• Published 26th May 2013
  • 1,446 Views, 162 Comments

No Heroes Part II - The Journey Home - PaulAsaran



Fine Crime and Princess Luna have chosen their team. Now there's just the minor problem of bringing them together. Every team needs a base of operations, and what place better than Ponyville?

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Visions

WARNING: This Episode has some very graphic gory imagery. If that bothers you, skip the paragraphs in red.

It was done. At long last everything was in place, from the furniture to the treasury. It had seemed like ages; it had actually only been about a month. It was amazing what one could do with a little magical assistance. Fine Crime was pleased with the place, truly and absolutely. He’d never had a home of his own before; too busy traveling around. But now he had a place to call his own, and it suited his interests wonderfully; a perk of being the Mane Archon was his seemingly limitless resources, and since a portion of the Archon’s archival collection was now stored here it fell into the category of ‘business expenses.’

Not that he hadn’t paid for the house. He’d paid for certain elements of it, particularly the residential portion. But this wasn’t just his house; it was also the first distraction.

He was in his new office, at his brand-new desk that he loved so very very much, going over reports and fighting hard to ignore the pain. There were five different stacks, organized by importance. The lower-priority stacks of course had more scrolls and letters. Every now and again one would puff into existence, white smoke rising in the air as the scroll dropped onto its proper pile. Being the Mane Archon was a full-time job.

In truth he didn’t have to read everything that came to him. The two lowest-priority stacks were technically below him, things that lower-ranked Archon officials dealt with. Some of these occasionally puffed out of existence, proof that the situation had already been dealt with and didn’t need his attention. The only reason he had those stacks was so that he could occasionally grab a random note and see what was happening below ranks – a sort of quality check on his agents.

All morning he’d been at it, reading letters and scrolls, scribbling responses and sending them via transmittal potion. He was very careful with the potion; it was exquisitely hard to make, a modern magical marvel, and his chief alchemist Creed Tome would throw a fit if he spilled it. Fine Crime wouldn’t blame him; the stuff required almost a month to brew.

Abruptly his work was interrupted by a new scroll. Unlike the others, it appeared in a flash of red light – signifying its importance – and dropped on a spot in front of the other piles. He paused, set his ink jar and notes aside and grabbed the scroll. Its manner of arrival could only mean one thing: it was a top-priority message. And right now there was only one top priority in all of Equestria for the Archons.

He read the note quietly, took in its short and precise message. He sighed, rubbed his aching head and set the scroll aside; he was out of time.

Outside he found Fleur Dis Lee, hard at work perfecting the secondary distraction. He made sure not to look at her directly. “The word is in,” he announced to her quietly.

She looked up from her work, horn glowing brightly and appearing annoyed at the interruption. “Then you’ll be going soon?”

“Tomorrow,” he acknowledged. “I was going to wait until after you were finished, but I can’t. So today I’ll take the plunge and visit the town.”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” she asked, turning back to her work intently. “You’re approaching week five.”

“I’ll be careful,” he claimed solemnly, cringing at the sudden pang that hit his chest. “See you when I get back.”

And so Fine Crime left, traveling along the brand new dirt path that lead to the nearest town: Ponyville.


It was a bright morning, the occasional cloud rolling through the skies above and a slight chill in the air. All in all it seemed a fairly normal day. Fine Crime could only imagine what the citizens of Ponyville would think if they knew that a serial killer was in their midst. Any other day and he might have been amused at the thought, but he didn’t have the luxury of amusement this time. He was almost five weeks without a kill, and he had to focus very carefully to keep from succumbing to the visions.

For he was indeed having them. Every pony he looked at was a homicide in his eyes. It had always been one of the most horrifying elements of being a Bloodmane; gazing upon crowds and seeing every stallion, every mare, even the foals dying in some fashion or another, always by his hoof. But by necessity he’d learned how to resist these temptations. He’d found that if he actually paid attention to the visions and their details he could hold himself back… so long as he remained calm and kept his mind clear.

His longest record for going without a kill was eight weeks. He knew he could do this, but he wouldn’t feel comfortable living so close to these ponies until he’d proven it. There could be no mistakes.

Out of habit and to keep things easier, he avoided being seen. He stayed out of the crowds, slipped through back ways, hid when anypony was coming too close. Even after all these years, he still liked to play hide and seek, and by now he’d mastered the game entirely. He was but a shadow, even in the light of day.

He found the wide building near the center of town. Nye’s Nights and Jimmy’s Days, as the two business had come to be known. Fine went to the front doors of the coffee shop, watched the interior for a few minutes. It was a slow day, or so it seemed. Nye was nowhere to be seen. He might be in the back… but Fine didn’t like the idea of using the front door. It just wasn’t him; too obvious, too easy, not sneaky enough.

So instead he slipped around to the back. There he found a back door next to some trash bins. Was it really necessary to sneak in like this? Not at all. But it was more entertaining. He tested the lock for a few minutes with his magic and eventually found a way to open it.

He was glad to be inside again, away from all those ponies and the gory visions associated with them. He stood still for a few minutes, making sure his mind was focused and letting the pain subside. Finally confident of himself, he began to explore. He soon realized that he was in Jimmy’s workshop. Hiding next to the lounge’s shop entrance he listened intently. He could hear voices… Jimmy’s for one. He didn’t recognize the other two; a filly and a mare who spoke with a certain upper-class accent. Who could that be?

“Oh thank you, Jimmy,” the mare was saying pleasantly, “this means so much to me. You honestly have no idea what it’s been like trying to sew with that old dragon of a machine I had to pull out of storage.”

“Yeah,” the filly threw in with some sarcasm, “you wouldn’t wanna visit her while she was using it. Trust me on this.”

The mare’s voice became accusing. “You are the entire reason I had to use that thing in the first place! I’m still upset with you.” And she concluded with a self-important ‘hmmph!’ sound.

“Well it should work fine now.” Jimmy’s voice. “Provided you can keep it away from the Crusaders it should last you a few more years yet.”

“It’s not our fault,” the filly insisted.

Well, he’d heard enough to deduce who the visitors were. Smiling even as a sting in his back made him wince, Fine opened the door and stepped out to observe. As expected, he found Jimmy at his counter, offering a shiny-looking sewing machine to the town’s local fashionista, Rarity. Her sister Sweetie Belle was next to her, looking a touch guilty.

The three turned to observe him, and Jimmy’s eyes went wide. “Fine Crime?”

“Hey, Jim,” Fine replied with a wave, as if they were best friends.

But the pegasus didn’t seem all that happy to see him. “How did you get back there? Did Nye let you in?”

“Door was unlocked,” Fine lied easily, which made Jimmy glower. The expression was clearly meant for his brother, though.

“You could have come through the front,” the pegasus noted, eyeing him with suspicion.

“Could I?”

“Fine Crime?” Rarity studied him with a raised eyebrow. “Weren’t you at the Crystal Empire? One of the ones who helped?” He nodded, pleased that she remembered him. She perked up immediately. “Well then it’s a pleasure to see you again!”

“I’d appreciate it more,” Jimmy added, “if I knew why you were sneaking around my shop.”

“Well I’m sorry, Jimmy,” Fine replied smugly, “but I just thought I’d come by and say ‘hi’ and, while I was at it, let you know that your security measures are just a bit lax.”

Jimmy sighed and shrugged. “Alright, Fine, whatever. I guess it’s no big deal. But I am surprised to see you here; as far as I know you just disappeared. I assumed you went back home, wherever home is.”

“I was just working,” Fine claimed honestly.

Rarity took a step forward with curiosity on her face. “And where pray tell do you work, Mr. Crime?”

“Fine, if you please,” he told her. “And it’s not that interesting, really. Just a Host Stallion from Canterlot.”

Sweetie Belle tilted her head at him. “What’s a…?” But she got shushed by Rarity, who was blushing wildly.

Jimmy facehoofed. “Whatever happened to the dragon dating thing?” he asked mockingly.

“Gave it up,” Fine replied with a grin. “Thought I’d try something else.”

“Right…”

“Dragon dating thing?” Sweetie Belle asked, escaping from around her sister’s legs with an annoyed expression. Rarity was still blushing too much to say anything.

Fine Crime nodded to her happily. “Oh yes, you see what I did was…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jimmy interrupted, tossing a lecturing glance Fine’s way. “So what brings you to Ponyville, Fine? Really?”

“I live here now.”

Jimmy’ eyes went wide. “Seriously?”

“Well, the Everfree Forest,” he corrected truthfully, “but close enough to Ponyville to warrant it. I knew you and some of the others lived here already and thought I’d come by.”

The pegasus clearly didn’t know how to take this news. “I… uh… well… okay…”

Fine glanced at the door leading to Nye’s Nights. “Is your brother here? I’d like to say hello to him as well.”

“Nye? He’s at the Apple Farm,” Sweetie Belle declared, not noticing Jimmy’s annoyed expression.

“Umm… Fine…” Rarity was finally able to speak. “…you weren’t… serious about… err…”

He grinned at her wickedly. “Why? You interested?”

Her eyes went wide and she fell back, shaking her head wildly. “No no, that’s not what I…”

He didn’t hear anything else; the pain was too intense. He almost fell to his knees, cringing at the stab of agony in his head. When he opened his eyes again he saw the vision and he latched onto it fiercely. He could see in his mind eye the white mare, hooves pinned to the wall by nails, horn sawn off her head. Heart beating a mile a minute, a twisted joy coming over him, he found he was holding a blow torch. Its blue flame shone in the unicorn’s wet eyes as he clicked it off, then on, then off, then on. Off once more, and as she struggled he slowly brought the tool up. She tried to look away; he struck her, forced the torch into her mouth.

Her teary azure eyes stared at him, begging for mercy. Such beautiful eyes. He loved it when they stared at him like that. It made the lingering so much more… delectable.

Click.

He fell to the ground, snarling at the pain running through his entire body.

“Fine!” It was Jimmy’s voice. “Fine, what’s wrong?”

“I’m okay,” he snapped, waving the pegasus away. The pain began to fade as he climbed to his hooves. He glanced up to see Sweetie Belle and Rarity watching him worriedly. “I’m okay… I just… I better go. I’ll see you around, Jimmy.”

He cast his spell, his horn glistening as he was covered in dark clouds. A moment later he was on the roof of the building, rubbing his head miserably.

It had been a very strong vision. Typical, considering how long it had been since his last kill. But he’d managed to resist, which gave him some confidence. He wouldn’t go home just yet. No… not yet.


This was a home he wouldn’t sneak around. The pony that lived here was aware, and that was good enough. So instead he went to the front door and knocked.

The pony that answered was Upper Crust, and he hadn’t been expecting that. Not at all.

Apparently she hadn’t been expecting him, either. Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened, and for a few seconds she could only stare dumbly at him. His reaction wasn’t so pronounced, but he still had to take a moment to respond. “What are you doing here?”

“I… I was going to ask you the same thing,” she admitted dumbly. She cast her eyes around the outside warily. “You’re not here to… to ask me to do something, are you?”

He laughed. “No, Upper Crust, I’m not here on business!” He could hear Octavia’s cello playing in the background. Practice time, apparently. “Can I come in?”

“Well… I… ummm…” she stumbled around her words for a few more seconds. “It’s not my house… but… but I guess…”

“So you’re… visiting Octavia?” he asked curiously as he entered.

“…something like that,” she muttered.

The song ended abruptly. “Who was it, Upper…” Octavia let the sentence hang upon coming out of the music room and spotting Fine. “…oh. Well hello, Fine.”

“A pleasure, as always,” he told her, bowing flamboyantly.

She smiled with an exasperated expression. “So, have you finally made the move too?”

“I have.”

“Move?” Upper Crust was beside them with an uncertain expression. “What move?”

“I live in the Everfree Forest now,” he explained to the both of them at once.

“Oh…” Upper Crust looked a touch disappointed. “…I see.”

Octavia cast an understanding look towards her guest before asking, “Why the Everfree Forest? Why not in Ponyville proper?”

“That’s…” he considered his excuse carefully, “…something I can’t explain. Yet. Once all the pieces are in place, maybe then.”

“Pieces?” Upper Crust looked no less confused than before. “What are you two talking about? And how is it you know one another?”

“Octavia and I came to a little agreement a while ago,” Fine explained to her. “We’ve kind of become… umm…” He raised an eyebrow at Octavia.

“Teammates?” she suggested.

He smiled at her word choice. “…teammates. That should do.” The yellow-coated unicorn appeared no less confused. Well things would be cleared up… eventually. “I’m glad to see you’re here, Crustie.”

The mare leaned back, eyebrows raised in an offended manner. “’Crustie’?”

Octavia set a hoof to her lips, perhaps to avoid a giggle at her friend’s expense. “So… does this mean everypony’s here?”

At that he frowned and shook his head. “No… Lightning’s still in the wind.”

“And what if she doesn’t come at all?”

“She’ll come,” he reassured her seriously. “Don’t worry; if I can single-hoofedly stop a parasprite infestation, I can get Lightning here.”

The mares shared a suspecting expression. “When did you stop a parasprite infestation?” Upper Crust asked.

“And how?” Octavia threw in.

“Oh that’s easy,” he countered as if his answer was obvious, “I ate them.” At their dumbfounded looks he added, “Best when grilled.”

“Forget I asked,” the cellist muttered while Upper Crust facehoofed.

“Why are we talking about Lightning Dust, anyway?” Upper Crust asked in an attempt to steer the conversation back to normalcy. Octavia looked as if she wanted to answer, but stopped herself and gave Fine a questioning look.

He grinned and set a hoof on the cellist’s shoulder. “That’s something just for us teammates, I’m afraid…”

The vision hit, and it hit hard.

Upper Crust was tied to the floor, Octavia’s cello resting inside her opened stomach. As for Octavia herself, she had no hooves; her legs ended only in bleeding bone. Her eyes were gone, but she was alive. Alive and flailing as he used one of the strings from her own cello to strangle her. She kicked, she tried to break free, she gaped hoarsely through a throat with no air. He held the cord tight, so tight it was cutting into her neck. He watched her squirm, took almost erotic pleasure in feeling her life slowly ebbing away. He glanced down to see Upper Crust watching him, tears of horror and agony in her eyes.

Yes. Yes… that’s it. He wanted those eyes, he craved them. It was all he ever…

Too far: he jerked himself out of the vision with a gasp, realized he was leaning heavily against Octavia’s shoulder. His body was on fire! He shivered and shook and focused, struggling against the agony. Slowly, so very slowly, it began to dissipate.

“…ng with him?”

“I don’t know… I… I…”

The ringing in his ears, which he hadn’t noticed before, was gone. He still felt like there were hammers smacking his head, but he was back and in control. He’d resisted the vision once again… but sweet Luna had this one been strong!

“Fine, are you alright?” the cellist asked, setting a hoof to his chin so he could look her in the eyes. “You really scared us for a moment there.”

He let out a deep breath and pushed her hoof away. “Octavia, you have no idea what it means to be scared. You don’t want to. I have to go.”

“Go?” Upper Crust asked as he made for the door, “But what was that?”

“Not now,” he called back worriedly. “Not yet.”


He lay hidden amongst some trees and shrubs in a local park, taking deep calming breaths. He was in control. That last vision had been powerful, but it was a good sign. Visions were to be expected; they were as common in his life as walking by now. He’d resisted it, and that showed he could handle this. He could live near these ponies, perhaps even among them, as long as he was cautious. He still didn’t like the risk, but Luna was right; the team needed to be together, preferably near the Elements of Harmony.

And it seemed it was coming together on its own. Jimmy and Nye had established themselves as permanent members of the town without any encouragement. Octavia had agreed readily to come, and now, for some reason, Upper Crust was sharing the home with her. He would have to check up on what had happened.

All that was left was to get Lightning Dust to come. Despite what he’d said to Octavia, he wasn’t certain he could convince her. In that case what would Luna want to do? Find somepony else? He hoped not; selecting these ponies had taken long enough, and he certainly didn’t relish the idea of going through it again.

He was satisfied. He knew he could live around Ponyville. It was time to head back.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

He let out a surprised shut and jumped up. He glanced around, but didn’t see anypony.

“You should leave.”

He pushed his way between two bushes, back out into the open. When he did he was surprised to find himself facing an earth pony. A very pink earth pony, with a very poofy mane. She was watching him with a serious expression that didn’t really go with her appearance.

He was astounded; this pony had managed to sneak up on him. It was certainly something for the record books. “Are… you the one saying that?”

She lowered her head slightly, her eyes sharp. “You should leave,” she repeated solemnly. “Things may go badly otherwise.”

He studied her critically for a moment. “And who are you to tell me what to do?” She didn’t answer, only kept him locked in that harsh glare. “I think I can handle myself.”

She clearly didn’t believe him. After a few tense seconds she turned and began to walk off. “Good luck with that.”

He watched her go, not just a little confused. After a few seconds he gaped as she abruptly stopped walking and started bouncing instead, singing a playful tune and waving to a passer-by.

He sat, shook his head, tried to make sense of what he’d just seen. “Who in Equestria was that?”

Somehow, he felt as if he’d been challenged by that pink pony. Common sense and his usual caution told him to ignore that feeling… but for once he shook them aside. He could handle one more encounter. He still hadn’t visited Nye, after all.

So he made his way to the edge of town, and Sweet Apple Acres.


Nye wasn’t the only one visiting the farm. He found them at a large picnic table, sharing a significantly-sized meal with copious apple pies as the centerpiece. He recognized some of them. Most prominent was Applejack and ponies he presumed were her family: a big red stallion, a little yellow filly, and an elderly green mare. At the other side of the table was Celestia’s protégé, Twilight Sparkle, and her assistant Spike (who Fine recalled with mild amusement), and beside them sat Nye (with a notably large bandage on his leg from the wound he’d received two days ago) and Rainbow Dash.

A full house. He was annoyed… and just a little worried. Still, he approached. He could do this, he knew it from experience.

“Hey!” It was Rainbow who first spotted him. “Look who it is.”

They all turned to him, which made him pause nervously. So many faces…

“Well I’ll be, Fine Crime!” Applejack called, waving him over with a friendly smile. “Why I haven’t seen ya since the whole Crystal Empire thing. What’s up?”

“Not much,” he replied, nervous at being the center of so much attention. “Just thought I’d stop by.”

“You.” Spike huffed unpleasantly. “There aren’t any dragon eggs around here for you to steal, y’know.”

Fine laughed at that. “You just won’t let that go, will you?”

Nye proved much more friendly than his brother. “Welcome to Ponyville! Where the heck have you been?”

“Working,” he replied simply, grinning as he waited for the question he knew was coming.

“Working where?” It was Twilight who bit. “What do you do?”

He loved answering that question. “I’m a weapon’s dealer.”

There were a lot of different reactions. Most were of disbelief.

“Will ya ever answer that question honestly?” Applejack asked critically.

“The truth is simply an excuse for those who lack imagination,” he countered wryly, earning him a scowl. “But really, I’m a florist.”

“You used that one already,” Spike pointed out.

He gave the dragon a confused look, remembered. “Oh yeah, I did, didn’t I?”

“Is this a friend of yours, Applejack?” the elderly mare asked with a smile.

Applejack nodded. “He helped us out back in the Crystal Empire. He can be a bit dishonest…” throwing a lecturing look his way, “…but he’s alright otherwise.”

“Hey, why don’t you join us?” Rainbow suggested with a wave at an empty spot on the bench. “There’s plenty to go around.”

He glanced at all of them uncomfortably. “Umm… I’d love to, really… but there’s just too many ponies around. Makes me nervous…”

“We don’t bite,” Nye noted even as he took a big chunk out of some pie.

“Yeah, join us,” Applejack offered.

“No no,” he took a step back; way too many ponies. He had to think up a fresh lie, quick. “I should be getting back home, finish unpacking and all.”

“Unpacking?” Rainbow Dash asked, “You mean you’re living here now?”

“In the Everfree Forest, actually,” he replied with a grin, recalling their recent ‘visit.’ Nye made a whimpering sound at the name, prompting Rainbow to pat him on the back.

Twilight rubbed her chin, studying him curiously. “Why would you want to live out there instead of in town?”

“Zecora does,” he noted pointedly.

Twilight’s eyes flashed suspectingly. “If you’ve only just moved here, how do you know Zecora?”

Crap. She was as quick as the rumors claimed. “We’re neighbors now,” he declared smoothly, glad for his quick thinking. “I of course had to meet her.”

“Ya sure ya don’t wanna hang around and have some…” Applejack started, but her sentence went incomplete as he was struck by another vision.

It was indescribable. Blood everywhere, agony and terror and pain and sorrow. Too many ponies, all suffering, all at the same time. Mass homicide. And it filled him so much… joy.

“Damn it all to hell!”

He jerked out of it within seconds, terror rippling through him. It hadn’t been such a strong vision as the ones before, there had been no risk of losing control. But the sheer amount of input, the horrific scene of torturous slaughter, the splitting volume of the screams… it had been overwhelming.

“Fine, what’s wrong!?”

“Give him room, let him breathe!”

“Come on, Fine, stay with us…”

He realized he’d been convulsing on the ground. The searing pain wasn’t fading, but at least he had control again. It hurt so much… with every resistance, the pain would get worse. He couldn’t keep this up. There was simply no way.

They were all too close. Some were right in his face. Not good, if he had another vision hit him now… “Get away from me!” He kicked, scaring them back, and was on his feet. His horn flashed brightly, smoke surrounded him, and he was gone.

He hadn’t paid any attention to direction or distance this time. There hadn’t been time; he just needed to get out of there, before somepony got hurt.

He was somewhere in the apple orchard. He stood there, legs shaking and breath coming in gasps. Focus. Focus. Focus. Don’t be controlled. Control it.

A bright flash of purple appeared behind him.

“Fine Crime! What was that all about?”

Damn.

“How the fuck did you follow me!?” he snapped over his shoulder, though he stopped just short of looking at Twilight. “Stay back. Just… just keep away.” Focus.

“I can’t just ignore what we all saw,” she countered worriedly. He could hear her approaching. “It looked so severe! Talk to me, what’s going on?”

“Why should you care?” he barked, “It’s not like we’re friends. We met one time, and that was three months ago!”

She sounded offended. “I can’t just ignore a pony so obviously in trouble!”

This was too dangerous. He wouldn’t be able to hold back if another vision hit him now. “I don’t want you help, or your concern. I want to be left alone!” He heard her come closer and took a few steps away in frustration. “Damn it Sparkle, keep the hell away from me before somepony gets hurt!”

“No! I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what the problem is!”

He turned on her. “The problem is you chasing after me and trying to be nice to me! I don’t need your pathetic concerns, I don’t care about your Luna-be-damned feelings, and I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about your friendship! Keep the fuck away from me, because if you don’t I. WILL. KILL. YOU!”

Another puff of smoke, and he was gone.

Twilight didn’t follow this time.


It took him almost an hour to get over the pain. He lay on his back in the grass, not knowing precisely where he was. In a field with lots of hills near town, that was about it. He just lay there, breathing in the cool country air and trying to relax.

Ponies. It was one thing dealing with one or two, but a group of them? He’d never liked being in crowds, even before he’d become a bloodmane. At least now his nervousness served the purpose of protecting others. Usually. Had he known that so many ponies would be at the farm he wouldn’t have bothered to go at all.

And now he’d uneased them all, and probably offended Twilight Sparkle. He felt like an idiot; he was supposed to lead this rag-tag group of misfits in helping the Element Bearers fight against the stars – whatever those were – and here he’d gone and insulted the Bearer of Magic! Worse, threatened to kill her. He’d done it for her safety, granted, but that didn’t change the fact. He would have to find some way to make amends.

He respected Luna immensely, but this was insane. She wanted the group together, that made sense, but to have a bloodmane live in such close proximity to a town full of innocent ponies was inviting disaster. He could do it – he would just have to take a ‘business trip’ every month – but what if something serious happened, something that forced him to stick around too long? His mind could play out a million terrible scenarios.

By Luna’s starlit mane, he hated what he was.

But that wasn’t the same as hating himself. Being with the Archons had taught him the difference. He worked hard every day to show that being a bloodmane didn’t define who he was. It was a hard mental war he waged with himself, and today was just another skirmish. No, more like a major battle. That was the whole point of coming into town today: to prove that he wasn’t a monster. He’d won… but at what cost?

His ears twitched as a sound filled the air. He let it drag him out of his solemn meditations, just in case. He was glad he did; it was singing. A very light, bright humming.

Of course that meant somepony was nearby. He might have to move.

He stretched, his back creaking from having been in the same position so long, and pulled himself to his hooves. He listened for a moment for direction. Whoever it was had a very nice voice. He thought he recognized it.

If he was going to sneak away, it was best to see the pony first, plan the escape. With that in mind he crouched low to the ground and crawled to the hilltop in the direction of the singing.

It was a yellow-coated, pink-maned pegasus. She was lying in the grass among some blue and purple flowers, surrounded by birds and butterflies, swaying to her own gentle humming.

His first thought: sweet Luna the scene was sickeningly picturesque! All harmonious and sweet, like out of a children’s book. It was almost insulting, like a slap in the face of his entire life.

His second thought: she was the pegasus he’d seen at the Grand Galloping Gala two years ago. The one in the gardens that had caused such a ruckus at the end.

His third thought: she was still the single prettiest pony he’d ever laid eyes on. Which was a big deal: in all his life the only time he ever cast so much as a second glance at a mare was when he was searching for victims. Second glances didn’t bode well for any pony at times like those.

Fluttershy. The only one of the Element Bearers he’d bothered to recall, just because she was the only mare to have ever caught his eye.

He watched her for several seconds, puzzling over this curiosity. She was pretty, no doubt, but what made him notice her? He had no way of knowing, and that’s partially why it puzzled him so much. Funny how it seemed to matter at the moment; since the Gala he’d hardly thought of her at all.

What was he doing? He was going to have a vision at any moment, and then he’d have to resist and find himself in agonizing pain all over again. He needed to leave.

He told himself that… but he didn’t do it. Instead he waited, and watched. He was hardly one to be taken in by a beauty. Perhaps it was the picturesque scene that held him so, that image of harmony and happiness that had been denied him all his life. Was he envious? Was there something hidden deep down within him that longed to be a part of that lovely, children’s book scene?

He didn’t think himself that fanciful a dreamer. Or that naive, for that matter.

After some time he came to realize something; he’d been staring at Fluttershy for almost fifteen minutes without any vision. That didn’t make any sense.

He pulled himself back behind the hill, his mind suddenly frantic. How could he not be having a vision? He’d had them in less than five minutes when dealing with the other ponies! Something was wrong about this. Or right? He didn’t know. Should he investigate more? He definitely wanted to. If there was some clue here, some special trick he was using that he never knew about, he needed to figure it out!

But what if he was wrong? What if he took a closer look and ended up having a vision anyway? A strong one, so strong he couldn’t resist? It was a huge risk, almost too big a risk!

No, that was stupid: his visions didn’t have lapses, didn’t build up over time. He knew that from a lifetime of suffering through them. The vision just wasn’t coming. But why wasn’t it coming!?

Hoping he wasn’t making a terrible mistake, he looked over the hill again. Fluttershy was still there, though she’d stopped singing to speak to the animals. He watched her impatiently; where was the vision? Why hadn’t it come? It had to come, it always came!

But it never did. He lay there for another half hour, and there was nothing.

He could take it no longer: he had to get a closer look. He began to approach, moving slowly so as not to startle her. His instincts made him proceed in silence, and she didn’t even notice his approach. Before long he was standing just a few feet away. He took a deep breath, braced himself for something, anything to happen.

And still there was no vision.

“Yii!” She finally spotted him and leapt almost ten feet! Her alarmed reaction took him completely by surprise, and he fell back on his haunches in response. She took several swift steps back, eyes wide, and crouched low as if ready to flee. “I-I-I-I’m s-sorry,” she whispered in a terrified voice so low he almost didn’t hear her, “y-you s-s-startled m-me…”

For a moment they just watched one another silently. After a while he realized he must look like a fool and stood up properly. “Umm… sorry… I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

By now she’d calmed down and was standing up too. But she didn’t come any closer, and was hiding bashfully behind her long mane. Nor did she answer.

Wow, she was even more timid than he’d expected. “I’m Fine Crime,” he offered helpfully. Clearly the name didn’t register though, as she said nothing. “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

She cuffed the grass with a hoof nervously, shook her head. He facefaulted, feeling a little let down. “I was one of the ponies that helped your friends in the Crystal Empire.”

That caught her attention… a little. “…really?”

“Yeah, really.” He tried to keep his sarcasm to a minimum. “And you’re Fluttershy, yes?”

At last she flipped her mane back, which he felt was something of a point in his favor. “You know me…?”

“I know of you,” he corrected mildly. “I was on my way home and saw you. Just thought I should say hi.”

She cast around inquisitively. “Home? …but we’re far out from Ponyville.”

“Oh, I live in the forest,” he noted, gesturing in the direction he knew the woods to be in.

Fluttershy let out a squeak and took a few fearful steps back. “B-b-b-but isn’t that dangerous?”

Her fear caught him off guard. “But… Zecora lives there.”

The pegasus turned her head, her face becoming hidden by her mane again. “I couldn’t possibly live out there. I’m too scared to even go near the forest!”

Wow. She really was a scared little thing.

He realized he had absolutely no idea what to do or say right now. This was a situation he was entirely unaccustomed to. It was one think talking to ponies when on the job, it was another to just… talk. He had no idea how. Should he ask something? Should he wait for her to? For once he was actually annoyed by his loner lifestyle.

The silence had gone on too long; now they were both nervous.

“Umm…” she started at last, moving gradually away, “…I need to get home… it’s almost time for Angel Bunny’s lunch and he gets cranky… you know? Umm, it was nice meeting you…” She walked away at a slow trot. Something told him she was barely keeping herself from running at full gallop.

He watched her go, mind buzzing with questions. An entire conversation – well, something resembling a conversation, at least – and no vision? When he was so long without a killing?

He didn’t dare think it. It was an idea far too good to be true.

But he was thinking it anyway. He had to investigate this further. He had time, and talent; he could study her from afar, try to understand what was happening. Yes… if it meant what he hoped it meant, then it would be worth it.

So he followed, and prayed.


Fleur Dis Lee was in his new dining room enjoying a salad when he returned that evening. He entered the room on his way to the kitchen, mind preoccupied and hardly noticing her.

“You’re back awfully late,” she noted as he passed by her seat.

“Hmm? Oh… yeah, I guess.”

She eyed him as he moved on to the kitchen. “Did something happen? You didn’t go off and kill somepony I hope.”

He paused at the door, his mind still trying turn things over. “No… nothing happened. That’s what amazes me.”

His words made her pause, fork half to her mouth. “You mean you expected something to go wrong?”

He glanced at her, looked at her directly for the first time in a while. The directness made her shift nervously. At last he turned away, but he didn’t move any farther. “I think… I think I might have found somepony who is immune.”

“Immune to what?” she asked with a relieved sigh.

“…Me.”

She stared at him, not believing him at all. “You’re joking.”

He turned on her, eyes ominous. “Don’t dare assume I’m joking when I speak of what I am, Fleur. Ever.”

She raised her hooves at him calmingly. “I’m sorry,” she said sincerely, “I meant no offense.” He said nothing, only turned away from her with a frustrated expression. “So… if it’s true, what then?”

“I need to investigate this further,” he declared without hesitation. “I spent half the day watching this pony, and not once did a vision occur. Not once! …I must find out why.”

She nodded, truly understanding his urgent desire. “And your work?”

He gave her a sour look, but before he could say anything he dropped to his knees and let out a pained cry. She didn’t go to him, didn’t offer to help; she knew better. She did feel a little nervous. A lot nervous, actually. She was ready to respond with violence, if necessary.

It wasn’t. After a few tense moments of grunting and huffing he finally seemed to shake off the vision. At last he got to his hooves, legs wobbling dangerously at first.

Knowing she was safe and that he wouldn’t want her help, she tried to eat some of her salad. She knew it would be several minutes before he would be fully recovered. But she was too busy fretting to enjoy the meal. Like so many agents, she didn’t like being near the Mane Archon. He was feared for what he was, and nopony liked working with him directly.

When he finally spoke there was a simmering anger in his tone. “How long before the project is completed?”

“Two days, maybe three.”

“It will take me at least two to get to Foal Mountains.”

“Then I will await your final inspection,” she declared with a touch of regret; the sooner she was back in Canterlot doing her usual work, the better.

“Inspection.” He practically spat the word. “How am I supposed to inspect the work of a master illusionist? Besides, I’ve been watching, and I trust from what I’ve seen that you did a proper, intensive job. Better you went home once the job was done.”

She nodded acceptingly, not offended by his manner.

“I’m going to bed,” he grumbled.

“Without eating?”

“Too much on my mind,” he answered as he walked away. “I’ll be leaving before sunup, so I guess we won’t be seeing one another for awhile. Thanks for the hard work.”

“Mane Archon?” He paused. “Good luck.”

He didn’t answer. She didn’t mind. It was just his way.

The Mane Archon rarely got along with anypony else.

Author's Note:

When I first conceived of a MLP fanfiction, it ended up being a romantic shipping fic. As always, I ignored the impulse; I refuse to write any fanfic based solely upon shipping. Everyone writes shipping stories, and I want to try to keep my material original. That said, the scene between Fluttershy and Fine Crime in this Episode was one of the very first scenes I ever thought up, long before I realized the full scope of what I wanted to write.

Did I just confess to there being a romantic link between these two ponies? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it's obviously inevitable from what just happened that the two must form some sort of relationship, positive or negative, which is why I feel I can talk about them without really spoiling anything. And this is also why I generally avoided using Fluttershy early on: she's going to get a LOT of face time in the later Series.

A simple question for the audience: did I go too far by describing Fine's visions? They most certainly hit the scope I was after, and in detailing them I was hoping to make it absolutely clear the kind of terrible things he's been forced to live with all his life. But would it have been better if I'd not bothered?

What's the deal with Pinkie? You'll have to wait until the next series to find out.

There was one last thing I wanted to point out this time around, for I think some readers may start wondering about it: Fine Crime's personality shifts. We didn't see much of his less serious side in the first Series, so it might seem a little jarring of a shift when he uses it so much in Episodes like this. Let me explain.

Fine Crime uses two personalities, generally speaking. Note that I'm not saying he has Multiple Personality Disorder or anything like that. It's a ploy, a trick he uses. When working or dealing with important things he has a serious manner. But when he's out in public dealing with ponies not in the know of his occupation - which he's still determined to keep quiet about - he behaves in a much more 'charming' manner as a means of distraction. I also chose to make him a habitual liar when using this personality, to enhance the purpose. I refer to this version as the 'Garak' personality, as it is inspired by that of the character Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

But then there's the Fine Crime that spoke to Fluttershy. Now who, prat tell, was that? Verity Fine, maybe?