Would It Matter If I Was?

by GaPJaxie

Chapter 1: Should it?

“What?” Twilight asked, staring across the room. Her mouth hung slightly open, and her ears were folded back a few degrees. Fluttershy stared back without answering, and Twilight’s brow furrowed. “I’m sorry, I think I misunderstood.”

“Would it matter?” Fluttershy repeated, setting aside one of the larger boxes of books. Her voice was quiet, but not timid, and she held Twilight’s stare across the long gap between them. She’d been helping Twilight clean up the old library, and had several books tucked under her wings. “If I was. That is.”

“Would it matter if you were a changeling?” Twilight repeated, adding a firmness to the words. Her puzzled expression turned narrow, and her tail flicked. “That’s what you're asking me?” Fluttershy nodded. “Okay, well then. Yes. The changelings just tried to invade Canterlot and enslave all of Equestria, so I’d have to say it would matter.”

“Changelings just tried to invade Canterlot and enslave all of Equestria,” Fluttershy said, more gently than Twilight had. Her voice was soft, but the structure of her words was orderly, like she was reading from a well-practiced statement. She turned back to the shelf in front of her, and resumed shelving the books she had under her wing.

“That’s what I said.” Twilight continued to stare at Fluttershy, now at her back. Fluttershy picked up a book, and considered its spine. There was plenty of work to be done, getting Twilight's old Canterlot tower back in order. They still hadn’t left the library. Fluttershy was shelving books, and Twilight was spread out on one of the couches, with Spike asleep nearby.

“No, you said the changelings invaded Canterlot.” Fluttershy finished with her books, and used her wings to smooth out a section of her coat the covers had ruffled. After she was done, she turned back to Twilight. “I mean, it’s the difference between, ‘Some unicorns called Applejack a… m-word pony, today, and the unicorns called Applejack a m-word pony today.’”

“‘Mud’ isn’t a dirty word, Fluttershy,” Twilight replied, frowning as she spoke. Her left ear twitched.

“It is when you use it that way.” She walked across the room, but not over to Twilight’s couch. Instead, she headed over to the old desk, still covered in paper and dusty cups from before Twilight left for Ponyville. “And don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not changing the subject. You’re just…” Twilight sighed, flicking her tail back and forth and stretching her neck. “Look, Fluttershy. This isn’t the time. Okay? I’m still picking changeling goo out of my hooves. My brother and foalsitter are still traumatized from being mind controlled and kidnapped. I’m pretty sure the changeling queen made Shining…” she grimaced, forcing the words out, “sleep with her. And he’s not taking it terribly well. Not well at all. So if you want to have a philosophical debate later, sure, but this isn’t funny.”

“It’s not funny because I’m not joking.” Fluttershy reached the desk, and began to neatly stack the plates and cups to more easily carry them away. The tips of her wings made a good feather duster, brushing away the fine grey layers that had accrued on the wood. It was only after a pause that she went on. “I mean, I’ve been your friend for a long time. I’ve held the Element of Kindness. I fought with you against the queen and her swarm. Shining and Cadance’s spell didn’t banish me. And, well…”

She went quiet for a second, her eyes focused resolutely on the desk as she worked. “I mean, if I was going to betray you, I’ve had ample opportunity. So I think at this point, I’ve proven by my actions that my friendship is real.” She swallowed. “So. If it did turn out that I was a changeling the whole time. Would it matter?”

Twilight paused and stared across the room. She sat up straight, and her ears perked to attention as her eyes narrowed. She began to speak, but shut her jaw without saying anything. Fluttershy still didn’t look up. “You’re serious,” Twilight finally said.

“I’m serious that I want to know your answer to that question,” Fluttershy answered. She let out the breath she’d been holding, and picked up the stack of dishes. Her eyes stayed on her work, and her head stayed down.

“Are…” Twilight’s breath caught in her throat, and she had to force the words out. Her eyes were wide. “You’re a changeling?”

“I didn’t say that,” Fluttershy replied. The little library area had no kitchen—that was downstairs—so she took the dirty dishes to the top of the stair, and set them down beside it.

“So you’re not a changeling?” Twilight sat forward. “You’re just asking me this stuff for no reason!?”

“I didn’t say that either,” Fluttershy nudged the stack of dishes with a hoof.

“Fluttershy!” Twilight snapped, her voice abruptly rising. “This isn’t funny!

“Well I’m not joking, am I, Twilight!?” Fluttershy snapped back, turning to make eye contact across the room. Her wings flared out from her body, and her ears tilted back. “I’m asking you a question.”

“Well if you’re not a changeling, why does it matter?” Twilight demanded. Her breaths came quickly and unsteadily, and her legs trembled as she rose from the couch. “Huh!? Why do you need to know?”

“Because you don’t know what happened yesterday, Twilight.” Fluttershy’s voice dropped from a shout, but her tone stayed firm, and she didn’t look away from her friend. “None of us do. All you know is that a group of changelings attacked you, for some reason, and then were banished. You don’t know where they’re from, or what they’re like, or even really why they did it, unless you count the queen’s puffed up monologue, which you shouldn't. But on just that, you’re prepared to brand an entire race ‘Evil Shapeshifters.’”

Twilight stared at Fluttershy. She lowered her head a few degrees, then lifted it back up. Her legs shifted uncertainly. “I didn’t say they were evil shapeshifters.”

“You just said that the thought that one of your friends might turn out to be one was terrifying.” Fluttershy fluffed her wings, lifted a foreleg, and put it back down. She lowered her head a few degrees, but kept her eyes on Twilight. “I mean,” she said after a moment, “you’ve been through a lot. You’re allowed to be scared. You’re even allowed to be angry. But it’s not the same.”

“So what are you saying?” Twilight asked. “That there are other changeling swarms that aren’t evil?”

“Maybe.” Fluttershy took a breath, and then lifted her chin to look at Twilight head on. “Maybe not all changelings swarm. You don’t know. And for what it’s worth, I’m not entirely convinced the swarm that attacked us was evil.”

“What!?” Twilight took a sharp step forward. “They enslaved my brother and tried to destroy us all! Did you miss that part?”

Fluttershy took a half step back as Twilight suddenly advanced, and pulled away from her glare, one hoof leaving the ground. She froze that way, and Twilight froze as well, the two staring at each other across the gap. Eventually, Twilight’s expression calmed, and Fluttershy returned her hoof to the ground. “Sorry,” Twilight said.

“It’s…” Fluttershy swallowed. “It’s okay. But, their queen enslaved your brother and tried to destroy us all. The others were just soldiers. They might be evil. I don’t know. They were definitely mean. Plus, Shining’s spell banished them, and I remember you said it runs off of ill intent. But… maybe they were just doing what they were ordered to do.” Fluttershy turned away from Twilight, quickly, and walked back across to the desk with a stiff step. “They look like bugs. Maybe they’re really loyal to their hive. You don’t know.”

Fluttershy reached the desk and put a hoof up on it. She didn’t work though, and instead stared at it for several seconds as she caught her breath. “You don’t know and you shouldn't make decisions on the assumption that you do.”

“If you’re not a changeling, why are you bringing this up now?” Twilight demanded. Her eyes stayed on Fluttershy’s back. “It’s not like you to be this assertive.”

“Because if I wait, it will be too late.” Fluttershy started neatening the papers on the desk, using little swipes of her feathers to work the dust out of the shadows under the paper. “If you and Shining and Cadence and Celestia and Luna go off and talk about how we need to… I don’t know. Start drawing ponies’ blood or pulling out their hair to see if they’re really shapeshifters. And then it turns out somepony was a changeling all along? I mean, think about it. Think about the mindset you’re in.” Fluttershy took a breath, and then let it out abruptly. Speaking quickly, she shot out, “I mean, if Derpy or Bon Bon or someone turned out to be a changeling all along. Would we sit down and have a nice chat about what that meant?”

“Why do you care?” Twilight demanded.

“Oh, gosh. Why would I care that you might be condemning an innocent creature because of its race?” She snorted, and knocked the desk hard with a hoof. “You’re right. That does sound out of character for me.”

“Getting snippy and sarcastic is out of character for you as well,” Twilight pointed out. Her tone slowed however, becoming more wary than angry. “That doesn’t seem to be stopping you.”

“Well you’re yelling at me,” Fluttershy said, lowering her voice. She turned her head back towards Twilight, looking over her shoulder.

Twilight took several long breaths. She looked at Fluttershy, and Fluttershy looked at her. Twilight’s hoof scraped on the ground. She swallowed. “I notice you surround yourself with creatures that love you.”

Fluttershy hesitated, her ears tilting back as her tail lowered. “I suppose that I do.”

“And that you have a nasty side.” Twilight pressed on, her voice slowly raising. “A really nasty side, in fact. Cruel, even. You don’t let it out much. And…” Twilight’s eyes wide. “Oh my gosh. The stare! You can control creature’s minds!”

“I suppose that I can,” Fluttershy agreed, shying away and turning her head.

“Fluttershy…” Twilight took a half step forward. “Are you a changeling?”

“Would it matter if I was?” Fluttershy repeated.

“Fluttershy, I need you to answer the question,” Twilight said. She took a step towards her friend, but then paused, and took a step back. She kept a distance between them, her horn lowered a few degrees towards her friend’s back.

“Well,” Fluttershy said. Her eyes stayed forward. “I need you to answer my question first.”

Twilight didn’t answer. She stared at her friend’s back, making no sound other than her breath. After several seconds of silence had passed, Fluttershy looked back at Twilight. Her eyes were wide, but not like Twilight’s had been. They weren’t dilated with fear or alarm. She simply seemed to stare at Twilight very intently, and Twilight took a half-step back.

Twilight looked to one side, breaking eye contact.

“No, it… no. It wouldn't matter,” Twilight said. “It would be weird, sure. But… well. Like you said. You’ve proven you’re really my friend. It doesn’t matter if you’re an earth pony, or a pegasus, or a giant bug. The friendship is what matters. I’m just um… just a little uncomfortable with it.” She cleared her throat. “Heh.”

“Twilight, I think you’re more than a little uncomfortable.” Fluttershy let out a little half-breath. She even smiled a little, though it didn’t extend up to her eyes. “But, you’ve been through a lot. It’s… understandable. I mean, I don’t care if Applejack is an earth pony or a pegasus, but if it turned out she was a pegasus this whole time who just… I don’t know. Had her wings hidden somehow? I know I’d probably freak out.”

“Rainbow would freak out too,” Twilight agreed. She let out a stiff laugh, and Fluttershy laughed as well. “Those two.” The laughter faded, and Twilight drew in a deep breath. “So that’s it then? You’re a changeling?”

“No,” Fluttershy said simply. “I’m not.”

Twilight blinked. “What?”

“I’m not a changeling,” Fluttershy repeated, with a firm tone. “It was just hypothetical.”

“But…” Twilight’s jaw opened and shut. Her ears shot up. “No. No! You specifically refused to deny it!”

“Because it’s easy to say you’d do the right thing when it’s abstract,” Fluttershy replied, adding a bit of a shrug. “Harder in person.”

“But… the Stare!” Twilight insisted. “And the creatures that love you!”

“I just like caring for animals, Twilight. Don’t overthink it.” Fluttershy turned, and moved back to the stairs. She scooped up the dishes she’d left there. “I’m going to go take these downstairs. Applejack will probably be by soon and she said she was bringing food.”

Fluttershy!” Twilight shouted, stepping after Fluttershy as she went down the stairs. “No! Just… no! You can’t do that!” She made a sharp, swinging gesture. “Because I know that’s exactly what you’d say if you were a changeling!”

“Even if I was a changeling, why would I lie?” Fluttershy asked. “I mean, since you just explained it didn’t matter.”

“I…” Twilight stammered. “I mean…”

“I’m going to go take these downstairs,” Fluttershy said. She held the plates against her with her wings, and quickly proceeded downstairs. The spiral staircase turned under her, and she was soon lost to Twilight’s sight.

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