38.5 Fluttershy lay back in bed and sighed, an all-too-familiar melancholia stealing over her. A Fused Loop was over, and now it was back to Equestria. Nice, safe Equestria. Same old Equestria. Twilight had mentioned this to them, back after the first couple of fused loops. It was sometimes hard to maintain perspective after seeing the multiverse like that. They'd gotten used to it, after a while. Friends helped – though Twilight often had loops alone, being an Anchor was awful sometimes – and so did the perspective that came with age. But sometimes... it was worse than normal. Angel Bunny cut into her mild mope by kicking her bed hard enough to leave a dent. “Naughty rabbit!” Fluttershy scolded, rolling off the mattress and giving him a tolerant look. “Keep that up and I'll make you dust the bookshelf!” The threat bounced off Angel's armour like a rubber ball. He shrugged and bounced off to... well, probably threaten a songbird or something. A moment's check on her Loop memories reassured Fluttershy that this Loop had begun at the normal time. That meant that the Summer Sun celebration was just around the corner. Now, was there a song she hadn't taught her bird friends? The doorbell tinkled. “Come in,” Fluttershy called softly. “It's unlocked.” Cheerilee pushed the door open, smiling. “Hello, Fluttershy. Sorry to intrude – I know you must be busy with the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration...” “Oh, it's no problem,” Fluttershy replied. “I was just making some tea. Would you like some?” The teacher frowned, considering it. “Maybe later.” “All right.” Nodding, Fluttershy put the kettle back on the stove, just to one side to keep it at the right temperature. “What brings you out here?” Now that was the real question. Cheerilee certainly never came out here in a normal loop, so... “Well, it's quite a puzzle, actually,” Cheerilee admitted. “You see, there's a child who Nurse Redheart and I found wandering around Ponyville this morning. He seemed quite confused, but was insistent that he meet you.” She stepped fully into the cottage, and turned to the door. “Come on in, Lemon.” A bright yellow earth pony colt walked in, a little unsteady on his legs, and his eyes locked onto Fluttershy. Fluttershy blinked, then gasped. “Leman?” “So you do know him?” Cheerilee asked, satisfied. “I'll want to hear all the details – but later. Can I leave you to take care of him for today? I'm afraid I've got work to do for the festival as well.” “That's fine,” Fluttershy said absently. The moment Cheerilee was out of the house, she let her happiness off the leash. “Leman! I thought I'd lost you.” She knelt down, spreading her forelegs, and the colt stumbled forward into her embrace. “I still don't know what's going on...” Lemon Rush said, looking around the cottage. “The last I remember, we were on Fenris.” Preparing for a delegation from the Light Eldar Empire to arrive, actually. “Well...” Fluttershy thought for a moment as she poured the tea. “Okay. There are things called time loops, and people from one sometimes end up in another. This is my home one.” “It certainly looks more peaceful than mine,” the colt said, glancing out the window. “And warmer.” He paused. “Didn't you used to have a horn, little mother?” “Oh, of course.” Fluttershy closed her eyes, let the Element of Kindness flash into being, and Ascended. “I forgot, you've only seen me like this.” “Neat trick. Can we all do that?” “No, sorry.” Fluttershy shrugged, reverting the transformation. “It's... complicated. Come on, I'll introduce you to Twilight, and she can tell you what you need to know about the Loops.” “That works for me.” Rush stood up, and nearly fell over. Fluttershy's hoof swept out to steady him, and he gratefully used it to stand back upright. “This is humiliating...” he muttered, face burning beneath his coat. “I had just as much trouble with walking on two legs,” Fluttershy smiled. “And with flying, actually. I still have a preference for walking where possible.” She nuzzled him affectionately. “It's good to see you, Leman.” “And you.” The normally-a-primarch laughed. “At least I didn't make too much of a mess when I arrived! If I'd acted more like the Emperor would have then I'd have thought this was some sorcerous trick!” Fluttershy winced internally as she bumped into Gilda. Normally she was able to adroitly avoid the belligerent griffin, but she'd just... forgotten. Too much else to think about. “Hey!” Gilda said, scowling, and then roared. The roar was cut off within about a second, as two bright yellow hooves thudded into Gilda's torso. Air wooshed out in a strangled squawk, and the impact sent her beak over tail onto the road some distance away. “Let me make one thing clear,” Lemon said, sounding more predatory than the griffin he was standing on top of – in spite of his high-pitched colt's voice. “You can challenge anyone you like to a fight. I don't mind that. But you force a fight with someone who can't protect themselves, and you answer to me.” “Lemon!” Fluttershy said, sternly. “I know she's a bully, but that doesn't mean you can bully her back.” “Sorry, little mother,” he said, shaking his head and stepping off Gilda. “I don't like seeing you hurt.” “I know you don't,” Fluttershy replied. “But still.” He nodded. Fluttershy bent down to talk more privately. “When did you learn to fight like that?” The colt smiled. “I'm a primarch. We're made good at fighting.” (So, yes. This one.) Also, I have this bizarre urge to introduce the Anchor of a set of Twilight Loops. In case anyone thinks I'm mad, I do have reasons. First, I've been reading an excellent Sporking of the series - the one by Mervin and Hyde. Second, my prospective Anchor-designate? Leah Clearwater. Because she deserves a fisking break. And for someone used to Sparklepires and Pedowolves, the sanctuary loop sounds like the best break you could give.