Pardon

Fluttershy flew hesitantly toward the barn.

The bird had told her a terrible tale of horrible monsters invading Sweet Apple Acres, and she had come to see whether she needed to get help. Fluttershy was used to smiling and doing nothing in response to bird stories. You had to be pretty dim to believe everything you heard from birds.

This time, however, the bird had been really freaked out. It shook her. What if it had been some sort of dragon? Someone had to go and protect Sweet Apple Acres. Fluttershy intended to check out the situation, and then go and fetch some appropriate pony to do the protecting.

She drifted around the corner of the barn, and then squeaked and zipped back where she’d come, for something was wrong. The little door was open! It was kept closed every day she’d seen it, yet open it was, and she’d seen some large dark shape moving around in there. Cowering against the side of the barn, she felt the whole barn shudder—something had thumped against the beams of the building, something heavy enough to be the monster she’d been warned about!

The barn fell silent, and then Fluttershy heard an unexpected sound coming through the walls. It sounded like a sob, a cry of woe. She paused. Could the monster be some sort of creature in distress? Birds weren’t good at telling angst from rage. The whole thing could be a misunderstanding. She had to find out.

Timidly, Fluttershy began walking around the corner, and approached the doorway again.

The dark shape wasn’t visible anymore. Fluttershy gulped, and began to peer around the side of the door—when suddenly, a huge shape popped into view, peering around the edge just like her. Fluttershy squealed, and fell backwards onto her butt, eyes wide with horror at…

Big Macintosh. “Sorry,” he said.

Fluttershy blinked. “Whatever are you doing in there?”

“Never you mind,” he said. “Won’t be here for long.”

“Wait. Why are you crying?”

“You’d cry too, if you was homeless…”

Fluttershy gasped. “No!”

“Granny Smith read me th’ riot act. Says I’m all too growed up, should find me a homestead of my own…”

“Why would she say that?” protested Fluttershy.

Big Macintosh hung his head. “Don’t know if you heard—it’s all ‘cause I had, um, relations with Rainbow Dash.”

“Who hasn’t?” replied Fluttershy, tartly. “She sticks to Pinkie Pie like some little blue leech!”

Big Macintosh looked shocked. “I thunk you was innocent, Fluttershy. How would you know about that?”

It was Fluttershy’s turn to look away, embarrassed. “I… don’t like to say. I shouldn’t have said that, either. Did Granny Smith really kick you out? You’re really leaving Sweet Apple Acres?”

Big Macintosh looked woebegone, and his lip quivered. His eyes misted over, and he began to blubber—and then, he was in Fluttershy’s embrace.

“There, there…” she cooed, wings neatly folded, patting his back—or as near as she could reach to his back. She made comforting little noises, as she might do for a frightened chipmunk.

Can’t blame Granny, thought Fluttershy to herself, if this is what he’s been like at home. It’s cute from a baby bunny, but he’s got no business being this mushy, the big strong oaf…


Outside the barn and down the road, Twilight Sparkle and Trixie trotted back into town, saddlebags loaded with carrots and greens from Carrot Top’s farm.

“Hurry, Trixie! We need to get back home!”

Trixie panted. “But why are we in such a rush, Mistress? Princess Celestia is not expected until this afternoon!”

“Experiments, silly!” replied Twilight. “I’ve had some new ideas!”

Trixie blanched. “But… can Mistress wait? Until later? Trixie is still wobbly from Mistress’s last experiments. Not complaining! Just… it’s a little much…”

Trixie squeaked, then. Twilight had dropped back and nipped her rump, lightly. “Mistress!”

“That’s got your attention… listen. Have we ever found out what happened if a bit… penetrates you?”

“Nothing happens, Mistress. Trixie has done that. It tingles, nothing more.”

Twilight beamed. “It tingles, good! Because the other part of my idea is this—I should be able to work it using my telekinesis. I’m going to bury it inside you and rub your G-spot with it while giving you head. In… oh, about three minutes. Hurry, hurry!”

Trixie stumbled. “Oh, my!” she breathed, and began to pant. “So determined… Mistress, why do you want to push Trixie so hard? It is very arousing, but Trixie is disconcerted!”

Twilight snickered. “Two—no, three reasons. I want you extremely relaxed, and I’m going to leave you with little desire to cause mischief, since you’ll have to be on your best behavior when the Princess is here. The third reason is that I want you writhing with ecstacy in my hooves. I’m nervous too, and I’m thinking through all the things she might say—Princess Celestia, that is. I want distraction, and I want to be reminded how amazing you are.”

“Mistress was reminded just last night,” suggested Trixie.

“Mistress wants more,” said Twilight. “Mistress SHALL have more. Trot!”

Trixie put on a little more speed, gasping as Twilight chased her and nuzzled her rump without breaking pace. It was startling, thought Trixie, and doubtless a side-effect of the Magic Bit Mark Three. She wasn’t complaining—she felt the effect too—but it was both exciting and alarming to have Mistress being that lusty. She would never have dared to hope for such ingenious perversity and eagerness. It’s always the nerdy ones, thought Trixie, emphatically including herself in that category.

When they reached Twilight’s house, they were nearly galloping, and they burst through the door almost without breaking stride, heading for the stairs to Twilight’s bedroom. Twilight’s magic flared up, and the saddlebags on both ponies dropped to the floor, spilling carrots from Trixie’s. They didn’t slow down, even when Twilight trod on one and flattened it with a little crunch under her hoof.

“Whoa!” said Spike. “Hey, Twilight, you dropped the… you might want to pick up… um… Okay! Taking a break! See ya!”

He walked towards the still-open door, then began to jog as he heard the loud skronk of bedsprings. Trixie had flung herself onto the bed, on her back, moaning “Mistress! Oh Mistress!”

Outside, Spike pulled the door closed, and stood for a moment, rolling his eyes upward in disbelief. “Sheesh!” He headed for Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie seemed extra happy these days, and was usually good for some ice cream, or even a gemstone if he was lucky.

Twilight loomed over Trixie, both ponies grinning and panting after their run. Trixie reclined, wriggling voluptuously, aware she was pleasing Mistress—and let out a cry as Mistress dove in and began licking the inside of her thigh, savoring Trixie’s sweat and all the scents and tastes of her as Trixie’s unicorn pussy kicked into high gear.

She hadn’t long to wait—Twilight was voracious, charging onward with breathtaking passion and hunger. In moments, she was nuzzling and licking swollen labia as Trixie’s legs fell open wider. Her horn was already glowing—Trixie saw the shining metal of the bit float across her field of vision—and then, Twilight’s face lifted away for a moment, and cold cold metal touched her, slid across hot and slick ponypussy, poked entreatingly at her—and thrust in a single motion, burying itself fully into her quivering vagina.

Trixie squealed through clenched teeth, her horn sputtering to flickering life. The urgency got to her, and the coldness made the bit feel… intrusive, uncomfortable. She had a moment to consider that Twilight had done that on purpose: knowing that Trixie had a huge weakness for being cruelly dominated, Twilight ingeniously found ways to push her buttons and push them hard, just as Trixie liked it.

Trixie only had a moment, though, because Twilight’s mouth came down on her jutting clitoral hood and began licking and suckling—while, inside her, the metal bit twisted and began grinding against her G-spot.

Trixie bit her lip, keening—banged her head against the mattress—and then, as Twilight slurped on her clit and her magic worked the small metal object inside Trixie’s pussy, Trixie lifted off the bed entirely, arching her back in unbearable pleasure… and shrieked, biting her lip hard… and bucked and writhed, squirting magic from her horn and unicorn spooge from her puss. It had taken no more than twenty-three seconds from the time Trixie hit the bed.

Twilight collapsed, her face against Trixie’s inner thigh. It felt like a furnace. She’d inflamed her pony lover gloriously. She focused her mind, and guided the magic bit back out of Trixie, feeling the shudders and echoes of orgasm still rippling through her, jolts of pleasure felt plainly against Twilight’s cheek.

The bit emerged, glistening with pony juices. Twilight regarded it fondly, and licked it clean, nuzzling Trixie’s inner thigh and hearing her pant and moan, “Oh, Mistress…”

Twilight lifted her head. “I’d say that was a rousing succ… oh, crap, Trixie, your lip!”

“What? Oh…” said Trixie, dazedly. She licked her lips and tasted iron. “Trixie is sorry…”

Twilight gulped. “Oops. I didn’t bargain on that. I hope we can tidy it up in time!”

Trixie thought. “Mistress… Trixie appreciates what you are doing, but do not worry yourself about it too much. You want the Princess to love me as you do—but Mistress, Trixie lived for years in great suffering, and Princess Celestia did nothing to help her.”

“But if she knew…”

“No, listen, Mistress! Twilight, listen. I have you. I don’t need her. I don’t even really want her, but I know how important it is to you.” Trixie stared into space for a moment, looking weary and disappointed. “Shall we say, Mistress should retain some of her illusions? Trixie will be very, very good for Mistress. The Princess will come to visit, and will be—whatever she is, Trixie does not care. And then, she will go home, and Trixie will still have Mistress.”

Twilight’s ears were back. “If you knew the things Princess Celestia has done for us…”

“For who, exactly?” said Trixie, bitterly.

“Oh, Trixie,” sighed Twilight. She nuzzled the other unicorn, and licked her injured lip delicately. “I wish I could show you how compassionate and giving Princess Celestia is, how understanding and patient… and I understand what you’re saying, but it’s about more than just us. I need her help.”

Trixie blinked. “With what?”

“I made a promise, remember? Applejack dumped Rainbow Dash. I promised Pinkie Pie that I’d help fix their relationship, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. I still can’t quite believe what Big Macintosh did… but then I really can’t believe what Rarity suddenly did either. Where’d she even get all that kink stuff?”

Trixie considered this. “I usually got mine from Inky Tail’s Sundries in Canterlot, for the good stuff. There’s also a place in Fillydelphia—that’s a very lively town, you know. I remember Rarity went on about being fashionable. Didn’t you say she runs a boutique in Ponyville? It seems like a strange place for one.”

“Yes, she does! She’s very talented.”

Trixie smirked. “Really! In that case, Trixie suspects she has been making this gear all along. Trixie has not seen that stuff before, but if it was private stock, she seems to have made it very public now. When your Princess is gone, can we go… shopping?”

“Uhh…” said Twilight, “I have other things I need to think about right now. I should make the salad for us, and the table I was going to serve it on is covered with books, so I’ve got to find somewhere to put those.”

Trixie batted her eyelashes. “Trixie finds certain places difficult to reach. Could Mistress oblige in some more tidying up?”

Twilight narrowed her eyes at the remark. “This is you not behaving yet. Right?”

The blue unicorn mare wriggled on her back, displaying herself. “Mistress is so good at it—and since Trixie’s untidiness is all Mistress’s fault…”

“There’s girl-spooge down the inside of your leg,” observed Twilight. “I could insist you go around like that for the rest of the day.”

Trixie’s half-lidded eyes flickered with amusement. “Mistress could, it is true. But since Trixie has to play nice all day anyhow… and since it is Mistress who wishes Trixie to do that…”

A smirk began to sneak onto Twilight’s face. “I get it. You’re twisting things on me, aren’t you? Suddenly, the Great and Powerful Trixie wants to drive? If I don’t submit, you’ll go around covered with goo and embarrass me?”

“When were your guests arriving?” yawned Trixie. “Trixie forgets.”

“You want to watch me talking to Princess Celestia with your juices on my lips and tongue. Seriously? That’s a turn-on for you?” marvelled Twilight.

Trixie smirked, and looked fondly down her body at her beloved, between her legs.

“How does it feel to know that it’s already true?” she said. “Aren’t you a dirty little pony? Does Trixie’s requirement make you wet, little pony?”

Her voice purred with languid authority. Twilight trembled.

“Yes. I guess that’s a turn-on for me too, huh?”

Trixie sighed with satisfaction at the delicious reversal. Her eyes were luminous slits, her smile predatory.

“Lick it up. Now. All of it. Trixie may let you stop afterwards, if you do well. Otherwise, you can mumble to your Princess later, using a very tired tongue…”

Trixie didn’t have to continue. Twilight Sparkle had lowered her head, obediently, and her adorable tongue licked dutifully up Trixie’s inner thigh. The formerly-submissive, now-dominant blue unicorn shuddered with pleasure, as her lover’s head moved humbly against her. Twilight would devote herself utterly to the task, as long as it didn’t seriously take so long that it endangered her plans.

Trixie knew this, and had no intention of endangering anything. She knew she could sneak in one more orgasm, if Twilight’s licking went quickly to her vulva and clitoris. She knew that Twilight knew it too, and would likely do exactly that—and Trixie quivered with anticipation as Twilight, knowing what had to happen, behaved as if she had no such agenda, and licked placidly at Trixie’s inner thigh, as directed.

Trixie could see the hint of a little smile on Twilight’s face as she made Trixie wait for the payoff.

Life was so, so, so wonderful.


“They’re fine, Mistress!”

Twilight fussed with the bouquet of carrots and flowers, a delicious riot of reds, oranges and yellows. “Trixie, please! Call me Twilight. And the other thing, remember?”

Trixie made a face. “Only for you, Twilight. Do you understand how nervous it makes me? I don’t like using those words. That’s not my life anymore.”

“I know, but please! For me. ‘I’ instead of ‘Trixie’. ‘Twilight’ instead of ‘Mistress’. I remember what you told me about getting caught up in self-will, I understand that you want to step back from that—but we’re having Princess Celestia over for a visit! I’m already having to explain so much. It’s going to be sooooo much fun explaining why Applejack and Dash broke up!”

“I will. For you. I promise,” said Trixie.

“And start right now, okay? Because Princess Celestia is very punctual and it’s already at least thirty seconds after the time she said she’d come and I need you to… eeeee!”

The sharp rapping at the door sounded again. Twilight pulled herself together, trotted to the door, and her horn glowed. “Greetings, P…” she said…

…as the door opened on two alicorns.

“It’s so good to see you, Twilight!” said Princess Celestia warmly. “Luna hasn’t seen you in a while, and we thought we might surprise you. Thank you so much for having us!”

“Oh!” squeaked Twilight, her ears back. “Uh… Right! Please come in, Trixie is waiting to meet you!”

Princess Celestia stepped regally through the door, smiling.

“And who,” she said, as she entered Twilight’s house, “is your wonderful Tr..”

Princess Celestia caught sight of Trixie, and froze in her tracks, for just a moment, her face going blank. Then, the winning smile was back, and she strode forward to meet Twilight’s marefriend.

Luna blinked, not sure what she’d just seen. She glanced at Twilight Sparkle. Twilight’s lip was quivering, and her pupils were pinpricks of shock. She’d clearly seen that hesitation.

“Come along, Twilight,” said Luna. “I am charmed at the beautiful salad you’ve made us! I hope it is not inconvenient that I’ve accompanied my sister on this day?”

Twilight shook her head, looking terrified—then shook it again, as if to clear it, and trotted determinedly over to join Trixie and Princess Celestia.

“So… meet the light of my life! This is Trixie, a truly wonderful unicorn.”

Celestia smiled winningly. “I’m so pleased! Where do you live, dear?”

Trixie’s head was held high—perhaps a little too high, but in deference to Twilight’s feelings it wasn’t by much. “I live here, in fact. Twilight has been wonderful. We’ve even moved my books in—we did that yesterday.”

“Oh, books? I begin to see what captivated Twilight about you!” said Princess Celestia, with a fond chuckle. “Was your whole house full of them, too?”

“It was a cave, actually. Safe against all eventualities.”

“She made a warding spell that was really something! It’ll probably last for hundreds of years!” added Twilight.

“Oh,” said Celestia, “a spell, of c… I mean, how wonderful! So this is another thing you have in common, then? Twilight is a very powerful magical unicorn. You are another talented mage, then?”

“I have given performances across Equestria!” boasted Trixie, and then glanced at Twilight, chastened by a look. “But M.. Twilight is much more powerful than I am.”

Princess Celestia was stuck for a response, and her smile wavered for a moment. This didn’t go unnoticed by Luna, who hastened to keep the conversation going. “Ah… you are a stage performer, Trixie? What sorts of magic do you use?”

Trixie brightened. “Oh, there are many useful kinds. Ordinary magical fireworks and sparklers are always very useful. Then there is the manipulation of magical glamours to form shapes and words, telekinesis of course, perhaps hypnosis…”

Luna glanced back and forth. Princess Celestia had given a small but perceptible jerk at the word ‘glamours’, and by the time Trixie had hit the word ‘hypnosis’, Luna thought she saw the problem. Celestia’s smile was looking forced, and Twilight looked truculent. Luna hit on a tactic, and seized it.

“Trixie, this sounds very interesting!” She switched to Royal Canterlot Voice. “We request that you demonstrate these magical glamours for us!”

Trixie blinked. “Twilight’s seen them. As for you—really? You want to see my magic?”

“We would request pardon for our fair sister, who may wish to catch up with her dear friend. But we avidly await your delightful performance! Wouldst thou accompany us outside, where suitable space exists for such demonstrations?”

Trixie blinked, entranced. “Trixie has never heard anypony talk quite this way before. Is it a Princess thing?”

“It is the Royal Canterlot Voice, good pony, and so we must needs agree—truly, it is indeed a Princess thing!”

“Wow,” breathed Trixie. “Is that okay with you, Mis… Twilight?”

“Miss Twilight,” said Twilight carefully, “will be catching up with her old friend. Go ahead…”

“Yes,” said Celestia. “Have fun!”

Luna led the way outside, Trixie trotting behind her, glancing back at Twilight in worry, and then heading out the door. It closed gently. The instant it closed, Twilight spoke.

“What?”

“I’m sorry, Twilight?” replied Princess Celestia, with a knitted brow and a look of intent concentration.

“What?” repeated Twilight. “What’s wrong?”

Celestia hung her head and sighed. “What gave you that impression, dear?”

“Apart from the freezing in your tracks, and looking startled, and the ever-so-scintillating conversation? Gee, not much!”

Celestia sighed again, and nibbled at the salad. “I see I can’t put things past you. Dear Twilight… it’s just a bit of a shock. I have seen your Trixie before. It pains me to say it, but I must suggest that there may be things about her that you simply do not know…”

She nibbled on more salad, as Twilight replied.

“On the contrary, Princess, there are things I know that… well, it might be you who doesn’t really understand.” She gulped. “If you’re saying what I think you’re saying… I need to explain this very badly. Their deaths were not her fault!”

Princess Celestia spit flowers across the table in shock.

“What? Twilight, I was going to tell you that there is a magical artifact out there which seems to compel ponies into sex! I’ve watched its influence travel across Equestria. The problem with it is that it seems to bring out the worst in some ponies, and your Trixie is possibly the worst offender! She’s been caught up in it over and over, seems to follow it somehow. What is all this about deaths?”

Twilight stammered. “Uh, she actually made it. It was under a curse… We all ended up getting involved. Rainbow Dash found it first…”

“Oh my,” said Princess Celestia, wide-eyed.

“Yeah,” said Twilight, knowingly. “I, um, made some decisions I’m not proud of. Trixie helped! She was ready to lay down her life to keep me from going bad. This is a lot to explain…”

“So it was cursed all along? Twilight, I’ve seen that item in the wild. I understand it is strange, but I did not know it was cursed! You certainly are explaining it very badly! Please go back to the deaths, Twilight. What happened?”

Twilight sighed. “That was what we call the Mark One. It turns mares into stallions, sort of… what we didn’t know was, it bound everypony who used it to Trixie. We all got compelled to… go service her. She was compelled too. It was pretty horrible…”

“The deaths, Twilight. What did this curse entail?”

Twilight was blushing worse and worse. “Everypony who’d used the thing to grow a dick—suddenly had one, and the compulsion. We had to go and have an orgy with Trixie. It was Lyra who saved us, apparently. Me and Applejack and Dash were nearly goners. That’s how other ponies died, other times it happened.”

“How?” Celestia’s ears were back, a rare sight.

“We were… mating with her, over and over, and it was like it was dragging our life force out of us. Applejack probably lasted the longest. Dash was pretty strong too… I’m told they dragged me off her and put Fluttershy in my place, which I hate to think about now…”

“And Lyra saved you? How?”

Twilight pulled herself together. “It has to do with the bailout condition! The curse had always been this—everypony had to pleasure Trixie until she, um, squirted. You know? The, uh, unicorn thing… and the way she was, nopony had ever loved her, they were just fu… mating.”

“How did Lyra save you?” repeated Princess Celestia.

“Lyra had some love in her heart for Trixie. That was the key… when Trixie, um, you know? When that happened, this time, the bit burst into sparkles in Lyra’s mouth. It usually disappeared, but this time it was destroyed. The curse was broken.”

Princess Celestia heaved a great sigh of relief. “I won’t pretend I’m not grateful, Twilight. Had I known all the details, I would not have allowed this to happen. It’s not the first odd magic item I’ve ever seen, or even the first one of a sexual nature, but you must report truly dangerous magical items to me, in case my help is needed.”

Twilight nodded. “I know. I wish I’d had your help, but I hardly knew how to ask! It’s been really tough. The cursed one exploded if you used it on somepony you love, and the Mark Twos… well, I guess that was actually about the same. We’re still not sure what sets off the Mark Three, but…”

Twilight glanced at Princess Celestia, and stopped abruptly. The alicorn’s ears were back again. Her mane wasn’t even flowing in nonexistent breezes. It hung stock-still. Celestia’s eyes were wide.

“So… you made another, then?”

Twilight gulped. “No… I made five…”

“Where are they right now, Twilight?”

“I’m not sure…”

“Who exactly made these things, Twilight? You and you alone?”

Twilight shook her head. “I did it with Trixie. She made the first one. She told me I couldn’t possibly tap the energies, because I was too nice.”

Princess Celestia’s expression darkened, and Twilight whimpered to see it.

“Please describe Trixie for me, Twilight. What sort of energies is she using in these? Why does she say you are too nice? What sort of power does she have? Do I need to go to Luna’s aid, Twilight?”

“No!” protested Twilight. “She’s had a hard life! She’s a sort of thing they call a sadomasochistic switch. Her magical powers are not that great! She just tapped into a source of sexual energy from somewhere, and it came with a curse. She didn’t know what she was tapping! I thought that was worrying too, that’s why we are drawing from sources inside ourselves for the Mark Threes! No outside influences!”

“Is that supposed to be reassuring? Even the simplest pony has depths you wouldn’t expect to find. Do you think you are such simple creatures? You’re complicated, soulful, unpredictable. Explain this part about your being too nice. I would have thought that an appropriate way for a pony to be. Are you suggesting she wishes you less nice?” said Celestia.

Twilight squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. “Nnngh! The point is, she was wrong, Princess! I’m not ‘too nice’. I’m just me! I’ve done some things I’m not pleased with…”

Celestia seized on this statement. “List them.”

Twilight gulped. “I… she… how do I even begin to explain it? Princess, she got me into her sado-maso-thing. Or not exactly—I’ve read up on it a whole lot. We do a thing that’s about dominance and submission. I would never have believed it when I first saw her, but Trixie longs to be dominated. And I… well, when I get mad or fierce, it turns out I’m pretty good at that. And sometimes we switch it around, too, and you’d be surprised how good that can feel…”

Celestia regarded her tiredly. “It feels good, then.”

“It feels amazing!” protested Twilight. “And you have to understand, through this I am getting in touch with who I really am! Trixie saved me from… bad decisions I was making, because I had fallen for Applejack. Princess, I had unrealistic expectations of Applejack. I was being demanding, and I wasn’t letting her be herself. With Trixie, I’m being myself, and she’s being herself. We’re being honest. Yes, we’re complicated ponies, Princess. I am a complicated pony. I understand that now, and I’m taking responsibility for it. How can that be wrong?”

Princess Celestia sighed, and hung her head. After a while, she spoke.

“Twilight, having problems and being with somepony who has similar problems… doesn’t always mean ‘true love’. Is it your virtues she loves? Or is it parts of you you’d rather not magnify? Is it leading you directions you wish to go? It’s possible to be drawn into the difficult just because it is difficult. Remember ponies bond for many reasons.”

Twilight began to cry. “But… Princess, it is leading me directions I want to go! You can’t be suggesting I need to hold out for somepony without problems. There’s no such thing! With Trixie I’ve found somepony that I understand, who understands me. We have to work through things that come up, work through problems. Don’t you trust me?”

Princess Celestia was silent for one second too many. Twilight’s jaw tensed.

“Princess, I need to rephrase that. I want you to trust me.”

“Enchanted any dolls, lately?” remarked Celestia, acidly.

“No!” replied Twilight. “And do you know the funny thing about that? Do you know what’s different, Princess, between now and that time?”

“Four additional repetitions of the troublesome spell?” suggested Celestia.

“No. No, Princess. The difference is, I am not doing desperate, childish things to try and please… you.”

That got through. Princess Celestia’s eyes went wide.

She hesitated, and in the gap Twilight pressed on. “I can’t be a filly any longer, Princess. I’m the bearer of an Element of Harmony! It upsets me, the way you’re acting. I mean… I understand that the bit thing worries you. I thought we were doing a pretty good job of fixing the curse and learning to get the powers of the bit under control! Damn it, we are doing a pretty good job! And if there are other problems, we’ll handle them…”

“But… Twilight, there is no shame in turning to more experienced minds, more powerful talents,” said Celestia, placatingly. “Please understand that powerful magic must be used with moderation and oversight…”

“All right,” said Twilight Sparkle. “Moderation and oversight it is. I’m working with Trixie. She’s not as powerful as me, but she’s really smart. From things I’ve seen, Rarity wouldn’t be shocked by this stuff. Her magic’s more specialized, but she’s an Element Bearer. I can also consult with experts in Canterlot about our Mark Three bits, if you like. Please help by naming three who are more powerful than I am.”

Celestia fell silent, again, She looked down, and she bit her lip gently. Her expressive, elegant ears were quirked to the side in vexation and confusion, for it was plain that she could not think of even one pony with greater magical power and resources than her old student, now grown up and challenging her.

“You see my point, don’t you?” said Twilight.

“Some of it, perhaps.”

“We ponies can handle this! We’re doing so well… uh… mostly. We’ve got to work this stuff out, we can’t just have you come in and do everything for us. And if I’m not mistaken, Princess, you agree with that, deep in your heart. Am I crazy, or have you been handling it that way all along?”

Princess Celestia looked Twilight in the eye. “It is out of love for you that I wish to intercede.”

“Isn’t that kind of personal?”

“Yes, it is. If it were not you in danger, I would let matters take their course.”

Twilight repressed a little squee of glee at the admission, and put on a stern tone. “Then, shouldn’t you do what you’d normally do? I don’t like you making special rules for me. Us ponies need to handle our own affairs, run our own risks. You say yourself that if it wasn’t me involved, you’d leave this alone. I’m telling you, we’re making progress. It’s not just strictly about the construction of the bit, either! We’re improving it through making progress with understanding of ourselves!”

Celestia didn’t interrupt her. She watched, solemnly, as Twilight talked herself out.

“The new bits are drawing strictly on sources of power within us. We’re not casting out at random. And you know what? To improve them, we have to work on ourselves, and we’re growing! Trixie has grown so much since I first met her. I love her deeply. She’d lay down her life for me. She almost did, and I learned a lot from that. I’ve grown, too. Everypony in Ponyville is!”

“Good heavens,” said Princess Celestia. “You’ve given these things to everypony in town?”

Twilight deflated. “No. Just the five.”

They sat, in silence, looking at each other. A bird chirped outside. Twilight realized she had no more to say. It wasn’t about wheedling, or getting her way—she’d stated her position as an adult mare, and what she’d accept from Princess Celestia in response. It was time to hear that response, since Princess Celestia had truly heard her. She let the alicorn think.

Celestia cleared her throat, and Twilight tensed. It sounded apologetic. That look on the Princess’s face, the little tilt of the head, didn’t bode well.

“Please stop making these things, Twilight.”

“I told you—they’re drawing from us!”

“And I’ve told you,” said Princess Celestia, “that you and your friend are more complicated than you suspect—and your power is not to be trifled with. Twilight, you’re a grown mare, and you’ve come into perhaps your full power. I see the rebelliousness in your eyes—let me reassure you. I am not punishing you. What I am doing is asking you.”

Twilight didn’t respond, and Celestia said, again, softly—“Please, stop this.”

Twilight’s eyes glistened. “…and turn over the ones we’ve made, to you?” she said. “For safe keeping? We’re not sure how to destroy these ones.”

Princess Celestia paused.

“Yes. Please turn them over to me, if you would be so good. I will not require that you do so, but I ask that as well.”

“You don’t trust us.”

“I’m sorry. I know it’s unfair. I consider the risks too great. You’ll note I am not making demands, Twilight. Does that not show trust?”

A tear dripped from Twilight’s eye as she thought about what Celestia was asking—and what it meant, for herself, and for ponykind—and she went on, and thought of one more thing.

“And me and Trixie? What do you really want to see happen with us?”

Celestia didn’t answer, and Twilight’s heart sank. The Princess had that little faith?

“You don’t know Trixie—or love her—like I do.”

“No, Twilight. I don’t. Again, I make no demands.”

Twilight’s world went dark, hearing the sadness in her Princess’s voice—but then something snapped within her, and she lifted her head, and her voice was clear again.

“Princess—you don’t make demands? I’m sorry, but I do.”

“Do you?” said the alicorn, quietly.

“Yes. I know love, Princess. I’ve found a kindred spirit. I’m growing. I need you to respect that.”

“I respect you, Twilight!”

“Do you?”

In the resulting silence, Twilight Sparkle spoke.

“You don’t trust my judgement. But it’s my judgement. I won’t give it up just to please you. This is personal, Princess. I… I hoped you would love us, like we love each other. Because it is ‘us’ now, and more than my happiness is at stake. If you can’t accept that—if you really don’t have anything good to say to us…” Twilight gulped. “…then don’t talk to us, please.”

Princess Celestia bowed her head. Outside, Twilight heard a familiar voice approaching. It said, “…had been private stock! And truly, Princess, there were things being worn, the likes of which Trixie has never seen! And Trixie has seen many things in her day!”

The door opened. Luna and Trixie entered. Luna pranced, and declaimed at nearly Canterlot levels. “Sister, your Twilight Sparkle’s marefriend is most entertaining! Have you had a pleasing discussion? …sister?”

Princess Celestia tightened her jaw. Twilight could see tears forming along her tightly closed eyes. The others fell silent.

Then, Celestia stood—opened her eyes, though the hurt, betrayed look in them was hard to bear—and began walking deliberately toward the door, without a word.

Trixie bolted to Twilight’s side, and looked frantically back and forth between her marefriend and the alicorn Princess.

Princess Luna’s jaw dropped. She called, “Sister. Sister!” and began to walk alongside Celestia, who didn’t look up.

“Sister!” cried Luna, and seized Celestia’s flowing mane in her teeth. “What happened?”

At this, Princess Celestia did stop. She yanked her mane free of Luna’s grip, and gazed down at her sister with a terrible grief and determination in her eyes.

“What happened? Freedom! Freedom happened. Call it a gift!”

“But why are you crying, sister?” protested the smaller alicorn.

“Have you never seen a costly gift before, Luna?”

With that, she stalked out the door of Twilight’s house. Princess Luna glanced back at the two stunned unicorn ponies, and ran after her. They saw two shadows outside, rising quickly into the air, bound for Canterlot and the palace—and then there was silence.

Twilight Sparkle gulped. “Trixie? Will you do something for me?”

Trixie’s eyes were wide, but she didn’t hesitate. “Anything. Anything, my love.”

“I’m scared, Trixie,” said Twilight. “Hold me…”