The glow of a summer evening bloomed before Fluttershy's eyes as her bird choir struck up an effortless melody and the sweet sigh of a breeze drifted across the highest hill of Sweet Apple Acres. Fluttershy inhaled the scent of ripened apples that danced on the wind and let her jade eyes soak in the twilit scene before she turned them to the crimson stallion who sat beside her. She felt her cheeks flush as his apple green eyes gazed into hers; in them she could see all of her own contentment and sincerity. She peered deeper and also saw the uncertainty and fears which for so long had kept them from one another, and though these trepidations remained in him just as they did in her own heart, they were quelled by a trust that had been built over two years of shared joys and tears. At times, she still felt the earth drop from beneath her hooves when she allowed herself to think about how much she truly cared for him and how scary it was to give so much of her heart to somepony else. She now realized, however, that even as she fell deeper in love each day, they were falling together, hooves clasped and hearts beating as one.
The songbirds reached their crescendo just as the last rays of sunlight kissed the horizon, and Big Macintosh took her hoof in his. "Fluttershy, ya know Ah love ya more than anythin' else in Equestria. Now Ah've never been a stallion of many words, and Ah doubt there's fancy phrases enough ta say how Ah feel 'bout ya anyhow." He placed a gentle kiss on her hoof before continuing, "Ah been thinkin' lots 'bout the future, and no matter how Ah look at it, no matter what might happen, Ah know Ah'll want ya there no matter what." Fluttershy felt like her heart was going to burst out of her chest with its frantic palpitations; she knew that this was the moment, the moment for which she'd prayed for two years. "Fluttershy, will you—"
"Bake cupcakes with me?!" In an instant Big Macintosh had been replaced with Pinkie Pie, who now violently shook the hoof which had only seconds ago been entwined with her coltfriend's. "Ooooh, we should make them with candy corn!" Pinkie exclaimed as her mane went from its usual magenta to bright yellow. Fluttershy glanced at the now day lit but inexplicably purple sky to see that it was raining tri-colored treats.
"I say, why use candy corn when you could bake them with cucumbers!" a nearby pie in a monocle and top hat exclaimed before he and Pinkie broke into a show-stopping musical number. The hilltop was flooding with candy corn at an alarming rate and gourds were hopping frantically up and down on Fluttershy's cowering frame; her melodic birds' song changed to a metallic clang that beat itself against her ears and no matter what she did she could not make it stop—!
"Oh my goodness!" Fluttershy shouted as loudly as her meek voice would permit. It took her a moment to realize that she was in fact in her bed, and the horrible ringing sound was simply her alarm clock. She let out a long breath that she had not realized she had been holding in and allowed her panicked muscles to relax. "Just a dream," she muttered to herself, and while she was greatly relieved to find she was no longer drowning in sweets, she could not stop the small pang of disappointment that crept into her heart. It had been so perfect….
Fluttershy roused herself from bed, but her thoughts remained heavy as she went about her morning chores. It wasn't as though she wasn't perfectly happy with her relationship with Big Macintosh; in fact, the last two years had been the happiest of her life. That was the problem. She was so incandescently happy, so hopelessly in love with him, that she couldn't help but glance longingly at the flowing white gowns that adorned Rarity's boutique windows or linger over the freshly bloomed flowers in the park that would make just the most wonderful bouquet. She knew with all her heart that Mac loved her and understood her better than anypony else in all of Equestria. One of the reasons they worked so well together was that he could tell her thoughts and feelings simply by looking into her eyes, and thank goodness because Fluttershy hated to bother anypony with her own problems.
"But Angel, how can I tell him what it is I really want?" The pegasus crumpled to the floor hopelessly, fat tears beginning to swell in her eyes. "I would hate for him to think I'm unhappy, or that I wouldn't want to be with him if he didn't want to get married." Angel rested a consoling white paw on her knee. "I just know I'll love him forever. I want him to be my family," Angel glanced up sharply and gave her a look of reproach. "Oh, I'm sorry Angel! Of course you know you're already my family," she recovered, not meaning to hurt her little bunny's feelings. He seemed pacified as he began nibbling on his morning lettuce, and Fluttershy knew he was only letting her off the hook because she was so upset.
It was true—she had all the love and support of her best friends and her animals, and in that regard she was already blessed with a sort of family. She couldn't help but want something more though; she wanted gentle whispers in the night and summers at the shore and a promise of forever.
Her gentle hoof traced a gilded frame atop the hearth; she had only been a filly when it was taken, and the photographer had managed to catch a rare smile from her as she laughed with her father, who stood proudly beside Fluttershy with a hoof around her mother. Though Fluttershy was almost a precise replica of her mother Posey, her temperament was far more like her father's, a soft-spoken and intellectual royal blue peagsus named Lancer. Like all pegasus foals, she had left home as soon as she was old enough to attend flight school, and after discovering her special talent and the wonders of the earth, she could never bring herself to move back into her parents' Cloudsdale home. All the grandeur of the cloud mansion had always felt cold and imposing when she was a filly, and she much preferred her modest but cozy cottage. All the same, lately as she lay in bed at night and listened to the soft breathing of her animals, she could not help but feel something was missing…