Rarity was quite nervous as she trotted with the two boys on their way to Fluttershy's cottage. She didn't know Cerebral Comet that well, but she did know she should. Not only was this stallion her boyfriend's new Guardian ad Draco, he was likely going to stay in town indefinitely, and might need to make a few friends.
There were plenty of suspicions that Comet was sent to replace Twilight. Which was certainly a disturbing thought to the young unicorn. It meant the Princess actually thought Twilight was replaceable. To think any of them could be easily replaced gave her chills.
The silence was nearly killing the mare, so she decided to break it the only way she knew how.
"So, Comet, how'd you get this assignment?" She asked bluntly.
The psychologist looked at the fashionista, smiled and sighed. "I'll tell you when I figure that out. Best guess the princess asked Lord Inkblot who his best student was, and instead they sent me." He had a bit of a laugh at that before continuing. "All I know is, I got a letter from Her Majesty, Princess Celestia, requesting my presence, where she offered me the Ponyville assignment, and you do not deny a request from the Princess."
Rarity just nodded in comprehension as the three continued on.
The forest just outside Ponyville was buzzing with life. As birds fitted from tree to tree Rarity's thoughts began drifting. It had been a little over two weeks since the attack, when she became a local hero, and lost her best friend. Her heart was still aching from those events, and she was pretty sure she would never truly get over it. But she couldn't let anypony know. After all, a true lady never lets her emotions get the better of her.
Rarity became so lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice that the group had already arrived at Fluttershy's cottage: A small, humble little abode. As they approached the home, Rarity noticed something amiss, but she just couldn't place her hoof on it.
"She's probably just sleeping or something," Comet said as he walked up the pathway. He gave a quick rap, rap, rap on the wooden door, and they all expected some type of noise in response. So when they heard only silence, the stallion followed up with another rap, rap, rap. No response.
With gritted teeth he looked around and trotted over to his right. Stopping at the nearest window, Comet placed his foreleg against it, to block the light, as he looked inside.
"Doesn't look like anypony's home," he said. Pushing himself away from the glass, the stallion looked around for some clues, before getting back to his hooves and continuing to circle the cottage.
Rarity's curiosity was peaked. She looked through the window and saw absolutely nothing within. She found it odd, but wasn't sure why. As she pushed herself from the window, she began to think, gently tapping on the glass.
Then, a loud gasp came from the mare, grabbing the attention of both Comet and Spike.
"What's wrong!?" the young dragon asked.
"This place is completely deserted!!" She responded in shock.
Spike suddenly spun around his eyes darting about. "Oh," he said in realization
Comet was confused. "Is that significant?"
"This is Fluttershy's house, she spends all day and night with all sorts of little creatures, but they're nowhere to be seen!" Rarity explained, slightly frantic.
Comet paused before quickly continuing his trek around the cottage. Before Rarity and Spike could follow, he appeared on the other side and said "Well, you're right, completely deserted."
As he approached the front door, the knob glowed as it jiggled just a bit, before Comet knocked once again. "FLUTTERSHY!!!" he yelled in desperation. Jiggling the handle once again, he turned to Rarity. "Is there a key or something?"
"Aside," Rarity said as she trotted up next to the young stallion. Pointing her horn towards the keyhole, she could hear the pins in the lock slide out of the way, one by one, until...CLICK! She opened the door with a flourish!
"Okay, you have to teach me that," Comet said before he quickly entered the small cottage, followed by Rarity and Spike. "Fluttershy!?" he yelled again.
Rarity took the next move, quickly proceeding up the stairs to her friend's bedroom. "Fluttershy?" she called out. The room was also deserted. She quickly trotted back down to the main floor and shook her head.
"Where could she be?" Comet asked rhetorically.
"Maybe she's doing some shopping," offered Spike.
"But all the animals would still be here," his girlfriend rebutted.
As he led the others out, Comet began explaining their next move, "alright, you two know her better than I do so-GLAH!"
The moment he stepped out the front door, he was knocked down by a small white blur. As Rarity and Spike rushed outside, they immediately saw the culprit: A familiar little white rabbit was stomping on the green stallion's head. Comet tried to grab the tiny assailant with his forehooves, but the rabbit continually dodged his counter attacks.
Spike quickly decided he needed to end this.
"ANGEL!" He yelled.
The bunny ceased his attack as he turned to look at the young dragon. Excited to see a familiar face, he spread his arms wide in greeting before quickly hopping towards him.
"Why were you attacking Comet like that!?"
The rabbit gestured toward the door.
Rarity quickly understood. "Oh, we were just trying to find Fluttershy, is she here?"
Angel vigorously shook his head before hopping away, past a confused Cerebral Comet, before looking behind him, and waving the others to follow.
"Go Spike," Rarity said. "Comet and I will catch up."
As Spike ran after the little bunny, Rarity trotted towards the injured unicorn, helping him to his hooves.
"You all right, darling?"
"Bit dizzy," Comet explained rubbing his horn. "Man, that little guy can pack a punch."
"You okay to walk?"
He turned his attention toward Spike, who was standing at the edge of the Everfree forest, waving at them. "Yeah, let's go."
As Spike followed Angel deeper into the Everfree Forest, he became more confused, and more worried. After all, she didn't do anything like this in the other world. In fact, she seemed to take Rarity's death unusually well. Why was she reacting so differently to Twilight's death?
Though, it could be completely unrelated.
Suddenly, the young rabbit stopped dead in his tracks, very confused, his head swinging back and forth, as if he lost something...which he likely did.
"Something wrong Angel?" Spike asked the little bunny.
Angel looked at the dragon, before putting his paw to his chin in contemplation. Then, a quick sniff of the air later, he darted off to Spike's left...off the beaten path.
Spike hesitated for a minute. He didn't want to lose his friends.
Comet's mind was racing. He heard rumours of the Everfree forest. A dangerous labyrinth, populated with all sorts of creatures, each one more hostile than the last. He could only hope that they would find the yellow pegasus in one piece.
As the two unicorns trotted quickly along the path, they were hoping they'd spot Spike and Angel eventually, because at that moment, the two were out of sight.
With nothing to do but walk, Comet thought he should make conversation, and considering they were alone, he knew the perfect topic.
"So, Rarity, how are things?"
"Huh?" The unicorn said, a bit distracted. "Uh...things are...fine."
"Okay..." He wasn't sure if this was the best time, but he also wasn't sure if he'd get the opportunity again. So Comet decided to just bite the arrow and ask. "Look, Rarity, have you been avoiding me?"
"I'm sorry?" she was quite perplexed by the stallion's question.
"I thought we were supposed to have a little chat at some point, but every time I try to talk to you, you say it's a bad time or run off to do something else, so I'm sorry if I'm being a bit blunt."
"I've just been really busy."
"I'm sure, the problem is, I haven't been."
As the two continued to trot on Rarity began to avoid Comet's gaze. "My best friend just died, can't you give me time to mourn in peace?"
Comet started to respond in the most comforting voice he could manage, "I know Rarity, that's...CRAP!"
Just then, Comet ran off ahead of the mare, she saw him pause further down the path and look at her. "Come on!" He yelled right before disappearing into the tree-line.
"Uh oh." Rarity quickly ran after them.
The Everfree Forest was very dense. Almost impossible to navigate unless one remained on the path. So, Spike's current situation left him a bit worried, because right then, he had no idea where he was, or where he would have to go to get back to Ponyville. He was lost, and relying on the navigational skills of a little white rabbit who was much faster and smaller than him, and could easily lose the dragon, even if he didn't want to.
"Angel, slow down," Spike yelled, hoping the young rabbit could hear him.
As he followed the little guy through the forest, his mind was focused only on the task at hand. Eventually the dragon noticed the forest start to thin out. Slowing his pace just a bit, after he noticed Angel doing the same, Spike started looking around, trying to see if he could spot his yellow friend, but found no sign of anypony.
Angel had stopped running, and was now just as confused as he was earlier.
"Where is she?" Spike asked the little bunny rabbit.
Angel merely turned to look at Spike, and simply shrugged his shoulders.
Just then, the young dragon heard movement coming up behind him. Quickly turning around, he saw the two unicorns who accompanied him: Rarity and Cerebral Comet.
"Well?" Comet asked, hopeful.
Spike was about to answer, when he heard more movement coming from the opposite direction. Once again, spinning around, he could see, half-hidden behind a fallen white poplar, a familiar yellow face...Fluttershy.
No one moved for several seconds.
"Fluttershy!" Rarity shouted in excitement, as she trotted over to her best friend. A relationship that one might not think existed any more, as the young pegasus immediately ducked behind the tree, causing the unicorn to stop dead in her tracks. Shocked, she looked back at Comet for assistance.
Of course, he had an elegant solution. He trotted up next to Rarity, and quickly sat down. The mare also sat down, as they were joined by their dragon companion. Then, in a very quiet voice, just loud enough to reach the tree their friend was hiding behind, he said, "Fluttershy?"
The timid pegasus peeked an eye just past the tree trunk.
"It's me...Doctor Cerebral Comet...we met at-...we met yesterday...remember?"
Just then, they trio heard a very soft voice go, "he...hello."
Progress. Cerebral rolled with it. Taking a step forward, he continued. "We just came to see if you were all right."
Rarity followed suit. "We didn't see you at the spa this morning for our weekly get-together. I was worried."
Fluttershy sunk behind the tree a bit more. "I...I'm sorry."
The psychologist reacted quickly. "Don't move," he whispered to Rarity before continuing his conversation. "What have you been up to today, Fluttershy?" he asked with a smile.
"Oh...nothing..." she responded quietly.
"So...what brings you to the Everfree forest?"
"...Um...I just...wanted to...um..."
Comet trotted a bit closer as Fluttershy continued. Neither Spike nor Rarity could hear her anymore, but it seemed as if the doctor could.
"Oh...I see," he said, very quietly. Barely loud enough for his companions to hear.
As she continued speaking, Comet responded.
"But Fluttershy, they do care about you."
Spike and Rarity leaned forward, to try to capture a bit of what the young pegasus was saying, but they didn't dare move one inch more than needed.
"Are you sure?" Comet's tone was getting slightly desperate. "Do you mind if I come by tomorrow? For a few minutes? ...Well-that's fine-it's just...we want to make sure you're okay...that's all. You like tea don't you? ...Great!" He ended with a smile. "I'll see you tomorrow."
As Fluttershy disappeared into the forest, Comet turned to face the others.
"Well, that could have gone better."
Angel vigorously kicked his leg, angrily.
"I know!" Comet said to the little rabbit. "But what do you expect, I'm not a miracle worker."
"What happened?" Rarity asked, quite worried.
Comet pushed his glasses up his nose, as he explained Fluttershy's condition. "She's become a hermit."
"What!?" They were both quite shocked.
"Why-why is she doing this!?" Spike asked, panicking. "What about the animals!?"
"She's taken them with her, and do I really need to tell you why?" Comet looked back over his shoulder in contemplation. "I've read about cases like this. Ponies becoming reclusive in response to the death of a friend or loved one...but I never thought I'd see it first-hoof." He looked back at his companions. "This is completely new to me. We got to get out of here." He started looking around, trying to find the way home.
Another kick from Angel got the stallion's attention once again.
"Lead the way little guy."
As the trio exited the Everfree forest, they continued to discuss the situation.
"It just doesn't seem like she'd be the type to do something like this," Rarity explained, slightly distressed.
"I'm more perplexed by the fact that it took so long for her to actually react," Spike said, simply confused.
"She was probably just putting up a strong front, and it just gave in," Comet explained.
Spike wasn't done. "There's gotta be something more to this."
"Well, she was always pretty sensitive, right? Maybe witnessing the death of her best friend caused her to snap. If that's the case the fact that she managed to hold it in for so long is amazing."
A spark went off in Spike's head. "But she didn't witness Twilight's death! Twilight died instantly." Spike suddenly got quiet. "She was lucky that way."
"...no...but Fluttershy was the first to find her body," Rarity said, bluntly.
"Yeah, well considering...wait." Comet was suddenly confused. He stopped dead in his tracks. "What do you mean 'lucky'?"
Spike stopped as well, as did Rarity who stopped to look at her boyfriend.
The dragon was caught. He wasn't sure he wanted to explain. He certainly couldn't explain to Rarity. He could only hope-
"Rarity," Comet said, getting the unicorn's attention. "Why don't you go on ahead, we'll catch up."
She was hesitant, "But-"
"Rarity...please." Comet smiled, urging her to leave them alone.
The mare responded by trotting over to the dragon and saying, "I'll see you later my sweet." She quickly gave him a kiss before trotting off.
As Spike watched his girlfriend leave, the therapist came up behind him.
"Now, look, Spike," he explained. "You don't have to tell me but-"
"I've been having weird dreams!" he blurted out as quickly as he could, before he could change his mind.
Comet was surprised, "O-okay...um..."
The dragon quickly turned around to face the stallion, but kept his gaze down. "Where Twilight's still alive."
Comet smiled and said, "Spike, it's perfectly natural to dream about what you wish was-"
"-and Rarity's dead."
Comet was taken aback by this. "Oh...um...well..."
"-and I can't tell the difference."
This merely confused the young psychologist. "I'm sorry; What?"
Spike locked eyes with him before continuing. "It doesn't feel like a dream."
"It doesn't...wait...Spike." Comet shuffled his hooves and readjusted his glasses before asking the most crucial question. "Are you awake right now, or asleep?"
Spike hesitated for a minute before answering. "I don't know."
"...Oh...okay then...this is new."