Argh... I can't sleep! Rainbow Dash thought to herself as she tossed and turned on the train bed. And Appleloosa is still another few hours away! Rainbow dug her head into her pillow, trying to drown out Spike's horribly loud snoring. Maybe somepony's awake.... Immediately, Rainbow's mind went to the one pony she was sure was still up at this time.
"Pssst.... Pinkie Pie, you asleep yet?" Rainbow whispered as soft as she could, grabbing a nearby unlit candle.
"No," Pinkie's high pitched voice returned the questioned, causing Rainbow to smile a little as she fumbled to find a match. "Are you asleep yet?" Rainbow heard her ask in return.
Rainbow paused for a second, her mind confused. Did she just ask... nevermind. It's Pinkie, I should know better, she thought as she lit the match and set the wick of the candle on fire. Taking a few steps forward with the soft glow of the candle to light her way, she started to speak once more.
"If I was sleeping, how could I ask you if you were asleep?"
"Oh yeah!" Pinkie replied, followed by her signature giggle, as she stepped forward to join Rainbow under the light of the candle.
"When we get to Appleloosa, you think we'll have to carry that heavy tree all the way from the train to the orchard?" Rainbow asked, not at all looking forward to carrying the tree that was sitting in the back of the train.
"What tree? You mean Bloomberg?" Pinkie asked with an innocent tone.
"No, Fluttershy," Rainbow sarcastically answered back, rolling her eyes.
"Fluttershy's not a tree silly!" Pinkie retorted, a smile on her face.
She can't be serious, right? Rainbow wondered. Raising an eyebrow, she was prepared to question Pinkie when the familiar voice of a purple unicorn appeared.
"What's going on?" Twilight asked, causing Rainbow to turn up to stare at her. Rainbow was more than ready to explain about Pinkie's weak grasp of sarcasm, but Pinkie was faster.
"Rainbow Dash thinks Fluttershy's a tree!" Pinkie said with a tone of disbelief.
"I do not think she's a tree! I was just-" Rainbow defended with a sense of disbelief in her. Getting a little flustered. However, before Rainbow could finish her defence, Twilight interrupted once again.
"Did you say she was a tree?" Twilight interrogated.
"No! Well...yes... but- not exactly-" Rainbow stuttered, looking more than a little lost on what to do.
"Ya know she's not a tree right?" Twilight continued her questions,a look of utter confusion on her face.
"She's not a tree, Dashie!" Pinkie added.
All of a sudden, Rainbow heard a voice come from her back.
"I'd like to be a tree." The soft, sweet voice of Fluttershy caused the rest to turn to her.
"Oh for Pete's sake!" Spike shouted loudly, grabbing his pillow, walking to the caboose of the train where Bloomberg laid and slammed the door shut, much to the confusion of the other ponies.
"Well that was kinda huffy!" Twilight commented.
"Huffy the Magic Dragon," Fluttershy joked with a giggle.
The laughter quickly spread throughout the four ponies under the soft light, their worries seemed to be lost in that one joke. However, the laughter was short-lived as the booming voice of somepony next to them caught their attention.
"Would you all be quiet now!" Rarity shouted as loud as she could. Her mane in curls and a mask and cucumbers over her face and eyes.
The rest followed Rarity's appearance with louds screams and screeches as Twilight quickly blew out the candle, causing each pony to return to the beds they came from only a minute ago.
Rainbow lay completely still on her bed, staring at one spot on the ceiling.
"This burns. I can't sleep! And it's only been about 30 minutes since Freak-rity broke up our night gathering," Rainbow whispered under her breath. "Maybe I could-" Rainbow thought about calling Pinkie again but she wasn't looking forward at angering Rarity multiple times in a night. "Nah. Rarity would go crazy if I don't let her get her 'beauty sleep'," Rainbow imitated the unicorn.
Not a second later, Rainbow's ears picked up the faint sounds of a pony walking on the wooden floors of the train, fading off into the distance before the sound of a door being opened slowly and closed lightly echoed throughout the cabin.
Somepony else is awake? Rainbow thought. Turning back up to the spot on the ceiling, it wasn't long before her restlessness got the better of her. I should see if she's okay. Rainbow quickly inched her way off her bed, hoping to be as silent as possible. She traced the sound of the door to the back of the cabin, where Bloomberg and Spike resided.
Wonder what anypony could be doing there... Rainbow was determined to find out. Opening the door as quietly as possible, she sneaked inside before shutting the door noiselessly behind her.
Turning around, Rainbow froze and stared at the scene in front of her. Fluttershy was sitting in front of a train window to the left of the cabin, her face glazed over. Her eyes seemed to be locked in a hypnotic state as she stared at the thousands of glistening stars, moonlight bathing her yellow coat and light pink mane.
Spike was sleeping next to Bloomberg, his snoring could be heard. However, it didn't seem to phase Fluttershy, who continued to watch the scenery pass her by.
Rainbow couldn't explain what about the pony in front of her made her feel...sad. She felt an inner sadness, just watching her best friend sit, motionless, her expression showing that her mind had drifted far away.
Rainbow took a few steps forward, as quietly as possible. Treating Fluttershy as if she was a fragile plate on a shelf, one wrong move and she could shatter. Upon reaching three hoofsteps away from the mare, Rainbow opened her mouth to ask:
"A bit for your thoughts?"
Fluttershy jumped and turned to Rainbow, her breath suddenly becoming quick.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you," Rainbow apologized.
"It's alright, Rainbow." Fluttershy turned back to the window to resume her glazed stare out of the window.
"What're you doing out here?"
"Just thinking," Fluttershy responded.
Fluttershy released a small giggle. "Trees," she answered.
"You mean what you said back in the cabin? That you would like to be a tree?" Rainbow asked to clarify her doubts. Fluttershy only gave a nod in return. "Yeah... that was a little odd for you. Usually Pinkie's the one to be random, and you've never said something unless you have a reason for it."
Fluttershy's mouth grew into a smile as she turned to Rainbow.
"It's a long story, Dash."
"We have time!" Rainbow replied in a heartbeat. Fluttershy couldn't help but laugh lightly at that last statement as she gazed back out the window.
"I guess you need to know the relationship between my mother and I. We were close. I guess its because I never knew my father."
"You... never knew your father?" Rainbow repeated, feeling slightly uncomfortable asking such a question.
"Yeah... he disappeared when I was born. We only had each other, but I didn't mind. My mother was the most amazing mare I had ever known. The kindest, most wonderful pony I had ever met. I remember the times when she and I would spend every Saturday night together. She would fly me up and-"
"S-Slow down!" Fluttershy screamed, burying her face in her mother's mane as she laid on her back.
Her mother gave a small chuckle at the scared filly on her back, her long and beautiful mane flying in the air. Her light yellow coat was also visible against the night sky as she took her beloved daughter above Cloudsdale. She reached down to the filly on her back, picking her up lightly but, immediately, tears started to flow down Fluttershy's eyes.
"S-Stop! I can't fly! It's too high up!" Fluttershy cried, desperately flailing her hooves in the air to find something to grasp.
The mare returned the worry with a soft smile of her own, as she stopped her flight and landed on a cloud, letting Fluttershy down.
"There's no need to worry, my sweet filly," her mother assured her, pecking Fluttershy on her cheek and almost instantly, the crying ceased. "Your mother will catch you even if you fall."
Fluttershy opened her eyes to see the beautiful scenery around her. Cloudsdale was below them, a usually bustling city which was now quiet in the night. The stars were small but many and the crescent moon hung alone in the sky.
Upon looking down, Fluttershy immediately grasped her mother's hoof, shutting her eyes tight.
"Mummy! We're so high up!"
Her mother replied once again with a laugh at her innocence.
"You'll be fine, Fluttershy. Now, tell me, how was the first day of school for you?"
"F-Fine," Fluttershy answered, looking down at the clouds underneath her hooves.
"Fluttershy, I've raised you my whole life. You certainly don't look fine."
"It's just a few ponies... they were really mean to me," Fluttershy admitted, finally sitting down on the cloud and twiddling her hooves.
"Is that so?" Her mother's tone dropped a little. "Would you like me to have a talk with them?"
Fluttershy frantically shook her head. "No need! This really great pony stood up for me!"
Her mother's expression changed to one of surprise. "Is that so?"
Fluttershy nodded her head with a huge smile on her face. "Yup! Her name's Rainbow Dash! She's really cool! And she can fly really fast!" she said as she made a 'zooming' action with her hooves.
"Oh well, I suppose I'll have to thank this Rainbow Dash for taking care of my little filly!" The mare gave a long kiss onto Fluttershy's forehead, making Fluttershy smile even wider.
"How about you mummy? How was the business on the ground?"
Her mother smiled back. "It's going excellent my dear Fluttershy. You should come to the ground sometime. You might like it. The animals, the trees..."
Fluttershy shut her eyes and gave a furious shook of her head. "It's too far down! Plus, I like it up here with all the clouds and ponies!"
"The ground is really colorful too! With all the butterflies and the-"
"Rainbows are colorful too!" Fluttershy rebutted.
"That they are, my daughter," the mare agreed. "I won't force you if you don't want to. Now, are you ready?"
Coughing lightly a few times, the mare took a deep breath in before letting out a beautiful and soothing voice.
"Look here my daughter
I hope you can see
I love you, dear filly
But do you love me?"
Fluttershy took a deep breath of her own, before opening letting out a higher pitch, but still wonderful, voice of her own.
"Oh my dear mother
I love you so
Till seeds turn to trees
With you, I will be."
Fluttershy's eyes were closed shut, her breath had turned slow and calm, a long smile on her face as she mouthed the words. Rainbow sat quietly, staring at her friend. Only after a few silent seconds did Fluttershy speak again.
"And I remember that moment when I got my cutie mark." Fluttershy's voice had small stutters in between as she licked her lips occasionally, turning away from Rainbow.
Fluttershy's mother lowered her head towards a small, hurt blue jay sitting on the floor of her cottage.
"Now don't move little one, your wing is in no condition for flight right now," she muttered as she wrapped a small bandage around the tiny bird's right wing. She carried the bird lightly to the couch, where various other animals sat, each with an injury of their own. Turning her head up to gaze at the rest of her two-story cottage, she closed her eyes to hear the sounds of the many animals around her home. From the happy chirpings of the birds in the yard to the barks of the puppies rolling on the floor.
"I'm gonna have to go to Ponyville to get some supplies," she reminded herself.
What she didn't expect to hear was the loud knocking of her front door. She never expected visitors as customers were made to call before they brought their pets in for care.
"Hmmm? Who could that be?" she wondered before trotting towards the door. Upon opening, she got quite a shock, her eyes opening wide. "F-Fluttershy?"
Her daughter stood at the doorway, her face beaming as she looked at her mother. Beside Fluttershy stood another pony. He was fairly tall and had a brown coat with a much darker brown mane.
"Excuse me, Miss? Do you know this filly?" the stallion asked.
"Oh yes but... what is she doing here? Did she get in trouble?"
"That's just it, Miss! I found her in the forest just under Cloudsdale, alone!" the stallion remarked.
"Oh my... Are you alright my dear daughter?" The mare leaned down to speak to the filly, who answered joyfully.
"Yes! Better than alright! Look!" Fluttershy turned to her right, showing her flank, which now sported three pink butterflies, to her mother, who only smiled softly in return before standing up once more to speak to the stallion.
"Thank you so much for returning her to me. But how did you know how to find me?"
"It was easy when she told me her mother was 'a pony that takes care of animals near the small village on the ground.' You are the only vet in Ponyville, Miss. It didn't take long for me to bring her here."
The mare chuckled softly. "Well, thank you, Mister..."
"Whooves," the stallion clarified.
"Ah, Mr Whooves. Thank you so much."
"You're quite welcome, Miss," Whooves answered before trotting away in the direction of Ponyville.
As Fluttershy's mother turned around after closing the door, she could already see her daughter talking to the animals which flocked to her like a moth to a light. She couldn't help but give a heartfelt smile.
"How did you end up here, Fluttershy?"
"Well, there was this race in Cloudsdale. Remember Rainbow Dash?"
"That pegasus who protected you from those mean ponies?"
"Yup! She challenged those ponies to a race and... I got k-knocked off..." Fluttershy explained, looking down to the floor as she drew circles with her hooves. "But a bunch of butterflies caught me and there was this big explosion of colors that scared the animals away!" Fluttershy was getting into the story, her hooves animating each scene to the best of her ability, causing her mother to laugh as she hugged her daughter close. "And after telling the cute animals that they were okay, I got this!" She turned around once again, proudly showing her cutie mark.
"That's wonderful, my dear," her mother leaned in close, kissing her on her forehead. "But you do know we're going to have to get back to school."
The animals around Fluttershy all had sad looks on their faces as her mother muttered those words, but Fluttershy's expression was the most glum.
"Oh..." Fluttershy sighed. "Okay..."
A few quiet seconds passed before the mare spoke once more.
"Or... you could stay with me and I can teach you how to care for animals."
Fluttershy's mouth grew into the biggest smile her mother had ever seen.
"Really!? Oh thank you!" Fluttershy leaped to her mother, hugging her tightly. "I'd love to! Hear that little friends? We're going to spend time together!"
The animals leapt to Fluttershy, crowding around the two ponies as several birds and animals made their home in both pony's manes.
"Now the first thing is to...."
"She sounds amazing, Fluttershy!" Rainbow remarked.
"You'll have to introduce her to me sometime!"
Silence. Rainbow immediately felt the atmosphere in the room change. It felt as if the joyful environment had been replaced with a heavy air that grabbed at her throat. Fluttershy's expressions was stoic, her face unwavering.
"F-Fluttershy?" Rainbow called out to her friend, who didn't budge.
"She... She's not around anymore..."
Rainbow shook her head. "What do you mean?" She feigned ignorance, pushing away what Fluttershy was implying. Unknown to her, this was only hurting Fluttershy more.
"A-A month after I graduated... She..."
"Don't go!" Fluttershy pleaded, tears pouring down her face as she grasped onto her mother's hoof.
Her mother laid on a hospital bed, various tubes sticking out of her body, the faint beeps of the heart monitor the only other sound in the room. Fluttershy sat to her right, devastated at her mother's condition.
"Fluttershy, we all have to leave eventually..."
"Not you! Not now!" Fluttershy wailed, her breath short and ragged. "Look I can fix you!" She proceeded to take a bandage off a nearby table and wrap her mother's hoof in it. "You need to stay! You have to stay! Those animals! The cottage!"
"It's fine, my daughter. I've taught you all you need to know to run the cottage and to look after the animals."
"No! The animals need you!" Fluttershy brought her face closer to her mother's hoof, tears wetting the fur as she whispered, "I need you."
Summoning whatever little strength she had, her mother lifted her left hoof and placed it on Fluttershy's head.
"My beloved daughter. I only have one wish."
Fluttershy didn't answer.
"When I pass, please request for my burial to be in a forest. I spent my life taking care of life on the ground, I wish to end it there."
Fluttershy could only nod, her face buried in her mother's right hoof, grasping it as if her life depended on it.
"Would you like to sing once more, my daughter?" her mother asked, coughing slightly.
Fluttershy turned up with red eyes, giving a single nod. Taking a deep breath, her mother sung with a weak and hoarse voice.
"Look here my daughter
I hope you can see
I love you, dear filly
But do you love me?"
Fluttershy tried to find the best composure she could, spluttering out her part through sobs and whimpers.
"Oh my dear mother
I love you so
Till seeds turn to trees..."
However, before Fluttershy could finish, she saw her mother's eyes close as the sound of the heart monitor change to one constant beep...
Rainbow could feel her own tears at the very edge of her eyes, her mouth quivering as she saw Fluttershy stare out into the night sky, to the very moon hanging above.
"So I obeyed her last wish. A few days later, we held a burial in the middle of the forest."
"Which forest? I mean, there's so many near Ponyville."
Fluttershy gulped. "The forest... where I fell. The place where I fell from Cloudsdale when you knocked me off. That day changed me. It made me see how much I had been missing because I was afraid of going to the ground. It made me wonder, how much I've missed simply because I was afraid. And who would've known?" Fluttershy gave a heartbreaking laugh. "Who would've known I'd be doing the very thing I feared when I was a filly; taking care of animals."
"And then it grew."
Rainbow's eyebrows arched together. "Grew? What grew?"
"The place where we buried her. In a few months, an absolutely beautiful tree grew from where we laid her to rest, at the exact spot I fell. But it wasn't just some tree." Fluttershy smiled. "It had bright pink leaves, the same color as my mother's mane. I thought I was dreaming at first but no, that one tree is the only tree that does not have orange or green leaves. It has pink leaves."
Rainbow wouldn't have believed it if it was any other pony, but hearing Fluttershy say it with such a heartfelt and heart wrenching tone, told Rainbow that there would be no reason for Fluttershy to lie.
"I go there every Saturday night, I still can't let her go... ," Fluttershy admitted.
Fluttershy landed softly away from the pink-leafed tree. Her steps were soft, and her face wore a sincere smile as she approached it. In front of the tree was a cliff that descended down into a large flat land with multiple trees dotting the landscape. A river snaked through the land in front of the cliff, diving it into two large paths with grass covering them as far as the eye could see.
Clouds covered most of the sky, except for a small opening in the middle, allowing the setting sun to spray its bright orange hue over the landscape. Birds could be seen dancing among the clouds, flying in loops as they soared across the wide open sky. The whole scene looked as though it were a painting on a canvas. Surreal and beautiful.
Fluttershy trotted up to the edge of the cliff, just under the cool shade of the tree she loved so much. As she sat down, the long grass surrounding her swayed gently as a calm breeze flew in.
"Evening," Fluttershy greeted, "this week was really great! Remember Rainbow Dash? She won the Best Young Flyer's competition! It was amazing! There was cheering and we celebrated afterwards!"
Fluttershy kept quiet, as if waiting for a reply. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before letting her smile grow wider.
"I know...," Fluttershy answered to an unheard question.
"It's odd. Every time I go there, no matter how cold the night is, I still feel warm. Its a warmth I just can't explain. Every time I'm at that tree, I can smell her scent, I feel her close to me, putting her hoof over my shoulder and bringing me closer to her. I can feel her wiping away my tears and listening intently to my stories," Fluttershy turned her eyes down to the floor, her smile slowly vanished the more she spoke. "It's like she's there with me..."
Rainbow didn't know how to respond anymore. She felt as if any word she spoke would only make the situation worse and threaten to send tears flowing from her eyes.
"You miss her?" Rainbow asked. Only after the words came out of her mouth, did she realize how obvious the answer would probably be.
Rainbow was immediately taken aback. "You don't?"
Fluttershy shook her head. "That's because I'm with her every Saturday night. And the love I felt, I mean feel, will never go away," she explained.
"Does it hurt?" Rainbow inquired.
This time, the question returned the heavy sobs and the river of tears as Fluttershy inched her way closer to Rainbow, resting her head on Rainbow's right shoulder.
"Yes." Fluttershy sniffed, feeling Rainbow's hooves give her a huge hug. "I keep wondering if I could've done something, done anything to save her. She gave me so much, yet I felt as if I didn't give her anything!" she stuttered through painful sobs and whimpers.
"Fluttershy," Rainbow spoke, her own tears now released as she felt Fluttershy's sadness transfer to her. "you gave her the most important thing anypony could give. You gave her a daughter she could love and care for. A daughter, she knew, loved her back."
Fluttershy couldn't hold it in anymore. She jumped towards Rainbow, hugging her tightly with all her might, forcing out sadness which had been bottled up for years. No words were spoken between the two pegasi, but no words were needed. Both ponies knew what each other had on their minds, and each other's company was all they needed.
Rainbow lost track of how much time they spent hugging each other, but she didn't care. The world could've ended and Rainbow wouldn't have broken the hug. Only when Fluttershy started to grip onto Rainbow's shoulders and push Rainbow away at arms length did she snap out of her trance.
"She was right about you, Rainbow," Fluttershy spoke with a tender smile across her face.
"Heh, what did she say about me?" Rainbow asked, trying to maintain her composure.
"So, this Rainbow Dash, she's really special to you, isn't she?" Fluttershy's mother asked, tending to a small fox in the cottage.
"Oh yes," Fluttershy answered, bandaging the leg of a raccoon next to her. "She's the best friend a pony could ask for."
"I see... my daughter, would you promise me something?"
"Don't let her go. That mare will change your life. She'll be there for you till the very end, that I can tell."
Fluttershy turned her head quizzically before answering with an innocent, and joyous, grin across her face. "I promise!"
"Good! Now, come on." Her mother tied the last of the bandage around the fox's leg before putting it on her couch. "Let's go plant some trees."
Fluttershy quickly wrapped the last of the bandage around the raccoon's feet before exiting the cottage.
The first rays of the morning sun crept up on the cabin, piercing through the window.
"Wow, morning already? Come on, we'd better go back before the girls start to worry where we went." Rainbow started to stand up.
"Wait!" Rainbow stopped in her tracks, staring at the pegasus who had just yelled.
"Would you-umm... please- please don't tell any of the girls this?" Fluttershy sheepishly requested.
Rainbow gave a smile of her own. "Don't worry, Fluttershy. I won't say a word."
"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!"
Rainbow leaned closer to give Fluttershy one more hug.
"You're welcome, Fluttershy. After all, what are best friends for?" Rainbow whispered into Fluttershy's ear before they exiting the cabin.
Unbeknownst to them, Spike laid on the bed, awake the whole time, his pillow wet with tears. As he heard the door close, he muttered under his breath.
"I promise too, Fluttershy."
Rainbow approached the area as cautiously and as quietly as she could manage. She gazed forward and there it was, a tree with bright pink leaves, standing majestically among the others under the night sky. Up among the diamond-stuttered indigo sky stuck a bright crescent moon, bathing the area in the soft glow of its light.
What's more, under the tree sat the familiar pegasus, who had her eyes closed, the most heartfelt smile Rainbow had ever seen painted across her face.
Rainbow approached the area carefully, treating that tree as if it was a sacred object, which it probably was to her best friend.
"F-Fluttershy?" Rainbow whispered. Fluttershy didn't budge, her eyes were still shut. Rainbow was prepared to call out to her again but Fluttershy replied just before she could.
"Hey there, Rainbow. Come on, sit down."
Rainbow trotted up and sat to Fluttershy's right. The scene over the cliff was much different than what it was in the evening. The trees were merely dark shadows with vague outlines. The clouds had all but cleared and the only signs of life were her and the pegasi sitting next to her.
"Mummy, this here's Rainbow Dash. You never met her before but she's the pony I was telling you about." Fluttershy opened her eyes as she spoke.
"Hey there, umm... M-Miss?" Rainbow greeted uncomfortably, feeling a little foolish.
A few seconds of awkward silence followed as Rainbow looked at Fluttershy, who sat with a tranquil expression.
"You raised Fluttershy well, Miss. She's an amazing pegasus," Rainbow remarked. This time, her words were followed by a small gust of wind, causing a pink petal to fall onto Rainbow's head.
Rainbow picked the petal as she stared at the light pink leaf.
Fluttershy giggled playfully. "That's her way of letting you know she's listening. Close your eyes, Rainbow."
Rainbow obeyed without question, grasping the petal delicately in her left hoof. As Rainbow closed her eyes, she felt something... strange. She couldn't explain it, but she could feel a warmth near her. She could sense a pony standing behind her and Fluttershy. Yet, while these sensations would be dismissed by Rainbow as a hoax or as a joke, she didn't feel threatened, nor did she find any reason to pass it off as a prank. She felt safe. As if a guardian was watching over her and for a split second, she could hear a voice mutter 'Thank you'.
Rainbow opened her eyes once again, and felt a tear running down her left cheek.
"Wha-" Before she could finish her sentence, Fluttershy reached over to wipe the tear clean.
"I know. She tends to have that effect on ponies," Fluttershy chuckled. Rainbow fixed her vision on Fluttershy as the yellow pegasus took a deep breath in.
With each word that escaped Fluttershy's lips, Rainbow felt a connection. She felt love poured into each word. Years of sorrow, happiness, pain and laughter, all conveyed through a few simple lines.
Any other pony would not understand who Fluttershy was singing to, but Rainbow finally did. She was singing to a pony who could not be seen, but instead, must be felt. It was a pony who could only be made out by somepony who has felt a mother's love.
Rainbow felt a warmth in her heart and a soft smile grow across her lips as Fluttershy sung in the sweetest of voices.
"Oh my dear mother
I love you so
Till seeds turn to trees
With you, I will be."
I will be.