by Obselescence

Chapter 1: Chapter One

The letter on Fluttershy’s table was not unusual, as the daily mail went. It was entirely tar-black, and smelled faintly of pineapple. She had not found it in her mailbox with the rest of her mail, but in her pantry, by the oats. And it had no postage stamps. There didn’t appear to be any earthly means of opening it just yet, so Fluttershy kept the letter on her table as always—where it bubbled, hissed, and occasionally howled like a wolf at the moon.

It was from Discord, of course, and she thought it was very sweet of him to have written back so soon.

“Don’t you fret, Angel,” she said, setting a bowl of freshly-chopped carrots down in front of her most precious baby bunny. “I’m sure it won’t try to eat you this time. I gave Discord a very stern talking-to about that, remember?”

Angel, for his part, did not seem convinced, but he sat quietly and ate his breakfast like a good bunny rabbit. His eyes did sometimes dart to the letter sitting across from him, but it made no sudden moves and hardly even growled at him. It was a great improvement over last week, Fluttershy noted. Discord’s letters weren’t the friendliest... things... she’d ever met, but they were learning to behave themselves—much like their author.

She was quite proud of them for that, and Discord too, by extension.

Satisfied that Angel was in no danger, she poured out a cup of hot lemon tea to wake herself up. She took her own seat at the table and yawned a great mighty yawn. “Oh, goodness! Excuse me, Angel,” she said, covering her mouth. She blushed. “I didn’t realize how late I’d stayed up last night.”

Angel bunny frowned and frumped at her in disappointment. Perhaps she hadn’t realized how late she’d stayed up, but he had, and his glare made that very clear.

“I know, I know,” she said, looking down into her tea. She’d had a very good reason for what she’d done, of course: she’d been so engrossed in finishing her knitting project that she’d hardly even noticed the time. Still, she felt awful for not tucking Angel in. “I’m sorry, and I’ll do my best to make it up to you. How about a carrot cake for dessert tonight?”

Angel narrowed his little bunny eyes.

She sighed. “Two carrot cakes,” she told him. “And if you don’t press for any more, I’ll make you your favorite salad for dinner.”

That did the trick. Angel nodded in approval, satisfied that she’d pay what she owed. He scarfed down what was left of his breakfast and left the table without excusing himself.

Fluttershy merely smiled and sipped her tea. “Have fun, Angel,” she called after him as he ran off, his floppy bunny ears trailing behind him. Angel bunny was certainly a hoof-full, but he was an adorable little hoof-full, and she couldn’t fault him for that.

She could fault him for his manners, though, and she would be having a long talk with him about proper table etiquette after she finished her tea. Fluttershy yawned again. Definitely after she’d finished her tea—and maybe taken a quick nap, too. All that knitting had taken an awful lot out of her.

“Grr,” Discord’s letter rumbled, once Angel was safely out of sight. It slid itself over to her at lightning-speed, little wisps of smoke trailing up from the corners of the envelope. “Grrr,” the envelope insisted.

“Hm?” Fluttershy set her tea down. “Do you want me to open you now, Mister Letter?”

The letter fell down flat again and made a whining noise, like a puppy. Briefly, Fluttershy wondered if it actually did contain a puppy. She did adore puppies, and Discord’s last letter had contained an entire flock of baby blue jays, so it wasn’t impossible. A lot of things weren’t impossible with Discord, she’d learned.

She took the letter up gently in her hooves, careful not to hold it too roughly just in case it did have a puppy inside it. Truth be told, she felt a bit guilty about all the gifts Discord had been sending her lately. He was being so generous, and in return she was sending him—well, she hadn’t sent him anything yet. She’d only had a few ideas about what one could send an all-powerful spirit of chaos, but even so...

That would definitely be the first thing she’d address when she wrote back.

Gently, she worked her hoof into the corners of the letter, hoping she wouldn’t be too surprised if a puppy jumped out of it. A cute, fluffy puppy with widdle paws and a waggy tail and... She could feel her heart thumping anxiously in her chest as she finally tore one of the corners free. Just a little more, and—

And the letter exploded.

Ta-daaa!” Discord burst out onto the table, rainbow sprinkles flying in every direction. “I’m heeeere!

“Oh...” said Fluttershy, trying to brush a few errant sprinkles from out of her mane. “Oh, it’s you, Discord!” Not a puppy—but still a pleasant surprise, all said. “How are you today?”

Discord pouted. “I was positively dandy until just now.” He scooped a paw-full of sprinkles up from the table and shoved them into his mouth with a sigh. “Honestly, you’re no fun anymore.”

“Well, it’s not the first time you—”

“And it won’t be the last,” said Discord, reaching down to take the charred remnants of his letter from her. He ate those too. “But I will have to figure out how to shake things up again.”

Fluttershy smiled. She hadn’t been expecting a visit from Discord today, but he did always know how to brighten the morning. His antics were actually rather funny, now that he’d grown a bit more responsible with them. She coughed, and out came a few rainbow sprinkles. “Um, and if you wouldn’t mind...”

“Oh, right, yes, of course.” Discord snapped his claws and the sprinkles all vanished. “Though if you ask me, any décor could be improved with a few confections. A cupcake or two, perhaps? Two thousand, if you’d like?”

“Discord...” she said warningly. She’d gained a bit of an appreciation for his silliness, but she did realize that there’d be times when she had to put her hoof down. There was always the faint possibility that he’d go back to his old ways if she let him run hog-wild. Not that she thought there was anything wrong with hogs, of course. She just couldn’t allow him to fill her house with custard again.

“I’m only offering, my dear.” He looked around and spotted her tea kettle, still on the stove. “Did you make this for me?” he asked, pouring himself a cup from it. “Why, Fluttershy, you shouldn’t ha—oh, and it’s lemon! My favorite. How did you know to have this ready?” He took a nibble from the cup and grinned. “Why, it’s almost as if you read my mind.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Fluttershy. She’d only really made it because lemon helped her wake up in the morning. “But have as much as you like.”

“A generous host today, aren’t we?” said Discord. “And me without a present for you.” He put his cup down, then reached into it and pulled out a very surprised-looking Angel bunny. “Here, why don’t I pull a hat from your rabbit?”

“Discord, don’t—”

He reached a claw down Angel’s throat, fished around, and came up with a large blue hat with an even larger pink bow. “For you,” he said, shaking off the drool and handing it to her.

“Oh...” It was certainly a nice hat. In the French haute couture style, too—her favorite. She wasn’t quite sure how much a hat like this would have cost, but it must have been extraordinarily, unfathomably expensive. Much more impressive, certainly, than any present she could give him in return. “This is... very thoughtful of you, Discord.”

“Anything for my favorite toy,” said Discord, giving her a wink. He set Angel down on the floor and gave the poor bunny a quick push to scurry off—which Angel did gladly. “It’s nothing, really. Think nothing of it.”

“Well, I think a lot of it,” she said, setting the hat down on the counter. She flew up to him and gave him a quick hug. “Thank you very much, Discord. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to find me a present like this.”

“Imagine...” said Discord. He didn’t return her hug, as he usually did, but instead sat back and stroked his beard. “A very curious choice of words there, Fluttershy. What can you imagine, then, I wonder?”

“Oh, um, I didn’t mean—” She wasn’t quite sure what she’d done, but she supposed she’d said something wrong. “I was just trying to say—”

“Were you now?” said Discord. “Ah, well, then I suppose it’s nothing.” He disappeared under the table and popped out from one of her cupboards. “But I would like to chat, Fluttershy, if you’ve got a moment or two. I do admit I’m not here to stop and smell the roses, as it were.” He fell out of the cupboard, along with a few dozen roses. “So if you don’t have anything more pressing on your schedule than moi...”

“Of course!” said Fluttershy. She was always happy to talk with a friend, even if sometimes her friends talked over her. Discord seemed particularly out-of-sorts today, and if she could help him by being there to chat with him, well—that was more important than anything else on her schedule today. “But if you could stay away from the cupboards, please, Discord... you know the, um, mice, complained the last time you were in one of them, and, um...”

“Yes, yes, the mice,” said Discord, dusting himself off. “Bless their poor whiskers, big bad Discord might want to stay in the cupboards, too.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, I’d just, um, really prefer it if you didn’t—”

“Then I won’t,” he promised. And it looked like he meant it. “Why not a change of scenery, then, so we can have our little chat?”

He snapped his claws, and in an instant they were... somewhere... outside. Fluttershy had to shield her eyes for a moment, almost blinded by the intensity of the sun. A cool breeze blew through her mane, to offset the heat of the sun, and she could hear the sounds of little bunnies hopping through grass.

Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked around to see wide open stretches of green and squirrels scampering in the distance. It seemed Discord had taken her to the fields just outside her house, where all her fuzzy animal friends played. She smiled and waved to a passing-by bunny. It stopped to wave back, only to turn and run in the other direction as soon as it saw Discord beside her.

“I see no cupboards out here,” said Discord, peering about through a telescope. “Are you happy?”

“Ye—um, I guess I am.” Fluttershy nodded. This wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind when she’d asked Discord to stay away from the cupboards, but it was a nice day outside, and she did like to be where all her animal friends were. So maybe it wasn’t too bad.

“And you’re sure you wouldn’t be happier if I turned this place into a giant pudding?” he asked, folding the telescope up. He pointed at the ground and the grass slowly melted into a vanilla pudding. “I’m thinking banana for the birds’ side of things, maybe chocolate where all those rabbits are...”


“Oh, well, see?” he said. The pudding turned back into grass. “You’re no fun at all.”

“I think it’s important to be fun in a safe, responsible way,” she said. “Which means not turning things into pudding. Now... what was it you wanted to talk about?”

“Oh, that,” said Discord. “Well, that’s a fairly minor quibble.” He conjured himself a sofa to sit on and drew himself out on it. “But one I’ve given an awful lot of thought lately while in my thinking tree—you remember my thinking tree, don’t you?”

“I think I do,” she said, trying to recall if Discord had ever mentioned such a tree in his letters. “Or, I mean, I think I remember something like that.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Nothing matters, really, I suppose. That might be the problem.” He sank slowly into the sofa cushions, until nothing was left of him but his long neck sticking out at the top. “How do I put it?” he mused to himself. “How do I put it?”

“I’m not sure I understand...” said Fluttershy. “Is there something you’re worried about?”

“Worried about?” said Discord. The couch faded into thin air around him. “Yes, well, I suppose I might be worried. Just a teensy bit.” He snapped his claws. “I think I’ve got it now: Suppose, for a moment, that you do not exist.”

Fluttershy stopped and supposed that for a moment. It didn’t seem very hard, but then she still wasn’t sure what point Discord was trying to get at. “But I do exist... Don’t I?”

“Suppose you do not,” he told her. “Suppose nobody does—except me, of course. Suppose for a moment that you are not real, but that I have simply imagined you. Does that change anything between us?”

“I... don’t see why it would,” she said. “Even if I’m not real, it doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends...” Fluttershy paused. “And that I’m not grateful for all the letters you write to me.”

“Which is precisely what I’d have expected you to say,” said Discord. “And precisely why I suspect you didn’t say it.” He pulled a gooey pink brain out from his ears, and gave it a quick shine before pushing it back in. “Not that it matters, at any rate.”

“I don’t think I understand what you’re talking about,” said Fluttershy. She flew up and placed a hoof on his shoulder. “I want to help you, Discord. Could you please be a little clearer about what’s wrong?”

“Clear as mud, my dear,” said Discord, gently removing her hoof from his shoulder. “Imagine, if you can, that a certain all-powerful-yet-handsome chaos spirit found himself bored. A little lonely, even. To relieve some of this boredom, he dreamed for himself a world of colorful little ponies to play with as he wished—and, eventually one little pony in particular to be his friend.” He grinned. “Can you imagine that, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy nodded slowly. She understood a little bit better now what Discord was trying to say, and she wanted to be polite about it. “I, um, guess I can imagine that,” she said. “I just... I don’t think you did, if that’s what you’re worried about. I don’t see how you could.”

“Really?” he asked her. He picked up a clod of dirt from the ground, and molded it in his claws, until it resembled a tiny planet, which revolved around his paw. “You don’t think I could? I am very powerful, you know.”

“Not that powerful...” said Fluttershy doubtfully. In truth, she didn’t really know the upper limits of what Discord could do, but something like this seemed impossible even for him. Surely he couldn’t have simply dreamed up everything and everyone in Equestria. Even for Discord, something like that must have been impossible.

Or, at least, slightly less possible.

Discord sighed. “I suppose you can’t really imagine, then.” He crushed the tiny planet in his paw. “But I think you’re underestimating me, Fluttershy. Why, if I wanted, I could even make the sky blue. Ahaha! Hee hee! Ho ho!” He wiped a tear from his eye. “Blue. Yes, I think like that, actually. Let’s make the sky blue.”

She looked up at the clear, cloudless blue sky. What was so funny about that, she wondered? The sky had always been blue. “Um...”

“No, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it,” he said. He pulled a plastic pony doll out from behind his back and studied it. “It’s my problem. I think I’ve always suspected it, on some level. It’s like playing with toys. Everything relies on how well you can play pretend.” The pony doll shifted and changed, its coat yellowing and its mane turning pink. “And some toys you prefer more than others.”

“I think, um—I think we’ve talked about this already, Discord,” said Fluttershy, sensing danger. It wasn’t good for Discord to be thinking like this again. “We don’t play with ponies like toys, remember?”

Discord continued on, as if he hadn’t heard her. “And, if I’m worried about something,” he said, “I suppose it’s what happens when I get bored... and decide to change the game.”

Discord!” she said, a little louder. “We do not play with ponies. They are living creatures, and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.”

“Hm?” Discord looked at her. “Oh, yes, you’re right. Of course. Living creatures, or independent entities, or what have you.” He threw the doll away. “I suppose what I’m really trying to get at, then, is that it doesn’t really matter. You, us, this whole—” he waved a paw, trying to find the word, “—this whole friendship thing. I was just thinking up someone I could talk to. It’s not important, if you’re not really there.” The pony doll appeared again in his paw. “I suppose it never was.”

“But it is important!” Fluttershy insisted. “Or, I mean, I think it is. Friends are supposed to be there for one another because they’re friends. I’m here to talk because I want to be here for you, not because you’re pretending I do.”

“Can you prove it, then?” said Discord, shoving the doll up his ear. “That you’re not all in my head? That our friendship isn’t just a figment of my imagination?”

“Well, um, I can try.” Fluttershy stopped to think about it for a moment. She raised a tentacle to scratch her head, trying to come up with anything that would prove Discord wrong. “What about the Elements of Harmony?” she asked. “Aren’t you afraid of them? You can’t just have imagined those, right?”

“Products of a sufficiently bored and deluded mind,” said Discord. “If I can think of anything I want, then surely I can think of everything I fear also.” He conjured a blade and sliced himself in half with it. “I do have a vivid imagination.”

“I guess so...” said Fluttershy. He did have a point. She’d imagined quite a few scary and hairy monsters under her bed—awful creatures, with horns and wings and hooves everywhere. She’d been scared almost to death of them, even, before Angel had turned on the lights and shown her there weren’t any. She felt all her hearts beat faster in her chest just thinking about it. It had been so embarrassing when she’d found out that they weren’t real...

She shook her head. “No. No, I think you’re still missing something, Discord.” He was. He had to be. She could feel it. She was real. Everyone was. They meant something, and they mattered, just as her friendship with Discord did. She only had to prove that.

“Oh?” said Discord, joining himself back together. “Do tell, Fluttershy. Tell me all about how real you all are.”

“Well, I mean...” she said, feeling her face turn purple as she got more and more flustered. “If—if I’m not real, then why don’t you just do whatever you want? If you don’t care that we’re friends, what’s stopping you from being evil again?”

“Nothing, really,” said Discord. “I very much can, if I want to. But I won’t, because you’re right—I do care to stay friends.” He looked thoughtfully up at the blue sky, clogged with thick green clouds. “I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m lonely and need someone else to talk to, even if it’s myself.” Discord turned to look at her, his head cocked sideways. “Or, perhaps,” he said, “it’s because, deep down, you might be my conscience.” He sighed. “I suppose I felt I should listen to it more often.”

A sqorglethox, like the one before, trotted past them. She waved at it with an errant tentacle, but it hardly even seemed to notice her, much less Discord.

“Maybe,” Fluttershy gurgled. “But maybe—maybe it’s because you just want to have a friend. I like to have friends too, but no matter how hard I try, I don’t think I could have just imagined my friends. They’ve been much better to me than I could have ever dreamed—even you.” She looked to Discord and nodded, thankful again for the all the interesting letters he’d sent her, and that wonderful hat. “Especially you.”

“Maybe,” Discord agreed. “But if you were me—which I think you might be—I think I would say the very same things.” He shrugged and dropped to the ground, splashing sludge everywhere. “It’s semantic, really,” he said, building a little snowglorp out of gray-green sludge. “I think I’ve already proven my point. You aren’t quite real. If you were, you’d have noticed.”

“Noticed what?” She looked around warily, looking over the fields for any sign of mischief from Discord. Nothing seemed unusual, but she’d learned to be careful about thinking that. The sky was dark and blue as always, and the sqorglethoxes danced happily in the sludge. “I don’t see it...”

“Nothing,” said Discord, with a sigh. “It’s nothing. Think nothing of it.” He pulled out a briefcase and hefted it up. “Well, it’s been a pleasure, Fluttershy, but I think I’ll be off now. Adieu, arrivederci, squelch, and so on.”

“You’re leaving?” she asked. “So soon? But what about your... your problem?”

“As I told you,” said Discord, frowning. “It’s semantic, really. There’s nothing more to say on the matter. I think I’ve already seen enough.”

“Well... all right,” she said, frowning too. She didn’t like to see Discord unhappy—she didn’t like to see any of her friends unhappy. “Can I show you one last thing before you go, though?”

“If it will make you feel better,” said Discord. “It’s not another butterfly documentary, is it? The last one was interminably—”

“It’s not a butterfly documentary,” she said simply. She took his paw in her tentacle and urged him along. “Come on, I’ll show you.” She led him back to her house, as fast as her pseudopods would take her. The sludge was unusually thick today, but even that wouldn’t stop her if it meant making Discord feel better.

“Close your eyes,” she told him, once they were safely in the kitchen. Back where they’d started. The pink-bowed hat Discord had given her was still on the counter where she’d left it, and it was still as beautiful as she remembered it. “Close your eyes, Discord,” she repeated. “I want it to be a surprise.”

“Oh, as you wish,” said Discord, draping a paw over his eyes. “I don’t know what could possibly be so special as to need this, but if you insist...”

“And no peeking.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said, poking a yellow eyeball out through his claws. “What are you implying?”

“Nothing...” Well, that was good enough, she supposed. She slithered over to the cupboards, found the secret compartment just under the mice’s hidey-hole, and took out her present: a little knit-plush doll of Discord himself. “I’d been trying to save this until I wrote you back again,” she said, careful not to get any of her slime on it. “I still haven’t tied the bow on it, but it’s mostly finished, and I think you need it right now.” She held it out to him, his peeking eyeball fixated on it. “You can open your eyes now, Discord.”

Discord took the doll silently from her, inspecting it carefully. “Did you... make this, Fluttershy?”

“I did.” She nodded proudly. It had taken her almost all night, too. “I used our friendship photo album as a reference... I hope you don’t mind.”

He gasped. “Why, you even got the scales right on my tail. And the wings!” Both his wings, feathered-blue and leathery-purple, fluttered in excitement. “And here I’d thought you were never going to send anything back...”

“I’m really sorry about that,” she said, another gurgle rising up from her throat. “I know I should have finished it for you sooner, but I wanted to make sure it was perfect.”

“It is,” said Discord. He wiped a tear from his eye. “I don’t—well, I’m not sure what to say. I don’t think I’d been expecting this.” He put the doll beside the hat on the counter and swept her up in a hug. “Thank you, Fluttershy.”

“It’s nothing, really,” she said, returning the hug. “Not compared to everything you sent me...”

“No, no,” said Discord, setting her down. “I think this is something. And perhaps...” He picked the doll up and cradled it gently in his arms. “Perhaps, even if you’re all toys, there are some toys that are a bit too valuable to break.” He snapped his claws. “I think I’ll keep playing a little while longer.”

She smiled. “I’m glad I could help, Discord.” She flew back over to the door and opened it up to a grassy green field, sun shining in the cloudless orange sky. “Would you like to stay and take a walk?”

“Well, why not?” said Discord. He set the doll down again and appeared by the door. “After you, madame.”

“If you insist...” she said, taking the first step outside. She sighed as the morning sun shone gently down on her face, glad that Discord was here beside her. It was, all in all, a good morning, and she was happy to have the opportunity to spend it with him. Their time together hadn’t been perfect, no, but she didn’t mind—even if Discord was a bit of a hoof-full, he was still a caring and friendly hoof-full, at heart.

And she couldn’t fault him for that.

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