by Wrabbit



(\ /)
( . .)

Twilight cast about for an idea, any idea to help her friend. Come on, Twilight, think! She's done so much for you, surely you can think of- Further introspection was halted by the sound of a squeaky wheel going past the hospital room. She looked out into the hallway, and grinned inwardly at the sight which greeted her.

Without a word, she dashed out to the book cart being pushed down the hall by the matronly nurse. She shot her a grin and quickly scanned the titles, selecting one she knew would be right up Rainbow's alley. Taking the book in her magical grasp, she darted back into the pegasus' room. Seeing that her friend was still sulking under the blanket, she tapped the rounded form with the book, then placed it next to her and waited until Dash sat up and picked it up.

“What's this?” the pegasus asked as if Twilight had just placed a slimy snake in her bed. She took a closer look and read the title aloud. “'Daring Doo, and the Quest for the Sapphire Statue'.”

Twilight peeked around the book, tapping the cover with a hoof. “This is the first story in the series.” With a slightly self-satisfied smile that turned into a proud grin, she added, “I own all of them.”

With a careless toss that shocked the librarian's sensibilities, Dash threw the book over her shoulder, and actually managed to look offended at the offer of the book. “No thanks. I so don't read.” She reclined back on her propped-up pillow, adopting an air of self-assured superiority. “I'm a world-class athlete. Reading's for eggheads like you, Twilight. No offense, but-”

Oh, my Celestia. She didn't... she wouldn't... Replaying the conversation in her mind, Twilight confirmed it. She did... How... W- why... Okay, Twilight, stay calm. Don't let... Keep it inside. This isn't the time, nor the place for this. It took a supreme effort of self-control, one that she hadn't needed for quite some time, but she managed to keep a calm façade throughout the rest of the visit, even managing to keep her voice from betraying any emotion other than mild annoyance at the book's treatment.

She managed to maintain the illusion of normalcy even after walking into the sanctuary of her library home. Spike poked his head out of the kitchen at her entrance, and called out, “How is she, Twi? Anything serious?”

Twilight shook her head, feeling her fake smile almost slip a little. “Rainbow will be fine, Spike. The doctor just says that she needs to rest.” Without pause, she continued over to the door leading to the basement. “I'm going to be in the lab, Spike, so I don't want to be disturbed. I got an idea or two that I want to jot down before I forget them, and check up on the basilisk antivenin distillation. It should almost be ready.”

“Well, what about lunch? This salad isn't getting any fresher, you know,” the dragon said, holding up two plates of greens, one sprinkled with ruby shards, the other a ranch dressing.

A magenta energy field surrounded the salad with dressing and floated it over to Twilight, who stood by the open door. “Thanks, Spike. You're a gem. Now, just make sure I'm not disturbed until dinnertime, okay?” Without waiting for a reply, she closed and locked the door, throwing up a sound bubble so that nothing could be heard from the outside.

Twilight could already feel the cracks in her mask, and her laboratory became blurry as moisture gathered in her eyes. She set the plate on top of an ancient EEG machine, carelessly flipping it on. The old machine clattered to life, creating quite a ruckus as it tried to spool through a ream of paper that wasn't there, printing readings from a subject that wasn't hooked up to it, with ink that had long since dried up. The mare only barely made it to the cushion on the floor in front of her desk, and collapsed into it, sobbing and remembering.

(\ /)
( . .)

“Sheesh, why do you always have to be such an egghead, Sparkle?”

Twilight looked at the filly in confusion. She put her hooves to her head, feeling all around, before looking to her classmate again and saying, “My head's not shaped like an egg.”

The filly rolled her eyes and snorted in disgust. “I swear, you must be the dumberest smart pony I know. I mean that you're a nerd, a geek, a poindexter. If your head were split open, books would fall out; and not even good books, neither. I mean like, math books or something boring like that,” the filly finished with a face that conveyed all the disgust she could muster.

Another classmate, this one a colt, walked up and nodded his agreement. “You tell her, Sassy. She keeps getting all the gold stars in class, leaving none for the rest of us.” He stuck his beige face up to Twilight's until their noses were almost touching and glared at her. “Some of us want those rewards for good class conduct too, you know!”

Sassy pulled the colt back with one hoof, and covered her mouth and nose with the other. “Ew! Don't get too close, Flash! Nerdism might be catchy! Don't want to become an egghead like her, do you?”

Flash covered up his mouth like Sassy was. “Whew! You just saved me from a fate worse than death! Thanks, Sassy! Let's get out of here before it spreads!”

With her head held high, Sassy walked Flash away. “I think I can smell her already. It smells like rotten eggs!” Cackling, both foals walked off, leaving Twilight in near tears.

Twilight ran behind a hedgerow of low-cut bushes that surrounded the school and laid down in the dirt to cry. Why were they so mean? What did I ever do to them? She managed to keep her crying quiet, but the tears flowed seemingly without end.

It was some time before she was finally discovered. The white head of a familiar older colt peeked over the edge, his horn glowing magenta. “There you are! What are you doing back here, Twily?” Shining asked his little sister.

Twilight rubbed her face in an effort to erase the tracks of her tears before looking up at her big brother. “Nothin',” she replied simply.

Shining knew that Twilight was truly upset when her grammar and diction slipped like this. With a grunt, he leaped over the hedge and hunkered down in the space between it and the wall with her. “Hey, come on. You can tell your own personal knight in shining armor, right? That's what he's there for, after all,” he said, trying to make a play off of his name. That got a mumble from the filly, but he couldn't understand her at all. “Didn't quite get that,” he said, leaning in closer.

“You left your participle dangling,” Twilight said in a timid whisper, not daring to look up at him.

Shining was nonplussed by this and blushed, until he realized that she was speaking grammatically. “Well, it's a good thing I have a little sister to point that out then, huh?” He gave her a quick nuzzle, but could still feel a lot of tension in her posture. “What happened, Twily?”

Her answer was a long time coming, but after a few moments, she replied, “Why do ponies... Why do they say mean things, Shining?”

The question clearly took the colt off guard, and he stammered a bit before finding his hoofing again. “Well- I- You see...” He sighed and closed his eyes. “Ponies say mean things for many reasons, Twily. It could be that someone made them angry. Maybe they're having a bad day, and they just want to take it out on something, and anything will do. Very rarely is it because they're truly a bad pony. More often than not, it's because they aren't thinking that their words will end up hurting anypony.”

“Does it feel good?”

The seeming non-sequitor stumped the colt for a moment, prompting him to ask, “Does what feel good?”

Twilight looked up into his eyes, tears still apparent. “Does hurting ponies' feelings feel so good? They look so happy when they do it and do it so often, it must feel good.”

Shining patted the tiny filly's mane. “Twily, it might feel good at first, but every bad feeling you heap onto a pony is like a weight on your heart. Eventually, the weight becomes too heavy for your heart, so you have to make it harder in order to hold all that weight. But when you do that, make your heart hard, it becomes easier to make other ponies feel bad, and while it's easier, it also doesn't feel as good. That's because your heart is so hard, good feelings can't get through because good feelings are too soft; they just bounce off. Understand?”

Twilight nodded, and the colt pulled her in for a hug.

(\ /)
( . .)

There were, of course, other times, other words, but the one that struck the hardest was always egghead. Nothing quite set her apart from the other foals like it, because she was the only one she ever knew to be addressed so. It became just one more distinction that set her apart from her classmates. Oh sure, the teachers stepped in once they found out what was being done. They certainly would not stand for the Princess’s protégée to be mishandled like that; it was more than their jobs were worth, after all.

Naturally, this only forced the teasing to go underground as it were. The jibes became more subtle. Instead of nerd or weirdo, names like Miss Twilight or Her Ladyship were used, but only with the most sarcastic of tones. Anything to set her apart from the crowd.

Sometimes, the teasing took other forms, such as picking her last for team sports (and then arguing over who had to take her), or stealing the eraser or spare pencil from her desk when she went to the communal sharpener at the front of the class. Things came to a head for her when she was asked by a colt for help on his homework. following their study session, she worked up the courage to ask if he wanted to hang out after class the following day, but he simply laughed in her face.

“Go somewhere? With you?” he said with a short bark of laughter. “Like I’d want to be seen anywhere with you!”

As he left the library, still laughing and being scolded for it by the librarian, Twilight was amazed to find that she actually felt nothing. That feeling of nothingness persisted as she left the library until after she arrived for her afternoon lesson with Celestia.

The alicorn smiled as Twilight entered her office, but the smile was lost when she noted the filly’s mood. She abandoned her desk and walked over to Twilight, who was standing next to her favorite cushion by the fireplace as if lost. A light nuzzle was all it took for Twilight to slump down to the cushion and bawl her eyes out.

All the pent up emotion she had been feeling about her classmates came pouring out of her, and onto the expensive purple velvet, forever staining it with her sadness. Celestia said nothing, merely laying down next to her, and offered her own warmth and presence to soothe the filly.

Following that day, Twilight took a different tack with her classmates. Withdrawing into herself, she offered no help, and only gave it when asked, expecting nothing but insults when she was no longer needed. Granted, she sometimes still received those insults afterward, but for the most part, they simply stopped asking for it in the first place. Far from making her feel lonely, Twilight retreated into her beloved books for company, finding them far more preferable to the whims of her contemporaries. They at least, didn’t judge her.

(\ /)
( . .)

Twilight awoke in her lab, muzzy and confused about her location. She lifted her tear-stained face from the pillow and wiped her drippy nose on the back of her hoof as she looked around. Oh, right. My lab. With a sigh, she scrubbed the tracks from her face and blew her nose into a tissue that she floated from a box on her desk.

Oh, my. I haven’t cried that hard in some time. I guess I got caught off-guard since it came from Rainbow, of all ponies. Clearly didn’t expect that. Guess I’ll have to bring my calm face out of retirement again. Bringing a hoof to her chest with a deep inhalation, she imagined pushing the bad air out with that same hoof as she exhaled. Doing this twice more brought the mare to a calm, but ready state of mind, and eased the jitters her fit had brought on. “What time is it?” she wondered aloud as she looked up at the clock hanging on the wall above her desk and sighed. “Guess I better get cleaned up. Don’t want to worry Spike, or anypony else, for that matter.”

By the time Twilight had made herself presentable, the incident from earlier was filed away in the deep recesses of her mind.