• Published 25th Jun 2012
  • 4,921 Views, 127 Comments

In a Tavern, Down by the River - Lysis

Trixie is not a weak pony.

  • ...

Open Road

The sound of rain drumming on the roof is gone, replaced by a silent grey morning. Predictably, I can’t muster up the willpower to get out of bed. Instead I draw the curtains and sulk for a few minutes. Those minutes turn into two hours. Stock eventually brings me a late meal while I pretend to snore. I pick at my toast and eggs and try not to think about last night.

Instead, I think about Stock.

He knew what was going on from the very beginning. Has Barrel talked it over with him yet? Has he given her emotional support? The poor dear needs it, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I’m not good at giving that kind of advice.

It’s almost like whenever I’m sincere with her, I make her cry. That’s not fair, especially not when she’s doing so much to make me feel better.

...Make me feel better? Because I’ve needed comforting, haven’t I? Poor little Trixie can’t sleep well anymore without companionship? It wasn't that way before, so why now? I’m not a weak pony. I’d never apologize for doing something I believed in. So if I believe that I need her for comfort, why can’t I accept it without feeling guilty?

Ah, right. Because you’re not supposed to put burdens like that on your friends. I don’t think so, anyway.

Hmph. What with all this weakness Barrel’s seen from me, she probably thinks I’m some fragile flower. Getting weepy over family, always worrying about where I’m going to go from here. The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn’t need a home to go to, and she doesn’t need to stay here! I only need myself to be happy.

Fortified by these thoughts, I bring out the parchment and try to brainstorm some new acts, like I promised myself I would.

I give up after a few hours. I don’t have any focus today – the sun is out now, ponies are filling the streets, the city is awake again, and I want to be outside with them! It’s not fair!

I keep reminding myself I absolutely must wait for the roads to dry. They probably have rules about carriages on the paths; they don’t want them ruined. I have to stay, at least one more day. Then I’ll go. No harm in waiting.

I turn down Barrel’s offer to talk that evening. I don’t know why I did it – after a day like that, some idle conversation would have done me good – but I guess it’s to prove a point to myself.

It doesn’t work. After a restless night, I find myself downstairs nursing my third cup of coffee. I yawn for what feels like the thousandth time, slumping forwards in my seat, my chin resting on the table.

So predictable. I talk with her, I sleep like a foal. I don’t talk to her, no sleep for me. Yay.

I curse the greedy little pony in my head for wanting what I won’t let it have. I can only imagine how hard it’ll be to get over it once I’m on the road again.

Feh. I shouldn’t need to get over anything at all. I’m like a broken record.

While I’m sitting there feeling sorry for myself, Stock comes round to fill my cup again. I bring it up, take a long swallow, then stop and look around. Something about the room is wrong today.

“Stock, where’s Barrel? Isn’t she up yet?”

“Don’t think so.” he sighs, pouring another cup of java for another customer. “She hasn’t been sleeping well, so I’m giving her an extra hour. You wouldn’t know anything about why she can’t sleep, would you?”

His tone is conversational, but I can tell it’s only that way because he’s being professional.

“I haven’t the foggiest,” I half-lie. “Do you want me to talk to her later?”

He nods and walks off to another set of tables. I sigh yet again, intent on studying my drink.

More complications? Really? It’s so irresponsible of her! Doesn’t she know her worrying isn’t helping anypony? It’s just going to make me worry about her!

Aaargh, why do I keep hurting her without meaning to? Why does she have to be so sensitive? So I told her a sad story. Fine. So I’m leaving soon. Also fine. So she loves me. Whatever. It’s not like any of this affects me. It’s not like I love her too. I mean, if I did, it would be harder to leave, but I’d still go. I’m not about to lose my freedom over one mare. And I’ll be leaving tonight anyways. Heck, the roads are probably dry already. I could leave right... right now. I could get up and go right now. It would be easy. Barrel’s a strong enough mare, when she wants to be. It wouldn’t hurt her much, would it?

And then my mind decides to buck me in the chest by conjuring up a mental image of her crying into her pillow. I give in.

Fine. I’ll talk to her. I owe it to her anyways. The only time you can avoid saying “goodbye” is if you never say “hello”, after all.

When she stumbles downstairs and takes her place behind the bar, I'm waiting for her. As we make small talk, her gloomy look gradually vanishes – but small talk is all we do. I don’t want to bring up the real issues here where everypony could hear.

I beckon her closer so I can whisper in her ear. “Hey, can your dad take over the bar for a while today? Like for a few hours?”

“I guess. Sure. What’s up?”

“I want to talk with you. Really talk with you. Can we take a walk?”

- - -

The streets are dry, and the stonework of the city is shining, washed clean by the rain. Like yesterday, it seems like everypony in the city is out enjoying the weather. I admit it; I’m happy to see Barrel finally come out of that inn. She really needs to get out more. Staying in one place like that has to get depressing eventually.

She’s steered us towards a park about a mile or so away from the inn. I agreed with the destination in earnest. Nopony will take notice of us in the crowds and who knows? I might have a chance to practice a few tricks while I’m there too.

At the moment though, I’m struggling with what to say. I’d like to tell her, “Just get over me and be done with it,” but that’s impossible. And it’s not like she could start travelling with me, or anything like that. No matter how I look at it, she’s let herself fall for the worst possible mare. So–

“What did you want to say to me?”

“I don’t know,” I answer, still trying to come up with a topic to latch onto. “I’ll think of something eventually. Let’s just walk for a bit.”

A few minutes of awkward silence pass. Barrel soon grows restless.

“Did I do something wrong again? You didn’t want to talk last night, and–”

“That had nothing to do with you. Why are you always blaming yourself first whenever I seem to have a problem?”

“Because I screwed up! Back a few days ago, when I told you I... it was a stupid thing to say when I said it. I shouldn’t have put you on the spot like that! Of course I’m to blame, of course it’s a big problem, and of course I'm gonna blame myself for being a big problem.”

Is that what’s been bothering her all this time? Seriously? I thought we’d already cleared this up.

“All you did was tell the truth, and then after you told the truth, you tried to avoid making me feel like you were pressuring me by saying it. I’ll keep saying it as much as I have to for it to sink into that thick earth pony skull of yours; all the time you’ve kept me company has been time well spent. How many times do I have to say you’ve done nothing wrong?”

“I-I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. I just don’t want to ruin everything by being, you know, that girl, the one that you remember because she was such a pain. You’re so brave, so open and honest about who you are. I could never be like you.”

“You shouldn’t want to be like me, Barrel. You should want to be yourself, always. When you act like yourself, you’re a wonderful pony, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Friends like you are hard to come by.” She smiles and blushes, like I knew she would.

“Thanks, I guess. Nice of you to say that, even though you’ve probably had loads of friends and girlfriends.”

Wait. What? She thinks I’ve had girlfriends before?

I burst into laughter. “Girlfriends? Friends? I haven’t met a single pony in years that I've wanted to be friends with! They were just fans. Onlookers. Pretty mares standing in the back row. None of them had any personality, charm, or depth.”

“You mean I’m different? But I’m such a boring pony!”

“And yet here you are, talking to The Great and Powerful Trixie. I know a good thing when I see it. It’s a rare thing to be recognized for being good, you know. Take Canterlot – they’re so full of themselves they don’t even know a good thing when it’s thrown right in their faces.”

Barrel snorts. “Did your shows there bomb?”

"Horribly. Doing a magic act in a city filled with unicorns wasn’t my most brilliant plan.”

We both laugh and press on. I honestly don’t think Barrel understands that it’s never been easy for me to make friends. It’s like the longer I know them, the greater the chance that they won’t want anything to do with me. It’s unfair. I’m not really as bad as my stage persona suggests. Granted, I’m not modest, but why would I be modest? I’m an amazing pony, or so I’ve been told, and I’m... getting off track.

Hmm. Weird. It used to be so easy to imagine us in closer circumstances. But now I don’t want to think of her like that. So does that mean that whatever I felt then is gone now, or is it that I don’t want to think of a friend like that? Or that thinking of her like that is an insult? She’s more than a pretty face, after all.

“You’ve got a lot on your mind, huh?”

“Hmm? What?”

“You’ve been staring off into space for five minutes.”

“Have I? I was just thinking... oh. We’re here already?”

Barrel nods. The green park stretches out before us, packed with pairs of ponies. I could spend ages using thousand bit words to describe the gardens, the carefully manicured paths, the pond in the center – where right now, a family of ducks is swimming across the glassy surface, while foals on the bank toss them breadcrumbs – but I would much rather look at her while she smiles.

“Here, come on. I know a good spot.”

She leads me over to a bench by a fountain. There is a popcorn salespony giving out free samples, a few young pegasi are having flying lessons over the lake, and couples are–

Wait. Couples?

It’s true. Barrel’s ‘good spot’ is practically overflowing with lovers of all ages. As I digest this new information, Barrel scoots over next to me, passing over a bag full of popcorn.

Then, as if she was waiting for this exact moment, she reaches up behind her neck. Quick as a wink, her braid is undone and her mane is hanging free. She gives her head a little shake and sighs in relief, her hair hanging in curls around her face. It's the first time I've seen it completely untied, and it's actually very... fluffy.

I've always liked loose manes, fluffy ones especially. She's adorable.

I swallow hard.

She’s not even trying to be subtle anymore, is she? Oh well. So what? Even if she’s doing this on purpose, what’s the harm? It’s not as if I don’t like spending time with her.

I still float out my popcorn instead of reaching in the bag with my hoof. I don’t want to give the wrong impression to the passersby. I can see it now: "Oh, no sir. No Ma'am. We're not dating. We just have a complicated friendship."

Right. So I got her out of the bar, and now I need to talk. How do I even broach the subject? “Barrel, your dad was talking to me earlier, and he’s really concerned about how you haven’t been sleeping well” ... no, too obvious. “Barrel, I was wondering what kind of dreams you’ve been having about me?” ...Heh. No. But it’d almost be worth her reaction to ask it.

“Hey Barrel, in your dreams am I a good pony, or a bad pony?” Or even better, “Hey Barrel, how good am I in your dreams? Oh, don’t stammer like that, it’s so unbecoming of you. The blush is cute, though. Have I mentioned how well you do that?”

Barrel is smiling and laughing at the antics of a few foals. I’m finding her smile infectious. She also does that very well.

And I love her laugh too. The way it sounds so sincere, and how her eyes light up. Am I like that when I laugh? Probably not. I’m so used to being bigger and better than everypony that I make everything about me bigger and better. I’ll bet my laugh is forced. My smiles, too.

I’d actually be fine with staying here all day and watching her smile. Just to sit here and watch the sunset with her. I’m sure we wouldn’t have to find excuses to be together. She’s been so good to me, she deserves something in return. And then after we watched the sun set, as we’re walking back to the inn, I’d stop her under a streetlamp. She’d look into my eyes, and then I’d lean in, and...

Wait, what the hay am I thinking!? I can’t let myself think like this! Get a hold of yourself, Trixie!

I give my head a strong shake and resist the urge to pound my skull with my hooves. I’ve been thinking about her without even realizing! Worse yet, I’ve been enjoying it!

I’ve settled for rubbing my forehead instead of beating against it. Barrel scoots closer to see what the matter is, but I wave her away and tell her it's nothing.

It most certainly is not nothing. At least she cares. And it's cute how she always wants to make me feel better. I’ve always wanted a nurse with a nice smile and a great fla– grrrrr... Stop it. Just, no. Why did this have to happen now? I was doing so well, too!

But not well enough. I tear my eyes off her to look at something else – anything else – but all I can see are the couples making out by the pond. Everypony is prancing around with childish glee, all as if to torment me further.

“Ergh. Barrel, be honest. Did you plan this?”

“Plan what?” she asks, wiping some popcorn butter off her mouth.

“Please, don’t play innocent with me. It’s obvious what you’re doing. Best seat in the park is next to lovers lane, huh? I knew you were bold, but outside of the inn? In public? I wasn't expecting that from you.”

To my surprise, however, she does not blush, nor look away.

“It’s not like that. The park is always like this, everywhere. It’s just that mom used to take me here when I was a foal, and I thought you’d like it.”

My voice softens as some of the fight goes out of me. “Really? You haven’t ever mentioned your mother before.”

Then again, I haven’t asked. Maybe I should have.

“She was the best, “ Barrel sighs wistfully, recalling some far-off memory. “I used to have nightmares all the time when I was little. She’d always come into my room and make everything better. I wish you could have met her. I think she’d have liked you.”

I pause, then give in. “Tell me more about her.”

I know it’s off track, but I think she wants me to ask. Why bring her up otherwise?

“Not much to tell, really. I remember her smile and the times at night, because there were so many of them. I remember how mom would take me under her wing when things got bad, and how soft and warm it was, and..."

She sighs wistfully, and I know exactly how she feels. It is wondrous soft under a pegasi's wings, and few places make you feel safer. Still, talking about all this can't be easy for her. I give her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

"I'm sorry she's not around anymore. She sounds like a wonderful pony."

"Yeah, she was. She always made me happy. She helped me get my cutie mark, too."

I glance down at the two clinking mugs on her flank, and curiosity wins out again. After I ask her to tell me that story, she nods and takes a moment to think.

“When your family runs a business, you want to help them any way you can. The first year I started, I was too young to be behind the bar with dad, so I stayed in back and helped mom with the brewing. I was decent at it, I guess. Not as good as she was. I wasn’t terrible at it – I was following her recipes, after all – but there was something missing. Not so much a taste, but a feeling you got from it.”

“A ‘feeling’? What kind of feeling? You mean from tasting the drink?”

“Yes, but no, not exactly. It’s weird, I can’t really put it into words. It’s the feeling you get when somepony else really likes something you’ve created.”

“I think I know what that feels like.”

“Yeah? I wasn’t feeling it. All I could see were flaws and I was too frustrated to have any fun. So you know what mom said?" I shake my head. "She said just because my batches tasted different from hers, that didn't make them bad. She told me to start brewing the way I wanted, not worry about different tastes or whatever, and you know what? It got fun again. I liked brewing, but what I really liked best was seeing mom smile when I’d done a good job. Still didn't get me my mark, though."

"If it didn’t get you your mark, why are you going into so much detail about root beer?"

“Because I was frustrated I didn't have anything to show for it."

Ah. I think I know how that feels, too.

"So anyways, one night this old stallion staggers in. He looks broken, tired, more depressed than anypony I've ever seen. He slides up to the bar and Daddy starts to play therapist, but Grey Mane ain't listening. He tells dad to hush up and bring a bottle of Spiked Horseshoe. Since he's sober and Daddy has to serve him, he looks at me and tells me to fetch it from the back.”

“And let me guess – you didn’t bring him the hard stuff. You brought him some of your own root beer, didn’t you?”

She laughs. “I guess it’s a pretty predictable story. I was taking a risk by doing it, sure, but I was optimistic. Bit vain too, I guess. I figured if my drink could make Mom and Dad smile, it could cheer him up too. When I pushed out the mug, he didn’t even glance in my direction. He tossed it back without even smelling it." Barrel giggles. "Oh, mare, if you could see the look on his face! He asks for more, and I give him another. And another.”

“And he was still smiling when he left, right? You must have been proud of yourself.”

“Sure I was. He was like a changed pony when he left, and all because of me. I figured if I could make ponies happy by serving them drinks and talking to them, then that’s what I wanted to do. And just like that, this popped up on my flank," she says, patting her whither. "And that's it. I know it’s not very interesting, no late night adventure like you, no winning a contest or big game, and no sudden epiphany. It just sorta happened.”

It almost sounds like it was underwhelming for her. But I couldn’t possibly

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.”

“Oh, sure. I feel the same way about mine.” I smile and nod, but inside I’m screaming in frustration.

How can I possibly bring up the sore subject of leaving after hearing a heartfelt story like that!? Maybe she’s smarter than I gave her credit for. I can’t keep underestimating the audience! I’ll have to be more careful next time. I’ll wait for a bit, and then I’ll– erk.

I’ve suddenly become most aware that Barrel has chosen this moment to scoot up close and nuzzle me under my chin. I can almost hear her purring like a kitten. Then she pulls back and gives me a hug.

“You’re such a good friend, Trixie. Thanks for listening to me. It means a lot.”

I struggle to regain the power of speech. Forget what she said earlier; she's definitely getting bolder.

“I... uh, you’re welcome. It’s no trouble at all.”

“It isn’t? Is it okay if I tell you something else, then?”

As we sit on the bench and she snuggles up closer, it suddenly dawns on me that this might be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. The way she’s smiling, so clearly in bliss, the way she’s not afraid of being seen with me like this; it all says that she’s probably going to tell me something important and personal. I have a feeling I know what it is.

“Yeah. You can tell me whatever you want.”

Go on. Say that you want me to stay at the inn because you like me, or whatever. Be selfish. Even though you know what I’ll say, you’ll tell me anyway because I know how you think. I’ll be well within my rights to turn you down gently.

“You’ve done a lot to help me these last few days. It’s like I’ve gotten to know the real you. It's really weird... I don’t know if I lik– I mean, no! I don't mean it's weird! I mean the kind of pony you actually are and the pony I thought you were are like two different ponies, and I wasn’t sure if I liked the real you. Actually, I think I like you even more now that I know. The real you is such a strong pony, I can’t help but like you.”

The real me? Ridiculous. I’m still the same pony I always was.

“Would you mind explaining that? About the ‘real’ me?”

She nods. “The real Trixie has been through a lot more than I thought. The Trixie everypony sees is bright, cheerful, loud, loves parties and fireworks and knows all kinds of neat magic, but the Trixie I’ve seen is so lonely it makes me hurt inside to see you. But you don't cry about being lonely. You keep on going, no matter what. I liked that about you."

Hmm. So, I’ve been too obvious again. I need to stop that.

Barrel leans into me again. "Remember before, when I said you were like a big sister? It was ‘cause like a big sister, you always knew the right thing to do. You knew because the world made you strong. ‘Course, that strength made me start crushing on you, so...” she trails off, too embarrassed to continue.

I tousle her mane and give her a smile. “It’s not your fault. You aren’t the first.”

“I can believe it” She laughs. “You’ve learned so much out there, but it seems like it’d be really hard on you. Just going from place to place, doing a few shows, carrying on. I’ve seen how happy you are when you’re here with us. Being around you makes me feel happy too. Sometimes when we talk, you even smile.”

Really? Do I?

Barrel starts fidgeting again, looking down at her hooves. “A-anyway, you know how I f-feel. I want to help you, and I was wondering something. This is gonna sound really stupid, but, um, I was thinking, d-do you think you could let... um...” She bites her lip, shaking. She tries again a few more times but can only stammer.

I come to the rescue. “Barrel, you know that I can’t stay here with you and Stock and the others. You know I'll miss everypony, don't you? If it helps, I’ll be sure to write you, and to visit whenever I come to Trottingham. Knowing there’s a good friend out there I can talk to is all I’ll need to stop the loneliness from getting to me. Okay?”

Barrel stops fidgeting. She looks disappointed – almost angry at herself – but the look soon fades. “Okay, Trixie. If that’ll help you, that’s what I’ll do. But for now, do you mind if we stay like this for a while?”

“Nah, I don't mind. Sure we can. I think I’d like that.”

She rests her head on my shoulder and we sit silently together, oblivious to the families trotting by. We end up watching the sunset together after all. By the time I finally walk her back to the inn, the moon is high in the sky. She gives me a quick hug before she goes, while I smile, returning the hug as best I can manage. For once, it’s a real smile.

It’s only after I’m in my room with the door shut that I start actually thinking about what’s just happened.

What I’ve allowed to happen. My smile fades away as I start pacing the room.

It was a nice night. A nice day, too, and I didn’t have to raise a hoof to enjoy it. Maybe that’s why I let myself get distracted so easily. None of that talking solved the problem. She didn’t get closure. She’s still going to obsess over me, she’s still going to worry. If anything, she’ll be even more obsessed after today! And knowing she can’t help me is going to end up making her feel even worse!

Not to mention that even though we kind of talked about me leaving, I should have been able to bring up the subject myself, so why didn’t I? It was such a simple task, but it was so easy to forget about everything just so I could spend time with her. I can’t do that anymore. If I keep spending time with her, it’ll be harder to leave.

What kind of an image have I been projecting, anyway? We’ve spent so many nights talking, and then that? Sitting together on a bench all day, no less in what had to be the most cliched semi-romantic destination in the city?

Not to say she forced me into it. I mean, I went along with it all. I didn’t complain. I wanted to spend time with her. Not that that’s a bad thing, or that it implies anything. I’m not interested in her. Not really. I... I can’t stop thinking about her. Why can’t I stop thinking about her?

C’mon Trixie, deep breaths. This is just a passing thing, you’ll get over her. She’s not that special. You just want the company, you just want somepony to stick with you no matter what. You just want a friend who listens, who understands. A friend who would do anything for you, who wouldn’t judge you. And that’s what Barrel’s done that’s what friends do. Right?

“It’s only natural to want to be around your friends,” I say out loud to the mirror hanging on the wall. “I mean, I could have left tonight, and it wouldn't have wrecked our friendship. Nothing that a letter or three couldn't have fixed. It wasn't a big deal. I'm only staying because it's the right thing to do right now.”

“And besides,” I say, climbing into bed, “I can’t leave yet. I’ve still got things to do here. Barrel can’t just get promises of letters and be perfectly fine. I need to be sure I’m not leaving her with nightmares about me. Nopony should have to lose sleep because of me. And besides that, of course, there’s the show I still have to give them. I’ll have to work on both of those things tomorrow. So no, there’s no reason to worry about staying here tonight. You have nothing to feel guilty about, Trixie. Of course you’ll sleep well tonight.”

- - -

Barrel stares blankly at me from behind the counter. Her eyes are bloodshot. It’s clearly been another restless night for her. The motion of her hoof as she wipes the counter down is mechanical – a purely reflex action. She’s running on autopilot, and I know exactly how she’s feeling.

“Have you slept at all?” she asks while refilling my coffee cup. I yawn and take a few swallows.

“Not much. Did you?”

“No. Not that much. We must look pretty pathetic, huh?”

I nod, sorely tempted to laugh at the irony. She worries about me? I sleep well. I worry about her? I don’t sleep well. We worry about each other, or whatever happened last night, and... well, here we are.

I drain my cup and she pours me another.

What does this make, the fifth? Oh well. Down the hatch, coffee, you wonderful thing, you. Ahhhhh... life-giving water. Nectar of the gods.

Now that I’ve been tended to, Barrel disappears into the back room to resume cooking. Stock is out at the market, so she's got run of the place. The plan was that while she was fixing breakfast for her other lodgers, I could talk to her through the serving hatch. Honestly, I don’t know what good it’ll do to talk about something so important while I still feel like my brain’s taken a vacation.

Oh well. No better time to tell Barrel to stop worrying about me then after she’s spent the whole night worrying about me.

“So Barrel. Have you had many other nights like this? Where you just couldn’t sleep?”

“Not many. But some. Why?”

“Oh, nothing. Just that after yesterday, I thought you’d be happy. Sleep like a foal, and all that nonsense.”

“If you must know, yes. I did for a while.” The uneasy look that crosses her face makes it clear that her 'while' wasn't for very long.

I lean forwards. “Am I overstepping my boundaries if I ask what changed?”

“I woke up. You know how when you wake up at four in the morning, sometimes you start thinking things, and then you can’t relax anymore? That’s kind of what happened.”

“Can’t say I know what that feels like, no. But I know what you were thinking about.”

“And how do you think you know what I’m thinking about?” she teases, running her eyes up and down my fine self.

“I’m a magician. I read your mind.”

“Oh, cut it out. What did you really want to talk about?”

“Umm. This is what I wanted to talk about. Letters or no letters, I don’t want you to worry about me. I don’t even want you to keep thinking about me after I’ve gone. I’ll be worried enough as it is about y–”

Oh, hayseed.

“Oh ho?” she laughs, flashing me her best grin. “So you do care after all.”

“Not in that way! I meant in a friendly, nice, friend sort of way. As in, I don’t want you to worry about me, and that’s why I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about you. Erm, n-not that thinking about you is a bad thing, mind. Friends always think about each other, and our circumstances are so unusual. You’ve worried about me so much, so why shouldn’t I worry about you? But I don’t want you to worry, because that’s not what friendship’s about. When I leave, you shouldn’t be thinking about me. I shouldn’t be worrying about you. That’s what I meant, honest!”

While I’m making a fool of myself, Barrel comes out from behind the dividing wall, a plate of food at the ready, and stands before me. After I’m done stammering, she cracks a smile.

“I was joking. As in, ‘she does have a heart in there after all’. Did you know that you ramble when you’re nervous, Trixie?”

“Sh-shut up. You stare at flanks.”

She goes rigid and the plates teeter, threatening to drop.

What!?How do you... erm... It’s not... I don’t, not like I–”

There are guffaws from the far end of the bar. Barrel’s face blazes crimson as she glances over at the group of stallions winking at each other, before snapping her gaze back to mine. She's not smiling anymore. Somehow, professionalism wins over, and she manages to keep her cool in front of everypony watching our exchange, which amounts to everypony in the tavern.

“Trixie, are you feeling okay? You’re acting kind of, um, weird. It’s not like you to say something like that.”

“I know, right? I thought you might like a bit of candidness, for once.”

I drain my mug and hold it out for another, but Barrel shakes her head.

“You’re buzzed. You’ve had enough. Come talk to me when your head’s on straight.”

“My head’s just fine,” I huff, getting off my chair so I can walk alongside the bar, following her to the other end. “Barrel, look at me when I’m talking. I’m serious.”

“Here you go, sir. Leafy greens, hay with sea salt, and a side of wheatgrass,” she says to one of the stallions, doing her best to ignore me.

I don’t like being ignored. I’m tempted to reach out with my magic, grab her by the ear, march her through the doors behind the counter into the backroom, and make her listen to me. But I repress the urge.

What’s the point? What could I even say? ...Ugh. Forget this, Trixie, it isn’t getting you anywhere. I just need to finish getting ready to go. No more distractions.

I snort, turn, and climb the stairs to my room, slamming the door behind me. The map of the surrounding towns and counties is still on my desk, blank. I sit down, dip the quill in ink, and begin scratching. I’m not thinking while I’m doing it. I don’t want to think about anything. True, I could blame the coffee for making me snappish, or the lack of sleep. But there’s no fooling myself. I know who’s really making me upset.

And that just makes it worse. Hours pass before I hear the inevitable knock on the door.

“Come in.”

I hear the door swing open behind me, followed by hoof falls. I don’t even need to look to imagine her expression – concern, worry, regret at letting me walk off. I ignore it, maintaining what I hope is a tense silence. I’m not in a very talkative mood right now. I hear her fidgeting behind me, obviously unsure of what to say or do. Eventually, she clears her throat.

“So, uh... That day in the park, yesterday? That was a really good day, wasn’t it?”

Here we go.

“I just wanted to say thanks again for wanting to hang out and spend time with me like that. I never get to spend time with anypony these days. Sure, Dad’s turned running the inn into an art, but it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t help. So I don’t get much time off, and that time off yesterday was probably the best I ever had, so thanks again. Um, anyways, I didn’t mean to be short with you earlier. We were both tired – heck, we’re still pretty tired – and I wanted to clear the air. ‘Cause I don’t like it when you’re upset."

I grunt. Somewhere downstairs, a group of stallions break out into laughter.

“So... anyways, what are you working on?” Barrel leans over my shoulder to look, and... "Oh... Trixie, is that what I think it is?”

I don’t answer, just keep sketching and writing notes in the margins. She knows exactly what it is.

"Heh. A map. Of course. I knew it was... well, I thought it was coming. I hoped I'd be wrong though. I hoped you’d...”

She doesn't finish. Curious, I set down the quill. “...Go on. What were you going to say? What were you hoping I’d do? That I’d stay here?"

I hear her violently shake her head. “I was hoping you’d finally see that you don’t have to do this! It’s not an obligation for you to travel. Do you really think this is the right thing to do? To leave because you think you have to leave?”

I move my pen to the dot labeled Manehatten. Next to it I write, Lodgings cheap, but dirty. Venues numerous, but never full. No Caravan parking in city limits.

I put the pen down and bring my hooves together under my chin. I refuse to look in her direction. "Hmph. Of course I don't think I have to leave. I want to leave. I prefer being independent.”

Barrel moves to put a hoof out on my shoulder. “Trixie, please, it doesn’t have to be like that! I’m sure we can think of a better way–”

I pound the table, making her jump. “What, where I wouldn’t have to be out of reach, but not stay at the inn? Are you saying I should do birthday parties? Or that I should work at a theater, like some kind of sideshow?”

“N-no, that’s not–”

“I’m the only one who gets to decide how to chase my dream! In fact, getting lectured by you about my dreams is insulting! You sit at the bar all day, imagining how things could be better but never doing anything about it! You're wrapped up in fantasies!"

“Wh-what’s so bad about fantasies?” I hear her sniffle as she backs up, cracking under the pressure. “My fantasies and dreams keep me going. If I don’t have my dreams, what do I have left?”

“You have nothing with them! The one time you showed a bit of courage and said something important... that one time, you said it would never work out between us. If our roles were reversed, I’d have made you my pony! Did you? No. You're a coward. If you weren’t strong enough to follow your dreams, then what was the point of having them in the first place? I’ll tell you – there wasn’t any point at all! Dreams are for the weak who can’t do anything for themselves!”

“Where did yours get you!? When we met, you were starving, penniless, unhappy, and mad at the world! You had nothing! You were... you were...”

Did she just... no. She did not just go there.

I spring from the chair just in time to see her gasp and clamp a hoof over her mouth.

“H-How dare you! Are you calling me a failure? I'm... I'm proud to be a great magician! I’ve done amazing tricks for thousands of ponies all across Equestria! Whole families flock to my stage to see me perform for them! My travels made me famous, because I didn't stay at home like the other cowards – I went out and did! I'm better than the rest of them! I’m...”

...Am I really?

My moment of hesitation is all Barrel needs. She takes a step forward. “I’m not calling you a failure! You wouldn’t have found what makes you special without following your dream, but your dream doesn’t have to make you unhappy!”

No, no, no, no, no! This isn't happening! It's not! It's not! “My dreams were never supposed to end in a stupid little inn in Trottingham!

Barrel blinks. “Huh?”

“Get out of my room!”

She moves closer, raising a hoof to hug me, but before she has the chance I’ve lifted her off the floor with magic and half flung her out the door. I slam it behind her. I’m breathing hard, tears are streaming down my face, it hurts to breathe, and my chest aches.

W-why did Barrel have to go and say those things!? She had no right! Sh-she didn’t know what she was saying. She knows I have to be free, but she was being stupid. I was justified. She should have known better.

As I stand in front of the door and try in vain to wipe my eyes dry, however, I suddenly get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'm lying to myself again. More excuses. Another step down the same path that led me to Ponyville.

She wanted to help, and I threw her out. Literally.

I sink to the floor. It's like my brain's stuck on 'repeat', and all it wants to do is remind me how much of a bitch I am. It's far, far too late to go after Barrel and apologize. She's probably crying in her room right now. Why would she forgive me for saying all those horrible things? If I knocked on her door, would she let me in? I know I wouldn't.

What’s wrong with me? Using her love as a weapon? That’s the lowest blow you've ever struck, Trixie, and you fight dirty all the time. Who would treat their friend this way? Barrel's been nothing but good to you she didn't deserve this!

She deserves a better friend than me. She should have fallen for a nice, shy filly with a heart of gold. Somepony to look after her, who’d never yell at her, who’d always make things right for her...

- - -

I don’t remember falling asleep. When I wake up, it’s the middle of the night. I’m starving, but I can’t think about food right now. I don’t want to think about anything, but I start to anyway. My head is the clearest it’s been in hours, perhaps days; they’ve all blurred together over the course of this week.

As much as I hate to admit it, Barrel might have had a point about me. She’s right that being out on the road isn’t easy. I always had to keep worrying where my next meal was coming from. It was never a reliable way to make a living. But then again, it was the promise of adventure that made me go on the road, not the promise of fortune. I wanted fame and recognition too, sure, but fame’s been a fickle mistress.

Just because everypony in every town I’ve visited knows my name, that doesn’t mean it’s always known in a good way. I can’t assume that Ponyville was a fluke.

Then again, it’s all for the good of the audience. The whole point of my show is cool magic, after all, and that’s what I was doing – cool magic. So what was it about my act that offended them so much? Was it my persona, my stage presence, or the act itself?

Maybe Barrel was right. What has travelling really accomplished? I’ve actually done very well performing in this same city – in the same inn, no less for three straight months! I didn't need a stage. I didn’t even need fireworks! I haven't even needed to weave any ridiculous tall tales. Everypony here accepted me for who I am.

Barrel accepted me for who I was. And I threw it back in her face when all she was doing was trying to help me. I really am a terrible friend. I was fine with having fun teasing her, until she told me she loved me. Until there were consequences. Is this what Stock meant? A mare like me, breaking her heart?

She cares more about me than anypony should care about me. She even said I was like family! Nopony’s ever said that to me before! Oh, why did I have to shout at her? It was such a stupid thing to say! Why did I say it? Am I that mean all the time?

The curtains are flapping in the breeze; when I’d fallen asleep, I’d left the window open. I rest my chin on the windowsill, gazing wearily out at the silent city. I know I can’t face Barrel like this, not after everything that’s happened – I’d just make a fool of myself. I can’t stay locked up in my room forever, though. I feel trapped.

I look up through the window again, and the answer suddenly comes to me.

- - -

Ten minutes later, I’ve slipped out the window and retrieved my caravan from behind the inn. I’m already well on my way, too. I’ve long since left the shadows of the buildings; they’ve been replaced by the shadows of trees along the dirt path. A light breeze rustles the leaves overhead, and the moon shines brightly near the horizon. It’s a cool autumn night, kind of like how last night was, too.

Arrive at another town by morning, send a letter by the early post explaining I need a few days alone to think, and then I’ll be back at the Tin Whistle again. It’s the perfect plan.

I gulp, and keep on walking. The fact that I have to keep trying to convince myself that this isn’t actually a horrible idea isn’t making it any easier.

I’ll have to do damage control when I get back, of course. At the least, Barrel will be terribly upset, maybe even still mad at me. That’ll be the hardest thing to deal with. I don’t even want to think about it.

But of course, I do. Barrel would put on a brave face and optimistically push my door open in the morning, ready to kiss and make up. Then, with a gasp, her smile would vanish as she sees my window open, the curtains flapping in the breeze. For a moment, there is stunned silence. Then the tray clatters to the floor as tears well up and she crumples like a house of cards, bawling her eyes out.

I shake my head, trying to force out the image, but it persists. The thought of making her cry again makes me feel sick, but I know she’ll cry. And I’ll probably end up crying too.

I’m sure she’ll be mad at me as well as heartbroken, but this plan will work out fine. All I need is some time to get my head back on straight. She’ll understand, right? After all, everything changed in the space of just one week. Even more than all the bits, my best friend confessed she loved me. So of course I haven’t been thinking straight.

It’s the first time in forever I haven’t been alone. I always used to walk alone, and that was the point, I guess. To be as far away from my parents as possible. They would have constrained me and held me back. They didn’t understand me or who I was.

For a few moments, I accept my answer. As I think it over a little more, though, I frown. It’s getting obvious that my supposedly airtight logic is actually full of holes.

How can I really know that they’d hold me back? I jumped ship as soon as I was old enough. I’ve been living on the ragged edge for so long, I’d forgotten what a normal life felt like, until now. And I guess it’s been nice, to not have to worry about breaking a wheel, or it starting to rain, or where my next meal is coming from. It’s nice to have a strong roof over my head, and good company, and... and being appreciated for who I really am, and... having a friend to talk to.

Some friend I turned out to be. Will she forgive me for walking out on her? I guess I’d forgive her if she were in my position, and I knew what the problem was. She can’t travel with me, I couldn’t possibly take her away from the inn. Running it is her special talent. She belongs there, and I belong on the road.

I could blame my outburst on any number of things: being angry, being tired, being pushed to my limit while being angry and tired. That’s not entirely true, though. My lame excuses about the road being wet and the show for the regulars were just those things – excuses. Truth is, I wanted to stay longer. Have I really grown that weary of travelling?

Th-that’s enough. You can’t possibly want to stay at some hole-in-the-wall inn forever! It has nothing to offer you that some other place won’t also... oh, horseshit. Yes there is. There totally is. There always was.

I stop dead in my tracks and reality comes crashing down on top of me. It's painfully obvious what's wrong; it's been hanging over my head all week. It’s not the comforts of the Tin Whistle I don’t want to leave. I don’t fear leaving the safety of four walls, or a legion of loving fans, or even fear the idea of travelling alone. It’s really that I don’t want to leave her.

N-no, that’s... that’s impossible!

I clutch my head and groan. It feels like the world is spinning. It’s getting harder to breathe.

I unhitch myself and lean on a nearby fencepost while I try to get my bearings. As I rub my forehead and groan some more, I see the clouds in the distance have turned a rosy pink. Dawn is coming. There’s no way I’ll be able to make the next town in time to catch the morning post. My mental image of Barrel breaking down suddenly seems much more real. I check my face, surprised when my hoof comes back wet. How long have I been crying?

Wh-what is this? This isn’t right. Why am I getting all weepy? Over one p-pony?

I sniff, trying my hardest to choke back a sob. The more I try to hold back, the more I want to let it out. It’s a losing battle, I know it, and I hate myself for knowing it. At least nopony’s around to see me like this.

It’s n-not fair! It wasn’t supposed to end this way! You’re not weak, Trixie, you’re free, and independent, and... I think I care more about her than anypony else I’ve ever cared about before. Am I really considering settling down with her? But I’d hate being stuck there forever! I can’t stand being tied down to one place!

Sure, there’s an obvious solution. If she could come with me, that would solve everything, but I can’t possibly ask. She belongs at the inn. But I can’t leave the inn either, because I’d leave her! Maybe the nights would get easier eventually, but what’s the point of seeking my fame and fortune without somepony to share it with? Somepony who matters?


I kick the fence in frustration, but all I get out of it is a sore leg. Swearing under my breath, I limp back to the caravan, resisting the strong urge to pound my head against the side. As I stumble through the thick curtains to get inside, the world goes black. I can’t even see my hoof right in front of my face.

While I’m fumbling around in the darkness looking for my bed, my heart keeps pounding, my breathing getting more labored by the second. It feels like there’s a heavy weight on my chest, and to make matters even worse, I can’t stop crying, either.

Nnnghn... I’m j-just as big a crybaby as she is. Why didn’t I realize this would happen? N-nothing’s gone right. Nothing. I can’t leave, I can’t stay, I’ll break Barrel’s heart for nothing! She doesn’t even know where I am! I’ve played with her feelings for so long, she w-won’t even want anything t-to do with me, but it’s not my fault I couldn’t reach town in time! I’m n-not like that, and this... I’m... my...

The blackness inside of the caravan feels claustrophobic, like the walls are closing in. This thing feels more like a prison than a symbol of freedom! It’s everything I want, and everything I can’t have. It’s...

Something inside me snaps, and as if somepony’s flipped a switch in my head, my horn starts glowing.

- - - - -

After Trixie and I fought earlier today, I was worried she might try to leave without saying goodbye. I’d thought it’d be a great idea to hide in the caravan and wait for her to show up. I could finally get everything off my chest and really wish her well, but I won't cry, Trixie, because we’ll always have the door open for you, won’t we? Yes we will, and you’ll always be in my thoughts and I’ll never forget you, honest I won’t, and Oh Celestia, why does it have to be so hard to say goodbye?

I didn’t plan on falling asleep, but leave it to her to buy the comfiest mattress in all of Equestria.

I suppose part of me is aware that I’m asleep when I’m not supposed to be, because all my dreams are nightmares. I’m in a void, hearing Trixie cry out, but I can’t reach her. She’s too far away. I have as much chance of catching up to her as I have of conjuring up a bouquet of flowers from thin air.

All at once, the dream breaks. I shift under the covers, suddenly woken up by the sound of somepony entering the caravan, and I shake my head to clear away the cobwebs.

Bleeeh... How long was I asleep? Did Trixie move the caravan?

It’s black as pitch inside, but I know it’s her; I can hear her mumbling something to herself. Apparently I was right about her leaving tonight, but my carefully laid plans have gone up in flames. I hear birds chirping, and it smells like a field outside, not of the river that runs under Blackbriar Bridge near the Tin Whistle.

Shoot! I thought if she tried moving this thing, I’d wake up right away! Stupid, stupid, stupid lazy pony! Now she’ll find me, and it’ll look really bad, and I– wait. Is she crying?

She is. Not quiet, girlish sobs either, but full-on bawling, her chest heaving.

My heart sinks. I knew it would be bad, but I’ve clearly done more than just really screw up this time.

Before I can toss aside the covers and try my best to do damage control, Trixie’s horn suddenly lights up like a Hearth’s Warming Eve tree. My eyes don’t like the light, and I have to squeeze them shut for a moment.

When I reopen them, many objects are floating in midair, held aloft by Trixie’s magic – inkwells and flower vases, quills, paper, cookware and everything else. She screams her throat raw and she flings everything across the cabin. She almost brains me with a lantern. Glass shatters and wood splinters. The room is trashed in seconds.

Not done yet, she turns to the curtains. With a great yank and a ripping of fabric, they’re cast aside, letting the blue-grey dawn light spill in. The light outside is faint, but her horn is blazing like the sun. It’s a miracle she hasn’t seen me yet, my mouth hanging open like an idiot as I lie there frozen in place.

Still not done yet, she grasps the one breakable thing not yet broken – the mirror off the wall – and starts pounding it against the floor. There’s no rhythm or method, no grace. She screams in rage with every downswing, the brass bending and twisting with each strike.

After nearly a full minute, she sinks down, her magic spent. The light from her horn dims, and all that's left is a shadowy figure sprawled out on the floor, completely shattered. Her chest heaves as it’s wracked by great sobs again.

Oh, G-Goddess. I wasn’t supposed to see that. No way was I supposed to see that! W-What do I do? If she knew I saw, she’d be so embarrassed, she'd never live it down! But... Trixie sits there on the floor, alone. Helpless. Pride or no pride, she needs somepony right now. I'd need somepony right now. I have to help her. I've got to.

I finally dare to move an inch. Then two. Then I’m next to her. She’s so far gone, she doesn’t even notice me until I shakily lie down nearby and give her a hopeful nuzzle under the chin. She jerks back and sits there, blinking at me.

“B-Barrel? You... It’s... b-but why are you...?”

She doesn’t even have the energy to be angry with me. Just looking at her like this makes me want to cry too, but somehow I hold myself together this time. I lean over and try giving her another nuzzle. This time, she stays put.

“I’m here now. It’s okay, Trixie. Everything’s okay.”

Her lip quivers. Then the floodgates open and she throws herself on me and starts sobbing into my chest. I hold her and gently rub her back. Mum used to do it for me all the time, so maybe it’ll help.

It does. The sobbing lessens, and her hug around me tightens. She’s still too far gone to form a sentence, but at least she’s not as scared anymore.

Just like me, when Mum no, stop that, you. Think about what Trixie needs. What can you say to make it better?

“Shh,” I whisper gently. “It’s okay, Trixie. It’ll all be fine.”

I hope it’ll be fine. My gosh, what in blazes happened to her? It must have been pretty awful if it turned a pony as wonderful and strong as Trixie into me.

After a few minutes, she swallows hard and tries to gain back control. It’s not going to work for long, so I jump at the chance to say something.

“Here, come on, up you go. I’ll help you back to the inn. Whatever happened, Dad and I can help you with it.”

She looks away and shakes her head. And remains glued to the floor.

Urgh. Way to go, Barrel. You’re so good at cheering ponies up, aren’t you?

“W-why?” she finally chokes out. “Why’m I so special? I’m just some a-arrogant, greedy, vain little–”

I raise her chin and look into her eyes, still overflowing with tears, and shake my head.

“You’re my friend.”

More heaving sobs. My chest is getting slick with her tears and snot, but I don’t care. I just keep petting her head softly.

Dawn light is starting to spill through where she tore down the curtains, and for the first time since she crumpled to the floor, I get a good look at her face. It’s all scrunched up with her efforts to hold it back. I give her a look that says, it’s okay, really it is, but she’s too proud to let it all out again. Instead, she sniffles. Then my view of her face is lost as she buries it in the crook of my neck.

“Trixie. I swear I won’t tell anypony what I saw, cross my heart. What happened? Tell me what happened, and I’ll do everything I can to help.”

“...You,” she whispers.


She raises her head and whispers three words into my ear. Three words I've dreamed her saying for weeks.

“I love you.”

Of course, I'm sure I've misheard. I blink twice, my brain replaying the words over and over again. I still think I've misheard.

What’s she talking about? She can’t possibly mean that, can she?

Hot tears splash on my neck. She leans against me for support, nuzzling me under my chin. When she finally pulls away a minute later, I stare at her like a complete idiot, my mouth hanging wide open. Having said the unthinkable, Trixie tries in vain to wipe her eyes dry again. As for myself, I finally force my jaw shut and try to process what just happened.

“Trixie, you mean, you... really?”

She looks at me through bleary red eyes, and nods.

She loves me? She loves me?!

In spite of the circumstances, I can’t help but break out into a wide grin and hug her. I can hardly believe it’s real and not just another dream, but it isn’t, it’s real, she’s real, and... and those tears are real too. I haven’t fixed anything yet. Time to try.

“If that’s how it is, then don’t worry, Trixie. You know I’d follow you wherever you go, don’t you?”

“N-no,” she croaks. “I can’t d-do that to you! The inn‘s your special talent. It’d be like asking me to stay...”

The big, stupid grin on my face is stubbornly refusing to leave. I reach up to wipe away a few tears of happiness.

So that’s what’s wrong. It’s a misunderstanding! There’s nothing wrong after all!

Before Trixie knows what’s hit her, I kiss her. Hard. Even though I’m still terrible at it, I don’t care one bit, no, I don’t. And when I hear her start moaning along with me, I know she doesn’t care either. When we finally come up for air, I shake my head.

“No it’s not. My talent has nothing to do with the inn.”

Her eyes grow even wider. “What?”

“My talent is cheering other ponies up. Making ponies feel happy. My cutie mark? ‘Cheers.’ Funny joke, huh? Mum always got a kick out of it.”

Trixie mouths back the words, and I try not to laugh at her completely gobsmacked reaction. She doesn’t seem quite sure what to do – scream, laugh, or cry some more. Honestly, I don’t know what to do either. So I say the first thing that comes to mind.

"It's my fault. All of it. When we were in the park, I was trying to tell you I wanted to come, but then I lost my nerve, and I... I should have asked! If I'd asked to come, then you'd have told me no, because of my talent, and then I could have explained what it was, and then... Sniff... It could have been so much simpler for both of us... We could have been together by now if I'd only just..."

Oh, Goddess, what am I saying? I'm blowing it...

But apparently, I'm not the only pony upset with herself. Trixie smacks herself in the face with her hoof.

"So that's what you were trying to do... I should have guessed, both that, and your talent. Your story, your cutie mark, all of it. I’ve b-been so damned stupid! I’ve–”

“Stop that. If you’re gonna go and lay blame on anypony, lay it on me for not saying what I wanted to. I want to come with you. I don’t care where, as long as it’s with you.”

That's enough to get both of us crying again. I keep holding her and don't let go. It helps both of us.

“Please let me come with you," I choke. "I, um... I know I’m probably making it sound way easier than it really is, but I mean it. It’s just, um...”


‘Cmon Barrel, think. Are you doing the right thing? Pressing it like this when her guard is down and she’s not thinking clearly? It might make her happy, and it’s all true, but it would be like I’m taking adva

“Barrel. P-please, what is it?”

“But... it’s just, I know how I feel but are you sure about me? It’d be so easy for you to find somepony better–” She clamps a hoof over my mouth.

“S-shut up, you stupid, silly pony. Of course you’re worth it. All this b-bullcrap about you being worthless is a lie, so stop telling it to yourself. You’ve got loads of friends.”

Oh Trixie, no...

I shake my head. “Nopony ever wanted to be my friend because of me being, um... me, before you, but you were different. You respected me, you put up with me, you’ve done so much to make me feel happy, and now I wanna make you happy! I don’t want to see you sad ever again!”

She thinks for a moment that lasts an eternity.

Then she nods. “Okay.”

I feel my heart jump. “Okay! We could leave whenever you want. I could be packed in ten– no, in five minutes. We could leave today!”

“Heh. Sweet of you to say that, but no. Give me time. After winter, okay? We’ll go after winter wrap-up. B-both of us. And to hell with anypony that doesn’t like it!”

“Done,” says I, and the pact between us is sealed.

While the morning sunlight washes over us, we sit together in silence for a while.

Then Trixie leans over and whispers in my ear. “So, you wanna make me happy?” I gulp. She smiles, a glint of mischief in her eyes. “If you want to make me happy right now, then close your eyes.”

I do as she says. Gently, she pushes me down onto the floor, belly up, then lays down on top of me. I can feel her heartbeat, the warmth from her coat, and that my own heart’s decided to start thumping too. She reaches up and strokes my mane, then slowly embraces me. Needless to say, my face grows very hot.

Trixie dissolves into a fit of shaky, but happy giggles. I open my eyes to see her smile for the first time today. It’s genuine, warm, loving. And, I realize, it’s all because of me.

I can help her smile more. I can make her happy. I swear I’ll make her happy! After all she’s been through, she needs a bit of happiness, and I’m happy to be her pony.

As her fit of laughter subsides, she leans in close.

Very close. I feel her breath on my cheeks.

“Have I ever told you that you're cute when you blush?”

“No, you... never.”

“Let me demonstrate...”


- - - - -

Dear Mom and Dad,

The snow is piled high outside, but I think this letter should reach you before Hearth’s Warming Eve. It feels like years since I last wrote you two. Perhaps it really has been, and I’m truly sorry for that.

I wanted to let you know that I’m safe and happy, and I hope you two are as well. In fact, I’m better than I’ve been in ages. Something wonderful has happened to me. A special somepony. The last three weeks have been a blur, but I’ve made sure to keep it slow. She’s a shy, sensitive one, and I don’t want to ruin this.

I didn’t think it would hurt to tell you two about her in advance. I don’t want there to be any nasty surprises when we finally come to visit during my tour in the spring, because I think I’m going to have a lot of making up to do. I want us to feel like a family again.

Her name is Barrel, by the way. I think you’ll both like her.

Much Love,



Author's Note:

I hope you enjoyed reading the TrixieFic. If you have questions you'd like to ask directly, send them by e-mail to gearsofworldwar2@hotmail.com. If you liked the story, please let me know in the comments.


Title Image, Fully Sized
Alternate Unused Title Image
Fanart from Chapter 2

Tavern was featured on Youtube!

Shoutouts to The Brony Bookclub and to Orion Shine for mentioning Tavern in their podcast.

Extra thanks goes to Solo for suggestions and general all around assistance, Hoss for initial editing of the first chapter, and to Taggerung for all the pretty pictures. Oh, and everyone in the #equestrianstudy IRC channel that assisted me over the months of writing. You all helped make this happen, and I can’t thank you all enough. If you want to see more from me, check my user page for updates on my current projects.

Oh yes, one last thing. Trixie and Barrel will return.


Comments ( 94 )

I demand a sequal!

Seconding the demand for a sequel.

Well... we'll see what kind of reception this story gets after a while. It's true there's an idea I have for a sequel... but it doesn't look like this story ever took off, ratings aside. It didn't get much exposure.

If you liked this enough to want a sequel, tell your friends and get the word out. I'd really appreciate it.

Wow.. I'd love to see more of this. Great story, just great! I demand more! :pinkiegasp:

so beautiful. :raritycry:

This is fantastic. Were you to write a sequel, I'd definitely read it.

And now I can't find my socks because the unexpected greatness of this story blew them off. and I too hope there is a sequal:pinkiehappy:

seguel! is much love time!

3rd to you making a sequel!:twilightsheepish::twilightsheepish::flutterrage::pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy:

Fourth for demanding a sequel? Or more stories. God man, I'm a brony, not a filly, but you're getting dust in my eyes.

That was probably one of the sweetest stories I've ever read, period, and the fact that you've made my second least favorite character into one of my favorites is a testament to your sorcerer-like skill. Love the ending. Love the whole story. Now I need more of your work to devour.

Boy, that was an unexpected surprise. Nearly killed me with that last chapter.
Good show. :heart:

This is really good fic work, and I mean, really, really good. Your characters are well developed and rounded, and the pacing evolves quite naturally.

The ending reveal (which I will not spoil) took me by surprise, and I was quite happy to see how you resolved the whole thing.

I think it's a shame that this fic didn't get the attention it truly deserved, because this is an absolutely fantastic piece.

Sometime around September, I'm going to start the notes for another design document. By Christmas, I should have something to publish.

It won't be a full on story, most likely a one shot. It will, however, be a canon sequel to this story.

Edit: No, there won't be a new chapter come Christmas time. I've got a Daring Do story to publish instead. I'll come back to this when I know what I'm doing. No sense rushing this stuff.

Well! I'm glad my friend pointed me to this lovely fic ^^ I really enjoyed it. And I don't know if my experience was the same as many of the others who read it, but I found the first little bit to be a little hard to get into. Might've just been the first-person perspective that was taking a bit to adjust to, but once I did it was quite enjoyable ^^

I can't really give any opinions about viewership and such, but I'll at least be suggesting this to my friends ^^

It's been a long time since I read such a good fanfic and I mean, I am reading a lot of them :twilightsheepish:

You did a great job and I enjoyed every minute of it.

So don't you dare to not write a sequel. :trixieshiftleft:

And don't you worry, I will share this masterpiece with every fanfic-reading brony I know!



Thanks. Glad you like it so much. :twilightblush:

That goes for everyone that's read, commented, upvoted, or liked the story, by the way. You guys are awesome.

Went into this expecting just another Great and Powerful Shipfic :trixieshiftright:, got something that feels fuzzy and charming. Loved the first chapter, reading the rest now.

So, to sum up my reaction to this story:


Brilliant. I'd potentially enjoy a sequel, but I'm not sure exactly where to go from now on. You have a well-rounded happy ending with all the loose ends pretty well tied up.

Still, I'll be keeping an eye on you, Lysis :D

About F-ing time I see this on EqD!

I thought you did a very nice job.

Blindingly brilliant, and I seem to have misplaced my lower jaw. You better be on that sequel, man.

That was really, really good. Thanks for a great story.

I very much enjoyed this. I feel it quite effectively made a unreliable narrator that me, as a reader, had to second guess and interpret the perceptions, and of course the conclusions.

I feel the doubt and conflicting emotion were very well expressed both in a character, Trixie, struggling with 2 drives/goals and struggling with honesty. Now this may be me just being cynical, I worry if the love will last as I'm not sure if Trixie's feelings will last. Is her attachment a over-reaction to having an accepting pony?

One thing I did find odd is in the third chapter the brief segment from Barrel's POV has her "space out", now during Trixie's POV she spaced out 3 or 4 times but never once noticed Barrel space out. This leads me wondering if maybe this were to be expanded this may need to be addressed (as if only the reader-side POV gets accused of spacing out, well that might break the story-reader relationship

Well crap... Now I need insulin...

That was an amazing story and I hate you for it. It's 0205 and I have school in the morning. I hope you feel good about yourself!

Would it be cheesy to say that this story has made me see Trixie in a whole different light? Because it did. I never thought I'd be reading a Trixie fic, let alone faving one, but here I am. Great work. :twilightsmile:

Thanks so much, guys. Your comments have really made me happy.

If Fimfiction's rating system was better, this would have been featured for sure. It was at the 13th slot, but because I didn't update the story, it wasn't fit for the feature box. Ah, well, such is life.

Comment # 50, 1442175 this is on EqD.


Yes, I know. I sent it in.

1659127 Great! I would have never found it if it were not for EqD! I love it! Thankyou!

Very nice. That EQD feature was well earned and then some. Your conceptualization of Trixie is not only sweet, but sympathetic. I've been in her place (perhaps not quite so dramatically), and you've rendered the feelings of the moment well. Can't wait to see your future work. :pinkiehappy:

*looks at the likes bar*

*notices the two dislikes*


Also, you're the only author allowed to write Trixie from now on.


Awesome, thanks dude.

When you're living in a tavern van, down by the river!

Ah, sorry. Had to. Just a quickie little reference that made me laugh.
Anyhow, I loved the story. Very well written, and great to see it on EqD!

I like your Trixie. Nice work.

Oh man, this story was great. Loved your portrayal of Trixie
When Trixie finally said those three words, I was on the verge of tears.
Very well done!


I'm neither a fan of first person narrative, nor do I like present tense very much, but right from the beginning I couldn't stop reading yout story until I was done, and I enjoyed it a lot! Why? Because it's a wonderful tale about love and friendship. I went a totally different way than I first thought (I thought the conman would have a bigger role, be the villain of the piece, so to say). Also, I absolutely love the way you write Trixie. You turned her into a full character with flaws and strengths, not the one dimensional villain or the the oh soooo misunderstood creature she's discribed as elsewhere. And Barrel was just too cute :twilightsheepish:

I read your blog entry on the upcoming Trixie. I'm really torn about the matter. On the one hand, I'm really looking forward to seeing Trixie again. But on the other hand, I fear the canon hammer will turn her into a full-fledged, irredeemable villain and destroy all the other intersting fanon interpretation fo the character.

Anyway, I congratulate you on getting on EQD, this story deserved it. And I'm happy to read you planing more about those two.

Keep up the great work! :twilightsmile:

Loved this story.

It's not simple to get on my top list. It only consists of Halo: The Forerunner Saga (which is an achievement since I put Halo to a higher standard), both of Brent Weeks trilogies, "Fallout: Equestria", "My Little Dashie", "Out of Touch" and now this, "In A Tavern, Down By The River". This is a fantastic story despite being Trixie, who I don't care for canon-wise. But this isn't canon; she is beyond her canon self and into her much-more fanon self. Yes, it feels like Trixie, but we know it really isn't. I mean, since when did FiM show love beyond that potion and the Cakes (and Spike, of course)? :raritywink: But, anyways, I love it a lot. It's a satisfying end like FO:E was, but I still want more. Like with FO:E. :rainbowlaugh:


"Girlfriend" is canon, as proved by the Cutie Mark Crusaders in their Hearts and Hooves Day song. At least, that was my reasoning.

But I can understand why you'd think otherwise. I appreciate that you cared enough to comment on it, and I'm glad that you enjoyed the story.

That goes for absolutely everyone that's read the story, by the way. I've said it before, but I'll say it again; you guys are awesome.

That was beautiful...:raritycry:
*favorited :pinkiesmile:

Amazing story, really lovely and it was so sweet :raritycry:

Fav and tracked :twilightsmile:

This is the best rendition of Trixie I have ever had the good fortune to read.

Wow, just wow. That's the best Trixiefic I've read yet, and the OCs were all pulled off brilliantly.

That was wonderful. I greatly look forward to the sequel.

Truly a beautiful story and easily one of the best fictions I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It was touching, heartfelt, immersive, and all the while tasteful. I'll admit: if I didn't have a special someone of my own at the time of my reading this, your story very well might have brought me to tears.

You have a gift, my friend. I eagerly await your next piece.

Keeping working on that sequel please, new Trixie cannon be damned. Barrel and Trixie are too adorable to give up on.

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