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Second Impression

By Somber

                    Fluttershy revisits the site of her worst night ever and comes face to face with emotions she never imaged she possessed…

                    The sun shown down on the green fields and forests of Equestria, and in a copse a brilliant red and gold bird trilled from the top of a small shrub.  Tiny purple pompoms waved with each jerk of its head as it sung a sparkling string of bird song.  Unbeknownst to the small avian, a periscope rose above a hedge and slowly rotated to fixate on the musical little bird.

                    “And that is the Royal Crested Gold Collar Robin,” Fluttershy whispered to her friends Twilight Sparkle and Spike.  The purple unicorn steadied the periscope as Spike peered through the glass to draw the bird’s picture in a book.  “Normally they’re active only in the morning or evening, and nest only in low lying shrubs near rivers.”  The lemon colored pegasus explained softly as Spike did his best to jot down the notes next to the picture.

                    “Wow, Fluttershy.  With your animal expertise I think this will be the most exact census of Ponyville’s avians in years.”  Twilight Sparkle said with a smile to her friend, who blushed at the praise.

                    “Oh, I’m not that much help.  I mean even I don’t know exactly how many Royal Crested Gold Collar Robins are in Equestria.”

                    Spike finished scribbling a question mark next to the “population” entry and the purple dragon glanced up at the shy pegasus, “Why don’t you just go out there and ask him, Fluttershy?”

                    “Oh no, I could never do that.”  Fluttershy said in concern.  “He’s trying to find a lady friend and wouldn’t appreciate it if we interrupted him.”

                    “Yeah, I guess I can respect that,” Spike said after a moment’s reflection.

                    Carefully Twilight Sparkle lowered the periscope and levitated the book.  She flipped through dozens and dozens of pages.  She glanced over at her friend and then coughed, “Gosh, when Princess Celestia asked for this, I didn’t think there’d be this much information.  I’m sure she’s going to have questions.”

                    “Oh, well, um… if she really wants to know she can just ask me.  If she really wants to,” Fluttershy added quickly.

                    Twilight closed the book and rubbed her chin with her hoof.  “Actually, Fluttershy, that’s an excellent idea!”  The yellow pegasus’ eyes went wide in confusion.  “Why don’t you come with me to Canterlot when I present the census to the Princess?”

                    “C- C- C- Canterlot?”  Fluttershy trembled.  ‘YOU WILL LOVE ME!’ echoed in her mind as she swallowed hard.  “I… I can’t.  Who would look after my animals?  And Angel Bunny is having a new tooth come in.”

                    “Eh, I can do it Fluttershy.  It’ll be good to hang out with Angel anyway.  Do some bro stuff,” Spike said with a casual grin, gesturing smoothly with his hands.  He then looked away and rubbed his stomach as he added absently, “I really need to do that.”

                    “Please Fluttershy?  It won’t be a long trip,” Twilight Sparkle asked with that serious little smile.  Fluttershy lowered her eyes and gave a little gulp.

*                 *                 *

                    The view of Equestria from the Princess’ chariot was spectacular.  Pulled by two taciturn but friendly pegasus mares, Twilight spent most of the trip pointing out the magnificent sights beneath them.  Fluttershy curled up as tightly as possible and did all she could not to be sick.  She didn’t even open her eyes until the chariot finally touched down on the yard before the castle.  When she stepped off, her heart still remained in her throat.

                    “Thank you very much,” Twilight thanked properly, the census tucked in her saddle bags.  The two pegasus gave the pair parting smiles before they took off to fly around behind the castle.  “Wow, sure looks different, doesn’t it?  No coaches or fancy dresses, huh?”

                    Fluttershy swallowed and didn’t answer.  She’s simply being Fluttershy, Twilight thought and walked in the front entrance reminiscing about that disastrous night.  She missed the gaze the pegasus directed towards the large garden adjacent to the castle.

So much fear rolled through Fluttershy that she tuned out Twilight completely until she ran into her friend’s rump and sat back hard.  “Um, Fluttershy.  We’re here.”  Twilight Sparkle said flatly, gesturing with her hoof towards the door.  It opened into the Princess’ study.  Hundreds of books and scrolls lined the walls while tables and couches carved in the images of curving vines and flowers held strange and unusual tones.

                    “Twlight Sparkle.  It’s so nice to see my student again without all of Canterlot wanting to shake your hoof!”  The Princess said warmly as her red, blue and green mane blew in a magical breeze.  “Honestly, I nodded my head so many times that night; it felt like my head about to fall off.”  Then the princess’ royal purple eyes turned towards Fluttershy.  They danced with amusement, but she said gently, “And hello Fluttershy.  I wish I’d known sooner that you were coming as well.  Philomina would have enjoyed spending time with you, but I’m afraid she’s gone off adventuring again.  Still, I’m sure there are many other animals here for you to make friends with.”

                    Fluttershy’s lips moved soundlessly in agreement, but in reality something unpleasant reared up inside her.  Fear, but something else.  Something worse.  Her friends’ time at the Grand Galloping Gala had been a fiasco, but for Fluttershy it was something more.  She thought of the animals, and instead of a warm glow spreading through her heart she felt something sour inside that made her frown.  It hurt, and she didn’t like the feeling one bit.

                    The Princess spent all of a quarter hour talking about the census.  In that time, not one question arose that wasn’t immediately answered by the census.  The Princess asked more about the overall health and morale of the birds around Ponyville, and left the specifics for later reading.  Fluttershy simply lay down on a couch with a rapidly cooling cup of tea next to her and a slowly crumbling cookie between her hooves.  In no time the conversation got off on magic, and Fluttershy lowered her head even more.  Now she couldn’t even understand the conversion between the pair.  But what could she do?  She didn’t know anypony here.  She didn’t even have animal friends she could visit.

                    I miss Angel Bunny.  And Henrietta.  And the squirrel twins.  And everyone.

                    “Fluttershy?” Twilight Sparkle asked in concern.

                    “Huh?”  Fluttershy looked up, realizing her hooves were empty and a large heap of cookie crumbs lay before her.  “Oh, I’m so very sorry.”

                    The Princess shook her head gently, “No, dearest Fluttershy, I’m sorry.  You came all this way to give us your expertise, but I’m afraid we took the conversation off on completely unrelated tangents.” The Princess said, nodding her head in apology.  “It’s just rare that I have time to speak directly with Twilight about her studies.”

                    “I know!”  Twlight Sparkle said brightly.  “Why don’t you go to the garden and visit with the animals?”  Fluttershy’s throat seized up so only a squeak escaped.

                    “That’s a wonderful idea!  I just know they’d love to meet with you,” the Princess enthusiastically agreed.

                    Fluttershy couldn’t make a noise.  The horrible sensation welled up in her throat to the point that she thought she was going to be sick.  She’d rather be sick then feel like this.  But she couldn’t tell the pair what she really felt, so she slipped off the couch without a word and walked from the room like she was going to her own execution.  The pair watched her leave in concern.  “Don’t worry Princess, she’s still a little off from the flight.  It’s a bit much for Fluttershy.”

*                 *                 *

                    The Princess’ Gardens were a marvel of Equestria.  Fluttershy had dreamt of it since she’d arrived on the ground; a place with animals from all over the world gathered together in one place.  Animals she would never ever see around Ponyville she could finally meet.  Babbaboons and wallerroos; ligers and banda bears and snowdeer; Hummingbirds that hummed and buzzards that buzzed.  Everything about the garden should have inspired bliss in Fluttershy.

                    Instead she laid besides the moat looking at the trees and distant birds in misery.  Suddenly she heard a bright a cheery whistle and despite herself she sat up.  Her ears twitched.  “Is that the Royal Crested Gold Collared Robin?”  She looked towards the trees and shrubs and swallowed softly, “Maybe… maybe he came all the way from Ponyville so I wouldn’t be lonely?”  It seemed impossible, but it allowed her the smallest bit of hope.  Slowly she walked towards the open gate of the garden.

                    Inside, she saw it.  Just like her dreams.  The animals, in their flocks and herds, scampered through the trees and nibbled at the grass.  Slowly her head lifted and a smile crept across her face.  There, seeming to beacon her forward to join its animal friends, was Mr. Robin singing his heart out.

                    “Oh, Mr. Robin, I’m so happy-“ she started as she took a step forward.

The animals scattered so fast only clouds of dust and stirring leaves marked their passage.  The beautiful birdsong disappeared, and only silence remained. “-so see you…”  Fluttershy stood there, feeling her heart pounding as she clenched her eyes shut.  That horrible, horrible feeling finally crawled up her throat like spiders scuttling from a hole in the ground.  “I… I hate you…” she whispered.

                    There was a long, low, surprised whistle from behind her.  She looked over her shoulder, tears running down her cheek as she grit her teeth.  The old brown pony in his battered green hat and frayed blue saddle blanket stood with his fore hooves folded lazily on the handle of a shovel.  He pushed the brim back, his blue eyes looking down at Fluttershy coolly.  “Those are some mighty powerful words coming from so kind a mouth.”

                    Fluttershy felt everything inside her all twisted up.  “I don’t care.  I hate them.  They’re all mean stuck up animals who won’t be my friends.”

                    The old pony gave another soft whisper of surprise.  “Well, I don’t reckon there’s many folk that’d be friends with someone who hates em.  Just saying.”  He said as he walked a little ways away and started to whistle brightly as he turned over some earth in a flowerbed.

                    Fluttershy clenched her eyes shut.  There had to be a way.  All animals loved her.  They should love her.  There was no reason for them not to love her.  It chewed her up inside as she looked around.  “There’s a trick, isn’t there?”  She asked the old pony, her soft voice hissing in suspicion.

                    “Huh?” he asked in surprise as he brushed his long stringy mane out of his face.

                    “Some trick to it.  To make them nice?”  Fluttershy asked sharply, softly, looking up at him for some clue.  “What is it?  Treats?  Animals love treats.  Or maybe something shiny?  Cute little clothes?  Neat little nests?!”  She asked again and again, drawing closer and closer, gritting her teeth.  “Is there a password?”  Suddenly she gripped him by his shoulders and shook him vigorously, “Tell me the stinking password!”

                    “Woooooah there, young miss!” he said as he pushed her away, jiggling from the vigorousness of her interrogation.  “Where’d you get it in your head that you had to trick someone into being your friend?”

                    Fluttershy stepped back, looking at him in shock and horror.  What had she been thinking?  “I… I…”  She stammered as she looked at him looking down in concern and bafflement.   “I… I should go…”

                    The old pony just watched her and scratched his rump before shrugging and going back to his gardening.  Fluttershy started towards the exit, now more upset than ever.  Everything in her had gone wrong… what had she just done?  Maybe Rainbow Dash might act like that, but Fluttershy felt her heart race at what she’d just done to the kindly old pony that was just taking care of the animal’s home.  “What’s wrong with me?”

                    She suddenly looked back behind her at the old pony.  What did he know?  “All I need is a chance.  Just one.  They’ll love me.  They have to!”  She whispered furiously, glancing at the back of the whistling old mare.

                    An old apple box, a rope, and a carrot; that’s what she needed!  This time she suspended the box over the carrot, holding the rope between her teeth.  Now she’d see when they took the bait!  Then she’d have her chance!  She crouched in the bushes, waiting.  Waiting… there!  A beautiful white baby bunny crawled towards her bait.  Yes, just a little closer.  A little closer.

                    Suddenly the old pony sang out in his rusty old voice, “…by yon ponnie banks and by yon ponnie bays, the light breaks bright by Loch Looooooomond!”  Every note hit was the wrong one, making Fluttershy jerk and sending the crate flying up and over the tree branch.  It landed with a crash atop her head.   The old pony walked past, the little bunny hopping along with her carrot.

                    Fluttershy’s glare could have burned a hole in the wood.

                    The shovel had been the clue!  She’d dug as deep and fast as she could, smearing her coat in mud.  Twigs and leaves made a precarious floor that would give way even under the most delicate bunny!  She placed a second carrot and wiggled into the bushes.  A moment later she stared out of the bushes as the baby bunny reappeared.  It hopped towards the leaves.  One… another… another.  Yes!  She’d come to its rescue and care for it and make it all better.  Then it hopped around and walked right into the middle of her platform.

                    “What?”  Fluttershy gasped as it munched on the carrot.  Her wings beat once as she pounced with a cry, “Love me!”  The bunny ran past.  The thin plank slipped in amid the leaves gave way under Fluttershy.  The leaves fluttered down atop her as the old pony strolled by with a dozen pieces of lumber carefully balanced on his back, whistling brightly.

                    Fluttershy had been too simple.  She needed to get with the times!  She could build a trap bigger… faster…. More reliable!   She wasn’t exactly sure where she found the old boiler, steam engine, zip cord, drift net, and other materials but no pony would deny that they were effective!  The net was carefully strung out around the clearing, attached to the cord, and hooked to the engine.  All that remained was to bait the trap.   Fluttershy trotted to the center of the clearing to place her last carrot.

                    She turned to see the bunny standing atop the cord release lever.  Her eyes went round.  “Oh no… no no no!”  She shook her head furiously.  The bunny shook its head as well.  Fluttershy smiled and nodded.  The bunny smiled, and nodded, tapping the release lever with its foot.  Fluttershy suddenly sweated hard as she shook her head again.  The bunny nodded and kicked the lever hard.

                    With a great hiss and whoosh the line jerked tight and the net swooshed across the clearing, scooping Fluttershy up.  She screamed as it whipped her through the air once and then released.  She flung through a clothesline set up with adorable baby clothes, coming out the other side wearing a pink onesie and baby slippers, smacked into a baby bottle, and crashed into a crib that immediately started to rock and play a lullabye.  She lay there seething, as the old pony strolled by, looked at the boiler and exclaimed, “Oh, so there’s Old Steamy!  I wondered where I’d put it.”

                    “That is it!”  Fluttershy screamed as she kicked the cradle to splinters, ripped the baby clothes to tatters, and spiked the baby bottle.  Filthy, with a swelling bump atop her head, and dressed like a mad horse she glared at the old pony with loathing.  “You won’t stop me!”

                    The old pony stopped and looked back at her with a sigh, “Young miss, maybe you should think about what you’re doing, yourself?”

                    “I just need a chance for them to love me!”  Fluttershy protested in shock.

                    “Oh?  You trap all your friends till they love you?”  The old brown pony asked curiously as he dismantled her trap.

                    “What?”  Fluttershy blinked in confusion, pulling her pink mane in frustration.  “No…  I mean I shouldn’t have to!”  Why was he making it all so confusing?

                    “Well I should think you shouldn’t.  It’s an odd friend that only likes you after getting tied up.”  He continued pushing the equipment back where she’d dug it out.

                    “I… wha… ohhh…. OOOOOHHHHHH!!!” Fluttershy bounced in place, stomping the remains of the cradle into pieces.  “That is it!  That is it!  That is it that is it that is it!”  She yelled over and over again as she pointed her hooves at the trees where the birds peeked out at her, “I am sick of you!  And you!”  She pointed at the Babbaboons and the Walleroos lurking in the woods.  “And you and you and you!”  Fluttershy stomped towards the exit.  She was DONE with Canterlot.  She was going to drag Twilight Sparkle out here by her horn if she had to!

                    Suddenly the white bunny hopped out right in front of Fluttershy.  She could have been Angel Bunny’s little sister and the adorable creature looked up with her large wide eyes and twitchy little pink nose.  Fluttershy’s heart stopped as she gazed down into her eyes.  The rage she felt disappeared for a fragile moment as she gazed down at her.  So cute and sweet and innocent.  Slowly Fluttershy lowered herself to the grass and extended a hoof towards her.  “H…hello, little one.  P…please don’t go…” she said softly, pleading, her hoof shaking slightly. “Please… please please please…”

                    The baby rabbit gave a nervous step back.  “No… no no no…”  Fluttershy’s pupils contracted as her throat tightened.  Suddenly the baby rabbit turned and lept away for the protection of some hedges.  “No!  Get back here!”  She shouted, diving at the white rabbit as fast as Rainbow Dash going for the finish line.  She swooped and caught up the baby rabbit in her hooves, hugging it tightly and trying her best to pet it and nuzzle it.  “That’s it!  That’s it… we’re going to be friends… yes we are.  We are going to be friends!”

                    “Now that’s enough right there,” the old pony said as he walked up, looking down at Fluttershy sternly.  “You let Precious go this instant.”

                    “No!” Fluttershy hissed.  “She’s mine!  My own!  My Precious!”  She coughed deep in her throat as she shook, petting the baby bunny as hard as she could.  Animals liked to be petted!  They did!

                    The old brown pony looked at her and then calmly sat before her, “Fluttershy, right?”  Fluttershy blinked, suddenly wary.  He couldn’t take the bunny from her, could he?  “Look, Fluttershy.”  Suddenly Fluttershy didn’t want to.  She was afraid to look down.  She started to cry as he stared calmly into her eyes.  Her gaze dropped slowly, bit by bit, till she stared at the tiny bunny in her hooves.  The white bunny quivered in terror, no… in pain!  Fluttershy started to shake and gave a little hiccup.  “Let her go, Fluttershy.”

                    Slowly her grip relaxed bit by bit.  The white rabbit the jumped free and flung herself into the old pony’s arms.  “Shhh.  There there, Precious.  It’s all right.”  He gave the tiny bunny a pat, “I think she’ll recover.”

Fluttershy stared at the old pony through her tears as she quaked.  That should be her!  It should be her arms that the bunny came to for comfort.  Just like Angel did when there was thunder and lightning.   “I hate you,” she whispered.  Why did she hurt so much like this?  She’d have rather died than feel like this!

The old pony gave a great sigh as he looked at Fluttershy in pity.  “Oh?  Why’s that?”  He said conversationally, as if discussing her favorite color.

“Because… because that should be me,” she said as she pointed and accusatory hoof at him, “They should love me!” She hissed, as if all the terrible feelings she held were bubbling out.  She never could have talked like this to her friends.  “It’s my talent.  It’s the only thing that I’m good at that matters!”  She looked at Precious in his hooves and bowed her head to sob brokenly, “So why won’t they love me?”  Everything hurt.  Everything.

                    “Such a young filly,” he murmured with a soft smile, brushing her tangled pink mane out of her blue eyes.  “So animals just take one look at you and just fall in love?  That’s some talent.  You should have a horn.”

                    Fluttershy hiccupped and rubbed her tears.  “What?”

                    “Your talent.  Makes animals fall in love?”  He said with that kindly smile, “You just have to sing and all the birds fly out and join you?”

                    “Yes.  They always like me,” she said slowly, but now feeling unsure.  Like there was a trick or something.

                    “Always?  Right away?”

                    Fluttershy opened her mouth and closed it again.  “Well… no.  Not right away…”

                    “Oh?”  The old brown pony asked as he took off his blanket and dabbed away her tears.  He passed it to her and she sniffed, then blew her nose hard.  He didn’t flich as he took it back.

                    “Well when they met me they were all scared of me,” Fluttershy said softly, remembering that moment she’d fallen to earth.  So many scared animals, and she was just as scared of them as they were of her.  Then Rainbow Dash’s sonic rainboom has scattered them all into hiding.  “But… I was nice to them.  I waited for them to come out and to me.”

                    “Really?” The old brown pony sounded impressed.  “So no tricks?  Traps?  Body tackles?”

                    Fluttershy just frowned at her hooves.  Her voice softened in confusion, “Well, no.  I was just nice.  And patient.”  As she looked at the old brown pony, she felt something else.  Those horrible feelings were… well not gone, but so much less.  For the first time she felt her heart relax and the tension relax.

                    “Huh.  Sounds like it took a long time,” the old pony remarked as he pulled off his battered green hat and fished out two apples, passing one to Fluttershy.  “So why’d you come here thinking that all the animals would just love you like that?”  He clapped his hooves together.

                    “I…” Fluttershy faltered, looking at all the scared animals watching the exchange.  “I don’t know…” she said softly as she held the apple.

                    The old brown pony took a bite out of his apple, “Some folks who are good at something forget that it takes time.  Look at this garden.  Been working it forty years.  It’s my talent.”  He swallowed and smiled at her.  “If I went to Ponyville thinking I could make a garden just like it overnight, well I’d be a gosh darned mule of a fool, wouldn’t I?  Special talent or not.”

                    Fluttershy smiled her first real smile since they’d left Ponyville.  “When they ran, I felt like… like suddenly I wasn’t special any more.  Like I was… nothing.  It made me so… so…” she swallowed and whispered, “…angry.”

                    “Well I’m pretty sure your purple unicorn friend wouldn’t be much better about it if she stopped being able to do magic or that rainbow filly couldn’t fly faster than sense.”  That made Fluttershy giggle.   “The point is to remember that it’s more than talent.  It’s time.  Some friendships you can try for years and never get someone to care in return.  So long as you don’t stop being friendly, it ain’t hopeless.  Thinking you can make someone like you… or heck, love ya?  That’s hopeless.”

                    Fluttershy nodded and looked at Precious without feeling that horrible pain.  For the first time since she’d arrived at Canterlot that night at the Gala she was glad to be in Celestia’s garden.  “I’m sorry Precious.  I’m so sorry.”  She slid her apple to the tiny bunny.  The white bunny sniffed at it warily, looked around for some traps, and then hopped away behind the old pony.

                    Fluttershy sighed softly.  It hurt, but not like before.  She’d made a horrible impression, not once but twice.  It would take a long time to make up for it.  “And I’m sorry for you as well, sir.”

                    “Shoot, girl.  Call me Gramps.”

*                 *                 *

                    Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy walked out the castle gate and towards the nearby garden.  “Well it’s been great meeting with you, Princess, but I got to ask why’d you ask me to bring Fluttershy along?  And being so sneaky about it?  I mean, you didn’t even ask her any questions at all.”  The purple unicorn trotted alongside her mentor, looking up at her curiously.  “I’m not sure Fluttershy likes Canterlot very much.”

                    “Well Twilight, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get everything out in the open,” the Princess replied cryptically, as usual.  Sometimes it was simply impossible to get a clear answer out of the princess.

                    Dusk was falling, and in the garden came the sound of laughter.  Twilight Sparkle hadn’t ever heard Fluttershy laugh so openly in such a long time.  Within the garden fireflies were coming out.  Fluttershy lay in the grass besides another pony watching two large simians trying to get a banana out of a tube.  They both had a grip on it, and wrestled back and forth.  But what shocked Twilight Sparkle was that animals weren’t flocking around Fluttershy like they normally did.  In fact, aside from a small white bunny between an old brown pony’s front legs, all the animals appeared to give them a wide berth.

                    “Fluttershy?” Twilight Sparkle asked in bafflement.  She hadn’t expected to see Fluttershy so… happy to not be surrounded by adorable creatures.

                    “Oh.  Hello Twilight.  Hello Princess Celestia,” she said softly as she rose.  The old pony chewed on a long strand of wheat as he watched on.  “This is Gramps.  This is Precious.” Fluttershy said, gesturing to each.  “I don’t know the other animal’s names, yet.  That will take some time.”

                    “Mhmmm,” Gramps said with his own smile and nod.

                    “Well, you look much better than earlier, Fluttershy,” the Princess remarked with a smile.

                    “I am,” Fluttershy admitted softly, looking up at the princess as her smile faded.  “I was so angry to be here, but I forgot that building up great friendships take time.  And that it’s wrong to hate something because it doesn’t do what you think it should.”  Twilight Sparkle’s jaw dropped.  Fluttershy?  Angry?  Hating?!  The pegasus smiled sheepishly, “Instead of taking things for granted and being impatient, it’s better to let things happen in their own time.”

                    “My.  It sounds like you had quite a visit,” The Princess remarked, impressed.  “But I’m afraid my Chariot is waiting to take you back to Ponyville.”

                    “Aw, too bad.”  Fluttershy said as she turned to Gramps.  “I’ll try and visit again real soon.”

                    “You do that, young miss.”  Gramps said as they shared a hug.  Fluttershy started towards the exit, when suddenly the little white rabbit ran up to the yellow pegasus.  Both paused as the little animal fidgeted, then gave her foreleg a hug before running off.  Twilight Sparkle just stared in bafflement as her friend smiled but at the same time looked like she was about to cry.

                    “Um… so… um… does all this go in my letter?” Twilight Sparkle asked in concern, because there was way too much happening for her to start to explain.  She’d need footnotes.

                    “I don’t think that’ll be necessary.  Count this one as a freebie.”

                    “Whew,” she gave her mentor a parting nuzzle and raced off to join Fluttershy at the chariot.  The whole flight home Fluttershy positively gushed about the different animals she’d seen in the garden to the point that Twilight Sparkle couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  Still, she didn’t really mind much this time.

                    “Well I’m glad you had a good time, Fluttershy.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure you’d enjoy yourself,” Twilight Sparkle said as they left the Chariot, bid the two pegasus farewell, and strolled into Fluttershy’s cottage.

                    It looked as if a tornado had struck it.  Angel Bunny lay sprawled out with a distended tummy, an empty tub of carrot ice cream next to him.  Big Macintosh was stuck in the corner with a lampshade on his head and a rather confused and embarrassed expression while Owlowiscious lay in the remains of a pizza.  Spike stood on the back of her couch, wearing a hat with two apple juice bottles attached to straws and a pair of white underpants singing, “We are the dragons; yes, WEEEEE are the dragons.  Nooooo time for looooosers, cause weeee are the draaaaagoooooons...”

                    “Spike!”  Twilight Sparkle shouted and everyone in the room froze.

                    “Oh… uh…  Hi, Twilight!” he gave a sheepish wave then blushed and grabbed the tawny owl, hiding his nethers behind it.  “I can explain this!”

                    “I’d just love an explanation,” Big Macintosh muttered from the corner.

                    Twilight Sparkle was just about to burst when Fluttershy stepped past her.  “Fluttershy?”

                    “It’s just a little mess,” she said softly as she scooped up Angel Bunny and gave him a little hug.  “Right now, it’s just good to be back with my friends.”

*                 *                 *

                    Almost fully night, the princess lay with Gramps in the garden  watching the fireflies glowing while Luna carefully guided a lovely moon and brilliant stars into the sky.  Really, it was so much more work than just moving a single sun.  The Princess had taken years appreciating that fact.  All around the pair doze the animal guests inhabiting the garden.  Philomina nestled in the Princess’ hair, cooing softly.

                    “All right, you old hayseed,” the Princess said with a smile.  “What was all this about?  Why’d you ask that I conduct a survey of the birds of Ponyville?  And suggest that I ask Twilight to bring Fluttershy along?  And send away Philomena for the day?”

                    He pushed back his battered green cap as he chewed on the strand of wheat, “Why Princess Celestia.  Don’t think that, just because you move the sun and the earth and are bajillions of years old, you’re the only pony allowed to work in strange and mysterious ways.”

                    “Hrm,” she said with her own curious expression before gazing at the garden around them.  “The garden looks lovelier than I’ve ever seen it.”  And despite the dark and how he tried to play it off cool, she knew that Gramps blushed at the praise.

                    “Still needs some work.  Some more planters.  Maybe some bird houses for the robins,” he said softly, looking at the space with his bright blue eyes as if he were once again a colt thinking that everything should be beautiful just because of his talent.  “It just takes time, Princess.  Time, patience, and a loving heart.”