Spike rode Trixie home as well, both of them looking stern.
Twilight Sparkle plodded behind them, so depressively and stumblingly that Spike had suggested a leash. “No,” Trixie had said. “We do that sort of thing for pleasure.” After that, nobody had much to add.
They neared the Golden Oaks library, and Twilight flinched and shied away.
“What is it, M…” began Trixie, and then frowned. “Trixie is not sure what to call you anymore! Inside, Twilight. Trixie has never seen that Princess so angry at anypony before, and you nearly killed Fluttershy. Before that, you nearly killed me. We have to have a conversation.”
“Yeah we do,” added Spike. “I thought you liked Princess Celestia more than anything!”
Twilight hung her head. “It shouldn’t even be there,” she muttered, but she dutifully trudged across the threshold with dragging hooves and sagging tail.
“What shouldn’t? What shouldn’t be there?” demanded Trixie.
“This place,” said Twilight. “I don’t deserve it, and all the…” She broke off, staring at the floor, and then squealed, “So what is THAT, if he didn’t attack you?”
“What was the force field?” retorted Trixie. “Why did you imprison us?”
“Bad stuff was happening!” said Twilight. “Fluttershy got turned into some kind of vampire. I had to protect you both while I went out to fix everything. It wasn’t a prison! Discord was gonna come and kill you or turn you to vampires or…”
Spike hopped off Trixie’s back, and ran over. Twilight was beginning to rear, lifting a forehoof, getting panicky just remembering her line of reasoning, but the next thing she felt was small draconic arms hugging her around the neck, holding her down before she could rear and jump about.
“Easy, Twilight. Steady,” he soothed. “Why did you think Discord was turning ponies into vampires?”
“But he turned Fluttershy into a vampire! Applejack said so! Or… at least she got turned into a vampire. And Discord’s the only thing around here that turns things into other things, and when I saw them together Discord had turned into that little blue alicorn girl and Fluttershy really was a vampire and it was obvious Discord had done it ‘cos he wasn’t surprised at all…”
“Slow down,” ordered Trixie.
Twilight stared wildly at her, as well as she could with one eye swelling up thanks to Fluttershy’s punching hoof. “And you didn’t say what made the blood! It’s right there, I wasn’t imagining it! Look at all that! How are you still alive, even?”
Trixie glowered, then wobbled. “Actually, that is a good point. Trixie is feeling very dizzy all of a sudden…”
Spike paled, let go of Twilight, and blurted, “I bet I know why! You lost all that blood and then ran around so much… I’m gonna get you a snack, hang in there!” He scampered off to the kitchen.
“But what happened?” begged Twilight. “The blood!”
“Nosebleed,” replied Trixie curtly. “Trixie had to break through that dumb force field to come help you, and you burned up almost all Trixie’s horn. Trying to break the forcefield gave Trixie a terrible nosebleed, from all that effort and concentration.”
For a moment, Twilight forgot herself and snorted scornfully. “Pfff! As if! I used alicorn powers for the shield, there was no way you could possibly have broken it. If it wasn’t Discord I’d like to know who did break it, because it couldn’t have been you! My powers are way beyond y…” She broke off, going red in the face, glancing back at the wings she no longer had.
Trixie lifted an eyebrow wearily, as Twilight blushed, caught in a left-over egomanaical fit. It seemed a hard psychological habit for her to break. Then Spike returned with some honey oat cakes, and Trixie chomped hungrily at them while her former Mistress blushed and looked at the floor, scuffing it with a forehoof in chagrin.
Trixie swallowed. “As Trixie was saying before she was so rudely interrupted, when Trixie reached out to magemeld and use your powers to attack the forcefield…”
Twilight squeaked, eyes widening, and went even more red. She’d forgotten Trixie’s affinity for magemelding, and of course her own powers redirected would have shut it down with no trouble at all.
“It went away instantly,” continued Trixie, “which is how we knew the forcefield had been your doing. You were trying to protect us? The air was going bad. We thought we were being attacked—or kept from coming to your aid, while you were being attacked.”
“I was just coming back to check on you,” muttered Twilight, her ears back in shame.
“What were you thinking?” demanded Trixie. “Yes, you thought Discord was doing bad things. We’ve been over all that, he did cruel things to Celestia and embarrassed her, you’ve said that a thousand times though Trixie could not care less about her royal dignity. Why lock us away? Why lock Spike away? I had severe horn damage, but Spike is unharmed.”
Spike was studying Twilight thoughtfully. “She swore she was going to make everything okay. I just couldn’t face things what with Rarity doing… what she does, and Twilight’s voice was so soothing and I just wanted to sleep. I guess she used magic to make me sleep. You know, it’s hard to offend a dragon by giving them sleep. I like sleep.”
“I’m glad you understand,” said Twilight weakly.
Spike pinned her with a sharp glance, and she froze. “I like Fluttershy too,” he said, “and I wouldn’t have thought stabbing her with your horn was making things okay. Seems like that was super NOT okay with two scoops of nuts. I’m with Trixie on this, Twilight. What the heck is going on?”
Twilight backed up in alarm, then whinnied shrilly. Her hoof had touched something. Whirling, she saw that it was Spike’s pet-bed, still flipped over with its blankets strewn everywhere. She whirled again, hooves rattling against the floor, lip quivering, tears in her eyes.
“That reminds me,” said Trixie. “Spike, why in Equestria do you still sleep in that? When we charged to the rescue, you cried ‘Tally-ho!’ like a knight. Since when does a knight sleep in a pet bed?”
“Oh,” said Spike. “Um. I haven’t outgrown it much yet, and Twilight picked it out for me and she never seemed to think I should sleep in a real bed and I didn’t want to…”
Trixie stamped her hoof. “Trixie decrees that you have indeed outgrown it! Our valiant dragon knight will sleep in a big boy bed from now on!”
Spike’s face broke into a huge beaming smile—that dropped into a horrified look. “Not yours!” he squeaked. “Please don’t mean yours!”
Trixie’s eyes widened. “Oh! Trixie did not mean… no! No, Trixie means we will procure a proper bed just for you, set up a private room somehow that befits your new maturity…”
“The basement room!” Spike suggested, his smile returning.
Twilight Sparkle just stared, her mouth hanging open. She gulped. “Down the secret passage? The one in the bookcase?”
“But, Spike,” she said, “that’s where I hid you for months, remember? And you came out and you said you didn’t want to nap anymore, you wanted to be part of our lives again?”
Spike smiled at her.
“You cared about me,” he said. “That’s what I remember. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I could tell you cared, and we set it up to be a great room, remember? I’ll take that. It makes a good dragon lair. It’s like a cave, with the cool secret passageway. I’ll have ponies I like visit me down there and bring me gems and stuff.”
Trixie stamped a hoof again, with a sound like a gavel. “So shall it be!”
Twilight bridled. “Now wait a minute, whose house is this anyway?”
“Oh? Trixie will submit to her Mistress and comply with her every whim, of course,” replied Trixie, unconcernedly.
“Good!” replied Twilight. “And yes, I think it’s fine if Spi… if sp… uh…”
She trailed off, for the look Trixie was giving her was far from submissive.
“Just as soon,” added Trixie, “as Mistress explains why she went on a rampage to attack and kill one Princess, one former draconequus, and one vampire pegasus, none of whom were attacking you at the time.”
Twilight went white.
“Trixie is waiting,” said the blue unicorn. “Trixie also is certain she heard the words, ‘This is how you kill a Princess’ before you charged them. Trixie still thinks that Princess is a stuck-up jerk, but wishes an explanation immediately before she will return to being Twilight’s submissive. It just wouldn’t be responsible otherwise. Rarity would never forgive me.”
“No, she wouldn’t,” added Spike. “I want to hear this too. C’mon, Twilight, talk.”
Twilight gulped and tottered and looked about ready to faint.
“I told them you had your reasons,” added Trixie. “They’d better be good ones.”
The silence that stretched out was broken by a loud banging at the door. Twilight shrieked and hit the deck, covering her head with her forelegs. Spike ran to the door and opened it.
There stood Princess Celestia, face impassive but for a glint in the eye.
“We require the immediate presence of Twilight Sparkle, please,” she said.
Spike realized that he’d automatically blocked the entrance, and he wasn’t alone. Trixie was right beside him, barring the entry of the Princess. “What for?” she challenged.
Celestia blinked. “Prithee, do you expect you know why, hence this defiance?”
“Defy this,” gritted Trixie. “You’re not getting in here right now. We’re totally making progress with her and you’re not taking her away and throwing her in some prison. We’ll get to the bottom of it. This is our problem!”
“That is not the most important…”
“Stop her, Spike!” cried Trixie.
Spike stared at Celestia. Celestia stared back. Then, both stared at the two wildly excited unicorns, the one cowering on the floor, the other snarling and blocking the entrance by physically interposing her body in defiance of anything an alicorn could do to her, even though she had nearly no horn to speak of.
“Unicorn crazy?” suggested Spike.
“Forsooth,” sighed Princess Celestia. “How well I remember it.”
Spike shook his head, grinning wryly. “There’s no crazy like unicorn crazy!”
“We used to believe that,” said the Princess. “Until we saw alicorn crazy.” She winced.
“So what do you really need?” said Spike. “Besides Twilight not freaking out, that is?”
“All of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony,” said Celestia. She sighed again. “To heal Fluttershy… if that is not too much to ask of our Princess Twilight, and her loyal defenders.” Her sarcasm hung in the air.
Trixie gaped at her. Behind, Twilight awkwardly clambered to her hooves, stammering, “H… heal Fluttershy?”
“Perhaps you noticed?” said Celestia, coolly. “She’s been terribly injured, beyond what I and my sister can repair alone.”
“W… will she die?” managed Twilight.
“Pray let us not bandy definitions, Miss Sparkle. You know she’s dead already.”
“No prison?” demanded Trixie. “It’s not a trick?”
Then, Trixie shrank back, for the anger leapt momentarily within Princess Celestia.
“Do not talk of tricks!” she declaimed. “We require Twilight Sparkle’s best efforts to heal the injuries she has caused. If the attempt is of no avail, you can go where she goes and that is all the mercy I am inclined to dispense. If the blameless and innocent Fluttershy is restored to health and comfort, or whatever a vampire pony considers health and comfort… we shall see.”
Spike eyed the Princess. “Sooo… you need Twilight to come and use her magic to heal Fluttershy?”
“Verily,” said Celestia stiffly.
“Go on, Twilight. I’ll go with you. We both will. Let’s do this. It’s such a right thing to do.”
As they approached Fluttershy’s cottage, the bustle was hard to miss.
Animals and birds rushed about in alarm and dismay. Among the animals were ponies. Among the birds were pegasi.
“Settle down, please!” implored Fluttershy from inside, but it wasn’t having its usual effect. The pain and stress in her voice were obvious, plus the voice itself lacked its usual sweetness.
“Harry Bear, you stop that!” shrieked Pinkie Pie. “You nearly squished a chipmunk! Quit jumping around!”
Then, the eerie, harsh vampony voice came forth again, and even as it spoke, motion ceased.
“Stop jumping. Calm down. Stand quietly.”
The silence was absolute.
Pinkie’s voice broke it. “You used the…”
Fluttershy’s voice was bitter and sad. “Of course I did, Pinkie Pie. The Stare. How did none of you ever figure out The Stare? I wish I never got it. Will that do?”
“Uh-huh,” said Pinkie weakly.
Princess Celestia entered Fluttershy’s cottage, to see the entire menagerie standing in a daze—including Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Pinkie and Princess Luna had apparently avoided her gaze. The house was packed with everypony imaginable. She gawked at the spectacle, and turned to Fluttershy. “Did you do that?”
“It’s stronger when I look this way,” replied Fluttershy, “but yes. Please don’t ask me to do it unless it’s very important?”
“Are you controlling them?” pressed Celestia. “Are they your, ah, thralls?”
“Oh, no!” squeaked Fluttershy, recognizable attitudes coming through the creepy vampony voice. “No indeed! It’s just some influence, they’re not mine, nopony and nothing is mine, not in Ponyville, not anywhere else! I haven’t sired any other vampires, I promise!”
Celestia’s ears were laid back in dismay. “Er… thank you for that? Please do not.” Chaos approached her, nuzzling her side in greeting, but keeping Celestia between herself and Twilight Sparkle.
“I would never, ever…” protested Fluttershy strenuously, and then coughed, and blood came out her mouth. “Ow.” At the sight, some of her animals stirred fretfully.
“Oh, dear,” said Celestia. “Please be still, don’t exert yourself! I’ve brought Twilight. She’s going to heal you.” She gave a sharp glance at Twilight: one that said almost out loud, ‘she’d better’.
“Hurrah!” said Princess Luna, coming forward out of the group. “Let us encourage her to do so without delay! We are distraught that our own royal healing, even combined with that of our sister, is not equal to the task!”
“That is because we have not attempted to heal a pony heart that has been literally impaled upon a horn,” snapped Celestia, “nor would we, sister, for in normal circumstances our efforts would be turned towards a respectful burial.”
Applejack had been shaking her head, clearing it of the Stare that had caught her as well. “Easy now, Princess,” she said. “Ain’t the first time we’ve had to team up to do somethin’ big. Time we got to it!”
Rainbow Dash, too, had fought clear of the brain-fuzzing vampiric Stare. It hadn’t soothed her. “Oh gosh, Fluttershy,” she said in almost a sob, “I can’t believe I hit you that hard! I’m so fucking sorry I can’t see straight.”
Fluttershy coughed again, and muttered, “That was the problem from the start! You couldn’t see it was still me!”
“I know, I know!” wailed Dash, tossing her mane and flapping in dismay and confusion. “I’ll join up and help fix you. It’s SO not enough! Oh, Fluttershy, I really love you, I can’t stand it that I didn’t trust you. Did I really, like, dent your skull in?” She tried to hover behind Fluttershy’s head and brush aside her scraggly vampire-mane.
“Eeeee!” squealed Fluttershy, and then made a pained face. “Stop it stop it! Hurts! Don’t touch!”
Dash backed off, looking sick. She’d seen a horrible dent. She alighted on the floor again, and grovelled towards Fluttershy, tears in her eyes. “What can I possibly do? I’ll never forgive myself ever! I’ll do anything, Fluttershy, tell me how I can make it up to you.”
Fluttershy gave a saintly little sigh, incongruous coming from her alarming visage. “All right. If you insist! I’ll tell you what you can do to feel better, little miss heavy hooves head-kicker. Though it’s against my better judgement. But I know you, Rainbow, and you probably wouldn’t settle for anything less. Fine, then! I’ll tell you.”
“You will?” squeaked Rainbow Dash, leaning closer. “What should I do?”
“What?” blinked Rainbow Dash.
Pow! Dash squealed and tumbled hoof over wing, totally surprised by the strength of Fluttershy’s hoof-punch. She came up, holding her jaw, her eyes watering. “Wow!” she squeaked. “That was amazing!”
“Now be good!” insisted Fluttershy. “I didn’t want to do that at all!”
“I could tell!” quipped Rainbow. She glanced at Twilight. “Totally fair, though I think you hit her even harder than that. Which I guess is understandable ‘cos she hurt you worse.”
Fluttershy glowered tearfully. “No. You hurt me worse, Rainbow Dash. But now we’re even and you can move on. I wouldn’t want you to brood over it. I shouldn’t have hit Twilight at all, but you are a roughneck and get into hoof-fights and wouldn’t be happy just apologizing after you’d beat me up so cruelly. It’s even. Just don’t ever do that again!”
“I won’t!” squeaked Dash. “Wait, hang on. Twilight stabbed you through the heart! I just hit you on the head, like really really really hard. Oh, and I broke your leg. How did I hurt you worse when you ought to be dead from what Twilight did?” She blinked. “Except you are, I guess. Uh, no offense?”
Fluttershy glared at her. “Because Twilight Sparkle clearly had gone insane like she keeps on doing, and wasn’t even seeing reality at all. You know that as well as I do. But you hurt me on purpose and should have known better! I was only trying to rescue Rock!”
Dash paled. “Yeah. You’re right. Never again, Fluttershy. I’ll trust you from now on, no matter what you look like.”
Twilight had gone pale as well, and looked sick… partly because nopony present batted an eyelash at Fluttershy’s explanation. It seemed that the idea ‘Twilight Sparkle goes batshit insane sometimes’ didn’t surprise anypony, even Celestia. She wobbled. Surreptitiously, Spike steadied her, just as attention turned her way.
“Twilight?” said Applejack. “You look a mite peakied… but we got to do this, sugarcube. Thank goodness Fluttershy’s a bit ‘bats’ is all I kin say, nothin’ living could stand such a beating by first Dashie and then you… but it’s time you made your amends, practical-like.”
They had the Elements of Harmony all ready. Twilight stared at them, her ears back.
“This can’t be right,” she said.
“Best make it right,” said Applejack firmly.
“No, I mean,” stammered Twilight, “how can I deserve to use these? They’re a force of good! I’m the focus, how can this even work?”
“Now you know how I felt when I had to join you girls and use mine,” grumbled Fluttershy. “Twilight, I’m the last pony to be pushy and demanding, but your horn was very long and pointy and it ripped a big hole right through my poor heart not to mention my whole body and I can’t even die like a real pony so it doesn’t stop, and if you don’t understand how much it physically hurts…”
“Twilight!” said Rarity. “We are ready. At once, no stalling!”
All the Element Bearers donned their necklaces, Fluttershy included.
Twilight whimpered, placed the big crowny thing on her dreadfully unworthy head, and concentrated fiercely.
Her ears laid back in dismay as the energies gathered themselves to her… but no more dismay than Fluttershy showed. The little vampire pony looked as uncomfortable as ever, wielding her part of those magical forces. Clearly, she’d been doing it while undead, and felt such liberties unsuitable. It didn’t matter: the forces flooded from her necklace just as readily as from that of Rainbow Dash, or Rarity, or Applejack.
“Go on, Twi!” urged Applejack. “Get a-fixin’!”
Twilight gulped. She squeezed her eyes shut, and when they opened they emanated a blinding white light. Princess Celestia flinched at the sight, but no attack was forthcoming this time. Instead, Twilight directed a beam back toward Fluttershy, who lifted her chin bravely and gave herself over to the energies, to do what they would with her.
Next to her, the zebra Dursaa licked her shoulder, in a comforting gesture that Fluttershy paid no attention to. He waited trustingly for his strange love to be healed, as Princess Celestia had promised. Fluttershy waited to see if the magic of the Elements of Harmony would find her wanting.
Twilight tried to form the energies into a healing pattern, and her ears laid back farther as she felt them slipping from her control, taking on what seemed like a will of their own. She’d had a specific plan for how Fluttershy ought to be healed, starting with some work on her vampiric nature along lines Twilight had read about in a research paper once up in Canterlot, but her intentions meant absolutely nothing: she was just a conduit for the magical forces.
She boggled, dumbfounded, as the magic began healing Fluttershy’s injuries without doing the least thing about her being a vampire.
Fluttershy shuddered and gasped, her body jerking against Dursaa’s, and he wrapped her in strong forelegs and held her steady, squinting against the glare. Fluttershy’s mouth opened in a soundless cry, the fangs glittering in the light. All the while, Twilight could feel the energies pouring from the other Elements into Fluttershy, rebuilding what was torn and hurt, coruscating around body and foreleg and skull, ignoring the cute little fangs and scruffy mane.
Fluttershy’s eyes were wide and helpless as the dent in her head gently returned to its normal shape, as the dreadful wound in her chest was filled in. Her leg glowed from within. She gave a little shriek of alarm as her heart thumped once more: she’d nearly forgotten what that felt like and wasn’t quick to attempt it even after the heart had been healed, and the magic seemed to have other ideas.
With a final flare that illuminated Fluttershy blindingly, the magic flicked out, and there was only the crowd of well-wishers and the little yellow vampire pegasus, who panted, overwhelmed, mended heart pounding, still holding her foreleg in the air.
Glancing back and forth among her friends, she placed it upon the ground daintily… and stood.
All around her, ponies, Princesses, and small animals cheered.
Fluttershy had a moment to stand on her own hooves, shocked at her good fortune, before she was bowled over by a joyous crowd. Applejack was hugging her, noticing in passing that the leathery wings were still, somehow, soft and cuddly. Only Fluttershy could make bat wings snuggly, it seemed. Rainbow Dash smooched her full on the lips, and then Dursaa was whirling her merrily around crying “Oh, cry their praises, dearest wife! My precious love, restored to life!”
Fluttershy squeaked. “Eep! I think you’re missing some important things about all this…”
Dursaa silenced her with a kiss, and her soft batty wings shot up bolt erect and vibrated.
“Woohoo!” cheered Rainbow Dash. “That’ll get her heart going! Go, zebra power!”
“Rainbow!” chided Applejack. “That ain’t polite!”
“What?” protested Dash. “It’s true!”
Twilight found herself on the outside of the festivities, with Trixie… and shoved herself back into the center. “Why didn’t it heal her all the way?” she cried.
“Beg pardon?” blinked Applejack.
“The fangs! The wings! She’s still a vampire!”
A hush fell over the room.
Rarity cleared her throat. “She’s a very… cute vampire. And if I’m not mistaken, has been one for some time. No?”
“That much power should have cured her all the way!” protested Twilight. “Something interfered!”
Dursaa knit his brow, staring at her. “Fluttershy isn’t quite well? She remains, even now, suff’ring from ills in her veins?”
The hush deepened. Dursaa’s anger built. “Who dares withhold, from my pony wife, the blessings of healing, love and life?”
Twilight fell back a pace. “What I’m saying is, we should try again because I failed! I want nothing more than to restore her to life, too. Please believe me! With that much power, I should have been able to cure her vampirism, but…”
Dursaa, nostrils flared, was looking around, his ears swiveling. Then, he slunk over to the window on surprisingly quiet hooves, his massive body moving with curious grace, his eyes narrowing in hostility.
“Before you try…” he breathed softly, “revealed… a SPY!”
His voice rose, and he whirled and kicked out the window with a flicker of powerful striped flanks, effortlessly. Then, he spun to face whatever enemy had revealed itself.
As if in a mirror, another zebra head poked up out of the bushes: but not exactly the same, for this one held a sheaf of pink hair in her mouth. Then, she spat it out to drape across the windowsill.
“Have you gone mad, dim zebra lad?!” demanded Zecora, outraged.
Dursaa’s ears were laid back. “What reason have you for your wicked spell? You use your magic cruelly, to repel my newfound wife’s redemption and true grace. Your jealousy’s emblazoned ‘cross your face!”
All the pony eyes widened. Was Fluttershy the prize in a dark and lusty zebra triangle? Rainbow Dash’s wings sprang to attention, and she let out a little squee of delight, her mind instantly full of naughty scenarios.
All pony eyes… but Fluttershy’s. Hers narrowed, and she trotted forwards unhesitatingly.
“Honey?” she said in that scratchy little vampire voice.
“Hmm?” said Dursaa, not breaking eye contact with his apparent nemesis.
Fluttershy thwapped him on the back of the head with her bat wing, wrecking his concentration. He turned, startled, to look at her.
“Zecora’s one of my best friends, idiot,” said Fluttershy exasperatedly. “She knows about me. Behave, and I expect you to fix that window, silly. What were you thinking?”
He glanced back and forth between Fluttershy and the seething, impassive Zecora. “But…”
“Fluttershy, I heard you’d lost your pretty mane,” said Zecora. “I thought you’d require it to wear again. I’ve remade the mane and tail, and to your side I snuck. But I fear our secrecy about this, now,” she said, and bit her lip anxiously, “…is pretty fucked.”
Rainbow Dash gawked at her. “You made those? What did they do? Dursaa pulled them off and all our troubles began!”
“They were yours?” cried Rarity. “They were exquisite, but Fluttershy would not tell me where she got them!”
Zecora stared right back, through the hole that had been a window. “Yes! I protected my dear little pegasus friend. Don’t you dare hurt her or with me right now you’ll contend!”
“Cease!” cried Princess Celestia, rushing hastily over to the window. She peered out. “Nopony is hurting dear Fluttershy, I assure you! Please come in. Did you say you’d made something for her, something about which you wished secrecy? I fear that would be inadvisable at the moment, but surely your good intentions can be expressed in some other way?”
Zecora, without changing expression, seemed to subside. She glanced sharply at Dursaa, and then, ignoring him, she picked up the spills of silky pink hair and trotted deliberately around the side of the house, to come in by the door. With measured step, she walked up to Fluttershy, bent her head, and gently placed her gifts at Fluttershy’s feet, clearing her throat.
“Little friend, I’ve brought once more the boon you asked of me. With these mane extensions, you’ll look as you used to be. Wear them always, day and night, secure in your disguise. Then your loving heart won’t be,” and Zecora glanced sharply around at the dumbfounded ponies, “betrayed by their fool eyes.”
Rarity gulped. “Zecora… we wouldn’t betray Fluttershy,” she said.
Zecora’s gaze was cool and judgemental. Rainbow Dash couldn’t meet it, and even Pinkie looked embarrassed.
“Good pony hearts win out at last, however bad the fright,” said Zecora.
“You got it!” broke in Applejack, but then she froze at a look from Zecora, who wasn’t finished.
“I’m damned if I’ll leave her endangered, WHILE you get it right.”
All the ponies looked away, shamefaced… but Fluttershy trotted right over and hugged Zecora tightly, even stroking her mane with leathery wingtips. “It’s okay, Zecora. Thank you, thank you so much. I think everything’s going to be okay now. I’m safe.”
Zecora’s eyes had gone misty. “Ah, little angel, I felt such alarm. Pray tell this zebra you came to no harm.”
She was facing the crowd of ponies while Fluttershy hugged her. Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle went pale at the words, staring back at Zecora helplessly. Fluttershy’s head turned, and the creepy pink vampony eye seemed to twinkle at them.
“Not really,” said Fluttershy soothingly, and hugged tighter.
Zecora sighed in relief, and nestled her head against Fluttershy’s. Though her expression remained impassive, not a pony present could miss the love and tenderness on display. There was something about the way Zecora allowed Fluttershy to snuggle her, where no other pony had been allowed such intimacies. Rainbow Dash glanced quickly at Applejack, her eyes a fascinated question, her wings rising.
Dursaa was looking on, his ears splayed in alarm. “Am I to understand this zebra mare expects my darling, precious wife… to share?”
Zecora snorted. “Fool. With over-fancy rhymes. They’re such damned idiots, sometimes.”
“Idiot, you say?” protested Dursaa. “A fancy fool? Do not imagine me a horse so cruel as to forbid my Fluttershy the fruit of any sort of love you might impute. Ah, zebra mare that I don’t know, I see you’ve known her longer than she has known me: and though the loss is something I would hate, in truth if it is you she wants to…”
“Wait,” interrupted Zecora.
Dursaa fell silent. Zecora continued, simply.
“She KNOWS I’m gay—I know she’s straight.”
Dursaa gulped, watching his beloved embrace the proud zebra mare.
Zecora’s eyes weren’t tearful, but for all that, they still flashed with a fierce intensity, that was only underscored by her next words.
“Swear you’ll be a good husband to her.”
Dursaa took a breath, and Zecora added, “Without rhyming.”
He gulped. “Yes. What is your name? I am Dursaa.”
“I am Zecora.”
“I swear it. I thank you, Zecora.”
“And I smile upon your path, and your clan, Dursaa.”
They both bowed their heads in a solemn little nod. Fluttershy’s scruffy vampony ears laid back. “What’s going on? Why are you not making rhymes now, is something wrong?”
“Shh,” said Princess Celestia. “Rather, something is right.”
“Your pardon, dear!” said Dursaa hastily to Fluttershy. “Politeness will return to our discourse: it was but a formality took place ‘tween horse and horse, and we won’t weight the afternoon with seriousness and such. Suffice to say, we’ve made a friend, and that delights me much!”
Zecora gave a wry smile. “Your stallion’s a glib one, sweet Fluttershy. May the well of his love never run dry.”
Applejack got stricken with a sudden coughing fit, and Rainbow Dash got the giggles. Zecora rolled her eyes. “I meant words! Loving words. Hmph!” She directed an exasperated look at them. Fluttershy looked unbearably smug, and Dursaa had the good manners to just give her a little kiss and not elucidate further.
“I’d like a word with you, Fluttershy, if you would be so kind,” said Princess Celestia.
“I’d like a word with Zecora!” squeaked Pinkie Pie, whose ears were perked up super high, and whose mane seemed extra fluffy. She scampered over, and whispered something in Zecora’s ear, the only audible word of which was ‘enchantress’. Zecora lifted one dignified eyebrow, and then walked demurely off with Pinkie, who bounced instead of walking.
“You’ve told me you haven’t bitten any ponies, in or out of Ponyville,” said Celestia.
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “No! Never! Rarity, can you help me put these extensions on?”
Rarity trotted forward, horn lighting, and for a moment the two mares worked with Zecora’s mane and tail extensions. They sparked gently as they moved into place, and then the air seemed to shimmer, and Fluttershy’s vampire form faded away, and all that could be seen was the familiar pegasus form everypony knew so well. Fluttershy sighed in relief. “Thank goodness. I hope I can always stay like this, from now on.”
“Always?” said Dursaa hastily, looking concerned.
Fluttershy lifted an eyebrow, glancing curiously at him. He began to blush until his face was all red and black stripes.
“Fluttershy, this is important,” said Celestia reprovingly.
Dursaa blushed worse at what his wife whispered to him, but then she’d turned away and was looking attentively at the Princess. “I’m sorry,” she said, “that was private, for my husband. What were you saying? I never bit any ponies, and never will, I promise! I hope you don’t doubt me. If saving your life wasn’t enough to convince you…”
“No, no!” protested Celestia. “I believe you, but I must still ask a question of grave importance and I would appreciate an honest answer. I promise we will be as merciful as we can, and we will certainly solicit your opinion on the matter, but… Fluttershy, who bit you?”
Fluttershy’s jaw dropped. She looked away. “He didn’t mean it.”
“Nevertheless!” said Celestia. “Must we search for another vampire pony?”
“Not exactly,” said Fluttershy.
Pinkie got it first. The others followed her gaze, until everypony in the room was staring the same direction.
Angel Bunny blinked puzzledly at their horrified looks, stuck out his tongue, and hopped determinedly over to leap into Fluttershy’s embrace.
“There you are! Who’s a good boy? You’re gonna stay a good boy, aren’t you? Yes you are!” she crooned, besottedly.
Applejack gulped. “Well, don’t that beat all…”
“A vampire bunny!” marvelled Rainbow Dash.
“How did this happen?” demanded Princess Celestia. Beside her, Chaos wore an expression of utter delight.
“Oh, one day Angel was playing in the apple fields,” said Fluttershy. “It was a hot day, and he ate apple after apple. And then there was this one big, extra juicy apple, but there was a vampire fruitbat who also wanted it, and Angel tried to get it anyhow…”
“Dear Celestia!” wailed Applejack. “Ya mean to tell me, them vampire fruitbats DO bite folks? This is terrible! It’s bad enough what they do to an orchard!”
Fluttershy frowned. “No! Who’s telling this story, you or me? So Angel tried to get the apple, and the vampire fruitbat wouldn’t let go, and so Angel bit it until it flew away crying. I was shocked and yelled at him, but it was too late. And he’s very sorry, aren’t you, Angel?”
The bunny nodded eagerly, and snuggled up under Fluttershy’s soft pony wing.
“But how’d he infect you? You mean to tell me that bunny’s your vampire boss?” said Applejack.
“That was when I tried to take the apple away from him,” admitted Fluttershy. “Because it was terrible behavior, and also it looked like he was going to be sick. Which he was, too, and that’s when I found out they’d fermented. So he bit me and he fell over and he threw up and he felt terrible all the next day and is very sorry and he won’t ever do it again, will you Angel?”
The bunny shook his head, vehemently.
“And so everything is okay,” explained Fluttershy, “and I look after Angel’s every need and he’s the most wonderful bunny ever! And all his demands are very reasonable, really! It’s… fun to master new types of salads!”
Angel yawned, and went to sleep.
“Uh-huh,” managed Applejack, in disbelief.
Celestia looked pale as well. “Indeed. Dear me. Erm.”
“Promise you won’t hurt him!” begged Fluttershy. “He’s a good bunny!”
Celestia exchanged glances with the Element Bearers.
“He seems very content,” she said carefully. “We won’t hurt him. We might want to figure out a way to prevent him ever biting other ponies.”
Fluttershy quickly glanced at Angel, as if for approval. But the little bunny just snored, ignoring all the pony eyes watching him. The very idea of him biting ponies seemed about as incongruous as… a bunny biting ponies. Fermented apples apparently packed a fearsome kick… but the ponies knew that, as well.
“If he doesn’t mind,” she said guardedly.
Celestia sighed. “Clearly, we still have work ahead of us. But, dare I say it, things may be looking up? I am pleased to see you’ve found love, Fluttershy.” She blinked, and glanced at Pinkie Pie, and found Pinkie and Zecora staring interestedly back at her. “Which is not to say you hadn’t love previously, mind you…”
“It’s okay, Princess Celestia,” said Pinkie Pie. “We just want Flutterbuttiekins to be happy! That’s the important thing.” Beside her, Zecora nodded gravely.
“She’s happy on the end of a zebra if ya know what I mean!” said Rainbow Dash, grinning.
Zecora and Pinkie rolled their eyes. The grin dropped away from Dash’s face, and she winced.
Pinkie gasped. “Dashie! Don’t make faces, it’s okay! We’re not really mad! We’re just being all unexpectedly lesbian together and like, yah, penises, who needs ‘em, and gosh who would have thought the big scary zebra lady would turn out to be so hot, I mean so nice?”
“No, it’s not that!” protested Dash. “She punched me, remember? Hurts to smile. Worth it, though!”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’m sorry! Um, mostly sorry? You needed a roughneck apology, though that is a terrible way to behave. Anyhow that’s enough of that, we should try to fix you like everypony got together and fixed me! Twilight, can you do that?”
“I think,” said Princess Celestia, “that Luna and I can oblige.”
Focussing their energies, the Princesses devoted their healing attentions to Rainbow Dash. A sock in the jaw proved much less drastic an injury, and well within their powers, and Rainbow’s experimental grins brought no winces.
“Ah think, barring de-bunnification, we’re all good here!” said Applejack.
“We’re not done,” said Princess Celestia firmly. “Twilight Sparkle, come forward.”
The gathering of ponies fell silent. Twilight had kept to the fringes of the group, hiding behind Trixie, trying not to be seen. Her use of powerful magic had distracted them from noticing her condition, but as Twilight trudged unwillingly to face Celestia, it became all too apparent. No wings. Horn a foalish nubbin. Body of the young unicorn she’d been when she first saw Ponyville… and a swelling, blacked eye, thanks to Fluttershy’s vengeful hoof.
“Oh, goodness!” squeaked Fluttershy. “I’m so sorry! Um, again, mostly! Can you fix her right away?”
“Hang on,” said Applejack. “What the hay HAPPENED? All I know is, we just fixed up Fluttershy’s heart from stabbin’, and apparently Twi done that to her! It’s like she tried to kill Fluttershy or somethin’! Is it too much to ask for a lil’ explanation?”
“I tried to kill Chaos, and Princess Celestia,” muttered Twilight. “Fluttershy got in the way.”
“Aw, no,” said Applejack in dismay. “No, Twi. That can’t be right.”
“No, it’s not right,” said Twilight, hanging her head.
“Sister?” said Celestia.
The two alicorns concentrated. Twilight Sparkle’s injured eye healed, as all the dumbstruck ponies watched. She still hung her head.
Applejack licked her lips, remembering a day long ago: a day when Twilight had set out to hunt down Rainbow Dash in a fit of jealousy. Her mouth had gone dry. “Twilight,” she said gently, “did you git more bright ideas or somethin’? Like, bad ones?”
Twilight nodded, staring at the floor.
Rarity looked sick as well. “Oh, Twilight. I take it you have lost your position as Princess?”
“We didn’t do that, it was a side-effect,” said Celestia. “She’s lucky to be alive. It was a strange occurrence.”
“No more flying lessons?” said Rainbow Dash in a little voice.
Twilight shook her head, mutely.
Applejack gulped. Then, she trotted boldly up to Princess Celestia. “I guess our Twilight’s really stepped in it this time. But I’m lookin’ around and it seems as if everypony’s okay, ain’t they? I see she’s back to her old self. What else is going to happen, Princess?”
A tremor passed across Celestia’s face. Her eyes teared up. “I suppose you could say… she is sentenced to death.”
Applejack’s eyes flew wide. Then, in the space of a breath, all of the little ponies had flocked to dejected Twilight’s side, all expostulating at once.
“Please, Princess, do be merciful!”
“Dang it, that ain’t fair!”
“Noble! Over my dead body you will!”
“Nay, nay!” cried Celestia, looking upon the scene. Twilight squirmed, positively wrapped in protective, forgiving, clingy little ponies, plus a few of Fluttershy’s pets and a zebra mare, all of them pleading for a second chance for the little lavender unicorn. “Nay! You misunderstand! Say, rather, that she is sentenced to life?”
The expostulation stopped.
“Yes, life,” continued Celestia. Tears filled her eyes. “One life in Ponyville, with all of you, just as before. In the Golden Oaks Library, with her marefriend and trusty draconic assistant. Life without parole. Except when you come to visit Canterlot?”
Twilight blinked, still embraced by all of her friends. “Y…you want me to visit you?”
Princess Celestia seemed to be fighting back strong emotion, though her eyes glistened dreadfully. “Yes, Twilight. I do. Let us try to recapture some inkling of what we shared, before all this.”
“Really? I mean, really?” said Twilight Sparkle, stunned. “How can you ever forgive me?”
Princess Celestia’s lip quivered. The tears flowed.
“How? Quickly,” she said. “W… while I have the chance.”
Twilight looked at the weeping Princess, consoled on one side by the immortal Princess Luna and on the other by the ageless Chaos, also known as Discord, who’d been locked away inside stone for thousands of years… and Twilight understood what Celestia was telling her.
“Oh, Twilight,” sobbed Celestia. “Why? I will miss you so much!”
Chaos spoke, gently. “I think she was the alicorn of Self-Will, Celly. I don’t think she could help it. We’ve not lost an alicorn yet… until now.”
“I’m sorry?” said Twilight helplessly, feeling very young. Of course, she thought, she would also know what it would feel like to be very old, in a way Princess Celestia would never understand. “I won’t cause any more trouble…” she added.
“I know,” replied Celestia, hopelessly.
Twilight cast about for something to say. Her friends, around her, were silent, outclassed by the royal conversation and its great seriousness. “Um… thank you for healing me? You didn’t have to do that. I don’t think I can have the big powerful magic back, though, it doesn’t feel anything like it did. Which is kind of a relief?”
Celestia sniffled. “Doubtless.”
“I’m not even sure my regular unicorn powers are back,” added Twilight.
Celestia’s body shook. It might have been a sob. She shook again. This time, it was clearly a laugh.
“You know what this means, then.”
Twilight felt a dreadful sinking feeling. “Not…”
“Magic Kindergarten!” declaimed Princess Celestia.
Twilight squealed, and hit the floor, covering her head with her hooves. It was impossible to tell whether Celestia was laughing or sobbing—perhaps quite a lot of both. The ponies clamored and hugged Twilight and surrounded her with cries of encouragement and giggles at her plight.
“But you won’t go through it alone, Twilight Sparkle!” cried Celestia. “Your Trixie is also sadly impaired, both of you shall go together!”
Trixie began to laugh. “It’ll be fun, Mistress!” she called, but all the same it took ten minutes to get Twilight to stop curling up on the floor in unicorn meltdown.
“Magic kindergarten…” moaned Twilight Sparkle. “She couldn’t have offered death?”
“We’ll be troublemakers,” promised Trixie. “Trixie can’t wait!”
Applejack and Rainbow Dash had gone home, after satisfying themselves that Twilight was going to be okay.
Fluttershy was at home with Dursaa, putting Rock Candy to bed. He’d been very quiet and awed by Vampire Mom. It seemed to soothe him when Zecora’s enchanted mane extensions had returned her to the familiar Pegasus Mom. After he’d gone to bed, Fluttershy had begun flirting with her tail around Dursaa, eyes shining, and he’d already begun tugging playfully at the tail extensions. It seemed Fluttershy’s zebra husband was eager to explore vampire pussy. The rest of the ponies had barely gotten out of there in time to give them privacy.
Pinkie had helped put Rock to bed, and had gone home to her apartment above Sugarcube Corner. Despite the difficult evening, she showed extraordinary bounce. It wasn’t surprising: Zecora went home with her. Fluttershy had given Zecora a little kiss and wished her good luck with great, affectionate, smirking earnestness. The stoic zebra mare had looked a little shaken at that wry benevolence and Fluttershy’s obvious smugness and amusement. She’d followed Pinkie home showing obvious fascination and more than a little wariness, which would turn out to be well justified.
Chaos had taken Celestia home to Canterlot, with Luna accompanying them, there to forget the ravages of Time and embrace the ravages of sleep.
Trixie guided weary Twilight back towards the Golden Oaks Library, with Spike asleep on Twilight’s back. She walked carefully, taking some comfort in faithfully carrying him.
“It still doesn’t seem like it should be real,” she said. “I lost so much. This place should be destroyed, somehow.”
“Shh,” said Trixie. “None of that, Mistress.”
“So I’m Mistress again?”
“Trixie doesn’t need to drive you any harder today, love,” said Trixie.
They got inside, and Trixie wrinkled her nose at the bloodstains on the floor. “Tomorrow, Trixie is going to clean like a demon!”
“Um, we didn’t get him the new bed yet,” said Twilight.
Trixie saw her plight. Spike’s basket was still flipped over, and they’d not set up the downstairs room. “For now, Mistress, let’s have it the old way, for old times’ sake.”
Twilight wrinkled her nose, but she righted the basket without complaint, arranged the blankets, and nestled Spike inside. He curled up, grabbing the blanket with his little claws, and she trembled and nearly wept to see it.
“You okay?” said Trixie.
“You can’t go home again,” said Twilight. “Some things go away, forever. You lose the right to them.”
Trixie frowned. “Upstairs, Mistress. You’re getting some sleep, and you’ll feel better in the morning. You’ve done what you needed to do, today.”
Twilight compliantly followed her upstairs, and flinched at the bed, seeing the damage from alicorn horn discharge all across the walls, the exploded sandbags.
“What?” said Trixie.
Twilight trembled. “All I ever wanted was to be safe, for everything to turn out right. I would go to any length to make that happen, my way. Now I feel like I can never feel safe again, and should never feel safe again.”
Trixie gazed levelly at her. “Get in bed, Twilight.”
Twilight Sparkle climbed into bed, dejectedly. She curled up in a little ball, shutting her eyes.
Then her eyes opened again, startled.
Trixie Lulamoon had joined her, hugging her close. She’d curled around Twilight, snuggling up to Twilight’s little purple rump, pressing against Twilight’s bare unicorn back. It seemed like it had been forever, an eternity of hyper-power and giant sensitive erotic wings and Twilight’s very body growing and changing and a nightmare of expanding responsibility and doomed struggle. Twilight had become larger than life, out of scale, not fitting in any way with her beloved.
Twilight Sparkle hadn’t been Trixie’s little spoon in ages.
Trixie held her close while she shook and cried, and when Twilight finally relaxed and slept, Trixie was still there.