• Published 11th Apr 2013
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The Many Uses of a Brush - Crimson Brush

A store that sells designer and custom hairbrushes opens in Ponyville with a very peculiar owner.

  • ...

Turnabout's Fireplay

The Many Uses of a Brush
Chapter 6: Turnabout’s Fireplay

{ Three nights ago, at Crimson’s Brushes... }

Twilight Sparkle walked into Crimson Brush’s store just as the moon was breaking over the horizon. She spotted the zebracorn hybrid standing behind the counter, and gave her a wave of her hoof. “Hello, Crimson. Spike told me you wanted to talk to me?”

Crimson looked up from the counter and gave Twilight a warm smile. “Yes, my dear. Thank you for coming so soon. Lock the door behind you, please.” She waited for Twilight to turn the deadbolt lock’s handle, then motioned for the unicorn mare to follow her into her workroom. Twilight gave her a curious look, then shrugged and followed her into the back, looking around with interest at the half-finished projects on the workbench and the shelves stacked with the raw materials Crimson used in her trade. Crimson gave the ever-curious unicorn a moment to look around while she moved a couple of chairs to face each other, then motioned for Twilight to have a seat.

“Would you like some tea, my dear?” Crimson asked her guest once Twilight was settled. “I have some already made; I was just about to have a cup myself.”

“Oh! That’d be nice, thank you,” Twilight said with a smile. She waited patiently while Crimson poured out two cups and brought them over, floating one over to Twilight while keeping the other for herself. They sipped together, and Twilight’s face lit up with pleasure at the aroma and taste. Rich black tea, full of mouth-watering spices. “Oh, my. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and... something else?”

“Cardamom, my dear,” Crimson said with a pleased smile of her own. “Don’t tell me you’re an expert on tea blends, as well as all your other talents!” she added, unable to resist teasing the modest librarian unicorn a little.

“Oh, well...” Twilight blushed. “Not really, but I do like tea, and... well... I read a lot, remember?” They both chuckled at that, and sat back to share another few companionable sips. “It’s really good. Anyway, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” she asked.

“Well, it might be nothing, Twilight, but I had a very... disturbing... visit earlier today.”

Twilight tilted her head, giving Crimson a curiously worried look. “What happened?”

Crimson took a breath as she considered how best to discuss things without alarming her friend. “A strange earth-pony mare came into my store today. She bought a crop... and a magic inhibitor,” she began.

“Oh? Well, earth ponies and unicorns date all the time,” Twilight said thoughtfully, “and I do recall one of those... um... ‘alternate lifestyle’ books mentioning something about using inhibitors to... um... ‘spice things up’...” Even though she’d grown a little more comfortable discussing such intimate subjects, at least in the privacy of Crimson’s back rooms, Twilight still blushed at the idea as she said it out loud, which Crimson couldn’t help but find endearing despite the circumstances. “...so... maybe she’s got a unicorn... um, lover, that enjoys that kind of thing?” she suggested, wondering just what this had to do with her.

Crimson nodded and took another sip of tea before continuing. “She specifically mentioned it was for a purple unicorn mare. And, well... you are the only pony that matches that description, that I’ve met, since coming to Ponyville...” she said, hoping she wasn’t about to pry into something personal. The last thing Crimson wanted to do was embarrass her unicorn friend by butting into her private life uninvited.

Twilight leaned forward a bit, her interest now piqued. “Well, I’m not the only purple unicorn mare around... well, more of a dark lavender, kind of mulberry-ish, technically,” she said, unable to resist the urge to make the correction, “but yes, I am the only one in Ponyville, as far as I know. Maybe she’s... dating someone in Canterlot? Or... was there something else?”

“I think there might be, yes,” Crimson said carefully. “She had a number of... unusual mannerisms, for one, and she was obviously hiding something. She lied about her name... very badly, I might add... and her behavior was just odd, overall. Granted, some ponies are a bit embarrassed about their liking for the wares I sell here,” she added, gently teasing Twilight again, “and can be nervous about asking for them... They’ll make up cover stories, pretend they’re buying it ‘for a friend’ – but I don’t think it was that. She didn’t seem like the shy, nervous type, and she certainly had no hesitation about asking for the items she wanted – she just very obviously didn’t want me to know her name. Her cutie mark was rather unusual for an earth pony, as well.”

“What did she look like?” Twilight asked. Crimson described the mare as best she could, gauging her unicorn friend’s reactions curiously as she spoke. Twilight didn’t seem too worried about it, until Crimson described the azure-blue mare’s stars-and-wand cutie mark. “Wait! ‘Unusual mannerisms’...? Like referring to herself in third person all the time?” she suddenly asked as the pieces clicked together in her mind. “That’s Trixie!”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Crimson said, visibly surprised that Twilight had made that particular connection. “You know this earth pony, then?”

Twilight shook her head. “Well, yes... I mean, no...” She sighed softly and started over. “Trixie’s not an earth pony. She’s a unicorn, and she’s well-versed in illusion magic. She came to Ponyville a long time ago, as a traveling showmare... and thanks to some heckling from my friends, and a duo of... um, overly-impressionable and somewhat thoughtless colts who took her stage patter too seriously, she inadvertently caused an Ursa Minor to rampage through town. I managed to turn the Ursa back by lulling it to sleep, but she ran off before I could talk to her. The next time I saw her was about a year ago. She was under the influence of an ancient and, unfortunately, very dangerous magic amulet, and almost enslaved the whole town. She apologized for everything after I managed to get her away from its control... but then she ran off again. I didn’t think I’d ever see her again after that.”

Crimson listened intently, raising a curious brow as she noticed what appeared to be a slightly disappointed look in the unicorn mare’s eyes. “She sounds like quite the troublemaker.”

Twilight shook her head. “Not really. She’s very boastful and full of herself, but I don’t think she ever intended for anypony to be hurt. I honestly don’t think she even knew that amulet was dangerous. But she still thinks I intentionally upstaged her, and isn’t too happy about it. I thought, with her apology, all of that was behind us... but maybe not,” she finished with a heavy sigh.

Crimson bit her lip as her worries began to creep their way back into her mind. “I see... I’m sorry I sold the inhibitor to her, then.” She got up for a moment and made her way over to a small wooden cabinet. She used her horn to unlock one of the drawers, then lifted a small, round, glowing ball from it. A transparent-blue sphere about the size of her hoof, mounted in a wooden holder to keep it from rolling away. It could have been mistaken for a snow globe, aside from the fact that there was nothing inside it except for the soft glow.

Twilight, however, knew what it was immediately. She’d seen several of these at the Gifted Unicorns’ school in Canterlot, and more than a few in the various wings of the College of Magic’s Royal Library. “A spell crystal!” she said, her eyes widening in recognition.

Crimson chuckled softly as she sat back down and held the object in front of her. “Yes. A very special one that a friend gave me a few years ago. He’s not overly fond of inhibitors, so when I told him that I had purchased some, he sent me a couple of these, and told me they might come in handy,” she explained as she passed the orb over to Twilight. “It’s made to counter the effects of any inhibitor placed on the owner of the orb. Once it’s been activated by its owner, if a certain word chosen by the owner is spoken within a certain distance of it, the orb will instantly deactivate and shatter the inhibitor. This one hasn’t been activated yet. Simply focus on the orb and speak your chosen word, and it’ll be attuned to you. After that, as long as it’s within twenty feet of you, you can use it to break the inhibitor if she tries to put on you.”

Twilight studied the orb and its enchantment very closely, then nodded her understanding of the spell crystal and its purpose. “I see... Thank you very much, Crimson. I’ll be sure to give it back to you when I’m finished with it.”

“No need,” Crimson assured her. “As I said, my friend sent me more than one. I still have the other one, activated for myself. Although I’ve never actually needed to use it, thank Celestia.”

“Let’s hope I don’t have to, either,” Twilight said with a soft sigh. After a moment’s thought, she looked up again. “Can I purchase an inhibitor as well... just in case things get out of hoof?” she asked.

Crimson couldn’t help feeling a few misgivings about the idea, but nodded agreement. She trusted Twilight enough to take her at her word; she wouldn’t use it unless Trixie forced her to. “Come back out to the front, my dear.” She waited for Twilight to store the spell crystal in her saddlebag, then led her back out into the main storefront. As Celestia’s personal student, Twilight was already registered for the possession and use of controlled magic items, but she insisted on doing things by the book nonetheless, and filled out the necessary forms while Crimson lifted another of the rune-inscribed inhibitor bands out of the magically-locked box. “Here... and don’t worry about the price, my dear,” she said as she pushed the bright golden band across the counter. “It’s my fault Trixie has one in the first place.”

Twilight smiled, but shook her head. “Thanks, but please let me pay for it anyway. I’d feel bad if I took something this expensive for free. And please don’t worry about Trixie. It’s not your fault; you couldn’t have known. Now that I know she’s coming, I can handle her.”

Crimson sighed softly and shook her head. “That’s kind of you to say, my dear, but in hindsight, I really should have listened to my instincts when they told me something seemed ‘off’ about her.” After the money exchange and signing of the registry forms was finished, she couldn’t help but add, “You seem almost happy to have this chance, my dear.”

Twilight gave her a knowing grin. “Perhaps a little.” She left the zebracorn mare to ponder that, and went back home to have a little talk with Spike.

Crimson sat with a very confused look on her face, as she considered that last comment from Twilight. She had the same look in her eyes as Trixie...

\/ * /\ * \/ * /\ * \/ * /\ * \/ * /\ * \/ * /\ * \/ * /\ * \/

{ Present day, at Golden Oaks Library Tree... }


Trixie leaped back, startled and more than a little confused at Twilight’s shout. “What in the world is wrong with you, Twilight? Did the Great and Powerful Trixie break your brain, or – ”

A bright flash cut her off in mid-sentence, and her eyes went wide with shock at the sight of the inhibitor ring on Twilight’s horn shattering into a dozen fragments. Twilight scattered the fragments with a quick toss of her head, her horn already charging up with a deep-purple glow. Trixie quickly threw up a sky-blue shield spell around herself as she watched her nemesis warily. “What did you just do?!” she demanded.

Twilight chuckled softly and gave Trixie a grin that rivaled her own when she’d been the one in charge of the situation. “You’re right, Trixie. In a way, I did enjoy that... but not in the way you hoped, I’m sure. As for what happened to your inhibitor ring? I already knew you were coming, and I had some precautions set in place.”

What?! If you knew I was coming, then why did you let me capture you?! You even sent Spike away, and left yourself alone!” Trixie was very worried now. Clearly, she had miscalculated, and now Twilight was about to turn the tables on her... again. She began slowly backing her way to the door, keeping her shield raised in front of her.

“That’s right, I did,” Twilight said, nodding as she casually matched the blue unicorn step for step. “I didn’t want our meeting to be disturbed. I’ve been waiting for you to return, Trixie... though I had hoped it would be under better circumstances than this. But a part of me is still glad for how things turned out.”

Trixie was so surprised by that last statement that she actually stopped backing towards the door. “Wh... what do you mean?”

Twilight sighed softly as the magic glow faded from her horn – a sight which only further confused Trixie, who had assumed that the glow was the start of an attack, not realizing that all Twilight was doing was healing some of the damage to her backside so that it wouldn’t hurt so much. “Believe it or not, Trixie... I really did feel bad for what happened in the past. That first time you came to town... My friends were having an argument that day, I don’t even remember what it was about. I thought seeing a show might cheer them up and get them over it, so I brought them along. But the way you presented your show just rubbed them the wrong way, and... that’s why they went after you like that,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “I never meant to upstage you, and I was embarrassed that they were acting like that, which is why I made up that excuse to walk away. I wish it hadn’t happened like that... I really did want to see your show. I was never that good at illusion spells, myself, and your control over your magic really is very, very good. I would’ve liked to have seen more of what you could do, and maybe even have you teach me some of them. But then the Ursa happened, and you ran off before I had a chance to talk to you and apologize for my friends being so rude to you.”

Trixie quirked a brow in disbelief as she listened. “You... You wanted to apologize to Trixie? Even after what she did to you?”

Twilight simply gave her a warm smile and nodded. “Trixie, I never held any of it against you. I mean, okay, the Alicorn Amulet incident might have been a little your fault, although I do believe you when you say you honestly didn’t know the amulet was dangerous. But the Ursa Minor was not your fault; there was no way you could’ve known Snips and Snails would do something that... well, stupid. And you already apologized for the amulet. But if you mean what happened just now... I let that happen because I felt bad for having some part in all of it. I can’t help thinking if I’d just stood up to my friends and stopped them from heckling you, instead of keeping quiet and walking away... maybe none of the rest it would ever have happened, and it never would have come to this.”

Trixie just stared at Twilight for several long moments, completely taken aback by the seemingly honest words of apology from the pony she had only until recently despised with all her being. “I... Trixie... accepts your apology,” she finally said. “But... I still don’t understand why you let all this happen! Surely you don’t think your actions were completely at fault?” Her voice wavered a bit as she tried to process exactly what was happening. She had never expected a sincere apology from the unicorn. Why is she being so nice to me? After all the things I did to her and her friends...?

Twilight sighed softly and shook her head. “No... I don’t think my actions were completely at fault. Nor were my friends’ actions. In fact... I don’t even consider our actions to be of greater consequence then your own.”

This only served to make Trixie look even more confused than before. “Then why did you accept my retribution and let me punish you, if you felt I was the one in the wrong?”

Twilight couldn’t help smiling to herself as she noticed Trixie wasn’t referring to herself in third-person any more. “Simple, Trixie. I accepted your punishment for my part in all of this, because I was partly in the wrong... but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for your part in it,” she said, her expression turning to a sly grin.

Trixie began to shake noticeably as she took another step backwards towards the door. “What... what do you think you can do to The Great and Powerful Trixie?!” she said, trying to project her usual boastful confidence even as her voice cracked a little.

Twilight’s grin turned positively wicked as her horn lit up once more. “I intend to give her exactly what was given, of course,” she said. “I think that’s only fair. Don’t you?”

Trixie’s eyes shot wide open as she realized in a flash exactly what Twilight meant. She spun on her hooves and bolted for the door, only to be snatched into the air by a purple glow before she even made it a whole two steps. Just as she went to use her own magic to try and break free, she heard a distressingly-familiar click! as something attached itself to the base of her own horn, and felt a surge of raw fear as her own magic was instantly snuffed out and blocked. “You can’t do this to Trixie!” she cried.

Twilight turned her around and floated her closer so she could look into her eyes, just like Trixie had done to her earlier. “I’d rather this happen the easy way, Trixie,” she said evenly. “But if you insist on doing it the hard way, I can always send a letter to Princess Celestia. Misuse of a magic inhibitor? Assaulting Celestia’s personal protege? I don’t think she’ll take either of those too well, do you?” Though her words were threatening, she spoke rather softly, as if she honestly hoped Trixie wouldn’t force her hoof and make it come to that.

Trixie looked into the other unicorn’s eyes and gave a loud gulp as she contemplated her options. Not that she really had any, she realized with another surge of cold fear. She was in serious, serious trouble. Committing assault with a magic inhibitor was bad enough – how in Equestria could she have ever thought she’d get away with that? – but assaulting the Sun Princess’ personal student? She’d be lucky if she only spent the rest of her life breaking rocks... on the moon!

After a brief moment, Trixie deflated and nodded, realizing she truly had no choice but to do whatever Twilight Sparkle demanded. “Very well, Twilight... Trixie will submit. For now. But don’t expect The Great and Powerful Trixie to apologize!” she added, trying to at least make a show of bravado despite the hollow feeling in her stomach.

“I don’t expect anything, Trixie...” Twilight sighed, shaking her head. “...but a mare can hope,” she added, in a whisper just low enough for Trixie to be unable to hear it. “You don’t need to worry, though... I’m not evil. I don’t plan on torturing you. In fact, I don’t even plan on using that wicked crop you brought along. That thing really stings, I hope you know! Even with you going easy on me, that really, really hurt a lot!

Trixie blinked, then glared back at Twilight. “I did not go easy on you!”

“I won’t even make you wear that bit and bridle,” Twilight chuckled, deliberately not acknowledging Trixie’s outraged protest. “Though by rights, I probably should...”

Trixie eeped! and quickly shut up, not wanting to be humiliated even further than she was already about to be as she found herself being lowered to the floor and magically bound into the exact same position as she’d forced Twilight into. Immobilized, head and forelegs down, hindquarters up, hind legs spread, tail lifted... utterly helpless, and completely exposed. Although, as much as she hated to admit it, Twilight had been far gentler about it than she’d been; instead of simply wrenching her into position by force, the snares of purple magic lines had just applied slowly-increasing pressure against her body to gently, but firmly push her into place, and now they only caused her further discomfort if she moved. As long as she remained in the correct position, it was almost like being wrapped in a tight, warm, comfy blanket. Except that Trixie was all too aware that what was coming next was almost certainly going to be anything but “comfy”...

With another glow of magic, Twilight summoned the belt she’d been given by Crimson Brush. She couldn’t help smiling fondly at it, remembering how it had felt as it had given her the painful, but much-needed correction and closure she hadn’t even known she needed so badly until it had broken her. She hoped to give Trixie the same correction... and hopefully, the same release.

Trixie’s eyes widened in fear as she saw the menacing-looking leather belt appear in mid-air. She fought to break free of Twilight’s magical grasp, but without her horn’s magic to assist, she was every bit as helpless to escape as Twilight had been. “You can’t scare me, Twilight,” she said, still trying to put up a brave front, even as she felt her insides turning to jelly.

“I’m not trying to scare you, Trixie,” Twilight said with a gentle smile, although Trixie had already turned her head away before she could see it. “I just want us to get over this, once and for all... and maybe even be friends, afterwards. Someday.”

Trixie bit her lip at Twilight’s words, hardly able to believe what she’d heard. She wants to be friends? With me?!

Twilight waited for a moment, then sighed softly as Trixie seemed to refuse to acknowledge what she’d said. She was beginning to think her words would never reach the prideful showmare. Let’s get this over with, then, she thought sadly, as she raised the belt high over Trixie’s flanks. Trixie closed her eyes and trembled nervously as she sensed the belt coming into position... then jerked forward with a sharp gasp as the belt lashed down dead-center across her hindquarters, leaving an angry stripe of pain in its wake that took the azure unicorn’s breath away.

Still, a part of her wouldn’t let her give in, even though she knew this was barely the beginning of the punishment she was about to receive and that it was going to get a lot, lot worse. “Ha! Is that the best you’ve got, Twilight Sparkle?” she sneered, instantly regretting her choice of words even as she said them. You idiot, why did you say that?! she thought furiously to herself. She’s mad enough at you already, you –

The next lash of the belt, and the shock of pain that followed, knocked the rest of that thought out of her mind. The belt was unbelievably painful; how in the world could Twilight think that the crop was worse than – ! Another lash knocked that thought out of her mind as well. “All right, this has gone far enough, Twilight Sparkle, I insist that – !” Again, the belt silenced her attempt at defiance as the pain left her gasping for breath.

Hmm... how about that? She’s actually been using my right name for a while now, Twilight found herself thinking as she paused between strokes. And she’s not calling herself ‘Trixie’ and acting so full of herself anymore, either... She began to feel a small hope that maybe, just maybe, this dose of “caring discipline” would give the prideful azure showmare the same closure, and emotional release, that it had finally given to a guilt-ridden lavender unicorn...

Trixie threw out a few more defiant insults as the belt began to rise and fall with a steady rhythm across her backside, but it was clear that she was struggling to keep her composure. Little by little, the belt was breaking her, the pain and shame and humiliation cracking through the showmare’s bravado as each lash left a fresh stripe of fire across her hindquarters. Why is she doing this to me?! I don’t deserve this! ... Do I? “Cease... this attack... on Trixie... this instant!” she gasped out, making one last attempt at defiance, just before the next lash finally broke her composure and she dissolved into soft, pain-filled sobs. “Please! ... St... Stop!! PLEASE!!

Twilight slowed the pace of her strokes as Trixie broke down sobbing, but didn’t stop. I wish it hadn’t come to this, Trixie... I really do, she thought, her own flanks twitching in sympathy as she saw how red Trixie’s were turning under her azure coat, and how each lash of the belt was leaving an even darker, hotter stripe in its wake. You needed this, though, didn’t you... just like I did. It’s finally getting through to you. She took a deep breath to steady herself as she continued to spank the no-longer-prideful mare, giving Trixie plenty of time between each stroke to feel it to the fullest before the next one landed.

Trixie’s sobs grew deeper, shaking her body, making her hiccup for breath while tears of pain ran freely down her cheeks. Yet even through the pain and humiliation some part of her realized, somehow, that Twilight wasn’t being nearly as mean to her as she had been to Twilight. As bad as this was... and it hurt, oh dear Celestia, it hurt!!... what Trixie had done was worse. Trixie had done what she did solely for revenge, taking malicious pleasure in seeing her nemesis crying and howling in pain after having nursed that grudge against her for so long, but Twilight... Twilight was doing nothing more than applying correction and punishment. She wasn’t mocking Trixie, or taking pleasure in her suffering, she was just... chastising Trixie for her misdeeds. Maybe I... I was wrong... I... Was I really so... so bad? she thought as her control gradually slipped away, taking her boastful pride with it, leaving her feeling small and humbled and helpless...

...Yes. Yes you were. You made so many ponies suffer... and for what? Your own stupid pride? You nearly destroyed the town... ponies got hurt... and instead of facing the consequences like a grown mare, you ran away, blamed everything on Twilight, then came back here and assaulted her. She could have you banished to the dark side of the moon in a heartbeat, for what you did to her... and she still wants to be your friend? You stupid... stubborn... prideful... fool!...

And with that thought, Trixie broke down completely. She stopped struggling and just went limp, all resistance gone as she finally surrendered to the punishment, accepting it, admitting deep within in her heart that this was nothing compared to the suffering she’d inflicted on all those innocent ponies, all just to get even with a mare she’d unfairly blamed for everything just to save her own foolish pride. A mare who, against all reason, still seemed to care for Trixie and wanted to forgive her, even though Trixie had done nothing to deserve such caring from her, or from anypony... Nothing! I... don’t... deserve her friendship... I... deserve... this! Oh, Celestia forgive me, I deserve this! she told herself fiercely, struggling to form a coherent thought through the overwhelming pain and guilt and shame. I’ve been... so foolish... I was wrong... please... forgive...

“...me, please... forgive me!” she cried out, not even aware of herself saying the words out loud.

All that time, Twilight had watched Trixie carefully as the sobbing unicorn’s flanks turned redder and redder under her azure coat, waiting for the moment when she would finally break. When, at last, she heard Trixie’s pain- and tear-choked voice begging for forgiveness, Twilight knew the moment had arrived. She steeled herself, then raised the belt high and, with all the strength she could put into each one, brought Trixie’s punishment to an end with three solid, hard strokes, right across the most sensitive part of her blazing-hot backside.

Crack!! ... Crack!! ... CRACK!!

“I’M SORRY TWILIIIIIIIGHT!!!” Trixie howled, all the anger and guilt washing away at once in a flood of stinging tears and white-hot pain under the belt’s final strokes. “I’M SORRY!! PLEEEASE!! I’M SORRY, I’M SORRYYYYYY!!

Instantly, Twilight Sparkle was at her side, letting the belt fall to the ground while she pressed up against the sobbing unicorn mare, nuzzling her a little. “It’s all right, Trixie... let it out...” she whispered into her ear. “It’s all right...”

Trixie just lay there, sobbing brokenly, stripped of her pride, crying her desperate apologies and pleas for forgiveness over and over, begging for an end to her punishment, while Twilight stayed by her side, nuzzling her, comforting her, as she cried it all out. She barely even felt it as Twilight slowly released her magical hold, letting Trixie lean against her for support as she helped lower the azure unicorn’s shaking body to the floor, still nuzzling her while whispering into the humbled, broken showmare’s ear that it would be all right...

Finally, as Trixie’s deep, heaving sobs finally quieted to soft crying and whimpering, Twilight floated a bottle of aloe gel over to her and tipped it to let the gel slowly trickle out onto Trixie’s burning hindquarters. Trixie hissed sharply as the cooling liquid touched the searing heat in her flanks, then gave a sign of pure relief as Twilight used a gentle touch of magic to spread it all across her backside, soothing the fiery pain into something a little more bearable.

“I’m sorry, T-Twilight Sparkle...” she finally whispered, turning to look at Twilight Sparkle with tear-filled eyes. “I’m s-sorry... please f-forgive me... I’m so sorry...”

Twilight smiled warmly as she heard those genuine, heartfelt words of apology at last. She floated the aloe bottle away as she finished massaging the gel into Trixie’s punished flanks, then nuzzled her once more as she pressed in closer. “It’s okay, Trixie. It’s over,” she said in a soft, gentle tone. “I forgive you, Trixie... I forgive you.”

Trixie actually found a weak smile forming on her muzzle as the lavender unicorn pressed in closer and settled a foreleg around her withers, holding her close... caring for her, offering compassion and forgiveness. “Why... why do you care for Trixie so much, Twilight Sparkle?” she asked softly.

Twilight looked thoughtful for a moment as she considered her answer carefully. “You might think I’m crazy, Trixie, but... After you left the first time, I went looking for you. I wanted to be your friend, even then, and I hoped we could reconcile... but nopony seemed to know where you’d gone,” she explained. “It was always ‘oh, she was here, but she left’, or ‘no, never heard of her’, or ‘we heard about what she did in Ponyville, she won’t dare show her face around here again!’...” Trixie’s wince at that had nothing do with the still-burning pain in her flanks. “Anyway... when you came back and terrorized the town, under the control of the Alicorn Amulet, I was confused. It hurt me to see you being so mean and angry... and it hurt even more when it was directed at me. When I found out you were being manipulated by the amulet, and that you hadn’t truly been in your right mind when you’d done all those awful things to everypony, I was so relieved. But then you ran away again...”

Trixie leaned in against the warm body as she listened intently to Twilight’s words. She actually went looking for me? She really... didn’t blame me for all that happened? Her mind raced uncontrollably as she tried to put the pieces together.

“It wasn’t until I found out from Crimson Brush that you’d returned, that I realized why I felt that way.” Trixie looked up at the unicorn curiously, to see Twilight smiling back at her. “As crazy as it seems... I fell in love with you, Trixie. I don’t know why... but I did. Enough that I set all this up, and played along... even let you punish me... so we could put everything behind us, once and for all, and maybe then I could finally spend some time with you and learn about the real you.”

“The... real me?” Trixie asked uncertainly. “What is it... you want to know about Trixie?”

“Well... why did you become like you were? And I don’t mean all the boasting – I know that was just part of your stage persona. I mean the... the arrogance. The coldness. Like you didn’t even want to try to be friends with anypony, or stay anywhere long enough to get to know them. You weren’t always that way, surely. What happened to you?”

Trixie’s face fell at those words. Her heart, which had fluttered briefly at Twilight’s confession, stopped cold as she was asked a question she wasn’t sure she was willing to answer. “It’s... kind of a long story, Twilight...” she said as she looked away.

Twilight felt a bit saddened that her confession of love seemed to have been missed entirely, or ignored, but she hugged the showmare closer anyway. Give her a chance... she’s still overwhelmed, she told herself, reminding herself how she’d been more than a little muzzy-headed for a while as well after her own breakdown under the belt’s “caring discipline” had unleashed that flood of raw emotion she’d kept bottled inside for far too long. “That’s all right. I love a good story,” she said.

Trixie couldn’t help giggling softly at that. I should have expected that reply from her! she thought to herself. “I suppose... maybe it would be nice to get some things off my chest,” she finally decided.

She seems to fall back into normal speech patterns when she’s calm, Twilight thought to herself as she gave a quiet nod. I wonder if she started talking like that because she was alone all the time, with nopony else to talk to except herself? That might make sense. She must have been very lonely...

Trixie took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then began her story. “My parents died when I was very young. But in the short time I lived with them, they... they were never very supportive of me. My magic started to manifest at a very young age, and I showed great promise, but they never seemed to care. And when I told them I wanted to be a showmare... they all but threw me away,” she said in a quiet, flat tone, as if she was describing another pony’s life entirely, and Twilight sensed that these were very painful memories Trixie was sharing now. “It sounded so wonderful, to travel the world, make ponies laugh and smile and applaud. I couldn’t imagine anything better than to make other ponies smile, back then. But they said that was just a silly filly’s dream. I was a Lulamoon, and I was destined to be a great unicorn, not some cheap, common... entertainer.”

Twilight could hear the sneering mockery of those last words, even though Trixie had said them with hardly any more emotion than the rest, and couldn’t help frowning a little. How could a parent be so cold to their child...? she thought sadly. Wait... did she say ‘Lulamoon’? As in the Lulamoon unicorns that fought alongside Luna in the great war!? She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and focused on Trixie as she continued.

“The only pony that ever supported me was my uncle,” Trixie continued. “When my parents died – I was only about six years old – he took me in. I mostly grew up with him, and he helped me develop my magic skills, taught me how to control it so that I could cast more than one spell at a time, in order to sustain a continuous stage-illusion performance. He was a famous magician in Canterlot, so he knew all the tricks of the trade. His specialty was combining unicorn magic with optical illusions and sleight-of-hoof tricks to do things that seemed impossible unless you knew how they were done. Actually, he used to teach me some of those tricks even before my parents died. I think that was why they always hated when he came over. I think they figured he was the reason I ‘lost my way’,” she said, with a slight roll of her eyes.

“When I was thirteen, he brought me to one of his stage performances in Canterlot. He was going to be performing for Celestia herself. I was so happy to be with him, but I was worried. My parents had always told me Celestia was...”

She paused, clearly conflicted over whether she should say what her parents thought of Princess Celestia when it was the Princess’ own protege she was speaking to. “...that she was the one who was evil, rather than Luna. That she had banished their true princess over a petty squabble, then made up the whole Nightmare Moon story to keep other ponies from knowing the truth. You have to understand, Twilight,” she added hastily, trying to explain herself before Twilight could interrupt or take offense at what she’d just said. “Most of the Lulamoon families fought beside Luna against Celestia before she was banished to the moon, and afterwards, most of them were exiled from Equestria. As I understand it, my branch of the family was one of the few that was allowed to stay, as a sign of good faith, only because our particular line hadn’t fought directly in the actual war itself, even though we’d supported the Lulamoon cause in general. Now, my uncle held none of that hatred towards Celestia, and normally I always listened to him... but I’d had the story of ‘evil Celestia’ drilled into my head so often when I was too little to know any better, I wasn’t sure how to feel.”

Twilight bit her lip, looking a bit surprised, as her suspicions were confirmed. She couldn’t comprehend anypony hating the mentor that had been so very kind to her. She firmly put those thoughts aside and kept a sympathetic smile on her face, reminding herself to listen without judging until she knew the full story.

Trixie wiped a tear from her face before continuing. “He really surprised me when he called me up onto the stage. He wanted me to give him a light show for his finale. Fireworks and magic lights were always my forte. I’d been practicing some new spell combinations for weeks, and I’d finally come up with something really special. It had even dazzled my uncle when he saw it. He was so proud of me, and wanted everyone to see it...”

Trixie’s voice caught with a little sob, as the painful memory of what happened next hit her right in the heart. “But something... went wrong. I don’t know what happened... I don’t know if I just didn’t do it right, or if we accidentally got our spells crossed trying to cast at the same time, or if some heckler in the audience thought it’d be a funny prank to make the ‘silly filly’ mess up her spell in front of everypony... or if I just overdid it because I was so proud of my new trick and wanted to show off. All I know is, when I tried to unleash the final set of firework effects... I lost control of them.”

The pieces suddenly started falling together for Twilight. She’d heard of a theater that had burned down a few years ago, but she’d never known the whole story. “The Saddle Ridge Theater fire...?” she whispered, her eyes widening.

“Y-yes,” Trixie sobbed quietly, tears of pain and grief rolling down her cheeks again. “I was the one who caused that fire. It ki... killed so many ponies... I never meant for it to happen!”

Twilight tightened her hold a little, pressing herself close to Trixie, giving her a gentle nuzzle of support. “What did happen, Trixie?” she asked softly. “Please... tell me.”

“I... It...” Trixie swallowed and tried to collect herself. “My uncle... got trapped under a beam that was caught in the blaze, and I... I was surrounded by the fire. I thought... I thought I was going to die. The flames were everywhere, and the heat... it felt like I was burning alive, and the smoke was choking me... I couldn’t breathe. I started to pass out... and suddenly there was this glowing white light all around me, just for a second, before everything went black...

“When I came to, I was outside, and Celestia herself was standing over me. She’d saved my life... I learned that a few days later. But my uncle... didn’t make it. That falling beam had crushed his ribs, and he was dead before anyone could’ve gotten to him. Not even Celestia could’ve cast a spell fast enough to save him. I know that... now... but at the time, I... I didn’t understand. All I knew was, I’d lost the last of my family. The only one who’d ever really cared about me. For a long time, I hated Celestia, for not saving my uncle... and...” She paused and looked away, her eyes closing in shame. “And I... I hated myself, because... because I’d killed him. Sometimes I even wished I had died instead...”

Trixie broke down crying again, grieving for the memory of her beloved uncle, and the pain left behind by his loss. Twilight bit her lip and choked back her own sob. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to lose my whole family, she thought to herself. Sun and moon, I had no idea she’d suffered so much pain in her life... I don’t know if I could have forgiven Celestia either, if I’d been through all of that... “I’m so sorry, Trixie,” she said, nuzzling her again as she tried to comfort the weeping mare. “I’m so sorry...”

“Celestia never held it against me, though,” Trixie said shakily through her tears. “She even enrolled me in her school, saying I... I was gifted. She paid all my tuition... even provided for a dorm room. She took so much care of me... but all I could do was resent her. During my second year of school, I was one of the top students... but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get away. Away from her, away from Canterlot, away from everything. As soon as I was old enough, I dropped out, and just... left.

“I’d inherited a bit of money from my uncle – and his old traveling cart. When I left Ponyville that first time... I fell into a deep depression. Losing nearly all my possessions was bad enough, but that cart... I’d lost the last thing I had to remember him by, except for my cape and hat. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get work anywhere, once word got around that I had summoned an Ursa Minor onto Ponyville...”

“That’s not – ” Twilight started to say.

“It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t true, Twilight,” Trixie sighed heavily. “Everypony believed it was true. No matter where I went, the story was always there ahead of me, and nopony would listen to me. I spent months just wandering from town to town. Sometimes they’d just run me off on sight as soon as somepony recognized me as ‘that fraud who almost destroyed Ponyville’,” she said bitterly, “or sometimes, they might permit me to work the most menial and dirtiest job available, just for a mouthful to eat. I was filthy and about half-starved when I finally stumbled across the Pie family’s rock farm... and I guess they somehow hadn’t heard about me, because they took pity on me and took me in. They fed me, gave me a hot bath and a bed, let me rest to recover my strength, then gave me a job working for them in exchange for a place to stay until I got back on my hooves. They never even asked where I came from, or how I’d ended up in such a state.

“I took that time to think... and while part of me knew I couldn’t really blame you for what had happened, my...” Trixie paused and sighed again, looking away in shame once more. “My arrogance got the better of me. I couldn’t... I didn’t want to face the truth, that ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’ had ruined her own life, with her own foolish choices and stubborn pride. That I was responsible for how my life had turned out. I needed someone to blame, so... well... you know the rest of the story. Mostly. But after you freed me from the amulet’s control, and forgave me again... I couldn’t get a hold of my emotions. I didn’t know what to think... and up until today, I thought I wanted revenge.

“But now... I don’t think I want that anymore,” she finished, as she turned to look at Twilight.

Twilight’s eyes widened as her heart began to beat hopefully in her chest.

Trixie smiled as she suddenly threw her hooves around Twilight, hugging her tightly, not caring about the pain her sudden movements triggered in her still-sore flanks as she clung to the lavender mare she no longer hated. “I think... I want you. I think that I... I love you too, Twilight Sparkle.”

Author's Note:

Hope you enjoyed it. Only one more planned chapter to go.

Just ignore the ending if you don't care for my fanon background of Trixie.

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