• Published 11th Feb 2021
  • 1,629 Views, 53 Comments

A Woman Worth Saving - Undome Tinwe

In a city as corrupt as it is beautiful, Detective Rarity searches for her missing lover, Officer Twilight Sparkle, with the help of her former mentor, Celestia.

  • ...

Chapter Two: Old Habits

"You know, Miss Sparkle, if you want to have a better chance with a lady, you should take her somewhere that serves real drinks."

Twilight rolled her eyes as she took another gulp from her mug of coffee. "First of all, I would never take advantage of someone who's under the influence. Second, we're just friends."

"You know, friendship can have all sorts of wonderful benefits." I shot her a half-lidded gaze from my own mug to let her know exactly what I was talking about.

Shaking her head, Twilight grabbed a donut and wolfed it down with such wild abandon that it made me jealous of her metabolism. "Why do I even bother hanging out with you?"

It was our third meeting since she'd walked into my office and sweet-talked me into doing something terribly unselfish. By now, we'd developed a delightful routine. I would try to goad her, and she would admire my dazzling wit and beauty.

"Because you know exactly where I stand," I replied primly, taking a delicate and ladylike bite from my own donut. Oh stars, was it ever heavenly, but one of us needed to maintain proper decorum. "You don't have to sit here and wonder if I'm lying to you about who I am. Which is more than I can say for most of your colleagues."

"Mmm, I don't know that I do." Twilight was a damn good copper. I knew by the way her stare pierced right into my soul, and saw far more than I'd ever shown anyone. "Know where you stand, that is."

"Darling." I laughed, trying to hide how uncomfortable I felt at that moment. "I thought we came to an agreement during our last meeting about my intentions being strictly impure." My fluttering eyelashes attempted to distract the copper from my true feelings, whatever those might have been. "I enjoy the thrill of the chase, that's all. Of outsmarting another person and being fabulous while doing so. You're simply my latest hunt."

I'd come up with that excuse after Twilight had left my office with the lead she'd needed to save her friend's brother. After all, the alternative was that I'd actually had an attack of conscience, and that certainly couldn't have been the case now, could it?

"We'll see." Twilight Sparkle smiled the kind of smile that was normally reserved for women like me. The kind that told you she had a secret she desperately wanted to tell you, but the pleasure of keeping it was too much to let go of. It was one of my favourite smiles to use on others, and stars help me, I liked it far too much on her than was proper.

"I suppose we shall," I said airily, and not faintly, thank you very much.

"So, have you thought about my request any more?" Twilight asked, thankfully changing the subject, at least a little.

I tsked at her, taking the moment to regain my footing. "Now, now, Twilight," I chided, waggling a finger. "It's most unbecoming of you to ask a lady to violate her clients' privacy. There are rules that a proper lady must follow, after all."

"Celestia always said that rules were important, but ultimately, doing the right thing took precedence."

"How adorably sentimental," I replied. "Tell me, were all of Celestia's lessons similarly naïve?"

It had become a pastime of mine to needle Twilight about her former mentor. With how rose-tinted her glasses were when it came to her, it was always sure to lead to some delightfully entertaining indignation, and I hid my smile in my coffee as I waited for her impassioned defence.

Of course, Twilight Sparkle was always a woman of surprises, as I'd yet to truly appreciate back then. She chuckled darkly at my words, and when I looked up at her, I looked into eyes that seemed much older than the woman I was talking to.

"Do you think the Chief of Police of Canterlot didn't understand the kind of city she was trying to protect?" Twilight shook her head at me. "Celestia didn't teach me that good always prevails over evil and that if I do the right thing I'll be rewarded in the end. Honestly, I would have spat in her face if she'd tried.

"What she did was teach me that even if the whole force was dirty, even if every single other officer was willing to look the other way for the right price, it only took one good person to save a life. One good person to make a difference for someone, and for that someone, we were saving their world."

To my eternal embarrassment, I was quite frozen in place by her words, and Twilight Sparkle pressed her advantage in this little battle of wills between us.

"My brother died in the gang wars, back in the early days when Nightmare Moon was still a small-time crime lord. He was an officer too, under Celestia's supervision, and protecting his wife during a random shootout when he went down." There was such pain in her eyes, and I felt the absolutely ridiculous desire to wrap my arms around her and try to comfort her with my embrace. "That was the life he saved. His death tested my resolve to follow Celestia's teaching, but she helped me turn it into a desire to make sure he didn't die in vain.

"Cadance— his wife— and I both swore we wouldn't let something like that happen again if we could help it. That would be how we made a difference. We would fight to change the world, one person at a time."

"And yet, in the end, even Celestia couldn't hold on to the hope that things would get better," I said, feeling my walls crumbling to dust in the face of this dame who was far more than she seemed. "What makes you think you can?"

"I don't know," Twilight admitted. We had both forgotten our drinks by now, our attention locked onto each other with monumental intensity. "Maybe one day I'll wake up and decide that this place isn't worth saving. Maybe I'll decide to disappear like Celestia and leave it all behind, let this place and its people rot and stop playing by the rules because no one else is, anyways."

This time, when she smiled, she had no secrets, and I was still awed. "But until then, I've got a life to save somewhere out there. And another, and another."

To my absolute horror, I couldn't help but smile back warmly. "I wish you all the best, then." My wit had failed me in the face of Twilight's sincerity, and I found my foundations shaken by her once again.

Twilight, of course, didn't even have the decency to lord her victory over me. "Thank you," she said instead, and then added, "for being my friend. I don't have a lot of those on the force."

"I can't imagine why," I said dryly.

Twilight smirked in response. "Well, I don't have your winning personality, unfortunately."

Our conversation returned to normal after that, but Twilight's words stayed in my head, worming their way into my heart and thawing it out bit by bit.

Kind Heart Veterinary Hospital was located a fifteen-minute drive away from The Sunset Lounge. Rarity and Celestia took Rarity's car, which was parked about a block away from the club.

"So, tell me, how did Twilight manage to drag you into all of this?" As Rarity took the wheel, Celestia used the opportunity to interrogate her new temporary partner.

"Why do you immediately assume that it was Twilight's idea to go after Nightmare Moon?" Rarity huffed, sneaking a glance at her as they reached a straight part of the road. "Perhaps it was I who valiantly suggested that we dismantle her criminal empire with the information I was privy to."

Celestia snorted. "Please, Detective, I trained Twilight myself. And I know your type as well. You wouldn't be here if Twilight hadn't somehow dragged you into this kicking and screaming."

"What exactly do you mean by that?" Rarity's eyes narrowed as she took the next turn a little too sharply, nervousness causing her to drive faster than usual.

"The Yearling case was the last time you ever called in a tip," Celestia replied smoothly. "You're not the first person on the other side who thought she could make a difference, and you're definitely not the first to give up either. The only thing I don't know is whether your faith was broken by some grand betrayal, or if it was a slower, more insidious death."

For a moment, Rarity was tempted to remain silent. After all, she didn't owe Celestia any answers, not after all she'd done— or hadn't done, as the case may be.

Still, she thought to herself as she watched the streetlights blur as she drove past them, Twilight had respected Celestia, and for her, she was willing to try and make peace with her former mentor.

"The Nightmares figured out my little double-cross," she said. "A few days after I phoned in the tip, I received a visit from one Tempest Shadow."

Both of them winced at the name. "I see," Celestia said politely.

"As you might imagine, she left quite the impression," Rarity continued dryly. "If I never see another one of Nightmare Moon's lieutenants again, I will count myself most fortunate." A shudder wracked her body as she forced herself to focus on the road. "Anyways, it's one thing to play at saving the world, and quite another to face the very real threat that trying to do so would entail.

"And after that..." She shrugged. "The first time you turn your back away from someone is hard."

"But then it gets easier over time." The perfect understanding in Celestia's tone was saddening. "Eventually, it becomes a habit."

"It's easier to believe that this city isn't worth saving than it is to face the terrifying possibility that it might be." A wry smile graced Rarity's lips. "At least, that's what I thought, until someone reminded me that it only took one person to save someone's entire world."

They stopped at a traffic light, allowing Rarity to turn and see the other woman's reaction to her words. Her lips twitched downwards in a small frown, and for someone like Celestia, who must have been so practiced at hiding her emotions, it was as good as a cry of despair. When the former chief of police spoke again, her tone was measured, cautious. "Twilight was always the brightest of us all," she said quietly.

"Quite so," Rarity replied with a nod. "I knew she was dangerous the moment I laid eyes on her, but it took me far too long to realize just how right I was. Twilight Sparkle had a way of making you want to believe."

Celestia hummed in agreement. "She was the best student I ever had," she murmured softly. There was a hesitation before she asked her next question. "Did she ever talk about me?"

And there it was. A crack in her armour that Rarity could see clear as day. "Yes," she replied, thinking of how best to leverage this weakness. "She spoke very highly of you, despite everything. One would think the sun rose at your command, from how she nearly worshipped your teachings."

She heard Celestia sigh beside her as they continued the drive. "I always hated that," the former chief admitted. "I did my best to teach her to think for herself, and I like to think that I got through to her in the end, but she always did put me on a pedestal."

And yet, you still left her. You don't deserve her respect. The words were on Rarity's tongue, but she held them back in favour of trying to tease out more information from the mysterious singer. "Twilight also told me that you'd been far closer to discovering Nightmare Moon's true identity than anyone ever suspected."

Rarity paused, considering how far to push her point, before deciding that there was no purpose in trying to play coy around someone like Celestia. "She also performed some sort of analysis that's far beyond my abilities, and realized that The Nightmares were scrambling to close ranks after your disappearance, between them laying low for several months to Nightmare Moon delegating more of her tasks to her lieutenants. Something must have scared them quite badly."

For several moments, Celestia said nothing, and Rarity focused her eyes on the road, watching as the number of boarded-up buildings and predatory pawn shops and money-lenders grew in number. They were getting close to their destination, then, but she wanted to see what clues Celestia might reveal in her answer, first. She wanted so much to look her in the eyes and try to discern what she was thinking, but she knew that it was better to let her stew on the words without any distraction.

Finally, after almost half a minute of waiting, Celestia spoke. "The day before I quit the force, I found the smoking gun. A link between one of Nightmare Moon's shell companies and her real identity. Not enough for a case, but enough that I finally knew who she was. I confronted her that evening, and there were consequences."

Time seemed to stand still as Rarity drove entirely on autopilot, barely paying attention to the cars around her. "What happened?" she asked in a near-whisper, her heart pounding away madly in her chest.

"I lost my sister," Celestia replied quietly. Rarity turned and saw her bowing her head low, immeasurable sadness radiant from her form. "Luna was my best friend. I loved her more than anything and, after that night, I lost hope like you did. I stopped believing that this city was worth saving."

"I'm sorry." Rarity knew those words weren't enough, had said them to so many of her clients that she knew they didn't matter, but they were all she had.

"Trying to take down The Nightmares would have cost me more than I was willing to pay," Celestia continued, and Rarity wondered if she'd even heard her words of sympathy. "I'd already failed so many people. Luna, Shining Armor, Ca—" She paused and shook her head. "Anyways, I took the coward's way out and disappeared."

"And became the star attraction of the Sunset Lounge," Rarity finished, feeling crushed in the confines of the car as she continued the drive, her heart constricted in a vise.

"I always had a talent for singing," Celestia murmured. "I took plenty of lessons as a child, and was accepted into the Conservatory, before I foolishly believed I could do something greater."

There was a lot that didn't add up about Celestia's story, and Rarity suspected there was something big that Celestia was hiding, but that didn't matter to her now. Only one thing did. "You can still help me save Twilight now. Even if your information is out of date, surely there's something you know that can help us now. That's worth something."

"Perhaps," Celestia murmured. "I'll need to see the scene of the disappearance before I can say for sure."

"Well, you're in luck." There was an attempt at cheerfulness on Rarity's part, but it sounded false even to her own ears. "We're here." She pulled into the parking lot and drove into an empty spot. "Also, I must say, you are being far more forthcoming with a woman you met an hour ago than I would have expected from a former chief of police hiding from Nightmare Moon herself."

Celestia shrugged. "It hardly matters now." A mischievous glint sparkled in her eyes. "And I figure any woman with the good sense to fall in love with Twilight Sparkle can be trusted with some of my secrets."

Rarity was very glad that she'd parked her car already, or else she might've swerved into traffic in her shock. "H-How did you—?"

For the first time since their meeting, she heard Celestia chuckle with genuine mirth. "My dear, you do recall that I was once the best detective in Canterlot, hmm? And it's not a very difficult deduction to make. Very few people would be willing to go up against Nightmare Moon herself for reasons besides love."

"Ah," Rarity replied faintly. "I suppose in this regard I may wear my heart on my sleeve."

"I'm happy for both of you," Celestia said with utter sincerity. "Twilight's been alone for so long, and I know she doesn't think she needs other people, but you and I know better."

And who's fault is it that she had no one to look after her? The words danced on the tip of Rarity's tongue, but she held them back for the sake of civility, again. Instead, she spotted a familiar face standing outside the entrance of the building in front of them.

"Fluttershy!" she called out. "We're here!"

Fluttershy looked up at them with one widened eye, the other hidden beneath her long, lustrous hair. "Oh, Rarity!" She stepped forward and the two of them hugged. "I haven't touched anything out back." She stared at Celestia. "Is that her?"

"Yes." Rarity stepped back in order to make introductions. "Fluttershy, meet Celestia, the former chief of police of Canterlot. Celestia, this is Fluttershy. She owns the veterinary hospital that Twilight and I were supposed to meet behind today, and she's provided us with a safe haven more than once when we needed somewhere to hide out."

"It's the least I could do after everything the two of you have done for us," Fluttershy replied meekly. "I hope you can find Twilight before anything terrible happens."

"We shall certainly do our best," Celestia said.

Fluttershy nodded before her worried eyes drifted back to Rarity. "Umm, Rarity, I know this is a bad time, but Troubleshoes came by earlier, and he's been evicted from the apartment on Clover Drive."

Rarity sighed. "I don't even want to know what he accidentally broke this time. Not to worry, I'm sure I can find some landlady who hasn't heard of his abominable reputation with accidental destruction of property." That was a headache for another time, though. For now, she had more pressing concerns.

"Thanks, Rarity," Fluttershy said as they circled the hospital, passing by a handful of cages. "I really appreciate everything you've done to help us and keep this place safe."

"Think nothing of it, dear Fluttershy," Rarity replied. "I take it Fleur hasn't been around anymore?"

Fluttershy shook her head. "Not since you talked to her. I'm not sure what you said, but we haven't been asked for protection money by anyone in the last month."

"That's good to hear." Even if the worst came to pass, Rarity would at least know that they had helped someone. After all, it had been Twilight's files that had given Rarity the leverage she'd needed to get Fleur De Lis to back off from extorting Fluttershy as part of The Nightmare's protection racket.

A barking from inside the building broke Rarity from her reverie as she saw Fluttershy push open the door to the back. "Oh, I think that's Spot calling for me. Is it okay if you two go on ahead without me?"

"I know this place well enough," Rarity assured her. "Go on, dear."

As Fluttershy took her leave, Rarity turned to see Celestia peering curiously at her. "You seem to have recovered your previous sense of community responsibility," the former chief said, her expression unreadable.

"Twilight's fault," Rarity said simply. "The funny thing about habits is that they go both ways. You start out doing something nice for someone once, and the next thing you know you've been roped into trying to make the city a better place. I must say, it does wonders for the soul."

"I can imagine." A wistful sigh slipped from between Celestia's lips. "That feeling of making a difference truly was the only thing getting me through the day sometimes. Not that it mattered in the end."

"It mattered," Rarity replied. "You inspired a wonderful woman to do what is right, no matter how hopeless she felt."

"And now she's gone missing."

Rarity glared at Celestia. "We'll find her, and save her, and then you can go back to your little cage." There was no retort from Celestia, and together the two of them made the rest of their way around the building in silence, eventually reaching a small yard located behind the hospital that was bordered by a back alley.

A chorus of barking and screeching greeted them when they reached the back, coming from the row of cages lined up along the wall. One particularly large pitbull snarled at Celestia as she walked past it, lunging at her from behind its bars. The cacophony made concentrating on anything else impossible, but fortunately, a door to the back to the hospital opened to reveal Fluttershy once again, a serene expression on her face as she strode down the row of excited animals.

"It's alright," she said, her voice soothing and filled with so much kindness and compassion that even Rarity felt its effects on her heart. "These are friends who are trying to help our other friend, okay? Can you be quiet for them so that they can do their jobs?"

As if they could actually understand her words, the noise immediately quieted down as all the animals settled back into their usual behaviours. "Thank you," Fluttershy said, smiling. She turned to face Celestia with an apologetic smile. "Sorry about that. The animals get a little excited when someone new comes around."

"Remarkable," Rarity heard Celestia murmur as she glanced about the crime scene. "Thank you, Fluttershy," she said more loudly before addressing both of them. "So, what can you tell me about the case?"

Rarity cleared her throat. It was time to get down to business and save her lover. "Twilight and I were supposed to meet at eight in the morning here," she said, softly enough that they wouldn't be accidentally overheard by someone driving by. "I had enough proof that several of the businesses the Nightmares owned were being used to launder their ill-gotten gains, which would have been enough to get warrants on them and see where the trail of ownership led.

"I'd faxed over the list of companies yesterday, and was going to deliver the originals of the documents Twilight needed when we met. Afterwards, I was supposed to head to a safe house to lay low for a few days just in case some of the heat landed back on me. Of course, when I got here on time, I found, well, this."

At that, Rarity gestured towards the right side of the yard, where a badge lay strewn on the floor, with a trail of blood leading from it to the road. She did her best not to actually look at the evidence of her lover's disappearance — she'd done all the detective work she knew how to do already, and it was more important that she keep a clear head around Celestia and her secrets than to take a second gander at what had gone down.

Meanwhile, Celestia walked carefully around the yard, stopping at the remnants of a struggle that had knocked over several of the tables in one corner and left its marks on the scuffed dirt beneath. Rarity gave her a few minutes of silence to do a thorough evaluation of the premises, steeling her mind to discuss her lover's disappearance at length.

Finally, Celestia gestured her over from her position crouched over Twilight's badge. "Tell me, detective, what do you see?"

Rarity rolled her eyes. "Please, Celestia, I'm not one of your students, and this is hardly the time for a lesson in investigative work."

"It's been a long time since I've had to do this sort of thing," Celestia replied. "I only wanted a second opinion on what my rusty skills are deducing."

Rarity couldn't tell if she was being sincere or not, but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt to speed things along. "If you're referring to the fact that the badge was dropped on top of the blood trail, I noticed that as well."

Celestia picked up the badge, noting the torn cloth still attached to its back. "It's also very clean for something that would've been dropped in the middle of a fight, don't you think? No dirt or other grime that one would expect from it getting kicked around in a heated fight."

"I'd considered that," Rarity said. "It does seem like it was left here after the fact, rather than knocked off in the scuffle. But whyever would the miscreants who took Twilight leave behind her badge? Perhaps as a message?"

"Perhaps." Again, Celestia was hiding something, and Rarity couldn't tell what it was. It was endlessly frustrating, especially when so much was at stake. "It's possible that there was meant to be no question as to what transpired here. Tell me, what were you supposed to do in such a situation?"

"Well, I was already meant to head straight to the safe house, but I suppose this would spur me even faster into going to ground." A creeping chill slid down Rarity's spine. "It's possible they wanted to ambush me there, but I don't believe that they would know where our little secret hideout even was, and they could simply have waited here for me if I was their target."

"It's certainly odd," Celestia agreed. Then, with a suddenness that nearly gave Rarity whiplash, she called out to the other member of their little group. "Miss Fluttershy, may I ask you a few questions?"

"Oh, umm, sure!" Fluttershy nodded eagerly.

"Thank you," Celestia said kindly. "Tell me, what time did you come in to work?"

"Around six," Fluttershy replied. "I didn't see Twilight or anyone else around when I did the rounds to make sure all the animals were okay. I spent the whole time in my office until Rarity came in to tell me that Twilight was missing."

"And you didn't hear or see anything out of the ordinary?"

A shake of the head. "I'm sorry I couldn't be more help. Twilight really means a lot to all of us. The critters here all loved her once they got to know her and see how sweet she was."

"I swear, they were almost as pleasant around her than they were around Fluttershy," Rarity said dryly, a pang shooting through her heart at the memory of Twilight helping to feed the dogs and being knocked over by a particularly excited husky. They had to find her before it was too late.

Celestia had to come through. It was the least she could do after leaving her to the wolves.

"Did she ever get over her fear of snakes?" Celestia asked, a faraway look in her eyes and a smile that shone with echoes of a better time.

Fluttershy shook her head with her own smile. "You could hear her screams from anywhere in the building when she saw one. She was talking about trying exposure therapy to get over it, before..." she trailed off, the previous cheer of reminiscence washed away by the cold reality of Twilight's disappearance. "I hope you can find her."

"I hope so as well," Celestia replied. "And thank you, Miss Fluttershy. I think we have the information we need."

"You do?" The surprise in Fluttershy's words was mirrored in Rarity's thoughts.

Celestia nodded. "If you'll excuse me, I need to make a phone call. Where is the nearest payphone?"

Fluttershy listed off some directions, and then bid the pair farewell as they walked down the block. As soon as they were out of earshot, Rarity spoke in a low tone. "So, care to share your thoughts with us lesser minds?"

A pause as Celestia seemed to consider her words. "I have... a suspicion about what may have happened, but I would rather verify some things first before sharing them. I'll need to see the list of shell companies you sent to Twilight."

"I have a copy in my office," Rarity quickly replied. "You can have them. And what, pray tell, is this suspicion of yours?"

"You likely wouldn't believe me even if I told you," Celestia said. "But rest assured, if I'm correct, then we will have a major clue that will help us find her."

Rarity's eyes narrowed. "You're hiding something from me. Something that cracks this whole case wide open, and you won't even share what it is with Twilight's life on the line."

At least Celestia respected her enough not to hide it. "I promise you, Detective, Twilight Sparkle is very likely still alive. Nightmare Moon would not have killed her."

"How are you so sure of that?" Rarity demanded, anger flaring up again. How dare Celestia play games like this! Hadn't she pulled Twilight's puppet strings enough already? "Why do you know so much about Nightmare Moon, and why won't you tell me who she is?"

"I made a promise." The answer was spoken so softly that Rarity almost didn't hear it. Then, more loudly, Celestia said, "And the less you know, the better. You'll only find pain going down this path, and I hope to the stars that Twilight hasn't gone too far yet."

"Any pain is worth removing that menace from the streets." Had the former chief really fallen so far as to deny that? "Unlike you, Twilight and I are willing to see this to the end, no matter what." Still, she too prayed that Twilight wouldn't have to pay the ultimate price for justice, even if she was willing to do so.

"That's what I fear." They were at the payphone now. Celestia put a dime in the slot and picked it up, rattling off a list of numbers to the operator. Rarity waited patiently as she was connected to someone on the other end. "Tell your employer that Celestia wants a meeting at Sugarcube Corner in an hour. I'm willing to hand over the account number and key in exchange for some information about her operations."

There was a pause, and a minute later Celestia seemed to have received a reply. "Thank you, please enjoy the rest of your night," she said before hanging up.

"So, care to explain what just happened?" Rarity was beginning to get quite tired of all these secrets. It was amusing when she was the one holding them, and the stakes weren't the love of her life. Now, it was grating at best, and dangerous at worst. "Are we meeting with someone else who will refuse to tell me what I need to save Twilight?"

"Hopefully not," Celestia replied, not reacting to the anger in her tone. "We need to get to Sugarcube Corner quickly. I've arranged a meeting with someone who should be able to shed some light on how much Nightmare Moon knows about your investigation against her."

"And who is that?" Rarity asked.

"Sunset Shimmer, her lieutenant," Celestia replied. "And, once upon a time, one of my best officers."