Fluttershy found her eyes glued to the paper she was holding, her brain having difficulties coming to terms with the information it was receiving. Other letters lay abandoned around her hooves, outshone by a loud, purple envelope. She was compelled to keep reading in hopes of reaching the end of the letter and breaking its paralyzing spell.
“Oh.” The pony swallowed. “My.”
The ending signature made no attempt to prod the pegasus out of her stupor, choosing instead to hypnotize her further. Her mind fumbled for exactly what course of action would keep her from standing by her mailbox forever. The grass rustled while a squirrel scurried across the nearby lawn, stopping to cock its head at the living statue. Using her last thimble-full reserves of willpower, the mare managed to tear her eyes away from the letter just enough to stare back at the creature. The animal raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and continued along its path. Stirred, the mental floodgates opened, restoring full control of her faculties to the nervous pony, enabling her to gallop back to her house.
Coming to a halt inside her doorway, the pegasus suddenly realized she was holding the letter in her mouth. She was tempted to peer at it again to make sure it hadn’t changed to something more palatable in the last few seconds but she resisted, instead releasing it and watching it spiral lazily to the floor. A portion of her brain suggested a plan of running upstairs and seeking refuge under a bed, but the idea was quickly shoved down. In its stead she sat down in the middle of her living room and bit her bottom lip, her mind spinning. “Okay, Fluttershy, you can do this. Just weigh out your options.” The mare closed her eyes. “On one hoof, this is a big opportunity. On the other hoof, it’s a big commitment.” She waited for more pros and cons to hit her but instead her thoughts turned back into a swirling mass of confusion. “Oh, this isn’t helping.” She stamped her hooves on the floor.
A rapid tapping sounded in the doorway, signaling the presence of a bunny-- a bunny with narrowed eyes and crossed forelegs.
Being the closest thing with an ear, Fluttershy laid her thoughts bare. “Oh, Angel. I can’t make up my mind. I mean, it’s so far but it’s not too far, and I can stay in contact, but what about my animals? I’ll have to find someone to take care of you, and it can’t be Spike, I mean, he meant well but he just wasn’t up to the task. And… and… what about the help I do around Ponyville?”
The rabbit tuned the babbling equine out. He spotted the open letter sitting on the floor and made his way to it, maneuvering past aggravated movements as the Worrytron 3000 started making emphatic gestures. He shook his head and picked up the paper to read its contents.
Dear Miss Fluttershy,
I am the manager of a popular stage show in Manehattan-- The Mane Event.
“…And my cottage needs to be cleaned regularly. Oh, and my plants!”
We have recently come into the possession of a rare chimera.
“…She’ll need help! I’m always the one called when Sugarcube Corner’s in a bind.”
By rare we mean we had to get special approval from Celestia to present it in our show.
“…It’ll probably get me sick. I might have to turn around but then maybe they won’t be able to…”
Our usual animal handlers, however, proved inadequate in keeping the chimera orderly, much less entertaining. There was, how shall we say, a mishap that might have involved the eradication of the entire third row of the theater (no ponies were seriously harmed and neither was the chimera, we take good care of animals under our ownership, better care than our audience apparently).
“Do I know their customs? Maybe they do things differently in Manehattan. Maybe ‘hello’ means ‘goodbye.’ Oh…”
Word has reached us that you are one of the best in Equestria when it comes to soothing the savage beast, so I am offering you the invitation to come work for us as the chimera’s personal handler during our main season.
“…Well that seems easy to fix. I think. But, but…”
You will be well compensated (just don’t expect me to provide any health insurance).
“…So in conclusion, I can’t go because I don’t have the money to pay for travel or board.”
Looking up from the letter, Angel discovered that a yellow pony had somehow managed to wind up on its back in the middle of the living room. He frowned and walked over to the pegasus, waving the letter in front of her face. She shifted her head to the side to examine it.
“That’s the letter,” Fluttershy said.
The bunny brought the letter even closer to the mare’s face and pointed at the bottom paragraph.
P.S. It just occurred to me that you might not have bits falling out of your ears (though I’m sure our magician could arrange that if it be your fancy). Any extra expenses you might need help with I’d be happy to provide, including paying for your travel, room, and board.
It took a few seconds for the new information to register. The mare smiled weakly at Angel. “I suppose I should have read all of it.” Blushing, she started to stand up before pausing thoughtfully. "Well, I guess I’m going,” she said, letting the words linger in the air. “No, no, I am going,” she said with determination. A smile broke out. “This will be such an adventure.” Her mouth took a downturn. “Do you think I’m suited for adventures?” she asked Angel.
The bunny tossed the invitation. It lightly bounced off the pegasus's forehead. She winced and quickly started writing a reply.
The room fell silent as each of the ponies digested the news. Two eyes peered out from a length of pink mane, waiting for reactions.
“Fluttershy, that’s amazing! What an opportunity!” Twilight beamed.
“Hay yeah! Go and show those Manehattan ponies what a pegasus from Cloudsdale can do!” Rainbow Dash playfully punched the yellow pony in the shoulder, forcing her to flap her wings to keep from tipping over.
“So what exactly is your job?” Applejack asked.
Relieved that her friends were taking her decision so well, some of Fluttershy’s excitement crept back up. “Well, I’ll be in charge of teaching the Chimera how to do tricks, making sure it’s well taken care of, and giving it directions on stage.”
“That is so cool!” Pinkie jumped forward to quickly hug the pegasus. “You’ll have to invite us to one of your shows! And you need to go to a party! I’ve heard Manehattan has big-big-big parties! In fact, invite us to one of those, too!”
“Oh, Fluttershy, I’m just so proud.” Rarity sniffed. “You’ll be going to one of the biggest stages in Manehattan.” The unicorn’s voice cracked. “I’ll miss you.” She bit her bottom lip in attempt to hold herself together.
“Don’t worry, Rarity,” Pinkie said. “She’s only going to be gone for a few months. Well, unless they hire her permanently. She is really good. Then I guess she’ll be gone for years and years.”
The water level of Rarity’s eyes quickly rose. She shoved Pinkie out of the way and hugged Fluttershy in a vice-like embrace.
The earth pony righted herself and patted her sobbing friend on the shoulder. “It’s okay, Rarity. Fluttershy will write. Well,” she said, putting a hoof to her chin, “unless she’s too busy.”
A torrent of liquid splashed onto Fluttershy’s hooves. She would have attempted to back away, but she was too busy gasping for breath as the white forelegs wrapped around her neck tightened their grip.
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Uh, Pinkie, I think ya best keep the comforting to the rest of us.”
The party mare furrowed her brow. “What did I do wrong?”
“Okay, Rarity, I think Fluttershy’s gone without breathing for long enough.” Rainbow Dash forcibly pulled back the purple and white entrapment. It instantly switched targets, latching onto the rainbow maned pony, eliciting a groan. “You’re going to get my wings all wet.”
“You will write, won’t you?” Twilight asked.
“Yes.” Fluttershy gasped for air. “Of course I will.”
“So.” Applejack glanced at Rarity as she continued to saturate Rainbow Dash’s shoulder. “When exactly are ya leaving?”
“Well the letter I got today included a ticket for next week’s train.” Fluttershy averted her eyes from her friends as she realized just how short of an amount of time that was.
“What’s the matter?” asked Twilight.
“Well, it’s just… do you think ponies at Manehattan will be nice?”
“Oh, Fluttershy, you have nothing to worry about.” Twilight smiled reassuringly. "Those ponies are probably just as nice as the ones here in Ponyville."
“Twilight’s right, Fluttershy," said Applejack. "I remember my stay there as a little filly.” She smirked lopsidedly. “As long as you stay away from them nose-in-the-air ponies then the folks there are real nice.”
“Trixie will absolutely not have anypony stay with her! Trixie values her privacy and space, something she will have none of if some amateur ‘animal caretaker’ rooms with her!”
Trixie stared lightning bolts at her manager.
Big Entrance’s sunglasses callously absorbed the electricity directed its way. The unicorn tilted his head to throw a responding stare right back at the mare over his shades. “Listen, Trix, honey, she doesn’t have the money to get her own place.”
“You have the money to pay for her. No, there’s some other reason Trixie’s abode is about to be ransacked.”
The stallion sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve heard she’s a… wallflower, so to speak. She’s gonna have a lot of ice that needs breaking. I figured rooming her with you would be good for her, you know, get her prepared for the life of the stage. After all you are…” He gestured with his hoof searchingly.
The mare turned to look at herself in the mirror. “The Queen of the Raised Platform? The Premiere Lady of Bedazzling Magic?”
"...An explosive personality,” finished Big Entrance, “Listen, Trix, I took you on my show because I liked your style. You had talent, yeah, but you also had that pride, you know? And you went from being small-time filly to one of my primary acts because of that. You, more than anypony, could make her a mare with presence.”
The magician closed her eyes and lifted her nose into the air. “Trixie has no desire to share her secrets.”
The stage manager’s tone grew harder. “Trix, babe, your pride is not a secret and I’m not giving you a choice. You’re taking her in. I could turn this into a big long discussion but I’m not.” He gave her another narrow look and left the room.
“Has a lot of ice,” Trixie mocked, “Trixie should break it.” She snorted. “Oh, Trixie can break it alright.” She paused as she actually registered her image in the mirror. Her nose scrunched up in the realization that her face was missing an essential element. “Peaches! Cream! Trixie needs her makeup!”
Two earth ponies with coats true to their names and manes directly opposite entered from a side curtain.
“So what was the talk with Big about?” Peach opened up her makeup kit and got to work.
It took most of her self-control for Trixie to remain still as she let her boiling blood be heard. “The foal feels the need to house the newcomer with Trixie! Can you believe the nerve?”
“The newcomer?” Cream spoke through the eyeliner brush she was holding. “You mean that pegasus mare?”
“The same. As if the she’s going to get that monstrosity of a creature to do anything but kill the audience.” Trixie snorted for the umpteenth time that day.
“I don’t know,” said Peach. “I’ve heard she’s really good with animals. Rumor has it she healed the Princess’s pet phoenix. Celestia came to Ponyville to seek her out.”
“I heard she single-hoofedly took down a dragon,” Cream said with awe. “It was terrorizing Ponyville before she put it in its place.”
“Trixie doesn’t believe a word of these rumors. Big told me she’s very shy. She’s probably one of those nervous types who is scared of their own shadow. Trixie, on the other hoof, has no fear.”
“Oh, I forgot, you defeated an Ursa-Major,” Peaches said under her breath, smiling.
“What?” The unicorn jerked her head to face the joking mare, causing Cream’s eyeliner to brush across her cheek.
The two makeup assistants traded looks and giggled while the stage pony let her facial expression clearly show how unamused she was at their behavior. Cream rolled her eyes. “Can you blame us for being interested in a new member of the team?”
“Are you talking about that Fluttershy filly?” Another earth pony, this one a brown and deep red colored stallion, pulled in a wheeled rack of costumes behind the trio.
“Who else, Hue?” asked Peaches. “She sounds interesting.”
“Did you know she was a model?” asked Hue while he rifled through his clothes rack. “She was in Fashion Equestria and Maremoiselle Magazine.” He whistled appreciatively. “She is quite the looker.”
Cream dabbed at the errant streak across Trixie’s face. “Of course you would know that.” She shook her head. “We were just talking about how she took down a dragon.”
Hue pulled out a star decorated cape and hat. “Wow, she can model and kick dragon flank? I think I’m in love with her already.”
“Enough!” Trixie yelled, glaring at her co-workers. “Trixie will hear no more of this ridiculousness.” The unicorn grabbed her costume and stalked out of the room.
This pegasus was already going to be a thorn in her side by living with her. If she had to hear another word of her exploits, she was going strangle the pony as soon as she arrived at her door.
Her hoof lingered in the air as Fluttershy mentally steeled herself. After a little self-coaxing, she plucked up the courage to knock on the door. She didn’t know why she was so nervous. Meeting a new pony would be… fun. She never would have met Twilight if she had just run away from all forms of pony contact. Besides, her friends had reassured her that she had nothing to worry about.
The door opened. An azure unicorn stared at her. The pegasus smiled. They held that pose for longer than she expected. For a split second there was a flash of violence in the unicorn’s eyes but just like that it was gone, leaving a wake of exasperation.
“The new animal handler, right?”
“Yes.” Fluttershy looked at the mare warily. “Is now a bad time? I can come back later.”
“No, no. Please.” Trixie forced the words out. “Come in.” She gestured inside.
The pegasus stepped inside the apartment. It struck her that she had never been in one before. It was awfully modern. The lack of sunlight and earthy themes bothered her but she supposed she could get readjusted. At least it was fairly roomy. She always did have a slight case of claustrophobia… and agoraphobia... and sciophobia... and…
“The Great and Powerful Trixie.” The magician proffered a hoof towards the fear-riddled pony.
With a swift kick to her worries, the yellow pony shook the hoof. “I’m Fluttershy. I don’t know if you remember me, we never really talked, but I’m a friend of Twilight’s. I saw your show when you came to Ponyville.”
“You’re a friend of Twilight?” A vein throbbed on Trixie’s forehead. There was a cough. “What Trixie means is… how interesting.” She opened her mouth, held it there for a few moments, and closed it. She motioned for Fluttershy to follow her farther into the apartment.
“Trixie will give you the ‘grand’ tour. This is the living room.” The unicorn gestured to a well furnished space to her right. Between its large sofa and well cushioned chairs it easily could have fit about eight ponies comfortably. The furniture encircled an object Fluttershy had never seen before. It was a cube with glass on the front of it. It had to be electric given she could see cords run from the back of it into an outlet.
“This is the kitchen.”
Peering into the adjoining room, the newcomer found a moderate sized table and every kitchen convenience to be expected: a microwave, a toaster, a coffee maker, an oven, and, the only appliance that looked well used, the refrigerator.
The unicorn led the way to a side hallway. “My room.” She pointed to her right.
Fluttershy eyed the panel graining on the closed door presented to her.
“And your room.” Further down the hall was a small bedroom. “This is where your… empty saddlebags go.” There was a raised eyebrow at her luggage.
“Oh, they have things in them. I just don’t need much.” The pegasus smiled, hoping her new roommate would appreciate that fact.
With a shrug the unicorn went silent, regarding her new roommate as if she was a stray animal she had no idea what to do with. “Trixie is having dinner.” She stalked away to the kitchen.
The guest room was a bare affair, but it was cozy, the only attribute Fluttershy really cared about in a room. She plopped her saddlebags onto her bed and stood in her room pondering. Now what? She supposed dinner sounded nice.
Trixie was hard at work reheating something in a microwave when the pegasus arrived. THe unicorn looked impatiently at the microwave before noticing the newcomer in the doorway. "Trixie would offer you some of this to eat but there’s only enough for one.” She smirked. “Though you are welcome to make something from what I have.”
“Oh, thank you,” Fluttershy said, thankful for the offer. She set about collecting various things throughout the kitchen. Her new roommate’s cupboards were filled with numerous items that seemed serviceable. Most of the base ingredients seemed hardly touched. She attempted to ask Trixie where most of the utensils and baking items were but she soon realized all she was going to get was a shrug or an “over there somewhere” and a wave of a hoof that encompassed most of the kitchen. Eventually, the unicorn just left the kitchen altogether. Fortunately, the pegasus managed to find all the items she needed on her own.
The yellow pony started humming to herself, getting into a rhythm. After the long train ride and the nervousness of entering a strange place she was ready to do something familiar. She was always making things for herself and her animals back at home; there was something relaxing about it. Pinkie might be considered the ‘baker’ amongst her friends, but Pinkie's specialty was sweets. Fluttershy, however, specialized in wholesome meals. After all, a lot of animals didn’t need sugar, or at least that’s what she had to constantly remind Angel.
Soon enough, Fluttershy had produced a nice batch of buttered rolls, a pleasantly steaming casserole, and a side of boiled green beans.
“Did you manage to make anything edible yet?” Trixie called out as she made her way back into the kitchen. She stopped in her tracks as she eyed her kitchen table.
The creator of the feast smiled. “What do you think? I usually mix several different greens when I make my casseroles but all you had was clovers. I think it still turned out pretty well.”
The unicorn glanced at her cupboards and then back to her food-laden table. “Was all of this in Trixie’s kitchen?”
“Mm-hm. Do you want any?”
She shouldn’t have taken it. It was wrong. It was taking handouts from the enemy. An enemy who not only was taking up space in her living quarters but was also a friend of that no-good Ponyville unicorn. But… It was… It was just so good. She had a whole plate full of the homemade food. Trixie winced. Two whole plates. The unicorn grumbled and shifted in her bed to look at the ceiling in shame.
Was it her fault she never learned to cook? It was never a skill that she needed, what with prepackaged foods and carryout. And restaurants. Restaurants that didn’t compare with that delicious—
The blue pony closed her eyes and turned to her side. Enough was enough. She would think about her moment of weakness no longer.
“She did what?” Trixie’s hat fell off as she backed up suddenly and stared at the pony in front of her.
Ivy, the mare in charge of the stage prep crew, was wide-eyed as she explained to Trixie. “She got the Chimera to eat out of the palm of her hoof! Can you believe it? With just two hours before the show she had it ready to perform in front of the public! Not only that, it enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ve ever seen all of its heads smile at once before.”
“That cannot possibly true. That beast has been eternally bad-tempered.” The magician frowned.
“I saw it with my own eyes before I went and did my performance. Wait, I think she’s coming,” Ivy exclaimed.
Fresh from her glorious victory on the battlefield of the stage with an almost visible glow about her, Fluttershy walked into the two mares’ backstage room followed by a throng of other ponies, with the majority of them carrying cameras and shouting out questions.
“Please, please everypony, take your snappers out of this room and inhale your questions. I know the performance blew your socks off but hold out a bit, huh?” Big Entrance ushered the media out of the room.
That only removed half of the crowd. The other half consisted entirely of Trixie’s co-workers.
“How did you get it to blow flames like that?”
“You have to let me in on how you got it to recite Shakesmare!”
“My favorite part was when you got it to shoot arcs of lightning that flashed just over the audience’s heads!”
The all-powerful animal handler blushed the entire time, her head bowed. “Oh it was nothing. It’s really a wonderful creature. It did most of the work.”
“Nonsense, sister. That was one mane-sizzling performance back there. When you said you thought it was ready to perform I was about to say you would have to pay for the carcasses, but crumb did you prove me wrong. And here I thought you would have ice that needed breaking. Ha! Trixie,” Big Entrance said nonchalantly, turning to the speechless unicorn, “you’re fired.”
“Wha?” Trixie felt her eyes approach maximum widening.
“We only got room for one big performance, babe. You’re out, the Wonder Beast and Miss Flutter is in.” The stallion put his hoof around Fluttershy. “Yeah, and that apartment will be going to her as well.”
Her jaw might have hit the floor. Trixie couldn’t tell with the numbness that was overtaking her. A blindingly bright yellow pony approached the unicorn. “It’s okay, Trixie, you can still stay with me. In fact,” she looked at Big Entrance sadly. “Are you sure she can’t still work here? I don’t want to cause anypony to be fired.”
The stage manager twisted the side of his mouth and stood there silently. He sighed. “Alright, alright, I guess we can keep her, but it’ll be a smaller gig. Trix, you had better not forget that Fluttershy here is to thank for your continued employment.”
The magician thought she was about to choke. Her co-workers didn’t seem to notice.
“Isn’t she so nice?”
“Oh wow, kills dragons, models, twists exotic creatures around her hoof, and she’s a sweetheart.”
“You should be so grateful, Trixie!”
Fluttershy went to pat the quivering unicorn on the head. “We can even swap places every other day if you like.”
The blue mare spluttered but was incapable of getting a coherent word out.
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you Trixie.” Fluttershy embraced her roommate in a big hug.
Trixie screamed at the top of her lungs.
The covers flew up into the air as Trixie jumped up from her bed. She stared unblinkingly at the wall in front of her as she panted heavily. The air conditioner kicked on and blew across the cold sweat on her forehead causing her to shiver. She had never had a nightmare as bad as the Ursa Major one… until now. The unicorn swallowed. No, it was worse than that dream. Stupid, pegasus. Stupid, stupid, stupid, pegasus.
The magician let her brain run over this mantra until she settled down. She managed to ease back down to sleep, eager to wake up and prove that things would happen differently in reality.
Ivy’s words turned into a distant echo as her figure became blurry.
No, no, no, no, no…
“Trixie? Trixie, are you in there?” A tan colored face shoved itself into Trixie’s personal space.
The unicorn carefully upturned the sides of her mouth and blinked. “Trixie apologizes, but she thinks she might have misheard you. Just, um, just what did you say?”
“I asked if you saw Fluttershy’s performance out there? She actually got the chimera to perform on her first day on the job.” Ivy beamed. Trixie’s eye twitched. “Where were you anyway?”
“Trixie was getting ready for her encore act,” the magician said distantly.
“Oh, well you got off the hook. Fluttershy took that spot.”
The blue pony started drifting into a faraway land. “Trixie sees that,” she whispered.
“Um,” Ivy tilted her head, “are you okay?”
“That was something, Shy, some-thing. Better than I could even hope for. I’m so glad I got you on board.” Big Entrance’s voice carried as he and Fluttershy walked into the backstage room. “Little suggestion, though, let’s see if we can work on not hiding from the audience quite so much. They want to see the handler just as much as the beastie. Especially if it’s a pretty, young thing like you.” The stallion winked.
Fluttershy’s face looked like it was going to burn off from her blushing. She quickly went from hiding most of her face to hiding all of it behind her mane.
“Trixie!” The manager made his way to the catatonic unicorn. “Great performance as usual. Uh, can I see you over here for a second?” He motioned to the far side of the room.
It took a few seconds for the mare to navigate her way back to reality. She nodded. Her hoofsteps were slow as she followed her manager to privacy.
“Phew, where to begin?” Big Entrance shook his head, his spiky black mane somehow staying perfectly intact. “Okay, it’s like this. Envision a flower. It’s a nice flower. A beautiful royal garden specimen. I mean it’s a real paragon of plant life. Probably imported. Now let’s say that you’re a nice pony and you want to share its beauty to your neighbors, so you open your garden to the public. Well all the eager ponies gather round your flower and... it wilts. Right there then and there. Deader than a coffin nail. I mean, it’s a such a beautiful thing but it simply can’t handle an audience. Fortunately you know that flower has it in it somewhere so you set about hiring a gardener, one who has proven herself in the halls of the great green hooves. You get this gardener to nurture this lovely plant into one that can truly shine and bloom to its viewers.”
“Is this allegory going to end anytime soon?” asked Trixie. Her mind was still in a haze and was having a hard time portraying all the images being thrown at it.
“Fine, look, you’re the hired gardener. I mean, did you see Flutter’s performance? She got that chimera to do more than her predecessors ever did, sure, but she was jittery, un-confident, and she had absolutely no presence. You’re going to have to do more than just rub your talent off on her. Starting tomorrow I want you to actively give her some lessons. We’ve got the cake but we are in sore need of some icing.”
“Wait, is Fluttershy a flower or a cake?”
“Hey, don’t mix my metaphors. Just double-time this whole ice-breaking thing.”
“So... Trixie is breaking the cake’s icing?”
Big Entrance narrowed his eyes. “If this is an objection, then I’m hearing none of it. It’s not hard to understand. Just... do your thing.”
Her mind having finally returned to its full capacity, Trixie saw there was no way out of the arrangement. She sighed resignedly. What Big Entrance wanted he always got at some point or other. Fortunately, there was a comforting side. Her manager didn’t just fire her and replace her with Fluttershy, proving that she hadn’t suddenly developed any prophetical powers.
The unicorn turned to look at Fluttershy who was having a conversation with Ivy. They seemed to be enjoying each others' company.
The magician ground her teeth. Trixie wouldn’t let it happen. She would keep her job. She would keep her spot as the primary show. She would be the better mare.
The stage pony suddenly envisioned Fluttershy’s wings transforming into crimson claws, her tongue grew forked, and her eyes turned an eerie green as she grinned evilly at Ivy.
That sinister pony was now her nemesis.
There was a series of loud squeaks. Trixie ground her teeth and continued reading her book. It sounded again further down the room and she tried to ignore it. When it kept going and going, on throughout her apartment, the mare thought she was going to go mad. Just when she thought she was going to yell, with a sudden finality, it stopped.
“Doesn’t that look nicer?”
The irritated mare turned from her book and examined the room. The glass in front of all the paintings of her apartment was now sparkling clean. So were the windows. They were more than sparkling, they were pristine. They were pristine.
Trixie remained silent. What else could she do? Silence, just… silence.
“Are they not nice enough? I can clean them more if you like.”
The seething pony whipped her head to the side and she gave the helpful pony a vile look. The pegasus jumped back in surprise. “Or, uh, I could not.” Then she smiled and moved on. She smiled. Was there anything in Trixie’s face that warranted smiling about? Or was it the cleaning that was making the mare joyful?
There was simply no figuring out her roommate. The beleaguered unicorn tried once again to finish the chapter she was on. Then there was humming. Surely not. Trixie looked up, finding what she hoped she wouldn’t. But of course. There she was, a yellow pony humming to herself—and dusting. Dusting Trixie’s shelves. Dusting Trixie’s busts. Dusting everything.
This wasn’t the little goody-four-hooves’ apartment. That pegasus’s room was the only thing under her purview. Everything else was sovereign to Trixie. This was Trixie’s stuff and she was going out of her way to clean it all. Why? Sweet Celestia, why?
The stage pony bared her teeth menacingly at the oblivious cleaning pony. Stop being so nice! Stop being so nice! Stop being so nice! STOP BEING SO—
“Oh!” Fluttershy looked at the clock on the wall. “Isn’t it time for All My Foals?”
Calming her nerves, Trixie scrunched up her nose and nodded. She was not about to have the latest episode spoiled because she was too angry to pay attention. It didn’t help that her new roommate ended up liking the program as much as she did. Things were funny at first when the pegasus was scared of the television, completely ignorant as to what it was, but she warmed up to it quickly. Things just went downhill from there. Soon enough she was watching the same things as Trixie… and enjoying them. That’s not how things were supposed to be.
The pink maned mare quickly put her duster down and sat down on the couch besides Trixie. The unicorn grabbed the remote with magic and turned the TV on, switching the channel until the art sketch intro was seen.
“Like tufts of dandelion seeds wandering aimlessly, these are All My Foals.”
The saxophone theme song started and the unicorn settled into her couch and tried to ignore the occupied space beside her.
“Baron von High-Saddle, I just… I just don’t think we can be together anymore.”
“Non-sense, Miss Chipahoof. We were meant to be together.”
As per usual, the drama was riveting. Trixie watched with anticipation as the scene changed from the passionate romantic scene to the high school drama. The writers of the show were brilliant.
“Oh yeah, like I would hang out with you. You’re only around because your parents weren’t careful.”
“Take that back you foal!”
“Make me, unicorn-trash.”
The scene quickly turned into a brawl. Fluttershy gasped. The two characters were carried off by the principal before the scene switched again.
“High-Saddle! I knew I’d find you here. With my mare, I see? I suspected as much.”
“You belong to Manesdale? Miss Chipahoof, when were you going to tell me?”
“She didn’t tell you because she’s a stray now, aren’t you, dear?”
“Well she belongs to you no longer Manesdale!”
“No High-Saddle, he has powerful magic!”
Fluttershy took another sharp intake of breath and hid her face behind her roommate as the action unfolded.
“Is that necessary?” Trixie asked. “It just went to commercial.”
“Oh, Miss Chipahoof will get hurt, I just know it.”
“She most certainly will not," Trixie retorted. "High-Saddle won’t let her be hurt. He’s no simpleton. It was probably a magic charm that he bought when he mysteriously left his job to go downtown. With Manesdale’s magic useless, he’ll probably kill him.”
“Really?" Fluttershy furrowed her brow. "Well that’s not very nice.”
“High-Saddle is obsessed with Chipahoof,” said Trixie. “He’ll stop at nothing to be with her. That includes removing her husband.”
“I think she should be with Equinicero. He’s so sweet and romantic.”
“Equinicero? Ha! He’s a pansy. That’s why he’s at the bar drinking and not at her place fighting over her.”
The discussion came to a halt when the show came back on.
“None of you shall have her! For it is I, Snoutbetter!”
Both of the TV’s viewers’ jaws dropped.
“Snoutbetter isn’t dead?”
“They brought him back!”
There was a blast of magic, screams, yelling, hoof-slapping, quick scene changes, and finally kissing.
“For it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. But for I, I totally didn’t lose a thing. Score.”
With the ending quote the credits rolled and the episode was over. The two ponies stared at the screen.
“Yay!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “She chose Equincero and they kicked Snoutbetter out of the city.”
“Hmph. She should have gotten together with High-Saddle.”
“But he’s a murderer.”
“He gets done what needs to get done. What would you have done in his place?” Trixie stared down her nose at her TV companion.
“Well I would have calmly asked Manesdale if things could possibly be settled peaceably.”
“Of course you would. Why did Trixie even ask that question. High-Saddle didn’t waste time with pointless discussion. Equincero, however, rolls over at the slightest threats.”
“I didn’t see him roll ov—“
“What would you call his unwillingness to fight? He let High-Saddle laugh at him!” Trixie yelled.
Fluttershy lowered her eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t meant to make you angry.”
The unicorn gritted her teeth. “No, you are not about to clam up.”
“But I’m making you mad. I’ll just go and do some more cleaning.”
“No! Trixie wants to argue!”
The retreating pegasus picked up her duster and got back to work.
The unicorn was about to boil over. She made spastic movements while she resisted launching herself at her roommate. Somehow the cleaning mare remained untouched. Trixie let out an exasperated cry. “Trixie is going out. She might not be back for the rest of the day!”
Fluttershy put her duster down to say something. “Well I—“
“No, Trixie has no interest in whatever you are about to suggest. She is going out and that’s all there is to it.”
“But I was plan—“
“Trixie can’t hear you over the sound of her leaving.”
With that, the magician marched out the door, slamming it behind her. Once she was out of the apartment she realized she had to figure out just where she was planning to go. She contemplated going to one of her usual restaurants and sulking but quickly thought better of it. Who was available-- Ivy!
The mare nodded to herself and made her way out into the streets of Manehattan. Ivy was always welcoming and she was one of the few co-workers of which Trixie enjoyed the company. For some reason most of her other co-workers seemed to get exasperated when she talked for too long. The show mare supposed they just weren’t as social as she was.
Ivy’s apartment wasn’t too far from Trixie’s and the unicorn enjoyed what passed as a sunny day in Manehattan. Her mood had already lightened when she arrived at her co-worker’s door. She knocked and shortly the door opened revealing its resident, the earth pony's dark green mane done up in rollers.
“Oh.” Ivy stood and stared at Trixie.
It was a not a response the visitor was expecting. “‘Oh,’ what?”
“It’s just that, um... Is there something wrong?”
The magician looked puzzled. “Quite a few things are wrong but you seem to be concerned about something specific.”
“Did Fluttershy not tell you?” Ivy asked.
“Tell Trixie what?”
“Well she invited me over today.”
The gears in Trixie’s mind, which had happily been whirring away, content not to be grinding away under seething anger, suddenly stopped at the force of this mental explosive. This simply could not be happening.
“Strange that Fluttershy didn’t tell you. I hope it’s still on. I should probably call her.”
“Ivy, are you sure you want to do that today? It’s a lovely day outside.” The unicorn smiled widely and pointed towards the inviting sunlight coming in through a nearby window.
“Well I made a commitment, Trixie, besides, Fluttershy’s such a dear to be around.”
Trixie had to bite her tongue to keep herself from letting out with a screech just how much she disagreed with that assessment.
Ivy went to pick up her phone and called Trixie’s apartment. The unicorn wished Fluttershy had forgotten what a phone was by now. She rolled her eyes remembering when the phone had first rung with the pegasus there. She had jumped behind the couch and stared at it as if it was going to eat her alive. Trixie was forced to go through the explanation of just what a telephone was and how it was proof just how amazing magic was. The pegasus was such a backwater pony.
“Hello, Fluttershy, yes this is Ivy. I was wondering if our get-together was still on for today? It is? Oh, good. Well Trixie’s over here at my place so that had me confused. Was there a reason you didn’t tell her about it?” Ivy made a side-long glance towards Trixie. “You tried to but she wouldn’t listen? Makes sense. Would Trixie be okay with it, you ask?” This time Ivy faced Trixie fully.
The unicorn, who had been frowning idly during the conversation, suddenly perked up and shook her head emphatically.
“Oh yes, she’d be perfectly fine with it. I’ll see you soon. Bye.” The earth pony hung up the phone.
“In case you didn’t notice Trixie, she made it clear she doesn’t approve of this.” The magician’s face turned dark.
Ivy moved towards her bathroom, forcing Trixie to follow her. She started removing the rollers from her mane while she looked into her mirror. “I don’t understand what your problem with Fluttershy is. She’s a nice pony.”
“She’s an utter nuisance. She incessantly cleans Trixie’s apartment, she won’t argue when Trixie wants her to, and she’s always cooking really good food that tempts Trixie whenever she steps into the kitchen.”
“That does sound problematic.”
“Was that sarcastic?” The magician never could tell with Ivy.
“I just think you should give her a chance is all.”
The unicorn rolled her eyes. Ivy didn’t have to live with the terror. There was to be no reasoning with her. The dejected mare waited while her co-worker finished her hair preparations and followed along as they returned to the same hellhole she had just tried to escape from.
The state of Trixie’s apartment showed that Fluttershy must have been ecstatic to have company. She had apparently, in its owner’s absence, made quite the arrangements. Everything was more clean than Trixie had ever remembered them being. Her roommate had opened the windows in the living room to let in the pleasant weather and moved Trixie’s coffee table closer to the couch. On it were several plates of shortbread and cucumber sandwiches. And a teapot. That couldn’t have been Trixie’s teapot. Like she would own a teapot. That had to be Fluttershy’s teapot. Did the pegasus pack a teapot or did she buy one? Both actions seemed ridiculous. The mare mentally huffed and decided she didn’t care.
The stewing pony sat in a nearby chair and frowned while she watched Ivy and Fluttershy chat and sip their tea. Daintily sip their tea. They held their teacups just so and patted at their mouths with their napkins when they so much as looked at their food. Trixie swore that it was like she had been transported back in time.
To the unicorn's surprise, Ivy seemed happy to be carrying on with the little do-gooder. Since when did Ivy enjoy something like this? Wasn’t this the same mare that had a good laugh and a martini at the local bar? But here she was giggling. Daintily giggling.
At one point the two of them tried to include Trixie in the conversation but she would have none of it. She quickly found ways to dead-end their topics and they promptly started ignoring her. The unicorn drank some of their tea in silence and watched the clock. Each minute felt like a dungeon’s worth of torture and when the one hour mark hit, the mare wanted to bury her face in her throw-pillows and scream.
There wasn't much more of this Trixie could take before violent insanity set in. She could leave. Go wander the streets in anger, but no. That would be conceding defeat. What she needed to do was take action. It was high time she started taking the fight to the pink and yellow menace instead of being passive. Then a spark went off in her head and a devilish smile came to her lips. It was time to ruin this daint-fest.
Trixie walked into the other room and picked up her phone, dialing Hue’s number with her magic.
“Ah, Hue, it’s Trixie. Fluttershy’s hosting a gathering at Trixie’s place and Trixie was wondering if you wished to join us.”
“Whoa, wait, Fluttershy’s having ponies over and you didn’t invite me sooner? Come on, Trixie, throw your friend a bone every once and awhile. You better bet I’ll be there.”
“Ah, wonderful. See you soon.”
Hanging up the phone, the stage pony resisted cackling evilly. Hue might be a well-meaning pony but he lacked grace. He was sure to mess up the quiet, little chit-chat that Fluttershy had arranged. The smug mare returned to the living room, grabbed a piece of shortbread to munch, and waited for the fireworks to begin.
Hue didn’t even bother to knock when he arrived, he never did, and he looked exactly like Trixie expected, having obviously showered just before he left and combed his mane. He brought chips, probably thinking that a “get together” was something of a more raucous occasion.
“So, where’s the party at?” Hue asked quizzically, looking around the quiet room.
The two mares turned to look at the newcomer, both of their faces the picture of confusion. Ivy spoke up first. “So, Hue… How are you?”
“Good, thanks. I’m uh, I’m missing something aren’t I? Did you not tell me something?” Hue turned to Trixie..
“Oh, so Trixie invited you over.” Ivy gave the innocent looking unicorn one of her piercing looks but said nothing more on the matter. “No, you're not missing anything. The more the merrier. Have a seat.” She gestured to a chair. Fluttershy seemed vexed that a newcomer had interrupted her flow but she smiled nervously and pulled the chair closer to the coffee table.
“Fluttershy this is Hue, our costume manager,” said Ivy.
“Ha, manager makes me sound stuffy. It basically means I go through a bunch of clothes racks and throw them at ponies.” Hue grinned and hopped onto the chair provided him. He shook Fluttershy’s hoof even though she had barely had time to offer it. He winked at her. “Glad to officially meet the newcomer. Big really should find a getup for you when you go out on stage with the chimera. We’d see each other more often.”
The tea hostess looked unsure what to make of the stallion. She seemed to be fumbling for words. Trixie smirked. As if Hue would give her the chance to talk.
"So," Fluttershy began, "How is--"
“So, what’s the party food of choice?” The stallion cut in, looking over the table. “I guess chips don’t go with that do they? Oh, well.” The brown pony popped open his bag of corn chips and started munching away happily.
The two mares cringed slightly but quickly regained their composure.
“So is that stuff any good?” Hue gestured to the teapot.
“Would you like to try some?” Fluttershy asked.
“Sure, why the hay not.”
A cup was poured and the pegasus gave it to Hue. He took it and sipped it. “Oh, wow, that is good.” He started to gulp it down, finishing it with an “ahh” sound. The two mares cringed even harder. The stallion noticed this time. “What?”
“Um, well, there’s a proper method to, um, drinking tea.” Fluttershy dipped her head timidly.
The costume handler smiled. “There is? What’s that?”
“Well, first off you hold the cup in your hoof like this.”
Hue patiently let the mare walk him through the steps and to Trixie’s utter bewilderment he let the pegasus talk for a full minute without interrupting her instructions with a comment or anecdote.
Then it just continued... Was her sight deceiving her? The unicorn rubbed her eyes. Sure enough, Hue was learning to drink tea properly and wasn’t putting up a fuss. She watched as he smiled, laughed, and most surprisingly, followed everything the shy, yellow headache suggested to him. Trixie watched his eyes closely. No. It couldn’t be. Except it was. On full display, too. The stupid stallion had a thing for the newcomer.
After a hoof-full of minutes the pegasus had the stallion properly carrying on with them. He hadn’t ruined the tea party at all. He was participating in it. Trixie watched Hue gesture with his hooves while he told one his stories and the two mares laughed in unison. He was making things better.
It was an ugly spectacle and the unicorn spectator wanted desperately to lift a nearby lamp and throw it into the middle of them but she knew that despite the initial satisfaction in the long run it would only lead to more annoyance. There was just no winning. The universe was making Trixie its jester.
“Trixie’s going out,” she announced and quickly cantered out the door before any of them could respond.
Her two new friends made their way out the door while Fluttershy said her goodbyes. Ivy said she hadn’t had such a pleasant conversation like that in a long time. Hue thanked her for the lesson in etiquette and said he’d see her around and gave her another of his winks. The pegasus didn’t quite know what to make of it but she had come to enjoy the stallion’s sense of humor and though he was a little loud spoken sometimes, he was enjoyable to be around. All in all the two ponies made for great company. Her friends had been right, the ponies of Manehattan were nice.
Sighing contentedly, Fluttershy got to work putting up the contents of her little tea setup and making sure everything in the apartment was back the way it was before. Her cleaning done, the mare sat down on the couch. Now what to do? It was still early in the evening. With Trixie gone, Fluttershy didn’t know how many hours she had left to herself. There was always something to do in her cottage back in Ponyville, whether it was an animal that needed help, gardening, or simply going out and enjoying nature. Here in an apartment there were so few things that required one’s attention and no pretty scenery to absorb. Then she remembered. She hadn’t written a letter to her friends yet. It had only been a week since she left Ponyville but there was already plenty to talk about.
Trotting into her room, Fluttershy pulled out the quill, ink, and blank paper she had brought along. She sat down at her room’s small desk and put quill to paper.
How are you doing? I hope Ponyville is still as pleasant as it was when I left it and I hope my absence hasn’t caused any problems. Have my animals been well? You do remember the instructions I left you, right? I’m sure you do but if you don’t I can send another letter as a replacement.
So far my stay at Manehattan has been wonderful. I managed to get the chimera to follow some basic instructions on my very first day. Oh, I apologize again, that came across as bragging, which I assure you it wasn’t. I’m sure any pony with a way with animals could have done the same. Maybe they could have given it a better name, too. I settled on Maribel. It seemed to fit, or, well, I hope it fits.
You’ll never guess who I moved in with! Well, you might be able to guess. Actually you might already have guessed. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you’d be incapable of guessing. That would be rude of me. In case you didn’t guess, it’s Trixie! You remember the unicorn that showed up in Ponyville with her magic act? She has a job at the Mane-Event now and she’s the most popular act. So far she’s been a pleasant roommate. I don’t know how she feels about me, though. I’ve tried to make a good impression. I spent most of today cleaning up her apartment. There’s not a lot to do around here so I felt it was a good use of my time.
I did manage to arrange a tea party, though. It was with two very nice ponies that also work for the Mane-Event. I might even make it a weekly thing. Speaking of weekly, I was thinking of sending a letter a week to all of you. Would that be often enough? Too often?
Well, be sure to tell me how each of you are doing. Hope to hear from you soon!
Content with her letter, Fluttershy put it in an envelope and took it down to the mailbox on the first floor of the apartment. She hummed to herself, making her way back to the apartment. Walking back to her room the mare noticed that her roommate's door had been left open. She hesitated. Trixie always kept her door shut and seemed to implicate that she liked it that way but Fluttershy couldn’t figure out why. Surely if she left it open it was okay for her to take a look.
With the pegasus’s curiosity getting the better of her, she peered her head through the door. Her eyes widened. All across the walls were posters for the Mane-Event advertising the performance of “The Great and Powerful Trixie.” The walls were the same azure color as the show pony’s coat and her cutie mark was painted on the ceiling. Throughout the rest of the room were cases of books on magic, numerous mirrors, and photographs of her show in action scattered about.
Overall, it was quite disorganized. The rest of the apartment was looking ship-shape; it would have been a shame to have the one room drag the rest of it down. Fluttershy was sure that Trixie would be okay if she just rearranged and cleaned a few things. Maybe that would be the act of kindness that would finally warm her roommate up to her. The mare smiled at the thought and got to work.
The hallway was tilted for some reason. Trixie didn’t remember it slanting to the left when she had gone out in the afternoon. No, slanted to the right. No, left again.
The unicorn shook her head. She lifted her front hoof and put it forward followed by one of her back legs. They wobbled with her efforts. She took baby steps, her eyes on the prize-- her apartment door. To Trixie’s surprise she somehow made it to her door without tipping over.
“Who needs company to have a good time?” the stage mare mumbled to herself. She paused to think about her question. She may or may not have had some companions at her table. In fact, she may or may not have been flirting incessantly with some stallion. She shrugged.
A soft glow reflected off the door handle while the unicorn reached out with magic.
“As if any stallion would be worthy of me.” Trixie smiled and recollected the bar. “They served good strong stuff there.”
The lock on the door stubbornly resisted the mare’s attempts to solve it.
“Maybe too strong.”
The door knob reflected a harder glow in response to Trixie’s horn surging with magic in an attack against the door’s lock.
“Let me in my place you little demon!”
The lock flatly refused to do anything except groan against the pressure put on it. Trixie blinked. She put her hoof to the door and pushed. There was a slight creak as the door swung forward, a result of having not been locked in the first place. The unicorn grumbled and made her way inside.
The lights of the living room shone directly in the intruder’s eyes causing her to yelp and flail desperately for the light switch, turning it off. Now armed with a sharp headache, she stumbled her way onward to her room. A yellow and pink blur appeared before her.
“Are you okay?” it asked.
Trixie squinted at the speaker. What was that thing again? Oh… That kind-hearted thing. Her brain got prepared for a furious attack upon the creature before her, a fiery release of negative energy born from the frustrating lock and light-induced headache but her mind then decided that it was far too tired to be upholding its duty and passed its job off with a yawn. The inebriate patted the yellow thing on the head.
“Fine. Nothing to worry your head about. Though… sleep. I like sleep.”
The blur came closer revealing concerned cyan eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look well and you’re speaking… different. I think you should lie down.”
The thing led Trixie into her room and to her bed. The unicorn sighed contentedly and crawled into her soft rectangle.
“Just take it easy. I should probably take your temperature.” The yellow thing, which Trixie was beginning to suspect was a pony, her roommate in fact, left the room. She wondered why that information was so hard to dig up. She had been drinking to forget something. Was this pony it?
“Let’s see.” The pony stuck a thermometer in Trixie’s mouth. “Hmm, well your temperature’s okay.” Fluttershy put a hoof to the unicorn’s forehead. “You don’t seem to be having a fever. That’s strange. Well, I should at least make you some soup. Some nice hot soup remedies everything.”
“No, no soup.” Trixie paused and stared into the depths of the pegasus’s mane. She reached out a hoof to touch it. “You know, pink’s a nice color. I like it. I’d like to see more of it.”
“Oh, thank you.” There was a pause. “So you’re okay?”
The bed-sprawled mare poked the pony’s hair watching it move back and forth. “I am… fine.”
The pegasus watched as her mane got prodded. “Well, if you like pink so much, then this is a really good opportunity. When I was cleaning this room I noticed whoever painted it did a poor job, mainly behind the furniture. I could repaint it if you like. I’m sure I can get pink.”
“Sounds good to me. Now to sleep.” Trixie pressed her head into her pillow.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Fluttershy asked.
“Yes, fine… fine.” The groggy pony yawned.
“Well, tomorrow’s another day off so you be sure to get as much sleep as you need.”
The unicorn only barely registered Fluttershy as she drifted off.
The headache was criminal. It held a grudge of hatred against her brain and was out for blood. It took Trixie a whole half hour before she felt that opening her eyes wouldn’t result in the frying of her retinas. When she finally did it open them they took their sweet time adjusting. After furious blinking, clarity was finally achieved. She wished they had stayed fuzzy.
Pink. Pink everywhere.
The hung-over pony slowly sat up. Her walls were pink. Her door was pink. Her cutie mark was on a background of pink. Nothing was where she left it. Her posters were framed by butterflies, rabbits, flowers, and kittens. And little hearts. Little pink hearts.
Trixie blinked. She blinked again. She slid back under her covers and came back out again. No. This was a dream. A sick, hangover dream. Her headache pounded harder than ever. Listening to the pain, she put her pillows over her head. Her plan was simple. She was going to wait till her headache subsided, look back out, and the pink would be gone. It would just be a trick of the tired mind. After what seemed like forever, Trixie felt her headache finally reach acceptable levels. She looked back out at the room. Still pink. The unicorn felt a stirring in her stomach. She rushed to her bathroom. After going through a second tour of yesterday’s meals, the pony returned to her room in a horrified state.
What had happened? She tried to remember last night but nothing was coming clear. Had she done this? No. No it had to be some sort of evil demon. An evil presence must have sneaked into her apartment, something haunting, something which could look at the very depths of her nightmares. Trixie went back to her bed and curled into a ball underneath them. She shivered and tried desperately to collect herself.
The door to her room made an ominous creak, opening slowly. Trixie froze. This was it. This had to be her tormentor. The unicorn carefully pulled back her covers. Her eyes peered just over her woolen comforter to eye this harbinger of horror.
“Hey, you’re awake. You were asleep for a long time. Since you slept into the late afternoon I had time to make a surprise for you.” The demon gestured to the walls. “What do you think?”
The demon seemed pleased with its torment. The unicorn stared at it with crazed, bloodshot eyes. The hell-creature’s demeanor sank at the ocular onslaught. She stared at it some more, her eyes growing harder and harder with each passing second. The demon frowned nervously and started to back away but no, no it wouldn’t get away that easy. Trixie tossed her covers to the side and threw herself at the devil.
The room resonated with the sound of a throat clearing. Her badly burnt cape shifted to one side while Trixie fidgeted uncomfortably. Fluttershy hid as much of her face as was possible behind her mane.
“Can one of you explain what just happened?” asked Big Entrance, staring down his nose. “Barring some sort of aggressive trait that I am unaware of, I think I can safely say that the cause of the chimera’s recent behavior is on one of you.” Silence prevailed. The theater manager tapped his hoof on his desk impatiently. “Come on, there isn’t some secret password is there? Open your mouths and let words escape.”
“Um, well,” said Fluttershy, so quietly that Trixie had to lean her head in to hear what she said. “Maribel got angry.
“Really? Angry? What about almost freezing the entire audience, crashing stage equipment, and chasing after one of my artists gave you the indication that it was angry?” The manager’s eyes shifted with irritation between the two ponies in front of him. “That was a joke by the way.” He leaned over his desk. “Now, here’s a question, a good question, an important question. Why, exactly, was it angry?” He tilted his face towards Trixie. “Trix, perhaps you’d like to take a crack at speaking?”
“Trixie has no idea.”
“Oh, so you and Miss Shy here staring scissors at each other earlier had nothing to do with this?”
The unicorn clamped her mouth shut and turned her head.
“Fine, I’ll tell you what I think. I’m thinking that you,” Big Entrance pointed a hoof at Trixie, “Made her,” he pointed a hoof at Fluttershy, “Angry. The chimera picks up on her anger and lashes out at the audience. Then it comes off the stage, sees a blue unicorn, and unleashes Celestia’s fury on it and this building. That sound about right?”
“All in favor of keeping their jobs, speak now.”
With uneasy shuffling the two mares shared a dark glance and suddenly started talking at the same time.
There was a vibrating thud as a large forced collided into the back wall. Fluttershy winced and faced her now prostrate assailant. “Are you okay?”
Trixie lifted herself from the floor and shook her head clear. “Stupid pegasus reflexes,” she grumbled, leveling vengeance-filled eyes at her roommate. “What have you done to Trixie’s room?”
“I made it pink like you said you wanted. Do you not like the other stuff? I might have gotten a bit carried away.”
The unicorn’s left eye twitched and guttural noises clawed their way out of her throat. “No! Trixie does not like the ‘other stuff!’ She doesn’t even like pink! She hates the hearts, she hates the butterflies, and the bunnies can go burn!”
She might have imagined it, but Trixie thought that for a moment a bonfire had been set alight in the pegasus’s eyes. There was no mistaking the gasp.
Seeing she had hit a nerve, the unicorn attacked it full bore. “Trixie hates animals! She has never liked a single animal in her life! If Trixie had her way, she would torch the lot of them!”
A horrified squeal erupted from the pegasus. “You are not a very nice pony.”
Big Entrance blinked. “So that’s what got you two all rivaled up?”
Awkward silence stepped back into the room.
“Alright, fine. I’ll just chock that one up to other-worldly hoodoo because I certainly don’t understand it.” He looked hard at Trixie. “Any other manager might consider separating you two, but…” The stallion’s hardened face burst into a beaming smile. “They’d be idiotic!”
The two mares looked at each and back to their manager in confusion.
“Flutter, you were amazing out there! Out of all your performances, that was the best! You had presence! Real, feel-it-with-your-hooves presence! Who would have thought indignation was the key! I knew sticking you two together was a great idea. Glad you stepped up to the bat so quickly, Trix. ” The pony winked at the magician. “Now I’m hoping this shooting-bursts-of-ice thing is a onetime deal. Do you think you can keep it in line next time, Shy?”
“I think so.”
“Excellent. Now, do you want to know something interesting, Trix? Miss Shy here has been creeping up the popularity charts recently. Turns out, no matter how timid the performance is, ponies love to see a dangerous animal. Now that Flutter here can put on some fetlock shearing performances, she’s a serious contender to you, and I think we both know that there can only be one headliner in this theater. So here’s my new plan: you two are going to fight over it.”
Unbelief worked its way across Trixie’s face. “W-wait, what?”
“You heard me right. Whoever performs better in the following week will take the headline position and the other will just be second rate.”
With a snort, the magician lifted her nose into the air. “Fine. Trixie accepts this challenge.”
“Oh, I have no problem if Trixie keeps her spot as headliner,” said Fluttershy.
Big Entrance’s brow furrowed. “I thought you were angry at her. Don’t you want to, you know, pound her career into dust?”
The pegasus shook her head.
There was a pause. “Did I say that the loser of this popularity contest simply is bumped to second place? What I meant to say is that the loser is fired completely.”
With a start, Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “But what will happen to Maribel?”
“Well I guess she’ll have to be…” Big Entrance trailed off and gestured searchingly with his hoof, “Cut loose. In fact, I don’t even know where she’ll go. No one’s really equipped to handle a beast like that other than us and even if they were they’d need a permit. I guess she’ll, you know, have to be…” The theater manager winced and looked at Fluttershy sadly.
Fluttershy brought a hoof to her mouth. “No!”
Trixie smiled at the idea.
“Yes, ‘fraid so, but see, that doesn’t have to happen if you win this little popularity contest. Keep up the brutal hatred you two, this is show biz.” With that the stallion ushered them out of his office, grinning madly.
Fluttershy was a chaotic wreck upon leaving Big Entrance’s office. The fate of the chimera now depended on her and how well she could beat Trixie. But… competitiveness? Brutal hatred? She was having a hard enough time just being mad at the mare. The nervous energy inside her was making her feel downright dizzy and she wanted nothing more than to run away to some remote location and hope things got better.
“If you think for one second that you have a shot at replacing the Great and Powerful Trixie then allow her to dash your hopes now.” Fluttershy looked up from her floor-staring pondering and met livid unicorn eyes. “Trixie has more skill than you, more drive than you, and more ‘presence’ than you. When all of this is over, ‘Maribel’ will be divided into four different hats.” The magician ripped off what remained of her cape and threw it to the ground. “It’s about time Trixie is rid off you and your ugly beast.” The unicorn stalked off with hard steps, her hat sliding off in the process. Obviously unconcerned at her loss of head wear, she kept going until she disappeared down the hallway.
A pressing feeling suddenly welled up inside Fluttershy. It was similar to what she felt the previous night, only now it was stronger, foreign, and yet oddly appropriate. It compelled her to lower her eyebrows and downturn the edges of her mouth. The dizziness of her emotional confusion left her and cleared the way for solid determination. Maribel would stay on the stage and the mean Trixie would not. She would see the competition to the end no matter how weird the frown stuck to her face felt.
The pegasus went to check on the chimera before she decided to leave. The beast was still riled up but she calmed it down quickly. Saying her goodbyes to Maribel, she made her way to the door. Trixie made her way to the door too, apparently wanting use of the same exit. The two of them narrowed their eyes at each other and quickly turned their heads, each taking half of the double-door.
They made their ways through the streets of Manehattan with nary a word to each other. There were numerous times when the pegasus opened her mouth to comment on how nice the night was or how much she had come to appreciate the city lights but each time she was about to, she remembered their competition and that rivals don’t exchange pleasant small talk.
This stony silence reigned all the way to their apartment door. Fluttershy reached out her hoof to open it for Trixie but suddenly thought better of it. Instead she opened it and went in first herself. As soon as she walked over the threshold she felt bad. Was that too mean? This competition required her to be assertive but what was the limit? She didn’t want to make it look like she hated Trixie. She just really, really, really didn’t like her right now.
Her rival tromped in, slammed the door behind her, and sat down on the couch. She turned the TV on, keeping her eyes glued to it. The pegasus bit down her usual conversation starter after a work day and instead went into the kitchen and started doing what she usually did: make dinner. It was hard to stay in a bad mood while she was actively making food and she soon found herself humming blissfully like always. With a large meal all prepared she started laying food on the table for Trixie and herself when she suddenly remembered their circumstance. She bit her bottom lip in consternation. She knew what she had to do. Taking a deep breath and with heavy hesitation she poked her head into the living room.
“Dinner’s ready,” announced Fluttershy. Trixie did her best statue imitation. “But… but…” She stuttered trying to make the words come out. “But you can only have one helping. I’m supposed to be...” She swallowed. “Pushing back at you. I can’t… I can’t let you… push me over… I’m going to… win this… for… for Maribel…” She started to trail off.
“Do I look like some foal to you?” The unicorn asked simply, eyes still concentrating on the evening news. “Will Trixie be sent to her room next? Perhaps she’ll have a time out? Besides, what makes you think Trixie even wants any of your food?”
“Well… fine,” said Fluttershy as defiantly as she could muster.
“Fine!” threw back Trixie.
The pegasus whirled around and went back into the kitchen. She sat down and tried to eat her meal angrily but when she realized jerky movements didn’t make for smooth eating she slowed down. She had just finished her first plate when her roommate quietly walked into the kitchen.
The unicorn eyed the food and then Fluttershy menacingly. “Not a word,” she spat out before sitting down and plunking some food onto her plate. Fluttershy smiled. Wait, she wasn’t supposed to do that. Fluttershy scowled. Trixie scowled right back.
“Could you please pass the salt?” asked the pegasus, giving up on having a battle of facial expressions across the kitchen table.
Trixie stuck a bite of food in her mouth and chewed slowly.
“Excuse me. Could you please pass the salt?”
Trixie added a few smacking sound effects.
“I’m not going to ask again,” said Fluttershy.
Un-intimidated, Trixie swallowed and stuck another bite of food into her mouth.
Her chair legs screeched as Fluttershy pushed back from the table and stood tall. She marched over to Trixie’s side of the table, picked up the salt, and brought it back to her plate.
Trixie had only one helping.
With a start, Fluttershy’s head flew up from the book she was reading. That was a much stronger reaction than she was expecting. Loud hoofsteps sounded down the hall followed by the pegasus’s door flying open. On the other side of the threshold was an enraged unicorn. A large water spot formed on the carpet while it absorbed the unicorn’s precipitation.
“You. Used. All. The. Hot. Water.” An eye twitched.
The smug reply Fluttershy had planned for the occasion flitted away. “I didn’t think I did. It was still warm when I left.”
“Warm?” Trixie said in shock. “Warm? There is a reason Trixie told you not take a shower longer than fifteen minutes because otherwise it is not the relaxing hot that Trixie is used to enjoying every evening! What is Trixie supposed to with that mess?”
The yellow pony lowered her head and stared at the floor.
“Trixie is going to get you fired so bad there will be a smoking crater named ‘I Love Animals Too Much’ where you once existed!” With that the she left, slamming the door behind her.
The pegasus stared at the closed door. Shouldn’t she feel accomplished? She went out of her way to do want Trixie told her not to. She was being competitive. She was being ornery. She was going to win?
The unicorn made a flustered noise into her pillow when her mind’s haze realized some external force was upsetting its dream world.
A ray of recognition started to make its way through the mental fog.
“Trixie, I need to tell you something.”
The fog finally rolled back and the once sleeping pony raised her head up and looked with bleary eyes at the speaker.
“I have to confess something,” the pegasus said, hanging her head.
“What?” Trixie said with a bare minimum use of mouth muscles.
“I… I…” Fluttershy’s eyes shifted to and fro. “I’m sorry! I didn’t really mean all those things I did! I tried to go to sleep and I just couldn’t! I’m just not cut out for being mean and competitive! Please, please forgive me!” The pegasus made pleading gestures and stared into Trixie’s soul with wide, apologetic eyes. For the barest of seconds the unicorn had the desire to reach out and pat the mare on the shoulder and forgive her. Then her brain came to its senses and chased away the ridiculous notion.
“This is a winner-take-all rivalry. Trixie makes no apologies and neither should you.”
“Oh, but I have to. Nothing good can come out of being mean no matter what the circumstances. I’ve never had anypony hate me before. It feels… awful.” The mare turned her head away.
The magician brushed away her bed mane and took a good look at her roommate. With a sigh she reached out a hoof. “Trixie supposes we can compete a little more civilly and just forget this past day. Do we have an agreement?” The unicorn motioned Fluttershy to shake on it.
The mare instantly perked up. “Oh yes, yes! Thank you!” She shook the hoof emphatically before making a move to hug Trixie. The unicorn responded by shifting back and scrunching up her nose. Fluttershy retracted the motion and blushed. “Once again, I’m so sorry. I’m glad we’re back on good terms again.” The pegasus made her way out the room smiling widely.
Trixie laid her head back down on her pillow, smiling wryly.
“I don’t understand," said Big Entrance. "The other day: presence, today: liver. Miss Shy, you had ‘rawr’ going on. You looked like you had something to prove, but not today. Today looked the same as your first day on the job. You can command that Chimera, I know, the audience knows, but you got to have presence too. With a capital ‘P.’ Ponies don’t come here to see a few tricks. They come here to have their minds zazzed. I don’t want to prod the audience’s boredom with a sharp stick, I want to make their boredom angry. I want their boredom to get fed up and break up with them, leaving in a huff. You’re pulling in the crowds Miss Flutter but I want you to pull raving mobs.” The stallion crossed his front hooves on his desk. “Now I want to know what happened to the bitter hatred between you and your roommate, that wonderfully delicious loathing that caused you to have such a good performance the other day.”
“Oh, I never hated Trixie,” explained Fluttershy, “I just… really didn’t like her at the time… but we’re fine now. We were being so mean to each other and it didn't feel right. So I decided we needed to have a much nicer competition.”
“But, but, why? What about her wanting to burn bunnies? Doesn’t that make your veins boil?”
“Well, I don’t like it when ponies talk about hurting animals but I was letting that get to me. Now I see that being angry about it never does anypony any good.”
Big Entrance sighed. “Yes, yes. Well, um, why don’t you tend to that creature of yours and send my magician in here.”
Fluttershy nodded and made her way out the door, quickly replaced by a unicorn.
“Uh, Trix,” The theater manager clacked his two front hooves together. “I was wondering why by Celestia’s wing feathers you were suddenly on good terms with Miss Shy. Did you seriously make an agreement to be civil, because I was entirely counting on your abundant stubbornness to retain your anger.”
The mare smiled in knowing victory. "Trixie just couldn't stand the thought of being mean to such a considerate pony for an entire week. So we came to a cordial agreement.”
“And by simmering things down you cut off her performance fuel.” The stallion threw up his hooves in frustration. “Fine. You win. You cheated but you know I can’t fire you for that. You’re too good.” The manager rested his cheek on his hoof. “Well this has been a useless attempt. I glue you two together and just when it looked like it was getting results, this happens. You know they’re having an art show tomorrow, right? A lot of Canterlot muzzles are going to show up and I was hoping we could hook a lot of them into watching our show before they leave. Put up a lot of ads. Get them to share some of their deep pockets with ‘exemplary performance arts.’ Well now I guess I’ll only be able to provide them with one astounding show. Great. Thank you for that.”
“Trixie fails to see how this is bad news. She is more than capable of bedazzling a Canterlot crowd.”
“Yes, we’re all well aware but uh, Trix, babe, let’s do some math. One blockbuster performance or two blockbuster performances?”
“There was only ever one blockbuster performance anyway. Now that Fluttershy will be fired, it just solidifies things.” Trixie smirked.
“Hey, whoa now, I’m not firing anypony.”
“But that was part of the agreement of this so called ‘contest,’” the unicorn hissed.
“I lied. Went straight through my teeth. I just needed to motivate Miss Flutter. Sorry, Trix, but she’s still here to stay. She might not be great but she’s still good.” Big Entrance paused pensively. “But I’ll tell you what, I’ll see that Shy gets her own place. It’s obvious bunking you two isn’t going to get anypony anywhere except you complaining to the makeup staff.”
With a sudden wash of relief, Trixie smiled happily. “And Trixie prevails in the end. Now don’t you worry about tomorrow, the Great and Powerful Trixie will put on the best show ever seen by Canterlot eyes.” With that the unicorn high-tailed it out the office before her manager changed his mind.
It was finally done. It took endurance and suffering but she had finally gotten rid of the thorn in her side. All it took was a bit of cunning and opportunism and now the pegasus would be somepony else’s problem. Trixie could taste the freedom already.
It truly was a stupendous performance. The stamping of hooves resounded throughout the auditorium followed by many a cry of ‘encore.’ Of course Trixie couldn’t resist following through with their wishes and continued with her performance far past her cue, much to the delight of the audience. She left the stage tall and completely confident that she had wooed every elite in the building. She eschewed going straight to change out of her stage outfit, choosing instead to waltz into her theater room and request one of her aides to fetch her a hay smoothie.
Enjoying herself, Trixie waited for the rest of the show to be over so she could check in with Big Entrance to hear how many backers she had pulled. It felt like mere seconds before the show came to a close. Time goes by quickly when one is basking in the glory of their own talent. Exiting into the hallway, Trixie was taken aback at the sheer number of ponies clamoring to get close to her manager’s office. Well-dressed ponies and camera-wielding press talked over each other while trying to get a good look inside. The magician smiled and anticipated being flocked as she tried to worm her way to her manager. No doubt some big announcement was about to go down involving her and some hefty investments.
Sure enough, as the unicorn ploughed through the crowd, she was met with showering praise, ever flashing cameras, and shouted questions. Finally she made it to Big Entrance’s office where a pony ushered her in and did his best along with a few other staff members to keep the crowd back.
“Ah, Trix, just the unicorn I wanted to see!” boomed her manager’s voice.
The magician approached Big Entrance’s desk which was flanked by a stallion and a mare, one in a suit and top hat and the other wearing a designer dress and a blindingly reflective diamond necklace.
“Trix, I’d like you to meet High Hat and his wife, Alimonia.” The manager pointed to the two unicorns beside him. “Mr. Hat, as you saw, Trix here put on the best--”
“Charmed to meet you, Miss Trixie,” said High Hat, cutting off Big Entrance. “That truly was an outstanding performance.” He shook the unicorn’s hoof. “Now, Mr. Entrance back to what we were discussing...” He paused and took a good look at Trixie, adjusting his monocle. “Actually, Mr. Entrance, I believe I’ve come upon a brilliant idea. I think I’ve found an excellent coach and she’s standing right before us.”
“Oh, well, um.” The manager fumbled for words. “Yes. Yes, of course. I think she would be perfect for the task.” Big Entrance’s statement carried a subtle tone that made Trixie frown slightly. What exactly were they discussing?
“Now High, dear, are you sure this is who you want to sponsor?” asked Alimonia, examining a pegasus, a yellow coated, pink maned pegasus. Trixie’s eyes widened. She had missed Fluttershy standing behind Big Entrance’s chair looking extremely nervous.
“Quite,” replied High Hat. “You know my penchant for exotic creatures, Ally, and that chimera was the most exotic animal I have ever seen in my life. I have no doubt that with a little improvement in its handler, I can make it the best crowd-drawer in Equestria.”
Though it was intended to be an intelligible question, in Trixie’s shock, the noise that came out of her mouth sounded much like “Gahh?”
“Did you not catch Miss Fluttershy’s performance, Miss Trixie?” High Hat reached over to pull the pegasus to him, much to her obvious chagrin. “It didn’t get quite the reaction your well put together act did but I saw the untapped potential.”
“I believe my husband might actually be right,” said Alimonia, approaching Trixie with a smile. “You’d make an excellent teacher for Miss Fluttershy. With the amazing performance you put on tonight I have no doubt you can bring her up to the same level.”
The muscles on Trixie’s face contorted in a way that was sure to be unhealthy if prolonged. Without her even realizing it, words started leaving the unicorn’s mouth. “I. Am. Going. To —“
“-- Make a fantastic trainer,” said Big Entrance. “And you’ll be more than happy to, right?” The stallion gave the stage pony a harsh look when he was sure no one was looking. It communicated drastic consequences to Trixie if she were to screw any of this up. “Mr. Hat, this theater is more than happy to accept your very, very generous investment, and if your requirements are making the chimera be the queen of our shows and Trixie the trainer for Miss Shy then we are more than happy to oblige.”
The rest of the conversation started to fade as Trixie’s mind reeled. What was the point? There wasn’t one, there couldn’t be. It was a cosmic prank. To pull her out of the dragon’s lair for a breath of fresh air only to throw her back in again could be nothing short of the universe’s vile hatred of her put into action.
A catatonic state made its way over the unicorn. She retreated to a world where everypony knew her name and praised her constantly, where posters of her wonderful visage were plastered all over town, and every place was devoid of nice, quiet pegasi. There was not an animal to be found nor was pink something found in the color spectrum. The showers always had hot water and anypony would argue with her at a moment’s notice.
With a start the dream land was gone and something inside Trixie snapped. She gazed upon Fluttershy and saw the Ruiner of Worlds.
“Fluttershy, these look delicious.” Trixie eyed her pancake laden plate for a few seconds before hastily digging into them.
“Thank you. I made some eggs to go with them if you would like.” Fluttershy lifted up her pan and spatula and brought them close to her roommate, letting their aroma waft her way.
“Oh yes, Trixie would like very much.”
The new resident cook scooped the scrambled eggs onto the gourmand’s plate. They were half gone by the time Fluttershy could fill her own plate and sit down at the table. “You really like them, don’t you?”
“Trouxshie ith imto thith stuff.” Trixie ravenously chewed her mouthful and swallowed. “Trixie can’t believe she went so long without you cooking these amazing breakfasts in the morning.”
A quiet squee sounded. “I don’t think I’m that good of a cook.”
“Nonsense. Don’t be modest. Consider that the first lesson of Trixie’s tutelage. Pride is everything.”
“That’s right, training starts today, doesn’t it? So is it actually going to be full-time?”
“Yes, Trixie is now to devote one hundred percent of her time towards making the best animal handler in Equestria even better. Though Trixie was hesitant about the decision at first, she has come to respect Big Entrance’s decision. With as much money as he was being offered, it was simply more profitable for him to agree to High Hat’s wish to make the chimera the star of the theater.”
Fluttershy stopped halfway in taking a bite of her eggs and smiled. She hadn't expected her roommate to have such a healthy attitude about her new job. “That’s very understanding of you, Trixie.”
“Far better than throwing a tantrum like a little filly.” Trixie let out a light laugh.
Fluttershy giggled too. This was an entirely different side of the unicorn she had never seen before and it was quite contagious. “Well I’m ready to put my best hoof forward.”
“Excellent!” Trixie punctuated the exclamation by jamming a triple-stacked bite of pancakes into her mouth and swallowing. “When all is said and done, you’ll have the audience eating out of your hoof. Trixie was thinking today she could start by showing you proper positions on stage and how to project yourself.”
“Well I can’t wait to get started. As popular as you are, I’m sure there’s a lot you can teach me.”
“Well don’t bring yourself down too much. You obviously have quite a lot of natural talent. How else could you have gotten that chimera so welled trained by now? Trixie thinks you’re a star just waiting to shoot across the sky.”
Fluttershy blushed. “Really? You think so?”
“Trixie knows so.” The unicorn magically lifted her plate and utensils into the kitchen sink. “Now, why don’t you go and get ready while Trixie cleans the dishes.”
“Alright.” Fluttershy excitedly pulled back from the table and went to brush her hair. She was still rather amazed at the attention her act had gotten. She was the last of the ponies performing at the Mane-Event that she expected to catch the eye of the Canterlot elite. Yet here she was, about to go out and receive training for what was to be the new crowning show. Though the thought made her nervous, she was eager to improve, and there was no harm to be done in practicing when there was no audience to please.
A loud hum started emanating from her lips while she thought, making its way through the apartment.
Her roommate’s head poked through the doorway. “Trixie must know what that catchy tune is.”
“Oh, it’s just something I came up with. Would you like to learn it?”
Trixie’s eyes jumped several notches wider. “Trixie would love to.”
Fluttershy started humming again, this time more slowly so that her roommate could follow the melody.
The two ponies soon had a harmony going as they brushed their manes. They carried the tune all the way through their preparations and on throughout their apartment door.
“Fluttershy?” Trixie asked.
“Does this song have any words to it?”
“Yes, actually. Would you like to learn them too?
“Uh, Trix, babe, can I, uh, can I talk to you for a sec?”
Trixie turned from her spot on the stage to face the voice of her manager. He was standing at the corner entrance and eyeing the doorway with reluctance.
“Trixie will allow it,” the instructor called to him. She turned back to her protégé. “Alright, stay here and continue to practice this stage move while I talk to Mr. Over-Bearing.”
“Um… are you sure this is will help my performance?” Fluttershy’s expression almost looked pained as she continued her maneuvers.
“Trixie is positive. Now keep it up. Trixie wants to see real vivaciousness when she gets back.” Trixie turned from her student and crossed the stage to her manager. His mouth curled and he shied away from her proximity.
Frowning, Trixie grabbed a length of her mane and sniffed it. “Trixie’s mane smells like lavender. She doesn’t see why you’re backing away.”
Big Entrance rubbed the back of his neck. “You and Miss Shy were singing when you came into work this morning.”
“’And?’” Big Entrance repeated. “Trix, you and Flutter were singing! In unison! You scared the cutie marks off half of the staff. I’m probably going to have nightmares tonight.”
“Oh, please. Trixie’s singing is excellent.”
“You’re singing was great! It sounded like a showtune! That’s some scary stuff, Trix, some scary stuff!”
Trixie raised an eyebrow. “Trixie fails to see what is frightening about good singing.”
“Trix, think about this. You and Shy have been sworn enemies since you met. Well… at least on one side. Seeing you two singing together was like watching the sun and moon sharing drinks. That’s just not supposed to happen. I want to know if…” Big Entrance trailed off and backed away a few steps. “Whatever you have is contagious.”
“Trixie doesn’t have a disease! She has just accepted her new job with open hooves. She is only doing what you wanted her to do.”
“Well yeah, but you were supposed to do it kicking and screaming. I expected it. This…” Big Entrance grimaced. “This is otherworldly.”
“This is one hundred percent natural. Now if you don’t mind, Trixie is going to get back to training her pupil.”
“Fine, fine, I'm not going to try and under—” Big Entrance faced Fluttershy across the stage. He lowered his sunglasses. “Sweet flank of Celestia, what is she doing?”
“Trixie is teaching her to use her lady-like charm.”
The stallion turned back to the magician. “I’ve never seen you do that in your performances.”
“Each mare has to use something different.”
Big Entrance turned back to Fluttershy, his mouth hanging slightly open. “Uh, are your sure that’s a good idea?”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “So much doubt. Yes, Trixie is quite sure it will woo the male audience.”
“Great, Trix, that’s half the audience. What about the ladies who will want you drawn and quartered?”
“Their eyes will be too busy taking in the performance glory of the chimera. Only the stallions will take the time to ogle the pretty animal handler.”
The stallion held his eyes on the performing mare for a few moments, mesmerized. He quickly shook his head.“Fine, fine. I trust your judgment. Just tell her to tone it down when she does her private test performance for High Hat and his friends. I’m…” His eyes started wandering back to the pegasus before he regained control of them. “I’m going back to my office.”
“Worry not, the Great and Powerful Trixie has this.” Trixie told the retreating figure. “That’s excellent!” she cried back to her student, re-traversing the stage.
“Oh, thank goodness.” Fluttershy sat down. “That was tiring.”
“Trixie suggests that you practice it regularly. Now, Trixie wants to go over some stage positioning and then she thinks we’ll be done for the day.”
“Would you like some more tea?” asked Fluttershy.
“Oh yes, please,” said Trixie. “Trixie doesn’t know what you added to this, but it tastes wonderful.”
“Thank you. It’s all about adding just the right amount of honey and spices.”
“And this shortbread is amazing. You really outdid yourself.” Trixie closed her eyes and chewed the treat slowly.
“Do you want any? You haven’t really eaten much.” Fluttershy offered the plate of goods to Ivy.
Ivy looked at the food with a scrunched nose. She took a piece of it and examined all its sides. “Are you sure you didn’t put anything… ‘special’ in these?”
“No.” The cook looked at her guest with concern. “They’re the same as last time. Why?”
Twisting her mouth, Ivy eyed Trixie who was now on her fourth piece of shortbread and smiling elatedly. “Trixie did you bump your head against anything lately?”
Trixie paused in thought. “No, Trixie hasn’t.” She took a sip of tea.
Ivy leaned in closely to Trixie, her eyebrows lowered. “What’s three plus eight?”
“Ivy, is there a problem?” asked Fluttershy.
Throwing a quick glance at Fluttershy, Ivy lifted her previously untouched cup of tea and stared into its depths with one eye.
“Trixie doesn’t consider that exactly polite, Ivy.” Trixie brushed a crumb off her cheek with a cloth napkin.
Her tea cup slamming firmly down on her saucer, Ivy shot a glare at her co-worker.
“What’s the matter?” asked Fluttershy again.
“I heard you two were singing when you came into work this morning,” Ivy said.
The mares at the table turned to look at the new arrival. Hue was standing at the doorway to the apartment, two bags of chips at his hooves.
“I heard it from Peaches and Cream,” Ivy continued.
“How did I miss that loop?” Hue picked up his contributions to the gathering and plopped them onto the center of the table. “Did it sound good?”
“That’s besides the—”
The stallion waved a hoof at Ivy. “I bet it sounded great.”
Ivy sighed. “What about the fact that Trixie—”
“I didn’t know you sang, well, you know, good enough that you didn’t mind it being in public.” Hue leaned across the table towards Fluttershy. “Give us a verse.”
“She really is good,” said Trixie.
“See, a recommendation.” Hue winked at Trixie. “Don’t you want to hear Fluttershy sing, Ivy?”
The mare rubbed her snout and finally took a sip of her tea. “I have to admit,” she said, facing her new friend, “I am curious to hear you sing.”
“Alright then, go for it.” Hue opened one of his chip bags and started munching them while staring at Fluttershy intensely.
Fluttershy looked at the expecting eyes around her and gulped. Under normal circumstances she had no difficulties singing in public, like she had earlier that morning, but now she was under pressure. They were all waiting for her to open her mouth and impress them. What if she suddenly went off key? What if their expectations were too high?
“I, uh, I have to use the little fillies room.” Fluttershy spread her wings and rocketed to the bathroom, locking the door.
“Um, Trixie, why are we doing this again?” Fluttershy asked. She stuck close to her roommate as the sidewalk got ever more crowded.
“It’s simple,” said Trixie, forging a path through the pedestrian traffic. “It’s obvious you have some serious issues with performance anxiety. What you need to do before you perform in front of High Hat and his friends, is go out and please a crowd. It will put a good feeling in your chest. Trixie knows, she’s done it many times.”
“What do you mean?”
“Trixie’s taking you to a… place.”
With reluctance, Fluttershy headed further down the city streets with Trixie. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as they walked deeper and deeper into what she had heard many ponies call “downtown” her nervousness grew. Not only were there terribly large crowds but they were quite raucous and unconcerned about personal space. Several minutes and a severe amount of jostling later, they arrived at a building sporting a large neon sign that flashed out “Karaoke Nights.”
“Karaoke? What’s that?” asked Fluttershy, unsteadily eyeing the patrons streaming in and out.
A sound came to their ears as they got closer, a loud, offbeat voice that warbled out of the doorway.
With a smug grin, Trixie gestured inside. “That is the sound of confidence. It’s horrible, but it has pride.”
Fluttershy poked her head into the building and instantly retracted it. “It’s very crowded in there. Shouldn’t we find somewhere else?” She smiled hopefully.
“No, this is how we’re going to build up your stage confidence. You need to be comfortable with expectant crowds. Soon you’ll learn to love them and then”—Trixie leaned in close to Fluttershy—“you can start to twist them around your hoof.” She gestured her student to follow her and went in.
Fluttershy gulped and followed her trainer into the abyss. It was nothing like she had ever seen before, and every bit as intimidating as she expected. The room was composed of a bar, a DJ station, numerous booths, and the center of attention-- the stage. It stood raised before a swarm of chairs and tables, two austere spotlights shining upon it. Everywhere there was noise. A lot of noise.
Trixie led Fluttershy to the DJ and requested that they be put on the waiting list for singing.
“It might be a bit.” The DJ lifted up a list showing how far down the line they were.
“Don’t you know who Trixie is?” Trixie asked menacingly.
The stallion looked at her as recognition slowly came to his eyes. “Oh! Trixie! Hey! So you want—“
Trixie put a hoof to the DJ’s mouth. She turned to Fluttershy. “Do you mind if Trixie and this simpleton speak in private for a bit?”
“Oh, uh, that’s fine.”
“Why don’t you go over to the bar and order some drinks? Trixie will have a dandelion margarita.” Trixie pulled the DJ off to the side.
Fluttershy looked at them quizzically before shifting her eyes all about the room, not liking the idea of being left alone. She slinked up to one of the stools and sat down in a huddle. Another singer took the stage, a mare who actually had a fair amount of talent. There was a whistle or two of appreciation throughout the audience. Fluttershy considered this. Obviously the audience could be pleased, but would she be able to live up to their expectations? So many ponies just waiting to be disappointed by her...
She buried her head under her forelegs.
“Um, can I get you anything?”
Fluttershy peeked an eye out from her heap. She quickly sat upright, her face flushing. “Oh, yes, um, I would like a dandelion margarita and… some water.”
The bartender gave her a curious eye but nodded and went to prepare the drinks.
Wringing her hooves, Fluttershy glanced around her, seeking a place of a refuge. A booth in the corner looked nice. As soon as she had the drinks in her hooves she would make a dive for cover.
“Hey there, I haven’t seen you here before.”
Fluttershy gave a small start as another pegasus sat down beside her, plopping a large mug of frothy liquid on the bar. He smiled widely.
“Uh, hi. I… I just moved here about a month ago.”
“Come out here for all the handsome stallions?” The pegasus winked at her. “I’m Rainslick, and you might be?
“Well that’s a pretty name. Good to meet you.” Rainslick took a gulp of his drink.
“Oh, well, thank you.” Fluttershy was quite sure the red on her face had spread to her entire coat.
“Flirt with him.”
The sudden whispered words were not kind to Fluttershy’s nerves. Just barely keeping in a squeak, she turned to find the speaker. She noticed a glass of water was on the bar in front of her and not much farther down was a margarita being sipped by Trixie. She faced slightly away from Fluttershy and seemed to be paying her no heed.
“What did you say?” asked Fluttershy.
“Shh,” Trixie said through the side of her mouth. “Don’t acknowledge Trixie. Just do your thing.”
Trixie turned even further away from her, keeping silent.
Fluttershy swallowed nervously and turned back Rainslick. “So, um, what are you doing here this evening?”
“Just finding a way to kick back and relax. It’s been a long day. Hard to argue with a good drink and some”—he smirked as a new karaoke participant took the stage and missed a note—“occasionally good singing. What about yourself?”
“Oh I’m here for… well…”
“Handsome stallions,” Trixie’s voice whispered again.
“Handsome stallions?” Fluttershy responded.
Rainslick leaned his left foreleg on the bar and beamed. “Haha, so I was right?”
“I guess so.” Fluttershy laughed nervously.
“So exactly what fits the bill when it comes to handsome?” Rainslick asked, stretching out his wings slightly and raising his head.
“I’m seeing a lot of it right now,” Trixie suggested.
“I’m seeing a lot of it right now?” Fluttershy repeated.
“Stop turning it into a question,” Trixie hissed.
Fluttershy took a quick drink from her glass of water.
“Oh are you now?” The stallion leaned a little closer to Fluttershy. “Well I’m seeing a lot of beautiful right now.”
“Flip back your mane and thank him.”
Fluttershy hesitantly brought a hoof up to her hair and flicked it back in a manner she hoped was attractive. “Thank you very much.”
“No. More seductive,” Trixie whispered.
Fluttershy was about to panic but Rainslick interrupted before she could summon the nerve to bolt for the door.
“They have some nice booths by the corner. Should we make our way over there?” he asked.
“And next up we have Fluttershy!”
Her nerves finally surrendered and Fluttershy let out a yelp as her wings flew open in surprise at her name being announced over the loudspeaker.
“That’s you.” Trixie poked her in the back. “Head up to the stage.”
“But what am I singing?” Fluttershy whirled around to face her guide, wanting very much to melt into thin air.
“You’ll see when you get up there. Now stop worrying. Like Trixie said, this sort of thing will help your stage performances. Boosts confidence.” Trixie pushed Fluttershy gently forward, off her stool.
“I didn’t know you were going to sing,” said Rainslick. “I look forward to it.” He winked and turned to face the stage, drink in hoof.
A battle broke out in Fluttershy’s mind, one side rallying under the banner of shame prevention while the other side spread propaganda about how the enemy was cowardly. It didn’t take long before Fluttershy realized that if her courageous self didn’t win at least this one battle, it might lose the war.
Smiling nervously, she made her way to the stage, aware that all eyes were on her. She stood there awkwardly, shifting back and forth. The only thing that kept her from screaming and flying out a nearby window was that not all of the bar was silent and watching her. No, just a very, very large portion…
“Just follow the words on screen,” the DJ told her, as a display lit up in front of her. “Alright, let’s turn this party into overdrive!” he yelled to the audience.
Fluttershy gasped as the lights dimmed. This hadn’t happened for the other performances. What was going on? A large space opened up in the ceiling, letting down a wide, spinning sphere with lights. They were of all sorts of different colors and they dazzled round the room in a dizzying manner. Loud, fast tempo music started to blare from the speakers.
As words started to roll down the display in front of her, Fluttershy quickly realized that she didn’t understand any of it. Almost every other word was completely foreign to her and she could hardly guess at their meaning.
The crowd quickly started cheering, however, and Fluttershy knew that if she didn’t face her stage fear now she never would. She burst out into song, quickly puzzling out the music’s melody and rhythm. When the chorus came along, she had to make her voice a little rougher than usual to fit the tone. An abundance of whooping and hollering broke out from her listeners.
Trixie’s unmistakable voice rang out from the bar. “Do what Trixie taught you!”
Swallowing her fears a second time, Fluttershy started to do the moves she had been shown that morning.
The audience went nuts, or, rather, the stallions went nuts. Fluttershy had never heard so much whistling before. A broad smile came to her face and she put some extra oomph into her performance. The yelling from the crowd got so loud she almost couldn’t hear herself sing anymore.
The last words of the song faded and Fluttershy bowed as the cheering continued.
“Bow the other way!”
“Afterhours started early tonight!”
Fluttershy looked puzzled at these exclamations but she was sure they were complimentary in some way. She made her way off the stage with a broad smile, only to to quickly duck her head as she was met by angry stares of every kind from mares all throughout the bar. Didn’t she do well? The stallions seemed to have an entirely different reaction, though Fluttershy had difficulty interpreting them.
“I didn’t know you were that sort of mare!” Rainslick exclaimed as Fluttershy made her way back to her stool.
“What sort?” Fluttershy asked.
“The wild kind.” The stallion closed his eyes half way and leaned in very close to the mare. “Say, do you wanna go someplace very private? Perhaps my place?”
“Say yes, say yes!” A hoof pushed Fluttershy.
“Uh, sure.” Fluttershy said. The stallion was somewhat unsettling but she was sure once she got to know him that he would be a nice pony like all the others she had met at Manehattan.
Rainslick put a hoof around her and started flying to the exit. Fluttershy flew to keep at his level, biting her bottom lip in uncertainty.
“I like that.” The stallion gave a look at Fluttershy’s bottom lip. It was almost a… hungry look.
How long was this song going to go on? Trixie was already on her second margarita and the song was barely halfway over. Of course it was a ballad, after all. The people in Manehattan loved their ballads. Trixie didn’t understand it. They all had odd, joking lyrics that typically told the story of unlikely romance. At least it was better than some of the previous song choices.
The unicorn grabbed her drink magically, lifted it to her lips, and, with supreme effort, avoided having it spill all over her face as two legs wrapped around her with alarming speed. She heard heavy breathing next to her ear and whatever had assailed her was shaking.
Trixie twisted around to face her attacker. It was Fluttershy. Of course it was her.
“What happened?” Trixie asked.
“I… I don’t want to talk about it. Can we just go home now?”
“No, we may not.” Trixie pried the pegasus’s hooves off herself and nudged the pony into an adjacent stool. “Now tell Trixie what happened. Surely it wasn’t his looks. He was quite the hunk.”
Fluttershy huddled over her stool, her eyes darting around and her breathing coming dangerously close to hyperventilation.
“My word, was it that bad? Take deep, slow breaths.”
Fluttershy closed her eyes and made a visible effort to breathe deeply. Her shaking slowed down and she seemed to regain composure.
“I kicked him,” she said quietly. “I think he might have started crying.”
“You kicked him? Celestia, why?”
“Because well, he… he nibbled my ear…”
“Not a fan?”
“No! I didn’t know… he was… you know…”
Trixie stared at Fluttershy in sudden understanding. “You… you didn’t know what his intentions were, did you?”
Trixie brought a hoof to her face and sighed. “What is Trixie going to do with you?”
Fluttershy ducked her head.
“What did you think you two were going to do? Read a book together? Have an indoor picnic? You met him in a bar for Luna’s sake!”
“I... I don’t know. I’ve never even been to a bar before.”
“Well if attracting a stallion wasn’t what you were going for, then why did you get so into that song?”
“You said I needed to get into my performances. So that’s what I did.”
“Well yes, Trixie did say that, but you could have chosen something else.”
“You can? I didn’t know that. What was so bad about the song I sang?”
Trixie winced. With a deep breath, she explained the meaning of the song and all of its slang words to Fluttershy.
“Come on! Trixie thought this was out of your system!” Trixie banged on the dressing room door.
“It came back!”
“For the last time, this stage is nothing like the karaoke one. No similarities.”
“Oh, it was so embarrassing!”
“It was not that bad. You have got to get over it. Your performances have been lackluster all week. Now, will you hurry up. Trixie is tired of talking to a door.”
There was a pause and then the door before Trixie slowly opened, revealing a crouched, yellow pony. “I fainted,” she said, a distant look in her eyes.
Trixie sighed. “Trixie has said this before, you didn’t faint. You simply… got off your stool too quickly, in the process hitting your head against the bar. Maybe Trixie had to guide you out, yes, but it was no matter.”
“It was horrible,” Fluttershy whispered.
“Of course you would wait until the big performance to become this terrified.” Trixie shook her head. “Look, you'll do fine. We've practiced several times since that... incident." Trixie looked up at the clock on the wall of the prep room. “Trixie feels she should also remind you that you only have fifteen minutes until you need to be out there proving yourself.”
“But… but, High Hat and several other very important ponies are out there! What if I make a fool of myself again?”
“You won’t. Just er… don’t do that move Trixie taught you anymore and you’ll be fine. Besides, you’ll have the majestic chimera out there this time.”
Fluttershy seemed to consider that, her body visibly relaxing. “Well, I would feel a lot better with her there.”
“Yes, once you’re out there it’ll all hit you!”
“Well, ok.” Fluttershy got up and made hesitant hoofsteps forward.
“Excellent. Get out there and wow the monocles off those ponies. Now, Trixie has to leave, but she wants to hear all about it when you get back to the apartment.”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “Wait, what? Leave? But I thought you were going cheer me on?”
“Trixie was, but she has another engagement unfortunately. You’ll do fine without her.”
“Get out there!” Trixie pushed her roommate forward, staring the animal handler down until she finally disappeared out the door.
Her pep talk duty over, Trixie left the theater. She looked up at the night sky and a large, beaming grin came to her face. Tonight would be the final note. The pegasus’s career would be over before the sun replaced the moon. All in one fell swoop, too. Trixie went over her mastermind of a plan again in her head, reveling in her own brilliance.
First she had to teach the pegasus those outrageous dance moves. That wasn’t hard. The naive, little filly had no idea what they meant. Then she simply had to tell Hue that the easiest way to flatter the mare was to compliment her singing, but of course, the only way to do that was to actually hear her sing. The stallion was ridiculously gullible.
That gave Trixie an excuse to take the pegasus to a karaoke bar, a trap she had set up beforehoof. Paying the DJ to go all out with the most bawdy pop song available? It only took a few bits. Convincing Rainslick that Trixie needed help to break her friend out of her shell? Easy, given the stallion’s eagerness. The result was one confidence broken pegasus which Trixie's half-hearted training took no pains to fix. That just left one last, little thing...
Trixie made a brief stop in the midst of her walk through the city streets to throw two empty vials into a nearby trashcan. She was told the drug that was once in them was excellent for getting animals overly excited. A small pinch was the recommended dose. Given the size and stamina of the chimera, Trixie figured quite a bit more was in order. The end result would be a beast too much for any one pony to handle.
Trixie started singing.
The door creaked open and closed softly. Quiet hoofsteps pattered across the carpet. A large grin slowly stretched its way across Trixie’s face. Was her objective finally accomplished? The unicorn’s ears tilted back in preparation for the sweet, sweet sound of success. A single, forlorn sniffle echoed throughout the room.
It was quickly followed by a stifled laugh. Trixie coughed several times, cleared her throat, and turned to face her roommate.
“How did it go?”
The silence in the room was wonderfully long. Two large eyes enveloped Trixie, dams that looked as if they might break at a moment’s notice. It took all Trixie could muster not to grin wickedly at the very sight of them.
“He… he fired me.”
Yes! One glorious victory for Trixie. The yellow terror's reign was at an end and the magnificent magician was back on the throne. Now to completely crush the enemy.
Trixie was sure she could feel a halo over her head as concern radiated from her features. “Oh my Celestia, why would Big Entrance fire you?”
“I went out for the big performance and… and Maribel… she, I don’t know, she just snapped.” The pegasus sat on her haunches as her legs began to shake. “She started snarling and attacking everything. I just… I panicked. I don’t know why. No pony got hurt but… it was a mess…”
Pure innocence ushered forth from Trixie’s mouth. “Does that mean… does that mean Maribel will be put down?”
Another delicious sniffle came from Fluttershy as she nodded. Her lip started to quiver.
So close. So very, very close. Trixie just needed one more straw. “Trixie is sure it will be somewhat painless.”
With that, the pent-up depression gushed forth and the pegasus collapsed to the floor and cried. Not just a sob, no, that wouldn’t have been satisfying enough. The mare before her was blubbering. The Great and Powerful Trixie doubted she had ever been more gleeful at the suffering of another pony in all her life. She felt a malicious laugh coming on. It was bubbling to the surface…
“Trixie is so sorry.”
Her hoof slapped across her mouth. What did she just say? She had to be hearing things. She wanted a laugh. It was supposed to be an evil, gloating laugh. She tried again.
“Big Entrance was probably just mad. Trixie is sure he would never put down such a majestic creature.” The unicorn patted her roommate on the shoulder.
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. She wanted spite. She wanted malicious glee...
The shuddering, yellow pony looked up at Trixie, tears oozing from her eyes. Trixie looked into them and felt pity and sorrow. Who could cause a mare like her to cry? How could she have caused her to cry?
“Do you really think so?” Fluttershy asked.
“Trixie knows so. She’ll have a talk with him tomorrow and get him to change his mind.”
“Oh, Trixie, thank you, thank you!” The pegasus hugged Trixie, emptying the last of her sobs on her roommate's shoulder. Trixie hugged Fluttershy back. She might have even said “there, there.”
With her cries winding down, Fluttershy pulled back from Trixie, blinking back the last of her tears. “So, first thing in the morning?”
“First thing in the morning,” replied Trixie. “Now why don’t you get some rest.”
Fluttershy smiled. “Okay.” She slowly walked back to her room, stopping at her door. “Thank you,” she whispered.
It was a nice night for as late as it was. The temperature was a pleasant cool and the full moon shone brightly enough that artificial lighting was hardly necessary. It was probably a perfect night for taking a stroll around town. Trixie supposed she would never find out, however, given that she found it impossible to get up from her sprawled position on the floor of her room.
She was mesmerized by her cutie mark on the ceiling. She studied every curve on the crescent moon, each point on the tip of the wand. She didn’t even mind the pink background anymore. It seemed fitting that the symbol of her life was backed by failure.
Had she ever been successful? There seemed to be a dim light in her memory that hearkened back to the days of constant praise and relaxing evenings. It seemed like much more than a few months since she had been afflicted by the blight that had darkened her door. Thinking back on it, she supposed she should have known how hopeless it was as soon as she fell prey to the pegasus’s cooking. All the bad omens had been there, plain as day and there was nothing to do about it now. The beast-pony had rent her apart, rendering her a shell of a magician. She saw nothing for it but to just leave town and wander Equestria in misery.
She reached for the bottle beside her. There was nothing but air. Where did it go? Trixie lifted her head to look around her, only to discover there was no bottle anywhere. Was she sober? She frowned. Surely she wasn’t thinking these thoughts with a clear mind, was she? Well now she was just being pathetic.
The Great and Powerful Trixie lifted herself up from the floor. There was no time for wallowing. She had her career to take back and a roommate to be rid of. What was she doing lying on the floor? In fact, if the stupid pegasus was fired, then she had no reason to continue to stay with Trixie. Scrunching up her face in determination, Trixie marched down the hall and threw open the door separating her and her prey.
“Oh my! Uh, is everything ok?” Fluttershy rubbed her eyes and picked up her covers from the ground where they had fallen.
Trixie smiled warmly and nodded. “Sorry, Trixie just wanted to make sure you were still ok.”
“Oh, yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry if I was a little... emotional earlier. I just couldn’t bare the thought of... well...”
“Yes, Trixie understands. Well she’s sorry she woke you up. First thing in the morning. Trixie promises.” With that, Trixie closed the door and returned to her room.
Now she remembered why she had been lying on her floor.
Something was amiss deep in her sub-conscious. Somehow it had decided to turn traitor and utterly ruin Trixie’s masterful plan. What did it want? Trixie closed her eyes and sighed in realization. She knew exactly what it wanted. She needed to give the pegasus her job back and put her back on the path to success. It was the only way she would be rid of the empathetic disease that had settled inside of her.
Trixie plodded to her bed, fell into it, and screamed into her pillow.
How hard could it be? She simply had to right a little wrong and she would be back to her normal, superior self. All Trixie had to do was convince her manager to let Fluttershy back. In the process, Trixie was sure a negotiation could be made that would put the pegasus in another living space, as well.
Just before she entered Big Entrance’s office, Trixie contemplated her strategy. She was in no position to provide a good reason as to why Fluttershy should get her job back nor as to why the pegasus should live somewhere else if she did. Revealing that it had been Trixie’s fault that Fluttershy performed so badly was entirely out of the question.
Trixie took a deep breath. It was going to take charm, guts, and cunning, but she could do it. She opened the door and marched into the room as if she was still the Queen of the Platform.
“Big, I have something I wish to discu...” The commanding statement instantly deflated as Trixie noticed that she wasn’t the only one occupying her manager’s attention.
The reservoir of dislike inside Trixie was practically bottomless. It had to be in order for her to function. There were simply too many things in the world that Trixie had no control over and the only recourse was to harbor ill-will against them. How dare they not realize the perfection that is the Great and Powerful Trixie? However, pure and utter hatred was reserved for very special cases. One such case had just destroyed the hatred sent its way through mere tears, which left only one other individual on Trixie's list, an individual from her history that she had hoped she would never see again...
“Ah, Trix, good to see you. I’d like you to meet our new animal handler— Flair!” Big Entrance gestured a hoof at a deep yellow stallion standing by his desk, a stallion that brought back a host of memories forged of scorching fire and general unpleasantness.
There should have been a nervous tic, perhaps a total brain shutdown, maybe some tears, at least, but what Trixie felt was nothing that advanced. Apparently her body was sick and tired of being distraught, surprised, or ferociously angry. She stared blankly at the two stallions.
“What, surely you remember me, Trixie. I doubt I could be such a forgettable pony.” Flair smiled so smugly that Trixie was sure Fluttershy herself would have wanted to smack him straight out to pasture.
At the moment, Trixie just wanted him out of the room. “Big, can Trixie speak to you in private.”
The professional neck-pain smiled knowingly. “Alright, out with you Flair. We’ll continue our discussion this afternoon.”
Flair laughed. “That we shall, Big.” He stared down Trixie, taking his time exiting the room.
Trixie ignored him, slamming the door shut after the stallion. “Trixie thought you said the chimera was going to be put down if Fluttershy was fired,” she said flatly.
Big Entrance batted his hoof at Trixie. “More lies, and that was before High Hat came on the scene. As it is, High Hat has no intention of abandoning his dream of making the chimera Equestria renown just because Flutter got removed from the mix. No, he hired Flair.”
“You do understand Trixie hates Flair with every fiber of her being, right?”
“Yes, yes, I know. Look, I know the spiel. Let me spare you the suspense and cut straight to the conclusion. He’s got amazing talent, he has experience with exotic animals, and High Hat can afford his outrageous paycheck. It's not my problem you seem to be having some bad luck with our latest influx of performers."
Trixie tried to hold her tongue as her emotions started to remember their old ways.
“Hey, look, there’s a raise in it for you if you’re cooperative. All courtesy of High Hat.”
“How does he know about Flair and Trixie?”
“Well, when he mentioned hiring Flair to replace Shy, I told him that he was either going to have to kill you or give you some sort of incentive to not be a screaming, tantrum-throwing filly.”
“Trixie does not throw tantrums!”
Big Entrance lowered his sunglasses and looked at her.
“She complains! Loudly! Those are not tantrums!”
“Look, are you going to take the pay raise or not?”
“No, Trixie most certainly will not! Trixie would rather have a hot poker driven through her eye than work alongside Flair.”
“Uh-uh, no, not gonna happen. We’re not about to have an argument. It’s just not going to happen.”
“We are too! We—”
“Will you stop—”
Big Entrance put a hoof to his lips. “Shh. Just, shh. Calm. Tranquility.”
Trixie’s clammed her mouth shut and cast a burning stare upon her manager.
“Ah, there, see? Seething, quiet contempt. Much better. Now, think about this, Trix, think. Do you... want... this raise?”
Trixie held her stare. There was no getting out of it. When Big Entrance cuts off a discussion before it begins then it meant there was absolutely no changing his mind.
Her first response was to unleash her full fury on the office and its owner but that wouldn’t get her where she needed to be.
“Fine,” Trixie said.
Big Entrance smiled. “See, I knew reason would come through. Anything else you’d like to discuss?”
“No.” Trixie blinked once at her manager and quickly left his office.
The door closed softly behind her. Trixie stared into space. She wanted desperately to explode with anger but she had to keep it in.
“So, did you talk to Big Entrance?”
Trixie looked up at her roommate, who plodded slowly into the living room.
“Yes,” Trixie said slowly.
Fluttershy cringed. “What was his answer?”
“Drugging it won't work with him, he's observant enough to catch it.”
Trixie put a hoof to her chin. "Where would his weak point be...?"
Whatever cruel thing was in charge of the universe had to be cackling with glee. Giving Trixie a filthy conscious along with an old, hated rival was completely diabolical. Yet... Trixie never thought it would come to this, but she had a plan, a plan that required the pegasus’s assistance. It was the only way to kill her guilt and get rid of Flair in one go.
Circumstances made the strangest of friends.
“My... my life. It’s in ruins.” Flair stared at his floor with intensity. “H-how? How?” He looked up, casting wide eyes on his grinning rival.
“The sheer talent of the Great and Powerful Trixie. Who else’s magic could have found and obtained the one thing to publicly humiliate you?” Her horn started to glow fiercely. “Though Trixie did have help. Now for the dramatic reveal!” A sudden bolt of magical energy shot from Trixie’s horn to the pony next to Flair, unfurling the mare’s disguise.
With a yell, Flair jumped to the side and looked up and down the mare’s true visage. “You’re... you’re Fluttershy? But I trusted you!”
“I’m sorry, but it was a necessary lie. You just don’t deserve Maribel like I do.” Fluttershy patted Flair on the shoulder and went to stand by Trixie’s side.
“Now, to tie up some loose ends.” Trixie levitated The Journal in front of her.
“No, no, you can’t!” Flair threw himself before Trixie, his prone form looking up at her with pleading eyes. “Public humiliation, betrayal, I’ve been punished enough, please... please. My journal is all I have left.”
Trixie eyed the large tome in front of her. In it were the secrets of her rival, Visitor to the East, Student of Mysterious Magicks, Most Arrogant of Magicians. It detailed his travels, his adventures, his deepest thoughts, and represented the sum of the stallion’s life. “Flair’s Autobiograhpy? I don’t think it would ever sell.” With a burst of magic, the journal was on fire.
Flair watched the flames crackle, his jaw hanging loose. His eyes started to take on water.
Now,” Trixie said, leaning down close to her rival’s face, “grovel.”
“Grovel?” Flair choked.
“Grovel!” Trixie yelled. “Let me hear you say how worthless you are and how powerful and great Trixie is!”
Flair swallowed. “You… you’re the greatest. I’m trash.”
“More!” Trixie roared. “And make it richer!”
Flair’s words were barely decipherable through his sobs. “You are the most talented... and beautiful angel in all of Equestria... I’m not worthy to be in the same room as you.”
Trixie’s teeth gleamed. “More.”
“Okay, I think you can stop right there.” Ivy held up her hoof.
“Yeah, I think you totally could have stopped a long time ago. A long time ago.” Hue shifted in his seat and continued to stare at the ceiling.
Trixie’s star-filled eyes fell. “But Trixie was just getting to the good part!”
“Um, no, no you weren’t.” Ivy ran a hoof down her face. “Trixie, we wanted to know how your plan to get Fluttershy her job back was coming along. Not the details of the fanciful, dreamed up conclusion to said plan.”
“Well, yes, about that. Trixie ran across a small problem.” Trixie’s eyes decided they very much liked focusing on a nearby wall.
“The hair dye,” Fluttershy said quietly. “Trixie didn’t apply it the way you’re supposed to.”
“Trixie thought it would be easy. How hard could hair dying be?” Trixie rested her cheek on her hoof.
Hue sat upright and joined Ivy in staring in bewilderment at the two ponies.
“What?” Trixie asked, straightening up.
“Hair dye?” Ivy’s mouth hung open. “How would that have helped you humiliate Flair?”
“Trixie doesn’t expect you to understand. It would take a lot of explaining. Needless to say, the plan was a failure.”
“So you have another plan, right? Please tell me you have another plan!” Hue stretched himself across the table right into Trixie’s face. “We can’t have Fluttershy go back to Ponyville!”
“You don’t have any plans to leave yet, do you?” Ivy asked Fluttershy.
A small smile formed on the corner of Fluttershy’s mouth. “Um, no, I guess not.”
Ivy and Hue exhaled deeply and beamed in unison. Trixie would have wrinkled her nose in disgust at what composed the Fluttershy Fanclub were it not for her full awareness that she was just as much a member as they were. Her conscience probably couldn’t wait to get an autograph.
"I have to ask, Trixie," Ivy said, "what exactly is the history between you and Flair? Your plans for his downfall seemed pretty... intense."
"It's a story mired in bitterness," said Trixie. "You don't want Trixie to get into it."
"Pretty sure we do, actually," said Hue, perking his ears up.
Trixie sighed. “When Trixie was a beginning magician she worked in a small group of traveling entertainers. Flair just so happened to also be in that group. Trixie and Flair both became popular quickly. When we split off from our group to travel on our own we both vied for booking. It was vicious. At one point, we both had shows back-to-back in Trottingham.” Her eyes narrowed. “Trixie was sick and tired of trying to compete to make her name known, so she challenged Flair to a duel of showmareship. Instead of two separate shows, we both did a competitive performance, and Trixie beat the tar out of the amateur. Trixie laughed at him, she had the whole crowd laugh at him, Trixie had him laughed out of town. It was a glorious victory.”
The assembled ponies blinked at her.
“That’s not all,” Trixie said, holding up a hoof. “Trixie was working on making her way to the top. She had managed to book a show in Fillydelphia, but, just when her show was about to start, Flair showed up again. He had been gone for a year, unheard of. Then he simply announced himself to the crowd, claimed to have 'defeated' a dragon, and stole the show right away from Trixie. Not a single pony lingered to watch her. No, Flair’s tricks were simply too amazing not to miss. We've been at each others' throats ever since.”
There was a long silence.
“So… you’re bitter rivals because you both didn’t play fair?” asked Ivy.
“Yeah, that also could have been way shortened down,” said Hue.
“No, only Flair played dirty," hissed Trixie. "Trixie simply challenged him to a match of skill. Flair purposefully stole her crowd.”
“So, what he did wasn’t justified because you embarrassed him in front a whole town of ponies?” asked Ivy.
“We hated each other before that, haven’t you been listening? Because of Flair thunder-stealing, Trixie had to take small-time gigs like the ones in Ponyville." Trixie shook her head. "The point is that Flair has committed a terrible wrong against Trixie and that makes him a pony unsuited for working at the Mane-Event.” Trixie looked off to the side and mumbled. “And if we don’t get rid of him, then Fluttershy can’t get her job back.”
“So... ideas?” asked Hue. “You have more of them right?”
Trixie put a hoof to her chin.
“You don’t actually have any, do you?” asked Ivy.
Trixie’s eyes suddenly gleamed. “For your information, yes, Trixie does have another brilliant plan.”
Lies. The new plan was horrible, downright shameful, really. Trixie was being a chicken, plain and simple. She had downsized her malicious, cunning plan of humiliation to one that avoided conflict altogether. Not to mention it was wholehearted treason. She wasn’t quite sure how she was going to live with herself after all was said and done. Unfortunately, she couldn’t live with the current circumstances either. She was either going to have to stoop to a low level or jump out of her apartment window. It was a tough choice, but Trixie chose the route of not-suicide, if only because her apartment wasn’t as high up as she would have preferred.
She sighed inwardly. If her life hadn’t hit rock bottom yet, then Trixie was quite she could see the craggy valley floor from the rock she was clinging onto. Maybe if she thought less about it, the more likely it would turn out alright. That was how the cruelness in her life worked, right? The more she built up expectations, the more they came crashing down in fire. She growled at her fate and continued on her way to Big Entrance’s office with her new compatriot in tow.
“So Maribel really isn’t going to be… well… you know?” Fluttershy stared at Trixie with her piercing eyes. They had to be illegal in some parts of Equestria.
Trixie grumbled. Telling her roommate the truth about the chimera’s fate was not something she wanted to do, but there was no keeping the charade if they were talking to Big Entrance. “No, no, that was just Big Entrance being his normal self.” Trixie stopped in front of her manger’s ever imposing door. “Are you ready to go in?”
“Um, well…” Fluttershy pawed the floor with her hoof. “It sounds like they have another good pony to take care of Maribel, and I don’t think Mr. Entrance likes me very much… It’s… it’s not worth it. As long as Maribel is going to be okay, they don’t need me.”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “You’ve been flip-flopping ever since we left the apartment. Now is not the time to bail! Have confidence!” She raised a hoof in emphasis.
“Well I do really want to work with Maribel again, but… but I was so bad at it. I didn’t even know what to do when she got upset. I think this Flair would probably be better.”
“Enough of that talk. Must Trixie repeat herself? You deserve this job, not Flair. Do you really care for the chimera?”
“Well, yes, I do but…”
“No! No ‘buts!’ If you care for the chimera then you need to fight for it! Flair won’t give Maribel the treatment she deserves! Now, let’s go in there and convince Big Entrance that he made a mistake.” Trixie pounded a hoof against the floor.
Fluttershy took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“Excellent. Now remember what Trixie told you to do. Big, wide eyes, pouting lip, and you must cry if he proves resistant. It’s essential.” Trixie equipped her best determined face and opened the door, ushering Fluttershy in.
Big Entrance looked up from a paper on his desk. He paused before tilting his head. “Is there a reason Miss Shy’s not fluttering back in a little town called Ponyville right now?”
Trixie took a deep breath and stood tall, her head looking down with power and conviction at her inferior. “Trixie has brought Fluttershy here to convince you that she deserves a second chance at her job.”
Big Entrance stared at Trixie, a small smile forming. He snickered and rubbed his ear. “Sorry, my mind likes making jokes when it hears something it knows isn’t worth it’s time. Just now it made it sound like you said you supported Fluttershy coming back to work for me. Just plain silliness. Could you, uh, repeat what you just said? I swear my mind won’t wander this time.”
Trixie’s expression went flat. “Trixie wants Fluttershy to have her job back.” Her eyes narrowed slowly.
Big Entrance’s eyes widened in response. He opened his mouth, closed it, coughed and adjusted his shades. “So,” he said, “let me get this straight. Um…” He scratched his head. “You want me to give Fluttershy a second chance? You?”
“No, the other Trixie.” Trixie gestured behind her with a sneer.
Big Entrance frowned. “No lame sarcasm in my office.”
“The undisputed Queen of Bedazzling Magic,” said Trixie, “is recommending that Fluttershy be brought back as the handler of the chimera. Trixie doubts any further reference is needed, is it?”
“Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves, babe? I think we’re missing discussing your sudden loyalty to a newcomer, who at one time I believe you viewed as a fly in the soup of your career.”
“Things change,” Trixie snarled. “Now drop it! The point is simply this: the hammer was unfairly brought down on Fluttershy at the end of her preview performance for High Hat.”
“Trixie, the nail-pounding tool was on its way down after two weeks of poor practicing. I stopped by frequently to check on you two, only to witness nervous movements, freak outs when the stage lights were turned on, and you talking to a dressing room door.” Big Entrance looked at Fluttershy and sighed. “I told you earlier, Miss Shy. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think you can work under the high intensity of stage business. Besides, it’s really not in my hooves. High Hat, after almost losing his left side I should add, was quite adamant about ridding you after that private performance. I’d have to go through him again, knowing he wouldn’t approve, and now we have Flair and, well…” He shrugged. “Sorry.”
Trixie tilted her head up. “Trixie expected that answer. That is why she has a proposal. She believes that with Fluttershy and her skills combined on stage, we would far rival anything that Flair could perform. Think about it, Trixie’s magical displays in conjunction with an exotically magical creature. The crowd would love it!”
Big Entrance furrowed his brow and looked Trixie up and down. “You want to be on the same stage as her?” He took off his sunglasses and glanced around the room before putting them back on slowly. “Huh, this is definitely reality.” He frowned. “I should take this chance to remind you that illegal substances aren’t allowed on my watch.”
“Trixie is one hundred percent sober. Now stay on topic! Just tell Trixie that such an act wouldn’t be magnificent. Just try to tell her.” Trixie crossed her hooves.
“Hay yeah, probably so, but I’m not about to raise an opinion opposite of this theater’s highest backer. Funny thing, having an animal you’re obsessed with come a hair’s breadth of killing you doesn’t make you all that forgiving of the animal’s handler. There’s just no way Fluttershy’s coming back. Full stop.”
Trixie sighed. “Then you leave Trixie with no choice.” She nudged Fluttershy and made a signal with her eyes.
Fluttershy looked at Trixie with confusion before light dawned. She turned to Big Entrance and stuck her bottom lip out and widened her eyes.
Big Entrance raised an eyebrow at her and glanced at Trixie. “What is she doing?”
Trixie nudged Fluttershy harder and received a look of panic. She pointed at her eye and drug a hoof down her cheek.
Fluttershy mouthed, “I can’t.”
Trixie threw her hooves up in the air.
“Sooo, is your stage act going to involve miming? Because I can already tell you that won’t fly worth a feather,” said Big Entrance.
Trixie growled. “Now listen here—“
“Nah, that’s enough of that.” Big Entrance waved his hoof dismissively at Trixie. “No big long angry rants from you today. I’ve…” He sighed. “I’ve got business to discuss. First thing’s first. High Hat is throwing a party in celebration of obtaining Flair as the newest member of the Mane-Event. It’s going to be a big dinner at High Hat’s new penthouse and afterwards Flair will be putting on his preview show. One that High Hat has taken great pains to stress to his friends won’t result in an out of control animal.”
Trixie knew she probably should have come to her roommate's defense but that wasn’t what her brain keyed in on. “Why didn’t Trixie get such a celebration when she joined?”
“Once again, I need to remind you that you were a small time filly. I was the one who put you on the elevator and pressed the button to the top floor. Flair, on the other hoof, is a big name. As in, Mare of Liberty, big. He’s proven himself long before showing up at this doormat, which is why High Hat feels confident enough to enter him into the Royal Performance Contest. Such a dumb name...” Big Entrance rolled his eyes.
“The what?” Trixie asked.
“It’s a new competition started by the princesses this year, particularly Princess Luna, who apparently is a huge fan of the performance arts. She wants to hold a competition in Canterlot to see who the best performers in Equestria are. High Hat, of course, wants to have his chimera win. Now, two things.” Big Entrance scratched the back of his neck. “First, Flair has invited you as his special guest. You’ll be sitting beside him during the duration of the dinner.”
“Oh,Trixie will, will she? When did she agree to this?”
“When the words came out of my mouth. Secondly… oh, dear sweet eyelash of Celestia, secondly...” Big Entrance took a deep breath. “Secondly, uh, funny coincidence. High Hat had it in his mind that the best way for his chimera to win the royal competition would be if he... combined Flair’s talents... and yours…” He cringed and backed away from his desk.
The office slowly started to dim. The colors of the room started to morph, transforming into a dark red. Trixie could feel the heat coming from her eyes, searing the stallion before her with invisible fire. The right side of her face twitched.
“I’m, uh, I’m going to excuse myself.” Fluttershy shot out the office door.
“Now, Trixie, at least, you know, roll the thought around and let it get used to your brain.” Big Entrance backed up even further.
Trixie opened her mouth slowly. “Trixie. Is. Going. To—“
“Do you, um, feel better now?” Fluttershy cringed as Trixie left Big Entrance’s office, expecting her to explode again at a moment’s notice.
Trixie started plodding down the hallway, her shoulders slumped. “Trixie feels somewhat better.”
“Those were a lot of words, that, uh, I had never heard before.” Fluttershy was quite sure she didn’t want to ever hear them again, either.
“Trixie has quite the colorful vocabulary when the situation calls for it. That was one such situation.” Trixie slammed a hoof into the hallway wall. “She was sure that this would work. In fact, it might have if you had cried.” She twisted her mouth. “You couldn’t even let out a single tear? Just one?”
“I’m very sorry. There really wasn’t anything to cry about. I mean, Maribel is going to be fine after all and—“
“No!” Trixie yelled, causing Fluttershy to flinch. She cleared her throat, and continued more quietly. “The chimera will not be fine. Flair will corrupt it. He corrupts everything he touches. Trixie must find a way to bring him down. She didn’t want to have to take on Flair directly, but now it looks like she has no other option.”
Fluttershy remained quiet as Trixie walked down the hallway making gestures and mouthing words to herself. She was pretty sure her roommate was overreacting. Surely this new pony couldn’t be all that bad? After all, what pony wouldn’t take really good care of a creature as cute as Maribel? Really, it was probably about time Fluttershy let go of Manehattan. She should just pack up and head back to Ponyville. She would miss her new friends and they would hate to see her go but she had a cottage full of animals that loved her back at home, and they probably missed her a lot, and so did her other friends and--
Trixie burst out into a loud cackle, silencing Fluttershy’s thoughts. “That’s it! Trixie, you are maniacal!” She looked at Fluttershy. “It’s perfect! Something that will truly terrify him! It even terrifies Trixie. Not quite as grand or publicly shaming as Trixie’s previous plan, and she’ll have to be very careful, but it will work. She bets her life on it.” She rubbed her hooves together.
“What is it?”
“Ah now, that would be telling. Trixie must keep a few secrets. Now, double-time back to the apartment, Trixie has quite a few things to research and prepare.”
“I never expected you to accept the invitation to Flair’s dinner.” Fluttershy adjusted a few of the flowers in her hair, making sure they wouldn’t fall out.
“The best way to catch Flair off guard is to hit him when he thinks he’s safe.” Trixie polished her gem clasp with the side of her hoof. The gown she had on was about as perfect as she was going to get. It was a slightly darker blue than her coat and it was patterned with her cutie mark. It came up to a hood over her head and Trixie thought she would be remiss if she didn’t wear her moon-sliver earrings. She was going to turn heads if she had anything to say about it.
“It’s not going to be anything too mean is it?” Fluttershy put on her green slippers.
Trixie shook her head at her roommate’s outfit. As stunning as she thought her gown was, she would be lying to herself if she said she wasn’t jealous. It was a gorgeous dress. Supposedly it was worn to the Grand Galloping Gala, or, more accurately, the Grand Occasion Trixie Wasn’t Invited To. She was still miffed. Since when was she not important enough for such a gathering?
“Um, Trixie, it’s not going to be bad is it?” Fluttershy moved closer to Trixie.
Trixie snapped back to the matter at hoof. “It’s not… overly bad. Trixie thinks it’s not something to scream about... You had better not scream.” She shot Fluttershy a serious look.
“I’ll try not to, but please don’t seriously injure anypony.” Fluttershy used her illegal eye weapons again.
“Trixie is not going to hurt anypony. Just… you’ll see. Let’s hurry up. Trixie intends to get there before the dinner officially starts.”
As the pair walked down the streets of Manehattan, Trixie patted the left fold of her gown, making sure the bottles inside them weren’t jostling too hard. It seemed like they were packed tightly enough.
It wasn’t hard to find which skyscraper housed High Hat’s new penthouse when only one of them had superbly dressed ponies entering it in large groups, with some individuals lingering outside to talk to each other. To not much of her surprise, Trixie spotted several of her co-workers talking in a circle.
“Trixie sees that she’s not the only pony who was forced into this mockery.” Trixie approached her co-workers, observing their outfits. She expected a frilly dress from Ivy and less formal dresses from Peaches and Cream, but Hue wearing a tuxedo was a surprise. “Hue, Trixie is surprised to see that you’re wearing, well… anything.”
Hue stared past Trixie. She followed his gaze to the pony behind her—Fluttershy. Trixie rolled her eyes. She should have suspected that was the reason for his sudden care in his appearance.
“Fluttershy, you look… awesome.” Hue fidgeted with his bowtie.
“Oh, um, thank you.” Fluttershy gave the stallion a small smile and turned her head.
"I mean it. That is some dress." Hue rubbed the back of his neck. "Nothing compared to the mare inside it, though."
"Oh my." Fluttershy's cheeks decided red was a nice contrasting color to her yellow coat.
A grin spread across Hue's face. "Fluttershy, would like you to sit at my tab--"
"Alright, that is enough of that," said Trixie, pulling Fluttershy closer to her.
“I agree," said Ivy, shaking her head Hue who in turn gave the group a quizzical look. She turned back to Trixie. "So, I hear you actually have yet another plan to take care of Flair and get Fluttershy re-hired?” Ivy asked. "That's why we're all waiting out here."
Trixie gave her co-worker a wary eye. "If you're expecting to be let in on the plan or, what's more, be a part of it, then you're sorely mistaken."
"Oh, come on, Trixie, you can't leave us in the cold!" Peaches pouted.
"Yeah, we have to be a part of it this time. We're talking about making sure Fluttershy stays. You need all the help you can get," said Cream.
"Trixie does not need help." Trixie's nostrils flared. "She requires only herself and Fluttershy. Too many magicians spoil the trick. Now begone with you until after Flair is no longer working with us."
Ivy sighed. "Fine. I know there's no use arguing. Well, can you at least give us the gist of it?"
"It will be dangerous," said Trixie.
“We don’t have to stand back about fifty feet, do we?” asked Peaches.
“No, Trixie assures you that it is nothing that wide-reaching. Don’t worry. The only pony wrecked by the end of the night will be Flair.”
Cream sighed. “It's always the handsome ones that just have to go. The Mane-Event has so few eye candy stallions.”
Trixie scrunched up her face. “Enough of that talk in Trixie’s presence. She wishes to be able to eat.”
“Was I just insulted right now?” Hue asked, breaking away from his gaze at Fluttershy.
“No more than usual. We’ll see you three on the other side.” Trixie moved past them into the building, taking the elevator to the top floor.
The entire living room, which could have been an apartment by itself, had been cleared out and was filled with small circular tables for the upcoming dinner. There were no seating arrangements except the one relegated to Trixie. She had heard that Flair’s official reason for sitting her beside him was so that they might “learn” from each other. It didn’t take much to remind her just how much she passionately loathed the stallion. Trixie found the table with her name scrawled elegantly on a place card and planted herself in the designated seat. She had no desire to mingle.
Fluttershy sat in a chair opposite and glanced around, her head lowered. “Um, so, what am I supposed to be doing?”
“You’re here to do your best to make Flair uncomfortable and because Trixie needs a courier.”
“You’ll see.” Trixie smirked.
“Are you sure it wouldn’t be best if I stayed out of everypony’s way?”
“Trixie swears you have the self-confidence of a shaved cat. You have this.”
A glass clinked loudly in the distance and the room full of talking ponies quieted down and directed their attention to High Hat, who stood on a platform in the back of the room.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlestallions! Welcome to the celebration of the hiring of Flair to the Mane-Event team. I have no doubt you have heard of him if you have any appreciation of the performance arts. He is one of the few to travel to the East and return armed with a great many stories and treasures. He is a charming and bold fellow and he can command an audience’s attention like no other. It was to my great joy that I managed to get a hold of him in the midst of his tour in the outer borders of Equestria. I asked him if he had the skills and the interest to lead a most exotic creature on stage. To my great fortune he said yes to both! So without further introduction on my part, here is the stallion of the hour!” High Hat stepped to the side and Flair came out on the stage to applause.
Trixie rolled her eyes at his appearance. His “formal” attire consisted of a bright red top hat and cape with golden comets on it, same as his cutie mark. Such egotism.
Flair blew a kiss to the hoof stomping crowd. “Yes, greetings, my dears! It’s positively wonderful the amount of ponies in attendance here! Simply fantastic! All for me? My mind boggles at the thought. Though, I suppose I can think of one reason why you all love me so much.” The magician smiled and lifted his hoof palm upward and blue flame crackled to life on top of it. He threw his hoof forward and the blue flame streaked across the room, twirling by the corners of the room and coming back, prompting several ponies to duck, the end of the flame meeting back at his hoof. With a roar, the flames disappeared.
“Show off,” Trixie mumbled.
More applause reverberated throughout the room. Flair bowed. “Before we continue, I’d like to be the one to announce that I plan on entering the Royal Performance Competition!” Even more applause. “Yes, yes, I know I’ll win, no worries.” He laughed. “And not only that, it will be with High Hat’s wondrous chimera and, and, I’ll be winning alongside your lovely main lady, Trixie!” Flames burst from Flair’s hoof again, this time encircling Trixie, highlighting her with blue light.
Eyes wide, Trixie stood up and waved as the crowd applauded. With a sudden gleam in her eye, she lifted her hooves up and her horn started to glow. She could put on just as an amazing eye-catcher as her rival.
“She is something isn’t she,” Flair said. The flames around Trixie died and the crowd’s entire attention went back to the stallion. Trixie slumped into her chair and leaned her cheek on her hoof.
“Now, enjoy your meals brought to you by some of the best caterers in town,” said Flair. “Once the meal is over I’ll be mingling about, providing autographs, smiles, and the presence of my company. Then, don’t forget, you’re all invited to the preview show I’ll be putting on at the Mane-Event. Witness for yourself why I’m the most sought after magician in Equestria.” He waved at the crowd again and hopped of the stage, his cape twirling dramatically.
“Watch yourself, Trixie.”
Trixie started and looked to her side, her eyes meeting a pair of thick, black shades.
“Trixie will behave.” Trixie tossed her mane to the side rebelliously. “In that she won’t kill him.”
“Yeah, no serious injuries would be nice, too. Now for a question: what is she doing here?” Big Entrance pointed at Fluttershy.
“She’s Trixie’s plus one.”
“Trixie’s sorry, did the invitation say that ex-theater ponies aren’t allowed? Was that in the fine print?”
Big Entrance lowered his sunglasses making his scrutinizing eyes visible. “You’ve been acting fishy this past week. So fishy I expect you to sprout gills next month. I don’t like it. If something unpleasant happens tonight then there will be consequences.”
“Yes, yes.” Trixie rolled her eyes and waved her hoof dismissively at her manager.
“I use to carry an air of authority around here,” Big Entrance mumbled and trotted off.
“Are you sure Flair’s a bad pony, Trixie? He seemed alright to me.” Fluttershy scanned the crowd, looking for him.
“He is most certainly a vile pony. Trixie hopes he winds up homeless and destitute after she rids him of her theater.”
Trixie jumped a little as Flair trotted up to the table and hopped onto the chair next Trixie. She had lost track of him in the crowd. “Trixie was just discussing how much she wanted a bright future for you.”
“Oh, well thank you, my dear, but I doubt wishes are really necessary. My continued success is a fact of life.” Flair leaned closely to Fluttershy. “Now, who is this lovely creature?”
Much to Trixie’s surprise, her roommate didn’t blush. She was improving. “I’m Fluttershy.”
“Wait, Fluttershy, as in the animal handler I replaced?” Flair asked. “The pony who couldn’t reign in the chimera?”
Fluttershy lowered her head and occupied herself with the center of the table.
“She just had a mishap. She’s still a far better handler than you could dream of,” said Trixie.
“Oh, yes, sure, sure.” Flair smiled. “I will give my predecessor one thing. She has quite the angelic look. I feel rather sorry that I took your job, Miss Fluttershy.” A spark shot from his horn to his hoof and a pearl necklace materialized. He magically levitated it around Fluttershy’s neck, clasping it on. “An apologetic gift, my dear.”
Fluttershy looked startled at the shiny pearls. “Oh, um, thank you.”
“How did you do that?” asked Trixie. “You can’t just make things. Magic doesn’t work that way.”
“Now, now, Trixie, a magician never reveals his secrets, even to another magician. Especially not to you, that’s for sure.”
“You are atrocious. Trixie knows you forced her to sit here just so you could mock her.”
“Certainly did.” Flair raised and lowered his eyebrows. “Why do you think I’m so happily going along with the plan to have you be my partner in the upcoming competition? What better way to show my magical superiority over you than for me to perform my advanced spells right next to your meager offerings.”
“How do you know Trixie won’t use that as an opportunity to sabotage your chances of winning?” Trixie smirked.
“Well, if anything did go wrong, it would only be because you were there. That’s what I’d tell the press. Bad things just tend to happen around you, Trixie. It would be a Flair pity fest and I would cherish every moment of it.” Flair smiled his most arrogant smile.
Trixie had to use all her willpower to prevent herself from launching a furious series of punches on his personage. She had a better plan. She needed to stick to it.
A caterer pony pulled a cart up to their table and laid down three plates and filled them up with a strange Eastern dish. Trixie was quite sure she would have labeled it as something out of a dumpster were it not being offered to her by a well-dressed stallion. He laid down three glasses and poured red wine in each of them, leaving the bottle on the table before departing.
“Ah, a fantastic dish this.” Flair levitated a fork to his food and brought a bite to his mouth. “I discovered it in my travels in the East. I managed to bring the recipe back with me. Not quite as good as the natives over there make it, but still top notch.”
“Ah, yes your travels East. You always seem to come back to those in your conversations.” Trixie sneered.
“It’s my defining life’s achievement. Tell me, Fluttershy, have you heard about how I persuaded a dragon to give me its most precious jewel?”
“Um, no. Though I convinced a dragon to move out of its cave, once. How easy was it for you?” Fluttershy asked.
Flair frowned. “It took all of my cunning and manipulation to convince it to part with it. How did you handle such a creature?”
“I scolded it. It hurt my friends, so I told it to apologize.”
Flair frowned even deeper. “You scolded a dragon? You actually gave off an air of authority to one of the most self-important races in the world?”
“Every living creature cares about others deep down inside it. I just needed to show the dragon that it didn’t really want to be mean and that we could come to an agreement that was good for everyone. It just took a little sternness to break through its shell.” Fluttershy nodded as if reassuring herself. “How did you persuade your dragon? You didn’t... trick it did you?”
The frown on Flair's face was beginning to look etched. He looked intently at Fluttershy while taking several large swigs of wine.
Trixie leaned back, drinking from her glass. “Problem, Flair?”
Flair glanced at Trixie and seemed to regain composure as his frown made way for a playful smile. He cocked an eyebrow at Fluttershy. “Intimidated a dragon? Hmm. And yet the chimera proved your superior?”
The table grabbed Fluttershy’s attention again. Trixie needed to ease the pressure.
“Well everypony makes a mistake every so once and awhile. In fact, some ponies’ entire lives serve as an example of what not to do.” Trixie gave her rival a sharp look.
Flair’s head tilted in surprise. “Well I’m glad you’re being open about it, dear Trixie. You need not worry, I’m sure, sure, that someday, you’ll do something right in your life. I’d mark that day down, if I were you, it will only come once.” He stared into the distance and waved a hoof in front of him. “‘Here lies Trixie, she lived a life of failure but we will always remember her for the deeds of a single day.’ Then below you can have the date in glorious gold filigree. Perfect, my dear.”
It didn’t escape Trixie’s notice that Flair’s wine glass was close to being empty. She levitated the wine bottle close to her, acting as if she was about to refill her own glass. Now was the time to strike. “It will give Trixie’s grave an air of haunting bitter-sweetness. Yours will be the one causing ponies to snicker in the graveyard. Who wouldn’t after reading a name like yours on a tombstone?”
Flair glared at Trixie. “Watch it.”
“Trixie wonders, did you parents hate you? With a name like Flair Pizzazz, it sounds like they did.”
“Fine, Trixie, fine. Need I bring up your name?”
Trixie’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
“Oh, I quite would. Everypony, everypony, can I have your attention!” The room quieted down. Flair stood up and magically lifted up his wine glass. “I’d like to propose a toast. First a toast to the wonderful theater that is the Mane-Event and then of course to the loveliest of partners, Trixie Lulamoon!” He raised his glass high and drank from it. The rest of the crowd also drank from their collective glasses, though not without several smirks and titters.
The ploy worked perfectly. Trixie knew full well that Flair wouldn’t pass up a jab at his name without an equivalent counterattack. The predictable manner of his insults would prove his downfall. She pulled a small bottle from her gown while Flair's attention was away from the table and poured some into the wine bottle. She held up a hoof in a shushing gesture at Fluttershy’s widening eyes.
Flair turned and smiled at Trixie just as she stuffed the small bottle back in her gown. He magically lifted the wine bottle, refilled his glass, and took a sip. Trixie eyed Flair with indifference and refilled her glass as well. With her own sip, the deed was sealed.
“Flair, you’ve forced Trixie’s hoof.” She stared hard at her rival.
“Forced it to do what?” Flair asked.
“She put something in both of our drinks.”
Flair’s mouth took a serious downturn. “What was it? Surely it couldn’t have been poison. I would have known.”
“Oh, it wasn’t a poison,” said Trixie, her face turning very serious. “It was a love potion.”
“That’s what it was?” asked Fluttershy, putting a hoof to her mouth.
Flair gasped and stared at Trixie with widened eyes. “You… you didn’t.”
“Trixie most certainly did. She mixed it so it has a delay before it starts working. Trixie has the antidote on her but she won’t use it unless you step down from your job here.”
“Are you kidding? Are you mad?”
“Trixie is simply doing what she has to. Now sign this!” Trixie pulled a rolled parchment out, magically levitating it in front of Flair.
The stallion looked down at it, his eyes quickly scanning across it. “‘I, Flair, hereby agree to step down from my position at the Mane-Event. I testify that I drink profusely and this is one of my very few moments of sobriety’.” Flair gritted his teeth. “‘Any statement made by me to the contrary of this document should be assumed to be me under the influence.’” Flair looked at Trixie. “You fiend! You are one crazy mare!”
“You are one arrogant stallion!” Trixie spat back. “And the part you read isn’t even the half of it! Trixie did her research. The rest of the document is foolproof in court. Now sign!” An inkwell and quill appeared on the table.
“Trixie, Trixie,” Flair said, his tone becoming more urgent, “just use the antidote.”
“No! Trixie is willing to play chicken if that’s what you want. We can continue to sit at this table just waiting for the potion to kick in. Just imagine the googly eyes we’ll make followed by a romantic walk in the park. But you can prevent it if you just sign this.” Trixie patted the document with her hoof.
Flair stared at her with anger. Breathing heavily, he finally relented. “Fine!” He dipped the quill in the ink and quickly scrawled his name on the lined portion at the bottom of the paper.
Trixie magically rolled up the parchment and levitated it in front of her roommate. “Take this to Big Entrance, quickly!”
Fluttershy looked at the parchment and then at Trixie with panicked eyes. “But, where is he?”
“Trixie doesn’t know! Around here somewhere! Go!”
Fluttershy grabbed the parchment in her mouth and flew up above the crowd in the room.
“The antidote, Trixie, now!” Flair leaned close to Trixie with a pleading gesture.
Trixie nodded and whipped out the antidote bottle from inside her cape. She started to pour some in Flair’s glass when, without warning, a hoof came and shoved the glass and the vial along with it, off the table and onto the ground, where they both shattered.
“What in Luna’s tail are you doing?” Big Entrance’s voice was unmistakable.
Trixie, her mouth agape, turned to look at her manager. She tried to speak, but words just didn’t seem to want to come out.
“You foal! You… you…” Flair grabbed Big Entrance by his jacket collar. “What have you done?”
“Um… saved your life from Trixie’s poison?” Big Entrance didn’t sound so confident.
“No! No... that was the antidote... How much time do we have?” Flair released Big Entrance and clutched his hooves at his head.
“About one more minute,” Trixie whispered.
“Wait, are you going to die in a minute?” Big Entrance stared between the two.
“No… no, worse.” Trixie covered her mouth.
“Then what’s going to happen?”
It wasn't until a few minutes after leaving the table that Fluttershy realized she wasn't so much looking for Big Entrance as flying around in a panicked state. When she regained her composure and started scanning for the stallion she found that she was in an out of the way hallway with nopony in it. Sweat started to bead down her forehead. Was it bad if she didn’t deliver the document in time? Trixie made it seem really urgent. Fluttershy did a quick mid-air reversal and started flying back to the main room.
She quickly stopped short as a crowd started to form around the dining area. What was going on? Was she too late? Did something bad happen? Fluttershy zoomed past the few pegasi that had taken to the air to get a better view. Then the center of the room became visible and she came to a halt in mid-air. She almost forgot to flap her wings, and quickly caught herself before she hit the ground.
Glowing, spherical lights encompassed a large section of the floor. Fast tempo, sensual music emanated from inside the swirling lights. Dancing to said music was Flair and Trixie, chest pressed against chest, horns glowing and touching, and hooves in the proper tango positions.
“What do you think… abandon ship?”
Fluttershy looked down from her aerial position, finding Hue looking up at her, a grim expression on his face.
Flair bent Trixie forward, his face lining up with her chest. He quickly lifted his head, and with a devious grin, kissed Trixie on the lips before pulling her back to her hooves and continuing the dance.
“What… what happened?” Ivy, just managing to worm her way to Hue, stared up at Fluttershy with panic.
“I don’t know!” Fluttershy cringed. “Trixie said something about a love potion!”
“A what?” Cream suddenly appeared by Hue, Peaches by her side. “This is not good!”
Peaches put a hoof to her face. “She seriously didn’t. What would that even gain her?”
“Well, she gave me this parchment that Flair signed.” Fluttershy held up the paper in her hoof, flying lower to show it to her friends.
“She is something else.” Ivy shook her head, a small smile coming to her lips.
“Explanation. Now. Or so help me Nightmare Moon, I will fire you all.” Big Entrance shoved aside two nearby bystanders and stared down the group, his sunglasses up on top of his head, letting loose the full strength of his withering gaze.
Flair spun Trixie in a fluid finishing move. His horn stopped glowing and the music stopped with it. Trixie followed suit and cut off the glowing lights.
“Attention, everypony!” Flair spoke loudly. “The preview show will still be happening at the Mane-Event. I’ve decided to move it forward about an hour. I will be… indisposed until then.” Flair stared deeply into Trixie’s eyes and kissed her again. He wrapped his hoof around her and with a flash, they teleported in front of the elevator on the other side of the room and got in it. The room broke out with murmuring.
“Oh, for both of the princess’s sakes, what is going on?” Big Entrance sat down, his sunglasses falling off his head, apparently in just as much shock as its owner.
“They’re probably going to Trixie’s apartment,” Ivy yelled up at Fluttershy over the commotion. “You’re the only pegasus among us! We’ll hold Big Entrance off!”
“You’ll what?” Big Entrance stamped a hoof. “No, Fluttershy, stay right here!”
“Go!” yelled Ivy.
Fluttershy bit her bottom lip and flew off. She quickly found an open window and used it as her exit, soaring out of it and over the streets of Manehattan, back to her and Trixie’s apartment.
For a scant few seconds, Fluttershy considered leaving the apartment door closed and flying back to Ponyville. It seemed like the safest option. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kindest option. She owed Trixie, even if the plan apparently backfired. There was no backing out. Fluttershy put on her best determined face and put a hoof to the door, pushing it open slowly. She peered her head into the room.
It was all she could do to not let out an “aww” upon viewing the two ponies she was after. They both were sitting in the hallway, staring deeply into each others' eyes, the sweetest of smiles on their faces. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect with a love potion, but so far Fluttershy was finding it very sweet and somewhat harmless.
The couple, with a lot of difficulty, turned to look at her.
“Can you believe that Trixie never saw anything in Flair before? It’s like Trixie’s eyes have been opened to a whole new side of this stallion, a side that looks a lot like Trixie’s side.” Trixie turned back to Flair and leaned in even closer to his face.
“I’m amazed you haven’t seen anything in me before either.” Flair brushed back Trixie’s mane, securing a lock behind her ear. “I see a lot of me in you, and I love it.”
“Mhmm, Trixie loves that you love it.” Trixie batted her eyes.
Fluttershy suddenly felt like she was invading privacy. Things were fast leaving “sweet” territory. “But, um, Trixie, remember how you, well, don’t like Flair?” She doubted a simple reminder would work, but she had to try.
“Trixie doesn’t like Flair, but… Trixie loves Flair.”
“Shall we take the couch?” asked Flair, nuzzling Trixie’s neck.
“That sounds good to Trixie.” A predatory grin broke out and Trixie led Flair to their couch and sat down, patting the cushion next to her.
Fluttershy changed her mind, the potion was beginning to look the opposite of harmless. She stood in the doorway, trying to think of a solution to the conundrum. Trixie had to have made the love potion herself somehow. She doubted anypony in Manehattan sold something so potent. Surely the recipe book had to be around the apartment somewhere? She walked into Trixie's room and her face lit up. A book and a scattering of various containers and plants were laid out on the top of one her dressers.
“Trixie can’t believe you didn’t notice how beautiful she was before.”
“Well I can’t believe you didn’t notice how handsome I was before, my dear.”
“Oh, please, Flair, we both know if it wasn’t for Trixie’s looks, this relationship wouldn’t work.”
Fluttershy raised an eyebrow and poked her head back into the living room to look at the couple.
“Now, now, Trixie, it’s my face that makes this work. That, and my masterful kissing.” Flair smiled widely.
“Trixie is the skillful kisser. Just you see.” Trixie licked her upper lip.
The two leaned into each other.
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. She turned around and scanned the contents of the book quickly. Fortunately, Trixie had left it open to the right page. The ingredients for the antidote seemed simple enough. Some fish eggs, some cinnamon, some Madame Curie’s General Purpose Magic Additive, some—
“See, Trixie clearly won that match.”
“Assuredly not. I believe my tongue won that expertly. Another round?”
Loud smacking sounded from the other room and Fluttershy started throwing the ingredients into the mixing bowl as fast as she could muster. Almost there. She just needed some nightcap. She reached for the bag and poured it over the bowl. Nothing came out. She looked in it.
“Empty? No, no, no.” Fluttershy winced.
“Trixie will admit that wasn’t bad, but you haven’t seen her at her best. Just lie down and let her show you what real skill is.”
Fluttershy’s ears flattened against the sides of her head. She pushed aside bottles and containers. There had to be some more nightcap somewhere. There had to be… except there wasn’t, graceful Celestia there wasn’t.
“My dear, watch it with my chest. That tickles.”
“Do you admit Trixie is the superior one here? Perhaps she should go farther…”
“The park!” Fluttershy squeaked. She ran back into the living room. “Uh, who wants to go to the park?”
Flair and Trixie lifted their heads up from the couch and looked at the interrupter quizzically.
“The park? What for?” asked Trixie.
“I don’t think she approves of our activities in her living room.” Flair waggled his eyebrows.
“It’s Trixie’s living room.” She smiled at Fluttershy and nibbled on Flair’s ear. “But,” she said, pulling back to look out the window. “The park does sound romantic.”
“Same here.” Flair grinned. “We can finish this little contest at a later time.”
Fluttershy smiled and thought she might ooze into the floor with relief. “Might I suggest the Manehattan Botanical Garden?”
Trixie and Flair looked at each other and shrugged. “Sounds good to me,” said Flair.
The Manehattan Botanical Garden was Fluttershy’s favorite spot in the city. It was filled with colorful flowers from all over Equestria, many Fluttershy was familiar with and many that she had never seen before. It quickly became her favorite relaxation spot, being the only place in the city that made her feel un-crowded and at ease.
For once, however, “at ease” was not a feeling that washed over her as she rushed inside. She had to find nightcap before Trixie and Flair did something... drastic. She looked behind her, watching the couple follow her slowly, giggling and brushing against each other. “Um, why don’t you two take a bench while I look through the garden for a bit?” She needed them to stay put.
They whispered with each other, apparently ignoring her, but they sat down on one of the garden’s benches anyway. Content they wouldn’t cause any trouble, Fluttershy started jumping from flowerbed to flowerbed, peering through them to find her needed ingredient.
“Trixie could stare in your eyes forever,” said Trixie, her voice carrying, much to Fluttershy’s chagrin. “It helps that Trixie can see her reflection in them.”
“My dear,” said Flair, “I was going to say the same about yours. I suppose great minds think alike.”
There was a light laugh. “And we are great minds, aren’t we?”
No luck, no luck at all. Nightcap had distinctive purple and green petals, how hard could it be to spot? Fluttershy was beginning to doubt her ability to find things.
“Trixie, my dear,” said Flair slowly. “I’ve been thinking about you and I, mostly I, and I think I know what I want to do.”
“Now, Flair, you’re not thinking about what Trixie herself was thinking, are you?”
“I don’t know, could it be you’re on the same wavelength as my thoughts, dear, sweet Trixie of mine? That’s a hard feat to accomplish.”
“Trixie thinks she is. You should be proud to share your thoughts with her... If Trixie is correct... then you want to make this a commitment?”
Fluttershy popped her head up from the bed of flowers she was searching through.
“You are in my head, you sweet temptress! That’s exactly what I was thinking! Now, keep in mind, I’m only going to kneel before you once, my dear.”
“Oh, Trixie will see about that when the honeymoon starts.”
Fluttershy wanted desperately to put her hooves over her ears but that made searching through flowers difficult. She kicked her searching into overdrive, hovering over each of the sets of flowers and sifting through them rapidly.
“I think I have different ideas, but for now, for now Trixie, I have to ask you but one question. Will you marry me?”
There was a magical sound. Fluttershy looked back to see Flair kneeling in front of Trixie, a ring in his hoof. She turned back. She didn’t want to see anymore.
“Yes, Trixie most certainly will. How could she deny somepony so like herself?”
“A perfect answer. One I myself would have given… Oh my, I think we’ve lost track of time. If that clock on the lamppost is correct, then the preview show I was supposed to put on is about to happen in a few minutes.”
“Then Trixie supposes we best make our way over there.”
Fluttershy wrung her hooves, flying over the flowerbeds at a frantic pace.
“I was thinking we could include our wedding as part of the show.”
“Our wedding will be us showing off our tremendous talent? Trixie thinks you have something there.”
“Do I not always? I’m think you should enter the stage riding on the chimera, wearing that designer dress you have.”
Sirens went off in Fluttershy’s head. “No, Maribel still doesn’t like you Trixie! She’ll get really upset!” She called back to the two.
They paid no heed to her.
“That is a fantastic idea, Flair. Trixie will never have looked so majestic and commanding.”
“Well, of course I’ll be looking splendid myself. I’ll put on some of my tricks for the crowd. It will be perfect. Shall we get to it?”
“No, wait!” Fluttershy cried out. She rocketed in front of the couple. “You can’t go to the theater yet!”
“I can’t wait, Fluttershy,” said Flair. “I have a fiancée to marry. You should come. I think you’d make a great bridesmaid.”
“You can’t!” Fluttershy waved her hooves in a panic. “Maribel won’t like it at all! It will be bad!”
“Such overreacting.” Trixie kissed Flair on the neck. “Let’s hurry up. Trixie can’t wait to have such a beautiful wedding.”
The couple brushed past Fluttershy and left out onto the street.
“Ohh…” A squeal of consternation left Fluttershy’s mouth.
She had to find that flower… Her expression went blank as she turned and saw, in the corner, right by the entrance, was a small patch of three nightcap flowers. She sighed. She had trotted right past them. Quickly nipping one, she flew as fast as her wings could take her back to the apartment.
She just had to mix the ingredients, boil them, find a bottle for them, and rush back to the Mane-Event. Simple. There was still hope. Things might just end up okay.
Waking up to a throbbing headache was not something Trixie was unfamiliar with and accompanying feelings of vertigo were not anything special. She had her fair share of drunken nights. However, waking up with an eerily hazy memory and a feeling of being upside down was something she was entirely unaccustomed to and found she didn’t like at all.
Opening her eyes didn’t provide her with much clarity, much to Trixie’s irritation. All she could make out were fuzzy shapes. She blinked furiously in an attempt to get her eyes to hurry up and adjust. She could see a chair, a table, a yellow and pink thing… Trixie frowned. This was starting to seem like familiar territory, except… was that a floor? With a start, Trixie glanced around her and realized she was observing all these objects from above. She panicked and waved her hooves in the air. Freezing her movements, Trixie realized that she wasn’t actually going anywhere. What was going on? Trixie tried desperately to fight back the haze in her mind. Wait… why did her tail feel so cold? Lifting her head up, Trixie found the reason why. Her tail was encased in ice that was stuck to the ceiling.
Did Trixie even want to know? At first Trixie decided she didn’t, but, with a sigh, she supposed that one couldn’t simply forget about this sort of thing. She thought back. She remembered she had some sort of plan. The plan was important. The plan had to work. Well… did it work?
“Did it work?” Trixie asked no one in particular. There was no answer. “Help?” Trixie ventured. Still no reply.
Her vision starting to become clear, Trixie scanned the floor she was forced to look at. Her face scrunched up. She hadn’t expected the huge hole in one of the walls, the scattered debris, or the disapproving eyes staring back up at her. There was a hoof-full of bedraggled, dirty ponies below that eyed her with loathing, especially Big Entrance.
Trixie shot a dark look right back at him. She wasn’t sure what she did, but she was sure she didn’t deserve the look she was receiving. If anything, somepony else deserved a stare of derision. After all, wasn’t it Trixie who was stuck to the ceiling via her tail?
“Is anypony going to help Trixie?” she yelled.
A firepony, who was helping a pony out a pile of plaster, looked up at her with annoyance. His horn glowed and Trixie could feel her tail warm up. She could feel the ice melt around it and with a sudden pop, she was falling. Before she could let out a scream, an aura enveloped her and lighted her gently to the ground.
Trixie brushed herself off. “Thank you,” she said curtly.
The firepony gave her a baleful stare and grunted before moving on to clear more rubble.
Careful to give Big Entrance a wide berth for the time being, Trixie made her way to Fluttershy, the only pony who seemed unaffected by whatever chaos made itself known in the room. Out of all the possible questions to ask, only one rose to Trixie’s lips. “Did it work?”
Fluttershy looked up at Trixie and smiled widely. “It’s good to see you normal.”
“Normal?” asked Trixie. “Was Trixie not earlier?”
“What, you don’t remember?” asked Fluttershy.
Trixie blinked. “No, things are still fuzzy.”
“Okay, so I admit that my stare was no welcoming mat, but that’s no reason to pass over me like a plague. We need to talk.” Big Entrance approached the two ponies in what would have been an intimidating manner if one of his sunglass lenses hadn’t been broken.
“Whatever you want to start yelling at Trixie for, she should give you fair warning, she has no clue what is going on!” Trixie raised a hoof in frustration.
“Well you had better start jogging something from that mushy, gray stuff pretty soon!” Big Entrance stamped his hoof. “I want to know what caused all this insanity!”
“As do I.”
Trixie looked to her side to find a frowning Flair. “What are you doing here?” Trixie snarled.
“I have no idea. My memory’s a blur.” Flair rubbed his head.
“Is there a bout of amnesia going around? Is that communicable now? Where are my answers!” Big Entrance stared the group down.
“I have them,” Fluttershy said quietly.
“There they are! Arrest them!”
All heads turned.
Three police ponies approached. One of them, a unicorn, stepped past his comrades and magically levitated a baton in front of him, using it as a pointer. “Blue unicorn, yellow pegasus, and Mr. Overly Long Mane, you’re going to have to come with us.”
The ponies exchanged surprised looks.
Trixie whirled away from the group to face the police ponies. “Trixie demands to know what for!”
“Uh, let’s see, for destruction of property, for recklessly endangering the general public, and for causing injuries to several ponies.”
"Trixie doesn't even remember any of this!"
“According to whose testimony?” asked Flair.
"Uh," the police pony said, "just about every member of the audience."
"What did I do?" asked Fluttershy.
"Witnesses claim that you seemed to be associated with these two and that you stared them down until they drank from a bottle you were holding. Clearly this is drug related."
"That's preposterous! Trixie is innocent! We're all innocent! Except him!" Trixie pointed at Flair.
"What?" Flair growled.
“Alright, as much as a yelling match just fascinates me, I’m taking you guys in now.” The polices ponies surrounded the trio and escorted them out of the theater.
She had asked for it, to be honest. Trixie knew she had. She wanted desperately to know what had happened behind the veil of her memories and finally the shadows pulled away to reveal true terror. There was still a thick block of memories that were pitch black, which was both horrifying and gratifying.
Trixie stuck her muzzle out in between the bars of her cell, resting her forehead on them.
“So you’re saying Trixie actually continued to try to ride the chimera while it was trying to throw her off?”
“Um… yes,” said Fluttershy, who Trixie assumed was still huddled in a ball in the corner. She didn’t feel like turning around to verify. “You managed to steer her all the way to the stage before she um, got a little angry. It was unfortunate that High Hat and his guests decided to still show up.”
Trixie groaned and thumped her head against the bars in front of her. “They had no idea that Flair and Trixie had decided to turn the preview show into a wedding ceremony. Of course they showed up.”
There was a pause. “How long do you think they’ll keep us here?” asked Fluttershy.
Trixie sighed. “I don’t know.”
“But Big Entrance is sorting things out, right?”
“Supposedly,” said Trixie, not resting much faith in his abilities.
“Trixie, I must apologize.”
Trixie closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. She doubted the police realized just how much more effectively miserable her stay in jail was going to be by sticking Flair in the cell next to her.
“I fear I underestimated you,” Flair continued. “You are more than an infuriating rival. You are a truly wretched villain.”
Trixie gripped the bars in front of her. “Trixie did what she had to do.”
“No, no it was not necessary. I find your conviction frightening, terrifying really. The whole ordeal was. It will arise like malevolent darkness in my nightmares, and for what Trixie, for what?”
“She did it to help me,” said Fluttershy, quietly.
“Wait… wait. You did all this to help somepony?” Trixie could tell Flair’s mouth was probably hanging open.
“Partially. Trixie also did it because the thought of seeing your face at her work everyday was enough to make her want to jump off the tallest building in Manehattan.”
“Is there anyway I can have that arranged as your sentences?” Big Entrance walked heavily up to the cells. He magically took off his sunglasses and stared at the ponies in front of him. “I can see now, quite clearly, that you’re all insane. It was my bad for not recognizing this sooner. However, however”—he sat down—“some small shred of me still hopes that somewhere out there, even if it’s on a distant star, there’s a legitimate reason behind the destruction, chaos, and general weirdness that I experienced last night and that your minds haven’t all abandoned their gigs. Please, for the sake of the cohesion of the world, tell me there is a reason.”
Fluttershy, Trixie, and Flair all exchanged looks.
Trixie backed away from the bars and looked to the side. “Trixie thinks there was a perfectly good reason.”
“Well then, care to start from the beginning.” Big Entrances tapped the bars.
Trixie took a deep breath. “Well, it started with a plan…”
“Well, then Maribel got out of hoof and well… I’m sure you know the rest.” Fluttershy looked away from everypony.
Big Entrance had covered his face up with his hooves at this point. He might have been crying. Trixie couldn’t tell. There as a very long silence. Finally, with a big intake of breath, Big Entrance looked up at them.
“Most of Manehattan ‘knows the rest,’ he said, tiredly. “That fiasco made it on this morning’s front page news.” He stared off to the side. “What am I supposed to do with you pieces of chaos? I mean seriously? You know, it was my eye for talent, business sense, and managing skills that brought me this job, running my own theater company. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work and a lot of time. My dream has always been to put the Mane-Event on the map. Turn it into a classic. I want this business to be able to run itself. I want to be able to sit back, make a few decisions here and there, and maybe, just maybe—“
“Just fire us all and get it over with. Trixie doesn’t care a pair of bits about your hopes and dreams.”
Big Entrance frowned. “Okay, fine. You’re all useless to me. That good enough for you? I’ll give you one thing, though, Shy. One little morsel. If you hadn’t been there to calm the chimera and snap the love-birds out of it, then who knows what would have happened. That’s something only you could have done. Celestia knows this idiot couldn’t charm a bunny rabbit.” He nodded at Flair.
“I was under the influence!” Flair snorted.
“Yeah, yeah. Aren’t we all?” Big Entrance looked at Trixie and tilted his head to the side. "I have to know. Pure morbid curiosity. Why a love potion?"
Trixie turned to Flair and leaned against the bars with her shoulder, a wry smile coming to her lips. "Trixie knows that only one thing truly scares Flair-- humiliation, but Flair is unflappable. He could turn any public incident to his favor. This left Trixie with only one possible avenue of attack: do the one thing that renders him unable turn the tide of a crisis, take away his own mental control. Trixie also knew that Flair can detect common poisons at a mere whiff, can detect magic about to be cast a second before it happens, and knows superb deflection spells. So, it really only left Trixie with one choice. The threat of him being in love with a mare he despises was just the ribbon on the box."
Flair's jaw became looser and looser throughout Trixie's explanation, and she entirely expected it to fall off by the end. Unfortunately, it didn't. "How... how do you know all that about me?"
Trixie rolled her eyes and stood upright, brushing her shoulder. "It's in your book, you simpleton. 'I had to take many precautions in my travels through the East. I learned many skills of defense' blah-blah-Trixie-lost-interest-after-that."
"Ah, you're kidding me!" Flair gritted his teeth and turned to the side, shaking his hoof.
"Wow," said Big Entrance, raising an eyebrow, "that's actually pretty smart planning. A few unicorns short of a Canterlot garden party, but it impressed me enough to raise an eyebrow. Look at it." He pointed to his forehead. When all he got was silence, he sighed and put his sunglasses back on. “Well, here’s the burning rub. High Hat, due to public, peer, and spouse pressure, is abandoning his funding to this theater. Part of our agreement was that the chimera would go to him. So… he still has it. Last I heard he plans to sell it to some griffon baron. He runs a circus, pretty harsh one too, from what I’ve heard. Most animals don’t last more than few months before he has to get new ones. Horribly expensive way to run a business if you ask me. Look, now I’m getting sidetracked. In short… I hate you all, and… I’ve been to the courthouse, brought my lawyers, did some legal maneuvering, and now your charges are nice and gone. Body count? I’m keeping Trixie, and the rest of you two can get out of town. Fluttershy—because as responsible and sane as you’ve been, I don’t have a chimera anymore so I don’t need you, and Flair—because I can’t afford you.”
“If we’re free, then why did you make us stand around in this cell?” Trixie fumed at Big Entrance.
“Yeah, like you were going to give me a story if I said ‘here’s the keys kiddos, now how about that disaster last night.’ I’m not a dumb cookie. I’m the opposite. Now, thanks you to you two, I have a boatload of good old paperwork to take care of.” Big Entrance walked down the hall.
A police pony quickly replaced him and unlocked the doors to the cells.
“Well, Trixie, it’s been truly terrifying and I sincerely hope you rot in the bowels of Tartarus. I have a Royal Performance Competition to enter. As if I needed an exotic animal to help me compete.” Flair held up his nose and walked out of the cell.
Trixie sat back on her haunches and looked at Fluttershy. “Want to get a drink?”
“Wait, you’re telling me that you really did take down a dragon?” Trixie slammed her glass onto the table, almost spilling the rest of its contents out.
“No… no… I didn’t ‘take it down’ I just convinced it to leave its cave.” Fluttershy said, eyeing her empty glass.
She had never had an alcoholic beverage before but Trixie made a convincing argument on how it made you “forget your troubles.” Fluttershy wasn’t quite sure what that meant but she was willing to give it a try. At first it tasted awful but she ploughed through. Now, though, now she wanted more. A lot more. Life seemed so... pleasant. It was all smiles and sunshine and Fluttershy knew that everything would be okay... if she got another round.
“More please,” she said pushing her glass forward.
Trixie magically poured some more liquid into the offered glass, managing to get a significant portion on the table. Lifting the glass, Fluttershy eyed the small dribble it contained. “It was very nice of you to pour for me Trixie, but, um, can you try again?”
“Oh, sorry.” Trixie took the bottle and turned it upside down over Fluttershy’s glass, quickly bringing it to the point of overflowing. “There.” The bottle was magically righted, spilling another large swath across the table.
Fluttershy took the glass back and downed some more of the tasty beverage. “I’m still scared of them.”
“Of what?” Trixie asked.
Fluttershy raised her glass high and drank down its entirety in one go. She reached for the bottle, not even bothering to have Trixie pour her some more.
“Dragons… are big. They’re really big.” Fluttershy lifted her hooves really high in the air. “And they breathe fire.” Fluttershy did her best fire-breathe sound imitation. “And you can’t cuddle up next to them and tell them how cute they are.”
“So they’re like Flair?” Trixie laughed.
Fluttershy giggled. “That sounds about right. I’m glad he lost his job. I don’t think Maribel would have liked him. He had such a weird mane. All red and… and long. Silly.”
“No, no, Maribel wasn’t deserving of him at all.”
“Poor, poor Maribel.” Fluttershy felt tears come unbidden to her eyes. “That griffon baron is going to end up killing her. It’s sad. Very, very sad.” She took a swig directly from the bottle.
“Silly of High Hat to get rid of such a beautiful creature.”
A lightbulb went off in Fluttershy’s head. Maribel was a majestic animal, there was no denying. No self-respecting pony could get rid of an animal like that. This meant that High Hat must be burying his true feelings. He needed to be taught to get in touch with them and then he’d instantly change his mind about selling Maribel.
“I’m going to give High-Hat a piece of my mind! I know he doesn’t want to get rid of Maribel, not really.”
“You think so?” asked Trixie. “You think he’s going through with it because he’s scared?”
Fluttershy slammed her hoof onto the table. “I know he’s scared! He needs to stand up for her! I’m going to go tell him that right now!” Fluttershy downed the last of the bottle and shifted out of her seat in the bar booth. She quickly caught herself before she hit the ground. She stared at the floor, thinking up an alternate mode of transport. Oh, wings! That’s right. She had those. She flapped her wings and lifted herself into the air, tilting to one side but remaining in flight.
“I’m coming with you!” said Trixie. She got to her hooves and, with a few stumbles, stayed ahoof.
“How did you do that?” asked Fluttershy, listing the opposite direction.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with alcohol.” Trixie smiled. “Now let’s go spread kindness!” Trixie lurched forward, caught herself before she face-planted, and then made her way to the door.
Fluttershy lazily flew above her.
The room was startled at their sudden entrance, to say the least. Fluttershy could tell that much. The griffon baron, who Fluttershy assumed was the one wearing the cute, little, foreign-looking hat, stared at the two ponies with a firm set beak while his two guards brandished their cute, little, sharp-looking spears. High Hat and Alimonia were far more aghast in their expressions.
“What, what are you two doing here?” asked High Hat, glancing quickly at the griffon guards and back at Fluttershy.
“We’re here to tell you to put things right!” Fluttershy did a slow twirl in the air before correcting her course and hovering in front of High Hat.
“Don’t sell it!” Trixie exclaimed, raising a hoof before falling promptly on her side due to lack of support.
“Are you two drunk?” Alimonia asked, her jaw loose.
“Do you love Maribel?” Fluttershy prodded High Hat in the chest.
“What? What sort of question is that?” High Hat backed away from the contact. The griffon guards unfurled their wings. “Wait!” High Hat put a hoof up. “Uh, let’s not do anything rash, shall we?”
“These ponies are interrupting our negotiation. You do not wish them forcibly expelled?” The baron crossed his claws.
“Not yet, please.” High Hat waved a hoof at Fluttershy. “Would you please leave?” He leaned in closely to her and whispered, “Before you or anypony else gets hurt?”
“Do you love Maribel?” Fluttershy poked him in the chest again.
“I say use whatever force is necessary to remove these hooligans!” Alimonia motioned for the guards to continue, ignoring the gleeful looks on their faces.
“Um, now wait a minute.” High Hat said to his wife. He eyed Fluttershy before sighing. “Look, Fluttershy, I do love Maribel. I have always had a love for the more unseen, unappreciated members of the animal kingdom. Is that a satisfactory enough answer?”
“Then why are you trying to sell her?” Fluttershy crossed her forelegs.
“Why aren’t you?” said the baron, resting his chin on his claw.
“There’s nothing I can do with it, I’m afraid. Flair has failed to be a good caretaker and so have you. I have to make some money off this thing before it becomes a bad investment.”
Fluttershy frowned harshly at High Hat. “You say you love her but you pawn her off at the earliest convenience so you can recoup your investment. Do you really care for animals or do you just care about money?”
“Well, I… I… It’s just…” High Hat bowed his head.
“I think you love Maribel and don’t really want to sell her to some mean, old griffon!”
“Now, look here!” The baron got up.
“Don’t make me come over there!” Trixie raised a hoof threateningly at the baron from her spot on the floor.
“I think I’ve had enough of this!” Alimonia hissed at Fluttershy.
With a whirl, Fluttershy was facing the back wall. With another whirl, she was facing Alimonia. “Do you love your husband?” she asked.
“W-what?” Alimonia’s stern expression fell.
“I think you really love your husband and want to make him a better stallion. As his wife, I think you should be supporting him and showing him that he needs to always remember his love for animals, his passion, and to never falter from it.”
“Well, I…” Alimonia rubbed the back of her neck.
“And you!” Fluttershy pointed at the baron. “Do you realize how majestic and lovely a creature this chimera is? How could you possibly want to chain it up in some circus? How could you treat such a beautiful work of nature like that?” Fluttershy hovered in front of the griffon and stared straight into his eyes, tears running down her cheek.
“Well, I… I…” The griffon’s shoulders slumped.
“All of you should be ashamed of yourselves! Maribel deserves better than all this!” Fluttershy said in a choking yell. She landed on the center table of the room with an ungraceful thump and started sobbing.
A thick silence enveloped the room.
“We’re horrible ponies!” High Hat burst into tears.
“And I’m a horrible griffon!” The baron buried his face in his claws. “How could I think about hurting something so beautiful?”
Two metal clangs echoed in the room as the guards’ spears hit the floor and they hugged each other, crying into each others’ shoulders.
“I really should have been supporting you more, High Hat!” Alimonia ran to her husband and hugged him close.
“But…” High Hat sniffled. “But how can we keep Maribel around? Who will be her handler?”
“I have a confession!” Trixie raised her hoof. “I dosed Maribel before Fluttershy did a preview show! I too am a horrible pony!” Trixie started to cry. “How could I think of ruining such an amazing creature and such an amazing pony’s career? Please give her a second chance!”
The following day was a blur. Trixie went from holding Fluttershy’s mane away from her face, to calming down her long series of squeaks after she recollected her actions, to enduring her enthusiastic joy after realizing she and Maribel were about to be reunited. Trixie wasn't even surprised anymore that the conclusion to the day's torture involved sitting in Big Entrance’s office with her roommate for the umpteenth time. She mentally waved a hoof in greeting at Rock Bottom. They were going to be good friends.
“’Give her a second chance, Trixie. Confess what you did, Trixie.’” Trixie smacked herself on the side of the head. “‘Oh, Trixie, how honest of you to confess that. You two would make perfect partners on the stage,’” she mocked High Hat’s Canterlot accent. “That’s the last time Trixie ever gets drunk,” she mumbled to herself.
Big Entrance hung up the phone. He looked at Trixie and Fluttershy. “Well that’s that then. You two are booked for the Royal Performance Competition. Trixie and Fluttershy, Queen of Magic and Handler of the Fantastic Chimera. How you two managed to pull this off I will never know. I will never know. By that, I mean, I don’t want to know. I just don’t. Let’s not go there. I especially don’t want to ever hear a phone call from High Hat like that again. That was... disturbing.” Big Entrance shook his head.
Fluttershy beamed. “I can’t believe we did it, Trixie!” She hugged Trixie tightly.
Trixie maintained a neutral expression and just stared. It was what her conscience wanted, right? Helping the stupid pegasus get her job back? Right? She should be happy, except she was anything but. Ever since Fluttershy had arrived at her door, it was as if some otherworldly bond had been formed between them. All roads led back to her suffering beside Fluttershy once more. She glanced at Fluttershy’s exuberance and one image sprang to her mind, the summary of her new life: a broken record.
There was a sharp intake of breath. Trixie felt like she had been listening to the same record for eternity and somepony had finally pulled up the needle. What was she doing? She stared at the sandwich Fluttershy was eating in front of her.
“Why did Trixie just give you that sandwich?”
Fluttershy quickly swallowed the bite she was chewing. “Um, you said I could have one. Did I mishear? Is this not my sandwich? I’m sorry, I can replace it.” She made a move to get up before Trixie gestured her stay put.
“No, just… hold on…” Trixie glanced around her. Was this a bowling alley? Of course it was. She had agreed to go out bowling with Fluttershy. The Royal Performance Competition was next week and they had just arrived in Canterlot to get settled and practice on the enormous stage they had erected on the palace grounds. There was a proposal to go out into the city and find a way to relax. Trixie supposed that proposal had been from her. She had willingly brought Fluttershy along without so much as a single fuss or eye roll. She bit her bottom lip. When was the last time she had complained? It had been weeks. They had been training for so long without rivalry that she had grown complacent… Or was it worse?
Wait. She was biting her lip. She never bit her lip when she was concerned, but she knew somepony who did. Surely she wasn’t sub-consciously mimicking the pegasus now? What other filthy things had infiltrated her thoughts while she had tried to maintain a professional relationship with her roommate? Why was this all suddenly hitting her in the middle of eating lunch? Trixie rubbed her temples, desperately wishing for some aspirin.
“What’s the problem?” Fluttershy looked at Trixie with her all-encompassing eyes, orbs that answered her questions.
Friendship. She was becoming friends with Fluttershy. No… but… yes. It had all been a setup by her conscience. She had been sitting in the bowling alley, having just finished a friendly game, when she decided to buy herself and Fluttershy a sandwich. That must have been the trigger. Her mind realized she had spent bits on the pegasus and finally did its duty to send out a warning to Trixie, but it was too late, far, far too late.
“Dear Celestia, no.” Trixie backed away from the table.
“What?” Fluttershy’s small frown gave way to worried eyes and down-turned eyebrows.
“This can’t be happening. It’s a dream, Trixie, it’s all a dream. It was last time.” Trixie backed away further, her eyes trying to will away Fluttershy’s existence.
“Trixie, what’s the matter? You’re scaring me.”
“You’re scaring Trixie! The past few months have scared Trixie!” Trixie closed her eyes, her hooves still backpedaling, all in the desperate hope this would just go away.
“Trixie, watch out!”
It took a few seconds too many for Trixie to register the meaning of this warning, the consequences of trying to ignore everything exiting the devil-creature’s mouth. How she managed to back straight into a rack of bowling balls, she wasn’t quite sure of, nor was she aware of just how fast she was moving until her backside hit it with a hardy thump. The resultant crash of bowling balls upon her was both quite painful and effective at removing consciousness.
“Seriously, Trix, at this rate I’m considering getting some sort of monitoring device. Bowling balls. Bowling balls, Trix. How does that even happen?”
Trixie was far too tired to make herself the least bit imposing. Instead she turned tired eyes to her manager as he stood by her bedside. “Trixie has no idea.”
“Yeah, and my mother’s a flower pot. Miss Flutter told me that you were spooked at something before you upset that bowling ball shelf. So out with it. Why am I really out a magician a few days before the competition?”
Trixie’s lips remained pursed.
“That embarrassing?” Big Entrance sighed. “You’re costing me Trixie. The doctor said there’s no way you’re going to recover in time to participate.”
This time Trixie mustered some annoyance. “Sorry, Trixie just felt like being pelted with bowling balls today. She had it all planned out.”
“Hey, look, for all I know, you could have done this on purpose. I can hardly tell with you anymore.” Big Entrance rubbed his forehead and leaned a hoof on the side of Trixie’s bed. “And you’ve left me with a mare that has proven herself in the past to be a beautiful, caring, well-meaning stage tomato. Please tell me you’ve got Shy ready for this, at least. Please, for the love of Luna, Celestia, and their mysterious parents, I need something.”
“She’s ready,” said Trixie with finality. “Trixie thinks she actually got through to her this time. She should give the other contestants a run for their money.”
Big Entrance’s eyes narrowed. “You think that she can stick it to the big contenders? That she can rumble with the pro-ponies?”
“You wanted Trixie to tell you that Fluttershy was ready yet you seem more willing to believe she isn’t. Do you know something Trixie doesn’t?”
“Well, no, but my perspective is like a light switch. In case you couldn’t tell, I just switched to realist mode. Once I get my hopes up I have to bring them back down. Now I’m inclined to believe she’ll perform the same way she always has.”
“Trixie really thinks she’ll actually go above and beyond this time.”
Big Entrance paused in thought. “Hey, Miss Shy, get in here,” he called.
Fluttershy poked her head into the hospital room. “Yes?”
“Do you think you’re ready to participate in the Royal Performance Competition by yourself?” Big Entrance pulled his sunglasses down and stared at her hard.
Fluttershy swallowed and met Big Entrance’s steely gaze. “Yes. I think I can win it.”
“You have no problem getting on a stage before thousands of ponies and putting on an animated performance that will pull in the blue ribbon?”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly. She glanced at Trixie who gave her a reassuring look. “I’ll do my best,” she said, in what was obviously the most amount of confidence she could put together.
“Excellent.” Big Entrance cast one last piercing gaze at Fluttershy before pushing his sunglasses back up and turned back to Trixie. “I’m guessing you’ve made arrangements for somepony to take care of you? It certainly won’t be me, not unless you want lie in my hotel room and listen to me make business calls all day.”
“Actually, Trixie hasn’t had time to make such arrangements because she has a manager that insists on talking to her as soon as she’s able to be visited.” Trixie would have crossed her forelegs were she able.
“Oh, I can take care of you, Trixie,” said Fluttershy, with a big smile.
Trixie closed her eyes. She knew that’s what it would come to. It just seemed inevitable.
Fluttershy presented Trixie with a juice box. “I got this from the cafeteria. Juice is always a good drink for when you’re sick.”
“Trixie thinks she is far past that stage, but thank you.” Trixie graciously accepted the drink offered to her and cursed her life.
Fluttershy was more than happy to take care of Trixie. Taking care of a pony seemed no different to her than all the woodland creatures she had taken care of back in Ponyville. In fact, it was almost nostalgic, and Fluttershy would have been lying to herself if she didn’t find it enjoyable.
“Do you need another pillow, Trixie?” Fluttershy asked, holding up a large, fluffy specimen.
“No, no, Trixie thinks she is quite fine.” Trixie settled herself into the couch further and continued watching the TV.
“Are you sure? Extra back support is necessary if you’re going to lying down like that for a long time.” Fluttershy started adding the pillow to the two already there before even waiting for an answer.
Trixie huffed. “Fine, alright, Trixie will have another pillow.”
“Do you need anything else? I’m going to be making some more soup here soon and I want to make sure you’re perfectly situated before I head into the kitchen for awhile.”
“You don’t need to monitor Trixie constantly. She’s not going to die in the course of a few minutes.”
“Well, maybe not die, but one time, I left this squirrel who had broken a leg alone for a few minutes and he fell down and couldn’t get up and I didn’t come back until two hours later. I felt simply awful and I promised I wouldn’t let anything like that happen ever again.”
Trixie stared at the ceiling, the corners of her mouth twitching. “Trixie will be fine while you make the soup, though she just ate three hours ago.”
“Well you’ve got to keep your strength up if you’re going to recover quickly. I’m going to start cutting the lentils.” Fluttershy made a move to the kitchen.
“Actually Trixie was thinking tomato soup this time.”
Fluttershy cast wary eyes on the requester. “I don’t know. I’ve heard lentil soup is best for somepony recovering from an injury. Tomato soup isn’t as healthy, especially with all the spices you like in it.”
“Well, fine, maybe some pea soup?”
Fluttershy winced again.
Trixie let out a long sigh. “Fine. Lentil soup.”
Fluttershy smiled, an expression which quickly changed to curiosity when there was a knock at the door.
“Are you expecting visitors, Trixie?” Fluttershy asked.
“Trixie is expecting Ivy and Hue. That’s probably them.”
As soon as Fluttershy had opened the door, she couldn’t keep herself from gaping, her eyes growing wide upon examining the group of ponies before her. She blinked.
“Fluttershy, you’re ok!” exclaimed Twilight. She reached her hooves out but was beat to the punch by Rarity, who lurched forward and embraced Fluttershy’s neck.
“Oh, darling, we were so worried! And to think, here you are looking pretty as a picture.”
“Oh, I’m perfectly fine,” said Fluttershy. Her mind finally gathered itself and she beamed. “It’s so great to see you all! But, um, what are you doing here?”
“Well we weren’t going to miss your big competition! Somepony has to cheer you on!” Pinkie made a loud whooping noise.
“Well, that was one reason we came,” said Applejack. “The other was ‘cuz you weren’t replyin’ to our letters. We musta sent ya over a dozen. ‘Tweren’t for Princess Celestia, we’d have never known about this competition.”
“It’d have been one thing if you just hadn’t been replying but you said in that one letter that you were staying with Trixie?” Rainbow Dash peered behind Fluttershy. “Has she been keeping you prisoner?”
“Oh my, no, she’s not keeping me prisoner. We’ve been getting along fine, but I’m afraid I don’t know what happened to your letters. I thought that you all must have been very busy, so I figured I would just wait.”
“But Fluttershy, it’s been a month.” Twilight gave Fluttershy a half-smile.
“I’m a very patient pony,” said Fluttershy, ducking her head.
“Which is a good virtue, dear,” said Rarity. “We simply thought something more sinister was at work, something done by the hooves of a certain arrogant unicorn.”
“So is Trixie here?” asked Twilight.
“Yes, she is. Do you want to see her?” Fluttershy gestured them inside and led them into the living room. “Trixie, you’ll never guess who came over! These are my friends from Ponyville! Though, I suppose you’ve already met them.”
Trixie lifted her head as best she could in her injured state. She gave them all a wide stare. “Hello.”
“That’s uh, not exactly what ah’ was expectin’,” said Applejack, looking over Trixie’s various bandages.
“What happened to you?” asked Twilight.
Trixie’s saucer gaze continued. “Bowling accident.”
“I’ve been taking care of her,” said Fluttershy.
“Pardon?” asked Rarity.
“Well somepony has to help her recover, so I volunteered.”
“Fluttershy has been a great help to me these past few days,” said Trixie, her surprised expression softening.
There were quite a few slack jaws.
“Feel free to make use of Trixie’s abode if you so desire,” she continued.
“Okay!” Pinkie poked her head through a nearby doorway. “Oooh, the kitchen! Do you have any snacks?” she asked, hopping in and rummaging through the cupboards.
“Pinkie, ah don’t think we plan on stayin long.” Applejack gave Trixie a wary glance.
“Alright, if nopony is going to come right out and ask it— is this some sort of trick?” Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs at Trixie while she hovered in mid-air. “And that was not an intentional pun.”
“Trick? And what exactly would Trixie being tricking you into doing or thinking?” Trixie’s eyes narrowed a fraction.
“I’m not following,” said Fluttershy, growing unsettled by the tension in the room.
“Well, I believe most of us were expecting a lot more obnoxiousness,” said Rarity. “It’s what one might expect given previous encounters with this individual.” She added her hard stare to the onslaught.
“So Trixie really has been treating you alright?” Twilight asked Fluttershy.
“Yes, she’s been treating me fine.”
“Trixie understands your concern...” She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say more, but instead she closed it and remained silent.
“And?” Twilight raised an eyebrow at Trixie.
“That’s… that’s all Trixie is going to say on the matter. Fluttershy and Trixie are on good terms. There is no need to worry.”
“The last time we saw you, you were running away from Ponyville in a cloud of smoke in a most rediculous manner. Excuse us if we’re just a little bit wary at your current behavior,” said Rarity.
“Ponies change,” said Trixie.
“That’s a pretty big turnaround,” said Applejack.
“Trixie really has been a wonderful roommate,” said Fluttershy, trying to stem the tide. “I mean, there have been a few misunderstandings here and there, but nothing bad.”
“So you’ve really enjoyed your stay here?” asked Twilight.
“I really have. Apart from a few bad spots, it’s been a great experience.”
“Well… alright then.” Applejack’s slowly dropped her hardened stare.
There was a brief silence.
“Not what I what I was expecting at all,” said Rainbow Dash.
“Mmm, that lentil soup you have in there is amazing!” Pinkie poked her head out of the kitchen door.
“No, Pinkie, that’s for Trixie!” Fluttershy ran into the kitchen.
“Ohhhh, sorry! Well there’s enough for about a bowl left. No worries!”
“Uh, I think it’s best if we hightail it out of here fer now,” said Applejack. “It was great seeing you Fluttershy. We’ll be in the Horseshoe Hotel if you wanna come and see us again before the big competition tomorrow.”
“If you don’t get the chance, you won’t be able to miss us in the stands. I made this huge banner! You’re gonna love it! I can’t wait to pull it out! Okay, bye now!” Pinkie bounced out of the apartment along with the rest of her friends… most of the rest of her friends. Rainbow Dash hung behind.
“I’m not entirely convinced,” said Rainbow Dash, eyeing Trixie closely. “Don’t think I’m not onto you.” She flew out of the apartment backwards, not taking her eyes off Trixie until she was around the corner.
“I’m sorry about that,” said Fluttershy, carrying out the remaining bowl of lentil soup to Trixie. “They haven’t had the time to get to know you.”
“Trixie doesn’t blame them too much. She has been through a lot since her performance in Ponyville.”
And that was the problem wasn’t it? Trixie and Fluttershy both had experienced the same events, yet with entirely unfair outcomes. Whatever cosmic forces had it out for Trixie were clearly fond of Fluttershy. Ever since her arrival in Manehattan, what had happened to her? Not Luna-yelling much. A little instant adoration, a little distress, and her coming out on top no matter what. She was hardly even affected. She was still the soft-spoken, shy, agreeable mare she had been when she first arrived, but Trixie? Well she didn’t get it so easy. She had been assaulted with a life-altering sense of sympathy, some sort of relationship of familiarity, and now she was lying in her apartment, bandaged and splinted all over. Absolutely nothing added up. For a few moments, she had thought Fluttershy’s drunken rant of conviction would open up a new side of her, but nothing came of it other than Trixie be forced to spend even more teeth grating moments with the goody-two-wings.
“Do the Elements of Harmony have an auto-correcting mechanism of some sort?”
“Pardon?” Fluttershy looked up from her book.
Had Trixie said that out loud? “Um, nothing.”
“Do you need something? You’ve been lying there for awhile. Do you want me to put you by the window?”
If Trixie had a bit for every expression of concern she had received in the past half day, then she would have been able to retire. Oh, how much she wished…
There was another knock on the door. Wonderful. Trixie had been quite sure that Fluttershy’s friends were too spooked to come back. That was an awkward situation to be sure. How could she explain that she had become “friends” with Fluttershy over the past month? How could she even admit that to herself? Trixie closed her eyes tightly, laying her head back on her pillow, and tried to look asleep. She had requested a boatload of painkillers at the hospital. Why wasn’t that request honored?
Fortunately, as the door was opened, Trixie realized that it was her own social group that had come calling, and she could be spared the untrusting stares of five mares a little longer.
“Hey, Fluttershy, how have you been?” Hue asked as the trio made it into the living room, his eyes not once glancing in Trixie’s direction.
“Oh, I’ve been fine, thank you,” said Fluttershy. Her eyes quickly darted to the floor and she backed up a few steps. “But, um, don’t you want to talk to Trixie?”
“Well, kind of, I guess,” said Hue, shrugging. He took a few steps forward, a small smile growing on his face. “But I’m all for just talking with yo—“
“I’m quite sure we’re here to see Trixie,” said Ivy, interrupting Hue and stepping between him and Fluttershy with obvious purpose.
“Will you two stop hanging by the doorway and get over here,” said Trixie.
The group made their way across the room to stand in front of Trixie, Ivy and Hue’s faces quickly wincing as they looked at Trixie.
“Oh wow, Trixie, that must have been an oucher.” Hue leaned in, wincing even harder upon closer inspection of the bandages.
“Yes, that was the medical term the doctor used. ‘Oucher.’” Trixie lifted her hoof just enough to hit Hue lightly on the nose. He took the hint and backed up.
“I’m sorry we didn’t make it to the hospital. Nopony even told us about your accident until an hour ago,” said Ivy.
“Trixie’s getting the indication that Big Entrance isn’t all that concerned with notifying ponies about this,” said Trixie.
“That would certainly fit his character. So how are you holding up?”
“About as good as a magician can hold up knowing that she’s going to miss her opportunity to participate in a royal stage competition.”
“Yeah, I can imagine that must kind of suck,” said Hue. He stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth and scrunched up his nose.
“Um, Fluttershy, do you think you could let us speak privately for awhile?” asked Trixie.
“Sure, that’s not a problem.” Fluttershy took the book she had been reading and went down the hall.
“Aw, was that necessary?” asked Hue, frowning and tilting his head at Fluttershy’s retreating figure.
Ignoring Hue, Trixie began. “Trixie would like to talk about her recent protégé.”
“Fluttershy? Is she okay?” asked Ivy.
“Fluttershy is doing fine… quite well.” Trixie looked to the side.
“So you really think that Fluttershy’s ready to finish the competition herself?” asked Hue.
Trixie stared into space, picturing Fluttershy in her mind’s eye, her graceful movements, her cheerful demeanor, and her ever-smiling eyes. “Trixie doesn’t think she stands a chance,” she said.
Hue and Ivy stared at Trixie, mouths agape.
Trixie looked back at them, not the least surprised by their reactions. “What can Trixie say? It’s the truth. That’s what Trixie wanted to talk in private about. Trixie tried her hardest to get Fluttershy ready for the stage, but it’s like forcing a circle shape into a triangular hole. Trixie just doesn’t think it will ever fit.”
“But, she’s Fluttershy. Everypony loves her! Surely that will do her some favors,” said Hue.
“Only a few. There’s only so far looking cute and graceful will go. This isn’t modeling where she just has to walk across a stage. She actually has to go out there and perform!”
“Well what are you going to do?” asked Ivy. “Did you tell Big Entrance?”
“Of course not! Trixie did not get this far to just abandon everything. Besides, Big Entrance would have thrown a fit. He might not admit it, but he’s hopeful she'll be his ticket Equestria-wide renown. As to what Trixie is going to do…” Trixie narrowed her eyes. “Trixie has been thinking about that ever since she learned she wouldn’t be able to participate and she came up with one weak link that might be able to be exploited. The stage competition is going to need ponies to manage costumes and makeup is it not?”
“Yes,” said Ivy, her eyes narrowing in match with Trixie’s. “Word is that the staff has been chosen from various theaters around Canterlot.”
“Well, what if we were to replace these ponies with ones from our staff,” said Trixie, a smirk coming to her lips. “Ponies such as you two.”
“And just how would we do that?” Ivy tilted her head to look at Trixie with lowered brows.
“Well, Fluttershy is on excellent terms with the princesses. All a pony would need to do is tell her that there are some unscrupulous individuals in the current staff and she’d have it reported to the princesses at once. Toss in a little recommendation about the Mane-Event’s staff and how trustworthy and un-biased they are and we have something very, very nice to work with.”
Hue’s mouth continued to hang open. “So our staff would be the ones prepping the performers. Then what?”
With wild eyes, Trixie bared her teeth. “We sabotage every, single, act.”
Ivy and Hue stared at Trixie, stared at each other, and then back at Trixie. “You can’t be serious?” asked Ivy. “That would be both extremely difficult and entirely unsportsponylike.”
“If we want Fluttershy to win this competition, than it’s our only option. Think about it, with Trixie’s newfound skill of mixing potions and a little common sense, we could easily come up with something that you can sneak into costumes or makeup. It’s perfect.” Trixie tried to rub her hooves together but remember too late that she was incapable of such a feat.
“That’s rather what you deserve,” Ivy said in response to Trixie’s groan. “You and your crazy scheming.”
Trixie growled, her eyes glinting. “Well it’s Trixie’s scheme, or you can watch Fluttershy get crushed by the other competitors.”
Silence reigned as Hue and Ivy looked at the floor. Ivy stamped her hoof lightly. “Okay, we’ll do it,” she said. “But I don’t think this going to work.”
It didn’t just work, it exceeded in flying colors. The following day, Fluttershy told Trixie that the princesses thanked her graciously for the report on their staff and had promptly hired the Mane-Event’s staff as the new stage prep crew. Not long afterwards Ivy called Trixie to tell her that everything was in order and the entire team was more than willing to help Fluttershy win. Of course, Ivy had then proceeded to talk Trixie’s ear off on how much she hated having to sabotage everypony else’s act and how she had never felt more dirty in her entire life. Barely paying attention, Trixie simply requested to have Hue put on the phone whereupon she told him of Ivy’s doubts and that he had better keep her in line. He understood completely. He was useful for something. He, more than anypony, wasn’t about to let Fluttershy lose.
Though it was entirely against doctor recommendation, Trixie felt she was good enough to walk, or hobble at least, by the time the competition rolled around and she fully planned on attending. She got front row too, a nice perk that was granted to her once again by her roommate’s princess connection. Part of the requirement, however, was that Fluttershy really wanted her to come along when she met with the princesses in person. Trixie was more than happy to meet the two most important ponies in Equestria, though it was going to feel ever so odd knowing that she had arranged for the entire competition’s collapse.
This line of thinking quickly left her along with most of the rest of her thoughts as Princess Celestia and Luna approached her. Trixie was quite sure she had no idea what to say. If she was in another state of health, perhaps, she would have felt much more confident, but as it was, she was barely mobile, hobbling along with the support of Fluttershy, despite constant explanations about how she could walk on her power.
“Ah, the contestants from Manehattan,” Celestia gave the duo her signature warm smile. “It is a pleasure to see you. Luna, I’m sure you are familiar with Fluttershy.” She nodded at the Element of Kindness.
“We are, and we are most grateful to thee for teaching us how to speak with grace and a quieter volume.” Luna bowed her head Fluttershy.
“And this is Trixie.” Celestia gestured a hoof at the magician. Trixie could have sworn that she saw a gleam in the princess’s eye while the corners of her mouth inched up to a more playful smile. “She suffered from an accident a few days ago. How are you feeling, Trixie?”
“I am fine, Your Majesty,” said Trixie, bowing as best she could.
“We hear thine act follows the old tradition of displaying a tamed beast, Fluttershy,” said Luna. “We look forward to it, and we are sorry, to you, Trixie, that such an unfortunate accident happened before we got a chance to see your abilities. We hear that your magics bear a great resemblance to the styles of the Round Table Sorcerers. I attended their shows exceedingly in my prior ruling. Pray tell, Celestia, why are they not participating in this competition?”
“Luna…” Celestia tilted her head and looked down at her sister.
“Oh, yes, that’s right.” Luna hung her head. “Well, good fortune to you both. We are off to meet the rest of the contestants.”
“I’ll be rooting for you,” whispered Celestia as she passed by them.
“Way to go Trixie, you said all of five words to them,” Trixie whispered to herself. Her eyebrows knitted when she realized Fluttershy was shaking beside her.
The soon-to-be contestant swallowed and bit her bottom lip. “I don’t think I have this, Trixie. I don’t think I have this. I don’t think I have—”
“You do have this, Fluttershy, never doubt it.” Trixie patted Fluttershy on the shoulder. “You’ll be able to go out on that stage and show that crowd the meaning of talent.” Her voice turned passionate as flame burned behind Trixie’s eyes. “You will make this a wondrous competition to behold.”
Fluttershy looked into Trixie’s eyes and her worried frown melted away. “Oh, thank you, Trixie!” She wrapped her hooves around Trixie’s neck.
“Wait, Trixie has no idea where that corny line came from! Trixie’s neck is sore! Stop!”
Trixie’s words rang true. The competition was indeed wondrous to behold. Every show brought with it an entirely new way to fail. Whether it was the dancing troupes’ costumes coming apart and tripping each of them up, the stallion with the performing dogs who wouldn’t do their tricks because they were too busy going after the treats stuck in his cape, or the musical group who couldn’t sing because of the itching powder thrown in their fur. Things started to look dangerous when the knife thrower started sneezing but luckily she quickly abandoned her act before any pony got hurt.
Trixie watched as the audience’s concern steadily grew as act after act went up in flames, both figuratively, and in the case of a few acts, literally. Trixie was quite sure the princesses would shut down the show ere too long. Fortunately, Ivy had finagled the schedules to make Fluttershy’s act halfway through the show. Even better, Flair was the act just preceding hers. To get to see him fail would be a fantastic appetizer.
Yet, when Trixie saw Cream hurtle down the aisles to her with a concerned face, Trixie knew that it was a dish that would never arrive. With a sigh, Trixie closed her eyes once Cream was in speaking distance. “What bad news have you brought for Trixie?”
“Was it that obvious on my face?” Cream asked. She rubbed her face. “Do you have a mirror? I mean…” She shook head quickly. “It’s Flair. I don’t know how he caught on to us, but he has his own stage preparation crew and they are impossible to persuade and bribe. Ivy’s tried everything. He looks like he means business. What are we going to do?” Cream’s eyes looked pleadingly at Trixie, followed by a deep pout, a sure sign she was a member of the Fluttershy Fan Club.
“Trixie knew this wouldn’t go without a hitch. It wouldn’t be a plan of hers if it was flawless now would it?” Trixie stared at the stage, her nose scrunching up alongside a scowl, forming her planning face.
"Hurry up, I have to get back and help Peaches!"
"Will you be patient!" Trixie ground her teeth together. There was nothing for it but to find another way to interfere and there was only one way to mess up the show while it was going on—magic. “Trixie will handle it.”
“What do you have in mind?” asked Cream.
“Trixie has a horn doesn’t she? As well as a front row seat? She can ruin Flair’s show herself.”
“But, didn’t the doctor tell you to not use your magic for awhile? And won’t he easily notice your interference and call shenanigans?”
“Just, well, shh, Trixie will handle this. Now don’t you have future acts to help sabotage?” Trixie waved her hoof.
“Don’t screw this up, Trixie.” Cream prodded Trixi’s head and ran back up the aisles.
“Don’t forget whose idea this was!” Trixie called after her before being shushed by the ponies sitting beside her. She sighed. How was she going to do this?
As it turned out, she needed to do nothing. Absolutely nothing, because there was nothing to do. Fury occupied Trixie's insides.
As soon as Flair walked out on stage, his eyes zeroed in on Trixie and he gave her one of his sly, knowing looks. With a little pause for dramatic effect, Flair announced that he had quite the show to put on, and for everypony’s safety, he requested that the front three rows be vacated. Had the other performances gone well, Trixie was sure there would have been grumbling, but as it was, most of the audience was pleased to do anything that might present them with the first honest-to-goodness entertainment of the night.
In the resultant move, Trixie found herself reshuffled in the crowd and the closest seat she could get was in the eighth row, putting her too far away to mess with anything. As Flair swirled his cape dramatically signaling the start of his act, Trixie contemplated just leaving. There was nothing more to witness but arrogance and Fluttershy's crushing defeat. However, some sort of morbid curiosity bid her to stay and she settled for making mocking mental comments at the performance. It was the only way to cope.
However, her mind was spared the effort. Every spell Flair cast fizzled. Every single one. Trixie stared with her mouth hanging open while Flair got increasingly frustrated. His anger quickly escalated to a point when the royal guards had to intervene and force him off the stage. A wave of palpable disappointment swept across the crowd. Except for Trixie. She was grinning ear to ear. She had no idea what caused his utter failure, but it was glorious. She leaned back, anticipating watching Fluttershy drive a stake in the ground.
Except everypony was starting to leave. Apparently there was only so much failure a crowd could witness before deciding to find something better to do with their time. Fortunately, it took time to wait in line and exit the theater, time enough for Fluttershy to get setup and present Maribel.
The chimera alone was fascinating enough for a lot of the ponies, but combined with the sudden cacophony of noise that arose from one section of the theater alongside a obnoxiously large banner filled to the brim with encouraging puns, the entirety of the audience quickly returned to their seats in curiosity. When Fluttershy actually started putting on her act, an instant murmur went across the crowd that this actually looked promising. Within minutes, there was applause. Fluttershy’s performance wasn’t mind blowing but in comparison to every other act, it was the most amazing performance of skill and showmareship in the world. Trixie thought wistfully at how good it could have been had she been able to be on the stage with her, wincing each time she saw Fluttershy make a small mistake out of nervousness, but the crowd seemed to barely notice and as soon the act was over, the theater reverberated with their applause.
As Fluttershy came off stage, her eyes managed to catch Trixie’s and she smiled widely. Trixie waved at her to wait as she slowly made her way backstage where she was welcomed by the sight of Flair, a royal guard standing by him, staring daggers into the back of Fluttershy. He looked like he had just unleashed a verbal onslaught, and given the purposeful way Fluttershy seemed to be facing away from him, Trixie had a pretty good idea who the target had been. She made a mental note to repay him in kind after the winner was announced.
Trixie could tell the deliberation had just started because a hush came over the crowd. Time ticked on and Trixie started to get slightly nervous. Could it be they were going to pitch the whole show due to the sheer amount of ineptitude? That actually wouldn’t be a bad outcome, Trixie thought. If everypony lost then it would just take things back to square one, but some reason, Trixie wanted more. She supposed this contest was important to her... for some reason... that had absolutely nothing to do with her closeness to Fluttershy...
“The winner is Fluttershy!” Luna’s voice boomed over the crowds.
Trixie nodded her head with a smug grin. Was there ever any doubt?
“In your face, Flair!”
Trixie started quizzically, and turned to look at the speaker. Fluttershy was staring down her old rival.
“Didn’t think we could do it, huh? Didn’t think Maribel was good enough? Well, how about now? Does it hurt, that shame, for being wrong? Hmmph!” Fluttershy turned away from Flair, waving her tail at him in a dismissive gesture, missing the sight of Flair lurching after her only to be stopped royal guard beside him.
She came back to Trixie and a stunned expression crossed her face. She ducked her head and looked at Trixie with worry. Trixie laughed and pulled Fluttershy tightly to her. "Sorry, Flair, but you don't have a part to play here," she called over Fluttershy's shoulder. Pulling back, Trixie tiled her head. "Now where did that come from?"
“Thank everything that is royal, you won!” Big Entrance came running up to them. “Miss Shy, you knocked them dead! I mean, I’m surprised they didn’t call it in as a medical emergency. I had business offers before you were even announced the official winner of this contest! You, Miss, have just made me a true contender in the world of theater. The Mane-Event won’t be just a pretty big name anymore, by tomorrow it will one of the names. You are glorious!” He hugged Fluttershy and then turned to Trixie. “Trix, mind if I talk to you for a second?” The two went to an unoccupied corner of the backstage. “Now, Trix, don’t think I don’t know that it was you causing all the rest of those acts to stink more than a wet Diamond Dog. I could see your hoofprints all over it.”
Trixie avoided Big Entrance’s shades. “Trixie did what she had to.”
“Funny thing, last time I heard something along those lines, you had just done something insane. This time? Well, let’s just say I’d give you a raise if I didn’t think it’d go to your head.”
Trixie looked back at her manager. “You approve?”
“Well, no, but once the sabotages were underway, I certainly wasn’t going to object. If you got found out, it wouldn’t be traceable back to me. Though, I will admit, that putting an end to Flair’s performance was rather entertaining. I figured, why not go the whole mile?”
Trixie gaped at Big Entrance. “It was you that was causing Flair’s spells to fail? But how?”
“Yeah, I know, clap me in irons. Being a theater manager means getting to stand backstage, right in spell distance, without a single objection from security. As for how?” Big Entrance chuckled. “This horn isn’t just for show.” He tapped it. “Flair would like to think he has good defense magic, but I know a thing or twelve.”
Trixie shook her head. “There is no way. Flair is far too good. Trixie has rarely even seen you cast a simple telekinesis spell.”
“Hey, now, Trix, babe, don’t assume. Your manager has a few secrets. For all you know, I could have traveled to the East, too. Shén jī, my magician!” With that, Big Entrance slipped into the ever-growing crowd backstage.
The awards ceremony was the standard fare. Trixie quickly lost interest barely halfway into it. She was far too busy rolling in her pride, an unfamiliar pride. Normally it was directed entirely at herself, but this time it had taken a few detours and decided to linger around the yellow coated pegasus on stage. Trixie wasn’t entirely sure if she liked it.
Wisely, the awards ceremony was not extended well beyond the average pony’s patience and soon the contestants came off the stage, allowing Trixie to cut through the mingling crowd towards Fluttershy. When Trixie arrived, Fluttershy’s friends had already swarmed her along with the princesses. Trixie stood on the fringes of the circle, tapping her hoof, waiting for an opening as they went through their hugging, praises, and cheesy joke making.
At length, Celestia looked beyond the group at Trixie. “Let us not forget Trixie. She had a lot to do with Fluttershy winning first place.”
Trixie froze up upon hearing Celestia’s tone. It was appreciative and warm yet… knowing. With tentative steps, Trixie followed on Celestia’s cue and made her way to Fluttershy. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” She bowed.
“It’s I who should be thanking you, Trixie.” Celestia smirked.
“Though we do not wish the failures of anypony,” said Luna, “we cannot help but be pleased that the performing arts of the ancient era have shown themselves to be superior this evening.” She smiled with smug satisfaction. Trixie could tell she had just won some sort of argument. “Once again, a pleasing performance, Fluttershy. Now, we must go and thank the other contestants for their… participation.” Both princesses nodded, with Celestia winking at Trixie while nopony was looking.
“You really did teach me well,” said Fluttershy, hugging Trixie, much gentler this time.
“Ah should apologize, Trixie,” said Applejack. “Ah had ya pegged wrong. It looks like ya have changed and we have you ta thank for Fluttershy winnin’ first prize.” She held out a hoof.
Trixie shook it. “Trixie accepts your apology.”
With a little sigh, Rarity offered her hoof as well. “I too suppose I was a bit harsh on you, despite the Green Hair Incident.”
“You might as well just accept all our apologies,” said Twilight. “We really misjudged you. Ponies can change and it looks like you have done just that.”
“Yeah, yeah, I guess accept mine.” Rainbow Dash inched her hoof towards Trixie.
“I don’t think I treated you bad, but accept my apology too, just in case.” Pinkie stuck her hoof right in Trixie’s face.
As Trixie shook all the hoofs put before her, she gave serious thought to just turning around and leaving instead of dealing with the current we-learned-a-valuable-lesson love fest. Fortunately, she was saved by Big Entrance.
There was a radiance to her manager’s smile that Trixie had never seen before. He walked at a brisk pace and glided right past Fluttershy’s friends. “I’d like to announce that I have just received the biggest investment in this theater’s history. I doubt I need to say much more, but I will. Miss Flutter, once again, thank you loads, loads. If I had a hat, I’d tip it. Just to let you know, our talk? No worries. I fully expected you'd hit your limit eventually. Having you work for me has been a... journey, but boy-howdy has it paid off. As for you Trixie?” He sidled up to Trixie, grabbed both sides of her head, and leaned in to kiss her quickly on the lips with a loud smack. “For once, Trixie, all my thanks!”
Trixie spluttered and wiped at her mouth, watching Big Entrance practically skip towards a group of unicorns dressed to the nines. Of all the stallions that could have given her a victory kiss…
She suddenly noticed that five pairs of eyes were staring with bewilderment at her, some choosing to stray off in Big Entrance’s direction. “You’d have to know him,” said Trixie.
“Trixie, um, could I, possibly speak to you in private?” Fluttershy pawed the ground and looked up at Trixie with one eye.
That sounded ominous. “Alright,” said Trixie.
“It’ll only be for a little bit,” Fluttershy told her friends, who, though obviously curious, allowed it.
Trixie gave a nod to Fluttershy’s friends and followed her off to the side.
“Trixie, can you be honest with me?” Fluttershy gazed into Trixie’s eyes, a gaze that made Trixie feel like she was having her very soul examined. “Have… well, have you done anything… bad? Lately? I mean, deceitful?”
“Of course not,” Trixie said, shifting her head to the side and closing her eyes, as if finding the idea utterly preposterous.
“Trixie.” Fluttershy’s ears flattened and her eyes turned sorrowful.
Hoof-mittens, there was absolutely no getting out of it now. Just looking at her face rendered Trixie physically incapable of walking away without confessing. She was going to spill and end up telling Fluttershy that she tampered with the entire competition so it would end in disaster. Fluttershy, being the paragon of kindness that she was, would instantly turn in her award and render the entire past month a waste. Fluttershy probably wouldn’t tell on Trixie, but an investigation would start and it would simply be a matter of time before Trixie and her co-workers were out on the street. Well… unless…
Trixie sighed. “Yes, Trixie has done something mean lately.” She rubbed the back of her neck. “Trixie has been hiding the letters that your friends have been sending you. She was angry at you and spiteful, and, well, she just wanted a way to lash out at you indirectly. Trixie is truly sorry. You have great friends and it was horrible of Trixie to drive a wedge between you.” Her shoulders slumped as she hid her face.
“Oh, Trixie.” Fluttershy placed a comforting hoof on her Trixie's shoulder. “It’s alright. You feel bad for what you did and you confessed. I just knew you had done something not very nice, but I just didn’t know what. I feel a lot better now, knowing you regret your actions and have gotten that off your chest.”
“Thank you, Fluttershy. Trixie does feel better for confessing it.” Trixie reached her hooves out and they hugged.
As they pulled back Fluttershy smiled at her, an almost motherly smile. “Trixie… c-can I ask you something?”
Trixie did her best to mentally prepare herself yet again. “Um, yes, you may.”
“Well… why do you refer to yourself in third-person?”
Trixie’s mouth hung open. Third-person? Third-person… Third-person?
“Are you okay? I think your eye is twitching.”
“Is it?” asked Trixie. She closed both her eyes and opened them again. “Trixie… speaks… in… the…”
Fluttershy looked at her expectantly.
“Trixie speaks in the third-person because it… just feels comfortable.”
“But you can speak normally, can’t you? I heard from Twilight that you did after you tried to defeat the Ursa Minor that attacked Ponyville. Why then?”
“B-b-because…” Trixie’s eyebrows came together. “Because Trixie felt like it?”
Fluttershy shook her head and smiled. “I think you speak in third person because that’s part of your stage persona.”
“You use it because you want to make yourself appear bigger than life.”
“I think you switched to first person after you couldn’t defeat the Ursa Minor because you felt vulnerable. You felt like your ego had been deflated.”
“But you use it all the time here. I’m assuming that’s because you’ve landed a permanent job and have become pretty successful and-oh-I’m-sorry-I’m-lecturing-aren’t-I?”
Trixie stared at her roommate with utter uncertainty. What just happened? “You just pulled what you did to High Hat and company… on Trixie… and you’re sober.”
“I know, I’m terribly sorry. I’m such a blabber-mouth. I didn’t insult you did I? Please, tell me I didn’t insult you!” Fluttershy used her weaponized eyes again.
“No, no, you didn’t insult Trixie.” Trixie narrowed her eyes and gave a half-smile. “She’s just realized that you have changed. Somewhat.”
“Have I? I don’t feel any different.” Fluttershy looked at her hooves.
“Between that outburst at Flair and this, Trixie thinks you most certainly have. If it’s anything like Trixie’s change, it’s subtle, but it grows on you and comes out at random moments." Trixie snickered and shook her head lightly. "Now, what was Big Entrance talking about with you 'hitting your limit?'"
In an instant, Fluttershy had turned away, her mane hiding the side of her face. "I decided this was my last performance. Hanging out with my friends has made me realize just how much I miss Ponyville... and my animals... and the country air... and... well Big Entrance made it clear when I joined that it wasn't going to be a permanent job, so I figured now was as good a time as any to leave."
No more Fluttershy. No more Fluttershy. No. More. Fluttershy. Trixie tried to make her brain register these elements. This is what she wanted for a long time. Her feelings couldn't betray her now! They just couldn't!
"You'll be missed, Fluttershy." Trixie reached out her hoof and touched Fluttershy's shoulder. "You've been a great roommate and excellent co-worker."
Slowly turning around, Fluttershy looked at Trixie with a quivering lip.
"There you are!" Both mares looked to see Ivy, Hue, Cream, and Peaches approach. "That crowd is a pain to work through," continued Hue. His friends looked very much like they were going to swarm Fluttershy but before they could make the slightest move, he shoved them out of the way and trotted up to Fluttershy, looking her straight in the eye. "Fluttershy, before you leave, do you want to have cof—"
"Will you lay off it, Hue?" Ivy pushed Hue aside. "We're all important friends of Fluttershy and—"
"Excuse me, folks." A cap-wearing pony wielding a camera waded through the ponies. "I'm from the Canterlot Press and we'd like to get a picture of Miss Fluttershy."
Trixie looked behind Fluttershy and watched as a pack of press ponies made their way over. She was about to get swamped. "Trixie suggests you take the photograph and get out of Dodge."
“Um, well." Fluttershy sniffed and wiped her muzzle before facing the photographer. "I think it’d only be fair if Trixie also has her picture taken along with me. She was my trainer and I couldn’t have won this without her.” She looked at Trixie and gestured her to come closer.
“Well, alright, sounds good.” The photographer held up his camera.
Trixie and Fluttershy put a foreleg around each other and smiled widely at the camera. There was a flash.
It really was a good picture, better, even, than the one of her and Maribel. There were genuine smiles on their faces and Fluttershy didn’t think she had seen Trixie quite so happy before. It was nice of the newspaper ponies to let her have a copy in a frame. Fluttershy couldn’t find it in herself to put it away and decided to have it on her person while she rode the train. She and Trixie both got one at the party they hosted at Karaoke Nights. For some reason, Fluttershy harbored no ill-will to the place anymore. Everypony had a great time and Fluttershy even summoned up the courage to sing a duet with Trixie at the end.
“Um, is there a reason you keep on looking at that picture?” Rainbow Dashed asked, leaning over Fluttershy’s shoulder to stare at it.
“Well… I’ll miss her,” said Fluttershy, feeling her sniffles coming back.
“Dash, did you not see them before we got on the train?” Rarity gave Rainbow Dash a hard look.
“Uh, no. What happened?” Rainbow Dash looked at her friends for an answer. Applejack rubbed the back of her neck while Rarity looked to the side, brushing her hair over her shoulder.
“Don’t look at me.” Pinkie shrugged her shoulders. “I was too busy talking to one of Fluttershy’s friends. He was showing me some Manehattan potato chips. They are amazing! We have got to—"
“They were crying,” said Twilight, looking up from her book.
It was barely even crying. It was really only a tear or two. Nothing big. Trixie wasn’t going to let it bother her. The same went for the duet. The urge to sing came out of nowhere and felt truly odd but at the same time it was... fitting. She looked at the picture in her hooves. It really was a good picture of her, despite her bandages. Maybe one of her best. She supposed it was to Fluttershy’s credit that she didn’t ruin the shot.
As minutes passed, she found herself unable to stop looking at the picture and the longer she looked the more the flood of memories came back, replaying Fluttershy’s entire stay for the past several months. They were, in retrospect, not half-bad times. Then, with a sudden snap, a surge of emotions sprang up inside Trixie and combined in weird ways inside of her, ways that she had never experienced before. She could hardly label them much more isolate them and study them. They simply ran over her, pulling her under.
Then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over. Trixie looked at the photograph and her eyes rolled. Why would she want a picture of her when she was injured, much worse, alongside a pony that had caused her nothing but misery? In fact, she had no idea why she was standing in the middle of her apartment being all reflecty. That was plain ridiculous. She had newfound solitude to celebrate! Her apartment had now become her sole domain once again and she was going to enjoy it! She threw the picture into the garbage can and went off to have herself a bubble bath, something she hadn't done in a long while. She felt like a change.
Grumbling and grinding her teeth, Trixie marched out of her bedroom. She had been trying to sleep. A nice, well-deserved sleep, but no, her conscience just couldn’t allow that, could it? Trixie pulled the picture out of the garbage and went back to her room. She glanced around at the collections of photos sitting atop her shelves. She found the most out of the way group and shoved the photograph behind them so that it was only barely visible.
“There. Are you happy?” she asked her tormentor. There was no reply. “I’ll take that as a sign of submission, you dumb conscience. I’m going to sleep!”
With a sigh, Trixie returned to her bed. She had just tucked herself in and laid her head against her pillow when she realized what she had just said. Her eyes sprang open.