paused not once to drink any of her tea, but then, she never did. She barely paused to breathe.

The endless stream of words beat against Fluttershy's brain like waves crashing against a shore, slowly chipping away at her sanity, until finally she snapped. Her voice lashed out like a whip, as she suddenly barked out, "I hate Rarity."

Immediately Pinkie Pie shut up. She tilted her head, a silent invitation for the pegasus to continue.

"I hate how bossy she is," Fluttershy snarled, screwing shut her eyes and locking her legs as her entire body began to tremble. "I hate how she never stops to think about what I want or what I need or …"

Her eyes flew back open. Pinkie still sat directly in front of her, her posture relaxed, her eyes calm.

"No! Oh, no, no, no." Fluttershy shook her head furiously. "I don't mean any of that! Oh, I don't. I love Rarity, she's one of my closest friends, and … and …"

She loved Rarity.

Rarity was the one who always believed in her, the one who pushed her to do things she never thought she'd be able to do. It was Rarity who was always there to lend an ear or to lend a hoof - assuming the job wasn't too terribly dirty. Rarity, who was her greatest champion. Rarity, who was her best friend.

She hated Rarity.

Rarity was the one who always pressured her to do things she didn't want to do and never stopped to listen to any of her protests. It was Rarity who was always there, to interfere, to criticize, to gossip. Rarity, who was that awful nagging voice in the back of her head during times of stress or fear. Rarity, who was her worst enemy.

Fluttershy didn't know what she thought, what she felt, what she wanted. All she knew was that a terrible pressure was building up inside her chest, begging for release, and she wanted to scream until the very heavens themselves came crashing down upon her head.

Suddenly, Pinkie was right next to her, one of her hooves on Fluttershy's shoulders. Her voice was soft and seductive in Fluttershy's ear, as the earth pony murmured, "It's okay. Go on and let it all out. Everything's gonna be okay."

Breathing hard, Fluttershy simply shook her head.

"It's okay, 'Shy. Here, you wanna shove me? You can shove me if you wanna." Pinkie Pie's laugh was light, almost musical. "I'm a pretty tough pony, after all! It's not like you can hurt me."

"There's something wrong with you," whispered Fluttershy, her voice little more than an exhalation of breath.

"Maybe! But it'd make you feel better, wouldn't it?"

Slowly Fluttershy turned her head to look at the pony beside her. Pinkie Pie was crouched next to Fluttershy's chair, so close that Fluttershy could smell the sugar and flour in Pinkie's out-of-control mane. The tightness in her chest intensified, like a noose closing around a prisoner's neck.

"It shouldn't," the pegasus finally replied. "I shouldn't do things like that. You shouldn't let me." Pinkie was grinning. "We shouldn't … I shouldn't …"

It was hard to concentrate on feeling guilty, though, as Pinkie was creeping closer, her grin now a full-fledged smile. The earth pony's eyes glittered and gleamed in the low lighting of the room. All of a sudden, Fluttershy's pulse was racing, her mouth was dry, and her cheeks were flushed. Her fur prickled in nervous anticipation.

"We're broken. Oh, Pinkie, we're so broken."

"I'm not broken," whispered Pinkie with utter, sincere conviction, "and you're not gonna break me. Not ever, never, you silly filly."

Fluttershy launched herself forward out of her chair. She slammed Pinkie backwards, kissing her fiercely, almost viciously, as she pinned down the earth pony with her front hooves. Pinkie made no complaint and offered no resistance, only grunting slightly as the two ponies tumbled to the floor. With her heart hammering in her chest, Fluttershy broke the kiss long enough to begin working her way down the pink pony's neck with hard, insistent nips.

She was not the least bit gentle, and she was not even remotely kind.

Pinkie never lost her smile.

It had all began with Iron Will.

After Iron Will left town, Fluttershy didn't step foot in Sugarcube Corner for nearly a month. Pinkie Pie never said a word about it, though. Never even questioned. Never let her smile flicker or falter for even a moment.

That made it worse. Fluttershy wasn't sure why, exactly, but it did.

Rarity was easy. Fluttershy had only avoided the boutique for a week or so, and then Rarity came bursting into her cottage with demands that Fluttershy accompany the unicorn to the spa. Fluttershy couldn't really say no. She'd never been able to say no to Rarity, not really, and so she didn't even bother trying. She'd simply followed her friend down to the spa. Once there, the pegasus had tried to apologize, yet again—her words stuttering, stumbling—but Rarity had shushed her almost immediately.

"All water under the bridge, darling."

"B-but, Rarity …"

And Rarity had smiled, a kind smile, a generous smile, and slowly repeated, "Water under the bridge."

That had been that. They never spoke of it again and, as far as Fluttershy could tell, things were back to how they'd been.

But that wouldn't work with Pinkie Pie. It couldn't work with Pinkie Pie. With Rarity, there were years of friendship to fall back on, shared interests, shared temperaments. With Pinkie, Fluttershy had … well, not nothing, perhaps, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

So Fluttershy had simply returned Pinkie's smiles as best as she was able, and Fluttershy had pretended everything was all right. Because everything was all right. More or less. Everything was back to as good as it ever had been.

As good as it ever would be.

And that was how things had stayed, up until the night of the wedding of Twilight's brother - the real wedding - when Fluttershy had been hiding in a corner of the gardens, away from the dance floor. Rainbow Dash had spent some time with her, chatting and laughing, bragging about her Rainboom, but Dash had left a half hour ago to talk to a Wonderbolt she'd spotted near the refreshments table.

That was all right, though. Fluttershy was happy Dash had spent time with her at all and, really, she couldn't begrudge her fellow pegasus the chance to talk to one of her lifelong idols. Besides, Fluttershy liked being alone. Being along could be restful. Restorative. Calm.

But that calm was interrupted as Fluttershy suddenly felt warm breath in her ear. "You … you don't like me. D'you?"

The words were strangely slow and slurred. So much so that it took Fluttershy a minute or two to recognize the voice that was speaking to her. Once she did, she let out a squeak and whirled around, only to find herself gazing into a pair of eyes the color of the sky on a sunny day.

"O-oh!" Fluttershy could feel her face warm and her stomach give a lurch. She glanced down and smoothed out the folds of her bridesmaid's dress, just to give her shaky forehooves something to do. "Oh, Pinkie, you startled me."

"Yeah. Yeah, I do that a lot. A loooot." As Pinkie leaned forward, resting one of her front hooves on Fluttershy's shoulder, the pegasus caught the unmistakable whiff of alcohol. "S'that why you don't like me? 'Cause I scare you all the time?"

Fluttershy swallowed nervously. "Who … who said I don't like you?"

"Nopony!" Pinkie laughed, but it didn't sound like her usual laughs. It wasn't as full, wasn't as rich. The laugh didn't sound out like a trumpet but vibrated like the string of a violin. "But nopony has to tell me that cupcakes are really, super tasty. Y'know? I'm a smart pony! I know stuff!"

Keeping her eyes firmly on the ground, Fluttershy stood there and tried to think of a response. Something that was true and yet something that was kind. Something that would help.

Pinkie's hoof on her shoulder felt as though it weighed a ton.

"Just … just want you to like me, 'Shy, that's all. 'Cause I like you."

Fluttershy took a deep breath and, when she finally opened her mouth, the words tumbled out of her like a boulder rolling down a mountain: "You're loud and careless and have absolutely no self-control, and I still don't understand why you're so obsessed with parties all the time."

Pinkie didn't respond, and Pinkie didn't move. Almost involuntarily, Fluttershy lifted her head in order to look at her friend. Pinkie was just standing there and smiling at her. Just standing and smiling that same perfectly pleasant and perfectly empty smile that the pink pony had had on her face for the whole last month.

Fluttershy hated that smile. After seeing it every day for weeks on end, she'd come to hate it more than just about anything else in Equestria.

So she leaned forward and kissed Pinkie. She kissed Pinkie, hard and deep, right on that terrible, smiling mouth. It was more of an attack than anything else, really, but it accomplished the job—when she pulled away, Pinkie wasn't smiling anymore. Instead, the pink pony stood with her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide and round.

"You're loud and careless and have absolutely no self-control," repeated Fluttershy slowly, painfully. "You're everything I've always been afraid of, and you're everything I never want to be."

Pinkie simply took a step back, tripping a bit over her own hooves before sitting down on her rump.

"You're right, Pinkie. Sometimes? Sometimes I don't like you. I don't." Fluttershy shut her eyes and gently shook her head. "I don't like you a lot of the time, to tell the truth, but … but I want you. I want you, and I don't want to."

Fluttershy didn't open her eyes even as the seconds ticked by without so much as a sniffle or a giggle coming from the other pony, even as the reception's booming music was the only thing to be heard throughout the gardens. She didn't open her eyes when she felt a pony step up right next to her. Nor did she open her eyes when a pair of lips touched her neck, tracing a warm, wet line up to her ear, and she didn't open her eyes when those lips began murmuring words of temptation, words of forgiveness, words of blessed, blessed release.

She kept her eyes closed through it all, because she didn't want to have to watch it all unfold. She didn't want to have to watch as she gave in. As she gave in to the demons that whispered to her, in a voice so very much like the one which belonged to that infuriating pink pony. As she gave in to the voice that whispered that it was all right to let go, to let loose, to let it all out. That whispered the sweetest and kindest of lies.

Fluttershy kept her eyes closed throughout it all and, in the gardens of the royal palace, at last Fluttershy came undone.

It had all began with Iron Will, those many years ago, but the ending? The ending was something Fluttershy dared not think too much about. The ending was something Fluttershy was too afraid to think too much about.

Fluttershy moved around the kitchen of Sugarcube Corner as quickly and as quietly as she could. She knew she didn't have long - Pinkie Pie was generally an early riser, and the earth pony could potentially be woken up by the slightest noise. It was a bit strange to be alone in the bakery, surrounded by empty silence instead of the usual hustle and bustle, but Fluttershy pushed any uneasiness aside. She had more important things to worry about.

Important things like muffins.

Carefully, Fluttershy mixed the batter and poured it into the tin tray she'd found in the drying racks, taking pains to ensure that each cup in the tray received an equal amount. Then she slid the tray into the oven, set the timer, and trotted out to the bakery's dining area with a rag held between her teeth.

Fluttershy began a bit of tidying up as she waited for the muffins to bake. She liked cleaning up around the bakery. It was a peaceful sort of chore, leisurely and quiet, and she enjoyed being able to do a favor for Pinkie, however small that favor might be. Plus, it never took that long to wipe down the tables or to rearrange the chairs. By the time she'd finished and put away the cleaning rag, the timer went off and alerted her that the muffins were done.

With a smile, the pegasus scouted around for an oven mitt and then, once the mitt was acquired, slid the tray of muffins out of the oven.

"Ooh! Smells yummy!"

The tray clattered to the floor as Fluttershy whipped around. Pinkie stood not three feet away, looking wide awake and as cheerful as ever. The earth pony danced an excited little jig, her eyes fixed upon the muffins.

With a shaky exhalation of breath, Fluttershy lifted a hoof to her rapidly beating heart. "Oh, Pinkie! You startled me."

"Sorry, 'Shy!" Pinkie leaned down to give an exploratory sniff to the muffins on the ground. "Mmm, cranberry-chocolate? My favorite!"

"I know," said Fluttershy. As her heart rate gradually slowed, she felt an amused smile begin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Pinkie, I always make cranberry-chocolate, and you always tell me that they're your favorite."

Pinkie grabbed a muffin from the tin and, with a toss of her head, sent it flying through the air. She caught the muffin on its descent and downed it in a single gulp. Smacking her lips, she replied, "Well, that's 'cause they always are my favorite!"

Fluttershy simply shook her head and, fetching the tray of muffins from the floor, carried it out to the main room of Sugarcube Corner. She could hear Pinkie cheerfully trot along after her, babbling something about cranberries and chocolate being similar to parties and music. Fluttershy placed the tray down on one of the tables then turned around to face her breakfast companion.

Her smile dropped into a frown as soon as she did.

Pinkie tilted her head in response. "What's wrong?"

"You're … you're limping."

Pinkie's grin flickered, just for a moment. "Aww, don't you worry your pretty little mane about that." She giggled a bit. "Your Auntie Pinkie Pie is okie dokie!"

Fluttershy pursed her lips, debating over whether it was worth arguing with Pinkie about that obvious half-truth, but after a moment, she turned back around with a quiet little sigh. As Fluttershy began dividing the muffins between the two plates that were already on the table, Pinkie Pie took a seat across from her. There was, as always, one muffin set aside for Fluttershy with the rest left for Pinkie. As the earth pony began happily munching away, Fluttershy stood there and quietly watched.

Pinkie Pie ate much as she did everything else - loudly, sloppily, without the least concern for propriety or appearance. It was almost like watching a young filly at play. But even as Pinkie eagerly gulped down the muffins, it didn't escape Fluttershy's notice that she seemed to cringe a bit whenever she put any weight on her right shoulder.

So as Pinkie continued eating, Fluttershy sidled up behind the other pony and placed her hooves on Pinkie's shoulders, massaging lightly. Almost immediately she was rewarded with a long, low groan of pleasure.

"How's that?" crooned Fluttershy softly into Pinkie's ear. "Does that feel nice?"

"Mmph!" Pinkie said through a mouthful of muffin, nodding her head. She leaned back, relaxing against the pegasus' hooves, and Fluttershy smiled as Pinkie's eyes drifted shut.

The rest of the muffins lay on the table, uneaten and unnoticed, as Fluttershy's backrub continued. Fluttershy listened closely as she massaged the other pony, paying careful attention to every gasp, to every groan. Pinkie would never just tell her what hurt and what felt good, so she had to be on the lookout for any grimace or noise that might indicate that she'd found a tender spot or pressed just a little too hard.

Fortunately, Fluttershy was a fast learner. Over the years, she'd come to know Pinkie's non-verbal cues almost as well as she knew her own name.

After a few minutes, Pinkie Pie began humming softly, a jaunty little tune that she seemed to be making up as she went along. "You always give the very bestest massages, 'Shy. I like it when you're gentle like this. I mean, I like it when you're all grrr and whoa and rawr, too! 'Cause you don't get like that very often, which makes it super special!" Her eyes fluttered open, then, and they had never looked quite so blue or quite so bottomless. "But not many ponies touch me like this, you know? It's … it's nice."

Fluttershy yanked back her hooves, as though she'd just been burned, and quickly looked away. She couldn't stand looking at Pinkie - not with that guileless expression in her eyes, so full of trust, full of understanding, affection, even gratitude. Even after everything, Pinkie Pie trusted her, and she simply couldn't stand it.

"Fluttershy? You okay?"

Fluttershy swallowed thickly. "I think I'm in love with you."

There was a pause, a brief yet merciless silence, before Pinkie whispered in reply, "Even though I'm broken?"

"I'm broken too. Remember?"

"You silly filly. You're not broken."

Fluttershy said nothing.

"You're not," Pinkie repeated, more firmly this time.

The pegasus took a step back and, after squaring her shoulders, lifted her head. Pinkie Pie had turned around in her seat and was staring at Fluttershy with an unwavering gaze. Fluttershy forced herself to not flinch or back away.

"If I'm not broken," said Fluttershy, in as loud and as strong a voice as she could manage, "then you're not broken, either."

Pinkie frowned for a moment, as her brows knit together in thought. Fluttershy waited quietly, patiently. Sugarcube Corner was closed today, after all. They had all the time in the world and, even if they didn't, Fluttershy would give Pinkie all the time she needed.

Then, as Pinkie opened her mouth to respond, there came a knock at the front door to the bakery. Both ponies inside shop exchanged confused looks with one another, and Pinkie Pie gave a shrug.

"Fluttershy, darling?" called out a familiar voice from the other side of the door. "Fluttershy, I know you're in there."

Fluttershy blinked. Rarity. But how did Rarity know that Fluttershy would be at Sugarcube Corner? She'd certainly never told anyone that she'd be coming here. But before Fluttershy could continue that distressing line of thought too very far, she was distracted by another round of knocking from the door, louder and more insistent this time.

"Please, Fluttershy, come out to speak with me. I … I know there are things that happened yesterday afternoon that ought to be discussed …"

As her chest tightened in panic, Fluttershy glanced over to Pinkie Pie. "What - what do I do?"

"I guess you go talk to Rarity?" Pinkie leaned forward and gave the pegasus an encouraging nudge with her snout. "Rarity's your friend! She wants to know if you're mad or upset or otherwise not super-duper happy."

Fluttershy nodded tightly in reply. "Right. My friend. Right."

She looked back toward the front door and took a deep breath. Her friend. Rarity was her friend, and she knew - intellectually, at least - that Pinkie Pie was right. She would go talk with Rarity, and they'd work things out, and everything would be okay again. She hoped, anyway. With heavy hooves and a painfully thudding heart, the pegasus trudged determinedly toward the front of the bakery.

"Hey, 'Shy?"

Fluttershy paused, with her hoof on the door, and glanced back over her shoulder. Pinkie was staring down at the floor, but she was grinning. It was a small grin, not a huge Pinkie Pie smile, but it was warm and it was real.

"I think I love you, too."

Fluttershy simply stood there a moment, taking in those words, replaying them in her head, committing the rhythm and cadence of them to memory. And as those words slowly sunk in and she realized they were real, a grin spread across her own face, slowly but surely.

"I'll … I'll see you later tonight?" Fluttershy offered, her words more question than statement. "That is, if you want to see me again tonight, I mean."

Pinkie nodded quickly. "That sounds great! I can make us some dinner, if you wanna have dinner? Ooh, I could make squash! Or maybe pumpkin bread, or maybe squash and pumpkin bread -"

"Dinner would be … would be lovely. Thank you."

And still grinning, Fluttershy turned back around and opened the door to Sugarcube Corner. Rarity stood directly before her, with downturned mouth and anxious eyes, that usually immaculate purple mane frizzy, unkempt. All in all, the unicorn looked every bit as much of a mess as Fluttershy had felt last night.

It was tempting, so very tempting, to hold back. To wait for Rarity to make the first move, to say the first word, to hold her breath and see where things might stand between the two of them. But that look in Rarity's eyes - so unhappy, so familiar - compelled Fluttershy forward.

She stepped outside and pulled Rarity into a close, tight hug. Fluttershy hugged Rarity for all that she was worth.

And, with a relieved sigh, Rarity hugged her back.

Author's Notes: The middle segment of this story was adapted from a piece I'd originally written for a writing prompt from Thirty Minute Ponies Stories: "Somepony confronts their inner demons."

Also, thanks go to Professor Piggy for pre-reading and providing feedback.