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Waking Up

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       By the time they reached Ponyville, both Discord and Fluttershy were exhausted. Fluttershy's hooves smarted and her eyelids drooped, but Discord had done his best to help her along. He wasn't used to walking so far for anything, but he wasn't about to leave his best friend behind, and he couldn't very well spirit her away and leave her friends behind. Well, he wouldn't have really minded, but he knew Fluttershy would never allow it.

       They said their tired good-byes to Twilight and her friends and made their way toward the Everfree Forest and Fluttershy's cottage, and when they reached it, Discord was happy to note it was empty of Fluttershy's various pets. He dropped his travel packs at the door and stifled a yawn as he helped the pony inside.

       “It's so good to be home,” Fluttershy said quietly.

       “Isn't it?” Discord agreed, stretching his arms and legs.

       “It feels like it's been forever,” Fluttershy sighed, and looked around the living room.

       Discord smiled at her and bent down to reach into the largest of his packs. “Yes, it does, doesn't it,” he said absently, rifling through the pack.

       “A nice cup of tea and then a long sleep,” Fluttershy yawned.

       “Here, I have something for you,” Discord said, clearing his throat. “I got a little side-tracked, but I managed to finish it.” He held out a bundle of white yarn.

       Fluttershy took the bundle in her hooves and a pair of ears flopped out as it unfurled, revealing blue button eyes and a pink rabbit's nose.

       “Discord! Oh, it's wonderful. Thank you.” Fluttershy nuzzled the knitted Angel Bunny. “It looks just like him.”

       “Well, you know, I am a creature of many talents,” Discord said, stretching back casually, glancing at her to see if she were noticing, but she was still focused on Angel. “It stands to reason I would be great at everything.”

       “I'm sorry I don't have anything for you,” Fluttershy began, but Discord straightened and shook his head.

       “Not at all, my dear. You were indisposed, and anyway I don't need anything.” Except you.

       Discord froze at the realization and then stood up, not quite sure what to do. He felt his face and neck warm and cleared his throat again. “Where is that precious little Angel, anyway?”

       Fluttershy smiled at him, placing the knitted Angel on her sofa. “Outside somewhere.” She covered her muzzle with her hoof and chuckled. “I wonder what he'll think of this.”

       Discord returned her smile, though it was considerably more sardonic. “I see less and less of him.” He dislikes me about as much as I dislike him, he thought, fighting the urge to grit his teeth. “But he will be thrilled to pieces, I'm sure. Now, then. Tea?”

       Fluttershy nodded and turned toward the kitchen, but Discord stepped in front of her. “You just sit and rest. You've had quite the ordeal.”

       “Oh, but-”

       “Nonsense. I know where you keep everything. Now, let me see....”

       Fluttershy gave him a small, grateful smile and settled herself on the sofa, closing her tired eyes and resting her head on the knitted Angel.

       As Discord filled the kettle with water and lit the stove, he bit his lip, his brows furrowed. Fluttershy was his dearest friend, and he didn't want to do anything... anything more, that is, that might push her or scare her away. What did he feel, anyway? He was lost in thought as the water heated up, not daring to peek from the kitchen and look in on her.

       Her long pink hair, the way it shaded her face; the small, gentle steps she took when she walked; her quiet voice, like a whispering wind-

       Pain seared through his claw and he jumped back, realizing he'd been holding on to the kettle. He fought the urge to throw the kettle out the window in anger before moving to the back of the kitchen, where he folded his arms across his chest and sulked.

       What would a pony like her ever want with something like me? he wondered. Not for the first time had he considered the depth of their relationship, of what she thought of him. Of course they genuinely enjoyed each other's company, but Fluttershy was....

       He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. His desperation for her company had cost him before, and it was this disappointment which he knew, far down in the darker recesses of his soul, was just something he would have to get used to.

       Besides, he reasoned, she had important work to do. He didn't live in Equestria and didn't really care much one way or another what happened to it, as long as his friends were safe and well. But Fluttershy... what would he ever do without her? Even if she lived to a content old age, she would still....

       Discord began pacing, the heat of the warming water stifling the air in the small kitchen, and opened the window a crack. There will be a way. There must be a way. Perhaps Celestia would be able to do something to ensure Fluttershy won't leave me all alone. He frowned, not ready to admit he might need her as much as he thought he did.

       But he did need her. Or did he want her? What was the difference, anyway? He wasn't quite sure. He always looked forward to a visit, their weekly teas, and even their odd adventures, but to him it was only the matter of being in her presence at all. How he longed for her to want his company as much as he wanted hers!

       Strangely, he thought, at times somehow she makes me feel shy... not 'shy'! his mind cried in weak defense. She's just a good pony. She cared so much about me, about respecting me, that I started to feel that way, too. His hard, anguished expression softened with the thought.

       I want to be better. I want to be better for her, even if she doesn't feel the same way I do. She's so kind. She's like a spring blossom, always making my heart a-flutter... no, don't say 'flutter'! He nearly groaned out loud. Was he really so pathetic he couldn't even think of a word that had to do with her without feeling a pang in his chest?

       Twilight would know what to do, he thought unhappily, for he regarded the alicorn with the mild respect and disinterest of a student putting up with an elderly schoolmarm. 'Princess of Friendship' and all.

       He leaned against the back wall, sighing. He wasn't certain a brainiac like Twilight could understand his dilemma, nor the rage he had felt learning of Fluttershy's being ponynapped. That night, he could have killed something. He could have killed a lot of things.

       But his blind rage had gotten himself in trouble, too, and where would they be if he let Fluttershy down again? What if Starlight hadn't saved them all? If he had even survived such an ordeal to see its aftermath, how could he live with himself?

       Wake up! She's a pony and you're a beast. He sighed again and hung his head, gloom enveloping him like a shroud. He knew he had awoken; he was wide awake now, and no amount of dreaming could return him to how he had felt before.

       Movement from the window caught his eye and he looked sharply to see Angel peering at him from outside. Discord made a face at him and Angel jerked back, and with one last stricken look at Discord he hopped into the forest and out of sight.

       That ridiculous fuzzball, he thought, glad the little monster would leave both himself and Fluttershy alone, for now. Fluttershy would be much happier with a pet from where I'm from!

       The idea cleared his gloom and he smiled. That was it! A trip to his homeland, just the two of them. He could show her all of the creatures he knew, and even if nothing came of it they would be together for a little while, right? Besides, new animals would make Fluttershy happy, and that was all he really wanted. It was all he needed.

       The water boiling, Discord poured it into a china teapot and put the tea in to steep. He then gathered the teapot, cups and saucers on a wooden tray and called out, “Fluttershy, what would you say about a trip to my dimension? Think of all the new creatures you could see. Little furred things with sparkling eyes, winged falcon-turtles as big and fast as....” he trailed off as he stepped into the living room and saw that Fluttershy was sleeping, her rhythmic breathing making her shoulders rise and fall.

       He crept toward the sofa, setting the tray down and smiling in spite of himself. He reached down to play with the end of one of the knitted Angel's soft ears before sitting himself on a windowsill across from Fluttershy.

       He tried to order his thoughts while trying not to stare at Fluttershy like a lunatic, but her left ear gave a tiny jerk and he smiled again, wondering if he should leave and visit her tomorrow instead.

       If I could just tell you what I'm feeling, all these thoughts in my head, maybe you'd be happy, too.

       Not now, another part of his mind pressed.

       Discord closed his eyes as the purples and blues of dusk enveloped the room.

       You never know, she might be just as thrilled as I would be to-

       Not now, his mind argued again. There was no need to rush anything, no need to change anything.

       Fluttershy twitched, dreaming of some distant adventure, and then roused. She rubbed her eyes and twitched again when she noticed Discord. “Oh! You're still here? I'm so sorry, I must have dozed off.”

       Discord crossed the room, settled down beside her and began pouring her a cup of tea. “I didn't want to wake you.”