• Published 18th May 2015
  • 5,504 Views, 436 Comments

Inner Strength - Krickis

When Twilight overhears a private conversation, she has to come to terms with how she feels about herself, love, and a certain somepony. All while weighing her public image against her personal desires.

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16 - Storm Front

Chapter Sixteen

Storm Front

The trip to Cloudsdale was not off to a good start. Twilight kept trying to strike up a pleasant conversation, but Fluttershy was being even quieter than usual. It certainly didn’t help that they were drawing more than enough attention to distract both of them from talking, although that was certainly not the main problem.

Twilight couldn’t blame Fluttershy for being so reserved, but she did find some of her marefriend’s behavior baffling. It was clear that she hated her father, or Stormy Skies as she insisted he be called. But despite her reluctance to go, she seemed at least somewhat interested in making a good impression. She had dressed for the occasion, after all, and asked Twilight to do the same. It was nothing elaborate – they both wore simple and modest dresses – but Fluttershy wasn’t normally inclined to dress up for anything other than important events.

At least the crowd of onlookers faded away as they went further into the suburbs. The houses around them were all well kept, even if they did look almost identical. Twilight could see why Fluttershy had been intimidated by the size of her parents’ house. Even with the impressive architecture common of Cloudsdale homes, nothing around them was nearly as grand, with very few houses reaching two stories.

While most of the houses faded into one another, they eventually came to one that stood out, albeit not in a good way. It had cracked pillars, and a layer of grunge that Twilight simply wouldn’t have thought possible in a city where everything was built on top of a layer of cloud. Fluttershy stopped and stared from the street.

“Is this it?” Twilight asked. Fluttershy nodded. She wanted to compliment Fluttershy on her childhood home, but when she looked for something nice to say about the greying building, she instead found clouds cluttering the yard and some mold that didn’t look entirely healthy.

Rather than focus on that, she walked up to Fluttershy and pressed up against her, noticing how much she was shaking. “You know, it’s not too late. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

“No, I do have to,” Fluttershy said. “You’re right. I’ll never stop being afraid if I don’t face him.”

“Just remember, I’m right beside you. And all you have to do is say the word and we’re out of there.” Twilight kissed Fluttershy’s cheek, causing a trace of a smile to flash across her lips.

Taking one last deep breath, Fluttershy walked up to the door. She hesitated for a moment as she took one more look at the state of the house, but knocked all the same. “Just a moment,” a gruff voice called. Twilight saw Fluttershy go rigid at the sound and stood close to her in case she felt faint and needed support. Fluttershy just stared at the door resolutely.

The door opened to a grinning light blue pegasus with a grey mane. “Fluttershy! Dear Celestia, you’ve grown.” He held out a foreleg which Fluttershy ignored.

“Twilight, this is Stormy Skies. Stormy Skies, my marefriend Twilight Sparkle,” Fluttershy said. Twilight had to stop her jaw from dropping, not just at Fluttershy’s words but her tone. She had expected Fluttershy to revert to her usual timid self, possibly even that she’d hide behind Twilight and let her handle her own introduction. Instead, she addressed the stallion as if she dared him to say anything against her.

Stormy Skies pulled back his hoof and used it to awkwardly scratch at his neck. Once he remembered himself, he bowed to Twilight. “Princess Twilight, it’s an honor to meet you.”

“Please, that’s not necessary,” Twilight said. “And you can just call me Twilight.”

He stood up and held the door open. “Please, come in. I, uh, hope you’ll excuse the mess. I was going to clean but I ended up getting called in to work.”

Stepping inside made it clear he didn’t usually clean much, if at all. While the few possessions were more or less organized, there was a layer of dust on everything that suggested it was because he never used any of them. “I’ll go get dinner ready. Please, make yourselves at home.”

Twilight took a look around the room. Amongst the dusty possessions was a table that stood out for being clean, which Fluttershy seemed to be drawn to. There were a few things on it. A necklace, a detailed embroidery of two birds, a crocheted cloud candy figure, and in the center, a picture. At first glance, Twilight thought it was Fluttershy, until she remembered that Fluttershy had left home as a teenager. Upon closer inspection, the mare in the picture was a lighter shade of yellow and had a blue pincushion cutie mark.

“Is that your mom?” Twilight asked. Fluttershy nodded as tears began welling up in her eyes. Twilight moved closer and leaned her head against Fluttershy’s. “She’s really pretty.”

“Her name was Breezy Day,” Fluttershy said. “I always thought she was the prettiest mare in the world.” Unlike with Stormy Skies, there was nothing but love and admiration in the way Fluttershy looked at her mom.

“You know, you look a lot like her, Shy,” Twilight said. Fluttershy pulled away and turned to Twilight, her eyes widened but distant, darting around without really seeing anything. “Fluttershy?” Twilight reached a hoof out which Fluttershy flinched away from. She took one last look at her mom and walked away, leaving Twilight perplexed.

Following her around a corner, Twilight found herself in the dining room. “Fluttershy, what’s going on? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Fluttershy said. She sounded uncomfortable, like she didn’t want to be in that house, but otherwise she did seem okay. Twilight had decided before they left that she wouldn’t press Fluttershy to talk about anything until they were back in Ponyville, so she let it go.

She moved to stand next to her again, and found her examining the dust covering a cabinet filled with nice dinnerware. “It’s not like he didn’t know we were coming for weeks now.”

“True, but It wouldn’t hurt to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Twilight said. Fluttershy eyed her skeptically. “I’m definitely not justifying what he did in the past, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t making a real attempt now.”

Fluttershy looked doubtful. “I’m not surprised you think so. He’s a good liar.”

As much as Twilight wanted things to go smoothly, she was also hesitant to actually stand up for Stormy Skies, so she instead put a foreleg around Fluttershy in a half hug. “It’ll be okay, Shy. It’s just one dinner.”

Fluttershy leaned into Twilight’s hug. “You’re right. Thanks for coming with me, Twily.”

“You don't have to thank me, we’re a team.” Fluttershy just nodded. “So, do you want to take a look around? It’s been a long time since you’ve been here.”

“Oh, uhm, not really,” Fluttershy said, looking off to the side. “I don’t really have many good memories of this place.”

“Okay.” Twilight pulled out a chair for her. “Let’s just wait here then.”

They sat at the dining room table, Fluttershy continuing to look distant. As Twilight considered what she could say to cheer her up, Stormy Skies came in. “Dinner’s ready. I’m, uh, not really the best cook, so I hope spaghetti's okay.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Twilight said as she stood up. They followed him into the kitchen and Twilight served herself and Fluttershy. It was a simple meal, pasta and pre-made sauce, but Twilight was glad he had chosen to go simple. Being a poor cook herself, she knew all too well what dinner would have been like if he had decided to try and impress them with a home cooked meal.

“What can I get you to drink? I have wine, beer, and…” he paused, sniffing a carton of milk before putting it back in the fridge. “Water.”

Twilight was going to ask for wine, but Fluttershy was quick to answer for both of them. “We’ll have water.”

“Probably for the best, this stuff’s pretty cheap,” he said, eyeing the wine dubiously before pouring himself a glass. “I’m sure that the two of you are used to fancier things than I can offer.”

Not sure of how to believably convince him she wasn’t picky without also accepting his wine, and not wanting to overrule Fluttershy’s decision, Twilight just smiled politely as they made their way back to the table. She thought of explaining that it was just because Fluttershy didn’t drink alcohol, but then she might make him feel bad about choosing wine for himself. Besides, Fluttershy never had a problem when Twilight or any of their friends drank, and she certainly didn’t want to make it seem like Fluttershy pushed her own decisions on others.

Once everypony had their food and was seated back in the dining room, they began looking around, waiting for somepony to say something. Fluttershy avoided looking at Stormy Skies, who smiled nervously, looking between her and Twilight. Twilight wasn’t sure if she should start talking or eating. The awkward mood persisted until everypony eventually turned their attention to their food.

After an uncomfortable few minutes, it was Stormy Skies who broke the silence. “You know, I just can’t get over how big you’ve grown. You’re almost as big as me now!”

“That happens after ten years,” Fluttershy said without looking away from her plate. Her voice sounded detached.

Stormy Skies’ smile faded. “Look, Fluttershy, I know I wasn’t the best dad in the world.” He took a sip of his wine. “I was actually pretty bad at it. But I’m glad we have this chance to wipe the slate clean.”

Fluttershy didn’t acknowledge what he said at first. Eventually she said, “I just… had to see this place one more time.”

“Well you know, it doesn’t have to be just one more time. You’re always welcome back here.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Fluttershy said. Even after what Fluttershy had told her, Twilight couldn’t believe how cold she was being. She’d never known Fluttershy to be resentful.

Stormy Skies idly twirled his pasta as silence hung over them. Eventually, Twilight decided to attempt to smooth over the animosity. “So, where do you work?” she asked, hoping that she could get both ponies in a neutral conversation and then build from there.

“Down at the weather factory,” he said, smile returning. “Nothing as glamorous as helping rule Equestria, but I do alright.”

“Well, I don’t really do much ruling,” Twilight said sheepishly. “I’m more like an ambassador, spreading friendship when I can.”

“That’s not the way the news has it. There’s a lot of talk about how you’re helping lead Equestria into something better.”

Twilight didn’t quite remember those news stories. Everypony still seemed determined to blame them for all of Equestria’s problems, many of which didn’t actually exist. Recently the idea that it was actually Fluttershy who had corrupted Twilight was taking hold, thanks to The Virtuous Equestrian Society. “Well, there’s certainly been a lot of talk in the news these day, that’s for sure.”

“Ponies just love to gossip, nothing to worry about there.” Stormy Skies shrugged, taking a sip of his wine. “I for one am just glad to see Fluttershy found somepony to make her happy.”

Fluttershy actually smiled at that. Twilight grinned, happy to see her returning to the warm pony she loved so much, until she spoke. “So I guess your daughter turned out to be a faggot after all.”

“Fluttershy!” Twilight was shocked. Fluttershy just stared dispassionately across the table, waiting for a response.

“I, uh, I guess I might have said some things, huh?” He looked down as he spoke. “Things you weren’t really supposed to hear. Although I suppose I wouldn’t really be surprised if you told me I’d said some of it to you after I’d been drinking. And I’m sorry for that.”

“Hmph.” Fluttershy resumed eating her pasta. Twilight looked down at her own plate, unsure of what to do. She knew one dinner wasn’t going to make amends for years of abuse, but she was beginning to think nothing short of professional counseling could dent Fluttershy’s animosity towards Stormy Skies, who seemed to be legitimately trying to make amends.

After several minutes of awkward dining in which nopony seemed to eat very much, Stormy Skies stood up. “I have a gift for you. It’s nothing really big, but I thought you should have it.” He walked out of the dining room and down the hall.

“So, uh, how you doing, Shy?” Twilight asked once he was out of earshot. She was being very careful with her words. If she made it sound like she was accusing Fluttershy of not trying hard enough, she knew she would mess everything up.

“He’s so unbelievable,” Fluttershy said angrily.

“Maybe he really just wants to start over,” Twilight said. She knew she was treading a thin line, but it didn’t seem like she crossed it yet.

“You just don’t know him like I do. He’s good at putting on a mask to make himself look good.” Fluttershy began devouring her food, either out of anger or because she wanted an excuse to be done with this dinner.

It was only a minute or so before Stormy Skies returned. He brought a picture in a frame, which he set down in front of Fluttershy. Twilight had never seen Fluttershy as a filly, but there was no mistaking it. She was on a bed with her mother, and they were each holding up embroideries like the one on the table in the living room. Fluttershy’s was a heart, simple but perfect; it was very impressive for a filly as young as she looked in the picture. Breezy Day’s was a trio of sunflowers.

“I… I remember this,” Fluttershy said. “Mama was just teaching me how to sew. She was sure I’d get my cutie mark as a seamstress, just like her. Then we showed you what we made and you left without saying anything. I thought you hated it, but then you came back with a camera you’d borrowed and said ‘a family should have a photo album, and this looks like the perfect time to start one.’ ” She kept her voice steady, but tears were rolling down her cheek.

“Yeah, well…” Stormy Skies sat back down and moved his food around, but something told Twilight they were done eating. “That picture reminds me I didn’t always screw everything up, even if I never did start that photo album. I don’t have many pictures of her, but I know you don’t have any, so I think she’d want you to have it.”

“Thank you,” Fluttershy said. She was smiling and this time Twilight was sure it was genuine.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t mention it,” Stormy Skies said. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with emotional displays, but Twilight was pretty sure she’d seen him blink back a tear himself. He took another sip of his wine.

Fluttershy frowned at the mostly empty wine glass. “Why do you drink so much?”

He glanced at his glass. “I wouldn’t say one glass of wine is too much.”

“And you didn’t have anything to drink before we got here?” Fluttershy asked doubtfully.

Stormy Skies looked off to the side. “Well, maybe just a bit. I was actually pretty nervous, believe it or not.”

“You always drank too much,” Fluttershy said. She looked at the picture and the excited filly in it. She held up the little embroidery like it was a trophy – smiling not for the camera, Twilight was sure, but the stallion holding it. “I used to love you, you know. Before Mama died, on nights when you weren’t drunk. When you’d sing, or talk to us without yelling, or even just read your paper while I colored. You weren’t the best dad, but sometimes you were good enough.”

Stormy Skies pushed his remaining wine to the side. “You’re right. I had a problem for a long time, and I know what it put you and your mom through. I know I can’t change any of that. But I’m doing better and I’m tired of screwing up everything I touch. I know it’s probably too late for me to ever be your dad again, but you’ll never stop being my daughter, and I just want you back in my life.”

Fluttershy shook her head. Her tears were all dried up now and nothing but the cold anger from before remained on her face. “After all these years I still almost believed you. But you’re not doing any better. You don’t have anything but alcohol in your fridge, and I bet there’s more under the counter.” Stormy Skies frowned but didn’t deny it. “You couldn’t even be bothered to clean this place up.”

“Well, I meant to, but I –”

“But you were working?” Fluttershy cut him off. “That was another lie. Rainbow told me you got fired. She has a friends in the weather factory, and some of them even covered for you when you were too drunk to show up.”

Stormy Skies hung his head and didn’t say anything.

Eventually Fluttershy continued her accusations. “Years passed, and you never even looked for me.”

“Well, when you left I did try to find you. I looked all over Cloudsdale for you. After that I didn’t know where to look, and I just hoped you were alright, and that you didn’t want to be found.” Apparently forgetting his decision to not drink anymore, he finished his wine. “And I think it’s safe to say I was right. Then I started seeing you in the news and I realized I missed out on watching you grow up. I finally knew where to find you, so I reached out to you.”

Twilight had planned to let them air out their problems, hoping if they stopped bottling things up they’d both see it was time to move on, but as he sat fidgeting in his chair she could see more and more that Fluttershy was right about him. “After we defeated Nightmare Moon, any paper could have pointed you to Ponyville. Why didn’t you write to her then?”

He looked between them, unable to answer. Twilight saw his eyes dart back to his empty wine glass before returning to Fluttershy. She was going to suggest they leave but Fluttershy wasn’t finished yet.

Fluttershy continued to stare at him resolutely, apparently unwilling to yeild until he answered. “Why now?”

“Well, of course I was proud of you after Nightmare Moon, and everything else, but I was worried I’d just buck up your life more. Then I saw you’d finally found a, uhm, companion and I –”

“Marefriend,” Fluttershy said. “I’m gay and I have a marefriend. It’s really not that hard.”

Stormy Skies stared silently for a moment, jaw clenched. Fluttershy held her ground and glared back. “Right, sorry, marefriend,” he said eventually, trying to smile and not pulling it off as well as he had earlier. “I guess I just got tired of reading about your life instead of getting to be part of it.”

Fluttershy slammed her hoof on the table and Stormy Skies jumped to his feet. “Stop lying! Don’t you dare…” Her voice caught in her throat.

Stormy Skies looked like he might charge them. Twilight stood as well, but Fluttershy remained seated, not moving an inch and holding his glare. Eventually he broke eye contact. “I need your help… The bank is threatening to repossess the house, and my unemployment check can’t cover what I owe.”

“But it’s still enough for your alcohol,” Fluttershy spat. “After everything that happened, everything you said, what you did, what you put me through. Those nights after Mama died. After all of that, you think I’ll help you? What, you think because Twilight’s a princess that gives you access to some kind of royal treasury? If I was with a different mare, you’d never invite me here.” When he didn’t answer, Fluttershy stood up as well. She reached into her coin purse and pulled out five bits, which she tossed on the table, letting them roll away. Two fell on the floor, clinking loudly in the otherwise silent room. “That should more than cover what you paid for dinner. Let’s go, Twilight.”

Fluttershy grabbed the picture and tucked it under her wing. They walked past him and he didn’t say anything or move to stop them. It was only when Fluttershy pulled open the front door that he called after them. “You hate me. Fine, I’m a bastard and I’d hate me too. But this was your home too, your mother’s home. Please, don’t let them take it away.”

Fluttershy turned to face him. “This was the house I spent the worst years of my life in. This was where I was beaten, where I was treated worse than dirt, where I cried myself to sleep and spent every night hoping I’d die instead of spending another day with you. This house can burn down for all I care.” She turned back around and walked out the door, leaving him alone.

Twilight followed after her, jogging to keep up. “Fluttershy, where are you going? We can just fly home.” Fluttershy wheeled around and looked so furious Twilight thought she was going to start yelling at her, but after a moment her face fell and she let herself deflate into Twilight.

“I just… hate him so much.”

Twilight hugged her tightly. “I know, but it’s over now. You never have to see him again. Do you want to do anything else while we’re in Cloudsdale?” Twilight smiled as she pulled out her secret weapon. “Maybe go out for ice cream or something?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “Please, let’s just go home,” she said, clearly fighting back tears.

“Alright.” Twilight nodded. She had been sure ice cream would work, it always cheered Fluttershy up. They took to the air, Twilight carrying the picture with her magic.

They flew in silence until they landed in Ponyville. “So, your place or mine?” Twilight asked.

“Mine. I just… I don’t want to walk through town,” Fluttershy said. She began walking with her head hung down. “Telling everypony was a mistake.”

“Don’t say that.”

“If we never came out we wouldn’t have ponies harassing us and he never would have written to me.”

“I’m sorry, it was my idea to go. I knew you didn’t want to, I should have just left it alone.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, you were right. He was just a pony after all.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence. When they reached Fluttershy’s house, she lead the way to the bedroom, not even stopping for any of the animals along the way. She collapsed on the bed and Twilight curled around her. They lay still for so long that Twilight thought she might have fallen asleep, until she sat up suddenly and turned to Twilight.

“I’m sorry, I… I’m not good enough for you.”

Taken off guard by the sudden outburst, Twilight sat up and tilted her head to the side. “Are you worried about what the news said? Come on, Shy, you know better than to take them seriously.” Twilight tried to kiss her, but she moved away.

“No. I mean, yes, that bothered me too, but I was talking about Stormy Skies.”

Twilight took Fluttershy’s trembling hooves into hers. “Why would I hold him against you?”

Fluttershy turned to her with tears in her eyes. “Please, Twily, I need to tell you something. Something important. But it’s really really hard to talk about, so please, just let me talk.”

Twilight couldn’t imagine anything that would be worth getting so worked up about. She nodded. “Okay.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath which didn’t help her shaking. “After my mom died and he started drinking more, things got… really bad.” As Fluttershy paused Twilight had to fight back the urge to tell her that everything was okay now.

“One night when I was asleep h-he came into my room. He woke me up when he threw the door open.” She paused to take a few deep breaths, which led to more sobbing before she could continue. “He reeked of alcohol… I’d n-never seen him so… so drunk before. He… he told me it wasn’t fair that she… that she died. She died and left him with me.”

She trailed off again and began crying. Twilight held her, stroking her mane. Her heart started racing, but she didn’t know why. She wouldn’t let herself imagine why.

After a few minutes passed and Fluttershy didn’t say anything Twilight pulled her closer. “It’s okay, Shy. You don’t have to talk about it.”

“I do.” Fluttershy choked out through her sobs. “I… I…H-he…”

“Shh…” Twilight kissed her head. “Just take a minute to calm down, then tell me.” Twilight was finding it harder and harder to resist the thought. He didn’t. He wouldn’t.

After a few more minutes of crying and deep breathing, Fluttershy continued, holding on tightly to Twilight. “He told me that I looked just like her.” Twilight’s heart lurched, remembering the way Fluttershy had looked at her when she made the same offhoof comment. She’d been afraid. “He told me since it was my fault, that I owed him. He… he held me against the bed and… and he raped me.”

“He what!?” Twilight forgot her promise to just let Fluttershy talk. She jumped to her hooves, forgetting they were on the bed. She forgot everything as the room around her faded out, and the only thing she was aware of was that she was going to kill him. She was going to fly straight back to Cloudsdale and drag him out of his house, and she’d make him answer for what he did. He’d be lucky if she let him die quickly.

Slowly she became aware of a sound, which she realized was Fluttershy crying. As the room around her faded back into her perception she saw her marefriend, the most important pony in the world to her, had curled into a ball at her hooves. She was covering her face with her wing, hiding herself away as she cried.

“I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m so so sorry, just please don’t leave me, please. I’m sorry, I love you, I’ll do anything you want, just please stay with me.”

Twilight couldn’t believe herself. Supporting Fluttershy was the most important thing she could do, and instead she’d terrified her. “Why are you sorry?” She laid back down and reached a hoof out to Fluttershy, who flinched, causing her to quickly pull it back.

“You… you deserve better. You deserve s-somepony who isn’t… used.” Fluttershy managed to say through her sobs. “But I’m… I’m so selfish… I just can’t let you go.”

“Fluttershy, please, don’t say things like that. You should never be sorry for what happened to you. It wasn’t your fault, and it doesn’t change who you are. Or how much I love you, nothing could ever change that.” Fluttershy lowered her wing to look at Twilight. “I can’t believe I convinced you to go back there. I’m so sorry, I never would have suggested that if I had known.”

“It’s… it’s okay. You didn’t know. I never told you. I… I wanted you to keep loving me.” She moved a little closer to Twilight.

“I’ll always love you, no matter what.” Twilight was going to try to hold her again when something horrible occurred to her. “Oh. Oh no. All those time when I wanted to… do stuff. And you… I’m so, so sorry, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “You always stopped it.”

“I never should have started anything to begin with. I only stopped after I already knew it was upsetting you.” Twilight couldn’t believe what she must have put Fluttershy through. She had always tried to be patient, and never said anything hurtful, but she knew there had been at least a few times that her mounting frustration must have been pretty obvious.

Fluttershy rested her hoof on Twilight’s foreleg. “I was just happy you stopped it before… before I ever let you do… that kind of stuff with me. You’re so perfect, and I’m… ruined.”

Twilight reached out a hoof and when Fluttershy didn’t pull away she pulled them closer to one another. “Fluttershy, listen to me. This doesn’t change anything between us. Anything. You’re not used, or ruined, or anything else, okay?”

Fluttershy snuggled in closer. “Why are you so perfect?”

Twilight held her tight. “I don’t know about perfect. But I’ll always try to be the best I can be for you, because that’s what you deserve.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I… I don’t deserve you. I’m just… I’m…”

Twilight cut her off with a kiss. “Fluttershy, you are the most wonderful pony I’ve ever met. I know you would never hold anything like this against anypony else. If I told you something like that happened to me, you wouldn’t think any less of me. Why do you think less of yourself?”

“You… you won’t leave me, will you?” Fluttershy asked.

“Of course not. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

Fluttershy cried as Twilight held her. Twilight whispered that everything would be okay, that she loved her, that she was beautiful, anything Twilight could think of to remind her that nothing had changed.

Eventually Fluttershy fell asleep, but Twilight stayed awake holding her. She continued to whisper into the sleeping mare’s ear every positive thing she could think of, hoping to guide her to happier dreams. Eventually Twilight fell asleep with her head resting against Fluttershy’s.

Author's Note:

So rape in fiction is something a lot of people feel some kind of way about, myself included. I was gonna include my thoughts here but I'm a wordy bastard so I decided it'd be better to make it a blog post instead.

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