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Similar Deviations
Hello dears. It feels like it's been forever! Rarity Belle at your service, more commonly known simply as Rarity. Business pony and expert dress maker! Oh, and holder of the Element of Harmony known as Generosity.

It's been over a couple of weeks since the ordeal with that brute of a chaos spirit Discord. Everyone else seems to be holding together alright. Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash seem to be hanging out more than usual. Fluttershy strangely asked Miss Cheerilee for advice on how to handle difficult fillies... maybe she wants to give babysitting one more shot?

As for myself, I am doing perfectly well. I can now look at jewelry without vomiting (I'm fairly sure horses aren't supposed to be able to do that!).

I can now look at the rocks outside without falling into fits of self loathing.

I only break into a cold sweat now when touching diamonds rather than all gems.

And the nightmares where a handsome prince arrives to woo me only to tell me his name is Tom and turn into a giant boulder now only happen every other night.

Yes. I'd say I've perfectly recovered from the travailing ordeal without the slightest permanent stain on my inner beauty!

Now if only Pinkie Pie would stop mentioning how none of my dresses have those sparkly gems in them anymore. And Twilight would stop asking why I'm practically throwing away gemstones at Spike whenever he comes over.

And I wish Fluttershy would stop telling me that I need to open up and talk more about what happened! What Discord told me that made me give up being generous and instead become 'The Hoarder' as Twilight called me.

Since we weren't acting like ourselves, Pinkie Pie insisted on coming up with nicknames for ourselves when we were under Discord's corruption. She says she can't decide if she should go with Rarigreed for me since it's more identifiable, or Greedity because it rolls off the tongue better.

I tell Pinkie Pie in NO uncertain terms that I do not care one way or the other and that I have no interest in this particular 'project' of hers and that she should not discuss it with me further in any shape or form!

What am I supposed to say? That Discord barely said a word to me and simply offered me what I thought were some pretty treasures?

Maybe I should take a page out of 'LiarJack's' book and say I resisted all his temptations like pure innocent Fluttershy and he had to -force- me to be selfish. But I think we've all had our share of lies for one lifetime after this.

And for the first time since I was chosen worthy by the Element of Generosity, I'm suddenly asking if I really am.

I've dealt with hecklers and idiots before who try to paint me as some greedy nag who'd trade her own friends in for some baubles and I still refuse to dignify their verbal assaults with an answer.

But now I've found myself wondering. Was I being generous for the sake of others? Or because I couldn't stand to look at anything that didn't fit my view of what was pretty and had to FORCE it to be that way?

Am I like Discord? I know the way the world 'should' and 'should not' be, so anything that conflicts with that HAS TO change no matter what... But isn't that the way it is with everypony? Pinkie thinks people should always be happy and sure seems to go out of her way for it. Fluttershy wants everyone to be kind, but she doesn't go around bossing everyone to be kind because then that wouldn't BE kind.

Blast it all! BLAST it all! May Celestia take it all and banish it to the moon!

Was I THAT desperate for a stallion in my life that I was willing to love what I thought was a giant diamond?! I can swoon any stallion of my choice! So why don't I just find one worth of my time and finally have my prince? Or did Blueblood really ruin a lifetime goal of mine so utterly that I wanted to be with something I knew couldn't cheat on me or treat me wrong? Did I let that arrogant foal get to me that much? Even after I lost my temper and gave him the talking to he so richly deserved, am I really letting that upper class reject ruin what I wanted so badly? Just to be WITH someone?

I know Spike would move mountains for me if I wanted. It's actually a little painful knowing even he wouldn't come to my side with how I was acting as Discord's pawn. Thankfully he didn't hear me call him Twilight's 'little minion.' At least Sweetie Belle didn't have to see me like that, she was as insane as all the other ponies in Ponyville were at that point. I swear I wish Celestia would let me take a sledge hammer to Discord's statue! Sweetie Belle actually threw out her doll collection because they were giving her nightmares! I had to save them from the garbage and hide them somewhere (I know she'll thank me... eventually...).

Cheerilee and the parents of all the fillies and colts in town are trying their hardest to help their children recover, but we're ALL dealing with what Discord did to us even as Cheerilee tries to help her students. Celestia bless her soul, I can tell she's hurting like the rest of us during her time as Discord's mad plaything, but she still wants her students to 'bloom' as she insists is the meaning of her cutie mark. Sometimes I wonder if being a florist was what she was good at, but not what made her happy.

Princess Celestia actually put out a royal mandate for counselors from all over Equestria to visit Ponyville and all other places Discord had damaged. But there are so many of us who were tainted by Discord, and only so few ponies whose special talent is giving ponies the therapy they NEED now. So the doctors are focusing on those of us who really need help. Big Macintosh apparently can now stay in the same room with a dog without breaking down into a nervous wreck. I'll admit I don't know Applejack's brother all that well, but seeing that mountain of strength and silent will so... damaged like that carries a whole new flavor of wrongness. But after the first two weeks we've all been able to at least PRETEND that nothing had happened and we were able to playact through our lives. Well, most of us.

My oh so loving, attentive and caring parents practically -fled- Ponyville with Photo Finish on the first Pegasi flight to the southern islands as part of their 'therapy' for whatever torture Discord put them through. I didn't ask what Discord made them do, but they were covered in hoof marks whose indentations were of the garish tacky brand-names they always wore.

And that, of course, leaves me with Sweetie Belle, again. I swear to Celestia herself, I spend more time raising my little sister than my parents do! 'Back after a week's vacation!' Ugh! I can't believe I still fall for that lie! This isn't the first time Sweetie has plagued my home for more than a month! I'm more of a mother than mother is! Gagh! This added stress I do not need!

Yes yes it took her trying to change her name to Sweet Apple and joining Applejack's family to get me to realize I actually cared for her! Moving on!

Spike keeps visiting, asking if there's anything he can do for me. I give him some meaningless task or another until he's satisfied for the day and leaves. I can't bear the idea of using him for real workloads... Most ponies aren't interested in buying new dresses right now anyway; all my orders are from out of town.

Maybe I should just tell him that he's too young for me, and by the time he hits manhood I'll be in a rocking chair. But he's about the only one in Ponyville who didn't suffer emotionally during the whole ordeal, and I don't want him to be hurt like that right now. It would be the single most unlady-like thing I could possibly do.

I've already thrown away the orders for dozens of the ugly dresses I made for my friends that one time that the population of Ponyville suddenly couldn't get enough of once they were all as mad as hatters. It was an unspoken agreement that I wouldn't force them to honor orders they made while completely out of their gourds.

THANK CELESTIA AND HER DAY AND LUNA AND HER NIGHT that Applejack, along with the others, volunteered to take Tom, er, the boulder away and promised to drop him, ugh the thing in the middle of Froggy Bottom Bog where the frogs and hydra could have it. Applejack said it was her way of making up for how the railway wouldn't accept my commission to take the boulder to Appleloosa, smash it into a million pieces and scatter the rubble across several miles of open desert.

Twilight at first calmly suggested that I should keep it as a reminder of hardships endured and make myself a better pony out of it. I calmly suggested in return that Twilight should go to Pony Hell. Thankfully she forgave me later even if she admitted it was partially her fault.

With IT gone I could finally walk around the shop without thinking every big round shadow I saw was IT following me somehow. At least THOSE nightmares had stopped.

The door to my work room smashes open into splinters. Tom rolls in carrying a bouquet of flowers in its cracks.

"No. NO! GO AWAY!" I trot backwards, it rolls closer.

A voice rumbles. "I love you more than anything, Rarity, my love! And we shall be together forever!" A cockatrice crawls out of the bouquet and glares at me... my insides turn colder than ice before going numb. I see, hear, think, but cannot move. Can't move, can't speak. Can feel everything on the outside but so empty on the inside. I see the gray statue of a unicorn in one of my mirrors.

"Now my rock princess, let us be off! Attendants!"

Dozens of smaller rocks rolled in behind Tom, and push me along, taking one of my wedding dresses and rolling it onto me. I can't move. I can't speak. I'm only their dress up doll.

"Now my rock princess let us be happily ever after, FOREVER!"

I startled awake, standing on my four hooves. I had fallen asleep? In the middle of the day? How vulgar. Thank goodness no one had borne witness to such a travesty. Maybe I was overtired, maybe.

I stood in my stock room, looking at my dresses, all with jewels I had found and dug up myself; even my earliest designs had always included stones of some sort or another. And they all reflected back at me as I stood there looking at them. Seeing a mare aged before her time, tired, weary, invisible weights dragging behind her. And I imagined, for one brief moment, Discord's sneering face on them.

I screamed, using my horn to tear off the gems I had so carefully and painstaking placed myself, destroying hours, days, weeks worth of work in minutes, snarling and cursing and sobbing, stomping on them and screaming at them. How dare they betray me? How dare they lead me astray? Jewels had helped me find my cutie mark, had helped me realize my special talent in creating things of beauty! How dare beauty betray me? How dare they turn me into something I wasn't? I tossed them out windows, breaking glass, I knocked over mannequins, ripping off jewelry and throwing them against walls. I didn't show mercy to any precious jewel or treasure.

I showed no pity to any pretty, shiny rock. The dresses were often torn to shreds. I kept screaming. I kept snarling. I stamped my hooves like a mad pony.

"Rarity?" I heard a small voice like a sleigh bell. I turned and hissed. Sweetie cried out in fear, looking at the ugly thing wearing her sister's face. "Rarity, the dresses, what are you-"

"I'M FIXING THEM!"

"But you said those didn't work without the-"

"I SAID I'M FIXING THEM YOU STUPID FILLY! DON'T YOU DARE TALK BACK TO YOUR ELDERS!" A sharp circlet whizzed by Sweetie Belle's head and imbedded itself in the walls behind her. A few severed threads of her mane floated to the floor.

Sweetie Belle fell to her knees and covered her head to make herself as small as possible, and sniffled.

Reality came down on top of me like Luna's moon, fallen from orbit. What had I done? WHAT HAD I DONE?!

I was at Sweetie Belle's side in an instant, idly wondering if I had spontaneously learned how to teleport. Sweetie Belle shrank a little at my touch. I shuddered. I examined her, thankfully the circlet had missed her. But it had been eye level. And I knew I hadn't been exactly aiming. It could have just as easily been a few more inches to my right...

"I'm sorry Sweetie Belle, I'm, just so sorry. Big sister is, big sister just did a very bad thing just now. And she's sorry. You haven't done a single thing wrong. Big sister's just tired right now. I promise, big sister's not angry at you. Big sister's not going to hurt you. Big sister won't shout at you again. Big sister isn't going to do anything bad to you. Big sister's just upset... big sister's ashamed that she could EVER consider a jewel to be the most beautiful thing in the world, that she could ever consider them to be the most wonderful thing in the world to her. I promise, big sister's not angry at you."

Sweetie Belle finally stopped shaking, and her eyes, red with tears, looked at me timidly as she asked, "What, what is the most wonderful thing?"

I nuzzled her, "You are Sweetie, you're the most wonderful and beautiful thing in the world to me. Because you're not a thing. You're my baby sister. There's only one of you. That makes you more precious than a thousand diamonds. And it makes you more special than a million jewels... Jewels can't tell me how much they love me, and they can't listen when I tell them how much I love them. You're the most important thing in the world to me... "

We just sat there together for over an hour, watching the sunset through the broken window before I put a cloth over it to keep the night air from getting in. No offense to Princess Luna.

"Come on now, let's get this place cleaned up and go to bed. I promise you can help."

"I can?" Sweetie Belle asked, cautious but eager. Helping me has always been a desire of hers no matter the task, be it small or big. You can't buy that kind of devotion.

"Yes dear. You are after all, my most beautiful and most wonderful treasure."

++++

A few days later -and after a very large clean up and a trip the spa, for just me and Sweetie Belle- I was in the shop again, as normal. For a tiny bit it FELT like the precious status quo we all lived for was what it was again.

There was a jingle at the door.

A little violet-pink pony came through the front door with a white and purple mane. The filly moved with the uppity air of an upper class heiress, but her motions reminded me a bit of a doll, forced, almost mechanical, like she was putting conscious effort into her body language. Her name flashed through my mind as I saw what she was wearing and her cutie mark, and my coat became matted with sweat.

"Greetings, Miss Rarity." Like her body language, her voice was prim and proper, with a healthy sprinkling of spoiled arrogance, but it also seemed forced. I was considered part of Ponyville's 'upper crust,' even if some, like the Tiaras, considered me an outsider for being a unicorn. As it was, the filly went through her social expectations with minimal snottiness.

"Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, young miss! What can I help you with today?" I said, putting on my best business face.

The filly moved closer. I took a step back. Di-di-dia-diam-the filly either didn't notice or pretended not to.

The filly spoke with a sense of entitlement. "Your little store has the honor of accepting a VERY IMPORTANT commission from me, Miss Rarity! I expect it to be completed before the week is out. I assume this won't be a problem for a store with so little business as yours."

I kept my face on. It was a struggle. Stupid little filly, I likely do more work in a week then a member of your family does in a year!

"So... what is this dress of yours you would like me to complete?"

I finally realized how peculiar it was that a spoiled brat like Diam-this filly would be without any escort. And where was that other half of hers anyway?

Diamon-ugh! The filly pulled out a crudely drawn figure from a saddle bag I hadn't noticed before (Myself missing a detail? How was that possible? Then again I was trying my hardest not to think about how she was wearing her namesake on her head.) with measurements apparently written in by someone else.

From the measurements, the dress appeared to be designed for an adult mare. The design was excessive and a half, done with little sense of style, and was far more flare than substance.

"This. I trust you'll be able to follow them with no real problems. Ignore what the notes say, include at least five times as many diamonds as that. And make sure they're the largest you have! I know you're a so-called expert at finding diamonds, so no excuses! Remember, five times as many as-"

She practically shoved the design in my face. And I saw them, diamonds, all over the gaudy dress with a drawing of one by the side as if for example. Diamond Tiara continued to ramble for several seconds but I wasn't listening anymore.

All I saw was myself ripping a stone wall to pieces and ruining my appearance all for the sake of something pretty and being vicious to my friends for no good reason, thinking they wanted it for themselves. And finding out it was all a lie, I threw it out at once... and felt the crushing SHAME inside me, for acting absolutely no different from this spoiled brat but several times worse. I was deluded into thinking something worthless was precious, but how much of the rest was me? My head hurt as Greedity's- no, my actions ran through my head. I had been so, so wretched.

"ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING YOU NARWHAL?" DIAMOND Tiara shouted out, her DIAMOND tiara actually looking rather tilted slightly from her agitated expression.

"NO. And get out."

"WHAT?" DIAMOND Tiara said in total disbelief. When was the last time someone other than her parents had told her "no?"

"I SAID NO! YOU CAN TAKE YOUR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE! NOW GET OUT! AND DON'T YOU DARE COME NEAR MY STORE AGAIN!!" I snarled.

"YOU-you-you-can't-"

"NO! Here is something YOU can't do!" I used my horn's magic to lift the suddenly confused and angry, then very scared DIAMOND Tiara. I drank it in. "SO who's a narwhal now?" DIAMOND Tiara was shaking. I leaned in close to the helpless filly. "Now listen here you greedy little foal! If I EVER catch you or hear that you called my little sister that I am telling your teacher and I PROMISE she'll listen to me! And if I find you near my home again I'll see you in a dungeon for trespassing! And I promise that little revenge fantasy already in your empty head won't work! My customers will never listen to anything you or your parents say!"

"MY PARENTS-" DIAMOND Tiara actually began to snarl but I then telekinetically tossed her out! Her DIAMOND tiara then fell off her head, and I practically THREW it at her as the spoiled filly left in tears, picking it up in her teeth and running.

The adrenaline spent, I leaned against the wall. What I had done played over and over in my mind until Sweetie Belle came home from her latest CMC group activity. No need for bandages this time, so I guess Scootaloo hadn't picked out activities today.

"Big sister? Are you okay?" Sweetie Belle asked, looking at me with concern. I must have looked worse than I normally did these last few weeks.

"It's... it's nothing dear, just, Dia-diamo-, a classmate of yours showed up for a dress to be made, but I had to turn it down."

"Diamond Tiara?" Sweetie Belle asked, then tried becoming smaller as I glared at her for saying that word.

"Yes dearie, if you must know, it was. Don't worry. She didn't cause any trouble."

"Was she acting weird like at school?"

I froze. I asked carefully, "What do you mean 'acting weird?'"

"Well..." Sweetie Belle looked uncomfortable under my gaze. "She doesn't really bully us anymore."

I blinked, suddenly feeling VERY ugly. "Really?"

"Well, she doesn't even look at us anymore, or anyone. Once school started again Miss Cheerilee kept asking her to pay attention in class. I guess she did that before, but before, she acted bored. Now it's like she... I guess like she's somewhere else."

"So would you say she's being nicer?"

"Not really. Yes. No. Maybe? She just ignores us instead of taunting us, but she keeps screaming at Silver Spoon."

My jaw dropped. "What? But, isn't that her best," I corrected myself, "-only- real friend?"

"Yeah, Applebloom thought it was weird too. No, I think what she said was 'whad da heck es dat 'bout' or something. You know that break we got after the panic over the Cutie Pox? Ever since school started again, everytime Silver Spoon tries to talk to her, D-, Tiara just yells at her. Calls her a good-for-nothing four-eyes, says her cutie-mark is stupid, says it means she's only good for being rich and isn't good at anything, and she's worthless... Cheerilee gave Tiara a time out and Silver Spoon - I think she was crying - went to visit the counselor after that... Later, when Miss Cheerilee was talking to Tiara, Tiara shouted that she wished you hadn't beaten Discord and that everyone in Ponyville was still crazy. I think she might have gotten suspended for the week after that."

I just listen. I can only listen. There is clearly a larger picture going on here. That was when I noticed a piece of paper still on the floor, which I floated up to get a better look... it was Dia-, Tiara's sketch, with her name on it. I finally noticed a small note in the corner, Sweetie Belle did as well.

"Momma's?" Sweetie Belle read it out loud, "I didn't know she had a mom."

"Eh?" I thought I already had that talk with Sweetie Belle about where foals came from.

"Well... When Cheerilee wants to talk to her parents, it's only her dad who ever shows up. She always talks about how great her dad is but never talks about her mom. So we figured she didn't have one."

"Everyone has a mother, Sweetie Belle... everyone..." I sighed, "Everyone is some mother's child."

I took the paper with me. Sweetie Belle and I spent the rest of the evening in relative silence. I asked about her day and she asked bits about mine. Cheerilee was apparently falling back on her old tactic of trying to relate to her students by sharing her own ordeal during Discord's games. Apparently Cheerilee had been planting flowers in other ponies' heads after Discord had driven her mad. She also talked about how bottled up feelings could hurt a pony worse than what caused those feelings in the first place.

"It was really weird."

"What dear?"

"After you asked about it. Seeing Silver Spoon cry... I didn't think she knew how to."

'Of course,' I thought. The logic of a child, and most adults. Silver Spoon was bad, a bully... and therefore, she had to be all bad. There couldn't be a single thing that made her a real pony, as opposed to a creature that lived only to make the lives of Sweetie Belle and her friends miserable.

"Well, you did say her only friend just told some very awful things to her. Wouldn't you cry if Scootaloo or Applebloom said awful things to you?"

"But they'd NEVER say awful things to me..."

"Like how you all started fighting in the royal garden?" I said flatly.

"Er, I bet it was that bad dragon-snake that made us do all that! It had to be, right?" The idea to Sweetie Belle that she and her friends could have had a genuine FIGHT instead of just one of their arguments obviously scared her. After all, weren't friends not supposed to fight? Wasn't that the point of being a friend?

I sighed, I have more experience dealing with fillies than Fluttershy could hope to have. But that didn't make some things less difficult.

"If you're sure it was dear. Then I'm sure too. Now eat your alfalfa."

I kept Tiara's sketch with me. She didn't come back for it. I wondered what deadly wrath she was convincing her father to bring down upon me like she was a princess and I was a 'faceless commoner.' She couldn't appreciate that I personally knew Her Majesty's personal envoy to Ponyville and had met Princess Celestia multiple times. I doubt her father would risk trying to cross a national hero even to appease his daughter's demand. All the same I watched my flanks for a few days.

On a hunch I made a few visits to the town records, I milked the gossip sources, filtered out the garbage from facts. Taking advantage of Celestia's decree, I even paid a few visits to some of the psychologists in town, but found they wouldn't answer the questions I had as a matter of course. However all the same, in a few days I had more or less learned what I needed to know.

I closed the shop early, and began to work. I told Sweetie Belle she should consider doing something nice for Silver Spoon. She looked at me like I had told her to give flowers to Nightmare Moon. Knowing how much I sounded like Fluttershy I said, "Sweetie Belle. Being generous to people you like is easy. Being generous to strangers is simple. Being generous to people you don't like is neither easy nor simple. But it's also something that they can't imagine you doing for them, and the best gifts are sometimes the surprise kind."

"But would you WANT someone who's awful to get a gift?"

"..." I thought about how to explain this as best I could. "Sweetie Belle, I won't pretend that I thought there was any good in Discord. But I didn't think there was any good in Nightmare Moon either. I don't think Princess Luna is bad. And if there could be good in someone like Nightmare Moon, what about everyone else?"

Sweetie Belle looked at me with an admirable struggle to understand what I said before saying, "But what does that have to do with giving a gift to a bad guy? Why give a bad guy something when you could give it to a good person instead?"

"Sweetie Belle... Nightmare Moon thought EVERYONE was bad for not thanking her for working on the night as hard as Celestia does the day. But we proved her wrong, we helped her out of the dark place she was inside herself. I've taught you very much that what others think DOES matter. I know that goes against a lot of what your teacher says, but if someone is awful to you, it's because they think they have a right to be awful towards you, because you're just something that LOOKS like a pony but isn't one, or because they think you deserve to be awful towards... I'm sorry Sweetie Belle, I really don't expect you to get any of this. But please, for your big sister. Being generous to someone who doesn't like you, and you don't like, can cause good things to happen."

Sweetie Belle just nodded dumbly and wandered off, what I said churning in her skull in a soup of confusion. Hopefully my place of authority as her big sister would help her make the right decision. Meanwhile I worked from sunrise to sunset then slept until halfway through the following day.

I also swallowed my pride and asked Fluttershy's help on the sewing. How did a mare whose special talent was animal care know more about sewing than me?

I also did a LOT of digging in the next few days. The dia-dia, DIAMOND dogs knew to stay clear of me but I insisted on their help as well, which they reluctantly agreed to.

It was like swallowing bitter tea mixed with cough medicine every time I was given one of the things I ordered them to find for me. But I endured. I let the sweat drip off me, I felt my body shake until it was sore, feeling them have actual contact with my body when I handled them. Somehow I endured.

They were very surprised at the end when I emptied out my saddle bags, giving them an equal amount of gem stones from my own collection for what they had dug up for me. I had to explain to them, slowly, that this was what was known as 'fair trade.' To be fair I had at first intended to simply take what I wanted, counting on my infamous reputation to get what I wanted. But then I realized I wasn't their queen and I had no right to 'tax' them no matter my fantasies.

My talk with Sweetie Belle had caused me to realize I had reduced these dumb mutts to a one-dimensional trait: 'they had kidnapped me.' And as much as I loathed them and their total lack of respect for their own appearance, I begrudgingly had to admit they had their own simple appreciation for beauty. I was an artist and a business pony, not a tyrant.

When I got home I arranged them by size, weight, and everything else. The constant exposure wasn't pleasant, but I began to build up the tolerance I needed to work again. Maybe I was just being selfish again after all, maybe I was just using this as an excuse to give myself what I needed to begin to work again without being scared to death of my own materials. But I also knew this had to be done. I could have just ignored it, just let it go, but I realized I wasn't going to.

Sweetie Belle confessed she had tried to talk to Silver Spoon, only to find the filly yelled at her, asking if Sweetie Belle and the others were going to laugh at her now that D-Diamond Tiara hated her too. Silver Spoon had apparently acted like a cornered animal. Cheerilee had broken things up, leaving the CMCs very confused. I knew they were simply too young to understand that a bully's greatest fear was being bullied. Silver Spoon and D-Diamond Tiara now sat on opposite ends of the classroom apparently.

Silver Spoon had always been a follower not a leader, and now she found herself alone. Of course she'd think that the fillies she had helped taunt wanting to be friends with her were really just trying to set her up, to let them be cruel right back at her now that her 'protection' was gone. I told Sweetie Belle not to give up, that Silver Spoon didn't know how to make real friends. She thought I was crazy. Maybe I am at this point. Maybe everyone in Ponyville is now. Who goes through what we did and comes out undamaged?

Two days later in the early morning, having barely made my very real deadline, I trotted in front of the Tiara household.

I knocked on the door and a gray Earth Pony opened it. I informed her I had a personal delivery for the young lady of the household.

Diamond Tiara trotted downstairs wondering what could be SO important that it would take away -her- precious time. When she saw me her face contorted in rage. "YOU!" She glared at the older servant. "THROW HER OUT!"

The old maid looked ready to try her best. Instead I said quickly, "I've brought you your commission, Little Miss Tiara."

"Huh?" She blinked those big eyes of hers, confused as the entire room practically tripped over itself switching gears.

"Free of charge. And free delivery to you personally. On one condition."

"Condition?" She asked, not sounding very pleasant at all. I knew I was on thin ice already, but what had to be said had to be said.

I telekinetically opened the case I was carrying, showing the newly made dress, with diamonds in compartments on either side of it. "You sew in the diamonds yourself."

"You dare-"

"You want to show your mother you still love her? You want to show her that you haven't given up on her? That you still believe in her? That she's still your mother even if your father says otherwise, young lady? That you're still waiting for her to get better? The best gifts, little filly, -AREN'T- the most expensive ones. They're the ones you've put the most time into yourself, the ones you've put your own effort into. They're the ones that show you really care about the person you're giving the gift to."

Diamond Tiara's jaw hung limply from her face. I gave the most formal, polite, and proper farewell fit for high society, and left. Behind me I heard heavy hoof falls and a quick shuffling noise, and a window confirmed what I imagined of a stallion passing through a minute later and Diamond Tiara hiding the case behind the servant.

I managed a smile. Maybe I was being foolish. But I knew this wasn't pointless... or at least, I didn't believe it was. And I think I finally understand. Making things beautiful and making beautiful things is simply what I am good at. A pony is not a slave to their cutie mark no matter what they teach you in school. It's your guide, not your master.

My Element and my Cutie Mark are not the same thing, have never been the same thing, and I was a foal for believing they were. If making beautiful things and making things beautiful are what I'm good at, and my Element is to be generous towards others, of course I'll share my talent with them. But that isn't the only thing I can share. Letting my sister help, spending time with others: those are generosities too, not just giving away THINGS. And I should have remembered that when Twilight's spell made me relive those moments I had been true to that inner spirit. But I was too scared of what I had done.

I'll never know how much of what I did was Discord's taint or my own choices, but I'm not ashamed anymore. Not as long as I remember that no matter what riches cross my path, my greatest treasure is at home, and she is waiting for me. And whether I find someone to live my life with is up to me. For the first time in weeks, I finally feel free.

++++

Diamond Tiara carried the bag in her mouth, tiny red marks surrounded her front hooves and face. Sewing without fingers or a magic horn is even harder than it sounds. A large white burly pegasus pony walked next to her, as did one of her family's servants, because there was simply no way in Pony Hell that this place would EVER let a filly within these walls without protection and an adult. The servant however had promised not to tell Onyx Tiara where his daughter had really been this afternoon.

Diamond Tiara looked in the other rooms only once, and wished she hadn't, seeing a pink pegasus with stumps for wings mindlessly singing to herself.

"Screwball! You got a visitor!" Said the burly pegasus, sliding the small door within a door open. Diamond Tiara felt a wave of disgust at the oversized feather duster calling the mare inside by that name.

"Her name is Golden Tiara." She said lowly.

"Oh oh oh? Is that so so?" Said an adult earth pony on the other side. She had a pink-purple coat, and a purple mane with white stripes. "Who could it be-be on this special of days?" She said in a oddly happy voice.

Diamond Tiara pushed the bag through the opening lower on the door. "Happy birthday, mama."

"Oh baby... is that you? Does dear know you're here?"

"Of course he does," she lied. "He's hoping very much that you'll get better."

The pony in the room opened up the bag and examined the dress from every which way, trying it on in every way except the way it was meant to be worn. "OH? Is this for me-me? OH OH OH! It's so pretty! Did you do this? It's so wonderful!... Come to mommy."

Diamond Tiara didn't even hesitate. She pressed herself against the door, hearing her mother's heartbeat as she heard hers.

"You know dear, the world was finally right again a few weeks ago. Everything stopped being confusing and everything made sense again. The doctors even started making sense and let me and everyone out... then that rainbow came and the world was confusing again... But don't worry, I'm sure the world won't be confusing again really soon. If it could all make sense again once. I'm sure it'll make sense again real soon dear. Then mommy will be back home. I bet it'll be in time for YOUR birthday! You'd like mama to be there, yes dear?"

"...yes mama, that would be very nice." Diamond Tiara realized she had to end this conversation now. "I'm sorry mama, I have to go now, daddy's waiting!"

"Okay sweetie! Tell dearest that his princess still loves her prince when you see him!"

"I, I will mama! Bye!" She ran. She couldn't bear to have her mother see or hear her crying.

~FIN
THE AUDIO ADAPTION IS RIGHT HERE! READ IT! ORIGINAL ART! ORIGINAL MUSIC! ORIGINAL VOICE ACTORS! SEE IT! IT ROCKS! [link]

Previous Part: [link]
Next Part: [link]

Discord is beaten. The world is restored to it's proper balance and sanity and Celestia rule the day once again. But it's the scars ponies bare that you can't see that take the longest to heal.

Rarity's particular kind of turning when she was corrupted by Discord has not left her in the most confident of personas. How shall she find the means to pull herself back together?

This isn't part of my Discorded Ponies POV series persay, since it's told in third person narrative. But I felt it needed to be here. Since it does count as a sort of spiritual sequel.

Recovery POVs Told In Order:
Fluttershy and Flutter Cruel: [link]
Rainbow Dash: [link]
Rarity: Here
Applejack: [link]
Pinkamina: [link]
Twilight Sparkle: [link]
Rainbow Dash True Healing: [link]
The One And Only Trixie: [link]
Penultimate Alpha 01 and 02 (actually part of the same chapter split due to size limits): [link] [link]
Fluttercruel and Fluttershy: [link]
Penultimate Beta02: [link]
Teacher Teacher: [link]


A direct sequel to this short POV: [link]

MLP FiM Copyright Hasbro

POV SIDE STORY CANTERLOT CHAOS: (Consider canon of your own free will!)
[link]


AND NOW WE HAVE OUR TV TROPES PAGE! YAY! [link]

EDIT: Change a few things just before Rarity's tantrum and Sweetie's near missing snapping her out of it. Also fixed some bugs.

EDIT: EDITED BY PHAZON FARMER! [link]

TIME SPACE RIPPLE EDIT!: EDITED TO INCLUDE EVENTS OF Sisterhooves Social!!!

EDIT: I decided for the sake of story it actually made MORE sense for SS and DT's friendship to fall apart after the Cutie Pox incident. Why? Because DT calls Applebloom on her cutie mark being 'useless' which given the psychosis at the core of both upper class fillies (well one of many), might have been what triggered both fillies to suddenly question what good THEIR cutie mark was.


EDIT 2012 01 01:
As edited by The Nineteenth Lord of Fear, Pumpkin. [link]

Edited by R2ck3t 20120622
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Chapter 4

The next morning, Fluttershy and Trixie shared a breakfast of oatmeal again. Trixie found it easier to get around and ate almost an entire bowlful. She realized most of her original wounds were healing nicely, and while her side was tender it wasn't painful to move, usually.

"The others will want to know you're up." Fluttershy said. Trixie glanced down at the floor.

"Will they really care?"

"They're my friends too." Fluttershy responded. Trixie nodded, understanding what she meant.

"Shall we... go out?" Trixie asked. Fluttershy paused.

"Are you...are you sure? They could come..."

"Trixie has healed excellently under such adept care." she smiled at Fluttershy, who blushed slightly in response. "Besides," Trixie said softly, "she promises not to exert herself. She doesn't want to spend a single day more bedridden."

"Okay. A day out would be...nice." Fluttershy smiled. Trixie nodded and waited as Fluttershy cleaned up breakfast. They made their way to the door. That same rabbit was standing on a table nearby, watching them. He gave Trixie a wary nod.

"Aww, Angel likes you. He's usually not very good with strange ponies. Or... anypony."

"He and Trixie have an understanding, it seems." Trixie smirked. Fluttershy opened the door and they stepped outside. Trixie had to blink several times to adjust to the sunlight. She breathed deep in the morning air, feeling revitalized. She found Fluttershy watching her.

"What?"

"Oh, um...nothing." she looked away, failing to hide her blush. Trixie couldn't understand it, but it had an odd effect on her. The feeling from last night returned, not as intense but more noticeable to her. She tried to keep her head straight and followed Fluttershy into town, finding herself instinctively looking to the pegasus, merely out of curiosity of course. It was a few minutes walk, giving Trixie time to prepare for what she'd find. She had imagined her return to Ponyville many times over the last month, as fuel to continue on when her conditions worsened. With a flash and a bang she would return to town, earning back her respect, forcefully if required. All sorts of scenarios had run through her head, from a duel with Twilight Sparkle to beating an Ursa Minor herself to more ridiculous ploys involving framing Twilight or turning her friends against her. All this just seemed...wrong to Trixie now. She didn't feel bitter, and held no ill-will towards the other unicorn. It surprised her, scared her even. Had she changed so much? And if so, how?

The town came into view, and Trixie stopped to look at it. She had thought it a backwater hovel before, but now she realized it was quite a profitable, idyllic little town, bustling with life. Probably wholly self-sufficient at that; she remembered passing farmland on the way in. Most of the town was earth ponies, but a good number of unicorn and pegasus ponies were about as well. Almost everypony who passed had a smile on their face, enjoying some simple pleasure of life that Trixie couldn't fathom. All these ponies, however, had seen Trixie's boasting and one-upping, as well her subsequent spectacular failure. Trixie found her legs locking up.

"I-I can't do it." she stammered. Fluttershy turned around.

"Trixie?"

Trixie shook her head and backed away. "I've fallen too far. Too far gone. I'm a shell of the Great and Powerful Trixie. I can't go through with it."

Fluttershy approached her and put a hoof up to her cheek, giving it a gentle stroke. "Be proud of who you are." she echoed Trixie's advice. Trixie looked away.

"I don't know who I am anymore." Trixie told her.

"I do." Fluttershy replied. She lowered her hoof and turned back to Ponyville. She took only a couple steps away before looking back, waiting for Trixie. Trixie paused, not sure how to feel. She felt drawn to Fluttershy as if on an invisible thread. Fine and delicate as it was, that thread was the strongest force she had ever felt in life. Trixie forced herself forward and followed Fluttershy into town. She was still Trixie. She refused to cower at the sight of layponies; at least, that was what she tried to convince herself.

Trixie got odd looks in town. Mostly curious, and almost no pony seemed to recognize her. Those few that seemed to identify her tended to stare, often shocked. Trixie found herself sticking close to Fluttershy, as if for protection. Were it not for the mark on her flank, she figured, she would be an entirely different pony to them.

"Where are we going?" she asked, realizing they were cutting right through town. She tried to keep her head from hanging, but it was hard to have pride when lifting a spoon had sent her spiraling to the floor not long ago.

"To the library. That's where Twilight lives."

"She lives in...a library. Of course." Some of the old Trixie remained after all as she scoffed at the idea. Fluttershy glanced back to her, and her eyes were...saddened, disappointed. Trixie immediately regretted herself. A small part of her asked who this pony was to order around Trixie with a glance. A friend, Trixie thought back, that's who.

Fluttershy led her to a hollowed out tree near the other end of town. She knocked and entered - it was a library after all. Trixie forced herself inside.

"Hello- oh! Fluttershy...Trixie! I didn't know you were up." Twilight turned from the desk where she had been pouring over some dusty old tome.

"Since last night." Fluttershy offered. Trixie took a deep breath and turned to Twilight. She just looked her up and down, trying to sort out her feelings in this underwhelming confrontation. This...this young mare, no doubt a few good years Trixie's junior, had stepped in and done what Trixie had been fairly sure was impossible - best her at her own game. Trixie had blamed her for everything, even though she knew it had been her 'fans' that had brought the beast into town. Yet now...

"Trixie, I'm so sorry about what happened." Twilight said, sincere and worried. Trixie's eyes widened.

"You? You're...sorry?"

"I thought we should just let you go...without any of your stuff, or any idea if you knew the area, or..."  she looked away. "I really should have known better."

"Twilight...Trixie has spent a long time thinking on that day. And she has thought long and hard on your role in that day." Trixie said. Twilight's eyes widened, and Trixie saw what she least expected - fear. This mare, with all her power and all her friends, feared Trixie. It brought a bitter taste to Trixie's mouth; once she had wanted Twilight to fear her. But it only served to remind her of her own rage, of the way she had lashed out at everypony. Trixie approached Twilight slowly, stared at her, and then brought herself down, going onto two knees while her back legs stayed up.

"I-I am sorry." Trixie said. Twilight stepped back.

"Trixie..."

"Trixie understands now, not every pony is like her. You never meant to show her up. Trixie envied your power, but she understands that she forced your hoof with her actions."

"It wasn't your fault. Snips and Snails..."

"Were led astray by Trixie's boasting. But aside that, no, Trixie apologizes for the insults she inflicted upon you and your friends."

"Trixie, please, you don't need to..." Twilight looked incredibly awkward. Trixie raised herself up.

"I...you..." Twilight stammered uselessly. Trixie nodded.

"You did not expect this of Trixie, did you?"

"To be honest? No, actually."

"Trixie, perhaps, has a new perspective on life." Trixie found her gaze sliding over to Fluttershy before she caught herself. Twilight noticed and nodded.

"I think...um..." Twilight scratched the back of her head, looking awkward. "I never wanted to make an enemy. I'm glad you've pulled through."

Trixie nodded. "Trixie couldn't have done it on her own."

Twilight nodded. "I learned that lesson."

"Oh?"

Twilight smiled. "I kind of used to think, well, that friends got in the way. That they distracted from what was important. I was a bit of an introvert"

"You?" Trixie tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She could see Fluttershy looking to her hesitantly, and wanted the other pony to know... something. That Trixie was trustworthy of her friendship, she imagined. "No. What, what changed your mind?"

Twilight chuckled. "Same as you, in a way. I wasn't given a choice in making friends. I don't regret it."

"I...Trixie didn't realize it, but she supposes..."

Twilight nodded, and conversation petered out. The three ponies looked at each other, slightly hopeful, slightly awkward, before Twilight gave a cough.

"We...I kept what we could salvage from your cart."

"Y-you did?"

Twilight nodded. "I didn't know where to send them. We...only looked a little, to respect  your privacy, but we couldn't find any home address or anything."

"That's because Trixie doesn't have a home." Trixie responded glibly. Twilight startled.

"You mean the wagon was your home?"

"As much as it could be called such, yes. Where are Trixie's things?" Trixie hadn't imagined getting anything back. She dearly missed her old hat and cape now that it occurred to her.

"Oh, in the basement." Twilight nodded to a stairwell amongst the shelves. Trixie and then Fluttershy followed her in single file.

"And how did you come to live in a library?" Trixie asked. Now that she had stopped seeing Twilight as her foe or rival, Trixie admitted she was curious about her. They looked to have a surprising amount in common.

"Oh, um...Princess Celestia set me up here."

"The Princess?!" Trixie stopped, nearly making Fluttershy run into her. Twilight flinched.

"I'm, um...her personal student."

"...you. You are the Princess's... You." Trixie's brain stopped working. So much for the common ground theory.

"I...don't like to brag."

"...so Trixie is aware." Trixie managed dryly. "You...I." she sighed. "Of course. Of course!"

"Hmm?" Twilight had led them down into what looked like a combination storage room and laboratory. Trixie looked away.

"I hope you know how lucky you have it, Twilight Sparkle." she said lowly. Twilight tried to say something, but her mouth worked silently. She turned away and walked up to a chest in the corner of the room. Trixie walked up as Twilight opened it.

"It's...everything!" Trixie exclaimed. Her books, her notes, her mirror, her wallet...full of all her bits! Trixie felt like pieces of her life had been restored.

"It was really hard not to open those books. A couple of those books weren't even in my school's library."

"Probably because Trixie stole them from Celestia's school. Well, from a teacher at that school at least."

"How did you know I...you stole these?"

"In a way, yes. Call them family heirlooms."

"What?" Twilight's confusion deepened. Trixie sighed.

"Trixie will explain to you another time. If it is of such a concern to you, the books can stay here. Trixie hardly has the room for them in any case."

Twilight nodded, at least slightly mollified. Her brow furrowed again however, and Trixie could see the question forming in her head.

"Did you go to-"

"No. Another time. Trixie is most grateful however, do not get her wrong. Where is..." she looked closer, her heart sinking. "Where are my hat and cape?"

"What, they're-" Twilight stopped, and Trixie noticed the unicorn looking past her. When she turned around, however, it was just Fluttershy.

"I'm... sorry Trixie. It's all here." Twilight said. Trixie slumped but nodded.

"So Trixie sees." she sighed. "Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. Since, since you will have the books, could Trixie ask you to store her things a while longer?"

"Oh sure, I mean I have the space."

"Well then." Trixie turned to her. "You have done Trixie a great service. Trixie hopes from here on out we can be...agreeable towards one another."

"I would like to get to know you better." Twilight said, trying to smile. Her eyes kept glancing away from Trixie back to the open chest, specifically the books. Trixie stopped herself from rolling her eyes. She was getting the sneaking suspicion that Twilight might possibly be a bit of a nerd. A sweet nerd nonetheless, certainly showing Trixie more kindness than she had dared hope. So, Trixie smiled back, finding the gesture surprisingly easy.

"That would be welcome." she said, before turning to the stairs. Her mind turned to the 'others' Fluttershy had mentioned. Those she had mocked and outdone on stage. The pegasus was one, and Trixie imagined that they might be even by now. Then there had been an earth pony and a rather high-spoken unicorn....

Trixie was nearly out the door when she turned to ask Fluttershy about her friends. It was then she realized she hadn't been followed. "Fluttershy?" Trixie turned around. The library was empty except for a small purple dragon shelving books in the corner. Trixie nearly startled before remembering that she had seen him in Twilight's company before. A dragon assistant? The girl had even more to boast about if she ever desired. Still, the dragon appeared to be ignoring her, and Fluttershy nor Twilight were anywhere to be seen. She headed back for the stairs, and heard  two ponies talking as she neared.

"...her whole life."

"I never would have thought..." Twilight responded. Trixie paused. She forced herself to call out through a suddenly tense throat.

"Fluttershy! Are you coming?"

"Oh!" the yellow pegasus appeared in the stairwell. She smiled up at Trixie.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay any longer?"

"I...not today. Are there not others?"

Fluttershy nodded and followed her up the stairs. They exited the library and Trixie slowed down to walk abreast of Fluttershy.

"You don't need to excuse Trixie."

"Huh?" Fluttershy blinked and then turned away, guilt clear on her face. "I-I wasn't. They, they all need to know..."

"Why? To pity Trixie?"

"They need, um, they need to know how much you've fought. How strong you are."

"I..." Trixie looked away. She drew a blank, so just let Fluttershy guide her through town. Her gaze kept sliding away from the town and back to the pink-maned pegasus that Trixie owed so much. She nearly didn't notice as Fluttershy turned to two particular ponies.

"Hah, see! Told you I could do it!"

"Yeah, but you didn' get th' clouds right!"

Fluttershy giggled, and Trixie looked over to find a familiar blue pegasus hovering nearby, arguing with a slightly less familiar orange earth pony.

"Hello Applejack, Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy's voice was so quiet, yet apparently her friends were used to picking it up and turned to her.

"Well howdy sugar...cube..." Applejack's face fell. Trixie felt the earth pony's eyes bore a hole through her.

"See, told you!" Rainbow Dash hissed, loud enough for everypony to hear. Applejack nodded, not taking her eyes off Trixie.

"Ah see it but Ah don' believe it." she approached Trixie slowly. Trixie leaned back.

"Um, Applejack was it?"

"Eeyup. Surprised you remember. Ah was only the pony you hog-tied on stage."

"T-Trixie apologizes. Trixie was only-"

"Trixie, Trixie. What, love the sound of yur own name so much y' can't bear not to hear it?" she circled around Trixie like a shark. Trixie didn't have a response.

"Well, oh Great and Powerful-"

"Stop that."

Everypony blinked and turned to the owner of these words. Fluttershy was staring at Applejack. For the first time since she had met the mare, Trixie saw Fluttershy get mad.

"Pardon?" Applejack asked, dumbfounded.

"She never meant to hurt you, Applejack. S-she told you it was a challenge. B-but she's still sorry."  Fluttershy's voice was unsteady, but she managed to keep her head up.

"Sugar, this is Trixie! Miss 'Great and Powerful' and whatnot. She brought an ursa major, er, minor-"

"How did she do it?"

"By bragging!"

"But, you, you bragged you could....you bragged you could clear your whole farm yourself."

"Th-that was different!"

"Rainbow Dash bragged to you. In the, um, the iron pony thing. Do you hate her?"

"Tha' was also different!"

"You know, AJ." Dash said, coming down to the ground. "She kinda has a point."

"Wha- not you too Dash! C'mon, where's yer loyalty?"

"I am being loyal - to Fluttershy. I don't like it either, but trust me, Fluttershy wouldn't hang out with her if she was trouble. Come on AJ."

Applejack turned back to Trixie and looked her in the eye. Trixie just blinked, unsure what to do with herself. Her instinct was to glare back at the earth pony, but she knew it wouldn't help anything. Part of her called it cowardice, but the other part claimed it to be wisdom that motivated her. In any case, Applejack snorted and turned away. She didn't stop walking, apparently finished entirely with the group.

"Hey." Dash caught Trixie's attention. "Sorry about that. Oh, and the whole puncturing-your-spleen thing. That was my bad."

Trixie chuckled. "Was it now?" she shook her head. "You were trying to protect Fluttershy. I can hardly blame you." she smiled to the yellow pegasus, which earned her a brief smile in return. Dash looked between them, curiosity showing itself on her face.

"Well...yeah, right. So no hard feelings?"

"Not really." Trixie replied. She smirked. "Maybe a little."

Apparently the brash pegasus could accept this, grinning widely at Trixie. "Heh. Don't think about getting me back. You're looking at Ponyville's number one prankster."

"Prank? Me? Why the thought never crossed Trixie's mind." she chuckled. Dash laughed back and took to the air.

"You know Trixie? You're pretty cool." with that, Dash was off. Trixie chuckled a bit more and turned to Fluttershy.

"Quite the compliment." she joked. Fluttershy's eyes were bright.

"Actually... I think she's starting to like you." Fluttershy replied. Trixie blinked.

"Really?"

Fluttershy nodded. "Dash is really cool. She's fast, and strong, and can do oh so much..."

"Alright, alright, Trixie gets it." Trixie said, surprised at her own curtness. Something about having Fluttershy talk up another pony just didn't sit right with her. Perhaps it was taking away from her own greatness, Trixie mused. Still, she could see Fluttershy had been caught off guard by Trixie's sharp tone. The unicorn's mind raced to salvage the conversation.

"I know! A new title is in order!"

"W-what?"

"Trixie the Cool! No, it doesn't have the same ring to it." Trixie joked. Fluttershy brightened and giggled. Trixie's heart warmed. It shouldn't matter to her, she told herself. So what if these ponies liked Trixie? Did she think she was going to stick around? Did she think these ponies would have more than a passing impact in her life? Her smile faded.

"Oh, except, um, Applejack..." Fluttershy said, misconstruing the source of Trixie's small frown. "But don't worry. She's just...stubborn."

"Mhm. It's not like it will matter, in the long run."

"What?"

"Trixie is already well enough to walk around town, Fluttershy, look at her. And she has bits to her name again, enough for a small wagon if I remember right. How much longer until she must leave this town?"

"...w-what about your magic?"

Trixie flinched. "Oh...yes. Trixie had almost managed to forget."

"So you'll stay?"

"A little longer, at least." Trixie admitted. Fluttershy smiled at her. Trixie felt oddly relieved by this decision. She had to remember that this couldn't last. She needed to be strong, not become any more dependent than she had already allowed herself to become. She looked around, trying to guess where they were going.

"The white unicorn. Trixie remembers her." Trixie realized aloud.

"Rarity." Fluttershy said with a nod.

"So, is it the five of you then?"

"Six. Pinkie Pie is, um, out of town. I don't think you met her. She'll be back next week."

"Oh. The six of you, all friends with one another..." Trixie shook her head. "How do any of you ever get anything done?"

"It's always...exciting." Fluttershy said with a small smile. Trixie could only imagine. It did sound...exciting. Trixie imagined what kind of antics they could get up to. It was probably up to her friends to drag Twilight out of her library most of the time. Fluttershy was good with animals... she wondered if any of the pegasus's friends had pets. They probably had to come to her for help. And Rarity, she was the fashionable one, Trixie remembered her. By Celestia, how she got along with Applejack was anypony's guess. Trixie smiled. The stories they must have...she was just interested in the stories, that was all. She wasn't envious in the slightest.

"This is Rarity's shop." Fluttershy told her quietly. Trixie looked up in surprise, unaware of how long she had been daydreaming. Trixie found the shop bright, flashy, nearly gaudy - absolutely perfect. It was like a high-class circus tent. As a showmare, she couldn't help but respect the flashy store front; it had to attract the eye of every last passerby. Fluttershy led her inside.

"Rarity?" Fluttershy called into the empty shop.

"Just a minute!" came a call from the back. Trixie looked around. The dresses on display were eloquent, all colors of the rainbow. Trixie felt pangs of desire - any money she had had gone towards mere sustenance or essentials, but with her wagon finally bought for, she had set her sights on something eloquent, something as dashing as these dresses. She wouldn't trade her hat and cape for the world, of course, but she had been sure something to play up her natural beauty would be just what she needed to take her act off the streets and to the royal court.

"Fluttershy, darling!" a white unicorn with a perfectly curled purple mane stepped out of a back room. Fluttershy walked over and greeted her friend with a quick embrace, one that the unicorn returned. Trixie raised an eyebrow. She guessed these two were closer than most.

"You're not here for that...order yet, are you?"

"No, no." Fluttershy shook her head. "Take your time. I was showing Trixie around."

"Oh yes." Rarity looked past Fluttershy. Her eyes widened and she held a hoof to her mouth, stifling a giggle.

"Excuse me?" Trixie had not expected this reaction.

"Well, glad to see someone has already received their comeuppance."

"What?"

"Your mane, dear, your mane!" Rarity started to laugh. Trixie blinked and looked up. Realizing what Rarity meant she lowered her head.

"I know." she whined. "All Trixie's beautiful locks, the years of care and careful grooming!"

Rarity stopped her laugh and gave Trixie a second look. "Why, my dear, I never knew you had such style!"

"Please! Appearance is the most important part of Trixie's show! She can hardly flash and dazzle looking like anypony."

"Oh I know! Why, I am forever trying to convince the others to put a little more care into their looks."

"Let me guess, Applejack?" Trixie asked. "Ugh! Has she even seen a brush?"

"Oh dear Celestia I've asked the same thing myself." Rarity said with a wave of her hoof. Trixie nodded.

"You know, Trixie has often thought that she could have done with something more...dazzling. She was The Great and Powerful after all. Um, is, is. Excuse me."

Rarity chuckled. "Well well. I wouldn't have imagined, but I think you and I may get along fabulously."

Trixie lifted her head, holding herself proud. She looked over and saw that Fluttershy was positively beaming, eyes closed and the cutest little smile on her face. Trixie began to smile back before a small voice in the back her head reminded her of the situation.

"Well, for the short time Trixie is here, at least."

"Oh? You'll be leaving soon? Why ever would you do that?"

"What? Trixie has no home here!"

"Are you sure about that dear?"

"What?" Trixie blinked, but Rarity just gave an enigmatic smile and turned away.

"I hate to be rude but I do have work. It's been a pleasure."

"I...what?" Trixie turned to Fluttershy. The pegasus said nothing, hiding behind her mane again. Trixie gave the pegasus a look that she ignored by turning away. Trixie had no real choice but to follow her out, shaking her head at whatever she was missing. When she left the store she found Fluttershy standing just outside, watching the sky.

"It's such a beautiful day, isn't it?" Fluttershy whispered. Trixie looked up. She was about to ask Fluttershy what she was getting at when she felt a light pressure on her side. She looked over to see Fluttershy had closed her eyes and was leaning just against her.

"Yes..." she said softly. "Yes, it is."
It's fun writing pony-pony interaction the most. AJ as an antagonist? Well of course, she is honesty incarnate. I didn't delve into everypony's thought process, but to run down, Twilight was just worried (she's friendly to a fault), Dash felt bad after breaking her rib (mostly due to Fluttershy's reaction), AJ has her honesty and her pride, and Rarity's smart enough to see Trixie's learned her lesson. Besides, forgiveness is an extension of generosity.

Chapter 5: [link]
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Chapter 3

Trixie made her way down the stairs unsteadily the next morning, feeling rested but hungry. She realized as she walked down that she was being watched. Looking around, she found a white rabbit standing on a small end table, glaring at her. It made her feel unwelcome, but Trixie just glared back at it.

"Do not mess with Trixie, rabbit, or she may make you part of her next routine."

The rabbit did not look amused. A noise distracted her, and Trixie looked up to realize the birdhouses hanging from the ceiling were occupied, small sparrows talking to one another from their houses.

"What kind of house is this?" Trixie just stared on. Another bird emerged from a larger house. It was a robin that began to whistle a tune. To Trixie's surprise, a silky voice sang back, wordlessly, in perfect key.

"Good morning- oh, Trixie!" Fluttershy entered the room from the kitchen. Trixie realized she had a light blush on her face and immediately scolded herself. Why was she blushing?

"Would you, um...like breakfast?" Fluttershy asked. Trixie frowned at the way Fluttershy kept pausing and flinching.

"You've carried Trixie, cleaned her, touched... a large part of her body... why do you still fear her? You see how...disgraceful she has become."

"I, just...I'm sorry." Fluttershy muttered, kicking at the ground. Trixie sighed.

"Trixie is...not trying to offend. She promises she is as benevolent as she is wise." she held up her head, still feeling a little of that old pride. At least until her gurgling stomach reminded her of why she had left bed to begin with.

"You mentioned breakfast, did you not?"

"Oh, yes." Fluttershy nodded. "Do you like oatmeal?"

Trixie nodded and continued down the stairs. That bunny watched her the entire time. He did not approve of her, that much was clear.

"Angel be nice. She's our guest." Fluttershy told the bunny as she passed by. The rabbit shook his head and hopped away, for which Trixie found herself unexpectedly glad. She followed Fluttershy in the kitchen and took a seat as the pegasus got to preparing breakfast.

"Trixie has been...thinking on your words last night."

"Oh?"

"Yes. Trixie... does not know what you expect of her. But she has nothing to give in return for your kindness. So, she promises to be out of your hair soon. She can leave after breakfast."

"You...want to leave? Already?"

Trixie nodded. "Trixie is a self-made pony. She does not rely on others for aid, not more than necessary. She shall pay you back one day, she swears."

"You don't have to..."

"Trixie has made up her mind." Trixie said, keeping her head high. She didn't see Fluttershy's worried glance before she got back to breakfast. She soon handed Trixie a piping hot bowl of oatmeal. Instinctively, Trixie tried to levitate a spoon for her meal.

That's a funny place to put a table leg, Trixie thought. She blinked. Everything was sideways, and she realized she could feel the wooden flooring against her side. She was being shaken lightly.

"Trixie! Oh, please wake up."

"What...what happened?" Trixie found her mouth awkward and hard to work.

"You, um, blacked out a little. Healing takes time. Please...you're not better yet."

"But Trixie is... is a self-made pony..." Trixie realized she was whining. No, not whining she told herself. Just complaining.

"You'll feel better after breakfast." Fluttershy was helping her off the floor and she hadn't even noticed. She sighed and nodded. Fluttershy got back to her meal and Trixie did the same, eating like an earth pony, much to her chagrin. The oatmeal was heavy, and she soon found herself not wanting anything after the first couple bites. She looked up to find Fluttershy watching her tentatively. The pegasus gave an encouraging nod to her. Trixie swallowed and forced herself to go back for more. She managed a half dozen bites before realizing anything more would make her sick again. She stared at the still mostly-full bowl.

"It..is time for Trixie to take her leave of you, Fluttershy."

"But..."

"No no, she shall not overstay her welcome. You...were most gracious of a host." Trixie turned away from the kitchen table. She wanted to prove that this was her comeback. That she was strong and powerful enough to return from this. As she exited the kitchen and made for the front door she heard Fluttershy trot up behind her. Trixie remembered herself and opened the door manually, rather than with magic. She looked outside; Fluttershy's hut looked out to green gardens, a winding dirt trail leading eventually to Ponyville. Trixie paused, unable to bring herself to that first step.

"Are you, um, really sure?"

"Trixie...will not be a burden."

"But...you've just had breakfast."

"Well, that is true..."

"And, it's cold in the morning."

"Trixie can feel the chill..."

"And, where, I mean if you don't mind me asking, where will you go? With, without magic?"

"Perhaps..." Trixie bit her lip. "Perhaps Trixie has not thought this through as much as she should."

"Would, would you like to stay for lunch?"

"Well, Trixie is hardly the kind to turn down such a gracious offer." she turned away from the door. She glanced to Fluttershy, who clearly had more to say. Trixie sighed and nodded.

"Would...would you like to see Nurse Redheart? I'm, um, more used to caring for animals, not...ponies." she looked guilty. Trixie looked herself over.

"You've done just fine as far as Trixie can tell."

"What about your magic?"

"Trixie...doubts any mere nurse might be able to help. Besides, Trixie simply needs her energy back."

"Oh, okay."

"So." Trixie turned to her. "What precisely does a pony do with their days when they aren't wooing crowds of ponies?"

"I, um, I take care of animals. And today's grocery day."

"Ah..."

"Would you like to spend some time in the garden? I find it very... refreshing."

"Yes? Yes, that sounds...adequate." Trixie honestly had no idea how that sounded. A bit boring, perhaps. Still, Fluttershy's smile was comforting as she led Trixie out the back door. She found that Fluttershy's home backed onto gentle hills that separated her from the Everfree forest. The tree tops were visible from where they stood, and an involuntary shiver went through Trixie at the sight of them. It would be a while before she ventured into any woods again.

"Isn't it lovely?" Fluttershy smiled, eyes on the sky. Trixie couldn't tell what she meant. It was the day, nothing special. Had the pegasus never seen the day before?

"I love to help all the little animals. But it's nice just relaxing out here too. Here." Fluttershy guided her to the crest of a hill. There she lay down straight, right on the dirt. Trixie was flabbergasted.

"And...now what?"

"You have to, um, sit and wait." Fluttershy said. Trixie frowned. This was ridiculous. She should be...her mind stalled. What? Putting on a show? Dazzling a crowd, earning her bits? In her month alone, most of Trixie's thoughts had been preoccupied on getting back at Twilight Sparkle, the mare that had so spectacularly shown up Trixie. However, without so much as a spark of her magic, it seemed a futile endeavor. Which meant that for once in her life, she had absolutely nothing to do, nowhere to go. So, Trixie lay down beside Fluttershy. She looked around for a moment, feeling out of place, an intruder to something.

"This is-"

"Sssh." Fluttershy was calming, not commanding. Still, Trixie scowled.  She wasn't sure which was more annoying, Fluttershy's timidness or the control the pegasus somehow exerted over her. Still, she quieted down. Fluttershy's eyes were skyward, and Trixie looked around.

"Here comes a friend." Fluttershy's voice was whisper quiet, Trixie looked around, not understanding what Fluttershy was getting at. There was nopony around.

"Hello there." Fluttershy said. Trixie looked back to the crazy pony - and saw a hummingbird sitting on Fluttershy's hoof. The pegasus giggled.

"And how are you today?" Fluttershy asked. The hummingbird buzzed in response. Fluttershy giggled again.

"Can you...you can't talk to them." Trixie stared at her

"I've always been able to connect with animals." Fluttershy told her, closing her eyes briefly. Suddenly a second hummingbird came by, sitting by the first. It buzzed excitedly at Fluttershy.

"Oh how cute! I'm so happy for the both of you."

"You...you're insane. Trixie has been staying with a mad mare."

"Oh, no." Fluttershy answered calmly. "They've just had eggs! Why don't you give it a try? Hold out your hoof..." Fluttershy gestured. Trixie blinked, preparing a tirade, when-

"I mean, please?" Fluttershy asked. Trixie found herself stopping and staring. Fluttershy's eyes were just so...big, so open, and in them Trixie could read hope, fear, nervousness...

"F-fine." she stammered, holding out her hoof as directed. Why did her cheeks feel so warm again? Fluttershy nodded to the hummingbirds, and one fluttered over and landed on Trixie.

"Oh, oh my." Trixie tried to hold herself still as the bird hopped about. Fluttershy giggled.

"Y-you better not make a mess on the Great and Powerful Trixie." Trixie scolded the bird, not putting any real anger behind her words. The bird responded with a tilt of its head and a happy buzz.

"Aren't birds wonderful?" Fluttershy asked. Before Trixie could respond, the pegasus whistled a small tune. Suddenly something dropped on the top of Trixie's head.

"Ahh! What is it! Did it mess up Trixie's mane? Um... any more, that is?"

"It's, it's just a robin. Come down little one, you're scaring her."

"The Great and Powerful Trixie was not - oh, wonderful." the robin fluttered off her head and next to the hummingbird. She looked over and saw Fluttershy smile at her, comforting her. Trixie found a smile on her face without understanding why.

"You're doing great. Why don't you relax, I, um, I should get going into town." With that Fluttershy stood up. Trixie felt herself panic.

"Wait, where are you going?" she convinced herself it was only because she was so unfamiliar with the animals around her. Even that made her realize how much fear seemed to rule her.

"Don't worry, they'll be fine. Be gentle." Fluttershy walked off. Trixie looked back to the birds on her hoof. One whistled at her.

"Oh dear." Trixie felt another bird land on her head.

Several minutes later, Trixie felt paralyzed. She was being treated like a lawn ornament, well over a dozen birds of all kinds on her head, her forelegs, even her back. A few had started a rousing chorus a few minutes ago. Trixie sighed. She was having a hard time relaxing with all this wildlife around her.

"You!" suddenly a voice came from above. Trixie blinked and looked up. The birds startled away.

"What are you doing here?" the voice accused. Trixie realized it was behind her, and she got up, turning around just in time for something to hit her. She cried out, feeling like she had been tackled by a raging bull, knocked clean to the ground. She looked up to find eyes like pink fire filling her vision.

"I caught you! I don't know what you're up to..." a blue pegasus with a wild rainbow mane growled at her. Trixie felt her eyes water - not only had the tackle made her side begin to burn, but the pegasus was pinning her down, stepping on her legs and belly.

"I...who...what." the sense had been knocked out from her as she stammered.

"What are you doing here? Were you sneaking up on Fluttershy? Don't you dare hurt her! You...hey, what happened to your mane?" the pegasus' fury was overcome with confusion. "Are you crying?"

"Please get off Trixie. You're hurting her." Trixie knew she was whimpering, but she couldn't help it as the pain worsened. The brash pegasus blinked.

"What...oh colt, what's wrong with you?" the pegasus looked her over. She finally fluttered off Trixie. Trixie gasped and rolled onto her side. She choked back tears, the pain not subsiding. Something inside her seemed to shift in a way she was sure it wasn't supposed to.

"Woah...you, um, okay there?"

"Fluttershy!" Trixie found herself calling the name without thinking it. "Fluttershy!" she sobbed.

"Wait..you know...um..." the pegasus looked around, backing away from the weeping, broken mare. "I-I'll go get Fluttershy."

---

Several minutes later, Trixie was still trying to stop her sniffling as Fluttershy lay an icepack over her side. She had been moved with care on to Fluttershy's couch. The pegasus turned around and looked at her rainbow-maned companion, who watched them warily. She shrunk away under Fluttershy's gaze.

"Why did you do that, Rainbow?" Fluttershy sounded more disappointed then angry.

"I-I didn't know! I thought she was going to...I don't know!"

"So...you attacked her?" Fluttershy asked. Rainbow, which was her name as far as Trixie knew, looked away.

"She didn't look bad until I got close. I was just trying to..."

"Could you please go get Nurse Redheart?" Fluttershy asked. Rainbow blinked.

"What?"

"I, um, don't know, but I think she has a cracked rib now. She's really, really weak, Rainbow. And I, I can't leave her alone. Please?"

"Okay. I'm...sorry, Fluttershy." Rainbow barely got the words out. Fluttershy shook her head. It wasn't her Rainbow should be sorry to, and everypony in the room knew it. The cyan pegasus glanced at Trixie one last time before heading for the door. Fluttershy turned back to Trixie, who had lowered her head between her hooves.

"Does it still hurt?"

"Uh huh." Trixie mumbled. "Trixie remembers that pegasus. She was right to be angry."

"But..." Fluttershy frowned. "...I..."

"Don't bother." Trixie told her bitterly. "Trixie gets it. Oh, goddesses, she gets it. Celestia must be punishing her for some transgression, though Trixie knows not. Helping her is a futile task, something will come to break the once Great and Powerful Trixie again. Apparently she deserves this." her expression was a mix of sorrow and stubbornness, part of her still refusing to give in.

"Nopony deserves this." Fluttershy whispered. Trixie looked up to see Fluttershy's eyes were wet. After all she had faced, it wasn't her aches or pains or distraught heart that broke her. It was the sight of such a gentle, caring creature so broken up that sent Trixie over the edge. She began to sob freely, weeping for herself and for everything that had happened. Her life was in tatters. She had lost everything, and for every step forward she took she was just dragged back. She couldn't take any more.

She felt a soft pressure on her face, and then over her back, around her. She blinked rapidly to clear her eyes. Fluttershy had stood up to wrap her arms around Trixie, forelegs around her neck, cheek brushing Trixie's own. Trixie paused, her mind going numb, not knowing how to react. She just lay there and felt Fluttershy around her, holding her tight. Slowly she found herself relaxing under the gentle hug, the tears beginning to dry. She resisted it at first, but the feeling was overwhelming, calmness and tranquility practically radiating from the pegasus. Trixie awkwardly guided her own forelegs around Fluttershy, bringing them to meet just above the pegasus's wings. The movement ached, but she forced herself into it. She held Fluttershy tight, afraid that otherwise the mare would vanish and Trixie would find herself truly alone again. The words she had failed to tell Fluttershy last night came to her again. She didn't hesitate this time.

"Thank you Fluttershy. Th-thank you." she whispered. Fluttershy shifted and slowly brought herself out of the hug. Trixie feared she had ruined it, that she had done something wrong. Still, she had no choice but to let Fluttershy free. The pegasus backed away.

Trixie's fears were allayed when she saw Fluttershy's face. Calm, smiling, eyes hopeful.

"Better?" she asked. Trixie nodded, despite the fact the pain was worse than ever. A blush spread across her face. The Great and Powerful Trixie did not weep, stammer, or hug random ponies. But, the thought came to her, she wasn't exactly great or powerful anymore, was she? She felt that this thought should have depressed her more than it did.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Fluttershy was at it right away.

"Oh, hello. Please come in." Fluttershy stepped aside to let in a white earth pony with a red cross cutie mark, followed by the Rainbow pegasus, and then - Trixie gasped. There she was. The purple mare that had so thoroughly ruined Trixie's whole life.

"Y-you!" Trixie forced herself to her her hooves. "You, how dare you!" she leaped from the couch, and stumbled. "The G-great and P-p-powerful Trixie will...will..." the world swam in front of Trixie's eyes. She stumbled, but as always, she found Fluttershy by her side.

"I..." she could tell it was Twilight's voice, even if her vision was too far gone for her to make out the mare. "I came when I heard Rainbow Dash searching for the nurse. Trixie...I-"

"You came to mock Trixie!" Trixie cried, gnashing her teeth. "To see how you've laid Trixie so low! What you've done to her!"

"Me? You blame...me?"

"If you hadn't...if..." Trixie leaned more on Fluttershy, aware her legs could no longer support her.

"Trixie, I didn't bring in the ursa minor. I had to protect the town! I came because I was worried about you. I always worried where you ran off without any of your things."

"You...worried?"

"Please, girls, she looks feverish." this unfamiliar voice must have come from the nurse. "Try to get her back on the couch."

Trixie felt herself lifted off her feet. She couldn't tell what was going on, and realized her eyes were full of tears. She blinked them clear as best she could, but everything remained slightly blurry. She was panting.

"Fluttershy?" she murmured. Yellow came across her field of vision and she smiled. Okay, she thought, she was safe now. With that, she closed her eyes, and her awareness of the world faded away.

---

Trixie awoke groggy, confused as to everything beyond her own name. She was distantly aware she was on her back, her eyes open. She wasn't blind, she realized, it was just very dark. An open window let in enough moonlight for her to make out details about the room once her eyes adjusted. She heard something like a sigh and looked to her right.

Fluttershy was fast asleep but sitting upright, resting on a stool beside the bed. Not fully aware of herself, Trixie reached over and brushed Fluttershy's cheek gently. It was enough to wake the pegasus up with a startled peep.

"You're awake! I was so worried." Fluttershy held onto Trixie's extended hoof. Trixie smiled.

"Am I going to die?" she asked. The idea didn't scare her, oddly. She couldn't cheat the grim reaper that long.

"N-no!" Fluttershy shook her head. "The doctor said m-malnutrition made your, um, your bones brittle. You, oh dear, had a cracked rib and were...bleeding inside." she shuddered. "They had to...they had to..." Trixie looked where Fluttershy was looking. She was on top of the sheets, letting her see her underbelly. She had fresh stitches down her side, part of her coat sheared away around it. Trixie's senses began to come back to her, and she wrenched her gaze away.

"I...I can't afford such a..."

"Um...it's okay..." Fluttershy hid behind her mane. "It's...it's paid for."

Trixie slumped her head back on the pillow, staring at the ceiling.

"No more lies." she said. "Why? You can't be that well off. You can't do this for any pony who comes by, or needs something. Why aren't I in a hospital now?"

"I.."

"Because you wanted to care for me yourself. Why? Why do you care? I-I don't understand."

She heard Fluttershy shift, and when she looked over she found her caretaker had stood up, her front hooves on the bed. She looked so scared, but after a moment gathered the courage to speak, albeit whisper quiet.

"You were so lonely. I've been friends with Rainbow for a long time, and, and I knew, when she bragged the most...she was the most scared. I knew you were scared, and...I wanted you to have a friend. I thought maybe, I...I could be..." she smiled. "Don't worry. I don't have a lot of expenses, and with everypony coming to me to take care of their pets... it was really no trouble."

"But why? What do you get out of it?"

Fluttershy smiled at her, simply and sweetly. "Kindness is its own reward. I....want to be your friend."

"Me?"

"Y-yes. You, um...you seem so strong, so brave."

"Me?" Trixie chuckled, but cut herself short with a wince as pain shot down her side. Fluttershy nodded, eyes darting to Trixie's stitches.

"You, well, never, ever gave up. How...?"

"A great and powerful amount of stupidity." Trixie said dryly. She looked away. "I'd be dead ten times over without you."

"But you would have fought."

"I have always fought." Trixie said. "Every day of my life."

"Really? Um, Trixie?"

"Yes?"

"C-could you, um, tell me? About yourself...if you don't mind..."

"What do you want to you know?"

"Oh...everything..."

Trixie took a deep breath. She was a storyteller, and had spent years talking about herself. But this was no tale of her greatness, and she had no flashy tricks or artistic flourishes to add. Still, now that Fluttershy had asked, Trixie found herself wanting to tell her.

"Trixie's earliest memories are of a small orphanage in Canterlot..." she began. A long and winding yarn unraveled from there, beginning with her childhood. Her childhood was not really that bad, the orphanage always having enough for them to eat, and there were many fillies of Trixie's age if she ever desired company. She had been neither popular nor unpopular, at least not until that fateful night. Her true story, as far as she saw it, began with the orphanage's talent show, when she had been given a small hat and cape and told, like all the other unicorns, to just do her best trick. The thrill of being in front of the other children, the way she drew power from their attention while others cowered... the discovery of this thrill as a source of her magic, the way she dazzled the small crowd with a light show that, while she now realized was no more than the magic equivalent of third-rate sparklers, had made her stand out against the lackluster levitation tricks that comprised the total of the average unicorn's talent at that age. Trixie was the first of her age group to earn her cutie mark, and in her mind it set her apart for greatness.

Next came her short adoption by an old mare of a professor, no doubt intrigued by Trixie's talents. Only, rather than nurture her talent, the old mare had simply expected Trixie to be a particularly proficient maid, not an actual daughter. This led to Trixie's isolation during her formative years, and she combatted the boredom and loneliness with the only diversion the household had to offer - books. Diving headfirst into self-education, she stole the textbooks of her 'mother' and read late into the night once her chores were finally done, discovering her great talents with spellcraft extended far beyond mere flashing lights or billowing smoke. When she felt herself of age, though she was still more of a filly than a mare, Trixie performed a very dangerous and skillful transmutation. Normal transmutations, turning a rock into a hat or whatever, would be undone if the magician's magic waned, but Trixie took a couple of items from her 'mother' and crafted for herself permanent, exact replicas of the orphanage's hat and cape, made to fit her now of course. With hat and cape around her, Trixie felt herself ready to escape from her miserable home and make her way to Hollyhoof, where surely her talent would make her a star like never before.

After a brief time hitchhiking that taught her harsh lessons about the world beyond her home, Trixie managed to arrive in Hollyhoof, barely a bit to her name despite the modest sum she had left with. There she eventually roomed with a mare that would become Trixie's first crush; a fellow aspiring actress, but one who had had the good sense to splurge for a bus ticket away from her home. Trixie had found that Hollyhoof cared less for talent than it did a pretty face with a particularly narrow middle - the back of Trixie's mind noted the irony that, more than half-starved, she probably finally fit their requirements. She had worked bit pieces, a living background to third-rate movies. Finally, she had caught her break, after arguing with another bit player had forced Trixie to show up the other pony just like she had done in Ponyville, and her flashy performance had caught the director's eye. Trixie was given a chance, told where to audition, what to say to get in, and how good her odds were. She had of course rushed home with the news, ecstatic, and slept the night fitfully as eagerness combated her desire to be at her best the next day.

When she finally awoke, of course, the remnants of the sleep spell were obvious to her. The audition had come and past. Eventually the truth would come out, as the other mare had slipped in as her, and then won the spot easily. She would get her break, as it were; a minor speaking role in a horror film, though apparently her character had died quickly enough she wasn't really noticeable. Trixie couldn't stay, their shared apartment being in the other mare's name. She gathered what few bits she had saved over rent and food, and once again abandoned everything else in the world, convincing herself that with her hat and cape, she could make the world hers. She would make them see how Great and Powerful she really was.

In time, Trixie felt the world did begin to see. She learned to dance for her dinner, setting up on street corners and panhandling, her extensive magical knowledge turned to parlor tricks to attract passerby. It was funny, to her, that her career finally took a turn for the better only when things couldn't get any worse. Small towns were always in need of entertainment, and by now an accomplished hitchhiker, Trixie began to make her rounds in the outskirts of Equestria. Eventually she made enough to rent permits at most towns, allowing her to set up in town square and really put on a performance. Within a couple years she had saved enough to buy herself a home; a small show wagon for her to travel in, even if she still had to move it herself or hire help from town to town. Finally came her arrival in Ponyville, and all Fluttershy already knew.

As she unraveled her tale Trixie felt something inside herself unwind, something she had held close to her heart for so long loosening its grip on her after all these years. Somepony finally knew, knew who she was and why she did what she did. They knew the mare behind the act. She hadn't intended it, but hadn't been able to stop it. As she finished, she saw tears dripping freely from Fluttershy's eyes, the pegasus making no attempt to wipe them away.

"You...you're..."

"Please...don't pity Trixie any more."

"I-I don't." Fluttershy told her, finally wiping her eyes. She held out her arms, just looking at Trixie and waiting for her. Trixie smiled, and inched over slowly, carefully. She held out her own arms and Fluttershy leaned in. They grasped one another in a gentle hug, resting their chin's against one another's shoulders. Trixie's smile widened and she closed her eyes. She couldn't place the feeling that swept over her, but whatever it was, she didn't ever want it to end.

"Thank you, Fluttershy. I-I am honored to call you my friend."

"Me too Trixie."

"Heh. Trixie has not been much of a friend, has she? You'll have to be patient with her."

"You're fine." Fluttershy told her. Trixie had nothing to say, so she just squeezed Fluttershy a little tighter. Fluttershy squeaked, but that didn't stop her from holding Trixie tighter as well. Trixie didn't want to let her go, but her side began to ache. Fluttershy took her signal as she let go and they detangled from one another. When the pegasus got back on her stool, Trixie could see she was blushing. Trixie leaned back and looked at her side again, her stomach turning at the surgical gash.

"It looks to be healing well." she frowned. "Was...magic used? It doesn't look fresh."

"You...um..." Fluttershy looked away, mumbling. It slowly came to Trixie what she was trying to say.

"Fluttershy...how long was Trixie out?"

"O-only, um, a day... and a half"

"It's been over a day?!" Trixie yelped, immediately wincing. "Ahh..." she studied Fluttershy's face. "You...cared for m- for Trixie all through out that?"

"I-I...yes."

Trixie just turned back to the ceiling, staring blankly up. Helpless, comatose for that long. She wondered if Fluttershy had managed to feed her - her mouth didn't seem dry, so she imagined the pegasus had at least managed to get her to drink. It was only now that she discovered her hunger, the sensation so familiar to her she was beginning to ignore it until it grew painful. She vaguely felt she should be enraged about the indignity of it all, being laid so low, yet searching her heart revealed gratitude that she had made it through. Gratitude and something she still didn't understand.

"Some of the others came by after we brought you back." Fluttershy told her. Trixie turned back to her and blinked.

"Rainbow Dash felt so, so bad. Please don't be mad at her." Fluttershy said. "And Twilight...she felt worse."

"It...wasn't her fault. Trixie understands that now."

"It wasn't your fault." Fluttershy said. Trixie smirked.

"Trixie never said it was." she quipped. Fluttershy shrunk back, her mane falling in front of her. Trixie forced herself to inch over and reached out, brushing Fluttershy's mane back.

"You shouldn't hide yourself." she told Fluttershy. "Take pride in who you are."

Fluttershy just smiled in return, but seemed honestly thankful for the gesture. Trixie could read it in her eyes. She eventually broke her gaze to look around the room, her mind turning.

"It has been some time since you've had your own bed, isn't it? Trixie shall take the couch tonight."

"Oh, no, that's quite alright..."

"No no. Trixie is your friend, and has relied on your kindness far too much." Trixie slowly got herself off the bed. Fluttershy looked as if she wanted to do something, say something, but couldn't bring herself to. Trixie got onto her legs and found herself still standing, though she did wobble a bit.

"Trixie, please..."

"Trixie shall be fine, Fluttershy." Trixie smiled. "And she'll be just downstairs, okay? You need some proper rest."

"But...okay." Fluttershy responded. "Good night."

"Good night." Trixie exited the bedroom. The hallway was nearly pitch black. Trixie felt her way along, knowing that any magic would likely end with her on the floor again. She almost tripped down the first stair, and made it cautiously after that. The main room was brighter thanks to large windows facing the moon. Trixie headed for the couch. She wasn't actually sure she could sleep, but she could feel she was low on energy. Oddly not as desperate as before; she guessed as much bed rest as she was getting was doing her a world of good. She would rest on the couch until either the day came or something else to do came to her. She glanced to the window and yelped as something moved. She made out the silhouette of a rabbit. It was the same one as before, and it was still glaring at her.

"Don't worry little rabbit." Trixie chuckled. "Trixie is relatively sure you could beat her if it came to it." she continued toward the couch and rabbit. The bunny glanced to the staircase and back to her. Trixie felt that somehow, she understood.

"Calm yourself. Trixie would never harm a hair on her head, she promises you that." Trixie said, climbing onto the couch. On second thought, maybe she could sleep after all. "She would never let any harm come to Fluttershy." she yawned. "I promise."
It's pretty obviously a ship, isn't it? Both of them are changing a little. Trixie is a character in need of redemption, or perhaps salvation. Fluttershy is just an angel (no not the bunny!)

Chapter 4: [link]
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Chapter 5

Trixie found the days passed by quickly and peacefully from there. She began to develop a routine. By the time she awoke Fluttershy was making breakfast, typically oatmeal, a warm and filing meal that started the day right. Trixie would take her mornings easy, still recuperating. She had gotten her books back from Twilight, and would review them, often in the garden if the weather held. She would then usually accompany Fluttershy into town in the afternoon, having lunch with her or just taking the chance to stretch her legs. She began to fill out little by little, her coat gleamed once more, and she regained her former energy. Only one thing stood between her and true health. That was why, nearly a week since her first visit, Trixie found herself in the Ponyville library again, Twilight Sparkle staring at her.

"Absolutely no magic?"

"None at all." Trixie shook her head. Twilight frowned.

"What happens if you try?"

Trixie shuddered. "Nausea. Trixie would rather leave it at that."

"Hmm."

"Well? Will you aid Trixie? Some book in here must-"

"There's no need. I know what it is." Twilight replied. "It's something we were all warned about in school."

"What is it? Is it curable?"

Twilight shook her head. "Trixie, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. I mean physically."

"What?" Trixie's brow furrowed.

"Almost nothing stops a unicorn's magic, short of a few poisons that you clearly don't have, as well as... you know. Even if your horn was damaged, you'd have some. The horn is a focal point for our magic, but it resides inside of us."

"what are you getting at?" Trixie asked crossly.

"It's an emotional block." Twilight turned and levitated down a book. She opened it and sent it over in front of Trixie. Trixie glared at the open page. Twilight kept talking as Trixie read along.

"Unicorn magic is a function of imagination and emotion. That's why our spells are internal, not incantations like some other magical species. Sometimes trauma victims or those with psychological ailments find themselves locked out of their own magic. Attempts to access the magic can cause a wide range of symptoms, usually depending on the trauma"

"Trixie is not crazy!" Trixie growled.

"No." Twilight said calmly. "But you nearly died of starvation, and then had to undergo emergency surgery for internal bleeding."

"Oh. Yes, that." Trixie backed down. "How does one fix it?" she awkwardly fumbled for the page with her hoof.

"Therapy, self-help...the fact of the matter is, Trixie, some part of you doesn't want to do magic. If you want to get it back, you need to identify why."

"That's...ridiculous! Trixie...Trixie is nothing without her magic! Why would she..."

"Trixie, it's okay." Twilight reached over and put a hoof on Trixie's shoulder. Trixie scowled at first, but sighed and turned her head away.

"Trixie...doesn't understand. You are sure?"

"Nothing can block a unicorn's magic, short of death or intervention from the goddesses. I... trust me, I don't think you've upset either Princess."

"Um... right, of course." Trixie replied, thinking back to her hysteria a week ago. She shrugged off Twilight, beginning to pace. "This is...disturbing to discover, Twilight." she forgot when it was she had begun to address the other unicorn on a first name basis. It had come naturally to her at some point.

"I could lend you some self-help books if you want. This is a library after all." Twilight smiled at her. "I'm sure you'll get through it. We're here to help."

Trixie nodded, trying to smile back. It was amazing how quickly she had found herself accepted into the fold amongst Fluttershy's friends. Well, for the most part - Applejack had yet to speak to her since that first day.

"Trixie won't be needing those, uh, hopefully. She will think long and hard on this, rest assured."

Twilight nodded. "Take care. Say hi to Fluttershy for me."

"Alright." Trixie took her leave of Twilight. She wandered through town with her head low, mind churning. She was interrupted by a sudden loud gasp. She looked up to see a pink earth pony staring at her. Trixie blinked and the pony was gone.

"What was-"

"Oops, forgot your invitation!" a cheery voice behind her made Trixie jumped. She turned around and found the pink pony there, an envelope in her mouth. She matched Fluttershy's description.

"Wait, are you Pinkie Pie?" Trixie asked. The pony bobbed her head, smiling with her eyes. She leaned forward, prompting Trixie to take the envelope from her.

"Wow, I thought I knew everypony who knew me!" Pinkie Pie giggled.

"Um...my name is Trixie" Trixie cleared her throat. "The Great and...oh, nevermind. Fluttershy told me about you."

"Oh yippee! I'm gone for a week and I get a new pony when I come back! Yip yip yipee!" she began to bounce around Trixie. Trixie wondered just what was meant by her 'getting' Trixie like some kind of toy.

"See you at the party!" Pinkie Pie said, having bounced behind Trixie. The unicorn turned around, but she was alone again. She looked around, but the earth pony was gone.

"Party?" Trixie fumbled the envelope open, still not used to doing things manually. Sure enough, it was an invitation to a welcome party. The place was Sugarcube Corner, and the time was tonight. Trixie's name (and title) were on the invitation.

"But when... how... " Trixie shook her head, remembering how Fluttershy had tried to describe her friend. She had assumed the pegasus's nerves had colored her description, but it looked like she had been accurate. Unsure what to do with herself, Trixie decided to head back to Fluttershy's hut.

Trixie let herself in and looked around Fluttershy's home. Angel was warding off some birds inside that were trying to get at a cob of corn the bunny was gripping tightly. The birds scattered as Trixie approached.

"Hello Angel, is Fluttershy home?" Trixie asked, used to the bunny by now. He glared at her, clutching his prize tight. Trixie laughed.

"Trixie will have her own lunch, do not fear."

The bunny nodded and pointed her to the back door before hopping off. Trixie nodded and walked out the back. She could immediately spy Fluttershy on her favorite hill, almost swarmed by squirrels. Trixie rolled her eyes as she approached, a smile on her face.

"Hello Trixie." Fluttershy greeted her. The critters parted around the unicorn, but didn't flee. If Fluttershy didn't fear her, the animals certainly weren't going to.

"Could Twilight help?" Fluttershy asked. Trixie sat down and looked away. She heard Fluttershy shift, squirrels chittering in annoyance as she displaced them.

"There there." Fluttershy held up a hoof to Trixie's face. Trixie blushed - she couldn't understand how Fluttershy did it, but she could bring a blush to Trixie's face whenever she wanted, or so it seemed.

"Twilight believes my magic is gone....because I want it to be. She called it an emotional block."

"Really?"

"It can't be true. Trixie has been a freeloader for too long. She never wanted to impose on you."

"You haven't Trixie, I promise." Fluttershy responded. It was a conversation they had had more than once over the past week. Trixie shook her head.

"You cannot lie, Fluttershy. Trixie eats your food, and sleeps on your couch. Yet you refuse her bits all the same."

"Trixie." Fluttershy shifted closer, almost right against Trixie. "I, um, it's not a bother. I'm..." she looked away. Trixie found herself becoming accustomed to Fluttershy's mumbles, and she made out her words now. "I'm glad to have you. Really."

"You are too kind, Fluttershy." Trixie found herself getting quiet. "Trixie only wishes to repay that."

"Kindness-"

"Trixie knows, she knows. Kindness is its own reward. You may convince her of that yet." she smiled at Fluttershy. This time, it was Trixie that brought a blush to the other pony's face with such a simple gesture. For a few moments, Trixie allowed the silence to hang for a few moments. She tried to study the day around her, figuring out just what made her feel so content. The sun must be doing her good, she figured. She glanced back to Fluttershy, only to find the other mare was doing the same to her. Fluttershy looked away quickly.

"Oh, and Trixie ran into Pinkie Pie." Trixie said, deciding to move the conversation along.

"She's back?"

"And already planning a party, like you said. It's a welcoming party. It looks like it's... a party for Trixie. How...?"

"She does that."

"Trixie supposes she should be honored."

"You're not?"

Trixie took a breath, and looked away. She didn't want to admit it. It was something she had never encountered before, and was a sign of how weak she felt she had become.

"You're nervous." Fluttershy said, not phrasing it as a question. Trixie closed her eyes and nodded.

"Trixie understands she is not all-loved. She is powerless to defend herself this time."

"Trixie...you're not."

"I am....imagine finding your wings had stopped working. Or...you couldn't speak with animals anymore."

"That's not what I mean." Fluttershy told her. Trixie opened her eyes to look up. Fluttershy's eyes were so warm and peaceful now.

"You have all your friends now. I...I get real scared a lot. I thought I was powerless. But with my friends..." she smiled. "I know I have ponies that care for me."

"Hmph, how lucky for you..." Trixie replied. She immediately regretted it as Fluttershy drew back, letting her hurt show. Trixie could feel it, feel a pang in her chest.

"Fluttershy, I didn't mean..." she sighed, and tried to gather herself. "Trixie... no. Listen, I know you care. I don't understand why, but I know you do. Perhaps you're the first, really. But 'The Great and Powerful Trixie' is a lone pony, a wandering mare. She always has been. You simply cannot be there for her, and we're both fooling ourselves otherwise. She must stand on her own, or fail on her own. It is the only way for her to live."

"Then... here" Fluttershy extended a wing and twisted around. She brought her head to her wing and grabbed a feather in her teeth. She jerked her head back, flinching, and the feather came free. Trixie just looked on as Fluttershy brought the feather up and placed it behind Trixie's ears, tucking it in with her short mane.

"What's that for?" Trixie asked. Fluttershy drew back and let her mane fall over her face.

"I just....now I can always be..." she blushed and ended in a squeak. Trixie paused.

"You can always be... I understand, I think. Thank you Fluttershy. Perhaps Trixie is not powerless, not now."

Fluttershy's blush deepened, as pink as her mane. Trixie almost laughed at the adorable display.

"Come, you haven't had lunch yet, had you?" she asked, heading back towards home - Fluttershy's home, she had to remind herself.

---

Trixie stepped into the Sugarcube Corner, Fluttershy right behind her. The party was already in full swing, and few noticed her entrance. Pinkie Pie must have - before Trixie knew it the party pony was upon her.

"I'm so glad you made it! I've been preparing all day! Well, I've been getting home too, and then I said hello to you, and then to gummy... I've been preparing for almost half the day! We have punch and presents and party favors and pop and ponies - as guests!" she giggled. Trixie found herself backing away.

"Yes, well....Trixie will find it all, she is sure."

"Oops, time to change the music! Be right back." Pinkie bounced off. Trixie gave a sigh of relief. She glanced to Fluttershy, then twitched her ear, feeling the feather she had kept in her mane. Reassured by the presence of both, Trixie entered the party proper.

Trixie found herself greeted by many ponies as she walked through, bringing a smile to her face. Most were fairly friendly, having seen her around town in Fluttershy's company. A few even asked her about her show, recalling that she had actually managed to dazzle and impress before the usra incident.

"Yo, Trixie!" Trixie heard a familiar voice and turned around. Dash smiled at her, but as Trixie turned to her a strange frown crossed over the pegasus face.

"Hello Rainbow Dash." Trixie said cordially. "Did you want something?"

Dash shook her head and the frown disappeared. "Nothing, I was just...hey, you seen Fluttershy?"

"Trixie left her near the punch." Trixie pointed over.

"Dash!" a third pony joined them, an orange pegasus filly. "You said you were going to have her tell that one story!"

"Oh, yeah, right." Dash said, looking distracted. "Uh, hey, Trixie, can you tell Scootaloo about the Ursa Minor? Scoots here was in Cloudsdale, I'm not real good on details."

"Me?" Trixie's eyes bulged. "You want...me. To tell that story?"

"Well Twilight is all 'oh it's not a big deal' and junk." Dash rolled her eyes.

"That story."

"Please." the filly looked up at Trixie. "Dash said it was cool."

"Listen, Trixie does not have the ti-"

"Pleeeease." the filly's eyes widened. She was just so scruffy and....adorable.

"Kid, Trixie would but-"

"Pleeeeeease." The filly's eyes filled her head. Trixie sighed.

"Fine, fine. Ahem. Trixie believes it begins with the arrival of a particularly eloquent and classy showmare..." she began to tell the story to the enraptured filly. And as she did so, a part of her she had nearly forgotten began to wake up. Trixie didn't have her spells to aid her, but she began to add life to the story with motion and tone. She gesticulated most of the time, miming the actions of the mares that had challenged her, and how they had each been defeated. She lowered her voice to add suspense as the ursa thundered into town, waking everypony up, and raised it as the ursa entered the town with a mighty roar. That part of her she had left dormant roused. Other ponies took notice. Soon she drew a crowd as she danced about, space clearing for her. She leaned in to tell the ponies of the ursa's gnashing teeth, she drew gasps as she mimed the crushing of her own wagon. The showmare inside Trixie came back to life.

"And with a surge as magic brighter than the moon in the sky, the young mage swept the ursa minor back into the forest from whence it came, never to return to the town of Ponyville! And when she turned to survey the damage she found that the showmare had already vanished into the night, not a trace of her to be seen." Trixie finished, making the crowd's eyes widen. It was a story of their own town, one they had experienced not so long ago, but in Trixie's hooves it had become something magical, something larger than life. The party had all but stopped, everypony drawn in by the tale. Suddenly, the clapping broke out. Everypony in the room clopped their hooves against the ground, applauding and whistling at her. Trixie beamed. She felt alive again.

"Thank you, thank you! You are too kind." she tried to do a flip of her hair before remembering she had no mane to flip. She chuckled to herself - no pony had minded.

"Another, another!" the filly Trixie had started the story for bounced up and down. "That was so cool!"

"Oooh, ooh! This is like, a million billion times better than the clown I was planning!" Pinkie pushed to the front. "Another story would be super! Super duper! Super duper, um, looper!" if that pony grinned any wider, Trixie thought to herself, her head was going to come apart at her mouth.

"Oh great, juss what we need. More lyin'" a voice came to Trixie's side. She looked over to see Applejack staring her down.

"Disappeared mah hoof. An' what happened to all yer boastin' in that story, hmm?"

"Trixie...always embellishes a little. She tells what's important to the story."

"Pah! Ah knew y' were just the same ole Trixie. Oh, sorry there, Great an' Powerful, right?" she glared at Trixie. Trixie backed away.

"Applejack, it's a party..." Pinkie Pie tried, looking hurt that her friend was bringing down the mood.

"It is? Oh, sorry, Ah figured it was 'listen to the snake-in-the-grass' time. Given that she can't seem t' keep her mouth shut long enough to let us ponies get along. What, saw a crowd an' ya juss had to be th' center, didn' ya?" she accused. Trixie shook her head, backing away.

"Trixie didn't-"

"Trixie, Trixie." Applejack mocked. "Maybe you could at leas' charge us to lissen to you lie, then you could stop leanin' on Fluttershy!"

"I-I'm not."

"She's too kind for her own good." Applejack growled. "Lettin' you use her like that."

"I...I..." tears brimmed in Trixie's eyes. She couldn't face this. She wasn't great and powerful, she was as worthless as the farmer pony claimed. She turned and fled, the crowd parting before her. She ran into the night, tears streaming from her eyes. Inside, Applejack snorted and nodded.

"Couldn' argue wi' the truth, could she? Glad that's...hey, anypony else feel cold all of th' sudden?" she looked around. She realized there was a wide berth around her. Confused, she looked around. Then she met a pair of expressive eyes that now conveyed an anger like she had never imagined.

---

Trixie was done crying by the time she heard another pony above her. She looked back to the open chest with all her old gear in it. What a foal she had been. She should have left town the moment she had been able to stand on her feet. This town had poisoned her. She didn't even know who she was anymore.

Muttering came from upstairs - no doubt somepony with that dragon Trixie had barged past. She had just needed to remember that she had ever once had pride, ever once been a somepony, strong and beautiful. She glanced up, and carefully brushed the feather out of her hair. She brought it in front of her and stared at it. She glanced to the chest, and back to the feather. Slowly, carefully, she placed the feather in the chest and closed the lid. She heard another pony rush down the stairs.

"Trixie!" Twilight sounded frantic. Trixie looked over, surprised. The purple mare held a hoof to her chest.  "Oh thank Celestia. You're alright!"

Trixie frowned. "What? Trixie was yelled at, Twilight, not beaten. Though that might have been more merciful... besides, what do you care?"

"What do I- Trixie, look, Fluttershy said she couldn't find you."

"Fluttershy? Did she go after me?"

"Y-yes. After she..." Twilight swallowed. "Yelled at Applejack."

"Come again?" Trixie could hear the words...they just didn't make sense.

"She yelled at her. I don't mean Fluttershy-yell. I've only seen her angry like that once before. She yelled a dragon into submission... I think this was even worse." she shuddered. "When she was done, she ran after you. She came back and said you weren't at home. She and Rainbow Dash just went back out."

"I...she defended me?"

"She was so furious at Applejack." Twilight said. "I never thought, it, she, it was worse than a Stare. It was a Glare. She... she made Applejack cry!"

"You're lying." Trixie replied, eyes wide.

Twilight shook her head. "Not to brag, but I've faced dragons, ursa minors, Nightmare Moon...I'll take all of them over Fluttershy angry. You gotta go let her know you're okay!"

"I must? No, no, of course I must!" Trixie got to her feet. All her regrets washed away at the thought of the yellow pegasus "Yes, you're right. Oh, oh my. I'm coming Fluttershy!" she rushed past Twilight. That strange feeling, stranger than nervousness to her, returned like never before. She felt like her heart was going to explode, like it wouldn't stay still in her chest. It infected the rest of her, demanding she move, demanding she not just sit in pity. Trixie rushed up the stairs and out the door, into the cool night. She found herself sure-hoofed as she ran towards Fluttershy's hut. Blood thumped in her ears, and the ground seemed to fly by underneath her. The hut came into view quickly, and moments later she burst through the door.

"Fluttershy!" she called the second she entered the house, her heart ready to leap out her throat. To her dismay, the house was dark and empty. "Fluttershy?" she tried the kitchen, took a few steps up the staircase "Fluttershy!" she peeked out the back door. Something colorful against the night sky caught her eye. She looked up, and was equal parts disappointed and relieved to see Rainbow Dash flying towards the house. She ran out to meet her.

"Rainbow Dash! Where's Fluttershy?" she asked. Rainbow cringed.

"She...hey, wait. Where's your feather?"

"What? I took it off, why does that-"

"Where?" Dash was in her face suddenly. "What did you do with it?"

"It's in a chest, in Twilight's house." Trixie said, perplexed and worried. "W-where's Fluttershy."

Dash broke eye contact. "She...thought you may have run into the woods again. We started searching but, um...we got separated?"

"She's lost?!"

"Only a little. I came back to get our friends."

"And you're worried over a feather?!"

"I..." Dash paused. Her face grew grim. "So she didn't tell you, huh?"

"W-what? How is this important?!"

"Look, you see a lot of pegasus feathers around?" Dash retorted. When Trixie just gave her a confused look she continued.

"Look, we're not birds. Our feathers grow kinda like hair, so we only molt to lose our baby down. After that, we never lose them, not much. A pegasus only gives up her feathers on purpose for two things. One, if she's gonna die she gives them to her family to remember her. Two...if she thinks she's found her soulmate, they'll trade feathers. And I don't think Fluttershy's gonna die anytime soon."

"Her...soulmate?" the blood drained from Trixie's face. Rainbow Dash nodded, completely serious.

"You don't lose that feather ever, okay?"

"I...I..."

"We need to find her." Dash reminded her. "I'm going to go to Twilight. I'll get your feather too. What are you gonna do?"

"I..." Trixie looked to the Everfree forest. The forest that had almost killed her. The forest that had trapped her like a rat. The forest Fluttershy was now trapped in.

"I'm going after her." she said.

"Uh, if we have to look for two lost ponies...."

"Don't worry." Trixie told her. "This is Trixie we're talking about." she flashed Dash a smile she didn't feel and headed towards the forest with confidence she didn't have.

At night the forest became almost pitch black, and Trixie was immediately unsure of where she was going. She looked back and there was no exit behind her, no trail even. Trixie swallowed and forced herself on.

"Fluttershy! Fluttershy?" Trixie called. Rainbow's words had nearly stopped her heart, but the urgency had returned to her and blood thumped in her ears. She didn't know where she was going, but something drove her on, an invisible thread tugged at her still. Moonlight pierced the darkness through gaps in the trees, and Trixie caught glimpses of red eyes and slithering bodies. She forced herself to ignore them and continued on.

Through another gap in the trees Trixie caught a landmark - a small rocky mountain forcing its way above the treeline. Trixie remembered that mountain - the one she had dragged herself up, half-dead, to try to avoid the beasts she now passed by. Of course, Fluttershy would think to check back there. Trixie redoubled her pace, trying to keep sight of the mountain.

"Fluttershy, Fluttershy!" Trixie began to call again as she neared the rocky ground. She stopped to catch her breath, straining to hear any response. She forced herself on, nearing the mountain. Then, as she inhaled to call again, she heard something. A long, high-pitched scream, the scream of a mare in great distress. Something inside Trixie broke at the noise.

"No! No, Fluttershy!" she rushed up the mountainside. The stone was riddled with caves, and her eyes darted around in search of the right one. Then another scream ran out and Trixie's head turned to a particularly large cave mouth just higher up than the one she had found. She galloped towards it, finding the cave grew lighter as she ran inside, not darker.

She rounded a bend in the cave and gasped, skidding to a halt. Fluttershy was in the cave, running around a mound of gems. Her mouth was opened wide as she stared up at a giant green dragon between her and Trixie, chasing after the pegasus.

"It's futile, little pest. Get back here!" the dragon roared, backing Fluttershy against a wall. Its back was to Trixie.

"F-Fluttershy!" Trixie called. The dragon turned its head and snorted gray smoke.

"Two pests in one night. At least now I'll have a decent snack."

Trixie snorted and steadied herself, staring down the dragon. "You shall not harm her." she said. The dragon blinked and laughed.

"Oh, and just what are you going to do, little pony?"

"Clearly you don't know who you're dealing with." Trixie replied, mind racing for a plan. "I feel it only fair to give you warning before it's too late." she began to casually trot around the cave edge, careful not look like she was heading somewhere.

"The Great and Powerful Trixie does not fear you, dragon. Why should she? You are hardly the most intimidating creature she has seen. Why, the beasts Trixie has faced eye to eye have had teeth larger than your tail! Perhaps you do not believe Trixie? Trixie understands, not many ponies have laid low ursa majors with such practiced ease as she." She was aware that the dragon's attention was still fully on her. "Even if you do not believe me, dragon, tell me, do you believe it worth the risk? If you so desire we can simply part, neither the worse for wear. So tell me, are dragons as wise as the stories tell?"

The dragon blew smoke through his nostrils. "So much talk. I think I'll take my chance, little pest."

"Well then." Trixie replied, "What you fail to realize is- Fluttershy run now! Run!" Trixie yelled. To her horror the pegasus just locked up in shock and stared up at her, barely shaking her head.

"Oh by Celestia's second horn..." Trixie swore. The dragon swept around in a growl, but saw his prey had remained in place. Trixie took the opportunity to run up to the dragon's tail. She pivoted on her forelegs and gave her best buck, whacking him with some force. The dragon yelped and turned around.

"Oh dear." Trixie tried to run as the dragon roared. She wasn't expecting such a large beast's tail to move with such agility. It flicked up behind her and clubbed her, sending her flying across the cave. She cried out as she hit one of the piles of jewels, dozens of gems scratching and cutting into her side. She looked up through the pain to realize she had landed near Fluttershy.

"Trixie!" Fluttershy ran over, tears in her eyes. "I, I couldn't..."

Trixie smiled, flinching as her weight caused the gems to shift and scrape her more. "I'm sorry Fluttershy. I left your feather behind."

"My...feather?"

"Rainbow told me." those words made Fluttershy's eyes widen. "I wish I had been able to repay you for everything."

Fluttershy leaned in and nuzzled against Trixie's cheek. "Kindness is it's own reward." she whispered. She pulled back and turned around.

"Touching ." The dragon chuckled. Fluttershy stood her ground. Trixie's eyes widened.

"Y-you won't hurt her. Y-you big meanie!" Fluttershy said, putting herself between Trixie and the dragon. Trixie was in awe.

"Fluttershy..." deep inside her, Trixie felt something change. It was almost like magic. Small, yet powerful, Trixie felt something inside her spark to life.

The dragon's claw swept at them. Trixie closed her eyes, her life flashing in front of her. The fighting, the loneliness, the hollow self-assurance and the lies, the anger, the bitterness...and then Fluttershy. She heard a small clink. She wasn't aware death came with a clink. Realizing she hadn't felt anything, Trixie opened her eyes. She looked up to find the dragon blinking at them, confused. His claw swept down again. Trixie kept her eyes open this time, and watched as the dragon's claw hit...something. A transparent bubble flickered around the two of them, the dragon's claw bouncing off harmlessly. Fluttershy glanced back to Trixie.

"Trixie, are you...?" she stared on. Trixie glanced up, realizing she could see light pouring from just out of sight above her. As the realization swept over her she could feel the light as well, or more aptly its source - the magic pouring freely from her horn.

The dragon raged and swung at them again and again, each time an impenetrable bubble flickering into view as his claws scratched uselessly across it. Trixie stood up, her magic still building, coursing through her body. She felt electrified, every inch of her body alive and tingling. Gemstones lodged in her side fell free as her body healed itself, sealing her wounds closed as if they had never existed. Seeing her stand apparently made the dragon angry, and with a roar he unleashed a torrent of fire upon them. Trixie was ready and gathered her magic before her. She didn't know how she was doing the bubble, but another plan brought forth gems into the shape of a shield, large enough to completely block both of them and then some. The gemstones conducted her magic, creating a truly impenetrable shield, the fire harmlessly flying off around it. Trixie furrowed her brow in concentration and began to push the shield out, push the fire back. The dragon found his fire being pushed aside, the shield nearly reaching his maw before his flame stopped.

"Fluttershy, when I say, you must run for the entrance."

"N-not, not without you."

"No, I promise we shall stay together." Trixie's horn flared brightly. The dragon gathered his breath, trying to stare them into submission.

"Now!" Trixie yelled, sending dozens of gems darting towards the dragon, making it roar in pain. Fluttershy made a break for the exit, and Trixie followed suit, hearing the dragon continue its rage. Even the gems wouldn't wound him much, but they would give him pause. She prepared for the worst and gathered even more gems in the air behind her to create a solid wall. Just in time as flame shot around the gem shield, licking the walls of the cave. Trixie had time to be glad she had no mane or tail to singe. Then she both heard and felt a slam that shook the ground beneath her feet.

"Trixie!" Fluttershy called out. Trixie looked up and saw the dragon had shook loose dozens of sizable rocks that now threatened them. Thinking quickly, Trixie brought the gemstones above them, wincing as boulders rained down. The gems wavered but her spell held as they made it out the cave mouth.

Outside, Trixie forced the gems aside before dumping the spell. She felt like she was beginning to burn up, and the cold night air was welcome.

"I see something!" she heard a shout. She forced herself to her feet and looked up.

"Dash!" she called. The pegasus pony flew through the air towards them.

"Guys, they're over here!" she called over her shoulder. Trixie looked down to see the rest of the gang was running up to them from the forest. Trixie sighed, and began to laugh. They had made it!

The sound of tumbling rock caught Trixie's attention. She turned around, the smile fading from her face. The dragon pushed his way through the small rock slide, his face scratched and bleeding.

"This has gone on long enough!" The dragon roared. Trixie heard gasps and shrieks behind her. She drew herself up and inhaled deeply, sparing a glance at Fluttershy. Eyes so worried, but so hopeful as they stared back at her. Trixie turned to the dragon. She was exhausting herself, her magic was burning her from the inside, and yet the dragon still threatened Fluttershy. Her own life didn't enter into the equation.

"You. Shall. Not. Harm. Her." her voice echoed with the magic that overflowed her body. Her eyes flashed with pure energy, and an aura of blue fire shone around her. The dragon brought up a claw high above his head. Trixie's horn flashed with light and the dragon's claw rocketed to earth. It roared in frustration and brought the other claw up. That too Trixie pinned to the ground. It flared its wings next, threatening to take to the air, or perhaps sweep them off their feet - but again, before it could act, Trixie was ready. The dragon's wing tips went down first, and despite the mighty beast's thrashing it soon found its wings pinned down, surrounded in a blue aura. The dragon roared, but Trixie responded with a flick of her horn and slammed its head into the ground in front of her. The dragon looked at her with wide eyes.

"I would like to ask you again, dragon." Trixie said, approaching it slowly, her magic shimmering wildly. "Do you really want to go through with this, or shall you return to your little cave?"

The dragon just whimpered, its jaw held shut by Trixie's magic. Trixie nodded and released him. The dragon paused, and then backed away. It turned around and headed for its cave. It glanced back, but Trixie was still watching and shot it a look. The dragon sulked away. Happy with that, Trixie nodded and turned around.

The group was all there, staring at her with expressions of pure awe. Only Rainbow Dash wasn't looking on, and she was caring to Fluttershy, who seemed to have gone into shock. Trixie felt the magic around her fade. She slowly came forward to the group.

"Trixie.." Twilight came up to her. "That was amazing!"

"Is she okay? Tell me she's okay?"

"She-"

"Fluttershy's okay." Dash approached them. "Hey. You forgot this." she reached over and took out something she had tucked into her wing. It was a single yellow feather. Twilight and the others looked on in confusion as Trixie lowered her head to let Dash tuck it behind her ear.

"Thank you." Trixie said. "I just want to say...I blub flut-flut."

"Trixie? Trixie!" Trixie heard the voice call, but her world had turned to black. She felt the cool stone against her face and sighed peacefully as unconsciousness overcame her.
Trixie IS Great and Powerful, and nopony better forget it. Also, I know the feather thing isn't original but it makes sense. Also I gave you a Trixie x Fluttershy ship so my originality quota is met.

Chapter 6: [link]
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Chapter 2

Trixie awoke slowly, feeling an odd peace about her that she hadn't felt in a long, long time. Her entire body tingled pleasantly, her muscles were entirely relaxed, and she found a smile on her face. She stretched a little and opened her eyes.

Almost immediately her mood fouled. There was less light than last time, but she could still make out the same yellow ceiling as before. She quickly remembered where she was and why. That pegasus, she had... tricked Trixie. Tricked her into accepting food and aid, Trixie realized. She wasn't sure what exactly the pegasus had done wrong. But the indignity of it infuriated her.

Trixie looked herself over and gasped slightly. Her body was more bandages than not, her legs entirely covered and several pads held to her sides with medical tape. She realized her muscles were relaxed thank to several damp clothes placed around her shoulders and hips. She shook them off and immediately regretted it, yelping as her bandages rubbed and made her aware of every cut and wound underneath. Slowly she rolled herself over to the edge of the bed. She slipped off and gingerly put her hooves on the ground. She winced but found herself still standing.

"Haha! The Great and Powerful Trixie is back in business!" she thrust one hoof towards the ceiling to punctuate her cry. Her face twitched as pain shot through her. "Ow..." she lowered her leg gingerly. Looking around, she spied a window and realized it was late in the evening, almost night time. She found the bedroom door on the other side of the bed and made her exit. If she was lucky, she would never see that sweet pegasus girl again.

"What?" she blinked at her own thoughts. That pegasus had been condescending, not sweet. She had also seen Trixie at her worst - which was still better than most ponies best, she assured herself. She needed to get out of here, her mind was still clearly addled. The door let out to a short L-shaped hallway that she navigated well enough in the low light.

She was halfway down the stairs when she heard a gentle tune being hummed. She froze in place at the sound of it. If that pegasus thought she was going to work her magic on Trixie again, she had another thing coming. Trixie's eyes darted around, trying to find where the noise was coming from, as well as how she could escape.

"Oh, you're awake!" the pegasus appeared out of a doorway Trixie hadn't been looking at, a small tray balanced on her back. Trixie's eyes widened before she caught herself. What was she, scared of this pony? This nopony? She collected herself quickly.

"Ahem, yes. It is good to see somepony knows how to give the Great and Powerful Trixie the respect they deserve." she held out a bandaged limb. "But she is no longer in need of your services."

"Oh. Would you like to stay for dinner?" the pony asked. Trixie began to reply, but her stomach beat her to the punch. She found herself blushing, embarrassed by the display of weakness.

"Trixie is a most gracious guest, and accepts your offer of tribute."

"I made you a salad."

"That is...adequate for such a rustic, ugh, 'house' such as this."

"Would you like it in bed?" the pegasus asked. Trixie just stared at her. What was with this pony? Scratch that, Trixie thought, what was wrong with herself? This was just the kind of treatment she should be getting. But she had done nothing to prove her superiority to this pony, nothing to earn this devotion. Why did this pony go to such lengths?

"Trixie is more than capable of having her dinner downstairs, thank you very much. Trixie also refuses to have her meal on anything less than pristine silverware."

The pegasus, of all things, just giggled at her. Giggled at her! She walked away through a doorway, taking the tray with her. Trixie noticed she most definitely didn't hear the sound of silverware being removed from any cupboard. She sighed and trotted down the stairs, driven mostly by her hunger.

The kitchen was as rustic as the rest of the house, a surprisingly fine yellow table cloth placed over a table more suited to a family than a single pony. In a passing thought, Trixie imagined that the pegasus must often have guests. At one place was the bowl she had seen on the pony's tray.  The pegasus was at a wooden counter at the kitchen's end, tossing a second salad as she hummed to herself.

"Well?" Trixie asked. The pegasus looked over.

"Oh, it's okay. You can start eating without me."

"Start- you- but-" Trixie stopped herself, realizing she was stammering. This pony was infuriating.

"The Great and Powerful Trixie demands, this very instant, that you-" her horn began to glow with magic, but all of the sudden Trixie felt herself lurch to the side, nausea coming over her.

"Ughh..." the world swam in front of her eyes. She heard a squeak.

"Oh, what happened? Are you alright?" she heard the pony rush up but couldn't see her.

"S-stay back!" she tried a spell again. It was an immediate mistake. The nausea overwhelmed her,  and she felt herself stumble and collapse. Only she failed to actually hit the ground, feeling something soft prop her up. The other pony had caught her.

"Hurgh!" Trixie couldn't hold back, and felt herself retch, right there in the middle of the kitchen. She emptied her stomach in a series of heaves. Her throat burned and her eyes watered. She groaned weakly and felt herself pushed gently into a sitting position.

"There there..." came a soft soothing voice. Trixie tried dumbly to look around for its source. She heard the pegasus walk around, a tap ran, and a moment later something cool pressed against her face. She felt helpless, just letting herself be wiped clean.

"What...what has become of the G-Great and P-Powerful..."

"Sssh, sssh. You're just tired. You need lots of energy to heal. Here, it's okay..." Trixie's vision began to clear. It was filled with a yellow face and wide, open eyes. Eyes that told her to relax, that everything was going to be okay. Trixie's guard was down, and she found herself relaxing under the gaze. The pegasus began to guide her away. Trixie was more than willing to leave the site of her physical weakness incarnate.

Trixie found herself guided back into the main room. She noticed a lot of things she hadn't her first time through. A pillar with a strange little track around it, carefully carved holes in the walls, and birdhouses hanging from the ceiling.

"What kind of place...oh." Trixie nearly bumped into the couch she had been guided towards. She still felt woozy, and was more than glad to take her weight off her hooves. She got on carefully, laying down on her underbelly.

"I'll be right back." the pegasus said quietly. Trixie barely registered it and just nodded. She stared at her bandaged hooves dully, feeling worse than death. She didn't even feel the seconds pass, but all of the sudden the pegasus was beside her again. A bowl of salad was placed between her forelegs.

"You'll, um, you'll feel better once you eat." she was told. Trixie nodded and bent her head down. She tugged out a lettuce leaf and slowly chewed on it, taking her time. Swallowing was a little painful, but she managed. The leaf eventually disappeared, and she went back for another, this one with shavings of carrot on it.

She was halfway through the salad before she realized she was being watched. The pegasus was just sitting there, watching her eat. Trixie felt herself coming too again as she ate and scowled at the realization.

"Trixie does not sign autographs during meals, if that's what you're wondering."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not making you, um, nervous, am I?"

"W-what! Don't be foalish. Trixie does not get nervous. You are simply making a nuisance of yourself. It's quite unbecoming."

"Oh, you mean I'm disturbing you?"

Trixie sighed. "Yes close enough. Go...eat your dinner or something, would you?"

"Oh, okay. I'll be right back." the pegasus disappeared. Trixie nearly groaned, hearing her go to the kitchen and come back a moment later. She just sat there on the floor, right next to Trixie, and began on her own salad.

"Will you not leave Trixie alone for two minutes?" Trixie asked. The pegasus looked up, seeming so worried.

"But you're still sick."

"Trixie is not..." Trixie looked away. "And just why do you care? Are you some fan of Trixie's? Trixie isn't going to wake up to find herself strapped into bed, is she?"

"Oh, no, I'd never do something like that. You just looked like you needed help."

"What?" Trixie blinked. "But why are you helping?"

Now it was the pegasus's turn to show no comprehension. "Because you needed it."

"Ugh." Trixie sighed. "Fine, if you refuse to tell Trixie, so be it."

"Um, I..." the pegasus stopped herself and fidgeted.

"What?"

"If you, um, don't mind, what happened to you? You're very...thin."

Trixie looked to her side and frowned. She knew what the pegasus was getting at. She had lost a lot of weight, in terms of both body fat and muscle definition. Only now she realized how not only was her ribcage visible, but her legs had become rather spindly. It was no wonder she could barely hold herself upright, even given how light she must have become.  

"It's, it's been a month since you left Ponyville. Have, um, you been lost the whole time?"

"Ponyville!" Trixie's eyes went wide. "We're in Ponyville?!" she leaped to her feet, eyes darting around. The pegasus was up and besides her before she knew it.

"Sssh, oh dear, please, it's okay. We're not inside the town."

"W-we're not?" Trixie felt herself gently pushed on, but it was all she needed to sit back down. A strong wind could have moved her at this point.

"I live on the edge of Ponyville. Um, are you okay?"

"You! You are from Ponyville then! You saw....that, that upstart make a foal of Trixie! No wonder you don't, don't respect her!"

"Oh, um, I, but I do respect you. I respect everypony." the pegasus drew away

"Don't lie to Trixie!" Trixie railed. "How, how could anyone respect me- respect her, after, after such an embarrassment..." she turned her head away, realizing her eyes were watering. She felt the pegasus put an arm around her.

"There there..."

"And stop treating Trixie like, like a little filly!" Trixie tried to shrug the pegasus off her. When she looked over she saw for the first time that the young mare actually looked upset.

"I, you seemed so sad..." the pegasus replied, backing away. "I'm sorry."

"Ugh. Look Trixie....stop looking at Trixie like that. Trixie just...are you crying?"

"Uh uh." the pegasus shook her head with a squeak, wiping her eye. It was the most pathetic thing Trixie had ever seen, and she found a lot of ponies pathetic.

"Look, Trixie is....oh, alright. She is... very grateful for your aid."

"Huh?" the pegasus looked up, eyes half-hidden behind her long mane.

"Trixie...does not get lost. She has also never needed to stoop such barbaric practices as the wilds demanded. She may have gone without much food that past month. She counted her last meal, oh, about a week ago."

"A whole week...." the pegasus mumbled.

"Even Great as Powerful as she is, Trixie was not prepared to fight an entire forest. She...would not have lasted much longer." finally admitting to what had happened, Trixie began to lose it. She began to shake where she sat.

"All those cold nights...every attempt to find an exit ending in confusion....the hunger..." she didn't realize she was crying until a hoof brushed away the tears. It wasn't her own. She looked over to she the pegasus just smiling at her, though her eyes were worried and sad. Trixie was amazed at how much the pegasus could convey without saying anything. She wanted Trixie to feel safe.

"S-stop that. Don't p-pity Trixie."

"I, I wasn't." the pegasus shied away. "I, um, just thought you needed some, well....kindness."

"K-kindness?" Trixie almost believed it, but shook her head. "Bah, another word for pity." She sniffed and wiped an arm across her face. She winced, having forgotten the bandages around her arms.

"But..."

"Trixie is done with her dinner." Trixie pushed the bowl away. "And requires a bath."

"Oh, well, um....okay." the pegasus turned away. Trixie slid off the couch, following some distance behind. She couldn't believe how little control she had over her emotions. The weeks had worn on her, she couldn't deny that to herself. The hunger had driven her to stupidity, that much was certain. When berries had made her sick and leaves were too bitter, she had turned to drastic measures. She had believed she had stolen a bounty from that witch-pony. They turned out to be everything that had made her sick before and more besides. If this pegasus hadn't come along....no. No more of that she told herself.

The pegasus led her upstairs and through another door in the hallway. The bathroom was small, simple, but it had a nice enough freestanding tub. There was a mirror above the sink which Trixie immediately headed for with a smile. She got up to it, and,

"Waaaah!" she reared away from the mirror in fright, making the pegasus jump.

"Oh, is there another spider? I asked them not too..."

"What, what has happened? That is not how the Great and Powerful...." Trixie stopped, slowly approaching the mirror again. Her face was gaunt, her eyes red, and her mane....by Celestia, her mane! Much of it had been torn or roughly cut, which in truth she had known, as it had gotten tangled in thick undergrowth or branches and she had had to force it free. She had promised herself it wasn't that bad, but it was jagged, uneven, and what hair remained was so dusty and dirty it looked brown instead of silver. There were enough twigs sticking out to build a bird's nest. She glanced behind her, in her horror realizing her tail was much the same.

"I, um, didn't want to do anything while you were asleep." the pegasus told her. "I have some scissors..."

"No, no, stay back!" Trixie turned around backed away from her. "Trixie will not have a hair on her mane ruined!"

"But it's already..."

"Why? Why Trixie?" Trixie shouted, hysterical. Everything began to unwind, finally. "Why did every last thing have to go wrong? First her carriage, and hat and c-cape, and that wasn't enough? What cruel goddess would go to such lengths to destroy her?  She's a showmare! Of course those stories were made up! Why did they have to....why did this have to happen...what did I do to deserve this?"

The pegasus tried to approach her, even though she looked scared out of her mind, her eyes wide. Trixie backed into a corner.

"Trixie can fix this! She's great, and powerful, a-and smart and beautiful. I-I can fix this." she strained harder than ever before, her horn glowing in a wavering blue light. Again nausea overcame her, but she tried to power through. It felt like her head was coming apart, cracking like an egg. She cried out, but kept forcing herself.

"Trixie, no! Please, no!" the voice sounded so far away. It was enough to break her concentration even so, her magic fizzling away. She lurched forward, the world spinning, and again found the other pony there, catching her and holding her up.

"Oh dear, please, the sink..."

"Trixie is f-fine..." Trixie said, forcing herself to swallow. She felt something on her back. It took her a minute to understand what was happening.

"Are you...petting Trixie?" she asked, trying to lift her head. All she got in response was a squeak, and the motion stopped.

"You do pity Trixie...." her voice wavered, "She doesn't blame you. Get the scissors."

A moment later Trixie sat there in front of the mirror, eyes dull as the pegasus snipped away almost all of her mane. Trixie found herself sniffling. She hadn't cried this much in years, and it was overwhelming. She glanced up at herself in the mirror but couldn't bring herself to watch.

Almost all of Trixie's hair came off in the end, in order to even it out the pegasus could only leave a couple inches. It made her mane quite curly, making her look younger than she really was. Apart from being dirty, the cut looked nearly professional. Her tail was likewise a silver-and-dirt tuft.

"Trixie supposes you could have done worse....ummm..." Trixie blinked. It occurred to her that she hadn't once asked for the pegasus's name, nor had it been offered.

"Oh, I'm...Fluttershy..." the pegasus smiled weakly as she guessed what Trixie was after.

"Fluttershy. Trixie doesn't remember you from her performance."

"Oh...I was there..."

"Did you know those ponies? The ones Trixie showed up?"

"They, unm..." Fluttershy backed away. "They were..." she mumbled too quietly for Trixie.

"Say that again?"

"They were my...."

"Speak up, would you!"

"They were my closest friends...." Fluttershy admitted. Trixie cringed.

"Yet...you still aid Trixie."

"Everypony deserves some kindness." Fluttershy told her gently. "Would you like that bath?"

Trixie just nodded. She couldn't think what else to do. This pony admitted she had no reason to help her, in fact it looked like she had reason to hate Trixie, yet still she timidly offered more and more. So she just watched as Fluttershy turned to the tub and got the water running. The pegasus tweaked the faucets a little before turning back to Trixie. She looked like she had something to say, but hesitated.

"What now?"

"I, um, would you like help with your bandages?"

"Oh." Trixie looked herself over. She did look like she was halfway through being mummified. Without her magic,  she could only imagine the tedium of unwrapping herself.

"Why not? You've already wrapped Trixie up once before."

"Oh, I just, since you're awake this time..."

"You mean...you're worried about Trixie's dignity?" Trixie asked, chuckling dryly. "Oh, that's rich. Hah! You- ow." Even a short forced laugh reminded Trixie of the bruises about her ribs. She rubbed her side gingerly for a moment.

"Ow, yes. A-heh..." she looked up to find Fluttershy just staring at her with a tilted head and sad, sad eyes. Trixie found she couldn't meet those eyes and, to her shame, had to look away.

"Just do it." she told Fluttershy, holding out a foreleg as she sat down. Fluttershy nodded and leaned in, getting to work. Trixie watched as her wrappings came undone, revealing a matted coat spotted with dried blood. Fluttershy pushed away the bandages and lowered to the pads around Trixie's middle. Trixie tried not to wince - where it wasn't ticklish it was sore. She had bruised herself multiple times traversing unfamiliar terrain. Then Fluttershy lowered her head even further, practically sticking herself between Trixie's thighs.

"What are you doing?!" Trixie yelped. Fluttershy just looked up at her and blinked. That was when Trixie noticed she was bandaged up to her thighs.

"Nevermind..." Trixie looked away, trying to hide her blush. Fluttershy had all the care of a professional, and soon Trixie was completely unbound. Just in time for the pegasus to turn around and turn off the taps.

"I'll go clean up." Fluttershy told her.

"Yes, why don't you...I mean, go ahead." Realizing that the pegasus pony was going to clean up her sick in the kitchen, Trixie faltered briefly. She decided to just step into the tub as Fluttershy left. The hot water stung her at first, but she began to relax as she slid into it.

"This...is luxurious. Ah, for such a hovel, that is." she was so addled by her recent ordeal that she was actually enjoying such shoddy accommodations. Surely she would be back on top in no time at all. Except...Trixie looked herself over. She was painfully thin, and even now felt quite weak. Her wounds would take days or even weeks to heal, and now her mane, her lovely mane! Even when she had been close to death, even when things had gotten grim, Trixie had had faith in herself. Things would turn around, she would pull through. Well...she had pulled through. This was it. She was weak, nearly helpless, sick and wounded. This was her big comeback. Trixie sank lower in the water.

She felt her senses dull and forced herself to stay awake. And what of that other pony, that Fluttershy? Trixie didn't understand her. Perhaps Trixie would find herself slapped with a giant bill when she could finally leave, something like that. Except...from the looks of things, the pony honestly wanted Trixie better. Perhaps she really did just care...no, that couldn't be it. She couldn't have a crush on Trixie, could she? What other motive could she have for all her kindness?

Trixie couldn't deal with that right now. Crushing or not, Fluttershy had been of great aid to her, and deep down, Trixie knew she owed the pegasus her life. So above all else, she feared getting thrown out before she could fend for herself. She'd be forced out into the cold again, or worse, be forced to face Ponyville.  For the time being she was warm and had food in her stomach, albeit not much, and for that she was grateful. She had been at death's door before. She was walking away from it now, but each step was a journey in of itself.

Trixie forced herself to relax, the water taking the edge off her fears and worries. The bath was perfect for her bruises particularly, as well as her aching muscles. She kept drifting off, forcing herself to wake up before she slipped down further in the tub. She found it surprisingly easy to just relax and not think, feeling that even thinking took more energy than she had to spare. Eventually the water cooled and she decided to get out. She carefully stepped out of the water, and

"Ooof!" her legs collapsed underneath her. She blinked, trying to figure out what had happened. It was just like before, she realized. Panic swept across her. First her magic, now this...?

"Uhm, you there! Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Oh Celestia I don't want to die."

"Trixie?" the door opened beside her. Trixie found herself whimpering.

"I can't get up. Why can't I get up?"

"Oh, you're still, um, still weak Trixie, and your muscles will be relaxed. Don't worry, you can stand, you, that is, you probably just weren't expecting it."

"O-oh. I- Trixie knew that. Y-you can help Trixie up now."

"Why don't we get you to bed. Here." Fluttershy lay down beside her. Trixie crawled over and put her hooves over Fluttershy's back. She got the feeling that the only reason Fluttershy managed to stand was because of how light a load Trixie had become. The pegasus stood up, allowing Trixie to use her as support as she stood on her back legs. She brought down her forelegs carefully, and found herself remaining standing. She stared at her hooves for a moment

"Fluttershy?"

"Hmm?"

"W-why do you aid Trixie? Really?"

Fluttershy was quiet for a moment as she exited the bathroom. It was enough time for nightmare scenarios to play themselves out in Trixie's head. Now was when she found out Fluttershy was a stalker, or charging her for every minute, or had invited the residents of Ponyville to laugh at her and this was all preparation.

"Everypony deserves some kindness. And everypony needs somepony looking after them." Fluttershy's voice was gentle, almost like a lullaby, but Trixie refused to be lulled.

"What? No they don't. Trixie has never needed anypony. She's done fine all by herself. But... does this mean you don't expect anything of Trixie?"

"Just for you to get better."

"...I don't understand. Why go to such effort?"

"Kindness is its own reward." Fluttershy said simply, her voice so quiet and soft. They had reached the bedroom, and Fluttershy helped Trixie into bed. Trixie looked around.

"This is your bed, isn't it?"

"Oh, it's fine. I like my couch a lot."

Trixie nodded and crawled under the covers. She watched Fluttershy head for the door. It wasn't until the light had gone off and Fluttershy had left that Trixie finally realized the words on her lips.

"Thank you, Fluttershy."
See what I mean about Trixie? I'm not the first, I'm not even particularly original. There's much more to her - there simply has to be. I loved making her interact with Fluttershy as well. The one pony with the patience to deal with her at her most irritable.

Chapter 3: [link]
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Taming Fire
by furor1
[Chapter 1]

[Chapter 2]

[Chapter 3, part 1]

[Chapter 3, part 2] - coming soon sometime

[Epilogue] - coming later

-------------------------------------

Chapter 1

"Twilight, there you are!" Rainbow Dash's voice came from a distance behind her.

"Hm?" Twilight said turning her head around. "Oh. Hey, Rainbow." She offered her friend a bright smile before once more facing the buffet table in front of her. She had arrived at the party at Rainbow Dash's cloud home later than the rest of her friends who had already been waiting somewhat impatiently for her. She had been held up at the library with some last minute studies and forgotten the time. On top of that she had had to tend to Cheerilee, one of the library's frequent customers, meaning she visited it more than once every few months. Only rarely did somepony come to the library to look for a book despite the fact that it had been officially reopened after Princess Luna's return over a year ago. Ponyville's school teacher was one of the few ponies in town that used the library as it was intended instead of as a location for Pinkie Pie's random parties. On that evening she had looked for a book with exercises in integral and differential calculus. She did not plan on teaching the subject at school, but had merely wanted to keep her skills fresh on that subject, an effort Twilight fully understood, even if she silently cursed that it had come to the earth pony at that particular evening. However, the library had not closed yet and with Spike already waiting with the others it was Twilight's job as the town's librarian to help Cheerilee.

Twilight's friends had needed to wait for her to cast her cloud walking spell on Applejack, Big Macintosh, Pinkie Pie and Spike and Fluttershy had not wanted to fly to Dash's home without the rest of them. She had tried to teach the spell to Rarity, but the fashion designer had only ever managed to apply it to herself. The group had then entered Twilight's balloon and set off to Rainbow Dash's house.

"How can that filly call that a 'house'?" Applejack had asked upon arrival. "Ah knew clouds always look smaller from the ground, but - wow."

"I know, right?" had come the response from a giddy Pinkie Pie. "It's more like a cloud castle!" she had exclaimed while bouncing around the group and rolling happily on the clouds. Apparently she loved the fluffy feeling of clouds on her coat.

"Oh, yes ... it is, um … rather big." Fluttershy had said looking somewhat intimidated by the structure. "Nothing like my cottage …"

Rarity had been admiring the architecture the whole time and said, "Well, I must compliment Rainbow Dash on the exterior design. The rainbow fountains go very well together with the white clouds, even if the façade seems to lack a bit of color."

"Now come on, girls," they had been interrupted by Twilight. "Let's not waste more time."

"You're one ta talk about wastin' time." Applejack had smirked at her.

"Yeah, yeah, I get it." Twilight had said and rolled her eyes. "But now we can finally party." Twilight had proclaimed, which earned her a "Woohoo, party!" from Pinkie Pie.

Casting the cloud walking spell on four ponies and a baby dragon in the evening had left her a bit hungry, so that after they had been greeted by Rainbow Dash and had had some small talk she had taken off and approached the buffet. She had been standing in front of the long table for some time, surveying all the different snacks on it, when Dash had called her.

"This is a really nice home you have up here." Twilight said as the cyan pegasus had moved to her side. "Did you build it all by yourself?"

"Hm?" Rainbow Dash looked at her slightly irritated. "Oh, yeah, all by myself," she said hastily, but then a tone of excitement entered her voice. "Hey, Twi, I wanted you to meet an awesome new friend of mine. She just got here and I wanted her to meet all of my friends."

Twilight raised her eyebrow, but did not stop scanning the buffet. "I didn't know you invited somepony else," she said. "Alright, let me just take this …" She started to levitate a small daisy sandwich towards her, but was interrupted by Rainbow Dash impatiently shoving her away from the table. She lost control of the spell and the sandwich fell to the ground and through the cloud floor.

Rainbow Dash had stopped pushing Twilight and, oblivious to her frown, called, "Hey, Spitfire." Twilight turned around and saw that Dash had taken her to the table with the heavier drinks. In front of it stood a brightly yellow pegasus with fiery orange colored tail and mane. A streak of darker yellow ran through her sunset colored tail and her short, styled up mane made her head look like it was on fire. Her cutie mark was a bolt of lightning the same color as her tail, but with red and orange flames on top of it. Spitfire turned her head around to them and revealed a large bottle of scotch in her mouth. "Oh, hi there," she said while holding the bottle with her teeth.

Twilight saw that about a fifth of the liquid in the bottle was already gone. Wow, fast drinker, she thought since there was no other pony near them. Spitfire put the bottle on the table and turned around to face them.

"Twilight Sparkle, meet Spitfire. Captain of the Wonderbolts!" Rainbow Dash announced.

"Hello." Twilight gave her a friendly smile. "Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too, Miss Sparkle." Spitfire smiled as well and offered her a hoof.

Twilight took her hoof and said, "Oh, please. My friends call Twilight, or sometimes just 'Twi'."

Spitfire released Twilight's hoof. "And you can just call me Spitfire," she replied. "Or 'Captain' if you want," she added with a small laugh.

"Hey! Dash!" a voice called to Twilight's left causing the group to turn their head in its direction. It was Applejack. "Could ya'll come over here for a second?"

Rainbow Dash groaned. "No one told me hosting a party would be that stressful." She trotted off towards Applejack. "How does Pinkie keep up with it?"

Spitfire and Twilight looked after Dash walking away muttering to herself, bemused looks on their faces. "Can I get you a drink?" Spitfire asked Twilight.

Twilight looked at Spitfire and remembered that she had had nothing to eat for quite some time and she felt still a bit on edge from her spell casting. Maybe a drink could calm her nerves a little. "Yes, please," she said. The pegasus turned towards the booze table once more and began pouring some of the scotch from her bottle into a glass.

"So, Captain of the Wonderbolts, huh?" Twilight said. "Shouldn't you be too busy to come to a party all the way out here in Ponyville?"

"Oh, I'm on vacation this week and the next," Spitfire explained through her teeth while pouring liquor from her bottle into two glasses. She put the bottle back on the table, took the glasses and held one of them in Twilight's direction.

The unicorn accepted it and levitated it towards her mouth. The burning sensation in her throat caused her to grimace, but she could already feel a certain warmth spreading through her body, relaxing her muscles and mind to some extent. She left the glass hovering next to her.

"Besides I wanted to make it up to Dash for not really spending time with her at the Grand Galloping Gala," Spitfire continued. "She had the idea to throw me a party here to introduce me to her friends in Ponyville."

"So that's why the party is here instead of somewhere in town?" Twilight asked.

"I guess …" Spitfire responded with a confused look. "Wait, what did you think the reason for this party was?"

Twilight began laughing. "Nothing, actually," she said. "If you've known Pinkie Pie for a while you learn that there doesn't need to be a reason to throw a party."

"Pinkie Pie?" Spitfire asked. "Do you mean that pink pony at the Gala that was desperately trying to have fun?"

"Hmm, hmm," Twilight hummed with her lips on her drink again. "That's Pinkie Pie," she said chuckling.

"Big mistake. Too many uptight nobles there who want to talk to the Princess and discuss politics or business with each other. Can you imagine anything more boring?" Spitfire asked her and took another mouthful of scotch. "You just don't go the Grand Galloping Gala to have fun."

"Yeah," Twilight sighed. "We found that out the hard way."

"By the way, how come those other ponies and you are even here?" Spitfire asked Twilight raising an eyebrow. "Last I heard only pegasi could walk on clouds."

"Oh, I cast a spell on them that allows them to interact with clouds just like pegasi," Twilight explained.

"Really?" Spitfire asked rather incredulously. "That's a cool trick. I didn't know you could do that."

"Oh, I can do much more than that," Twilight replied with a slight grin. "It certainly helps if your special talent is magic itself." Wait, she thought to herself, am I boasting? Why am I boasting in front of her? Twilight took another sip of her drink.

"And I guess being Celestia's personal student doesn't hurt either." She gave an amused smile towards Twilight who had a slightly surprised look on her face. "Oh, yes, Rainbow Dash already told me some things about you, although I find that Ursa Major story a bit hard to believe. I've seen an Ursa Major once. They're big, really, really big."

Twilight had put on a nervous smile, her eyes on the ground. "Well," she said, "it … was just an Ursa Minor. And it was still a baby, barely bigger than a house."

Spitfire just laughed to herself while shaking her head. "If you say so." She lifted her head again, now looking at directly Twilight with a small grin. Her eyes were moving from her face down Twilight's legs, back up again and along her purple body. "Well, I can also see that Dash forgot to mention certain ...," her eyes now rested on Twilight's rump and Spitfire winked with one of her eyebrows. "… other features," she finished in a sly tone and returned her gaze towards Twilight's eyes.

Twilight had watched Spitfire's hazel brown eyes move along her legs with slight curiosity, but the further she had seen them travel along her body the further the realization had dawned upon her. By the end of Spitfire's last words her eyes had become as big as dinner plates and she had begun to blush furiously. Oh my gosh, she thought while taking a long swig from her scotch, her eyes pointed at a far off corner of the room. Is the captain of the Wonderbolts flirting with me? What should I do? Oh, if only I had read up on that subject.

Thankfully a distraction came in the form of Rainbow Dash. "Hey, guys," she said returning to them. "Sorry it took so long. So, you girls are having fun?" She did not seem to notice the crimson color across Twilight's face.

"Oh, yes, we are," Spitfire replied with a grin. "Don't we?" She asked Twilight.

Twilight was still staring off into the distance. "Hm, hmmm," she replied with in a high pitch.

"Great!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "Now come on, I want to introduce you to my other friends. See you later, Twi."

"Yeah, see you later, Twi," Spitfire said towards Twilight in a playful voice and winked at the purple unicorn.

Twilight's blush increased in strength. She gulped, but remained silent and drank the rest of her scotch in one swig while having a slightly worried expression on her face. After Dash and Spitfire had turned to leave she watched the yellow pegasus walk over to where Applejack and Rarity were standing. Got some nice features yourself, she caught herself thinking and shook her head. The alcohol must have already overtaken part of her mind. Twilight turned around, her attention now once more on the buffet table, and started moving towards the daisy sandwiches. This is going to be one interesting party.


~*~


"So, what do you think of Rainbow Dash's newest friend?" Rarity asked into the group of three ponies around a table in Rainbow Dash's living room. She was lying on the couch while Fluttershy was sitting on a cushion with Pinkie Pie lying on the floor next to the pegasus facing the ceiling while occasionally rolling from side to side. "Spitfire, Captain of the Wonderbolts?" Rarity continued.

"I like her!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed happily from behind the table.

Rarity was laughing. "Of course you do, darling," she said. "You like everypony you meet."

"Yes, I do! I love making new friends," Pinkie replied and began rolling on the floor again.

"She's, um, nice," came Fluttershy's quiet answer. "Although a bit imposing," she said even quieter while looking at the floor in front of her.

"Twilight seems to like her, too," Pinkie Pie said looking towards the table with the stronger alcohol. The other two ponies now also turned their heads in that direction.

"They have been talking for quite some time," Fluttershy said.

"It appears they are doing more than just talking," Rarity chuckled.

Pinkie had a confused look on her face. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"Just pay attention to their body language, dear," Rarity replied.

Fluttershy was now observing Twilight and Spitfire more carefully. They were standing next to the table, Twilight supporting her head with one of her hooves on the table, her face a light red and only inches apart from Spitfire's. They were looking intently into each other's eyes, talking, smiling, nodding in agreement to each other and occasionally laughing together. "Oh," Fluttershy said blushing but with a slight grin. "Oh my …"

"Awww," Pinkie Pie exclaimed behind her and began bouncing up and down. "They're flirting!"

"Our little Twilight," Rarity mused with her head on her hooves. "Discovering romance …"

"She still seems a little drunk." Fluttershy observed the way Twilight was leaning against the table. "I doubt she'll feel all too well tomorrow," she said in a worried tone.

"Well, we should probably leave those two lovebirds their business." Rarity removed her attention from the flirting ponies and looked around the room. "Has anypony seen Applejack and Rainbow Dash?"


~*~


"Hey, Rainbow!" Applejack called from across the room.

"What is it?" Rainbow Dash asked back from the buffet table without taking her eyes off of it. The unfamiliar stress from being a party host had begun to wear on her nerves and she needed something to eat to calm down a little.

"The booze is gone."

"What?" Dash turned around and saw Applejack standing in front of a table littered with empty bottles. Some of them were tipped over with liquor slowly dripping out of them. "All of it?" she asked dubiously.

"Yup. Somepony drank'em all."

Dash sighed. "Alright, I'll go get some more." She stuffed some hayfries into her mouth and began walking towards a hallway towards the closet with the party supplies. "Oh, AJ?" she called. The farmer turned to face her. "Have you seen Spitfire anywhere?"

Applejack shook her head. "Nope. Last Ah saw'er chattin' with Twilight," she said and turned around again.

Dash looked around the room, but could not find Twilight anywhere either, so she resumed her way towards the closet. "Wonder where those two are …" she said to herself.

She arrived at the end of the hallway where the sounds of the party were only barely audible anymore and opened the door to the closet and turned on the light. In front of her on the floor were a purple unicorn and a yellow pegasus sitting on their haunches, facing each other. Next to each of them were standing two about half empty bottles of booze. The unicorn had her legs around the pegasus' neck who in turn had slung her hooves around the other one's waist, both of them pressing their lips together. They had stopped moving their heads and legs when Dash had turned the light on and both were now watching the intruder with wide eyes.

Rainbow Dash's mouth stood wide open and time seemed to have come to a halt as none of the ponies were moving, only Dash's eyes darting back and forth between the two on the floor. Only seconds later a huge grin crept onto her face before she snorted and burst out with laughter. Twilight separated herself from the pegasus and stumbled slightly away from Spitfire, who gave her a disappointed look and stood up as well, while Dash was lying on the floor, laughing hysterically. "Way to go, Twilight," she forced out between breaths and started laughing again, rolling from side to side while holding her belly with her hooves. She did not appear to stop laughing any time soon and seemed to have attracted the attention of some of the other party guests. Behind Rainbow Dash were now standing Rarity, Fluttershy and Big Macintosh, looking curiously at the scene inside the closet. The two drunken ponies were looking away from each other, Twilight's ears hanging down close to her head.

"What is going on back here?" Rarity asked after the laughter had died down.

Dash stood up and wiped tears out of her eyes. "I found them making out in the closet," she said with a hoarse voice.

"We - we weren't making out! We were, um …" Twilight stammered. Her face had turned a deep red from the alcohol and the embarrassment.

"Well …" Spitfire started and laughed nervously at the wall next to her. Her cheeks a lighter red than Twilight's, but blushing nonetheless. "Actually we … kinda were," she said.

Rainbow Dash started laughing again, quieter this time, and trotted off. "AJ and Pinkie have got to see this," she said.

"My, my, Twilight," Rarity said chuckling. "I never figured you for the impulsive type." Twilight was lying low on the ground now, eyes closed and hooves over her head.

Fluttershy was grinning towards the ground. "I'm, um … happy for you, Twilight," she said quietly, which made Twilight let out a loud groan.

"Eeyup," was the only reaction from Big Macintosh. Even he could not suppress a small smile.

"Please," Twilight said in a weighed down voice from the floor, "I just want to go home."
The first part of my Spitfire x Twilight story. I haven't found this pairing anywhere, so I decided to write it myself. This is the first story I have written since school, and the first ever I have written out of my own ambition.

Please let me know what you think about the style, if I got the characters right or whatever else you want to criticize.

Spitfire vector by :iconsierraex:
Twilight vector by yours truly

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major characters in this chapter:

- :icontwilite-sparkleplz::iconspitfireplz: & rest of mane six

shipping in this story:
- Spitfire x Twilight
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edit: changed Spitfire's reaction at the end a bit
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Itching eyes never lie, but that day Pinkie Pie stuck her hoof in the wrong one. It was, as she was about to learn, one of those very special anything-can-happen days, one of those days when the wake-up itch was in the wrong eye. She soon found the right one and gave it a vigorous rubbing, really digging her hoof in to get the itch out of there. Big brilliant blotches of pastel danced across her drunken vision as she sat up in bed and fluttered both her eyes at the room.

Somewhere in the mess of her tangled tail, under several layers of soft, warm blankets, something stirred from its rest and began poking about in earnest. Pinkie giggled as her little bed fellow nudged and napped playfully at her flank. She threw the blankets aside and pulled out the young alligator, holding it high and nuzzling its snout. "Time to wake, Gummy! My right eye is all itchy-twitchy today, and you know what that means!" The pink pony put on her widest, most toothy smile as she batted her bright blue eyes at the alligator. It looked at her and wagged its little green tail back and forth. "It's time to grab the day and shake it!" She shook the alligator gently. "To see what falls out!"

Outside the moon still cast its soft light upon the sleepy little village, but at Sugarcube Corner they had to be ready for the morning rush when everypony came to get their breakfast, and that meant getting up really early. Pinkie was always up first of all ponies. She jumped up in her bed and bounced, setting off on the large, springy mattress. With a leap and a "Weeee!" she landed elegantly upon the floor and threw open a window to the world.

"Gooood morning, Ponyville!" she exclaimed to the quiet village, scaring off a few birds who had been nesting out on the roof of the bakery. "And a happy Hearts and Hooves Day!" she added as her tummy made a low rumbling noise. The party pony giggled to herself and spun around, bounding off to the bathroom. "Today I think I'll make a cupcake, a cupcake with cherries and chocolate and little sugar hearts and …" she babbled joyously to herself as she turned on the water and poured in her favorite bubble bath.

Soon her body was submerged in the hot, sweetly scented water, with bubbles up to the tips of her ears, as she leaned back in the tub. She blew a little and sent a cloud of bubbles flying with a happy chortle. "Today is a great day. The very bestest day, in fact, because it's today!"

***

A high-pitched duet of wailing broke through the peace at the bakery.

Pinkie bounded down the hall, calling in sing-song voice. "I got it! I got it!" She opened a door and peeked inside at Pound and Pumpkin in their crib. "Aww, there there, auntie Pinkie Pie is here to wipe that frown from your faces." She trotted up to the crib and pulled up the two crying foals. "Let's get you two ready for your big day. You remember, don't you?" She smiled and put them down, tickling their tummies while she pulled out a pair of fresh diapers. "You get to spend all of today with your granny. Aren't you excited? Huh? Huh?" They giggled a little and the pink pony joined in. "Yeah, I know Mr. and Mrs. Cake are too. Now—" She changed the two foals with a skilled swiftness and bopped their noses. "Let's get you two some yummies in your tummies!"

Soon the two foals had been given their bottles and were sucking away blissfully while Pinkie waltzed around the kitchen, stirring bowls of batter and kneading dough to the tunes of her favorite baking songs. Before too long the lovely aroma of sweet bread and cakes would waft through the bakery and out into the streets of Ponyville, sure to tantalize every nose and raise the spirits of even the grumpiest of ponies.

"You're in a mighty fine mood today, deary," Mrs. Cake said with her usual warm smile as she came out into the kitchen and picked up the twins. "I sure wish I had your energy every morning."

Pinkie gave a lighthearted scoff. "Who could possibly sleep when a new day promises so many joys? That's just silly! If I could, I would never fourever sleep."

"I'm sure you wouldn't," the plump, rose-maned pony said, wanting to add that neither would anypony else. "I hope you have a fun day while we're out. Just remember to keep the place neat."

"You got it," Pinkie said with a salute. "Pinkie Responsibility Pie, remember?"

Mrs. Cake walked into the store with the twins and came back a moment later. "Oh, Pinkie, could you run down to the market and get some extra cherries? Those are always big on Hearts and Hooves Day, and I can't leave in case my mother shows up to get the twins, you know."

"Sure thing, Mrs. Cake!" Pinkie washed her hooves and trotted out the door with a tune on her lips and a purpose in mind.

***

Pinkie bounced happily down Stirrup Street on her way to the market to get the cherries for Mrs. Cake. It was still early, but the market was already alive with ponies setting up stalls and inspecting goods when she arrived. As Pinkie weaved her way across the market from stall to stall, she wondered what she might do tonight when she was on her own. Perhaps she could throw a Hearts and Hooves party and invite all her bestest friends! But … most of them already had plans for the day. She stopped at a stall and scratched her chin thoughtfully with a hoof.

A sweet mix of aromas played alluringly about her nose. She looked up at an elderly pony smiling at her from behind a small sea of leaves. "Something tickling your nose today, Miss Pie? I have fresh spearmint and sage for you, plenty of my best basil, let's see … parsley and thyme too. Oh and you do so like it hot don't you? Maybe some garlic or peppers could tempt?"

"Mmm …" Pinkie sniffed at the many fresh leaves. "You know how to tempt me, Sweet Basil!" She ran a hoof through the fresh basil and looked at the assortment of peppers both fresh and dry hanging under the roof of the stall in large bundles. A sudden craving hit her as she considered all the things she could do with such spices. She licked her lips and looked around as she heard a shy voice nearby. A light pink mane and a yellow ear peeked above the crowd near the apple stands. "Oooh, Fluttershy!" Pinkie called as she trotted across the marketplace towards the pegasus.

Fluttershy turned with a mild look of fright. The pegasus almost always had a mild look of fright on her face. "Oh, um, good morning Pinkie." She shuffled her hooves a little.

Pinkie knew Fluttershy usually spent Hearts and Hooves day alone, like any other day. It made her so sad to think about and gave her the perfect idea. "Heya, Fluttershy! So I just got this idea, you know how it is, just out of nowhere right, totally unexpected then bam!" She jumped and wrapped a hoof around Fluttershy, gesturing at the market. "There I was when I thought to myself, 'Pinkie'— that's me of course—" She giggled. " 'Pinkie,' I said, 'pasta is the thing! Pasta is good!' "

Fluttershy looked at Pinkie in bewilderment. "Um, P… Pasta?"

Pinkie nodded enthusiastically. "Pasta, Fluttershy! You're speaking to Ponyville's premiere pastaphile. Why, I make the best pasta, you didn't know?" She gasped dramatically, as if the idea only just occurred to her this very instant. In truth it was of course old news in her head. "You totally should come over tonight. I'll cook you the juiciest, spiciest pasta you've ever tasted." She held up a hoof to her lips and made a kissing sound. "The very best! Pinkie Promise!"

"Y… you want me to come over for dinner?" Fluttershy asked uncertainly.

Pinkie nodded brightly, putting on her biggest, most irresistible smile with teeth from ear to ear and eyes the size of dinner plates. Or windmills. "Uh huh! Totally!"

Fluttershy considered her hooves very closely. "For, um, pasta?"

"Pasta!" Pinkie fluttered her big blue eyes. "The best you've ever had. I guarantee it!"

"Um … oh, um, alright. Sounds … wonderful, Pinkie. I … I look forward to it."

***

Pinkie bounced through the store. "Coming, coming!" She stopped, brushed a bit of flour off her coat, and opened the door. "Oh, hey Fluttershy! You're early." She looked at the yellow pegasus standing outside, looking like a frightened squirrel in a beautiful white and light green dress. Pinkie couldn't remember seeing the dress before. "Ooh, is that a new dress?"

Fluttershy looked away. "I, um, had Rarity make it. Well, she, um, insisted, really. Said I couldn't go out in an old dress. D… do you like it? I … I hope I didn't overdo it. Did I overdo it? Should I come back later? I'm sorry!"

"Why would you come back later, silly? You're here now." Pinkie gave her a hug and a peck on each cheek before leading her inside. "And you look great! Come on in." Fluttershy blushed and followed the pink pony. The main room had been shined up and a small table for two arranged in a corner near the kitchen with a view through the window to Ponyville outside. The table was decorated with fresh tulips and two elaborate origami anteaters—Fluttershy had never seen their like—holding a tall glass each. Fluttershy couldn't help but marvel at how Pinkie had managed to create such delicate things with her hooves.

"Wow, Pinkie, this is beautiful," Fluttershy said timidly.

Pinkie giggled. "Thanks! I knew you'd like it." She pulled out a pillow for Fluttershy to sit on and poured her a glass of deep red wine with a few small rose petals in it. "I'll be right back with you. Good pasta needs tender love and care or it'll get all sad and floppy, and I promised you the best pasta!" She grinned widely and bounded through to the kitchen, the doors swinging briefly before closing behind her.

Fluttershy sat down at the table and sniffed the flowers as she waited. Pinkie certainly had put in a lot of effort to make this a wonderful evening for her. Outside two ponies walked by, lost in each others' eyes. Fluttershy watched their lips and imagined the words as the mare said something. She sighed. If only she could speak those words herself.

A strange bubbling noise from the kitchen made her look up and listen. "Um, a… are you alright in there, Pinkie?" she called through the door.

"Absolutely, no problemo," Pinkie singsonged happily from the other side. "Don't you worry yourself, the pasta's in the pot and doing fine. I'll be with you uno momento!"

"Oh, um, if you say so," Fluttershy said and fidgeted with her glass of wine as she watched the couples walk by outside. More sounds emerged from the kitchen, causing Fluttershy to lean over to glean something through the swing doors. She was balancing on her pillow, stretching her neck to see, when sudden music nearly caused her to tip over on the floor with a yelp. She managed to right herself just as Pinkie burst out through the swing doors on her hind legs, a large steaming plate balanced on her head while her front hooves were busy managing the accordion.

Pinkie grinned and leaned down next to Fluttershy, letting the plate slip off her head and onto the middle of the table between their respective seats. Pasta and wheatballs had been arranged in a spicy tomato sauce in the center, circled by bread, grated cheese, vegetables and little porcelain bowls of various extra sauces and spices. The piquant scent wafted up from the plate and prickled Fluttershy's palate as Pinkie pranced around her playing and singing.

Pinkie finished with an impressive accordion solo and plopped down on the opposite side of the table, smiling while Fluttershy turned a light pink and looked down at her hooves. If only she could get those three little words over her lips. If only she could express herself freely, but where Pinkie seemingly had no restraints at all Fluttershy was always hopelessly tongue tied.

Pinkie looked at her expectantly from across the table. Fluttershy smiled and leaned over to take a sniff of the delightful aroma. "It smells delicious," she said and picked up one end of a pasta string, slurping it up. It made a small smack with its tail end and left a streak of red sauce on her nose. She squeaked and quickly licked it off with a rosy tint to her cheeks. "I … I'm sorry! P… please excuse me."

"Bene cosė, signorina Fluttershy! Con passione!" Pinkie giggled and gestured dramatically. "Pasta should be eaten with proper passion! You're doing fine," she said excitedly, bouncing lightly with anticipation on her pillow. "So how's it taste? Good? Great? Absolutely amazing and miraculously mouthwatering, oh mamma mia!?"

"Mmm … mm …" Fluttershy licked her lips and breathed in, the flow of air over her tongue leaving a pleasantly cool sensation. "Spicy," she whispered.

"Oh, that's nothing!" Pinkie grinned widely. "I made sure the main sauce should be mild enough for anypony. I wasn't really sure how much heat you could take. Is it too hot?"

Fluttershy smiled. "I … I like it. It's, um, pleasant."

Pinkie clapped her hooves in joy. "You do? You should try the other sauces then, if you like it hot. Oooh, and the cheese, don't forget the cheese. Pasta isn't complete without cheese." She looked expectantly at Fluttershy, waiting for her to try again.

"A… aren't you hungry?" Fluttershy asked a little timidly as she dipped a wheatball in one of the special sauces and sprinkled it generously with cheese.

"I'm starving! But I made it for you, Fluttershy, and I want to see what you think. I want to know if you like what I made," Pinkie said and leaned forward expectantly. "I couldn't possibly eat before I know that my guest likes the food, now could I?"

Fluttershy smiled and gulped down the tasty, saucy, cheesy ball of wheat. The sauces were so full of flavor she almost cried. A moment later she did cry, as the flavors burst into flames upon her lips and tongue. "Oh Pinkie!" she gasped. "So … so hot!"

"Me or the sauce?" Pinkie chortled.

"Pinkie!" Fluttershy gasped in shock and turned tomato red from top to toe.

"Sorry, sorry!" The pink pony giggled innocently. She couldn't help it. "So do you like it?"

Fluttershy nodded while panting, "It's, um, really, really … good! I … I love …" she managed to say over the heat. Two little words, only one little word to go, that last little word. She was so close, "… it." She sighed.

Pinkie's joy turned supernova. "Yay! I just knew you would! I'm so excited! You're a pretty tough pony, you know? That was some pretty hot stuff there." She giggled and slurped up a string of pasta. "Mmm … delicious!"

Fluttershy smiled and returned to the plate, the pepper burning pleasantly. She was licking her lips as her ears caught a new sound from the kitchen. She looked up at Pinkie on the other side of the table, then at the door to the kitchen behind the pink pony. "Um … did you hear something?"

"Hear what?" Pinkie giggled and turned her head to look at where Fluttershy was looking. "Probably just something outside, or a mouse," she said with a smile and offered Fluttershy a refill of her glass. "Don't worry, Fluttershy."

"I … I like mice," Fluttershy said with a nervous smile. She didn't think it sounded like a mouse, unless it was a mouse who knew how to cook. But maybe Pinkie was right.

"They sneak in sometimes," Pinkie said while sprinkling a little more cheese on the pasta, and took a small mouthful. "Mmm …" She slurped loudly. "… and steal all our candy," she said with her mouth full of pasta and spicy tomato sauce.

Fluttershy admired Pinkie's lack of manners and took a mouthful of her own, her eyes still on the kitchen door and her ears alert for more sounds. She leaned over the table as she sucked up the last strands of pasta. Her attention was so occupied by the kitchen that it took her a moment to realize that her nose had bumped into Pinkie's and their lips now met in the middle of the small table. Shocked, she squeaked and pulled away, feeling very much like she would love being a tiny mouse hiding in the woodwork.

Pinkie blinked a few times, then grinned. "Heh, whoops?"

Fluttershy cursed herself for pulling back. She wanted to grab Pinkie and do it right, to leave no doubts about her feelings. She tried to summon the courage to speak the words. It should come so naturally now, they were right there on her lips … and then the seconds took them away again until it seemed way too late.

The pink pony's right eye twitched a little and the smile looked a little bothered. "Sorry," she apologized as she rubbed her eye and a loud bubbling sound from the kitchen broke the moment entirely. "Um …" Pinkie glanced at the door. "I'll just go take a look, maybe I left the stove on." She smiled and got up. "Don't worry, I'll only be a moment."

Fluttershy's shoulders sagged as she watched Pinkie disappear into the kitchen. Only a moment, but the moment had been ruined. She had been too slow, the perfect opportunity had been staring her right in the face and she had shied away and been too afraid. Always so afraid.

There was another bubbling, gurgling sound, louder this time. Pinkie came cantering back out the door and shut it behind her, her face a noticeably paler palette of pink and her smile somewhat strained.

"Is everything alright?" Fluttershy asked nervously before pulling her hooves up to her mouth to prevent a gasp, or maybe a scream. A pool of vividly scarlet and strangely bubbling tomato sauce was quickly seeping out from under the door behind Pinkie, who looked down and gave an uncertain chuckle. But Fluttershy was more focused on the long macaroni tentacles waving in the air above the pony and looking like they were in a very grabby mood.

"P… P… Pinkie … be… behind you!" she cried.

***

Pinkie bit down hard on the noodly appendage wrapping around her. It snapped with the characteristic sound of a noodle being severed, which is to say a particularly inaudible sound. "Fluttershy," she said with a steely voice. "I need you with me. Are you with me?"

Fluttershy gave a squeak of terror as more macaroni tentacles reached through the door and felt about Pinkie's head and legs. Pinkie's eyes caught hers. "I …" Fluttershy's heart flittered about in her chest. "I am with you," she said.

"Good!" Pinkie said and dove for the table, grabbing a fork between her teeth. "Grab a fork, we're going in!" She waited for Fluttershy to grab the other fork with clattering teeth, then charged through the swing doors with a battle cry, which was more like a muffled roar. Fluttershy made her own attempt and crept through the door on trembling hooves.

Fluttershy could not say she had been prepared for the sight that met her in the kitchen. There was sauce everywhere; a great big mass of pasta growing in a sea of sauce overflowing with wheatballs rolling about like huge unblinking eyes. Pinkie was already up to her flank in hot sauce and pasta al dente, sinking her teeth and fork into the noodly guts of the monstrosity. Fluttershy watched Pinkie's slick coat in the bubbling bath of tomato and licking tentacles, and for a moment she felt all warm and distracted.

"Fluttershy, I need you here with me!"

Pinkie's call for help against the growing tide of macaroni mayhem tore the pegasus out of the brief stupor. She sank a heavy lump in her throat and charged with the fork held in front of her, right into the fray with Pinkie. She fought teeth and fork against the rising waves and lashing tentacles, trying to eat her way through, but it was hopeless. For every bite she managed, all the pasta seemed to double. "Where is it all coming from?" she cried as she struggled to keep her head above the noodles and sauce.

Pinkie's head burst through the surface and gasped for air. "Keep eating!"

"It's … it's too late," Fluttershy yelled. "I can't … keep up!"

"Fluttershy!" Pinkie cried and flailed desperately against the sauce as the top of Fluttershy's pink mane disappeared under the waves. "Noooooooooo!" Pinkie yelled as she was pressed against the roof of the kitchen by the growing masses beneath her. She took a final deep breath before the last air was swallowed up. There was a groaning noise as the pasta overflowed the bakery and pressed against the walls with increasing force. A brief moment of stillness ensued, then the walls gave up and burst under the pressure. Like a tsunami of tomato sauce and pasta the monstrous mass rose and fell over the sleepy village of Ponyville.

***

When she got up that morning, Fluttershy never imagined she should be drowning in pasta and tomato sauce in the evening. It was a depressing thought as she flailed wildly in the direction she thought was up. Little did it help as she was thrown around and about among giant wheatballs in the juicy currents. She was losing her last strength and silently seeing her life flashing before her eyes just as she felt a hoof grab her own and pull. She emerged into the fresh night air with a gasp.

"Hold on, Fluttershy! I got you!" Pinkie's voice said next to her ear as she felt the other pony wrap her hooves around her chest and pull her through the saucy waves. Fluttershy wiped her eyes of tomato juice and blinked at the moonlight as Pinkie dragged her out of the sea and onto gently rocking ground. "Welcome aboard the Sugar and Spice, miss Shy!"

Fluttershy looked around and blinked several times. They were sitting on what looked like the roof of the Sugarcube Corner, sailing upon the waves of pasta and sauce. Now and then a wheatball collided with the improvised vessel and made it rock, but the ship seemed stable. "Oh Pinkie, what are we going to do?" She looked out over the flooded lands. "Ponyville must be totally covered!" And, she thought, all of Equestria couldn't be far behind.

Pinkie swung herself up upon the small balcony around the muffin-shaped tower of the Corner and held a hoof up above her eyes as she scouted towards the distance. "We must find the Master Pasta! Find him, and challenge him to a duel!"

"The, um, Master Pasta?" Fluttershy looked up at the pink pony.

"There's always a Master Pasta!"

"Um … where are we headed?"

Pinkie grinned down at her. "Balltimare, Fluttershy! The legendary City of Hot Sauce on the great Tabasco River is where we're going, and where we must find the Master Pasta!"

***

The setting sun cast a crimson glow over the great pasta sea as the Sugar and Spice neared its destination. Pinkie narrowed her eyes as she gazed at the horizon and completed a small jig on the spot. "Land ho! Chin up, Fluttershy," she said and smiled at the pegasus next to her, "the City of Hot Sauce awaits us at last."

Fluttershy wasn't entirely sure how Pinkie steered the improvised vessel. Perhaps she didn't, perhaps it seemed it had a life and destiny of its own, and they were just along for the ride. She watched as it steered towards a looming shape in the distance, a giant wheatball rising out of the mist, cut through by a river of deep red sauce. Where the river met the sea could be seen the lights of a bustling city.

"Welcome to the Tabasco River and the city of Balltimare," Pinkie said as the ship drifted slowly into the busy harbor. The party pony breathed in the aromatic breeze wafting down from the wheaty mountains. "This is the land of spices, my dear Fluttershy."

The ship landed, and the two ponies jumped off the roof onto the soft ground. Fluttershy followed behind Pinkie, giving a low eek at all the pasta ponies watching them as they passed. Pinkie didn't seem to mind them. "Alright! If I know pasta, and I do," she began, "the Master Pasta should be somewhere around …" She stopped at the entrance to a wide street and looked up and down the shops and restaurants. "… here."

"Um, where?" Fluttershy wasn't sure where to even begin.

"Let's try one of the restaurants!" Pinkie said cheerfully, her optimism unbounded as always.

"Um …" Fluttershy began. Pinkie trotted down the wide avenue and inspected a menu sign on a wall. Fluttershy followed with her eyes fixed on the pasta ponies walking behind her. "Which one? There must be hundreds."

Pinkie muttered to herself as she inspected the menu. "Where the pasta is the firmest, the sauce the thickest, and the spices the hottest ones around." She sniffed the air. "Well this ain't the place," she stated certainly and trotted once around herself before continuing down the street while following her nose.

Fluttershy continued to eye the ponies around her. She was glad that Pinkie didn't stop them to ask for directions. She couldn't place her hoof on it, but they didn't seem like ponies who would help. She nearly walked into Pinkie as the pink pony made a sudden stop with an exclamation of "Aha!" She turned down a side alley and stopped in front of a small restaurant. "Gotcha!" She looked back at Fluttershy. "You with me? Things might get stringy in there."

Fluttershy nodded with a mildly sinking feeling in her chest. Pinkie gave her a brilliant smile before bursting through the door to the small establishment. Fluttershy flittered off behind her. The restaurant was a small, cozy place with a few tables and a lot of decor. A few of the tables were occupied and all eyes were now on them, or at least on Pinkie because Fluttershy had made a little eek and taken immediate cover behind the pink pony, tail between her legs.

"We've come for the Master Pasta!" Pinkie exclaimed to the room.

A tense silence filled the place. A small party of assorted pastas sat around a corner table, larger and set off from the other tables. They were now turning to regard them. All, at least, except for the big uncooked unicorn which looked rather immobile where it sat. But the rest were turning to regard them.

Pinkie strode up to the table with the kind of social ease and confidence that only the pink pony could muster. The pastas around the table got up halfway before a noodly hoof from somewhere in the back gestured for them to sit back down. "My friends, these ponies come to talk business, and are we not business pastas I ask?" said a little fat pasta pony as the others took their seats again with a few nods of agreement. The pasta pony turned to Pinkie and Fluttershy with open hooves. "Come, sit down, and tell old Rigatoni what he can do for you."

Pinkie gave the pasta father a good once-over. "Are you the Master Pasta?"

"Perhaps, perhaps. Who wants to know?" The pasta leaned back and considered them.

"I'm Pinkie Pie, and my friend Fluttershy and I have come to challenge you to a duel!" Fluttershy gave a little squeak behind Pinkie as she was mentioned.

A murmur and many meaningful glances were shared across the room. The Master Pasta smiled a light semolina smile at them. "You want to do that now? You want to do a match now?"

"Yeah!" Pinkie said with her hooves crossed. "If we win, you leave and take all your pasta and sauce with you. Got it?"

"If, um … if that's alright with you, that is …" Fluttershy hastened to add from behind her tail.

"Ah, I see … And what if I win?" The Master steepled his noodly hooves.

"Uh, you stay?" Pinkie's certainty deflated somewhat.

"Miss Pie," The Master Pasta spoke in a disappointed voice. "You come proposing business to me, and this is all you have to offer? You offer me what I already have, what is there in such a proposal for me? Ah … but so be it. In that case I get to set the rules. It is only fair, no?"

"I guess so," Pinkie turned it over a few times in her mind. "What do you propose then?"

The Master spread his spaghetti hooves and gestured around him. "Miss Pie, Miss Fluttershy, this is Balltimare, City of Hot Sauce. It can therefore only be proper that I should propose to you a contest not of brawn or wits but of taste! We shall sample the city's delicacies and culinary specialties until one side gives up. That's the Balltimare way!"

"That's it?!" Pinkie grinned. "Let's get ready to rumble, then!"

"Um, let's … not?"

"Ah … only one last detail," the pasta father said in a tone that didn't quite instill comfort. "The matter of what is to happen in case of a stalemate. Very important. In that distant eventuality, victory goes to the establishment … that is, me. Are we agreed?"

***

"Pinkie, um, are you sure about this?" Fluttershy whispered nervously as they sat down at the table with all the suspicious looking pasta ponies looking at them.

Pinkie gave Fluttershy an encouraging nudge. "You're a tough pony, Fluttershy. You just dive right in and show that sauce who's boss! For Equestria! For me, and for your friends!"

"But … I don't like the look of this, um, pasta guy."

Pinkie looked across the table at the grinning pasta boss wiggling his noodly brows at them. There was something about the way he looked at them, she couldn't quite put her hoof on it. Pinkie narrowed her eyes and scratched her chin. "Right …"

"You fillies ready?" The Master Pasta said under his grin. "Two against one, because I am in a generous mood. Wouldn't want you to think I am not playing fair."

"Bring it, noodle face!" Pinkie slammed her hoof on the table, causing Fluttershy to squeak again. "Show us what you got!"

"Favoloso!" He clapped his tentacle hooves twice, and a pair of waiters came trotting in, carrying two plates. The waiters placed one in front of the two ponies and the other in front of the Master. "We lay the ground with good old garlic bread," he said as the scent of garlic filled the room and nearly knocked them off their pillows.

"Oh … my!" Fluttershy stared tearily at the bread in front of her.

"Rea—" the Master Pasta began, and then the bread was gone. Pinkie licked her lips and let out a burp that could have wilted an apple orchard. "—dy?" There was a moment of silence before the pasta pony picked up his own bread and ate it ponderously. "Mmm, good, good. But there is no rush, miss Pie. We might as well enjoy the food as civilized beings, no?"

Next was horse radish hors d'oeuvres. Wine was served, and the battle began in earnest as Pinkie and Fluttershy dug in. Onions followed, cheese so cheesy it tried to flee, mustard, jalapeņo relish, stuffed chillies, all supplemented with plenty of wine and all the many sauces endemic to the city; from the classic Tabasco to the fiery Habanero sauce and the immensely spicy imported rainbow sauces.

Fluttershy's hooves trembled, and her eyes ran like rivers as she fought to get the last stuffed pepper into her mouth. Her mouth was already on flames, and her breath alone could have killed a bear. Even Pinkie was panting and looking as if flames could escape any moment.

"Come on, Fluttershy, just … just that last one," Pinkie said encouragingly.

From across the table, old Rigatoni watched them with a pleased smile as he leaned back with a little cough. "Ready to give up, young fillies?"

"No way!" Pinkie stuck out her tongue at the Master and turned back to her friend. "You can do it, Fluttershy! For your friends, for me!"

Fluttershy closed her mouth around the pepper dripping five different kinds of sauce at least and swallowed it whole with a defiant glare. Her head was swimming from the wine, her lips aflame with sauce, her hooves dripping and burning brightly red. Perhaps this was how dragons were born, she thought. Perhaps a roar was expected of her … she just might incinerate the pasta.

There were a few surprised mutterings around the room as all the spectators watched the ponies soldier on. It was quite impressive to watch. The don nodded and snapped his noodles. "Looks like we're on the last dish." The waiters returned with three small porcelain bowls, just fit for a hoof. The two ponies stared at the rainbow colored sauce as the waiters very carefully set it down in front of them, one for each.

"Pinkie, it's …" Fluttershy stammered.

"I know, Fluttershy …" Pinkie stared at the thin sauce. She couldn't be seeing things, the flame was bright and clear.

"Rainbow Dragon's Bile," the don explained. "A fine and rare liquor brewed from a mix of the six hottest peppers ever grown, fermented for twenty-one years and triple distilled. Only ten bottles have ever been made. It can really burn," he said with delight as he lifted his bowl with care to demonstrate. "You blow out the flame and down it in one go before it reignites. Ready, fillies? Or shall we simply conclude our business and declare the winner?"

Pinkie scowled and lifted her bowl. No pony, or pasta, should ever say she didn't like her sauce hot! With a blow that could kill, she extinguished the flame and swallowed the few drops of liquor. Everyone in the room watched in breathless silence as Pinkie's eyes widened a little by little until they were little red lakes of tears. "Piece …" she breathed, peeling the paint off a picture on the opposite wall, "… of cake!"

"Impressive," the don said, clearly not lying. "And your friend?"

Fluttershy reached out a shaking hoof for the little bowl of liquid fire. She paused as her hooves fumbled with the bowl. "I … I can't …" Pinkie reached out to steady her hooves. Together they lifted it ever so slowly. Fluttershy looked Pinkie in the eyes. "I … can't."

The room was silent. Pinkie looked down at the little bowl and sank a fiery lump in her throat. "No pasta … beats Pinkie!" A few gasps were heard from the room as she blew out the flame and downed the second bowl too. Pinkie swayed a little, eyes like waterfalls. Then she slammed the bowl on the table and turned to the don. "Hah!"

The Master smiled and clapped his tentacle hooves. "Superb, my young fillies. Absolutely superb." He lifted his drink again. "Cheers!" The rainbow fire disappeared in a gulp. The don breathed in and sat for a while before breathing back out a little cloud of smoke. He smiled apologetically at the two ponies. "But I am afraid … ah, but we have no more to offer. You've eaten every challenge, so … we have a stalemate you see. And that means I win."

Pinkie deflated despite the fires roaring inside her. "But … but … that's not fair!"

"Miss Pie, are you calling me dishonest? I am but an honest business pasta in good standing. You made the deal yourself. You chose the price, I chose the rules, remember? And you agreed to them, fair and square, but now you want to complain?"

Pinkie looked down at her hooves in defeat. Fluttershy was still watching the little bowl with her jaw hanging slightly. She sank and looked at Pinkie. It couldn't end like this, not after they had fought so hard, not after all that Pinkie had done. The pegasus looked at their sauce-covered hooves and faces. She licked a bit of sauce off her hoof and looked up at Pinkie again. Something within her burned, and it wasn't just the explosive mixture of chili and wine. She glared at the triumphantly smirking don across the table, then back at Pinkie.

Pinkie blinked as Fluttershy grabbed her and their lips met. The pink pony's eyes widened for a second before they both lost themselves in the kiss, lips of burning coal locked and tongues of white hot flames playing. It was the hottest kiss Pinkie had ever had, laced with fire and dripping passion. For the eternity of several seconds she was in a world of pure searing passion, her sauce-covered hooves pulling Fluttershy so close they almost melted together.

"Oh, ShyShy!" Pinkie gasped in surprise as Fluttershy licked the last drops of sauce off her lips and buried her muzzle in Pinkie's neck, licking off the little drops of sauces that had escaped and dripped down the pink pony's body. Her tongue left long burning streaks in its wake and left Pinkie as soft as a noodle in her hooves.

The room was utter breathless silence as the two ponies licked up every drop of sauce and finished in another kiss. Fluttershy opened one eye to stare at the don before breaking the kiss and fixing him in her gaze. "There! Any of your pastas wanna do that with you? No?" She turned her glance around at the room, every face suddenly doing their best to look inconspicuous. "No? Well then, I guess we win!"

Pinkie gaped. The whole room gaped as Fluttershy beamed and kissed Pinkie again.

***

"What a wonderful evening." Mrs. Cake sighed at the brilliant night sky.

Mr. Cake smiled and gave her a nuzzle. "Well deserved, honey bun!"

"It was very nice of you," Mrs. Cake said as the two stopped outside Sugarcube Corner and shared a brief kiss. "And we have the rest of the night left."

Mr. Cake smiled and pushed the door open. The two stepped inside and stopped. Their eyes followed the edges of the room around, following the great seas of tomato sauce and pasta to where two very sauced up ponies lay, snuggled up by a table with several bottles of wine and even more sauces.

"Uh …" Mr. Cake stammered. "M… maybe …?"

"Yes." Mrs. Cake read his mind. "Yes, I think perhaps this is the wrong door."

"Yes, how silly of me," Mr. Cake echoed and pointed a hoof across the street to a small hotel. "I think perhaps we live at that place over there?"

They gave a quick nod at each other and hurried back out and across the street.
...and Phluttershy her Ponies a Pretty Pink

[Random][Shipping]
The mere thought of Pinkie Pie having a day where nothing happens threw wide the Pancelestial Passages to Pinksanity and produced this tall tale of culinary adventures and true love instead! -- In other words, Pinkie Pie invites Fluttershy over for pasta and wheatballs. Grab a fork and join in, the sauce is about to get real!

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Chapter 1

"There you go, Mr. Badger. You make sure you stay off that paw now." Fluttershy told the small critter in front of her, one hoof holding up a bandaged paw while the other carefully stroked it's back. The badger gave a grumpy growl in response.

"Now now, it was her vegetable garden after all. If you're ever hungry, come see me, okay?" Fluttershy responded, patient as ever. She gave the badger back his paw and the creature wandered off. Fluttershy smiled and looked around. Today was just a perfect day in her mind. The sun had warmed the hill she sat on, making it all the more comfortable as she tended to the creatures that came to her for aid. She preferred to tend to them in her hut, where she could thoroughly clean and care for any wound or problem, but many wild animals weren't all that comfortable indoors, and she did her best to accommodate them.

However, her next visitor was no small critter. A cloaked figure emerged from the Everfree forest, turning to Fluttershy once she was clear. Fluttershy watched the figure approach, her nerves steadying as she recognized the pony behind the cloak.

"G-Good morning Zecora. How are you?" Fluttershy greeted her zebra friend as Zecora reached her and threw back her hood. Zecora came into town more often now, and she and Twilight visited one another frequently, but Fluttershy still didn't know the zebra that well. Her visit certainly came as a surprise.

"A morning it is, and quite fair, but I'm afraid it is a grim mood I bear." Zecora replied. Fluttershy blinked. Zecora's words were always rather pretty, but never easy for the pegasus to follow.

"Is something the matter?" she asked. Zecora nodded.

"I am sorry to ask, but of you I need a boon. Else I fear I'll be at my wits end soon."

"A...favor? What do you need me to do?" Fluttershy was hardly somepony most went to when there was a problem. She wondered why Zecora hadn't approached Twilight, or perhaps Applejack. They always knew what to do.

"I have found my stores raided by some manner of beast. I hoped you could discover what, at the least."

"Oh, I see." That made more sense. "I, um, I guess I can help with that."

"Your eagerness gladdens my heart. How soon can you be ready to depart?"

"Oh, we can go now." Fluttershy told her. Zecora nodded, turned around, and headed down the hill. Fluttershy got up and trotted behind her. She tried to hold back a whimper as they entered the Everfree forest. Even at midday it immediately got darker around them, the trees closing in and creating a thick roof above their heads. She knew that most creatures here wouldn't hurt them. Even the manticores were friendly, if you had the right touch. But there were the dragons, and the hydra, and all the darkness... the shadows themselves menaced her now. Fluttershy had never done well with darkness.

"So long as to my side you keep near, I promise you shall have nothing to fear." Zecora told her, apparently noticing her nervousness. Fluttershy nodded, swallowed, and tried to stop herself from trembling. Zecora lived in the Everfree forest after all. Surely there was nothing to fear with such an expert guide, right? Unless a tree fell on them, or they ran into a cockatrice, or they got stuck in a bog, or got stuck in a bog when a tree fell on them and were trapped as cockatrices got to them...

Fluttershy found herself getting woozy and realized she was hyperventilating. She stopped breathing in response, only to find herself getting light-headed. Just breathe, Fluttershy, just breathe. Remember what Twilight had said about breathing.

Fluttershy was sensitive to the noises of the forest, having spent most of her life in or around such places, and was familiar with its inhabitants. She knew the call of every bird, she could hear the growl of a mongoose in the distance, she knew the tracks in front of her. It brought some level of comfort to her, when she let herself relax enough to simply absorb all this. Many critters made their home in or around the Everfree; it wasn't that long ago Fluttershy herself had gone into the forest to deliver a load of excess frogs to the nearby swamp. It gave her some small measure of comfort to know she was just as likely to run into something friendly as something not. And surely whatever had bothered Zecora was nothing more than a couple of rats that didn't understand the concept of property rights.

"And here is the place in which I abide; my stores I keep to the other side." They had reached Zecora's home, which was such an organic part of the forest that even Fluttershy hadn't noticed until they were upon it. Zecora led her around the back of her tree of a house to a sturdy wooden chest nestled against the trunk.

"None of it I shall really miss, though I do wonder what beast could have managed this." Zecora tapped a hoof on the chest. It hadn't been locked, but had been on a solid latch.

"Sometimes squirrels or raccoons get oh so curious." Fluttershy smiled in response. "They fiddle with latches and hooks, anything you can just nudge open. Locks work though." Zecora took this response in stride, simply nodding in return.

"If of my reagents they have their fill, I'm afraid they'll soon become quite ill."

"You mean this isn't food?" Fluttershy's eyes went wide. Zecora shook her head sadly and opened the chest. There were several small cloth pouches, each of a different color and labeled. Herbs and powders, Fluttershy realized, like what Zecora had used to create the poison joke cure.  Furthermore, several pouches were tumbled open and there were empty spots in the middle of a row of bags.

"What need have I to store food? The forest provides for any mood."

"Oh dear. So, they'll get sick from eating what was in here?" Fluttershy asked asked. Zecora nodded.

"Oh no! We need to, um...we should do something."

"What would you have us do?" Zecora asked. "The forest is large, and of us there are only two. I shall heed your advice and not rely on this latch, but as of the culprits we shall never catch."

Fluttershy nodded reluctantly, a sorrowful frown on her face.

"These reagents shouldn't be deadly, I think. Now why don't you stay for a drink?"

"Oh, um..." Fluttershy looked around "Maybe they didn't get far? Can I look around a little?"

Zecora nodded, and stood back, giving Fluttershy room. Some poor creature was likely out there, right now, nursing a bellyache, or worse! Fluttershy just couldn't bring herself to leave with this thought running through her head. She studied the area immediately around the chest, hoping for some sign of whatever critter had gotten into Zecora's supplies. The ground in the Everfree forest was almost always soft, bordering on boggy, and even small animals might have left prints. There was nothing right around the chest, so Fluttershy spread her search a bit more.

"Oh, that's strange. Zecora, do you wear horseshoes?." Fluttershy found a set of prints leading away from the home.

"Never in my life have I worn a horseshoe; zebras do not need them as you do." Zecora replied. She approached Fluttershy, curious, and saw the prints.

"Hmm." she frowned. "I had assumed I was raided by a beast, and quite sensibly. What kind of pony would do this is quite a mystery."

"You think somepony stole from you?" She asked. Zecora nodded, and Fluttershy realized that was the obvious answer given the evidence. Still, she couldn't imagine why anypony would steal, particularly from Zecora. Not only could nopony she was aware of use the herbs, but Zecora was always free with her supplies - take the poison joke incident for example, where she had mixed up more than enough cure for each pony even after being accused of witch craft.

"Maybe, maybe there's a reason..." Fluttershy mumbled. She found herself slowly following the tracks, and Zecora followed behind. In addition to all else, she found herself wondering where the pony could be headed. The hoofprints followed a tiny path, more of a natural gap in the trees than any real trail, farther into the forest. She was so engrossed by the tracks that she ignored all else around her, not noticing as she got higher and the ground got rockier.

She eventually lost the tracks, prompting her to look up at her surroundings. She turned to Zecora, who looked perplexed and intriged. She was at the base of a small mountain, the trees giving out as the ground became solid rock. She looked up and could see natural caves in the mountain side, one in particular right in front of her, a shallow slope leading straight to its mouth. Surely there wasn't somepony living here? Zecora made her home in the forest, that was true, but...a cave?

"Does, does anypony else live around here?" she asked. Zecora shook her head.

"There is no place for ponies upon this rocky shelf; as far as I know, it is only myself."

Cautious, scared but curious, Fluttershy began up the rocky path, unsure of whether she wanted Zecora to be right or wrong. She was several steps up when she heard a low groan. It made her lock up, afraid it was some angry beast she had just annoyed. But then she recognized the groan as that of a pony. She had heard a lot of such moans after the infamous 'baked bads' incident.

"Um, is, is somepony there?" she called out as best she could. The groan stopped short. Fluttershy thought she heard a gasp.

"H-hello?" she tried again, taking a step closer.

"G-go away! There's no one here!" came a reply. Fluttershy squeaked, stepping back instinctively. However, something about the voice made her frown. She recognized it, but couldn't place it. She turned, to find Zecora's brow furrowed. The zebra nodded for Fluttershy to continue, giving her some reassurance.

"Are you, um, are you okay?" she walked forward. "Did you, were you, um, the one-"

"Be gone! Uh, umm..." she heard a zap, and suddenly smoke billowed from the cave. Fluttershy nearly ran before Zecora caught her.

"Oh that was a bad idea..." the voice groaned. Fluttershy swallowed and tried to stop her shaking.

"Those are the sounds of a pony in distress." Zecora said lowly. "Let us get to the bottom of this mess." Fluttershy nodded, turning slowly back around. She knew Zecora was right, even if whoever it was clearly wanted to be left alone.

"A-Are you alright?"

"Please...." the voice was so strained. Fluttershy forced herself up towards the cave, Zecora on her heels. Whoever was in the cave coughed again but said nothing more. Fluttershy reached the cave mouth.

"Hello?" she blinked, unable to make out much in the dim light. A figure near the back wall coughed.

"I-I command you to leave! Nopony is allowed to see me like this..." the voice finally clicked in Fluttershy's mind.

"Trixie...?" she stepped inside the cave, eyes adjusting to the light. It was in fact the blue unicorn. Her mane and tail were torn rat's nests, she was covered in scratches and gashes, and her ribs were visible. It was hard to imagine, but the pony's cutie mark identified her as the showmare that had come to and left Ponyville a month ago.

"Leave..." Trixie groaned, panting. Fluttershy could hear the other pony's stomach growl, and the once proud unicorn winced, eyes tearing up. Her head slumped down against the ground.

"Trixie!" Fluttershy rushed to her side. She was out cold, her breathing pained and ragged. "Oh, um...don't worry! Z-Zecora!"

---

"Mmm, the Great and Powerful Trixie approves..." Trixie moaned. She felt so warm and comfortable, and hung peacefully between sleep and wakefulness. In her mind she was getting a spa treatment, an expert young mare filing her hooves gently until they would gleam as she rested on a mountain of pillows.

"Masseuse next." Trixie ordered, half-asleep. She heard a squeak. Why, the spa girl must be timid. Trixie smiled; she loved them cute and innocent. Then, suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her hoof that distorted the illusion.

"Ow!"

"Oh, sorry. I, um, just need to get the splinters out." the voice made Trixie finally wake up. She opened her eyes, immediately shutting them again as the light attacked her poor retinas. Groaning, she tried again, slowly peeking out from behind her eyelids.

She was on something soft, a bed she guessed, feeling what was no doubt a pillow beneath her head. She was on her back, looking up at a yellow ceiling. She was very comfortable, but too confused to enjoy the sensation. She turned her head to look around, immediately wincing as she began to feel her aches and pains again. She forced herself to ignore this, and as she looked she found another pony at her side, sitting on a stool and holding up Trixie's right foreleg. A yellow pegasus with a long pink mane that hid half her face.

"You!" Trixie accused. "Who are you? What are you doing?" she tried to tug her hoof away. She was so weak that it barely twitched in the other pony's grip.

"Oh, I'm sorry! I had to get them out before they got infected. I, um, I'm afraid some already are..."

Trixie groaned. The pegasus used a pair of tweezers she held in her teeth to pluck out another splinter. Trixie looked at it, eyes widening. It was bigger than a toothpick!

"What happened?" Trixie asked with a groan. She felt more dead than alive.

"Zecora said you tried to eat her ingredients. You, um, poisoned yourself a little... I keep a lot of medical supplies, so we brought you here."

Trixie began to say something, but remembered what the pegasus was talking about, at least partially. "Right, the witch-pony." she frowned. "Trixie was...not in top shape at the time. She rightfully assumed that the witch kept food, not... whatever that was. What a silly pony."

"She's, um, a zebra...actually..." the pegasus shrunk away at Trixie's frown.

"Well, while the Great and Powerful Trixie appreciates being pampered, she has had quite enough of this. She shall be leaving now." she looked to the pegasus, waiting for her response. The pink-maned pony just gave a worried glance, but nodded.

"...aren't you going to argue with Trixie?" Trixie asked, a little hesitant. The pegasus shook her head.

"Well." Trixie huffed. "Good to see somepony with some good sense. The Great-" she struggled to get onto her side, wincing at every movement, "and Powerful-" the pegasus stepped aside as Trixie got off the bed, her eyes watering, "Trixie does not- woah." she fell down where she stood. She groaned, trying to lift herself from the floor, but found she couldn't support her own weight. A horrible, sharp pang of hunger made her cry out a little. She looked up to see the pegasus standing over her, watching her with such open eyes. Trixie looked away.

"Would you, um, like some lunch first?" the pegasus asked. Her voice wasn't mocking or sarcastic like Trixie expected. She was asking that in all honesty. Trixie was astounded.

"...the Great and Powerful Trixie would like that, yes." she admitted, not looking back at her caretaker. The pegasus trotted away, just leaving Trixie on the floor. Trixie looked around from her low vantage point. It was a tidy, sunny room, as far as she could make out. Almost disgustingly cute, all yellows and greens with rustic wood accents, like she had stepped into the home of spring itself.

Trixie's thoughts were interrupted by a small clatter. She blinked as she found a bowl of soup in front of her. She looked up to see that pegasus pony smiling at her sweetly, having come back while Trixie had been distracted. Trixie looked back to the soup warily, then forced herself to lean forward. She put her lips to the bowl and began to drink. The soup was so warm, and felt so good.

"It's, it's okay. You don't need to cry."

Trixie stopped drinking and looked up at her crossly. "What are you talking about? The Great and Powerful Trixie does not..." she blinked and felt a streak of wetness down her face. She gingerly brought one hoof to her face and it came away damp.

"The Great and Powerful Trixie would prefer to eat alone." she said curtly.

"Won't you need help getting back into bed?"  

"Hmph. The Great and Powerful Trixie is more than capable than taking care of herself."

"Oh...okay." Once again, where Trixie expected argument she got only quiet acceptance from the pony. She disappeared, and though Trixie couldn't see it, she heard a door closed.

Alone, Trixie got back to her soup. She felt more tears come and didn't have the will to hold them back. It felt so long since she had eaten, even longer since she had eaten anything substantial. The forest had seemed endless and thick whenever she had searched for an exit, but barren and full of hatred for her whenever she searched for food. There was no grass, the undergrowth smothered by the thick canopy. What leaves she had found had been bitter; berries had almost always been brightly colored and dangerous, and what wasn't clearly poisonous was usually scarce, such as a hoofful of foreign nuts or a patch of grass. It was as if the forest itself was evil; it had not just nearly starved her, but had grabbed at her legs and sides, it had tore her mane and tail, it had taunted her at every turn. So yes, she would allow herself to cry, just this once.

She drained the soup astoundingly quick, her throat sore as she gulped down the hot broth. She tilted the bowl up, getting every drop. Her belly felt bloated and painful, but she wouldn't trade the feeling for anything in the world. Surely now, she figured, she could get to her feet. She tried twice before it dawned on her that all the soup had done was to make her heavier. She looked to her forelegs in frustration and realized she was bleeding from around her hooves, where the underbrush had always cut her worse and thorns and splinters had stuck in her. There were layers of pain to feel in that moment, from the dull ache of her muscles to the sharpness of cuts to the exquisite agony inside her. She was going nowhere.

"Um...you there! Pony! The Great and Powerful Trixie demands you come this instance!" she called, trying to lean to where she believed the door to be. She heard no response.

"Do you hear me? Come already! ....please?" she wavered. She heard the door click. She managed to look over and see the pegasus approach her.

"Do you need any help?"

Trixie scowled. "The Great and Powerful Trixie has decided, in her infinite benevolence, to indulge you for a while longer. You are now free to return to pampering me."

"Oh. Do you, um, want me to help you into bed?" The pegasus asked, acting as if she hadn't heard a word Trixie had said. Trixie scowled and looked away.

"...that would be acceptable." she muttered. She heard the pegasus trot around and suddenly felt a nudge in her side. She winced.

"Careful!" she shouted. She got no response, and the pony continued to nudge her. Confused, she tried to lift herself, as she assumed she was being prompted. Then she felt the other pony's head go underneath her. She found herself being lifted over the pegasus's back, briefly carried like a sack of grain. The pegasus turned to the side and lifted Trixie onto the bed. Trixie wriggled her way onto her back, placing her head back on the pillow. She looked at her hooves hanging in the air and frowned.

"You may continue the pampering now." she told the pegasus. The other pony just nodded calmly and got her tweezers out again.

"G-gentle now!" Trixie prompted, remembering how much it had stung before. The yellow pony closed her eyes briefly and nodded. Trixie found the gesture demeaning. She was being...coddled.

"D-don't go getting ideas, you, you...commoner!" Trixie tried to sound intimidating. "Trixie is still great and powerful! If you had been what she had been through, you....ahhh....would not have even survived!" she found herself yawning. The weight in her stomach was beginning to settle, and her meal was sapping what little energy she had left as she began to digest it.

"Sleep would be good for you, you know." the pegasus said, managing to keep the tweezers in the side of her mouth as she spoke. She inched them back into position and leaned in. Trixie bit her lip as she felt something on her leg begin to leak. The pegasus just sighed and got off her stool.

"Hmph, I'm sure that's just what you want. The Great and Powerful Trixie at your....ahhhm, mercy." the pegasus came back with a washcloth in her mouth. She began to dab at Trixie's hoof. It came away with a small bloodstain, along with something disturbingly green. The pegasus was beginning to hum something gentle.

"What are you doing? The Great and Powerful Trixie is wise to your tricks."

The pegasus put down the washcloth, and to Trixie's surprise, began to sing.

"Hush now, quiet now, It's time to lay your sleepy head..."

"What? Are you seriously singing?"

"Hush now, quiet now, it's time to go to bed..."

"The Great and...ahmm....is not some filly to be sent-"

"Drifting off to sleep, leave the sun and day behind you..."

"Stop...ahhm, stop that right....now..."

"Drifting off to sleep, let the joy of daylight find you..."

"Great and....powerful....mmmmm." Trixie's eyelids were closed, and her breathing slowing down. She slowly fell asleep, the pegasus waiting for the sound of a snore before carefully getting back to work.
Another fic. Not on the schedule, but once I got to writing it I couldn't stop. It's a ship fic with Trixie yet not with Twilight. Crazy, right? Trixie's words don't come as easily as some ponies, but her personality was pretty solid, and I felt it was open to exploration.

Amazing editing provided by The Letter J :iconthe-letter-j: (makes it sound like Sesame street is endorsing me)

Chapter 2: [link]

Edit: Something I meant to address is Trixie's starvation: Imagine your average person in a city, born and raised in New York City, or London, or wherever, and throw them into a swamp in Louisiana. That's kind of what I feel happened here. Zecora, a local, knew how to feast on the land, but Trixie was clueless and ended up nearly poisoning herself several times over.
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On top of the tallest tower of Canterlot, Princess Luna stood and watched over the sleeping Equestria. A gust of cold wind ruffled her starry mane and rustled her feathers, sending a strange chill into the body and soul of the dark alicorn. It reminded her of the piercing cold of the starry voids beyond the Sun and the Moon, where nightmares lurked and brooded, seeking an opening into the world. The princess raised her head and listened to the wailing of the wind. "This will be a difficult night," she murmured, a severe expression on her face.

- - -

Applejack sweats as she turns and bucks at the tree. Instead of the satisfying thud of a solid impact, and the welcome patter of falling apples, she hears just a muffled thump. She sways on her hooves, feeling weak and out of breath, and turns to look. The tree is full of apples, red and fat and ripe almost to the point of spoiling, but not a single one has fallen.

She grimaces and wipes her brow with her fetlock. It's stifling hot in the orchard, and the hot air is dead and still, but the leaves are not still; the trees are whispering behind her back, laughing at her weakness.

She looks anxiously off towards the shade where her family lies; it's not any cooler in there, but at least the hostile glare of the sun is off their eyes. They are looking worse and worse, thin and tired and worn out. Big Mac stirs slightly, shooing away the flies that are swarming around Applebloom's face. Her little sister hasn't eaten anything for days, and she's growing too weak to drive the vicious insects away herself.

Applejack tears her gaze away from them and picks up the empty baskets beneath the tree. They feel heavier than the full bushels of apples she's carried in the better days as she staggers towards the next tree with its mocking crop of juicy apples, ripe for the harvest, ready to be sold or eaten.

Again she places the baskets beneath the tree, turns around and bucks. Again, she hears nothing but a weak thump, and the dry, mocking rustle. Her family is dying, and she can't do the one thing that could save them. Biting back her cry of anguish, Applejack kicks again, and again...

- - -

Pinkie Pie is getting worried. She's been sitting behind the counter at Sugar Cube Corner since the morning, and there hasn't been a single customer! A look at the clock tells her that the lunch hour is at hand, and if nothing else, at least Derpy should be dropping by to buy her muffins. What's even stranger is that nopony has walked past the windows either. She cranes her neck to look through a different window, but there's again nopony there.

She calls to Mr. and Mrs. Cake, telling that she'll leave the counter for a moment, but there is no reply from the kitchen. Pinkie frowns; she realizes that she hasn't seen her employers in a while, either. She enters the kitchen. It's spotless clean, with no sign of either the Cakes or their foals.

Starting to feel anxious, Pinkie checks the office and the storage room and the Cakes' apartment: all are empty. She races up the stairs to her little apartment in the attic. It's empty and dusty, her personal things are all gone, and so's Gummy!

Feeling really weirded out now, Pinkie runs back downstairs and out into the street, ignoring the dust and cobwebs in the store and the stale lumps of dried pastries behind the grimy glass. The street is empty, too, and the houses around her are dark and quiet, the windows staring blankly at her.

Terrified, she runs through the empty streets until she reaches the market square. Nothing. Just weeds growing between the cobblestones, and a few rotting barrels piled beneath the sagging eaves of abandoned houses lining the market. There is nopony in entire Ponyville, Pinkie understands, and hasn't been for years and years. Nopony but her and her imaginary friends...

- - -

Fluttershy rests in the middle of a sunlit, flowering meadow; it's a place she knows well, not far from Ponyville in the Whitetail Woods. The birds are singing and the bees are buzzing in the flowers, and she's feeling peaceful and drowsy. It's so nice and warm, perfect for a little nap, she thinks and yawns daintily.

Just as she's about to doze off, the birds, one by one, fall silent and the droning of the bees fades away. Fluttershy opens her eyes and looks around. The sunlight seems dimmer and it's not so warm any more. Deep in the woods, a wind is rising, making the trees sigh and sway.

The pegasus feels silly. It's just a cloud in front of the sun, she tells herself. But just as she's about to lower her head back to the grass, she catches a glimpse of movement among the trees.

There's something in the woods, she realizes. Something white and fast that rushes from one tree to other, never staying in sight for long. And it's coming closer. Fear creeps along Fluttershy's spine as she rises onto her hooves, trying to catch a good look at the white thing even as she wishes she won't see it again.

The cold wind blows into the meadow, and with it comes the white thing. Fluttershy gets one confused look of it before she turns her tail and runs, but it is enough. It's something flapping and fluttering, vaguely pony-shaped but ever-changing. It's the off-white color of old bones, and where its eyes should be are only black staring holes.

In blind terror, Fluttershy runs, all thought of flight forgotten, not that she could open her clenched wings if she tried. The white thing is following her, and worse: it's overtaking her. It does not move like a pony would; it does not gallop or trot or fly. Rather, it flits and dashes from one shadow to another, its outlines shifting and fluttering in the chill wind as it swoops past her.

Too terrified to scream, Fluttershy turns, unable to face the thing that's between her and Ponyville. The white thing follows her, driving her away from her friends and fellow ponies and deeper into the woods. She runs and runs, knowing that the thing is toying with her like a cat with a mouse... and soon it will grow bored of this cruel sport.

- - -

Rainbow Dash is underground, and she doesn't like it. Like many pegasi, she's a bit claustrophobic; houses are fine, but caves make her queasy. Even ones that are big enough to fly in, like the Diamond Dogs' tunnels.

The twisty passages of the labyrinth she's wandering in are still wide enough to fly, but they're getting narrower. If she were to spread her wings now, the tips of her primaries would be brushing against the dry grey rock walls. So she walks now, lantern dangling from her teeth, and tries not to think about how the ceiling seems lower than before.

It's hard to tell, but Dash has an unpleasant feeling that she's going deeper into the earth. The tunnel still slopes upwards every now and then, but she's starting to think that the downward slopes are steeper and longer, taking her further and further away from the surface and the sky.

She comes to a place where the tunnel branches. To her left, it slopes steeply down into the darkness beyond the feeble light of her lantern (and Rainbow Dash refuses to think about how much oil she has left, and how long it will last, and what will she do if she's trapped all alone in the dark beneath all the millions of tons of stone and earth above her); to her right, it starts to rise equally steeply, but it also narrows quickly.

Hoping that it will eventually take her to the surface, Dash takes the right-hoof branch. For a while, it seems like she's made the right choice, as the tunnel keeps rising, even though the walls are closing in around her and the ceiling's so low that her mane occasionally brushes against the solid rock above her.

Then the tunnel levels off, and starts sloping down; not steeply, but inexorably. Dash is moving slowly now, hunched and holding her head down so that the bottom of her lantern keeps scraping against the floor. Her sense of direction is not as good here, away from the sun and the wind and the stars, but she is fairly sure that she's going around in a spiral that's slowly tightening as it leads her deeper and deeper into the endless darkness beneath the earth.

Rainbow Dash's is bruised and bleeding from numerous scrapes that she's gotten as she's  squeezed through several narrow spots. She doesn't think she could turn around any more, so she forges on, hoping against hope to see the tunnel widening and curving upwards. Soon, she will have to get down onto her knees and crawl onwards, but as frightening as that prospect is, it doesn't disturb her half as much as the way the flame in her lantern has been flickering for a while now...

- - -

Rarity is ecstatic! Her fall fashion show has been an unqualified success - she's received a dozen requests from noblemares and boutique owners already! - and now she's hob-nobbing it with the creme de la creme of Equestria's fashion at the cocktail party.
Laughing lightly at Hoity Toity's joke, she levitates a delicious-looking little cocktail bit from the tray of a passing earth pony waiter. As the fashion mogul starts another anecdote about the backstage rivalries of the fashion circles, Rarity slips the morsel into her mouth and bites.

There's a strange crunching noise and a mild sting of pain. Rarity's eyes widen as she feels something hard and smooth on her tongue, and notices the coppery taste of blood mixed with the flavors of celery and blue cheese. She feels sick as she realizes that one of her molars has just fallen off.

Rarity mumbles a panicky excuse, not daring to swallow or empty her mouth before the others, and hurries off into a corner. Turning her back to the crowd, she spits the bloody tooth onto a napkin. The sight of it makes her feel faint, but she steels her nerve. She'll have to come up with an excuse, then go find a dentist who can replant it...

Feeling around her mouth with her tongue, Rarity realizes that several other teeth are becoming loose in her jaws. She feels an urge to vomit, but manages to keep her rising gorge down, if only because she's afraid what would happen to her teeth if she did throw up.

Not daring to run, she starts towards the door at the other end of the large room. Holding her head high with a fixed, close-mouthed smile on her face, she pushes through the crowd, trying to stay calm even though her mouth is filling with blood and she can't keep from probing the hole where her tooth was.

A plump old noblemare backs into her, almost knocking Rarity off her hooves. As she catches her balance, she feels, and hears, a horrible cracking sound from her shoulder. Looking down, she sees a dark red stain spreading in her dress; blood, and lots of it. Curiously, she feels no pain as she tears at her dress with her mouth, losing several more teeth in the process.

What she sees makes her wish for pain. Instead of a wound, there is a wide-open crack that's oozing thick, dark blood. Even as she watches, hairline cracks spread down along her leg, and small pieces of her coat begin to fall off, like bloody fragments of an eggshell. Realizing that she's nothing but a hollow shell of a pony, Rarity starts to scream and scream and scream...

- - -

Twilight Sparkle is filled with conflicting emotions - pride, curiosity, nervousness and more - as she follows Princess Celestia through the white marble halls of the Canterlot Castle. Her teacher has told her that she has an extraordinarily important task in mind for Twilight, one that may decide the fate of entire Equestria.

They enter a large, circular room in the center of the castle. Even though Twilight is used to the graceful and grand architecture of Canterlot, she gasps in admiration as she takes in the high vaulted ceiling of shining gold, and the enormous mosaic of the sun, the moon and the stars that covers the floor. She does not notice the great block of marble at the center of the room before she and Celestia already stand before it.

"You have served me well," Celestia says. "But I require more!" Her horn flashes, and golden chains spring from the marble, wrapping around Twilight's limbs and pulling the unicorn onto the stone.

Unable to move, Twilight stares at the Princess as the alicorn levitates a large, wickedly sharp-looking knife over her. "For a thousand years, I have gathered unicorns of great power as my students," Celestia says, her eyes glowing with strange light. "But as valuable as your services have been, it pales in comparison to your ultimate purpose. Without me, the Sun will not rise! And the only way that I can live forever is by eating the hearts of virginal unicorns of great power. Twilight Sparkle, your flesh and power shall sustain me, and through me, Equestria, for many more decades. Let that thought be your consolation as you die!"

Time seems to slow down as the knife plunges down towards Twilight's chest, until it's only a hair's breadth away from her coat...

"ENOUGH!"



The blade shatters into millions of sparkling shards of pure light that begin to fall up towards the vaulted ceiling. Princess Celestia is thrown back, blurring and growing darker as she slams into the marble wall.

Luna walks past Twilight, her wings flared and her horn and eyes glowing with power. The unicorn can feel the waves of hot anger radiating from the Night Princess, and knows it's not directed at her. The golden chains binding her melt away into nothingness, and she clambers back onto her hooves, not wishing to miss anything.

"I know thee, thou foul spawn of lightless voids!" Luna says, her voice shaking the walls. "Thou art a Nightmare, a voice of wickedness that hath crept down to Equestria from the outer spheres. And thou darest to strike at me through my friends and saviors, taking even the form of mine beloved sister? Thou hast erred, oh Nightmare, erred grievously!"

As Luna speaks, the "Celestia" loses her form entirely, turning into a shadowy distortion of air filled with flickering suggestions of terror that fade away into nothingness as Twilight looks into them. With a keening wail of unmistakable fear, it folds itself away and streaks away from Luna's wrath, vanishing into nothingness.

The alicorn snorts contemptuously, and slams her front hooves down to the floor, shattering the mosaic. Then she turns to face Twilight. "Are you all right, Twilight Sparkle?" she asks in a softer, obviously concerned voice. "A Nightmare has no power over you than what you give it, but it is a devious thing..."

"Thank you, Princess; I am fine," Twilight says. "I realized I was dreaming just before you showed up. I tried to stop the blade, but I only managed to slow it down..."

Luna quirks an eyebrow at the unicorn. "You did? Remarkable! Pray tell me, how did you detect the Nightmare's deception?"

"Well, the idea of Princess Celestia sacrificing ponies to eat their hearts was just ridiculous, once I had a moment to think about it. And if for some bizarre reason she really needed my heart, she would ask me to sacrifice myself, not try to trick me like this!" Twilight's lavender face turns redder as she continues. "And, ehehehe... that virginal unicorns bit, it was laying it a bit too thick... and, um, well... Princess Celestia, uh, she knows me better than that."

"Oh? Oh! I see," Luna says, looking amused and embarrassed in equal proportions.

Twilight's expression changes suddenly. "Oh my goodness! You said that the Nightmare was getting at you through me and my friends! Are they having terrible dreams like this? We must do something at once!"

Luna raises her head, her horn blazing with power again. "Yes, Twilight Sparkle. Your fellow Bearers of the Elements are in the throes of nightmares of their own. But fear not; I will break them free, like you once broke me free of my Nightmare. I bid you farewell for now, and wish nothing but pleasant dreams until the morning."

The Night Princess turns into a glowing, starry mist that swirls around Twilight. An eyeblink later, she is gone, and Twilight finds herself in a sunlit section of the University library, sitting on a comfortable couch. Before her, on a research desk, are a pile of old tomes, a teapot and a steaming cup of tea, a tray laden with her favorite dandelion sandwiches and almond cookies, and a long scroll halfway filled with her own writing.

Frowning, Twilight levitates the scroll closer and gives it a look. It's a paper about certain problems in magical theory she's been struggling with... except that there's a line there about relating the magic of friendship to a particularly thorny aspect of the problem. Twilight gasps with delight as she grasps the implications of the idea. Snatching a quill pen with her magic, she beings to write, new understanding blossoming in her mind. In just a few moments, the earlier part of the dream has faded away, and she no longer remembers she's dreaming...

- - -

Rarity's screams grow more and more frantic. As she thrashes around, her body begins to crack and crumble even faster, until it all collapses to the tiled floor, crumbling into clumps of dry mud.

"Theer you go, Mees Rarity!" Aloe says as she brushes the last bits of mud wrapping from the unicorn's glossy white coat. "My! You look specielly radiant today, doesn't shee, Lotus?"

The other pony, who has her mouth full as she removes the much less extensive mud wraps from around Fluttershy's limbs, mumbles something in response.

"Why, thank you," Rarity says, smiling broadly. "I really wish to look my best for the fashion show I'm doing in Canterlot on Friday, and you've done an extraordinarily good job, as always!" Her expression changes a bit as she continues. "However, the next time I have the mud baths, could you ladies use a little bit less of the mud? Why, I felt almost like I'd been turned into a clay pony when it started to dry."

This draws amused chuckles from all three mares sharing the small spa room with Rarity. "Wee will keep that in mind for the next time," Aloe tells her. "Now... shall we get started with the pedicure, Mees?"

As the spa twins start polishing and filing Rarity's and Fluttershy's hooves, none of them pays the slightest of attention to the swirl of darkness rising from the crumbled clay and flying away, or to Luna cantering through the dream in swift pursuit.

- - -

Rainbow Dash is stuck, there is no question about that. The trapped pegasus rests her head on the cold dry rock and stares with terrified eyes at the faint, flickering flame of her toppled-over lantern. As she watches, it goes out, and she's alone in the dark.

Despair and terror rise inside Dash, and she strains her slim, wiry body in one final, hopeless attempt to break free. Just as she's about to give up, there is a loud crack, and something gives way. Suddenly, there's sunlight shining into her eyes from above, and the sweet smells of green grass and rich soil and clean wind fill her nose. Struggling a bit more, shaking the crumbling dirt from her mane, she breaks through the bare six inches of dirt over her, rising from the ground like a rainbow-colored Diamond Dog.

"Omigosh! Are you okay, Rainbow?" Fluttershy asks; she's standing right next to the hole in the grass that Dash's emerging from, with a worried expression on her face. "You were there so long, and I was starting to worry you couldn't find Angel or had gotten stuck and..."

"Jeez! Chill out, 'Shy, I'm fine," Dash says as she pulls her friend's recalcitrant bunny out and offers him to Fluttershy. Angel gives him a surly look that Dash returns. The things she does for her oldest friend, including diving into a literal rabbit hole to bring back a pet who refuses to take his medicine!

She stretches her limbs and spreads her wings, shaking the dirt and sand out of them. She wasn't in the hole for five minutes, but man it feels great to be back in the open air! Taking wing, Dash follows her walking friend back towards Fluttershy's house, making faces at the grumpy bunny behind her owner's back.

Behind her, a large patch of the grass collapses with a quiet moan of fear, and a dark thing, looking pale and wan in the bright sun, flees again.

- - -

Just as Fluttershy is certain that she can't run further, and that heart's about to give up, she crashes through some bushes, stumbles and falls, rolling down a low, grassy slope. Immediately, the white thing is upon her. Shrieking, the pegasus flails at her phantasmal pursuer that's flapping hideously against her...

... and realizes, much to her chagrin, that she's been running away from a wind-blown page of yesterday's Equestria Daily. For several minutes, she lays there, panting and feeling mortified, but as her fear fades, Fluttershy comes to see the comical side of the situation.

Slowly, softly, she starts to giggle... chuckle... and finally laugh openly, feeling relieved and amused and more than a little silly. "Oh, I'm such a scaredy-cat sometimes!" she says, wiping the tears of laughter away from her eyes.

Only now does Fluttershy pay any attention to her surroundings. Her eyes widen with delight as she sees the beautiful little dell she's stumbled into. It is surrounded by high trees and dense bushes, explaining why she's never found this place while wandering in the Whitetail Wood! It is full of wildflowers in full bloom, especially the rare sky-blue bellflowers she's always been fond of, and butterflies of many colors are fluttering in the air above her.

As the pegasus lays down among the flowers, watching the dance of the butterflies, a gust of wind tosses the newspaper away, pursued by Luna's shadow cantering across the sunlit grass.

- - -

Just as Pinkie Pie is about to curl up in despair, she sees a flash of rainbow color from the corner of her eye. Raising her head, she sees a familiar pegasus looping back in the sky and braking hard, until she comes to stop hovering over the market square.

"Hey guys, I found Pinkie!" Dash yells, before swooping down to land on the old cobblestones. "Man, this place's a real labyrinth," the pegasus says. "Good thing you came out in the open, if you'd stayed on those streets, hidden beneath the eaves, I would still be looking for you!"

"D-dashie? You're really there?" Pinkie asks. It's hard to believe her friend is really there, after the fright she had.

Before the pegasus can reply, her six friends, led by Applejack, gallop onto the square. "Yee-haw!" the farmpony cries. "Ah told ya, these old ghost towns are mighty easy to get lost in, Pinkie!" she says.

Rarity and Fluttershy nod in agreement, while Twilight Sparkle looks frantic. "Come on girls, the train will leave in five minutes! We have to hurry back!"

Even though she's relieved, Pinkie Pie is also baffled. The empty town doesn't really look like Ponyville any more, resembling Appleloosa or Dodge Junction instead... but when did it change? There's something odd going on here, and as her friends start herding her back to the train station she starts feeling dizzy; she now remembers both getting off the train and going out to explore the empty old town, and starting the day working at the Sugar Cube Corner...

Wait. Wait! Six friends? Pinkie does a quick headcount: Rainbow Dash and Applejack and Rarity and Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle... and Princess Luna, who's slamming her hooves down into the cobblestones, trying to crush something vague and slimy and writhing that keens and squirms as it tries to escape.

The Princess freezes in place when she notices Pinkie looking at her, looking like the world's most terrifying and awe-inspiring little filly caught with her nose in the cookie jar. The shadowy thing uses her distraction to slip away; Luna shakes her head and frowns, while Pinkie smiles apologetically. Then her friends sweep the pink pony along, and she stops worrying about the inconsistencies. The train's leaving in just a moment, and if they're late they'll be late for the Maple Syrup Festival and that's the worst possible thing that could happen!

- - -

Applejack's tired, so tired. The trees are laughing at her openly now, bending their branches so low that she can almost grab the apples with her teeth, but they remain just out of reach. Beaten and too worn out to even try bucking the trees any more, she slumps down into the dry grass and just lays there, panting with exhaustion.

A distant rumble makes her lift her head and look up. Dark clouds are quickly spreading across the sky and hiding the merciless sun, even though no pegasi are in sight. A sudden, cool wind blows across the grass, silencing the whispering voices in the trees.

The thunder is coming closer, and the wind is coming in strong gusts now. The rustling voices in the trees are sounding frantic and frightened now, and Applejack wonders what has brought about the change.

A brilliant flash of lightning splits the sky, and the thunder booms directly above the orchard. Applejack is astonished to see Princess Luna in the sky, not flying but galloping in mid-air, wings spread and lightning crackling around her horn. There is a fierce light in the dark alicorn's eyes as she tosses her head and another bolt of lightning flashes through the clouds.

In the glare, Applejack briefly sees the thing Luna is fighting. It is shadowy and vague, looking a bit like a pony and a bit like a snake; for a moment, it reminds her of Discord, but deep down Applejack knows that any resemblance to the chaotic draconequus is coincidental, an attempt by the formless thing to put on a shape before Luna burns it out of the sky.

Despite her weariness and dry throat, Applejack lets out a whoop, cheering Luna on as the alicorn hurls more thunderbolts at her flickering foe. The thunder is roaring and rumbling constantly now, and the first raindrops are falling now, heavy and blessedly cool after the deadly heat.

A barrage of lightning boxes the shadowy thing in, and Luna charges, driving her horn directly into its center. A howl of pain and terror unlike anything that Applejack has heard, echoes across the sky, loud enough to drown the constant thunder. Lightning explodes from within the writhing thing impaled on Luna's horn, and then it is nothing but ashes blowing in the wind.

The rain starts falling, obscuring the princess. The thunder is already fading, but the occasional flashes of lightning still turn the rain into flowing curtains of silvery light. Something falls onto Applejack's head: a rich, ripe apple, knocked off the branch by the force of the rain. Surprised, she looks around and sees the apples falling everywhere around her, landing softly in the wet grass.

Applejack jumps onto her hooves and starts to dance in the life-giving rain, the falling water washing away her tiredness and despair and fear. She hoots and hollers and laughs and cries, her tears vanishing in the rain.

"A-hem," a deep, familiar voice says, and Applejack stumbles, almost falling over. She turns to look at her brother Macintosh, wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella. "It's dinner time, an' we're all gettin' hungry," he says flicking his tail in the direction of the farmhouse.

Through the rain, Applejack can make out the green and yellow figures of her grandmother and sister standing on the porch, watching them. "Heh. Sorry, brother," she says and grins bashfully. "Ah just... Ah dunno, Ah felt like dancin' in the rain, you know?"
And why wouldn't she, Applejack thinks as they head back together. The harvest's done and her family is safe, sound and happy. Is that not enough reason for anypony to rejoice?

- - -

On top of the tallest tower of Canterlot, Princess Luna stood and watched over the sleeping Equestria. "Sleep well, my little ponies," she whispers. With a smile on her face, she turns and walks inside, the night air soft and calm again.
[Dark]
"Pick your poison. Gore is easy to write, but is cheap horror. Remember, truly terrifying horror comes from suspense and implication, not from painting the walls with guts. Show us something that can really scare a pony."

I do not know how successful I am at scaring either the Mane Six or you, but I know I did creep myself out with a few of the nightmare sequences. This story is unpolished, uneven and longer than I expected, but hopefully it will still bring you some shudders!

- - -

Written for #MLP-WTG's third "reloaded" week, with a theme of nightmares, and inspired by the [Grimdark] prompt in particular.
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There is a phenomenon few know about, that graces the Canterlot Performance in the deep hours of night. The baritone performance of travelling stallions would cease, the crowd unleashing the required applause as the performers bow out with all the attempted grace such ponies can have. The murmur of small talk and criticism would simmer to nothingness, and as the cleaners swept through the aisles, cleared away the rubbish and ruin of the night, it would begin.

Many of the younger or newer staff members had ridiculed tales away with an sweeping hoof, having heard too many stories of pranks and hoaxes. The high, floating tone of the cello in the breeze would go unnoticed. Many of the staff had surrendered their efforts to find the very obvious hidden gramophone, while others still found the melody too ethereal for their ears. The midnight cleaning staff refreshed its ranks quite often.

It was as the cleaners shuffled out the door, elder stallions chided by the young ones for their naivety in believing in spooks and phantoms. With a sigh, the chief caretaker would flick the light switch with a hoof, hoping to prove one day what he felt in his gut. The mystery had persisted through his long service to the company, and would most likely hold until long after.

He swept out the door, as was his habit every night. The door sealed away the streetlights beyond, leaving the performance hall bathed in darkness. The cello persisted, lilting through the aisles and rows unheard, a song to no-one in particular. An hour would pass in sombre symphony, as it had every night before. Then, with little warning and of their own accord, the spotlights would flash onto the stage. The burning light rendered a slim, grey pony. Her mane floated in the breezeless air, eyes closed as she seemingly poured her very soul onto the cello strings.

It was a slightly longer time before the other participant would appear. Never entering via a door, she would simply become. Her very coat was ghostly-white, with luscious, red eyes. She was precisely the kind of phantom the younger children would doubt, yet she carried the flair of living memory on her face, watching in awe at the performance. The alabaster ghost settled into a seat, leaning on the chair in front of her to gaze out onto the performer, who wove a musical poem just for her.

The grey pony would seem to smile, eyes flicking open to meet with the rubies beyond, always finding them through the darkness. The cello would never stop, not now its purpose had been revealed. The mare did not make herself known to the cleaners, because this moment belonged to only one other pony. Her eyes would shimmer as she gazed beyond the aurora of the lights, to the enthralled mare in the seat beyond.

The performance would continue, never tiring. It kept perfect rhythm, yet it seemed to dictate its own. Time became liquid, rushing in some places, and slowing to a trickle in others. it had no meaning to the two ponies in the hall. At long last, however, the performance would cease. The grey pony looked beyond her stage to the seat, and yet found it empty. She leaned on her cello, as though the absence took her will to stand with it.

And yet, white legs would always lift her. Wrapping around from behind, they supported her when she required it most. She span on the spot, allowing the cello to fall silently onto the floor. Those eyes awaited her. Where they had an unavoidable allure at a distance, at such proximity they were deep wells. Memories floated within the chasms of her pupils, the only sign of the otherworld they came from.

The embrace was shared, forelegs supporting one another as the pair candidly danced upon the stage. No hoof fell out of place, no pirouette was undertaken with anything less than a haunting precision. The grey pony was spun, twirling on a hoof to find herself falling. A white leg caught her once more, dangling her as the ruby-eyed mare leaned over her. A final, infinite moment was shared between two timeless pairs of eyes. Hooves caressed manes as the distance closed, and lips met.

The front door opened, allowing the full light of a vibrant morning to flood into the hall. Lights flicked off, and the image of the two mares fell away like a mirage. The chief caretaker sighed, dropping his keys as he watched the place where the mares had been. Once more, he would be ridiculed that night.

He flicked on the lights properly, bathing the hall in the artificial ambiance of fluorescent lighting. Sighing, he began his first job of the day. With vim and vigour, he polished at a bronze plaque near the door. Stepping back, he idolised the names, sighing softly as he wandered off to prepare the hall for a hectic day.

The plaque had stood for as long as he had worked there. Engraved timelessly into its surface was a message to all that entered:

In memory of Octavia Philharmonica, and Vinyl Scratch:
"Ponies destined to create sweet symphonies together, will stay together."
A birthday present for my good friend, Xatiav. Who, while constantly teasing and taunting me, has helped me out a tonne with a lot of stuff.

This is inspired by talks I've had with him. An idea that I wanted to put into writing, because it struck me as something people may describe as "hauntingly beautiful."

It's only a short, little ditty. I hope you like it...Frenchie. :P
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