Trixie awoke slowly, feeling an odd peace about her that she hadn't felt in a long, long time. Her entire body tingled pleasantly, her muscles were entirely relaxed, and she found a smile on her face. She stretched a little and opened her eyes.
Almost immediately her mood fouled. There was less light than last time, but she could still make out the same yellow ceiling as before. She quickly remembered where she was and why. That pegasus, she had... tricked Trixie. Tricked her into accepting food and aid, Trixie realized. She wasn't sure what exactly the pegasus had done wrong. But the indignity of it infuriated her.
Trixie looked herself over and gasped slightly. Her body was more bandages than not, her legs entirely covered and several pads held to her sides with medical tape. She realized her muscles were relaxed thank to several damp clothes placed around her shoulders and hips. She shook them off and immediately regretted it, yelping as her bandages rubbed and made her aware of every cut and wound underneath. Slowly she rolled herself over to the edge of the bed. She slipped off and gingerly put her hooves on the ground. She winced but found herself still standing.
"Haha! The Great and Powerful Trixie is back in business!" she thrust one hoof towards the ceiling to punctuate her cry. Her face twitched as pain shot through her. "Ow..." she lowered her leg gingerly. Looking around, she spied a window and realized it was late in the evening, almost night time. She found the bedroom door on the other side of the bed and made her exit. If she was lucky, she would never see that sweet pegasus girl again.
"What?" she blinked at her own thoughts. That pegasus had been condescending, not sweet. She had also seen Trixie at her worst - which was still better than most ponies best, she assured herself. She needed to get out of here, her mind was still clearly addled. The door let out to a short L-shaped hallway that she navigated well enough in the low light.
She was halfway down the stairs when she heard a gentle tune being hummed. She froze in place at the sound of it. If that pegasus thought she was going to work her magic on Trixie again, she had another thing coming. Trixie's eyes darted around, trying to find where the noise was coming from, as well as how she could escape.
"Oh, you're awake!" the pegasus appeared out of a doorway Trixie hadn't been looking at, a small tray balanced on her back. Trixie's eyes widened before she caught herself. What was she, scared of this pony? This nopony? She collected herself quickly.
"Ahem, yes. It is good to see somepony knows how to give the Great and Powerful Trixie the respect they deserve." she held out a bandaged limb. "But she is no longer in need of your services."
"Oh. Would you like to stay for dinner?" the pony asked. Trixie began to reply, but her stomach beat her to the punch. She found herself blushing, embarrassed by the display of weakness.
"Trixie is a most gracious guest, and accepts your offer of tribute."
"I made you a salad."
"That is...adequate for such a rustic, ugh, 'house' such as this."
"Would you like it in bed?" the pegasus asked. Trixie just stared at her. What was with this pony? Scratch that, Trixie thought, what was wrong with herself? This was just the kind of treatment she should be getting. But she had done nothing to prove her superiority to this pony, nothing to earn this devotion. Why did this pony go to such lengths?
"Trixie is more than capable of having her dinner downstairs, thank you very much. Trixie also refuses to have her meal on anything less than pristine silverware."
The pegasus, of all things, just giggled at her. Giggled at her! She walked away through a doorway, taking the tray with her. Trixie noticed she most definitely didn't hear the sound of silverware being removed from any cupboard. She sighed and trotted down the stairs, driven mostly by her hunger.
The kitchen was as rustic as the rest of the house, a surprisingly fine yellow table cloth placed over a table more suited to a family than a single pony. In a passing thought, Trixie imagined that the pegasus must often have guests. At one place was the bowl she had seen on the pony's tray. The pegasus was at a wooden counter at the kitchen's end, tossing a second salad as she hummed to herself.
"Well?" Trixie asked. The pegasus looked over.
"Oh, it's okay. You can start eating without me."
"Start- you- but-" Trixie stopped herself, realizing she was stammering. This pony was infuriating.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie demands, this very instant, that you-" her horn began to glow with magic, but all of the sudden Trixie felt herself lurch to the side, nausea coming over her.
"Ughh..." the world swam in front of her eyes. She heard a squeak.
"Oh, what happened? Are you alright?" she heard the pony rush up but couldn't see her.
"S-stay back!" she tried a spell again. It was an immediate mistake. The nausea overwhelmed her, and she felt herself stumble and collapse. Only she failed to actually hit the ground, feeling something soft prop her up. The other pony had caught her.
"Hurgh!" Trixie couldn't hold back, and felt herself retch, right there in the middle of the kitchen. She emptied her stomach in a series of heaves. Her throat burned and her eyes watered. She groaned weakly and felt herself pushed gently into a sitting position.
"There there..." came a soft soothing voice. Trixie tried dumbly to look around for its source. She heard the pegasus walk around, a tap ran, and a moment later something cool pressed against her face. She felt helpless, just letting herself be wiped clean.
"What...what has become of the G-Great and P-Powerful..."
"Sssh, sssh. You're just tired. You need lots of energy to heal. Here, it's okay..." Trixie's vision began to clear. It was filled with a yellow face and wide, open eyes. Eyes that told her to relax, that everything was going to be okay. Trixie's guard was down, and she found herself relaxing under the gaze. The pegasus began to guide her away. Trixie was more than willing to leave the site of her physical weakness incarnate.
Trixie found herself guided back into the main room. She noticed a lot of things she hadn't her first time through. A pillar with a strange little track around it, carefully carved holes in the walls, and birdhouses hanging from the ceiling.
"What kind of place...oh." Trixie nearly bumped into the couch she had been guided towards. She still felt woozy, and was more than glad to take her weight off her hooves. She got on carefully, laying down on her underbelly.
"I'll be right back." the pegasus said quietly. Trixie barely registered it and just nodded. She stared at her bandaged hooves dully, feeling worse than death. She didn't even feel the seconds pass, but all of the sudden the pegasus was beside her again. A bowl of salad was placed between her forelegs.
"You'll, um, you'll feel better once you eat." she was told. Trixie nodded and bent her head down. She tugged out a lettuce leaf and slowly chewed on it, taking her time. Swallowing was a little painful, but she managed. The leaf eventually disappeared, and she went back for another, this one with shavings of carrot on it.
She was halfway through the salad before she realized she was being watched. The pegasus was just sitting there, watching her eat. Trixie felt herself coming too again as she ate and scowled at the realization.
"Trixie does not sign autographs during meals, if that's what you're wondering."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not making you, um, nervous, am I?"
"W-what! Don't be foalish. Trixie does not get nervous. You are simply making a nuisance of yourself. It's quite unbecoming."
"Oh, you mean I'm disturbing you?"
Trixie sighed. "Yes close enough. Go...eat your dinner or something, would you?"
"Oh, okay. I'll be right back." the pegasus disappeared. Trixie nearly groaned, hearing her go to the kitchen and come back a moment later. She just sat there on the floor, right next to Trixie, and began on her own salad.
"Will you not leave Trixie alone for two minutes?" Trixie asked. The pegasus looked up, seeming so worried.
"But you're still sick."
"Trixie is not..." Trixie looked away. "And just why do you care? Are you some fan of Trixie's? Trixie isn't going to wake up to find herself strapped into bed, is she?"
"Oh, no, I'd never do something like that. You just looked like you needed help."
"What?" Trixie blinked. "But why are you helping?"
Now it was the pegasus's turn to show no comprehension. "Because you needed it."
"Ugh." Trixie sighed. "Fine, if you refuse to tell Trixie, so be it."
"Um, I..." the pegasus stopped herself and fidgeted.
"If you, um, don't mind, what happened to you? You're very...thin."
Trixie looked to her side and frowned. She knew what the pegasus was getting at. She had lost a lot of weight, in terms of both body fat and muscle definition. Only now she realized how not only was her ribcage visible, but her legs had become rather spindly. It was no wonder she could barely hold herself upright, even given how light she must have become.
"It's, it's been a month since you left Ponyville. Have, um, you been lost the whole time?"
"Ponyville!" Trixie's eyes went wide. "We're in Ponyville?!" she leaped to her feet, eyes darting around. The pegasus was up and besides her before she knew it.
"Sssh, oh dear, please, it's okay. We're not inside the town."
"W-we're not?" Trixie felt herself gently pushed on, but it was all she needed to sit back down. A strong wind could have moved her at this point.
"I live on the edge of Ponyville. Um, are you okay?"
"You! You are from Ponyville then! You saw....that, that upstart make a foal of Trixie! No wonder you don't, don't respect her!"
"Oh, um, I, but I do respect you. I respect everypony." the pegasus drew away
"Don't lie to Trixie!" Trixie railed. "How, how could anyone respect me- respect her, after, after such an embarrassment..." she turned her head away, realizing her eyes were watering. She felt the pegasus put an arm around her.
"And stop treating Trixie like, like a little filly!" Trixie tried to shrug the pegasus off her. When she looked over she saw for the first time that the young mare actually looked upset.
"I, you seemed so sad..." the pegasus replied, backing away. "I'm sorry."
"Ugh. Look Trixie....stop looking at Trixie like that. Trixie just...are you crying?"
"Uh uh." the pegasus shook her head with a squeak, wiping her eye. It was the most pathetic thing Trixie had ever seen, and she found a lot of ponies pathetic.
"Look, Trixie is....oh, alright. She is... very grateful for your aid."
"Huh?" the pegasus looked up, eyes half-hidden behind her long mane.
"Trixie...does not get lost. She has also never needed to stoop such barbaric practices as the wilds demanded. She may have gone without much food that past month. She counted her last meal, oh, about a week ago."
"A whole week...." the pegasus mumbled.
"Even Great as Powerful as she is, Trixie was not prepared to fight an entire forest. She...would not have lasted much longer." finally admitting to what had happened, Trixie began to lose it. She began to shake where she sat.
"All those cold nights...every attempt to find an exit ending in confusion....the hunger..." she didn't realize she was crying until a hoof brushed away the tears. It wasn't her own. She looked over to she the pegasus just smiling at her, though her eyes were worried and sad. Trixie was amazed at how much the pegasus could convey without saying anything. She wanted Trixie to feel safe.
"S-stop that. Don't p-pity Trixie."
"I, I wasn't." the pegasus shied away. "I, um, just thought you needed some, well....kindness."
"K-kindness?" Trixie almost believed it, but shook her head. "Bah, another word for pity." She sniffed and wiped an arm across her face. She winced, having forgotten the bandages around her arms.
"Trixie is done with her dinner." Trixie pushed the bowl away. "And requires a bath."
"Oh, well, um....okay." the pegasus turned away. Trixie slid off the couch, following some distance behind. She couldn't believe how little control she had over her emotions. The weeks had worn on her, she couldn't deny that to herself. The hunger had driven her to stupidity, that much was certain. When berries had made her sick and leaves were too bitter, she had turned to drastic measures. She had believed she had stolen a bounty from that witch-pony. They turned out to be everything that had made her sick before and more besides. If this pegasus hadn't come along....no. No more of that she told herself.
The pegasus led her upstairs and through another door in the hallway. The bathroom was small, simple, but it had a nice enough freestanding tub. There was a mirror above the sink which Trixie immediately headed for with a smile. She got up to it, and,
"Waaaah!" she reared away from the mirror in fright, making the pegasus jump.
"Oh, is there another spider? I asked them not too..."
"What, what has happened? That is not how the Great and Powerful...." Trixie stopped, slowly approaching the mirror again. Her face was gaunt, her eyes red, and her mane....by Celestia, her mane! Much of it had been torn or roughly cut, which in truth she had known, as it had gotten tangled in thick undergrowth or branches and she had had to force it free. She had promised herself it wasn't that bad, but it was jagged, uneven, and what hair remained was so dusty and dirty it looked brown instead of silver. There were enough twigs sticking out to build a bird's nest. She glanced behind her, in her horror realizing her tail was much the same.
"I, um, didn't want to do anything while you were asleep." the pegasus told her. "I have some scissors..."
"No, no, stay back!" Trixie turned around backed away from her. "Trixie will not have a hair on her mane ruined!"
"But it's already..."
"Why? Why Trixie?" Trixie shouted, hysterical. Everything began to unwind, finally. "Why did every last thing have to go wrong? First her carriage, and hat and c-cape, and that wasn't enough? What cruel goddess would go to such lengths to destroy her? She's a showmare! Of course those stories were made up! Why did they have to....why did this have to happen...what did I do to deserve this?"
The pegasus tried to approach her, even though she looked scared out of her mind, her eyes wide. Trixie backed into a corner.
"Trixie can fix this! She's great, and powerful, a-and smart and beautiful. I-I can fix this." she strained harder than ever before, her horn glowing in a wavering blue light. Again nausea overcame her, but she tried to power through. It felt like her head was coming apart, cracking like an egg. She cried out, but kept forcing herself.
"Trixie, no! Please, no!" the voice sounded so far away. It was enough to break her concentration even so, her magic fizzling away. She lurched forward, the world spinning, and again found the other pony there, catching her and holding her up.
"Oh dear, please, the sink..."
"Trixie is f-fine..." Trixie said, forcing herself to swallow. She felt something on her back. It took her a minute to understand what was happening.
"Are you...petting Trixie?" she asked, trying to lift her head. All she got in response was a squeak, and the motion stopped.
"You do pity Trixie...." her voice wavered, "She doesn't blame you. Get the scissors."
A moment later Trixie sat there in front of the mirror, eyes dull as the pegasus snipped away almost all of her mane. Trixie found herself sniffling. She hadn't cried this much in years, and it was overwhelming. She glanced up at herself in the mirror but couldn't bring herself to watch.
Almost all of Trixie's hair came off in the end, in order to even it out the pegasus could only leave a couple inches. It made her mane quite curly, making her look younger than she really was. Apart from being dirty, the cut looked nearly professional. Her tail was likewise a silver-and-dirt tuft.
"Trixie supposes you could have done worse....ummm..." Trixie blinked. It occurred to her that she hadn't once asked for the pegasus's name, nor had it been offered.
"Oh, I'm...Fluttershy..." the pegasus smiled weakly as she guessed what Trixie was after.
"Fluttershy. Trixie doesn't remember you from her performance."
"Oh...I was there..."
"Did you know those ponies? The ones Trixie showed up?"
"They, unm..." Fluttershy backed away. "They were..." she mumbled too quietly for Trixie.
"Say that again?"
"They were my...."
"Speak up, would you!"
"They were my closest friends...." Fluttershy admitted. Trixie cringed.
"Yet...you still aid Trixie."
"Everypony deserves some kindness." Fluttershy told her gently. "Would you like that bath?"
Trixie just nodded. She couldn't think what else to do. This pony admitted she had no reason to help her, in fact it looked like she had reason to hate Trixie, yet still she timidly offered more and more. So she just watched as Fluttershy turned to the tub and got the water running. The pegasus tweaked the faucets a little before turning back to Trixie. She looked like she had something to say, but hesitated.
"I, um, would you like help with your bandages?"
"Oh." Trixie looked herself over. She did look like she was halfway through being mummified. Without her magic, she could only imagine the tedium of unwrapping herself.
"Why not? You've already wrapped Trixie up once before."
"Oh, I just, since you're awake this time..."
"You mean...you're worried about Trixie's dignity?" Trixie asked, chuckling dryly. "Oh, that's rich. Hah! You- ow." Even a short forced laugh reminded Trixie of the bruises about her ribs. She rubbed her side gingerly for a moment.
"Ow, yes. A-heh..." she looked up to find Fluttershy just staring at her with a tilted head and sad, sad eyes. Trixie found she couldn't meet those eyes and, to her shame, had to look away.
"Just do it." she told Fluttershy, holding out a foreleg as she sat down. Fluttershy nodded and leaned in, getting to work. Trixie watched as her wrappings came undone, revealing a matted coat spotted with dried blood. Fluttershy pushed away the bandages and lowered to the pads around Trixie's middle. Trixie tried not to wince - where it wasn't ticklish it was sore. She had bruised herself multiple times traversing unfamiliar terrain. Then Fluttershy lowered her head even further, practically sticking herself between Trixie's thighs.
"What are you doing?!" Trixie yelped. Fluttershy just looked up at her and blinked. That was when Trixie noticed she was bandaged up to her thighs.
"Nevermind..." Trixie looked away, trying to hide her blush. Fluttershy had all the care of a professional, and soon Trixie was completely unbound. Just in time for the pegasus to turn around and turn off the taps.
"I'll go clean up." Fluttershy told her.
"Yes, why don't you...I mean, go ahead." Realizing that the pegasus pony was going to clean up her sick in the kitchen, Trixie faltered briefly. She decided to just step into the tub as Fluttershy left. The hot water stung her at first, but she began to relax as she slid into it.
"This...is luxurious. Ah, for such a hovel, that is." she was so addled by her recent ordeal that she was actually enjoying such shoddy accommodations. Surely she would be back on top in no time at all. Except...Trixie looked herself over. She was painfully thin, and even now felt quite weak. Her wounds would take days or even weeks to heal, and now her mane, her lovely mane! Even when she had been close to death, even when things had gotten grim, Trixie had had faith in herself. Things would turn around, she would pull through. Well...she had pulled through. This was it. She was weak, nearly helpless, sick and wounded. This was her big comeback. Trixie sank lower in the water.
She felt her senses dull and forced herself to stay awake. And what of that other pony, that Fluttershy? Trixie didn't understand her. Perhaps Trixie would find herself slapped with a giant bill when she could finally leave, something like that. Except...from the looks of things, the pony honestly wanted Trixie better. Perhaps she really did just care...no, that couldn't be it. She couldn't have a crush on Trixie, could she? What other motive could she have for all her kindness?
Trixie couldn't deal with that right now. Crushing or not, Fluttershy had been of great aid to her, and deep down, Trixie knew she owed the pegasus her life. So above all else, she feared getting thrown out before she could fend for herself. She'd be forced out into the cold again, or worse, be forced to face Ponyville. For the time being she was warm and had food in her stomach, albeit not much, and for that she was grateful. She had been at death's door before. She was walking away from it now, but each step was a journey in of itself.
Trixie forced herself to relax, the water taking the edge off her fears and worries. The bath was perfect for her bruises particularly, as well as her aching muscles. She kept drifting off, forcing herself to wake up before she slipped down further in the tub. She found it surprisingly easy to just relax and not think, feeling that even thinking took more energy than she had to spare. Eventually the water cooled and she decided to get out. She carefully stepped out of the water, and
"Ooof!" her legs collapsed underneath her. She blinked, trying to figure out what had happened. It was just like before, she realized. Panic swept across her. First her magic, now this...?
"Uhm, you there! Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Oh Celestia I don't want to die."
"Trixie?" the door opened beside her. Trixie found herself whimpering.
"I can't get up. Why can't I get up?"
"Oh, you're still, um, still weak Trixie, and your muscles will be relaxed. Don't worry, you can stand, you, that is, you probably just weren't expecting it."
"O-oh. I- Trixie knew that. Y-you can help Trixie up now."
"Why don't we get you to bed. Here." Fluttershy lay down beside her. Trixie crawled over and put her hooves over Fluttershy's back. She got the feeling that the only reason Fluttershy managed to stand was because of how light a load Trixie had become. The pegasus stood up, allowing Trixie to use her as support as she stood on her back legs. She brought down her forelegs carefully, and found herself remaining standing. She stared at her hooves for a moment
"W-why do you aid Trixie? Really?"
Fluttershy was quiet for a moment as she exited the bathroom. It was enough time for nightmare scenarios to play themselves out in Trixie's head. Now was when she found out Fluttershy was a stalker, or charging her for every minute, or had invited the residents of Ponyville to laugh at her and this was all preparation.
"Everypony deserves some kindness. And everypony needs somepony looking after them." Fluttershy's voice was gentle, almost like a lullaby, but Trixie refused to be lulled.
"What? No they don't. Trixie has never needed anypony. She's done fine all by herself. But... does this mean you don't expect anything of Trixie?"
"Just for you to get better."
"...I don't understand. Why go to such effort?"
"Kindness is its own reward." Fluttershy said simply, her voice so quiet and soft. They had reached the bedroom, and Fluttershy helped Trixie into bed. Trixie looked around.
"This is your bed, isn't it?"
"Oh, it's fine. I like my couch a lot."
Trixie nodded and crawled under the covers. She watched Fluttershy head for the door. It wasn't until the light had gone off and Fluttershy had left that Trixie finally realized the words on her lips.
"Thank you, Fluttershy."