“Hey, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked hesitantly. “Can we talk for a second?”
Fluttershy turned around, dropping the large red canister in her mouth so she could smile brightly at her friend. “Of course, Twilight,” she said sweetly. “What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, it’s…” The purple unicorn gazed off at the horizon and blew out a sigh. “It’s just that…well, we’re a little concerned, is all.”
“Y’know, about…we’re just wondering how you’re doing. If you’re doing okay.”
Fluttershy’s smile twitched, and the light in her eyes went dull for a moment. “I’m fine,” she eventually said, in what could almost be misinterpreted as a growl.
“Oh, yeah, I’m sure you…are,” answered Twilight as Fluttershy picked up the canister again and started walking. Twilight followed at a distance, shuffling her hooves against the cobbled street and humming a tuneless melody with her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I just want you to know that we’re here for you, okay?” Twilight said suddenly.
“Mm-hmm,” Fluttershy hummed.
“And if you wanna…y’know, talk about anything, we’re all ready to help out. Because we care about you.”
“Oh, thank you, Twilight, but I don’t need to talk about anything,” the slender pegasus assured her friend. “I’m very sure about this.”
Twilight cleared her throat loudly and pretended that she hadn’t heard Fluttershy’s last remark. “A-And I just want you to know that…I understand. What you’re going through, I mean.” Twilight’s laugh was at best a nervous giggle, and at worst the last vestiges of her command over her rising panic flitting away into the warm summer night. “Geez, I remember my first coltfriend…heh heh, I was crazy about him. I thought we were gonna get married and have foals and grow old together. But, uh…y’know, it didn’t work out and I was…of course, I was upset about it, but eventually I got over him and realized it was for the…”
Fluttershy stopped on a tenth-bit and placed the canister on the ground again. “Twilight?”
The bookish unicorn’s pupils narrowed to slits. “Yes, Fluttershy?” she squeaked without seeming to expel any air from her lungs.
“Is something worrying you?”
Twilight took a deep breath, but it only amounted to a short burst of hurried words. “Many things,” she replied. “I’m worried about many things, Fluttershy.”
“Are you worried about me?”
“Eh, well…since you asked…”
Fluttershy glanced down at the canister before turning her bashful blue eyes up to Twilight, her smile innocent as the cheeks of a newborn foal. “It’s the kerosene, isn’t it?”
Twilight’s expression seemed to indicate that she couldn’t decide whether to smack herself in the forehead or scream. “It…you know what, Fluttershy? Yes. It is the kerosene. The kerosene is worrying me.”
Fluttershy laughed a tinkling, carefree laugh, and a vein behind Twilight’s eyelid began to pulse. “Oh, Twilight, you shouldn’t be worried about that,” she said airily, picking up the canister in her mouth at the end of her sentence. “I’m going to be very careful with this,” she continued, working the words somewhat clumsily around the bright red plastic.
“That…isn’t helping,” Twilight replied. Her legs were officially numb now. “At all.”
“I don’t see what there is to worry about, really…”
For far too long, all Twilight could do was sputter. “Well, there’s…I…you…did I already mention the kerosene?”
“Mm-hmm,” Fluttershy hummed.
Twilight squeezed her eyes tightly shut and sucked in a giant breath, heaving it back out again a moment later. “I’m just saying, I think you may be overreacting just…just slightly. Maybe. Just a little bit?”
Slowly, Fluttershy shook her head. “I saw him at Sugarcube Corner with Cloud Kicker. They were sitting in a booth together.”
“Okay, see, there you go. They were just sitting together…maybe they’re just friends, huh? I mean, that alone doesn’t necessarily mean he was cheat-”
“They were drinking out of the same milkshake.”
“All right, that’s a bit strange, certainly, but not…”
“They were using the same straw.”
Twilight let slip a pained groan before she could stop herself. “Yeah, actually, that’s pretty…point taken. But still, doesn’t this seem a little…excessive?”
Fluttershy turned her head, and the contents of the canister sloshed around inside of it. “What’s excessive?”
“Well…this. The…” Another sigh. “Look, just…promise me you won’t do anything irrational. Please, Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy’s smile could’ve melted the soot off a coal miner. “I promise I won’t do anything irrational, Twilight,” she said sincerely. “You can go home if you want. I’ll be fine. Thank you for coming to check on me.”
For lack of any better ideas, Twilight forced a smile onto her face as well. “Okay, then,” she breathed out. “Just…okay. Good night, Fluttershy.”
“Good night, Twilight.”
Fluttershy waited until her friend’s hoofsteps had faded away into the darkness before she continued on down the street, the red canister still held tightly in her teeth. “No, you shouldn’t worry, Twilight,” she whispered to herself. “This isn’t irrational…”
The yellow pegasus’s eyes narrowed, and the muscles in her jaw flexed until they were taut. “No…” she finished darkly as a certain pony’s house came into view. “This is personal.”
Fifteen minutes later, the canister was empty, and the deed was done. Fluttershy dropped the cherry-colored container where the last drop of liquid had fallen. Heh. Cherry-colored. How appropriate.
“So, you love Cloud Kicker now, do you?” she murmured under her breath. “Well, I have some news for you, Cherry Coke. She doesn’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to her. You belong to me.”
Fluttershy pulled out a sheaf of matches from under her wing and struck the entire pack ablaze at once, throwing it on the ground where the kerosene trail began. “You’re mine, you hear me?” she said, louder this time, as the sputtering flame crept towards the house. “Mine…mine…”
With a rush of air and a fiery explosion that cast a blanket of flickering light over the entire block, the ground floor of the house was engulfed in fire. “MINE!” Fluttershy shouted, cackling to herself as the smell of woodsmoke and ashes began to seep across the yard. Once she had worn herself out with her glee, the satisfied pegasus wiped her eyes and pensively watched the blaze, noting with interest how completely the first floor had been consumed already.
“You’re not going to love her, are you, Cherry dear?” she whispered as the flames finally began to lick at the second floor windows. “You’re not going to love anypony else, are you, Cherry, my sweet…my sweet, wonderful, perfect Cherry Coke?”
With another breezy whoosh and the crackling sound of splintering wood, the fire reached the roof and ignited the straw covering the top floor. And Fluttershy smiled.
“No, you’re not,” she said, her smoldering grin infused with passionate rage. “You’re going to love me.”