A geyser of tea erupted from Twilight Sparkle's mouth, arcing magnificently in the air before gravity pulled it down to splash unceremoniously upon the book in her hooves titled Taxes and You. She wouldn't mind much; it was an older edition, and she'd only wanted to find the differences between the two versions. Not to mention that it was the one subject in Equestria she couldn't find a modicum of interest in, but that was neither here nor there.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Fluttershy darted into the library's kitchen to fetch a towel. "I guess that was kind of sudden of me to say that. I was so excited to tell you, I just couldn't wait."
"'Kind of sudden'?" Twilight repeated, doing her best not to choke. "You want a murder to happen in Ponyville! How is that not sudden, Fluttershy? Can you tell me what's wrong with this picture?"
The pegasus' eyes darted downward as she helped to mop the mess up. "Well, there hasn't been a murder here in such a long time that ponies don't see the positive sides of it anymore. I was thinking that a murder might, you know, bring the town back together. Rarity and Applejack have been arguing again, Rainbow Dash has been kind of stressed from weather patrol hours, and Pinkie Pie was telling me about some complaints against her parties. Murders are good ways of solving those problems."
"Is there something else going on, Fluttershy?" Twilight's eyes darted about the room for possible escape routes in what she thought was a subtle manner. "You know you can talk to me if you're feeling stressed about something."
"Um ..." Fluttershy poked at the wooden floor with a tentative hoof. "You're right, I guess there's more than that. You see, I've wanted to try my hoof at being a murderer for such a long time. I've read about it, you know. Sometimes I step out of my cottage, look over at Ponyville, and think that it would be perfect if there were a murder to darken the sky a little bit."
"What about stress?" Twilight asked, torn between stepping forward and stepping back. "There's something stressful going on in your life, isn't there. There has to be if you're suddenly bringing this up. What's frustrating you?"
"I'm not frustrated," Fluttershy mumbled. "I just keep hearing other ponies talking about, um, 'the birdbrains with the greasy wings', and ... I'm sorry, Twilight, but it really bothers me. It makes me so mad I could break something just thinking about it." She stomped with enough force that Twilight could almost hear it make a sound. "They ... the ponies really don't like it when we're around. They can be good at hiding it sometimes, but it's always there."
Twilight covered a mouth with her hoof. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know there were racists in Ponyville."
"Please don't call them that. It makes them sound like a bunch of mean ponies, and they're usually very nice. But I still want a murder, Twilight."
Taking a deep breath, the unicorn attempted to calm her screaming thoughts. "But why? How would a murder solve anything?"
"Murders happen every day, you know. One way or another, there's going to be a murder, and it might as well be me who causes it. If there was a murder here, maybe ponies would realize that they're looking at everything the wrong way. Welcoming murders is just the first step."
"Guh." Twilight's brain was beginning to sizzle from the unexpected words of her timid friend.
"And, well, I thought that maybe you could help me, since you've read a lot about murders before."
"Wait, what? Me reading about murders? How did you even know that?"
"I kind of saw the books you were putting away, and nopony else was going to check those kinds of books out. I mean, I've tried to murder before, but it didn't go very well, so maybe tonight you could help me a little —?"
"No." Twilight shook her head firmly. "I can't support you in this, Fluttershy. I'm sorry, and I'd like to deal with these racists as much as you do, but it's against the law. You can't take things from ponies like that. Those books I was reading, they're fiction! They don't have anything to do with real murders! I don't want to put you down, but what you want to do is just sick! I have half a mind to write to Princess Celestia about this."
"Oh." Fluttershy's ears drooped. "Okay. I'm sorry for wasting your time. I guess I need to do this on my own, then."
Twilight's exclamation of "What?!" came too late; Fluttershy had already turned and walked out the door.
She couldn't sleep. No matter how much she tossed and turned in bed, the lavender unicorn couldn't find that peace of mind she so desperately sought. The sound of Fluttershy's soft voice shaping the word "murder" rang over and over again in her mind. Maybe she'd decided not to go through with murdering anypony? Twilight clung to that thought, but it seemed unlikely — her pegasus friend had seemed unusually determined. Had the abuse really pushed her that far?
As Spike snored on, Twilight tiptoed out of the room and down the stairs. It's just for a walk, she told herself, stepping outside in the crisp autumn night air. Fluttershy's not up to anything, she can't be. She wouldn't hurt an ant, much less kill a pony. Right?
On her way to the cottage, finding her way by the glow of her horn, she ran over the defensive spells she knew. It never hurt to be prepared, and Fluttershy might be desperate enough to try to hurt her if she interfered. Interfered with what? She shuddered and blocked that thought from any further progression. Fluttershy would be in bed, she told herself. She'd be asleep, innocently dreaming.
But she wasn't. The door of the little house was ajar, letting in a faint breeze that wafted inside through the small crack. Light hoofprints trotted through it and over the hill, in the direction of the cemetery. Sitting on the couch inside, Angel shrugged at the look of worry on her face and kicked his feet up.
Approaching the cemetery brought the faint sound of Fluttershy's voice. Pleading? Only Fluttershy would plead to her murder victim. Swallowing back her fear, Twilight dimmed her horn while preparing a simple shield spell. It wouldn't last under more than a few blows, but she could come up with another plan when she'd fully grasped the situation.
Fluttershy was sitting alone at the gated entrance. Twilight couldn't tell who she was supposed to be talking to at this distance. Maybe she'd already buried the unfortunate pony beneath the towering tombstones already. Black birds sat perched in a nearby tree, beady eyes watching intently as the unicorn drew near with shaking hooves.
"Fluttershy," she rasped, staring at her friend with wide eyes. "What have you done?"
"Oh, hi Twilight. I was just enjoying my murder when you came along. Do you want to sit?"
Twilight sat. One of the birds ruffled its wings.
"I know it looks awful, but I ... I couldn't just sit there and do nothing! Not when ponies were being so hateful!"
"I can't believe you did this, Fluttershy. What could have possibly possessed you? Oh, I was right, I should've written to the princess first! Who is it? Where's the body?!"
"Body?" Fluttershy's blue eyes widened. "Twilight ... you think I k-killed somepony?"
"Yes! You said so yourself, you were going to commit a murder! You said it about eight times!" She paused. Something seemed off about this situation. Her voice cracked. "Or were you casually talking about it for fun?"
"Twilight, there aren't any racists in Ponyville," the pegasus said gently. "Some ponies are just prejudiced against my more scary-looking animal friends. Don't you know a group of crows is called a murder?"
"I'm not sure how I came to that conclusion," she admitted when she'd come to. Fluttershy had helpfully dragged her back to her cottage, where she had nudged the unicorn up against Angel's stubborn body. "I should have realized that the conversation was too vague. I should've asked about what was really going on."
"Don't blame yourself, Twilight." Fluttershy gestured to the window, through which a dozen pairs of black eyes watched over intent beaks. "Somepony was mentioning how crows were, well, 'nasty', and it bothered me a bit. Ponies are usually talking about how crows are worth less than hummingbirds and other feathered friends. I shouldn't have blown the situation out of proportion like that. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Twilight pulled her friend into a hug. "Although you probably didn't help by making 'murder' into a verb. That's what really got me going." She released her and smiled slowly. "How about tomorrow I help you with your murder?"
Fluttershy brightened. "Oh, would you do that? That would be wonderful! Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we can set to work talking to the crows, giving them their own names, oh, and making cute little pamphlets to hand out to Ponyville! Crows just need to be shown a little love, and they can be as friendly as a robin when nopony's making fun of them. We could set up a little stand, and let ponies pet the crows, and ..."
She trailed off, noticing that Twilight had already fallen right to sleep.
"Or whenever you wake up, we could do that," she whispered kindly. Pulling a blanket over the unicorn, she settled onto her other couch and sighed in satisfaction. "Good night, Twilight. Thanks for helping me with my murder."
Outside the cottage, a crow cawed softly.