Fluttershy

It had been a quiet afternoon, elsewhere in Ponyville.

Vinyl Scratch gazed levelly at Octavia. “I’m just worried you’re not taking this seriously enough.”

“But, Scratchie!”

“No, listen!” said Vinyl. “I could still try to find somepony else. I know you want to help, but there’s a lot at stake. And don’t pout! It’s not about your looks, Tavi, I swear it’s not. I could do it, but I’ve got to be in the castle showing Lyra where to go. She can’t get in unless I say she’s my roadie, so it has to be me on the inside…”

“But what do you need from me, Scratchie?”

Vinyl narrowed her eyes. “I’ve been giving you the wrong lessons.”

Octavia pouted, again. “That one pegasus gentleman didn’t think so.”

“Listen. We’re talking about a Guard—a Royal Guard. It’s probably too much to expect that you can get him away from his post, but you’d have to hold his attention for long enough that he doesn’t look around too much—without making him suspicious. Tavi, it’s not necessarily even about being sexy, and yes you are, before you ask. Do you really think you can do this?”

Octavia bridled, and fixed Vinyl with a haughty stare, nostrils flaring in offense, and Vinyl couldn’t help but gasp—her elegant friend’s deep violet gaze commanded, even required eye contact. Although Tavi was her best friend in the world, still Vinyl couldn’t look away—even when another pony galloped wildly past them on some desperate mission.

Vinyl blinked. “Was that Pinkie Pie?”

“I’m not sure,” admitted Octavia. “Like that, Scratchie?”

Vinyl Scratch narrowed her eyes, studying her friend.

“Maybe…”

Pinkie Pie had run on, hooves pounding the earth desperately, swerving down the road toward Sweet Apple Acres, racing into the farmhouse only to see it empty, whirling without catching a breath and rushing from the house without looking back, heading for the fields and seeing the barn door open and galloping straight in to stand wild-eyed and frothing and unable to speak for an awful moment.

They stared at her, Applejack and Rainbow Dash and Granny Smith and Flight Lightning. The tiny green foal sucking on Dashie’s tit didn’t look up. Pinkie fought for breath.

Rainbow Dash laughed nervously. “Pinkie, you look worse than me! Did you run here? If you need to move really fast, how come you can’t zip from place to place like when you kept following me and Gilda?”

That got a reaction. Pinkie heaved a lungful of air, and vented it in a pitiful cry.

“Because this isn’t funny!”

Rainbow blinked, but Applejack was already speaking. “What’s th’ matter, honey? It’s Fluttershy, ain’t it? You need our help? It’s her time?”

Pinkie shook her head, frantically. “It started to happen but then it’s gone all wrong and we don’t know why it isn’t working…”

Granny Smith’s full attention landed on Pinkie, and the gimlet eyes were unblinking.

“And Twilight Sparkle came but she isn’t sure what to do, and Fluttershy kept kicking and struggling but then she stopped and won’t look at me and she’s just staring at nothing now…”

Granny Smith began to go pale.

“And Trixie also came and she brought a book but it said we should see a hoof and there isn’t one…”

Granny Smith was gone—she hadn’t waited one second longer. She had run straight out the door without waiting for the others.

Suddenly, all was chaos. Northern Spy had lifted her head to look around. She was peering under Applejack’s belly and sniffing, but Applejack danced aside calling out, “Dashie, you take care of Spy! Stay here!”

“Oh, hurry, hurry!” squealed Pinkie.

“I can get the old lady there quicker,” said Flight Lightning, and then hesitated. “Uh—where is it?”

“Fluttershy’s cottage!” cried Pinkie.

“Fluttershy’s cottage!” said Applejack, and charged off, Spy looking shocked as she galloped away, Pinkie right beside her.

Flight Lightning bolted out of the barn after them, taking wing almost before she’d cleared the door.

Rainbow Dash barely caught Northern Spy, catching her tiny scrap of a tail in firm pegasus teeth. “Whoa there! You heard them! Or, well, I heard them. We gotta stay here, Spy, you’re a baby! How about some more milk? Huh?”

Spy turned her little head and fixed Dash with a shocked, wide-eyed look, and continued to pull against Dash’s grip.


“Consarn crazy flying ponies!” cursed Granny.

“Yeah, well, you’re welcome! Stupid old lady!” griped Flight Lightning.

Granny balanced awkwardly on Flight’s back, clinging for dear life—the magenta pegasus had swooped under her and carried her away, only to learn that Granny disapproved of aerial transport.

“Are we there yet?”

“Quicker than you could run… there!”

Flight swooped down to Fluttershy’s doorstep, and Granny tumbled off her, staggering and dizzy. The door hung open, and inside, various magic glows filled the room. Seeing this, Granny tottered forth, crying out “What did you do? What did you DO?”

Twilight whirled around. “Granny!” She gulped. “I haven’t done anything, because I don’t understand what’s happening…”

“Don’t do nothin’!” barked Granny. “Keep yer damn magic out of there, foals is delicate!” She instantly turned from Twilight, ignoring her, focussing all her attention on the mare who lay limply on the floor of the cottage.

Fluttershy was vast and sprawled on her side, unmoving, but seemed otherwise unaffected. She breathed shallowly, her eyes rolled back in her head, her expression suggesting pain so great that she’d somehow gone away, unable to cope. Granny glared harshly at that expression, finding it unsatisfactory.

“She ain’t fightin’ for it—an’ labor’s barely started, damn it!”

“It says in the book that if it’s a thing called red bag, it’s very serious…”

Granny glared at Twilight. “Mind your own business! Bringin’ books into a thing like this, you ought to be ashamed of yerself!”

Twilight’s lip quivered. “We are trying to help! She’s in so much pain already and we haven’t even seen the amniotic sac break yet…”

Granny glowered. “Shoulda looked into this afore. Can’t be everywhere. You hold your peace, child. Since the book ain’t told you, I will—it may be a mercy this pony’s water hasn’t broken yet.”

Trixie nuzzled Twilight comfortingly, and turned to Granny. “Why?”

“Things happen mighty quick once th’ water breaks,” said Granny, “and that’s when you find out if somepony’s gonna die a-birthin’.”

This was too much for Pinkie. She let out a wail and rushed to Fluttershy, lifting her limp head and cuddling it. “Noooo!”

A baby squirrel peered around the edge of the door, and saw Pinkie weeping and Fluttershy collapsed on the floor. It gave a high-pitched squeal and rushed in to hug her limp fore-hoof, only to be seized by the mother squirrel, who looked extremely worried. She’d been lurking around the doorway with a small circle of somber animals, and she dragged the baby back out of the house again, though he struggled and fought. As the mother squirrel pulled the baby out of view, Angel Bunny peered around the side of the door, just for a moment. He looked stunned, lost. Behind him, the baby squirrel squealed again in frantic distress.

At this, the butter-yellow pegasus mare stirred. She muttered, “Calm… calm…” and then tensed, with a look of utter terror, and her eyes rolled back again.

“DO something!” screamed Pinkie.

“She’s never foaled before,” said Granny. “She been active?”

Pinkie shook her head frantically. “She doesn’t like moving around, because it gives her cramps…”

Granny sighed. “You let her not move around? That what yer tellin’ me?”

Pinkie was trembling. “I love her… I can’t stand to see her in pain.”

“This is not gonna be your day,” said Granny levelly, and Pinkie grew pale. Granny turned. “Applejack!”

“Yep!” replied her granddaughter.

“Please take this consarned silly filly over somewheres out of the way, and hang onto her so she don’t get in MY way, while I tend to this other consarned silly filly…”

“What can we do?” asked Twilight, Trixie pressing close to her side.

Granny gave them a sour look. “Stay even farther out of my way. An’ git that book outta my sight!”

Applejack had already taken Pinkie aside—the old mare’s grumpiness was strangely reassuring, and Pinkie went willingly, to be held in a sturdy and determined embrace. Twilight wasn’t as quick to comply, saying, “We want to help! Shouldn’t we get, um… a basin of water, in case you need to wash your hooves before exploring the vagina?”

Granny glowered. “Hark to the experts in exploring th’ vagina!” She considered for a moment, and said, “That ain’t a bad idea, child. Shouldn’t be needful, but all th’ same… good thinkin’, fetch me that water, nice an’ hot.”

Fluttershy tensed, and writhed briefly on the floor, and suddenly a gush of faintly yellowish fluid burst from her vagina.

“Hah! Din’t mean you, girl!” said Granny. “All righty, hop to it, young Twilight—it’s all comin’ out in a jiffy now!”

Twilight and Trixie rushed for Fluttershy’s kitchen, horns glowing as they levitated a large pot and began running water into it. Applejack hung on tightly to Pinkie, who trembled and stared with huge, frightened eyes. Fluttershy had gone limp again, and Granny prodded her butt with a hoof. “Hyah! Push, girl! You ain’t felt nothin’ yet! Your mama did it for you, come on an’ push!”

In the kitchen, Twilight argued with Trixie. “Yes, I know, but we have to use the stove! You heard her, she doesn’t even like us being here, because of our magic…”

Granny ignored them, staring at Fluttershy’s hindquarters. “We’ll be seein’ a hoof around… about…”

Nothing happened. Granny whacked Fluttershy’s rump, which wobbled. “Push, damn you!”

Fluttershy sobbed, and for a moment her legs and wings stuck out stiffly as she strained, but then she went limp again, and no hoof appeared.

“For that matter,” said the old lady, “where’s that bubble? Shoulda come right after that water breakin’.” She considered this. “That hot water ready?” she called. “Not that I’m gonna need it, perish th’ thought, jes… askin’?”

Trixie appeared, looking angry, levitating the large pot of water. She set it down in front of Granny, staring her in the eye, and then concentrated, gritting her teeth with effort, her horn glowing brightly. The water roiled, and began to steam. Trixie stopped before it was boiling, and dropped her head, panting with the exertion.

“Thankee,” said Granny Smith, wryly. She hastily washed her hooves, all the while staring at Fluttershy’s hindquarters and talking to herself. “If dear old Daisy Chain was here, she’d have this lil’ thing up an’ pushin’ in no time. Well, maybe I ain’t Daisy Chain but I ain’t ever lost a mare, not through foalin’, and I am derned if I’m gonna start now…”

“Who’s Daisy Chain?” said Pinkie, from where Applejack held her.

Granny lifted an eyebrow. “Best midwife ever to stand on four hooves. Skinny lil’ thing. She could get both forelegs in there if she had to. Derndest thing. We won’t be needin’ that skill, I hope!”

Pinkie looked a little sick at the prospect of anyone shoving two pony legs up the Fluttershy vagina she so adored. “Where is she? Can you bring her, if we need her?”

“Nope. Daid. Older’n me, she were.”

Fluttershy lay as if dead. Granny glowered, and jabbed her rump with her now-clean forehoof. “You git pushin’ this instant, young lady! You want me to do that sort ‘a thing? Do you? Show me a damn foal hoof or I’m goin’ in after him, so help me Celestia!”

The reaction she got wasn’t what she expected. Fluttershy wailed piteously, and strained for all she was worth, but no hoof appeared.

Granny waited for another five seconds.

“Warned you fair an’ square. Here comes Granny!”

She bent down, and pressed one wizened old hoof to Fluttershy’s vagina, already drenched in amniotic fluids, and the ponies watched in fascinated horror as Granny’s hoof steadily penetrated their friend. The hoof went deeper and deeper, and then stopped, and Granny froze, going pale, falling silent.

Finally Applejack said it. “What is it, Granny? What do ya feel in there?”

Granny’s head turned. A tear was in her eye.

“A tail…”

Twilight gasped. “A breech presentation! Figure C! Or maybe Figure D! Is that it?”

“Shut up!” snapped Granny. She turned back to Fluttershy. “String! Somepony find us some sturdy twine! Aw, hell, I ain’t Daisy Chain, I just ain’t… if we had a child’s skinny hooves in here… but there ain’t no child that can push this back…”

Twilight was searching for string through Fluttershy’s stuff. She rushed to Granny’s side, levitating what she found. “Will this work?”

Granny stared at the small bit of fluffy yarn. Part of it was still connected to a knitted sweater the size of a baby chipmunk. “What do YOU think? An’ we can’t get it around th’ hoof, or at least I ain’t sure if I can…”

Twilight cursed, and suddenly the book on equine obstetrics was floating over, and she was levitating it before Granny’s old eyes, and demanding, “Which is it? Is it figure C or figure D?”

Granny stared. Figure C showed the legs folded up, hocks against the foal’s rump. Figure D had the legs fully back, hooves buried even farther back in the womb, totally unreachable. “You gotta ask questions like that right now?”

“Which is it?”

Granny’s foreleg worked as she felt with her hoof. She sagged, some light going out of her eyes. “D. It’s D, damn it! An’ me with a piddlin’ small scrap of yarn, and how am I gonna reach them hooves?”

She winced. Fluttershy had tensed again, and the foal was shoved deeper into the birth canal. Granny tried to push it back. “Dammit! Why’s it have to be so big an’ heavy?” Then she stopped, for Fluttershy was trying to talk.

“Kill me…”

Twilight’s jaw dropped open in horror. Granny glared, and barked, “What was that?”

“Kill me,” sobbed Fluttershy. “It hurts so bad… cut me open, save my baby…”

Pinkie thrashed, weeping and trying to get free of Applejack, who hung on grimly. Fluttershy sweated and shook, in obvious agony from trying to force a mis-presented foal out.

“Hell no,” snarled Granny. She set her jaw, and began trying to push the foal back in, though her efforts did nothing.

Twilight stared, and then she bent down to speak right in Granny’s face. “You know what to do, huh? Looks like you’re trying to push the foal deeper and get a hoof out? With the string we don’t have?”

“Shut up!” said Granny, struggling with her task.

“No, you shut up, and listen!” yelled Twilight. “We’ll do it.”

Granny blinked, and looked up at the furious unicorn. “Eh?”

“You’re not strong enough to do it. We are, but we don’t know what we’re doing. We’ll do it together,” said Twilight Sparkle. “Back off, and TELL us what to do. I apologize that we will be using our magic but you have no choice. Fluttershy is dying. And I am telling you that if she dies because you wouldn’t let us help… you’re next.”

Granny stared at her for a moment.

“I ain’t that daft, missy, nor that stubborn. Time’s a wastin’. Get to it!”

Granny pulled her hoof out of Fluttershy’s vagina, and stepped back, and Twilight and Trixie leaned in, horns glowing brightly. The next thing they knew, Granny had a foreleg around each of them, her face right by theirs and lit by the magic glow of their horns, her eyes grim.

“You can feel and push and guide with them horns? Go in there. You should feel th’ foal’s rump and th’ tail. No hocks, not where you can git ‘em.”

The magic glow pushed into Fluttershy, parting her vagina again, and she shuddered.

“Farther in, reach along them legs, you gotta get to where them hooves are and bring ‘em toward you…”

Trixie was panting with the exertion. “I’ve got one! But it’s not coming…”

“Not now!” shouted Granny. “You got to push the foal back so you got room! Like Daisy Chain did once!”

“Once?” demanded Twilight. Granny hung her head.

“Other three times, mare an’ foal died… she only succeeded once, still more’n anypony else can say…”

“Pioneers!” snarled Trixie. “Old mares and pioneers! This isn’t olden times, we need to get her to the hospital…”

“There’s no time!” yelled both Granny and Twilight, in unison. They looked at each other, startled, and then Twilight said, “Trixie, you push. She’s right, the book said we only have a few minutes. I think you can push harder than me but I’m more dexterous.” She gulped. “I hope I’m right…”

Trixie Lulamoon gritted her teeth, shut her eyes, and her horn flared into blinding incandescence—and Fluttershy screamed weakly, her legs kicking as the foal was physically shoved up her womb against her feeble contractions.

Granny was watching the shape of Fluttershy’s vast belly. “Now, now, now!” she cried, and Twilight concentrated, her horn flaring brighter and brighter. Fluttershy screamed again, her anguish heart-rending, and Pinkie screamed as well. Pinkie thrashed and fought against Applejack who hung on like grim death, and Fluttershy tried weakly to thrash as well, but hadn’t the energy left, and her scream died away for lack of air into a dreadful croak like a death-rattle as foal legs were twisted into position inside her, heedless of what it was doing to her body…

Two hooves appeared at the opening of Fluttershy’s vagina. Twilight and Trixie sagged, victorious.

“Now she gotta push!” demanded Granny. She jabbed Fluttershy’s butt with a hoof. “Hear me? Push! You’re all clear now!”

There was no reaction. Fluttershy just lay there.

“Come on!”

Nothing.

Granny set her jaw. “Applejack—let her sweetie go, maybe she can motivate ‘er. We’re out of time.”

Applejack released Pinkie, who rushed over and cuddled Fluttershy’s head, brushing pink mane out of her eyes with a trembling hoof. “Please,” begged Pinkie, “you can do it!”

Fluttershy’s eyes opened.

“…I’m so sorry,” she croaked, and Pinkie’s face began to slowly crash into despair.

“No, Fluttershy, please, no…”

Fluttershy’s eyes said she’d given up. The pain and damage of repositioning the foal had been more than she could handle, and there was something sweetly apologetic in her eyes as she looked at Pinkie. “I love you. Goodbye… take care of our baby, promise…”

Pinkie was shivering, shaking her head in disbelief. “No, no, no, no…”

“Promi…” began Fluttershy, and her body shook, a contraction racking her with pain. The hooves sticking out of her didn’t budge. Fluttershy could manage one last look at Pinkie, a look of terrible disappointment that her last request got a ‘no’, and then her eyes slowly closed, and Pinkie’s flooded with tears that wouldn’t stop.

“Shit,” said Applejack. “That went well.”

Granny looked at Twilight and Trixie. Twilight and Trixie looked back.

“Get that foal out of there,” ordered the old mare. “With or without her help.”

Two unicorn horns flared to life.

“Applejack! You hang on to th’ other end!”

“Is she gonna die?” said Applejack, scrambling to hang onto Fluttershy’s body even as Pinkie clung in despair.

“She ain’t the only one in my thoughts right now. Do it!”

Unicorn magic reached out and grabbed two foal hooves firmly, and Trixie and Twilight strained their telekinesis, at first cautiously, and then with more and more urgency.

Pinkie sobbed out loud, for as the foal began to move, Fluttershy shuddered and shook in obvious agony, making a horrible noise in her throat. Pinkie couldn’t look away. It was like she was compelled to cling to her beloved and watch every moment of her torturous death, and as Fluttershy’s eyes opened and stared at nothing, their expression speaking of martyrdom and ultimate suffering, Pinkie Pie felt every pang within herself, like her soul was being torn free of her.

Pinkie could tell just by looking in those huge, tragic eyes, that her beloved had surrendered to death for the sake of her foal—and there was no way out of the situation except to go through it and see, at the end, what was left of her world.

“Keep it comin’!” demanded Granny Smith. “Hurry up!”

Fluttershy made another awful croaking noise as more of the foal’s legs emerged, and her vagina was pried wider and wider by the birth. Her wings flapped spastically in agony, and then as the foal’s hips were pulled free, all her feathers bristled out, and then her wings flailed weakly and brokenly as if her nervous system was being burned up from the inside by pain.

“Good girl,” said Granny, “good girl… don’t you dare give up on me now…”

The foal’s torso began to emerge, stretching Fluttershy’s vagina impossibly. Fluttershy began to keen, a high squealing cutting the air, her legs beginning to kick and struggle despite her extreme weakness. Twilight and Trixie could see the foal’s umbilical cord, drawn tight against its belly.

“Keep it goin’!” demanded Granny. “Don’t…”

Fluttershy screamed, and writhed in agony on the floor, startling Twilight and Trixie, who stopped pulling for a moment.

“Are we breaking her…” stammered Twilight.

“Ain’t you listenin’?” yelled Granny. “Keep goin’! Right this instant!”

“But I see blood, and…”

Granny rounded on the unicorns. “That foal will die in thirty seconds if it don’t come out! It’s breech, it can’t breathe, it’s trapped! GO!”

Twilight and Trixie flung themselves back into their pulling, and Applejack braced herself and held Fluttershy’s body down, but they’d broken the momentum—and at the worst possible moment. The foal stuck halfway out of Fluttershy, asphyxiating from loss of blood flow through the umbilical cord—and Fluttershy struggled helplessly, blind with agony as the unicorns tried to pull the rest of the foal through.

Granny Smith was at Fluttershy’s head. She struck Fluttershy across the face with the back of her hoof, ignoring Pinkie’s hysterics, and she shouted, nose to nose with the despairing pegasus, “Push! You have mebbe ten seconds before th’ foal strangles and dies! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six!”

Fluttershy screamed like she’d been flung into all the Hells that ever were. It was no longer only about her death. That, she’d been ready to accept, passively. But this? Her eyes were wide in sudden, horrible awareness.

“Five! FOUR! THREE!”

Her scream didn’t stop the counting.

“TWO!”

Fluttershy’s body convulsed as if it was trying to tear itself apart—and the foal came loose, pulled by desperate unicorn magic, pushed by Fluttershy’s final contractions, emerging onto the floor with a heavy thud and a gush of blood and amniotic fluids.

Granny was on the foal like a flash, and Applejack was right behind her. Trixie and Twilight leaned in as well, as Granny cleared membranes away from a white foal with a pink mane, a big foal, very big, male… a colt out of Fluttershy by Pinkie Pie with assistance from Big Macintosh.

For a terrible moment there was silence and motionlessness. Then—the foal drew a breath, and the room erupted in cheers.

“We did it!” cried Twilight, hugging Granny Smith, who hugged her back and ruffled her mane with a forehoof, saying, “Pointy-head varmint! Gimme ten of you, now I seen th’ light! Now I get it!”

Applejack’s hoof touched her shoulder, and she turned. Applejack’s face was tragic. Behind her, Pinkie Pie held Fluttershy’s head in her lap. Pinkie’s teeth were chattering and her eyes were pits of horror. She said four words.

“Her heart isn’t beating.”

The world stopped for a moment, as the foal drew another innocent breath—and then, Granny was striding forward, leaning down, glaring into Pinkie’s face.

“Horseshit! You’re shaking. You don’t know that. You can’t tell me that!”

“She’s dead,” said Pinkie Pie tonelessly.

Granny Smith drew in a deep breath, prepared to rage. She, too, was physically shaking from the intensity of it all, and had no chance of listening for a heartbeat through the roaring in her ears. Then, she blinked, shut her mouth, and stepped away from Pinkie. She walked around behind Fluttershy, where butter-yellow wings splayed across the floor in tortured poses, and she trod on Fluttershy’s wing, deliberately, as the other ponies watched in horror.

At that, Fluttershy jerked and struggled weakly, making another croaking noise deep in her throat—and Pinkie toppled over in a faint.

“Oh sweet Celestia!” gasped Applejack. “We saved both of ‘em!” She fanned herself with her hat, as Twilight and Trixie hugged.

“For now we did,” replied Granny.

Applejack replaced her hat, and trotted over to Granny. “Beg pardon?” she said. Then, she felt something nuzzling under her belly. She turned her head, saying “Aw, I ain’t your…” and stopped. It wasn’t a white newborn colt going after her tits. It was a little green filly. Northern Spy looked back at her, with an exasperated expression, as if to say, ‘what, no milk from my other mom?’

Applejack’s jaw dropped. “How did you…”

“…’Sup,” said Rainbow Dash, from the front doorway.

Applejack stared, incredulous. “Dashie! The hell? You brought Spy all th’ way out here?”

“Nah. She brought me! I couldn’t get her to stop. We’d have been here sooner, except she took a power nap right in the middle of the road, with me standing over her.”

“Ya don’t say…”

“Definitely your foal,” said Rainbow Dash. “And she knows it. I heard some screaming and yelling as we got nearer, how’s Fluttershy?”

Her gaze took in the blood, the tortured posture, frazzled wings and state of general collapse.

“Oh.”

“What mus’ we do, Granny?” asked Applejack.

Granny Smith looked worried, and chewed her lower lip as she thought. “Ah would give her some time but that foal won’t stand much waitin’. He ain’t breathin’ proper while he’s lyin’ there. We gotta get him up—and we gotta get her up.”

“You could stomp on her wings some more?” suggested Twilight.

“Wait, she did what?” said Dash, startled.

Granny frowned. “I reckon we kin ask for the assistance of you two again. Can ya lift a pony? Mebbe you can sorta encourage her?”

Pinkie had come to, and she was frantically cuddling Fluttershy, nuzzling her face as Fluttershy took shallow, rasping breaths.

“Which do you want standing up first?” asked Twilight.

Granny scratched her chin. “Ah want th’ mother. Might tell us useful things, that.”

Twilight and Trixie’s horns glowed once more, and Fluttershy shuddered and cried out pitiably as they began to lift her. Pinkie cried, “You’re hurting her!” and Trixie said, “Should we be doing this?”

“Ah know what I’m doin’!” insisted Granny. “Hold your peace—an’ hold up that pony!”

Fluttershy wouldn’t stand. Her head dangled limply. Pinkie Pie gazed worriedly into her eyes, and got nothing but another forlorn, despairing “Goodbye…” for her trouble, and Pinkie began to cry again.

“Oh, Granny…” stammered Applejack.

Granny lifted an eyebrow. “You watch. Watch what happens.”

The foal had lifted his head, looking around, sniffing. He threw his gangly forelegs out, but couldn’t rise at first. Spy wobbled over to check him out, and the two foals blinked curiously at each other, nose to nose, for a moment.

The newborn colt snorted, and heaved himself up into a sitting position—and rose to his feet.

There was a gasp from the watching ponies—and then another gasp, for Northern Spy frisked and headbutted him, and over he went with a thump.

“Spy!” scolded Rainbow Dash. “Totally not fair! Just because he could stand the first time? Really?” She drew Northern Spy to her, draping a wing over her foal for safe keeping.

Twilight and Trixie were still holding Fluttershy up. They had her legs in a standing position, but her wings and head drooped and the unicorns were supporting all of her weight. “How much longer do we need to do this?” asked Twilight.

“You watch. You ain’t the only one who knows a little magic,” said Granny.

The colt had struggled to his hooves again, and was wobbling across the floor, searching. He bumped into Fluttershy’s limp flank, and sniffed, and his eyes widened.

“Wait for it…” said Granny.

The colt ducked his head under Fluttershy’s belly, nosing her breasts and investigating, and then the sound of coltish sucking and gulping filled the air… and Fluttershy’s head lifted, her eyes going very wide.

Pinkie couldn’t look away from that shocked gaze. Suddenly, her beloved was filled with life and animation.

“Oh my goodness,” rasped Fluttershy weakly. “Oh my goodness…”

“Ladies,” proclaimed Granny Smith, “your work is done, and Ah thank you for everythin’!”

Trixie blinked at Twilight, who returned the puzzled look. Together, they cautiously released their magical support, and as weight returned to Fluttershy’s legs, the shattered pegasus supported herself, even shifting a hoof instinctively to balance, and her wings slowly rose until they formed gentle arcs in the air, as if she was preparing to take flight.

“Oh my goodness,” sighed Fluttershy, staring at nothing with a shocked expression, her instincts holding her upright while her foal nursed hungrily from her. Confusion dominated her feelings for second after second, and then as she slowly realized that he had survived, her eyes flooded with tears and she rested her head on Pinkie Pie’s shoulder and cried, all the while feeling the sensation of her foal filling himself up with her life-giving milk.

Twilight looked on, worriedly. “Do we need to talk about getting her to the hospital? I saw blood—and what we were doing in there freaked me out.”

Granny Smith snorted. “You did fine, child. Ain’t had many foals, have you? You’d be surprised what ponies can go through at such times. I reckon Fluttershy will be all right.”

Pinkie lifted her head from where she was comforting Fluttershy. “She is going to the hospital to get checked up!”

“She’s stayin’ here for a spell,” retorted Granny, “and takin’ care of the foal! He needs to fill up on milk to get a good start. Nearly lost the little bugger. Won’t take long, you can go when he’s done.”

Rainbow Dash eyed the new arrival, or his hind end, while her own baby ducked under her belly for another pit stop. “He’s not that little. Actually he’s kind of huge. What’re they naming him?”

“But you remember that, Dashie. It’s a colt—so he’s Rock Candy! Right?” said Applejack.

Fluttershy, in turn, lifted her head, and cleared her throat. “Yes. He’s a colt, and he survived, and he has a name and it’s Rock!” She noticed Pinkie looking at her oddly. “What? Were you expecting me to go, if that’s all right with you? Nuh-uh, not after what I just went through. He’s called Rock like we agreed on, and that’s all there is to it!” Her voice was very weak, and she could barely hold her head up, but all the same she stared Pinkie down as if expecting an argument about the name.

Pinkie’s lip quivered. “No, I was just gonna say… you survived, too.” She gulped, blinking away tears.

At that, Fluttershy blinked. It was as if the thought hadn’t crossed her mind—though she had willingly given her life away for the sake of birthing her foal at any cost, though she had been galvanized and dragged back to the world again by the sensation of her foal suckling on her teat and draining her of milk, all the same the concept seemingly hadn’t registered. Her friends watched as Fluttershy realized she was alive and staying that way.

Fluttershy bowed her head. “Oh—that. Thank you, everypony. Though you know, that wasn’t really the important thing.” Her voice was small and hoarse, but earnest.

Pinkie nuzzled her with trembling, awed gentleness. “No, baby. It really is the important thing—whether or not you believe it.” She moved in closer, grimacing at some of the feelings that roiled inside her, quietly allowing herself to feel the warmth of Fluttershy next to her and experience her mate’s gentle breathing against her neck.

Rainbow Dash looked on, her jaw hanging open. “It was… THAT rough?”

At that, Applejack hugged her tightly. “Yeah, honey. It was.”

Rainbow’s face was troubled. “But… Really? I heard her say goodbye to Pinkie. I missed most of it. It wasn’t a usual foaling?”

Granny Smith’s haggard old face was answer enough.

“What happened?” pleaded Dash.

Nopony wanted to speak. They just looked away, as if the experience had been too dreadful to mention, and Dash grew paler and paler to see it—and then, unexpectedly, a hoarse, soft voice began to speak, and it was Fluttershy herself.

“I know they said breech. I guess Rock was supposed to turn himself around to get born? It sounds awful. I was glad he was so calm and quiet inside me, but it just made everything so much worse…”

Rainbow stared, as Spy nursed contentedly, and her face kept falling more and more as Fluttershy continued.

“I tried to push, but it was just hopeless. The water didn’t even break because he was stuck inside me in the position where it’s not supposed to, and I got more and more exhausted…” Fluttershy shuddered. “I could feel that it wasn’t going to work. And I knew that if I went, he would die too…”

Pinkie hugged her tighter as she went on, picking her words, going slower.

“So I begged them to cut me open and take him out, but they said no. I’m not really sure what happened then. It didn’t make a lot of sense. He was tearing me apart, and then something pushed him back and it was like it tore all my insides up. And then, something grabbed his hoof, and there isn’t room inside me to bring it around, but I guess it was important because they ripped right through my body to make room. Or at least that’s what I thought happened. That’s what it felt like…”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes couldn’t leave Fluttershy’s, and she shook her head in mute horror, as if to say ‘stop, stop’, but her gentle pegasus friend was inexorable.

“So I lay down to die hoping they were good at pulling hard so they could get him out of me, and they were pulling very hard, but I was too little. So he got stuck, but since he was backwards and coming out that way, it was very bad. And I was gonna die, but he was gonna die too, really soon. Granny Smith kept counting down seconds. And I knew I had to die for him, so I didn’t care what it felt like, and at the last moment I just gave it everything I had left and I felt his body rip mine to pieces and then he was out and there was still a second to spare. And I hoped I had saved him,” said Fluttershy gently, “and I died not knowing it…”

Rainbow Dash gulped, speechless, tearing up, stricken.

“And now it turns out that we didn’t die after all,” said Fluttershy, “and isn’t that wonderful?”

Dash was crying. Fluttershy blinked.

“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash. We really didn’t. I mean, it would have been okay if they just saved Rock, but…”

“Not helping!” blurted Dash.

“What’s the matter?” said Fluttershy, while Rock suckled fiercely on her. “I promise, I must be okay after all. I didn’t think so, but when I felt him nursing I was suddenly filled with the most wonderful energy, which must be the true meaning of motherhood.” Pinkie gazed adoringly at her as she added, “Please don’t cry, Rainbow, we’ll be all right!”

“Dammit!” cursed Dash. “It’s not that. It’s horrible. Embarrassing. Dammit!”

“Easy, sugarcube,” soothed Applejack, hugging her. “Let it out. It’s not that? What on earth could be th’ matter, then? Seemed like that was more than enough!”

Dash wiped an eye with her hoof. “I don’t wanna say.”

“Please?” said Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash glared at her, bleakly. “Fine. I warned you it was horrible. You know what I did earlier? I saved my lousy skin because Spy was inside me. And if it wasn’t for Flight Lightning here, Scootaloo would be dead because of it…”

“Easy, Dash,” said Flight Lightning, but Rainbow could not be stopped.

“And here you are, Fluttershy, and it turns out you DIED to let your foal live! At least that’s what you thought happened, and you went with it! I thought I had it bad. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt. But I’ve spent so much time flying around rescuing ponies and being awesome, and all the time it was because I knew I could fly so good that I wasn’t in any danger. I can always get out of a situation. I’d use my wings, my muscles, to be the hero.”

Rainbow Dash gulped. “You don’t have those kinds of muscles, and I never thought of you as a hero. But when it came down to it, and everything was lost, you gave your LIFE for your foal…”

Dash fixed Fluttershy with a look that was equal parts shame, resentment and awe.

“No matter how long I live, I will never, ever be as big a hero as you.”

Her gaze dropped. “I guess I’ll just take care of Spy, and help old ladies cross streets. Before you say anything, I warned you it was horrible! This is my problem, you never asked to be a hero. Somehow that makes it worse. I’m a fraud, Fluttershy. But I love you. I’m sorry—I’ll shut up now.”

Applejack hugged her, a worried look in the country mare’s eyes. Then Fluttershy spoke again, and it was with more authority, pulling herself together to deliver her message clearly.

“I’m glad you saved yourself and your foal, Rainbow Dash. Maybe I would have done the same thing, if it was me. Something happened with Scootaloo? Is she okay? Please say she is!”

Flight Lightning nodded. “She’s fine. She’s probably with Sweetie Belle right now.”

“Oh, good,” said Fluttershy.

“That’s one opinion,” said Applejack wryly, but Fluttershy pressed on.

“Please listen, Rainbow Dash. I didn’t ask to give my life for my foal. It just happened—sort of. I guess I know something more about who I really am now… but nopony asked you to die for yours, Rainbow. If you were in danger and you saved yourself, your foal was asking you to be a mother, and you answered that call. Maybe that’s harder for you? It seems like you haven’t been very good at it.”

Rainbow was crying, in Applejack’s embrace, but she nodded. “Yeah…”

“I had no choice, Rainbow. I guess it all turned out okay. Please don’t be sad or ashamed? It’s not your fault if you didn’t turn out to be as brave as me,” said Fluttershy earnestly.

At that, Granny Smith cleared her throat, and the ponies all looked at her.

“This is all very interestin’,” she said, “an’ I ain’t one to downplay what we went through here. Scared th’ horseapples outta me, and if it weren’t for miss Twilight an’ miss Trixie and my girl Applejack we mighta lost her, an’ that’s the long and the short of it.” She fixed Fluttershy with a sharp, accusing gaze. “However!”

Fluttershy blinked. “What’s the matter?”

Granny’s voice was gentle. “Yes, dearie, it was mighty brave of you, yes you could’ve died, yes you was ready to give your life for your foal, and this lil’ blue pony din’t need to do no such thing. I can see she feels about two inches tall even though she’s got a fine healthy foal by her side, because she’s lookin’ at you and thinkin’ you turned all super-hero on her during a horrible bad foalin’. But there’s somethin’ you and she should know, first.”

“What?” said Fluttershy, anxiously.

“It’s your own silly fault, unless I miss my guess.”

Fluttershy’s jaw dropped. Pinkie glared at Granny, saying, “What?”

“You heard me!” said Granny. “Now, I wouldn’t say nothin’, but Rainbow Dash here, she’s like my own girl by now. I seen her fighting her way through her own foalin’, and I seen how you done it, and I even seen you turn up your nose and think she’s doin’ it all wrong, and no mother likes to see that, and she’s been real decent about it…”

Fluttershy protested, “I never!”

Pinkie made a face. She looked angry at what Granny was telling her mate, but all the same, she saw the truth of it. “You kind of have. How many times were you complaining to me that Rainbow Dash wouldn’t listen to you and rest and use clouds like you did?”

Granny shook her head. “Now, I can see young Rainbow wants t’ be special, and do heroic things, and there ain’t no denyin’ that what you were ready to do for your foal is the greatest sacrifice a mare can give. But I’ve seen you behavin’ like Rainbow ain’t a good mother because she stayed active, sufferin’ them cramps, not lettin’ it get her down, continuin’ to live as normal as she could…”

“That wasn’t wrong after all?” said Fluttershy. “I was sure she was doing it all wrong.”

Granny heaved an exasperated sigh. “Consarn it! Them cramps got her into condition. The way she was movin’ around, that foal flipped into position for birthin’ right away, while yours took a big nap. Foalin’ ain’t supposed to be comfortable, child! My girl Rainbow did all th’ right things in spite of you, and she had a much easier labor fair and square—she paid for it up front!”

Fluttershy’s jaw dropped.

“Next time,” offered Granny Smith, “you ask Rainbow Dash for some tips on foalin’, rather’n offering them!”

Fluttershy stared, dumbstruck. Applejack gulped. “Uh…”

“Don’t you start!” snapped Granny.

“All’s I was gonna say is, who knew Fluttershy was gonna turn out to be th’ superhero and Dashie th’ super-mom?”

With that, all the tension broke into laughter, the absurdity of it striking everypony present. Dash’s laugh of relief was joined by Fluttershy, who promptly winced but still let out careful giggles, and Pinkie couldn’t resist laughing at the ridiculousness either, and Flight Lightning got caught up in it and Applejack laughed as she hugged Dash, and the two foals looked up in complete astonishment, before returning their attention to pegasus breasts and their solemn duty to suck milk out of them in great quantity.

Gradually, the laughter faded away, leaving cleared air, soothed feelings, and the gentle noises of baby ponies suckling on their pegasus mothers. Applejack began talking with Flight Lightning, while Granny told Pinkie Pie, “Sorry fer bustin’ her balloon,” and Pinkie replied, “Aw, that’s okay, Fluttershy really needs a spanking now and then. Besides, I’m her balloon, silly!”

Rainbow Dash sidled carefully, so as not to dislodge Spy, over to nuzzle Fluttershy. Her ruby eyes were warm, and so was her voice, though both mares were noticably hoarse after their travails.

“Hey,” she said. “You’re still my hero. Totally. Okay?”

Fluttershy looked over her old friend, who had been such a daunting overachiever for so many years, only to unexpectedly fall short in a way she couldn’t and shouldn’t ever remedy. She looked over Dash’s filly Spy, and then her own colt, Rock, and back at Dash again. Dash gazed with concern at Fluttershy, and seemed worried that she’d been scolded too much—though compared to losing Rock, none of it mattered.

“I’m… your hero?” said Fluttershy.

“Always,” confirmed Dash.

There was a little pause for thought, and then Fluttershy hmphed and nodded in satisfaction.

“Good!”

Rainbow smiled.