• Published 16th Nov 2012
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Address Unknown - remedy



Derpy's suffered scorn for a mold she doesn't fit. Will a chance meeting change her life for the better?

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25. A Time to Break Down

Chapter 25 – A Time to Break Down

An anxious silence hung in the air as Twilight brought herself to her hooves, fighting for words. She looked from Derpy’s bowed head to her friends tensely watching her, and her mind reeled from the evening’s events. Everything felt wrong to her – her mane was askew and frayed, her eyes swollen and sore, her mouth parched, and her voice cracked and strained. With a few words, her world had been turned upside down.

The princess had taken her achievement from her – the achievement that she had worked so hard for, that they had risked their safety for, that would have given her marefriend her deepest wish. But now, its destruction was being demanded, and the one she had labored tirelessly for had just told her that it didn’t matter – that she was all right with the outcome.

She flushed with indignation. No, Derpy wasn’t “all right” with the outcome, Twilight was sure of that. Derpy was conceding defeat, accepting it for the sake of Twilight’s relationship with her mentor. But, that mentor had turned on her, betrayed her. Did Celestia not believe her when she said that they had cast the spell successfully? Or, maybe she thought Twilight was not talented enough, and that she would no doubt make a mistake. There were many possibilities that could have explained why the princess had forbidden the spell, but to Twilight, all of them meant exactly the same thing: Celestia did not trust her.

All their previous communications flowed through her mind – Celestia had taught her all this time about the power and importance of friendship, the value of the virtues ponies could find in each other. After all their lessons, though, when it really mattered – when it counted the most – she was telling her student to abandon the entire pretense of friendship. Her newest lesson was to abandon your friends when you can make a difference. Don’t even try, simply because Celestia lacked confidence in her ‘most faithful student’, and because an agency of suits, which had no actual interest in improving lives, decided that trying wasn’t worth the time.

Her friends looked on with fright as crimson crept up Twilight’s face, and the room felt eerily quiet in contrast. Derpy opened her eyes, catching Twilight’s gaze and igniting the fiery spark that was burning before. Derpy stood frozen, petrified by the ferocity that seemed to possess the unicorn.

Her voice, still scratchy from her crying, began softly but firmly. “Derpy, you know as well as I do that you don’t want to quit. You don’t want to listen to what Celestia is telling us to do.”

Her friends gasped; this was the first time they had ever heard Twilight disrespectfully refer to the princess by name only, ignoring her title completely.

“You don’t really want to give up, do you?”

With some shame reflected on her face, Derpy slowly shook her head. “I don’t want to, but I will if it means that it doesn’t make a rift between you and the princess.” Her eyes pleaded with Twilight. “I don’t want to be the pony to destroy that bond.”

Twilight’s voice took a venomous, icy tone. “You aren’t – she is.” The tension in the room rose dramatically as she continued. “We studied the spell, and we perfected it. We’ve cast it correctly, so I obviously have the skill to do it, but she doesn’t care! You want it, and I can give it to you, but…” she stomped her hoof in anger, “after all we’ve done for her, after all the obstacles we overcame, she doesn’t even trust me enough to cast a spell that I’ve already done!”

The pain and betrayal she felt cut deeply, as if everything she had learned from her mentor had been a farce. Everything had played out with Celestia instructing her ‘Elements of Harmony’ to do the seemingly impossible, tugging on their strings, almost as if… her mind focused on the image it brought forth, and her fury snapped. “I am not her damned puppet! I have my own free will, and I am not giving up just because they don’t like what we’re trying to accomplish!”

She felt triumphant at the declaration. Whatever impact ignoring Celestia had was justified in her mind. She would not be limited by arbitrary rules.

Twilight trembled with the emotions that were flowing through her. Her ears buzzed as she frantically tried to make sense of the princess’ actions, but failed. Her mind separated itself in her confusion, her conscious thought unwavering from the perceived insult to her pride and her abilities, while her unconscious mind independently began to manipulate her magic without restraint. Her eyes flashed into incandescence, glowing a hot white that burned with a maleficent vigor. An uncontrollable purple aura enveloped objects seemingly at random in the library, seizing them into an irregular orbit around the room.

With complete freedom from its master’s influence, the unicorn’s magic wreaked havoc throughout the room. Books spontaneously combusted, desks overturned violently before smashing themselves to debris against the walls, and chairs whipped around viciously as though held in a tornado.

In utter terror, the dragon and ponies scattered throughout the room. A purple tendril caught Spike around his leg, dragging him along the floor before heavily colliding him into a bookshelf. A bookstand threw itself toward Rainbow Dash, who deftly avoided it only to have a scroll case burst into flame inches from her head, searing her mane and causing her to yelp in pain.

Derpy was flailing around the room as best she could; the nonsensical maelstrom combined with her depth perception made it virtually impossible to anticipate the movement of magically controlled objects. A bookshelf loosed itself from its moorings and hurtled toward Derpy, who stood bewildered at the madness that had encompassed the library. She held up a hoof in front of her face, attempting to brace herself for the inevitable impact.

The collision never came. A loud grunt, accompanied by a sickening thud and smash, resounded beside her, and Derpy looked out from behind her hoof to see Applejack sinking to the floor, the bookshelf stopped in its tracks due to Applejack throwing herself between it and Derpy. A grimace of pain worked over her face as she pushed herself to her hooves beside the fallen shelf.

Derpy rushed to her, managing to dodge a chair as it sailed over her head.

“Applejack, are you alright?” she gasped, panicked and out of breath.

The farmpony nodded with a strain. “Ah think she knocked somethin’ loose in my shoulder, but Ah’ve seen worse buckin’ apples. We gotta snap her out of it.”

Derpy cast her gaze around at the carnage. Despair welled in her, screamed out in desperation.

“Twilight!”

Twilight was so focused internally that her vision had tunneled to nonexistence – she could not see or hear her friends, and she was oblivious to the havoc she was causing. Derpy’s terrified scream, however, penetrated her to the core. She blinked, and the white luminescence vanished immediately. The magic flowing through the room ceased, and everything was still, the abrupt cessation of chaos creating a petrifying void of sound.

Twilight could hear her own ragged breathing as the cloudy haze of anger cleared from her vision, and she became more acutely aware of her surroundings.

Around her were her friends, but there was nothing but shock and confusion in their reactions. Spike lay limp on the floor, his eyes closed and mouth hanging agape. Rainbow Dash hovered close by, her mane blackened across several bands of vibrant color. In front of her, Applejack was kneeling on the ground, staring at her, pain burned across her face. Twilight’s gaze swept around the room, perplexed at the ruin that used to be her library. Her gaze then dropped past Applejack, and every trace of rage extinguished in a heartbeat.

Every thought of Celestia, the spell, the letter, her fury, the disaster surrounding her, every feeling and emotion vanished – every feeling except one. In the place of every forgotten torment and offense, a torrent of remorse flooded through her – an all-consuming guilt that rendered her incoherent. The sight in front of her grabbed her soul and tore it into shreds.

Derpy lay cradled in Applejack’s forehooves, staring with fright at Twilight, tears streaking her cheeks, and when Twilight’s eyes dropped to her, she cringed, turning her head into Applejack and quivering.

Twilight’s thoughts were a blur. What have I done? I completely lost all control of my magic, injured my friends and terrified the one pony who means the most in the world to me.

A lump caught in her throat as she stared, trying to stammer an explanation, an apology, something or anything to undo what she had done.

“I… Derpy, I –”

“Twilight.” The coarse voice cut her off before she could form any sort of meaningful words. She looked up slightly to its source, her view resting on Applejack. She noticed the large bruise forming on the farmpony’s side, and that a dull lump was forming on her shoulder. The tone Applejack’s voice held was cold, conveying anger and contempt.

“Look around you, Twi. You just look. You went and lost all control you had, and this is what the result is. If this is what you can go doin’ just by getting’ mad, Ah can’t blame the princess for tellin’ you to stop that spell. You’d best go get yer head on straight before you even think about talkin’ to Derpy. Ah ain’t gonna lecture you about this. You just take a look at her. Take a good, long look, and then go somewhere quiet an’ private an’ figure out what it is yer thinkin’ before freakin’ out like that again.”

Twilight tried to swallow the lump in her throat, but it caught again as she looked back to Derpy. She wanted to cry, simply collapse and wallow in her guilt, but Applejack’s cold stare never left her, fixing her to the floor. She nodded, slowly and almost imperceptibly, as she turned toward the door in a cold sweat. She didn’t know where she was headed yet, but Applejack was right – it needed to be quiet, and she needed to be alone. The warning echoed through her head, and she was chilled her to the core as her mind spoke. Spend some time alone with your thoughts now, or you’ll be alone with only them for the rest of your life.

****************

A calmed hush fell over the library at Twilight’s departure, but the quiet was both welcome and unwelcome simultaneously. Relief flowed through the group, knowing that any imminent danger was past; however, the quiet also reminded them that Twilight had been sent away. Though they knew it was necessary for both their safety and for Twilight’s reflection, it was painful to tell their friend to leave.

Applejack’s demeanor softened after Twilight left. She was hurt, and she was upset at how Twilight had frightened Derpy, but at the same time she knew that her stern tone with Twilight had been intentionally harsh. Twilight needed to come to terms with her actions and attitudes, and the only way she could do that was by decompressing how she normally did: through quiet contemplation.

Applejack turned her attention to Rainbow Dash, who was rubbing her scorched mane and the underlying burns accompanying it.

“Dash,” Applejack addressed the pegasus softly. Rainbow Dash turned toward the farmpony in expectation. “Get Spike an’ bring him up to his room, okay? Ah think the little guy ain’t fit to move much for a bit. Ah don’t think he’s too hurt, but he took a good knock there into that shelf – he’s probably gonna be out like a light for a while.”

Rainbow Dash nodded silently and made her way to the dragon, lightly picking him up and setting him on her back before carefully heading toward the bedroom. Applejack turned back to Derpy, who still lay trembling in her hooves.

“You gonna be okay there, sugarcube?”

Derpy gave a large shudder, clenching her eyes tightly, the heavy lids forcing more tears down her face. She shook her head lightly, taking care not to jostle Applejack for fear that she would cause her even more pain.

“I… I’ve never seen Twilight like that before…” she looked up at Applejack, pain clearly showing in her face. “I mean, she was throwing things around the room, attacking us all! One of us could have been…” She looked at Applejack’s side and shuddered again. “If you hadn’t jumped in front of it, the shelf would have hit me… Oh, Celestia…Applejack, are you going to be all right?”

Applejack looked at her side and gave a lighthearted shrug. “Ah told you Ah got worse buckin’ apples. Ah probably just bruised somethin’ fierce, maybe dislocated somethin’ at the worst. Ain’t nothin’ a little visit to the doc won’t fix.”

Derpy looked skeptical, but she continued with her concerns; it was obvious Applejack wanted to help her first. “I don’t want to lose Twilight, but how can I love her and be afraid of her at the same time? What if she tries to hurt me again?” She began crying softly, burying her muzzle into the soft orange coat of the farmpony.

Rainbow Dash trotted down the stairs. “Spike’s in bed. Little guy didn’t wake up, but he did start snoring, so I think he’s fine. He’ll probably be feeling sore for a while, though.”

The sound of Derpy’s muffled cries reached her, and she stopped, concern washing over her. “Is Derpy okay?”

“She’s a bit shook up. Ah think we just need to give her some time an’ talk a little.” Applejack paused, seeing Rainbow Dash glance to the side and shuffle her hooves. The idea of deep conversation was obviously uncomfortable to Rainbow Dash. “Can you fly on over to Derpy’s place an’ get her stuff? Ah don’t think she’s gonna be able to make that trip tonight.”

Rainbow Dash saw the task for what it was – a chance to escape – and took it gladly. She nodded, opening the door and taking flight in the warm night air. For once, the pegasus did not depart in blinding speed, adding an odd surrealism to the situation.

Applejack watched Rainbow Dash fly away through the window and felt some relief at being left on her own with Derpy. She knew the pegasus needed answers, and she had them ready. Derpy was closer to Twilight emotionally than any of them had been, but she still did not know Twilight’s behavior and past as deeply as they did.

Applejack kept herself almost unnervingly calm as she continued to hold Derpy, giving her a light squeeze in a gesture of comfort and returning to the question the mare had asked her. “She ain’t gonna try an’ hurt you, sugarcube. An’ Ah really don’t think she was tryin’ to tonight, either.”

Derpy looked up at her in confusion, her sobs dying to sniffles as she listened for an explanation.

“Derpy, do you know how Twilight got her cutie mark?”

The pegasus shook her head.

“She told us all about it a while back. When she was a filly, she had to take some test to get into her magic school. Not just a normal test, neither – she had to cast a spell that would hatch a dragon egg right in front of some persnickety judges. She dang near blew it, too. She was all a bundle of nerves an’ thought she was gonna fail completely. That’s when Dash went an’ did her first Rainboom. Scared the livin’ daylights outta Twi – right in the middle of her test, when she was freakin’ out the most. Do ya know what happened next?”

Derpy took a guess. “She hatched the egg, and it was Spike?”

“Kinda. She did hatch the egg, and it was Spike’s egg to boot.” She smiled at Derpy. “But that’s not the important part. The important part was how she hatched the egg. An’ did some other stuff, too,” she added with a sparkle in her eye.

“When that boom scared her, her eyes went white an’ shiny, an’ her magic went haywire. Picked up all them judges off the ground, hatched Spike an’ immediately made him grow into a giant, even turned her parents into plants. She lost all control of it, all from gettin’ scared in the middle of a nervous fit. An’ it was Princess Celestia that snapped her out of it.”

Derpy sat in shock, and Applejack put the night’s experience parallel with that incident so long ago.

“Ah figure that’s the same thing that happened tonight. Love’s a mighty powerful emotion, an’ the princess’ letter upset her somethin’ fierce an’ threatened that love. All it musta took was a hair to nudge her into a complete loss of control. Same thing as when she was a filly, ‘cept now she’s got much stronger magic, an’ somepony that’s more important to her than anythin’. An’ that somepony was the one to snap her outta it this time.”

She gave Derpy a significant look. “Ah don’t think she knew anythin’ of what was goin’ on till it was over, so you really don’t need to be scared of her. We’ve all seen Twi in bad times, but we’ve had just as bad an’ worse times ourselves. What really makes the difference is how we come outta them. ‘Sides, if we didn’t stick by our friends through times like that, we wouldn’t be all that good ‘a friends.”

Applejack gave Derpy a poke. “An’ if we let one glimpse of what somepony can do shape our whole view of ‘em, we’d all still be waitin’ for you to turn this place into a pile of rubble, an’ there ain’t one of us that’s still waitin’ on that.”

The words sank into Derpy, dissolving her fears and doubts. She reflected over the time she had spent with her new friends, how their views had been radically changed by giving her the second chance she needed, and her eyes drifted over the cutie mark that had come to stand as a constant reminder to her that she was loved by more ponies than Twilight. As her eyes drifted, they came to stop on a familiar shade of orange, tipped with yellow and brown. She smiled widely, looking back at Applejack with happiness.

“Applejack… my cutie mark changed again.”

Applejack bowed her head slightly and smiled warmly back. “Ah know, sugarcube. It did a while back, before Twi’s magic went wild. Ah saw it when Ah saw you calmin’ her down before readin’ that letter.”

Derpy cocked her head to the side. “If you knew, how come you didn’t say anything about it?”

The reply was simple, yet profound. “Ah don’t need a cutie mark to tell me that Ah like ya.”

****************

The night air was warm, yet the slight wind picked sweat off Twilight’s lavender fur, sending a chill through her body. She wandered through Ponyville with her head hung low, making her way toward the outskirts of town. She was heading toward the hill where, some time ago, she sat with her friends to witness the centennial meteor shower. Now, however, she was going to sit alone on that same hill to ensure her future held any friends at all.

Her mind was completely blank for the time being; by choice, she was avoiding active thought as long as she could. Until she reached the solitary peak, she did not want to interpret her actions and feelings. To make sure she had clarity of thought, she wanted absolute quiet, a complete lack of any distractions before she dared confront herself. The trek continued in silence until she finally reached her chosen sanctuary – a sanctuary she was about to desecrate with her presence.

Slowly, she sank to the ground, feeling the grass lightly tickling her fur as the wind played across the clearing. Laying her head on her hooves, she closed her eyes and lapsed into deep thought.

What had gone wrong tonight? Everything had been fine until Spike brought her that letter, and even then the letter had started out promising. The praise that the princess had given Derpy in her letter, as well as Princess Celestia’s joy at the announcement of their relationship, had caused her to swell with happiness. Then, everything had gone horribly wrong. Within a short span, she had been snapped from elation to despair, guilt, and anger.

You know what. Celestia stabbed you in the back, that’s what.

She shook her head at the thought. Of course that’s how she felt; the announcement had been a shock, and a very unpleasant one at that. But, she had received painful news before, and her reactions had never been so severe. This letter had been different somehow – it was bad news, but she had become violently angry over it. However, the anger that caused her to burst into flame had only lasted an instant before she lapsed into despair.

It didn’t last because the letter wasn’t attacking your abilities. You gave in to despair because it pointed out the truth that you didn’t want to hear. You made a foolish decision by trying to do everything yourself. You rushed into it, grasping at straws to give Derpy what she wanted.

The assessment was true. The letter had told her a fact that made her ashamed. She had knowingly put Derpy in danger. Whether the outcome had been perfect the first time or not, that fact did not change. And it wasn’t the princess’ fault – it was her own. She could very well have looked further, she could have sought advice, or she could have even asked the princess herself – but she had done none of that. Instead, she had arrogantly insisted that she was more than able enough, and she had been wrong.

So you know the underlying cause was yourself, not Princess Celestia.

Twilight reluctantly nodded at that conclusion. It was painful, but it was true.

That’s why you were depressed and crying. You had made a mistake, and because of that mistake your research is being discarded. Discarded. It wasn’t being unfairly stolen away, because it shouldn’t have been kept in the first place. Celestia did not tell you to ignore Derpy’s problem – she told you that you chose the wrong way to help.

Then why had she lost control? Her temper had flared past anything acceptable, and she needed to know why. What had been the trigger?

Twilight’s eyes shot open, stinging in the wind after being shut tightly for so long. A sudden thought forced into her mind, jarring her from the trance-like state of inner turmoil.

Derpy accepted what you couldn’t. She saw how much it hurt you, but it must have hurt her just as much. You weren’t able to give her what she wanted, but she wasn’t able to get it, either. The difference was that she chose to accept the decision, for your sake. How much has the princess meant to you all these years? She was your teacher, your guide, and your first true friend. Derpy knew that, and she was willing to give up her dream to keep that alive. How did you repay that selfless act?

Twilight bowed her head again, closing her eyes and letting tears fall when they came. She felt broken and twisted, and her contemplation had shown her the reason.

You weren’t trying to help Derpy anymore. You only wanted to shirk your guilt and keep doing whatever you wanted, even when it was plainly the wrong choice. You turned down her offer of acceptance so that you could turn the princess into your scapegoat. Problems are a lot easier to deal with when somepony else is to blame, aren’t they? So you created your own accusations, created reasons to blame Princess Celestia for everything. And when you got caught up in it, you lost control of your own ability. Your own special talent, embodied in you as the Element of Magic, acknowledged by the princess herself, and you lost control of it.

She trembled as the chaos at the library flashed into memory. Books charred, shelves overturned, furniture scattered, and her friends hurt. Applejack’s eyes, flaming, boring a hole into her soul. Derpy, sobbing in terror, avoiding even looking at her.

The night seemed to grow darker around her by the second, and her mind gave her no reprieve. It demanded an answer, and the answer was needed now.

So, what are you going to do about it? You ignored Derpy’s decision, didn’t see your failure for what it was, and thanks to that you hurt your friends and almost hurt Derpy. I thought you loved her, and that doesn’t sound like love to me.

She stood, stamping her hoof on the ground, finally giving a voiced response to the accusations her mind was throwing at her. “I’m going to listen to her. I’m going to show her that I love her, and if that means burning all my research, yelling to all of Ponyville that I failed completely, and admitting to the princess that I nearly killed three of my friends and the mare I love, then so be it. I’m going to make this right. Somehow, I’ll make it right.”

About damned time. You’d better pray she accepts you back after this, though.

The thought chilled her to the bone, and she ran off at a gallop toward the library. She had a lot of apologizing and explaining to do, and she had to do it while she still had the chance.