Again? I'm beginning to think that I'm getting some sort of special treatment here; I mean, how many follow ups have you guys actually done outside of me? Now that I'm going for three, I just have to wonder: Why are you so focused on me? Am I really so interesting because of my thoughts on Princess Gaia and Fluttershy?
Yeah, I actually am in a much better mood than I have been for a while now.
I'll tell you; but, just a heads up, this story is more than a little weird, and that's even considering all the insanity that's been happening around Ponyville lately.
Anyway, this all started a few days ago; I was in the shop, slightly out of it I'll admit, I'd had another one of those Gaia nightmares the night before and not gotten nearly as much sleep as I would have like. I was considering just closing early and taking a personal day; but, I'm about the only place in the whole town that sells decent coffee, so I just sampled my own brew whenever I needed a kick in the flank. I'm not technically supposed to, no; but nopony called me on it, so I'm not going to sweat it. And I used a cup, same as everypony else; not like I drank from the spigot.
Anyway; the day dragged on until it was late in the morning. I'd looked away to see about getting my fifth or six cup to stay awake, when somepony tapped a hoof on the counter and called for some service. I'd dealt with rude customers before, everypony who runs a shop has, this was nothing new. But, when I turned to talk to them... well, I swear they coulda heard my scream all the way in Canterlot.
She was a dead-ringer for Fluttershy, mane style and everything. I almost broke half of my inventory when I crashed into the wall from fright, and I'm pretty sure that the few customers that were in at the time started to question my sanity.
'Hello to you too.' She said dryly, which pretty much confirmed that she wasn't Fluttershy. After the Gaia Incident, I got a pretty good bead on some of her personality. Yeah, she was a national hero, but she wasn't very forthcoming about a lot of details regarding herself. But, what little I could get from the ponies who derided and insulted me when I couldn't bite my tongue and let out how I REALLY felt about her was enough to know she didn't talk like that. And, now that I wasn't in the middle of a panic attack from the sight of her, I noticed the different shade of coat and mane. Same eyes though, which made it hard for me to meet them. 'Just get me a coffee; black and bitter as possible.'
If I wasn't still trying to not freak out at the sight of her, I would have raised an eyebrow over that; that's the kinda stuff you hear out of those ponies who think cutting themselves will solve their problems. But I just wanted her to go away, so I just poured her a cup out of one of the nearly empty containers; you don't get coffee much more bitter than that stuff. She thanked me and just walked back to her table; I got a look at her Cutie Mark, just to be sure it wasn't really Fluttershy in disguise or something, and finally let myself relax a bit when I saw those two hooves. Not entirely, mind you, since it might just be her covering those damnable butterflies of hers with a sticker or something. Don't look at me like that! I'm not crazy; there have been tons of celebrities that do that so they can go out in public without the mobs of fans. It's an accepted fact!
Yeah, sorry; it's still something of a touchy something for me. I know I might be getting a little paranoid about that sorta thing, but... yeah, never mind. Back to the story.
I hate to say it, but I spent the majority of the day glancing over to her, like she was going to turn into Fluttershy or something. I mean... yeah, I could tell it wasn't her that was sitting there, but the resemblance was just too uncanny. I know she noticed too, since she caught me glancing more than once. I didn't say anything, though; about a quarter of the town was convinced I was crazy, I didn't need to add 'accusing random ponies of being Fluttershy' to the list of reasons they thought it. She walked out a few minutes later, guess she didn't really care that I was looking at her.
What do you mean 'how did she look?'?! I was in the middle of a panic attack; I couldn't think about things like- ...oh, you meant her expression? Um... sorry about that. Anyway; I guess she looked... sad? I don't know really; it's hard to describe. Like she was upset, but at the same time she wasn't; I dunno, I was freaking out, maybe I'm just remembering it wrong. Probably didn't help that I had to use some pills to get to sleep that night; I was in a bad way after that incident.
Anyway, next day, almost exactly the same time, she comes in again and asks for the same kind of coffee as last time. This mare, who was a dead-ringer for Fluttershy and I couldn't recall ever meeting in all my years in Ponyville was suddenly a regular.
I made her order, but I held off on giving it to her. My mind was still making the connection between her and Flutteryshy; so I couldn't help but ask 'who are you?'
She seemed a little shocked that she was actually being addressed, or at least addressed by a stallion that had screamed like a filly the last time he'd seen her. 'Cruelly', that's what she eventually answered; it was pretty obvious that it was a nickname, even with the names you find for ponies are all over the map. I didn't get the chance to ask her for her full name, she just snatched away the cup and walked away. Well, no, not really; there's a table that's pretty close to the counter, most ponies that sit there do it so they can have conversations with me without me walking away from the job. That's where she sat; and now she was the one who would glance my way. I know this sounds like something out of a cliched novel, so let's nip this in the bud before you start it; I was NOT attracted to her by any means. I was scared of her simply because she looked like Fluttershy; I know that sounds stupid, but it's the truth.
Anyway, she seemed just as nervous about something as I was. And she didn't try to start up a conversation with me; just sat there for about an hour, sipping on her coffee now and then. Guess she was wait for it to get cold or something; cold, black coffee with dregs at the bottom is so bitter it's all but undrinkable, but I guess that's how she liked it. Just as she got up, she walked right passed me and just said 'I like hamburgers, by the way.'
I just froze.
You hear about ponies that eat meat now and then, usually in some horror story or cautionary tale that dealt with them living in Everfree Forest, waiting to eat little runaway foals. But nopony ever expects to actually meet somepony like that. She was already out the door before I could think again and notice that she'd left.
I flat out didn't sleep that night; she looked exactly like Fluttershy AND she was a cannibal? This was turning into a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from and I wasn't interested in seeing what my subconscious did with that information.
The next day dragged on and on, my lack of sleep not helping it go any faster. And I was dreading the mid-day; she'd come in the shop for the past two days at that time, and- turns out- third time was the charm. Just as the clock hit noon, in strolled 'Cruelly'.
She pretty much noticed that I was watching her, it was kinda hard not to since subtlety went out the window when you were going on no sleep. I had her coffee waiting, even let it sit around to cool so it was extra bitter; she didn't say anything, she just grabbed the coffee and tossed some bits on the counter. I guess she had some place to be, since she just walked out without sitting down; I wouldn't have said anything and would have just left her to her own devices, if I hadn't noticed something. She'd over paid, and by a significant amount too; if it was one or two bits, I probably wouldn't have bothered (I'm entitled to have a few tips for serving a pony like her, don't look at me like that!) but I didn't want to wake up up in her basement with her trying to make cupcakes out of me or something.
I told the few ponies that were in the shop that I'd be right back and galloped after her; there was a thought that this might be a trap, but it was outside in the middle of the day. It's not the best time to kidnap a pony. I caught a glimpse of her just as she was walking (not flying, pretty odd for a pegasus, but- for once- I just wrote it off. It's not like we have to fly, it's just that most of us prefer it) around a corner. I followed her, but she had quite the headstart; almost lost sight of her a few times, but I followed her to some sorta hotel at the edge of town. I briefly wondered if she was a traveller, entering a minute after she did; I know this seems like a lot of trouble to go to for some bits, but I was suddenly getting very curious. I'd asked a few of the ponies that would still talk to me about 'Cruelly' and couldn't get very much; I was curious, I'll admit it, I wanted to know just what her story was and if she should be reported to the authorities.
Yeah, the whole 'I eat meat' thing really threw me.
I followed her back to the rooms; nopony seemed to consider either of us worth paying attention to, and I was semi-grateful for that. It made the fact that I was basically stalking some random mare much easier to pull off. I still hung back though, this was the perfect place to jump me as the hallway was utterly empty; I actually hid behind a potted plant when she glanced around, like she knew she was being followed. She walked to one of the furthest rooms from the door, and then she did something that I swear to the princesses made my heart stop. She... changed, literally changed; her coat went butter yellow and her mane went pale pink, and the hooves on her flanks turned into butterflies. She had just literally turned into Fluttershy and I was standing closer to her than I had been in months.
Thankfully, she had continued to assume that she was alone and just walked into the room at the end of the hall. Now, ordinarily, I would have just flown out of there like Death itself was after me; but something had latched onto me, some sort of morbid curiosity and desire to know something about the pony that frightened me so. I had to know what she was doing here, if nothing else than to know if she was plotting something like Gaia again.
I pressed my ear against the door, listening to what little I could here. There were obviously the voices of more than one pony in there; I couldn't hear hers, but I could here a few stallions in there. I was pretty sure one of them was doing most of the talking why the others would just agree with him; classic alpha male behavior, surrounded by 'yes' ponies and making all the decisions.
However, seems that either the door wasn't properly shut, or the ones there were just poorly crafted; I ended up opening it and tumbling into the room. After I'd fixed my glasses, I looked up and gasped in shock. Fluttershy was pinned to the bed by two rather muscular stallions with a third, which I was going to assume was the one calling the shots, looking ready to mount her. 'What the pony hell?' I wasn't feeling very coherent at the moment, so I'm impressed that I even managed to get THAT out. But still, it snapped the leader back to his wits.
'Get outta here.' He snapped at me and, even if he wasn't laying it on thick, I could hear the Manehatten accent in his voice. 'This isn't anything you need to worry about.'
I blinked a bit. 'Uh- looks kinda like rape.' Yeah, let me explain something about me. I'm usually a pretty easy going pony; you like what you like, I like what I like and that's fine. But, when you do something that I think is wrong, and could potentially hurt somepony, I'm going to say something. Even if the pony in question is the one I hated the most. I may not have much to my name, but I have my morals and I won't break them.
'That's none of you business!' Seemed he didn't like the idea of being questioned on what he was doing by somepony else. And, morals or not, I wasn't going to get into a fight with three stallions who could probably deadlift more than I weighed. But there was something that I had to ask.
'So... um, if it's not rape, what is it?'
'She turned us all into a bunch o' little girlie ponies.' It was one of the other two; speaking in what absolutely had to be the most stereotypical accent I've ever heard. 'We ain't no girlie ponies!' And the most stereotypical personality too.
'P-please; don't do this.' Fluttershy was 'speaking up' now, and looking right at me, it was all I could do not to start shaking when I saw her eyes again. 'They deserve to do this.'
'Let me see if I've got this whole thing straight.' I finally got up off the floor, figured it'd be best if I not make this point from there; and it would make it harder for her to look me in the eyes. 'You're going to prove how 'macho' you are by doing this psuedo-rape on a mare, who isn't fighting back, and you need three of you do do that on top of everything else. Is that about right?' I'll give him credit, he was fast for somepony so big, I didn't have enough time to react before he bucked me in the face. I tasted blood a second later as I picked myself off the floor a second time. 'That's what I thought.'
He glared at me, I glared right back, bleeding lip and all. After a minute, he jerked her head to the other two ponies. 'Come on, boys; let's ditch this place.' Both of them looked a little shocked by this, but didn't have it in them to disobey their de facto leader; though the one that had spoken up gave Fluttershy a hoof to the stomach that left her gasping for air before he left.
A short while later, we were out in the lobby of the hotel again, ponies were staring at me for my bloody lip, but quickly looked away when they saw who I was with; respect for her or something I guess. I explained why I'd followed and returned the bits she'd overpaid, she thanked me for it, then we got to the topic of what had just happened.
'You didn't have to do that,' she told me softly, looking down at the ground and rubbing at it with her hoof. 'But... um, thanks.' She gave me a small smile that I didn't return. 'I thought, well, with the way you reacted to Fluttercruel that-'
'I hate you.' It was the truth, I still hadn't forgiven her for what she did; but, like I said, morals and all that jazz. I just didn't want her to think I was suddenly one of her fans because of it.
'Oh...' She seemed to be a little confused by the whole thing, that made two of us. 'Do you want to... um; what they were going to do?'
I recoiled at the mention. 'I- wha- NO!' She didn't flinch like I thought she was going to, but I was pretty sure that we were suddenly the center of attention to everypony who was in the lobby now.
'Well... would you like to hit me? I promise, I won't hit you back, or fight back at all, or try to dodge or block it or anything.' I stared at her for a long time after that, then I felt myself getting very angry.
It was probably because of all the stress that I was under normally, which had just been worse ever since she'd started coming into my shop, but I was just so angry right then. Where did she get the gall to act like that? Hell, where did she get the gall to ask that question; had she finally decided that I was some crazy pony seeking revenge for her actions? No, that wasn't it, I saw a look in her eyes, a hopeful look; she actually wanted me to hit her. I swear, I was so angry, so stressed, that I didn't know what happened until I'd done it.
I screamed in my rage, reared up with a flap of my wings and struck Fluttershy right across her face.
She staggered, I'd put a lot into that hit, and looked up at me a moment later; actually looking pleased about it even though I could tell her eye was going to be swelling shut soon. 'Feeling better?' She actually asked me if I was feeling better!
'No, I'm not!' I screamed right back at her.
'Oh. D-do you want to hit me again?'
'What would that solve?! What did hitting you the first time solve?!' I was just screaming now, letting out months of frustration and anger that had built up to this point. 'Hell; what would letting those stallions have their way with you have solved; answer me THAT, you selfish little mare!'
'I-I'm not being selfish.' She actually sounded offended, she had the nerve to sound offended at that. 'I told them that the bad things I did should be remembered; if they want to punish me for them, it's only fair.'
'And what about why they want to do those things to you? They want to punish you because you caused them as many problems as you solved for these ponies!' I gestured behind me and risked a glance. Yeah, just like I thought, they weren't looking too happy with me right now for hurting their precious Princess Gaia; but right then, I really didn't care, I just wanted to get this off my back. 'And they think that making you hurt will just make it all feel better again; guess what, it doesn't! I'm not going to feel any better when I get home because I hit you; they would have felt like monsters if I'd let them go through with what they wanted. This isn't for them, it's for you; you want to suffer because you seem to think that, somehow, that's what you deserve.'
'It is.' She interrupted me quietly. 'After what I did... I need to make up for what I did.'
I have to say, I wasn't expecting her to admit that what she did was wrong, even it just implying it. Not that it helped much, mind you, I had open the floodgates and wasn't going to be stopped by that.
'This doesn't help anypony though! It just makes you feel better because you think it makes all their problems go away; like you suffering somehow makes the world a better place!' I saw her flinch there, I must have hit a nerve with that line. 'But it doesn't, it just adds more problems on top of all the ones that were there originally; you want to make up for what you did? THEN ACTUALLY HELP SOMEPONY WITH THEIR PROBLEMS INSTEAD OF JUST TRYING TO MAKE THEM GO AWAY!!'
I promptly got the buck out of there before the crowd could form a lynch mob.
You can call me a coward for doing it, but after that, I shut myself in my house and locked the door. It was the first time I could ever remember regretting not investing the bits I made into a cloud house like some pegasi around here do, since it meant that anypony who wanted to make me suffer for what I'd just done to Fluttershy could get to me easily. But none of them came; I kept waiting while the hours ticked on, wondering, vaguely, if my store would still be in one piece when/if I could come out of here again. It wasn't until the sun started to set that something finally happened; there was a knock upon my door.
Since I was still rather nervous, I was hesitant to open it, but they just kept knocking; so I eventually undid the locks and cracked the door a bit. I saw yellow and immediately tried to close it again, only to be stopped by a hoof. 'Oh no you don't.' She growled, she was in full on 'Cruelly' mode again, and seemed to be a lot stronger than you'd expect from a normally shy pegasus; she managed to keep the door open and got out 'I just came to talk!'
I looked at her, noting that her right eye was now swollen and bruised. 'Talk?' I couldn't believe it, not after what I'd done and said.
'Yes; talk!' I was still pretty skeptical, but I let her in anyway; call it a gesture of good faith. 'Thank you.' She suddenly shifted colors and Cutie Marks again and I couldn't help but confront her about it.
'What is that?' I bluntly asked her, glaring like she was going to try something. 'Some kinda freaky spell Twilight Sparkle cast on you or something?' Yes, I know about miss Sparkle's association with her, national heroes, remember?
'It's not that simple.' She told me, I could tell there was a lot more, it was pretty obvious from the way she was avoiding actually looking at me.
'Then explain it to me, you said you were here to talk after all.'
Yeah, I know I was rude, but I hated her for what she had done and the whole 'punish me for my sins' attitude she'd taken on; you'll have to forgive me for not feeling sympathetic.
Either way, she didn't look too thrilled about it... but she did tell me. I've gotta say, I just about wet myself when she told me that Fluttercruel came from Discord; if she hadn't grabbed my tail, I'd have been halfway to Cloudsdale or Canterlot or something. But yeah, after that, Fluttercruel took over the explanation; she told me a lot of things, some about her role in Gaia, some about some of the things she'd done since, even a few things I'd rather not talk about. Then, after she was done, she finally said something to me that I thought I'd never hear out of another pony.
'Now; what about your problems.'
No offense to you guys, but you give off a sort of... professional air, and you ask a lot of questions usually, so it's hard to just vent. But, then and there, I just let it ALL out of me; all the fear I felt after I reverted, all the anxiety I'd been dealing with over how nuts the world was getting with Nightmare Moon, Discord and Gaia, how alone I'd been since nopony so much as wanted to acknowledge my opinion on what she'd done outside of nut jobs. It felt so good to get it out there, she even asked about my nightmares; did you know she's had them too? Just from the other point of view; with her trapped as Gaia and turning Equestria back into the way it was under her, without being able to stop no matter what.
I have to say, it felt good to actually have somepony to talk to about how I felt and not be berated for it. She helped me come to terms with a few things; like the whole 'world being outside my control' thing I've been really struggling with lately. Pointed that wanting to control everything was what she had done as Gaia, and how badly it had turned out for everyone; I know it sounds like something that would make me feel worse, but she didn't seem as condescending about it as you'd think, more to the point, she pointed out that what I did with my life was always under my control, no matter what anypony tried to tell me differently. She even pointed out that I was basically running my own business, so it wasn't like I'd totally failed at life by any means, so that was something. She also said that she was glad I wasn't in either of the two extremes of ponies who either worshipped Fluttershy now, or wished her a fiery death.
She also talked about those three stallions from earlier; she went to visit them in the hotel they were staying at, talked to them about why they wanted to do what they had to her. Turns out most of it was just body issues that stemmed from them all have been very small and skinny growing up, though she also told me the 'leader' was dealing with some sexuality issues... don't tell anypony... or anyone about that really, or at least, don't mention his name or Cutie Mark when you copy all this down. He deserves some anonymity.
...now there's an interesting question: 'Have I forgiven her?'
I know it sounds like it, at least the part with all the talking, but... I can't- honestly- say that I have. I know it's not the fairy tale outcome you'd expect from a story like this; but come on, what she did was something that, even with her help and yours, I'm still recovering from and Celestia knows how many other ponies have it just as bad as I did, those three couldn't be the only other ones who didn't see Gaia as the greatest thing that ever existed. She's got a long way to go before she earns my forgiveness for what she did.
But... for what little it's worth, I don't hate her anymore either. I guess you could say I'm neutral on her; so she'll either redeem or damn herself in my eyes depending on what she does next. And I'm afraid that's all I'm going to have time for tonight, I've rambled a lot and I still have to open the shop in the morning; not to mention give Fluttercruel her coffee in the mid-day; but, hey, thanks for listening.