"It's over?" Applejack's voice was soft but dripped with shock. "Just like that?"
Fluttershy tried to keep her eyes locked with Applejack's, "Please, Applejack. This is for the best. I love you, but..."
"But what," Applejack's voice was slightly louder and had some force behind it, "you love me, but not enough to give me another chance?"
Fluttershy looked to the ceiling, tears pooling in her eyes, "It's not that. You hurt me. I needed you."
"Ah know, and I will never be able to make up for what ah did to you, but don' ya think ah deserve a chance to try?"
"No? So that's it then? We're finished?"
Fluttershy looked back to Applejack and was stunned to see no anger in her face. There was only grief and confusion. "I'm sorry Applejack. I never wanted to hurt you, and I know you never wanted to hurt me. The reason I think we should end things, is because you left me when I needed you. You didn't plan on leaving me, but you did anyway." Fluttershy shook her head, "No. That's not it. It was the way you looked at me." She stared into Applejack's eyes, "You looked at me as though I were a monster. A piece of trash." Her voice was beginning to crack, "A disappointment."
"Ah'm the disappointment here." Applejack wanted to hold the now crying pegasus, but instead gently stroked her very short mane. "I let you down, and I'm sorry. Please give me another chance."
Fluttershy looked Applejack in the eye and simply shook her head before crying into her free hoof.
Applejack felt as though somepony punched her right in the chest. The air in the room seemed to be sucked out and she slowly made her way to the door.
It's over. Those words kept ringing in Applejack's ears as she slowly left Fluttershy's room. A million thoughts ran through her mind, and she did not notice when she bumped into Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow wanted to be smug. Applejack deserved whatever news Fluttershy gave her, but seeing her like this hurt. 'She was my best friend,' Rainbow reminded herself. All those years of competing and pushing each other reminded Rainbow that she would not be the athlete she was if it were not for Applejack. She shook her head, "Are you alright?"
Applejack seems to get over her shock. She looked up to Rainbow and for a brief moment, anger shone in her eyes. Grief quickly replaced it and she mumbled something before turning away.
"What was that?"
"Ah said she's all yours now. It's what you want isn' it?" The question began angry, but it ended in broken sobs. Applejack did not wait to see what Rainbow had to say. Instead, she headed to see what Pinkie, or rather Agent Pie, wanted to talk about.
'All mine now? Is that what I want?' Rainbow watched as Applejack headed to the main lobby. The orange mare's head was sunk so low that her mane was dragging across the ground and Rainbow could see a steady trail of tears follow her. Guilt washed over the blue pegasus, 'This isn't what I wanted.' She turned and entered Fluttershy's room.
Inside the yellow pegasus was crying softly into her free hoof. She looked up and tried to speak. Instead, she broke into a sob.
Rainbow hugged her friend, "I'm sorry, Fluttershy. I know whatever happened hit AJ hard. She looked like Winona died."
"I ended it." Fluttershy's cries became louder.
"It must have been hard for you. I'm sorry Fluttershy." Rainbow could not bring herself to tell her friend what she planned on saying. "I never wanted you to be hurt like this."
"Thank you Rainbow." Fluttershy tried to stifle her tears, but she kept crying into her friend's shoulder. "It hurts. Why did this happen?" She regained her composure enough to control her crying somewhat.
Rainbow just held her friend, unable to provide any words of comfort. She smiled softly as she felt her own tears fall from her face and into her friend's mane, 'I'll never stop caring.'
The halls of the hospital, the hospital itself even, felt cold to Applejack. She could not place it but everything felt empty. She managed to stop her crying for the moment and found Pinkie. Applejack walked up to the pink pony and cleared her throat.
Pinkie turned and concern shone in her eyes, "Ms. Applejack, it's to see you again. I take it you spoke to Ms. Fluttershy?"
"Yeah, ah did," Applejack responded with a coarse voice.
Pinkie turned and looked out the window, "My name is Special Agent Diane Pie, but you can call me Agent Pie. I apologize for this but I need your help." Pinkie opened a file that was on a nearby table, "I don't know if you were informed that there have been two attempts to kill Ms. Fluttershy. One of the attackers is in custody, but two are still free. Ms. Applejack, are you listening?"
Applejack looked at Pinkie, "Yeah. Sorry. So ya'll need a hoof in catchin' these killers? Why me?"
"I have my reasons for choosing you. Now, I officially deputize you into the EBI."
Pinkie passed the folder to Applejack, "You are now working for the Equestrian Bureau of Investigation, Triple F division, and you will assist me in the apprehension of the pony that attacked Fluttershy."
'Seriously Applejack? This is how ya'll are gonna be? Didn' you promise to help Fluttershy no matter what?' Applejack looked up to Pinkie, "Alright Agent Pie, you lead ah follow."
With a nod and a small smile the pink pony led the orange one out of the hospital. Once outside, and alone, Pinkie nudged Applejack gently, "I'm really sorry, AJ. I know that you must be super-duper sad right now."
"Pinkie." Applejack looked into Pinkie's eyes, "I dunno how ah feel. Everything feels cold. Almost dead." She lowered her head, "Fluttershy was mah whole world, and ah deserve what ah got." She looked up and said with a determined nod, "But that don' change that ah promised to do what ah can to help that pony. Now if finding these ponies that tried to hurt mah Fluttershy will help, then ah'll fight till mah dying breath."
Pinkie put a hoof on Applejack's shoulder, "Then that means Operation: ApplePie is now officially underway."
Applejack managed a small smile, "Only you Pinkie could make me feel a little better. Thank you." She motioned for her still nonexistent hat and sighed, "Well boss, do we have any leads?"
Pinkie nodded, "Yes we do. We are on the lookout for a unicorn that does not know how to cast a cloud walking spell." Pinkie tapped her chin with a hoof, "Speaking of which, I need to get Twilight to recast it on me. When was your spell cast?"
"An hour ago, give or take."
"Ok, we'll being a unicorn with us just to be safe." Pinkie looked out the window and sighed, "I can't shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen."
"Well, whatever it is, we'll be there to stop it."
Pinkie looked at Applejack. The orange mare's eyes were still filled with grief, but she was clearly trying very hard to push it aside. "I'm sure we will. Now let's get going." Pinkie waved over to a unicorn officer and a pegasus carriage soon arrived. Both ponies boarded and they headed off to the police station where Detective Smoke was waiting, hopefully with new information.
"So am I free to go?" Rarity was not waiting for the doctor to answer her question as she was already getting up.
The doctor sighed, "Yes Ms. Rarity, you are cleared. Just please take it easy. You're injuries were far from superficial."
Rarity laughed, "Oh don't you worry. I have no intention of engaging in any activity more strenuous than a simple conversation."
The doctor flipped through his chart, "If I recall, wasn't 'a simple conversation' the reason for your injuries in the first place?"
"Yes well, this time things will be quite different, I assure you." Rarity was finally on her hooves and headed out the door, "Thank you very much for the care, doctor."
The doctor nodded, "Of course. Try and be careful."
Rarity paid no mind as she left the room and headed for Fluttershy's room. 'I do hope she's well.' She arrived noticed that there was nopony standing guard. Rarity entered Fluttershy's room and saw Rainbow holding Fluttershy. "Fluttershy dear, is everything alright?"
The yellow pegasus looked up and though she had stopped crying, her eyes were still quite red. "Rarity," she managed to squeak, "How are you?"
Rarity walked by her friend, "Don't you worry about me, Fluttershy. I heard your wound was very serious. Are you well?"
Fluttershy looked down, "I broke up with Applejack." She sniffed back some tears.
"I see." Rarity lifted Fluttershy's face with her hoof, "Of course you do realize that this will only spur Applejack to earn your love back."
"Yeah, unless she falls apart first." Rainbow cringed as soon as she said those words. "Sorry." Rainbow hugged Fluttershy tightly, "You didn't see her Fluttershy, but I think Applejack is taking the breakup really hard." She quickly bit her tongue to keep herself from saying that Applejack deserved it.
Fluttershy managed to wrestle free from Rainbow, "I know. I feel terrible saying those things to her." She looked to Rarity, "Why can't I just forgive her?"
Rarity smiled and caressed Fluttershy's mane, "I know it's hard, but think of what Applejack put you through." She smiled at Rainbow, "I know you bear no hatred for her."
Rainbow shifted uncomfortably, "Well, I don't hate her, but she still hurt Fluttershy."
Rarity looked into Fluttershy's eyes, "Love can be a strange thing. It will make a pony do things they would never consider before. It is also stubborn. Your love for Applejack won't fade, and this parting may only be temporary. I for one hope that Applejack is able to earn your love once again."
"Why? So she can hurt her again?"
"Rainbow, I don't think now would be the best time for this." Rarity smiled and hugged Fluttershy gently. "I understand that Twilight will be heading to the Canterlot Royal Library. Perhaps she can find something there that can aid your defense." She paused, "I plan to go with her."
Rainbow's response surprised the white unicorn, "Why? Uh, what about Fluttershy?"
Rarity smiled, "I'm certain that 'Fluttershy' will be fine. I have to go. Things are still rather tense between Twilight and me, and I have to be the one to begin rebuilding our friendship." Soft crying interrupted her thoughts. She looked down and saw Fluttershy crying. "Darling what's wrong?
"It's all my fault. If it wasn't for me, Applejack and Rainbow would still be friends. You and Twilight would still be friends, and I wouldn't hurt so much." Her crying was soft considering how tired she was.
Rarity kissed Fluttershy on the head, "None of this is your fault. Friendships can be renewed, even if they will never be quite the same again. I have to say that we learned a great deal about ourselves in this ordeal. I for one never thought Pinkie would be so devoted to her friends. I know that she wishes everypony to be happy, but she is working very hard to ensure you come home safely."
"Yeah we learned a few things about Applejack too."
"You mean besides the fact that she is aware of her mistakes and sincerely wishes to make amends, or do simply want another excuse to be angry with her?"
"Uh, well," Rainbow stammered before almost shouting, "Whose side are you on? A while ago you were trying to make me feel better. Now you're saying that I'm the bad guy?"
"Rainbow, I'm not saying that. I'm merely suggesting that you're holding onto anger that you don't have to." Rarity let go of Fluttershy and walked over to Rainbow. Placing a hoof on the blue pegasus's shoulder, "You are loyal almost to a fault. Applejack's reaction, in your eyes, meant betrayal. That is something that you cannot forgive, but you have to. We all need to remain friends. I don't want to think of what life would be like if I couldn't listen to the ridiculous competitions you two keep getting into." She smiled warmly and nudged Rainbow.
Rainbow smiled, "Yeah. I miss butting heads with her. Part of me wants to forgive her, but..."
"Then you must allow that part to grow. Don't dwell on it. Simply give it time and you will find it easier to forgive Applejack."
Rainbow nodded, "Thank you Rarity. I'm going to miss you when you leave."
Fluttershy smiled, "I'll miss you too. I wonder when I'll be transferred."
The reminder of the pending trial snapped Rarity out of her thoughts, "Yes, well. I heard that Storm Ring is placing pressure on Canterlot to get this to trial as quickly as possible, so I imagine you will be leaving within a day or so." She looked into her friend's eyes, "Try and be strong, Fluttershy. This will be difficult, but know that I have faith in you. You did what you had to and hopefully you will be cleared and we can go home."
"That would be nice," Fluttershy said. She turned to the doorway and smiled, "Hello Twilight."
"Yeah, hi," Twilight said awkwardly, "How's your leg?"
Fluttershy nodded, "It feels much better, thank you. When do you plan to leave for Canterlot?"
"I'll be leaving within the hour. I just wanted to say that I plan to scour every legal document I can get my hooves on." She lowered her head, "I owe you that."
"Twilight," Fluttershy said. After Twilight looked at her she said, "I am not mad at you. Thank you for helping me. I imagine that if you weren't there, I would have more than a single arrow to worry about."
Twilight nodded, "I think I can do more to help in Canterlot."
"I would like to join you," Rarity said.
"Why?" Twilight's question had an edge of annoyance, "What do you think you can do there? Wouldn't you be better here with Fluttershy?"
Rarity nodded, "Perhaps, but somepony needs to ensure that you don't push yourself too hard."
"Push myself too hard? In case you forgot, I'm the one that ensured Fluttershy would be brought in safely."
"Yes, and what a marvelous success that was. Remind us again why Fluttershy is in a hospital." Rarity and Twilight were now standing face to face.
"How was I supposed to know that somepony wanted to kill her?"
"Are you jealous that somepony beat you to it?"
"How dare you? That's a cheap shot Rarity! I'm trying to set things right."
"No, you're trying to sweep it all under the rug. If it wasn't for me who knows what shape poor Fluttershy would be in."
Both ponies were shaking with anger and their horns were beginning to glow. Fluttershy and Rainbow could only stare in stunned silence.
"Guys! What are you doing?" Spike ran into the room and forced himself between the two. "I thought you two put this behind you."
Rarity did not drop her gaze from Twilight, "Oh I did, Spike. I'm trying to make amends, but Twilight wants none of it."
Twilight also refused to break her gaze, "I'm not the problem here. I don't need or want your help."
"Are you serious Twilight," Spike shouted, "Do you even remember how big the Royal Library is? We need her help to gather the material."
"Rainbow Dash can come with us."
"No. I'm staying close to Fluttershy." Rainbow looked at Fluttershy and shrugged, "You know. The reason you two got into a fight in the first place."
Rarity looked down, "Yes Rainbow. You're right. We can't continue like this." She looked back to Twilight, "I really wish to help you. I. I'm sorry."
Twilight sighed, "I know you want to help, but do you really think now is a good time for us to be in the same room?"
"I understand Twilight, but our friendship means too much to me to simply wait. I know that we can make amends. We just need to try."
Spike was still standing between the two, "Oh you two will behave, or I will use my fire on you."
"You wouldn't use fire in a library," Twilight said shocked.
Spike just grinned, "Then don't give me a reason to."
Twilight smiled at her assistant, "Thank you Spike. I'm going to get something to eat." She looked to Rarity, "Would you like to join me?"
"That would be nice." Rarity turned to Fluttershy, "Take care of yourself, Fluttershy. I know Rainbow will do her best to look out for you."
"So you're really leaving," Rainbow asked. She walked up to Rarity and whispered into her ear, "What if the guilt comes back? I can't protect Fluttershy if I keep beating myself up."
Rarity smiled, "Rainbow dear, there is a saying that should help, 'Often those who feel the most guilt are those who least deserve it.' I feel that it applies to you perfectly."
"Thanks Rarity." Rainbow smiled, but still wanted the white unicorn to stay. She walked back to Fluttershy and sat down next to her as Rarity left the room.
"I hope they don't get into another fight," Fluttershy said softly.
"Me too," Rainbow said softly, "Cause that was not awesome."
Fluttershy nodded slowly. She turned to Rainbow, "Um, Rainbow? What was that you asked Rarity? Something about guilt?"
Rainbow was stunned, 'I thought I whispered that.' She tried to smile, "Well, Rarity has been helping my get over my guilt over what happened to you." She raised a hoof to stop whatever it was that Fluttershy planned to say, "I know that it wasn't my fault, ok? I get that, but the fact is that you're so innocent. The amount of pain you've had in your life is just unfair, but for some reason, you're still the kindest pony ever. It's almost like you're mocking the pain." Rainbow smiled, "That would be really awesome."
Fluttershy smiled, "Remember when we moved to Ponyville?"
"Yeah. I remember the realtor stiffed me. I specifically asked for a ground home, but they got me that cloud house."
Fluttershy smiled, "Yes but I was able to get the cottage, so it worked out well enough in the end."
Rainbow nodded, "It did, but why are you thinking of that."
Fluttershy took a breath, "Well, I never told you this, but there were many nights that I would have nightmares. I would wake up and all I could do was cry until I exhausted myself. I was miserable, Rainbow. There was nopony around for me. You were the new pony on the weather team, so you couldn't make time for me. It wasn't until you forced me to start hanging out with Pinkie, Rarity, and Applejack that I made new friends." She smiled, "That's what I meant. I didn't know any real happiness until I stopped keeping myself away from the world. Our friends were there for me, and that was enough. Thanks to you, and them, I will never be alone, and I will never feel that kind of pain again."
Rainbow hugged her friend, "Those are some good words to live by." She looked back to the small pile of books, "Think you're up for a little studying?"
Fluttershy nodded, "I'll always help you, Rainbow."
Rainbow smiled, "I know." She passed the book on safety to Fluttershy and they began to study.
The carriage that carried Agent Pie and the newly deputized Applejack had arrived at the Cloudsdale police station. Both ponies entered the station and Pinkie walked up to the sergeant at the desk, "We're here to speak to Detective Smoke. He's expecting me."
The pegasus looked at Pinkie and nodded, "Yes, Detective Smoke said you would be stopping by." He looked at Applejack, "And you are?"
"Uh, Deputy Applejack. Ah'm working with Agent Pie here."
"I see," the sergeant handed Pinkie a form, "Just sign here, and you are responsible for the behavior of your 'deputy'."
Pinkie signed the form and both ponies headed to the interrogation room. On the way there, they were surprised at the sight of the number of ponies that were arrested. They were either unicorns or pegasi, but the single constant was that all of ponies' coats were darkened. Applejack noticed that Pinkie's coat was darker than normal. She could not give it much more thought as they found Detective Smoke.
"Hello Agent Pie," Smoke said, "And you are?"
"Oh right," Applejack said knocked out of her thoughts, "Deputy Applejack, sir."
"Deputy?" Smoke looked at Pinkie with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes, I will need assistance in apprehending the ponies that attempted to kill Ms. Fluttershy, and Ms. Sparkle recommended Applejack." She nodded to Applejack, "It is within my authority to enlist the help of any I see fit."
"I see." Smoke cleared his throat, "Well, it is a pleasure, Ms. Applejack."
"Oh, Applejack is fine, sir" Again she motioned for her missing hat.
"Very well, Applejack. Now I must ask you to wait in the observation room while Agent Pie and I interrogate the suspect."
Agent Pie nodded, "I agree. Applejack if you would join me in the observation room?"
"Sure thing boss."
Both ponies entered the room and Pinkie suddenly smiled, "Oh I got it! I know what you can do. Oh it's so great that you're here."
"Pinkie your mood swings are kinda confusin' me here. What's this plan of yours?"
Pinkie's smile grew into a grin, "Well, as the element of honesty, you can spot a lie easily. If you catch the pony in a lie, tap on the glass. I'll know to put more pressure on them."
"That's sounds like a mighty good plan, but I can't really control it. I just get a feeling that a pony is lying. What if I miss something?"
"Don't worry. I know you'll do great. Remember. Tap the glass when you feel a lie."
Applejack nodded and watched Pinkie leave the room. She pulled a seat up to the window and got a good look at the pony inside. He was glaring at Smoke and his disdain turned to fear when he saw Pinkie enter the room.
"Nice of you to join us Agent Pie." Detective Smoke had a mug of coffee and poured the contents into the trash. "Well, I'm out of coffee. I trust you can handle the interrogation while I'm gone?"
"Of course," Pinkie said, "I have been wanting to continue our conversation."
The pegasus started panicking, "Hey! You can't leave me here with that horse!"
Pinkie immediately got in his face, "What was that?"
The pegasus whimpered something and Pinkie simply nodded. She walked around to the other side and sat down, "Detective, I think your coffee can wait for a moment."
"If you insist." Smoke sat down and with a smile to the pegasus, "You're welcome by the way."
Applejack could not help by enjoy the sight of the pony that tried to kill Fluttershy squirm as he tried to keep his eyes on Pinkie but never quite daring to look her in the eye.
After a while, Pinkie spoke, "Who hired you?"
"I have no idea."
Pinkie smiled as she heard a light tap on the mirror, "Try again."
"Wait. What was that?"
"Worry about yourself. Now tell me who hired you."
"I never got his name. I only know that he works at a weather factory."
Pinkie nodded, "Just a thought, but what would happen if you failed to kill Fluttershy?"
"I guess they would hire somepony else to do the job."
Smoke leaned forward, "Your record shows that you used to patrol near the shipping district. Are there any names that you can think of?"
"It's been a long time since I've been there," the pegasus said, "And besides, I wouldn't know any names."
Pinkie leafed through the file, "Then how about teams? Let's say a pegasus and a unicorn."
"Yeah, I heard of a few, but that's not much to go on."
Pinkie smiled, "How about if I told you the unicorn isn't native to Cloudsdale?"
The pegasus laughed, "You're after them? Well, don't expect me to cry when they gut you."
Smoke stood up, "A name."
"They don't have a name. All I know is that they're expensive. Whoever hired them was loaded. My money would be Grey Ring's dad hired them, and you can bet that they will kill that pony. I don't care who you have guarding her."
"They failed once already." Pinkie said trying to hide the fact that if Fluttershy were still unconscious they would have succeeded in their task. "In fact, that's how we know who to look for."
The pegasus laughed, "You still don't get it. They aren't assassins. They're what you would call 'cleaners'. They make a problem go away, and that yellow pony is a problem."
Pinkie was about to say something when Smoke stopped her, "Why are you being so helpful? You know that you're in for attempted murder in the first, so what do you have to gain from helping us?"
The pegasus smirked, "Immunity."
"No." Smoke's demeanor did not change, "There will be no deal."
"Fine, but don't complain when they get a second chance."
"You will tell us what we need to know or I will let Agent Pie here have her fun with you."
"You can't do that."
"I can't but I'm not going to be around all the time, and as Agent Pie has the highest possible clearance, she can get to you. She doesn't even have to be careful. What you have is Agent Pie on a leash. Do you really want me to let her loose on you?"
Pinkie gave the pegasus a small smile, and it was all that was required.
"Fine, I'll tell you where I was given the instructions. It's a bar by the shipping district."
There was another light tap at the mirror.
"Is there something you're not telling us," Smoke asked leaning toward the pegasus.
The pegasus sighed, "Yeah. In order to meet the contact I had to participate in an event that's held at the bar."
Pinkie's ears perked up, "And what event is that?"
A smirk appeared on the pegasus's face, "You'll find out when you get there."
Smoke frowned, "Fine. What's the place called?"
Pinkie nodded, "Very well. Detective Smoke. If you'll excuse me, I'll meet with my deputy and check out the bar."
The pegasus laughed, "I don't think you have what it takes to get their attention, but if you think you have the guts, remember that the contact loves the Wonderbolts. The more obscure the better."
"I'll keep that in mind." Pinkie left the interrogation room and entered the observation room.
"I reckon ya'll scared him pretty there, Agent Pie." Applejack looked back to the pegasus, "I don't think he was tellin' the whole story, but he's might scared of ya." She turned back to Pinkie, "Just what did you say to him?"
"Just told him a little story. Let's go Deputy we have a bar to visit. I wonder what this 'event' is."
Applejack tapped her chin with a hoof, "Well, it is a bar, so ah reckon it'll be a drinkin' contest or somthin'."
"Drinks? You mean like sarsaparilla?" Pinkie smiled thinking of how much fun it would be to drink as much sarsaparilla possible in a short time.
Applejack shook her head, "No, more alcoholic and I don't think they'll go with simple beer."
"Hm, I don't drink that much." Pinkie smiled, "I like to remember my parties."
"Don't sweat it none. I feel like drownin' mah sorrows right now anyway." Applejack tried to keep things light but failed.
Pinkie looked around and made certain that they were alone, "Jackie, are you ok?"
Applejack shook her head, "No Pinkie ah'm not. I just lost the pony I love, and ah know ah deserved it." She shook her head trying to keep her composure, "ah want to be able to make it up to her, but she won't let me." Applejack shuddered slightly, "Ah know why. She says it's all on account how ah looked at her when we learned that she killed that pony." She scoffed, "how can I be so stupid to hold it against Fluttershy? He had to be put down."
Pinkie nudged Applejack, "Yeah, Fluttershy did what she had to, but it's not like we had a lot of time to think about it." She motioned for the door, "C'mon Jackie. We have two suspects to track down."
Applejack cleared her throat, "You're right. Let's go boss."
They left the observation room and saw Detective Smoke. Pinkie smiled, "Were you able to find anything else?"
Smoke nodded, "Not much. All he said after you left is that you had better be able to take a punch, but I don't think he intended for me to hear it." He looked at both ponies, "Be careful." Smoke was about to turn around, but before he did he leaned and whispered something into Pinkie's ear.
Pinkie's eye slowly went wide and she just stammered, "H-how long did you..."
Smoke wave a hoof, "It doesn't matter. All that is important is that you do very good work Agent Pie." With a small smile, he walked away.
Applejack nudged Pinkie, "Just what was that all about?"
Pinkie smiled, "He said that he knew I was pretending."
"You think that'll be a problem?"
Pinkie smiled, "Nope. He told me that I was still one of the best 'agents' that he's worked with."
Applejack smiled, "So it looks like ya'll got a hoof fer law enforcement."
"Maybe I do, but I would still rather have parties."
Applejack laughed softly, "Well this contact isn't gonna wait all day."
Pinkie nodded and both ponies left the station and boarded a carriage that would take them to the shipping district.
"Rarity, you really need to eat more than that." Spike was happy that Rarity joined Twilight and him for lunch, but neither pony were speaking. Rarity was picking at a small salad and Twilight was nursing a daisy sandwich.
Spike sighed, "Look. I know you two are still mad, but try and remember what's important here. We need to help Fluttershy. She is our friend, and I know there is nothing that would stop either of you from helping her. Please, I don't want to have to see you hurt any worse."
Twilight lifted her head, "You're right. I know that Rarity means well, and I shouldn't have snapped at her." She looked to Rarity with tears in her eyes, "Saying that I wanted Fluttershy dead hurt, Rarity. I'm trying to set things right."
Rarity sighed, "No Twilight. You're right. It was a cheap shot and I apologize. I just wish to be your friend again." She sighed, "Do you think we can be friends again?"
Twilight looked away, "I hope so." She turned back and smiled, "I say if you're willing to try then I'll try too."
"Good," Spike said, "Now eat up before we miss the carriage to Canterlot."
Both ponies nodded and began to eat. Rarity's appetite returned and she was content to eat her salad. A question popped in her mind. She looked to Twilight, "I never asked, but what is it that you plan on finding in the Royal Library?"
Twilight smiled, "I hope to find some means of helping Fluttershy. I'm certain that there is some law in place for this situation."
"How are you certain?"
"Well, Equestria has been around for millennia and there had to have been a case similar to this one sometime in history. We just have to look and be quick. I doubt the court will suspend the trial while we look for precedents."
"Prece-what?" Spike looked at Twilight confused.
Twilight smiled, "It's just a term for when something has occurred in the past and there is a record of it. They can be used in court cases, and that's what we're looking for." She took a bite from her sandwich before continuing, "Perhaps we can get the case thrown out, or at least provide probable cause."
"That would be wonderful, Twilight." Rarity looked and saw a stallion in a suit walking towards the recovery wing, "He looks lawyerly. Perhaps, that's Fluttershy's lawyer."
Twilight turned but did not get a good look at the stallion, "I hope the lawyer Applejack got was good. Even if we find some precedent that can help, she will still need a very strong defense."
"Twilight, have faith. I'm certain that everything will turn out fine."
"How can you be so sure? I can't stop picturing Fluttershy being found guilty." Twilight hung her head and smiled when she felt a hoof on her shoulder. She looked up and smiled at Rarity, "I know what you're going to say, and you're right. That should motivate me to work that much harder to find something."
Rarity smiled, "And you will. Now we must be off to Canterlot." She turned to Spike, "I know you will ensure that we behave. I apologize for my behavior." Rarity smiled at the baby dragon, only now she no longer saw him as a 'baby'.
Spike coughed nervously, "Don't sweat it. Let's get going." He gathered the trays and took them to the trash.
Rarity and Twilight made their way to the boarding platform outside the hospital. The air was cool and crisp along with a swift breeze that during any other time would have been rather pleasant. At this time it felt foreboding and ominous. Rarity never having been to the Royal Library wondered at the size of the building. "Twilight, this library that we are off to, how big is it?"
Twilight smiled, "Oh it's big. It's one of the largest libraries in the world, but we'll just stick to the Law Library. Still, it will take some time before we come across anything that may be of use to Fluttershy." She was becoming excited, "You should see the Science Wing. It has so many volumes that I don't think I could read them all in my lifetime. Of course, I often read books more than once."
"Twilight! You're rambling." Spike poked her leg to get her attention.
Twilight blushed, "Oh, oops. Sorry. I just get really excited to do research."
Rarity smiled, "Wonderful. We shall need that energy. It appears the carriage is arriving."
A large commercial carriage landed and the three boarded. After a few minutes, they were off to Canterlot.
Rainbow looked out the window and saw the carriage leave for Canterlot. She sighed and sat back down. "I think we should take a break."
Fluttershy looked up, "But it's only been a little while."
"Yeah, but I just really feel like studying right now."
"Ok." Fluttershy saw that Rainbow was still looking outside, but she could not see what the blue pegasus was staring at. "Rainbow, what's wrong?"
"You mean besides the fact that you're going to jail?"
Before Fluttershy could respond, a cheery voice spoke up, "Not if I have a say in it."
Both ponies turned and saw a stallion wearing a dark gray suit. His black mane was cut very short, and he seemed to have a smile permanently stuck on his face.
Without wasting any time the stallion walked up to Fluttershy, "Name's Dexter Hoofstrom. You're 'friend' Applejack hired me on to ensure that you go home free." He turned to Rainbow, "A rainbow, eh? Don't you think you might be a little too subtle there?"
Rainbow tilted her head, "Uh, what?"
"Doesn't matter." Dexter turned to Fluttershy, "Now, we don't have a lot of time before they haul you out of here."
Fluttershy became nervous, "But, I haven't been medically cleared."
"True, but it would appear that good old Storm Ring used some of his considerable pull to have you transferred to the Canterlot prison. You will arrive at the infirmary and then to general population when you are cleared." He smiled, "Don't worry though. I think I can get more private quarters." He sat down, "We have a lot of work to do, and first I need to know how you handle questioning."
"What does that matter? All she has to do is answer the questions."
Dexter smiled, "There's a little more to it than that." He turned to Fluttershy, "I forgot my watch. Do you know the time?"
Fluttershy looked to the clock on the wall, "Um, it's almost a quarter past two."
Dexter nodded, "Ok, don't do that."
Rainbow was getting annoyed, "What are you talking about? She answered the question."
"No. She gave me more information than was asked for." His attention was once again on Fluttershy, "I asked if you 'knew' the time. I never asked for you to tell me that time it is."
Fluttershy nodded, "I understand."
"Well I don't. Just what the hay is going on?"
Fluttershy turned to her friend, "Rainbow, he wants me to answer any questions as simply as possible and only give what was asked. I know that asking if somepony 'knows' what time it is implies that they also want you to tell them the time, but in this case it may be best for me to wait until they ask for the information directly."
Rainbow shook her head, "I don't get it, but hey if that's what your lawyer wants, then that's the plan."
Dexter laughed, "Good to have you on board. Now Fluttershy, if they decide to follow through and transfer you today, then I need to prepare you as quickly as possible." He flipped open a file, "Now that list Applejack provided for us is pure gold. There were only seven names, including yours, but two were dead, one refused to testify, one could not be reach, and two were willing to testify. This is where the good news ends." He leaned back, "One of the victims has gone missing after she agreed to testify. She knew Grey personally, and was to be a huge part of your defense. We suspect that she was abducted, but no missing ponies have been reported." Dexter shifted slightly, "We are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. You will be transferred to the jail, and the police will interrogate you there. Just remember what I told you. Never give more information than was asked for."
"I understand," Fluttershy said, "Um, do you know when I will be transferred?" As though to answer her question, a police officer entered the room and cleared his throat.
"Now I guess," Dexter said cheerfully. He stood up and faced the officer, "I know you're doing your job, but she is injured and needs time to recover."
"She'll be taken care of at the prison."
"Nice and vague, isn't it?" Dexter kept himself between the officer and Fluttershy.
The officer was getting annoyed, "Look Detective Smoke sent me. He wanted me to give this to the prisoner." The officer passed a note to Dexter.
Dexter opened the note and quietly read it. He nodded and passed the note to Fluttershy.
I understand your concerns, especially since you were attacked so recently, but this officer is trustworthy. At least, he better be since he's my son. I shall be at the prison, and shall question you there.
"Then we leave now?" Fluttershy put the note down, and looked at Dexter.
"That's the plan. Just don't forget what I told you. Once you reach Canterlot, we can discuss strategy further." Dexter turned to the officer, "After you."
The officer nodded and three ponies entered the room. They began to remove the I.V.'s from Fluttershy's leg, and she was placed in a wheelchair. Fluttershy was then wheeled out.
Rainbow Dash followed close behind and felt completely lost. Everypony had a task to do except her. Fluttershy would be protected by the officers. Applejack and Pinkie were off trying to track down the assassins. Twilight, Spike, and Rarity were going to search the library. Rainbow had nothing. All she could do was follow the ponies that were wheeling her oldest friend out of the hospital. It was not long before they arrived at the exit. Rainbow looked around and saw the carriage was rather small. The ponies help Fluttershy onto the carriage after her wings and hooves were bound. Rainbow ran up to the carriage, "Where am I going to sit?"
Dexter gave her a smile, "Sorry kid, but unlike the old story, there isn't room for one more here."
"I need to do something to help her."
"If you want to help her, I suggest you cheer her on. She'll need it." Dexter waved a hoof to the officer, and the carriage took off.
Rainbow sat down, stunned. She saw the carriage fly away, and all she could think was, 'But cheering is Fluttershy's job.' Slowly she got back to her hooves, and entered the hospital. She needed to do something, anything, that would help Fluttershy, but she did not know what. Rainbow looked around and made her choice. She flapped her wings and took to the sky. 'I can still look out for her from the sky.' The thought comforted her as she soared after the police carriage. All she wanted to ensure that Fluttershy would be protected. Little did she realize that Fluttershy would receive that protection from an unexpected source.