• Published 6th Feb 2020
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Caught and Punished - ThePinkedWonder

Alternate take on Season 5 premier: here, Starlight gets caught instead of getting away.

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Chapter 6: Forgiveness, part 2

In Twilight’s castle, it was time for Starlight’s biggest challenge as a changed pony: winning over Rainbow Dash.

She already did so with Fluttershy, Pinkie, Applejack, and Rarity. And of course, she did with Twilight...and she didn’t really need to “win over” me.

To help Starlight, Twilight and I had brought her four newest friends to the room with the Cutie Map. Twilight herself had left to bring back Rainbow, so the rest of us were still waiting. The mares were -- save for Starlight -- in their thrones, I was standing up, and Starlight was beside me. I figured Spike was still doing whatever he ran off it do earlier, because he wasn't in the castle.

Applejack said, “Well, y’all, Twilight should be back with Rainbow any minute now.”

“Yeah. But will Rainbow even want to see me?” Starlight asked in an unsure voice.

Rarity answered, ”It might not be easy, but Twilight is great at solving problems. I'm sure she thought of something.”

In an oddly cheerful voice because of her next words, Pinkie said, “True, true. But then again, she did have to dump Starlight on Sam because she didn’t know what to do with her and--”

I interrupted, “Not helping, Pinkie Pie.”

Pinkie frowned. “Sorry.”

Fluttershy suggested, “Um...let's just say that she ‘trusted Sam with Starlight’ and not ‘dumped Starlight on him’, if anypony don't mind?”

Pinkie smiled again. In her normal voice, she commented, “Works for me, and that sounds waaaaaay better than what I said.”

“Uh, girls? How about we focus on supporting Starlight when Twilight gets back with Rainbow?” I suggested.

“I agree, Sam. Let us be there for...oh.” Rarity set a hoof on her cheek, apparently surprised by what she said.

“What? What’s wrong?” Pinkie asked.

“It just felt weird to say we are ‘here for Starlight’ after she stole our Cutie Marks.” Rarity gasped and looked at Starlight. “Uh, no offense.”

Starlight sighed. “Well, after what I did, none taken.”

Suddenly, we heard voices that were growing progressively louder. All of us shut up and turned our heads toward the door the voices seemed to be coming from.

A few seconds later, the door opened in magenta magic, revealing Twilight and Rainbow. Once Rainbow’s eyes locked on Starlight, she gave an icy glare at her.

There was a chilling silence. For a moment, no one moved.

Rainbow broke that silence by pointing a hoof at Starlight and asked, “Why is she here?”

I asked, “Huh? You don’t know?”

“No, or I wouldn’t have come!” Rainbow looked at Twilight with a weaker glare. “Twilight, you said you had ‘something you wanted to show me’?”

Twilight smiled nervously while rubbing her neck. “W-Well, I do, or I guess I should say ‘somepony’: Starlight, and she wants to apologize--”

Rainbow huffed, spun around, went out of the door, and closed it. No, slammed it, and it even made the library vibrate. This would be even harder than we thought.

“Well, at least she didn’t call Starlight Sam’s pet again like you said she did,” Pinkie commented. At least she tried to look on the bright side.

Applejack said, “But even that would have been more progress than this.”

Fluttershy asked, “Why didn’t you tell her that Starlight was here, Twilight?”

“I--I was, but when I brought Starlight up, Rainbow...didn’t say nice things about her and I panicked. I thought that if I could bring Rainbow here, maybe we could coax her to at least try to listen to Starlight.”

Starlight looked down. “And obviously, she doesn’t want to.”

“Now what?” Pinkie asked.

Twilight set a hoof under her jaw and rolled her eyes up briefly. “Okay, I have an idea, a much better one. Rainbow may not give Starlight a chance if I ask her by myself, but maybe she will if we all do it.” Twilight looked at me. “Sam, you stay here with Starlight.”

I asked, “Oh, you don’t need me to come?”

Twilight shook her head. “You don’t know her as well as the rest of us and she’s really mad right now, so she might not listen to you. But, I promise it is nothing personal.”

“That’s...fair, I guess. In that case, Starlight and I will hang back while you girls talk to Rainbow.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Twilight said with a smile.

Applejack, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy hopped off their thrones and followed Twilight out of the door Twilight and Rainbow came in.

All Starlight and I could do was wait.

Twilight and her friends had just run out of Twilight’s castle and begged Rainbow to return to them. With the exception of Rainbow, the mares were standing outside of the castle’s doors; Rainbow was flapping her wings to hover over the ground.

“Okay, why did you drag me here to see Starlight, Twilight? I don’t want to see her!”

Twilight said, “Look, I know you’re still mad, but Starlight truly is sorry and a changed pony!”

“Why? Because she changed her mane style? And where are her collar and leash?”

“They are off, and they are going to stay off,” Rarity declared in a serious voice with her head up, showing the matter was not up for debate.

Rainbow huffed. “Whatever, but it doesn’t mean I have to talk to her."

Pinkie begged, “Come on, Rainbow, she’s not a meanie creepy-pants that took our Cutie Marks anymore. She just wants to be friends now.”

Rainbow again huffed and crossed her forelegs. “Ha! Me? Her? Friends? Don’t make me laugh!”

Twilight countered, “Okay, Rainbow, we know Starlight was...not a great pony. But, you should have seen how she was when she apologized to us.”

"There was no lyin' in her words when she came to me to say sorry," Applejack said.

Rarity echoed, “Yes. The poor dear looked like she was about to cry when she was telling me how she felt.”

Rainbow uncrossed her forelegs and stared at Rarity. “Wow, Rarity, you’re calling her ‘dear’?”

“Why, yes. Is that a problem?”

“N-No, call her whatever you want.”

Twilight took a few steps toward Rainbow. “Okay, listen to me, Rainbow. I don’t ask you for much, but--”

Rainbow interrupted, “Uh...you know that you have asked me and our friends to help you save Equestria, right?”

Twilight gasped, her eyes grew, and she stuttered unintelligibly. It is true that Princess Twilight Sparkle didn't ask Rainbow Dash for much on a personal level. However, asking for assistance to save the world was anything but a small request.

Even so, Rarity countered, “Oh, please, Rainbow Dash. You love playing hero, so you would have begged to come along even if Twilight had refused to let you help.”

Rainbow rubbed the back of her head and stuttered, “W-Well, maybe, but, I--”

Twilight begged, “Please, Rainbow. Just give her a chance. Starlight doesn’t have her magic, so it’s not like she could take your Cutie Mark.”

Fluttershy echoed, “Yes, so what do you have to lose?”

“I...I…” Rainbow gritted her teeth and looked away. Her pride screaming not to relent yet she couldn't deny that this was a losing argument. She relaxed her teeth and faced her friends. "FINE! I’ll let her ‘apologize’. But I won’t guarantee that I’ll forgive her.”

Twilight wiped her forehead with a relieved smile. “We’ll take it, and thank you, Rainbow.”

With Rainbow willing to at least hear Starlight out, the six ponies went back into the castle.

About a minute after the mares ran after Rainbow, Starlight and I were still staring at the door they went out of. I was almost wondering if this was a bad idea.

“Oof, they’re still not back yet. This may be even tougher than I thought,” I commented.

“And I thought it was going to be tough to begin with.”

I looked to Starlight, forcing a smile. “Well, don’t give up yet. From what I know about her, Rainbow has a good heart. I think, deep down, she wants to be friends, but is just too mad to see it. Like how, for a while, you were too mad to feel remorse about stealing Cutie Marks?”

“That’s true. I just hope she’ll calm down enough to see it.”

The doors the mares went out in opened again. Twilight and the gang, including Rainbow, walked in and toward Starlight and me.

Like before, there was silence in the room.

“Uh, nice day, isn’t it, Rainbow?” I asked, hoping to lighten the mood.

In a nervous but cute voice, Twilight echoed, “Oh, yes, it is, right?”

“Yep, yep, yep,” Applejack answered in a nervous voice too. This was the first time I saw her truly nervous.

One by one, the others, save for Rainbow and Starlight, also “agreed.” Rainbow and Starlight said nothing, but kept their eyes on each other. Rainbow had a scowl on her face and Starlight had a fearful frown.

After we were done talking about the weather, we endured another awkward period of chilling silence.

“So, Starlight, nice manestyle, I guess,” Rainbow finally said through gritted teeth.

Starlight smiled. “You think?”

“I guess. Though, I think the ‘collar’ look suits you better.”

Twilight facepalmed, or “facehoofed” in her case. “Come on, Rainbow! You said you would hear Starlight out, not make fun of her!”

“Yeah, yeah, I did. So, what are you waiting for, Starlight? Say you’re sorry so we can get this over with.” Rainbow flapped her wings to hover in the air and crossed her forelegs. She didn’t have to say ‘I’m waiting”: the motion she did with her forelegs “said” it.

Starlight took a deep breath, and then took an even deeper one. It sounded like she gulped after the last deep breath. “Rainbow Dash, I know what I did was wrong--”

Rainbow uncrossed her forelegs and scoffed, “Yeah, like that’s news.”

“Rainbow!” Applejack shouted.

“Fine, fine. Keep going.”

Starlight took another deep breath. “Okay. As I was saying, I was way out of control in that village when I stole your Cutie Mark and what made you special. However, I’m turning over a new leaf and becoming a good pony.”

“Ha, you? ‘Good pony’? Don’t make me laugh!”

Rarity yelled, “Okay, that is enough! Rainbow Dash, I understand that you are upset, but you are not even trying to hear Starlight out!”

“Yeah! I’ve never seen ya like this! What’s yer problem?” Applejack questioned.

Rainbow pointed a hoof at herself. “What’s MY problem?! How could you guys just forgive her so easily after what she did?!”

Pinkie countered, “Okay, what she did was...bad. But we forgave Discord when he turned on us for Tirek!”

Fluttershy asked, “So why can’t you do the same for Starlight?”

Rainbow landed to the floor and through gritted teeth said, “It’s...it’s...”

“‘It’s what?” I asked.

Rainbow gritted her teeth even harder and shut her eyes. After a moment, Rainbow flew open her eyes. In the loudest voice I’ve heard from her, she shouted, “It’s because she almost took away my chance to see my little sister fly!!”

That...was unexpected. For the fourth time, there was a chilling silence. This one was the most uncomfortable one yet.

Pinkie finally asked, “Wait, what?”

Twilight asked, “You’re mad because Starlight almost made you not see Scootaloo fly?”

In a far calmer voice, Rainbow explained, “Yeah. I didn’t tell you all this, so I guess I’ll tell you now.” It was Rainbow’s turn to take a deep breath, then gave a frown. Not an angry one, but a sad one. Her ears drooped. “When we were stuck in that village, without our Cutie Marks, the worst thing wasn’t that I didn’t have my Cutie Mark. It was that at one point, I wasn’t sure if I would get a chance to be there for Scootaloo again.”

Scootaloo? I rubbed my chin, trying to think of who Rainbow was talking about. “Is she that little orange filly with the small wings that I see together with Apple Bloom and Rarity’s little sister...uh...Sweetie Belle?”

Rainbow nodded her head. “Yeah, that’s her. She looks up to me, thinks I’m the greatest pony ever. I’ve never had a pony that was like a little brother or sister, or looked at me as their big sister...until Scootaloo. Knowing she does...make me truly feel awesome.”

Rainbow wiped her eyes. She always talked big, so seeing her like this was both jarring and sad. That annoyance I felt at her all but left.

After that eye-wiping, Rainbow continued, “She can hover in the air a little, but I don’t know if she will ever truly fly. But if she does, I want to be there to see her face to feeling that breeze high in the air. And for that matter just...be there for her, every step of the way.”

Rainbow’s sad frown turned into an increasingly angry one, and she stared daggers at Starlight again. Tears welled in her eyes as she continued, “And Starlight tried to take that away and she SMILED when taking it! I still can’t get that stupid smile out of my head! What if we didn’t break out? What if...*sniff*...I never saw Scootaloo again? What if she thought I abandoned her?! I don’t get scared easily, but…*sniff*...when I thought I might not be there for Scootaloo, my little sister, and that she might have thought I left her...*sniff*...I wasn’t scared. I was terrified!”

Rainbow spent the next five or so seconds weeping. Fluttershy ran over to rub her on the back with a wing, wearing a sympathetic frown. I could now see why she was so mad at Starlight. I didn’t know what to say, even if I wanted to say something.

After Rainbow had calmed down, Twilight, in a voice full of compassion, said, “Oh, Rainbow, I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell us you felt like that?”

Rainbow wiped her eyes. “I...didn’t want to admit that I was scared. I hate it. Especially now that I’m trying to be a strong big sister for Scootaloo.”

Rarity said, “Well, as a fellow older sister, I understand, Rainbow. But, Discord did that too by helping Tirek capture us, so why aren’t you mad at him? Or are you?”

“M-Maybe I am just a little bit.” Rainbow wiped her eyes again. “But even so, Discord still got what he had coming to him when Tirek turned on him, and then he helped us beat him. In fact, I can kinda get where he was coming from, and we could have been a little nicer to him, I guess. But what has Starlight Glimmer done, besides wear a collar and that ring on her horn for a couple of days? And what could her reason be for doing what she did?”

After a moment, Starlight did something she had done a lot already: take another deep breath. Her frown became a determined one. “Rainbow, all of you, I will tell you why I did what I did.”

Twilight asked, “You will?”

“Are you sure? Because when you tried to before--” Rarity started.

Starlight interrupted, “I know, but I didn’t know that I hurt Rainbow this bad. So she deserves to hear it, as well as the rest of you. I’ll just force myself to say it, no matter how hard it is for me.”

“Well, it better be a GOOD reason, Starlight. That’s all I have to say,” Rainbow said with a huff.

“But first, I’ll start with the easy part.” Starlight sighed and looked toward the ceiling. After a short pause, she explained, “When I was a filly, my best friend was a colt named Sunburst. For as long as I can remember, we were inseparable. We played together, laughed together, studied magic together, and he was always there for me. If not for him, I might not be nearly as good in magic as I am, or was. I was always able to learn spells quickly, but I couldn’t do them without somepony giving me directions or advice. Sunburst did that.”

“Hmm. Okay, so does this ‘Sunburst’ have something to do with that plan of yours?” Fluttershy asked.

Starlight lowered her head to face Fluttershy and nodded. “Yes. One day, after he had stopped a bunch of books from falling on me with a burst of magic, his Cutie Mark appeared. It was in magic, so his parents rushed him off to Celestia’s School of Gifted Unicorns, and I never saw him again. Because of a Cutie Mark, I was left behind like...I was nothing.” Starlight looked down and wiped her eyes.

I knelt to Starlight and said, “Starlight, I’m sorry that happened, and I’m sure it was bad. But, why didn’t you try to make another friend? Weren’t there more foals around?”

Starlight looked up at me with watery eyes. I was already seeing sadness, but now anger was there too. Although it didn’t feel like it was aimed at me, or at anyone in the room. “Do you really think that I didn’t consider doing that?! I...*sniff*...I wanted to, but the thought of another Cutie Mark taking another friend from me...I just couldn’t do it! Have…*sniff*...any of you been left behind and had nopony there for you, making you feel like you're nothing?! The chance of it happening again scared the Tartarus out of me!”

All in the room, even Rainbow, had our mouths open. I had no idea Starlight felt like this. Fear of being left alone. I wasn’t sure if Starlight could have even kept going. But when she calmed down a tad, she found the strength to do so.

“That is why I didn’t ‘just make another friend' and why I hated Cutie Marks. But when I got a little older, I became able to learn magic by myself, and when I saw how strong my magic had grown, an idea came to me. I left home, traveled across Equestria in search of a spell that could take Cutie Marks, and later found it. Anger was clouding my judgment, but I still thought that by taking Cutie Marks, I could prevent everypony from being left behind and alone, like I was.” Starlight looked down and added, “And...to never be alone myself, so I will confess that it wasn't 100% selfless.”

Fluttershy set a hoof on her cheek. “So, I was right. You really were trying to help us.”

Pinkie said, “Yeah, and you and I were kinda doing the same thing. Though, I keep ponies from feeling sad by making them laugh, not by taking their Cutie Marks.”

Rainbow said, “O-Okay, Starlight, I’ll admit that I’m surprised. But still, why did you smile after taking our Cutie Marks? We weren’t exactly happy about it, but you didn’t care at all how we felt! If anything, you enjoyed it!”

Starlight sighed. In a voice full of sadness and regret, she explained, “I...I don’t know why I did that, Rainbow. Maybe it was the bad, no, evil, in me showing, or maybe it was because I didn’t feel like I was nothing at that moment, and it just...happened. But if it makes you feel better, I feel like nothing now.”

Rarity asked, “Hold on, Starlight. You said that you felt like you were ‘nothing’ in your story, and now you said that you are nothing, correct?”


Twilight asked, “But how did being friends with Sunburst help you not feel that way? And what did you mean by 'not having nopony there for you' after he left?”

Starlight grimaced. I had a bad feeling that we might have wished those questions were never asked. “As for the first question, it’s because, other than in spells, I wasn’t that good in other things. I was quick to panic. I didn’t have much confidence in most things outside of magic, so having a friend helped me feel like I was worth something. And as for the second question...”

Starlight whimpered and tears flowed from her eyes. The most heartbroken frown yet appeared on her face, but she was quiet for a second. I was about to say that she didn’t have to say anymore.

But before my mouth opened, with her voice breaking, Starlight confessed, “I said I had nopony there for me because…*sniff*...there wasn’t. My parents were never there for me and I don't think they even cared about me. So when Sunburst left, I had no pony. I was nothing. It was…*sniff*...just...nothing.”

I gasped. My heart broke. Her parents DIDN'T CARE for her?! I didn’t have many friends and my mom wasn’t...there. But, at least I had my dad growing up, and he was there for me until he passed on two years ago when I was twenty. But Starlight didn't have her parents at all? I had to fight to keep my hands from shaking when I asked, “W-Why were your parents not there for you?”

Starlight wiped her eyes, which were more watery than ever. “I really don't know why. But I do know that when I was upset, scared, or otherwise needed them, they just told me it 'wasn't a big deal' and didn't try to comfort me. I even had nightmares over it. That…*sniff*...made me think I was nothing if my parents did, but Sunburst helped me not think that way. Until he left. And then...”

Somehow, the tears from her eyes poured even more, getting the part of the floor under her face wet. Starlight’s voice broke even further when she added, “Then I…*sob*...was all alone. Weak. Nothing. It wasn’t until I learned to train myself in spells when I felt like I…*sob*...was something again.”

Applejack muttered, “Oh...wow. ah knew ya had yer reasons for hatin’ Cutie Marks, but...wow.”

Twilight gasped, like she just remembered something. “And now I understand why you said you would be ‘nothing’ if I took away your magic, and then cried for so long after I did. I thought it was because you just didn’t want to lose it, but now that I know the real reason...oh gosh.” Now Twilight’s eyes grew watery. “Starlight, I am so sorry. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, I promise I wasn’t, and if I--”

Starlight fell to the floor, covered her eyes and said, “No, don’t be sorry, because even when I tried to help others, I…*sob*...still messed up. I might have even made you all feel like you were nothing when I took your Cutie Marks, the last thing I wanted to make another pony feel! In fact, thinking about the failure I am, I don’t deserve you all as friends. I don’t deserve to have my magic back. And…*sob*...I should have that collar on me again, or even be in Canterlot Dungeon because I…*sob*...I’m NOTHING!!”

Starlight stopped talking and only wept. The floor under her face became even wetter, about to become a small puddle. I’ve seen others cry before, but not like this. My body just felt numb from it, and the others seemed to be just as stunned. Not even Rainbow Dash.

Somehow, I willed myself out of my little paralysis, leaned down to Starlight, picked her up, and hugged her, with her face against my chest. Her wailing barely lessened from it. Seeing Starlight like this sent daggers in my heart. She even reminded me of myself when I lost my dad. That made me want to help my friend feel like she’s something again that much more, and there was one thing that could do it. I gritted my teeth, gently laid the still-bawling Starlight down, and looked directly at Twilight.

In the most serious, no-nonsense voice I had, I ordered, “Twilight Sparkle, now.”

“‘Now’ what?” Twilight asked.

“Take. That. Ring. Off. Her. Now!”

Twilight looked toward Starlight with a conflicted frown, but my eyes stayed on Twilight. It was obvious she wanted to take that ring off, and might have been moments away from doing it, but was worried about “abusing” her power as a princess. For my credit, I’m not one for someone to go on power trips to do whatever they please either, unless it's for a very good reason. But this time, I couldn’t have cared less.

To further show that point, I demanded, “And I do not care if you ‘need’ Rainbow’s permission! You’re a princess, so just do it!”

“You heard him, Twilight. Take it off. She’s been through enough.”

That voice that just spoke was the last voice I thought would say it. I was so focused on Twilight that my eyes were off Starlight, so I missed what just happened in front of me. Until I looked.

Rainbow Dash was sitting in front of Starlight, hugging her. I even saw a tear come from Rainbow’s eyes. Starlight stopped wailing, but kept whimpering.

“Of all the reasons I thought you had, they don’t come close to what it actually was. I thought you were just mad at the world, or a dictator that only cared about herself, not because you’re a heartbroken pony that thought you were nothing. Yet...instead of just lashing out against anypony nearby, you went on to try to keep ponies from getting hurt like you were. Even if how you did it was...not great.”

“Maybe, but I still…*sniff*...screwed up. I’m nothing, just like…*sniff*...I always have been.”

Rainbow let Starlight go, placed her hooves on Starlight’s face and made her look at Rainbow in the eyes. “No, you listen to me, Starlight Glimmer. You are NOT ‘nothing’. You were NEVER nothing, but were just scared and lonely. I don’t know why that ‘Sunburst’ didn’t get in contact with you if you two were so close, but whatever. I forgive you for what you did, and you can have me as a friend. I’ll never abandon a friend, so don’t worry about me doing that. None of us will, right, guys?”

“Right!” the rest of the mares said at the same time, then all ran to Starlight and Rainbow. They all joined in a group hug, with Starlight in the middle. She stopped whimpering and even smiled. It was a cute, heartwarming sight.

In a voice full of happiness, Starlight said, “Thank you.”

After another moment, all the ponies looked at me.

Twilight asked, “Hey, Sam?”


Rainbow asked, “Why are you still there?”

Pinkie told me, “You’re our friend too, so get in here, silly!”

"Oh, sorry. I was thinking about how Starlight didn’t have her parents there for her. It made me think about my dad."

Twilight asked, "Your dad? What happened to him?"

Starlight gasped. "Wait, don't tell me your parents weren't there for you either?!"

"Oh no, it wasn't that! Well, my mom wasn't, but..." I sighed. I already felt bad killing the mood, but at this point, there was no turning back. "My dad...died two years ago. I guess I still miss him even more than I thought."

No one said anything. But the next thing I knew, I felt myself get pulled to the group by magic, and I was already in a kneeling position. Both Twilight’s particularly friendly smile and her glowing horn told me who it was that moved me. Maybe what I just said made her, and for that matter all of them, want me in their group hug that much more.

I wrapped my arms around as many of them as I could, and we all stayed like that for a while. I think I understood then and there why Twilight loves giving friendship speeches and can sometimes be so corny about them. Friendship is...no, I can’t say it. It’s too corny, no matter how true it is.

When we broke up our hug, there was just one more thing that needed to be done.

Twilight’s horn glowed again, and the ring around Starlight’s horn vanished.

Author's Note:

And with that, Starlight Glimmer is a free mare! This was not an easy chapter to write.

Now, as you should know at this point, the Spike in this story has a crush on Starlight.

So here's a question: would you want Sparlight to happen? If enough of you want Sparlight, I will look to make it happen.

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