The next morning, Fluttershy and Trixie shared a breakfast of oatmeal again. Trixie found it easier to get around and ate almost an entire bowlful. She realized most of her original wounds were healing nicely, and while her side was tender it wasn't painful to move, usually.
"The others will want to know you're up." Fluttershy said. Trixie glanced down at the floor.
"Will they really care?"
"They're my friends too." Fluttershy responded. Trixie nodded, understanding what she meant.
"Shall we... go out?" Trixie asked. Fluttershy paused.
"Are you...are you sure? They could come..."
"Trixie has healed excellently under such adept care." she smiled at Fluttershy, who blushed slightly in response. "Besides," Trixie said softly, "she promises not to exert herself. She doesn't want to spend a single day more bedridden."
"Okay. A day out would be...nice." Fluttershy smiled. Trixie nodded and waited as Fluttershy cleaned up breakfast. They made their way to the door. That same rabbit was standing on a table nearby, watching them. He gave Trixie a wary nod.
"Aww, Angel likes you. He's usually not very good with strange ponies. Or... anypony."
"He and Trixie have an understanding, it seems." Trixie smirked. Fluttershy opened the door and they stepped outside. Trixie had to blink several times to adjust to the sunlight. She breathed deep in the morning air, feeling revitalized. She found Fluttershy watching her.
"Oh, um...nothing." she looked away, failing to hide her blush. Trixie couldn't understand it, but it had an odd effect on her. The feeling from last night returned, not as intense but more noticeable to her. She tried to keep her head straight and followed Fluttershy into town, finding herself instinctively looking to the pegasus, merely out of curiosity of course. It was a few minutes walk, giving Trixie time to prepare for what she'd find. She had imagined her return to Ponyville many times over the last month, as fuel to continue on when her conditions worsened. With a flash and a bang she would return to town, earning back her respect, forcefully if required. All sorts of scenarios had run through her head, from a duel with Twilight Sparkle to beating an Ursa Minor herself to more ridiculous ploys involving framing Twilight or turning her friends against her. All this just seemed...wrong to Trixie now. She didn't feel bitter, and held no ill-will towards the other unicorn. It surprised her, scared her even. Had she changed so much? And if so, how?
The town came into view, and Trixie stopped to look at it. She had thought it a backwater hovel before, but now she realized it was quite a profitable, idyllic little town, bustling with life. Probably wholly self-sufficient at that; she remembered passing farmland on the way in. Most of the town was earth ponies, but a good number of unicorn and pegasus ponies were about as well. Almost everypony who passed had a smile on their face, enjoying some simple pleasure of life that Trixie couldn't fathom. All these ponies, however, had seen Trixie's boasting and one-upping, as well her subsequent spectacular failure. Trixie found her legs locking up.
"I-I can't do it." she stammered. Fluttershy turned around.
Trixie shook her head and backed away. "I've fallen too far. Too far gone. I'm a shell of the Great and Powerful Trixie. I can't go through with it."
Fluttershy approached her and put a hoof up to her cheek, giving it a gentle stroke. "Be proud of who you are." she echoed Trixie's advice. Trixie looked away.
"I don't know who I am anymore." Trixie told her.
"I do." Fluttershy replied. She lowered her hoof and turned back to Ponyville. She took only a couple steps away before looking back, waiting for Trixie. Trixie paused, not sure how to feel. She felt drawn to Fluttershy as if on an invisible thread. Fine and delicate as it was, that thread was the strongest force she had ever felt in life. Trixie forced herself forward and followed Fluttershy into town. She was still Trixie. She refused to cower at the sight of layponies; at least, that was what she tried to convince herself.
Trixie got odd looks in town. Mostly curious, and almost no pony seemed to recognize her. Those few that seemed to identify her tended to stare, often shocked. Trixie found herself sticking close to Fluttershy, as if for protection. Were it not for the mark on her flank, she figured, she would be an entirely different pony to them.
"Where are we going?" she asked, realizing they were cutting right through town. She tried to keep her head from hanging, but it was hard to have pride when lifting a spoon had sent her spiraling to the floor not long ago.
"To the library. That's where Twilight lives."
"She lives in...a library. Of course." Some of the old Trixie remained after all as she scoffed at the idea. Fluttershy glanced back to her, and her eyes were...saddened, disappointed. Trixie immediately regretted herself. A small part of her asked who this pony was to order around Trixie with a glance. A friend, Trixie thought back, that's who.
Fluttershy led her to a hollowed out tree near the other end of town. She knocked and entered - it was a library after all. Trixie forced herself inside.
"Hello- oh! Fluttershy...Trixie! I didn't know you were up." Twilight turned from the desk where she had been pouring over some dusty old tome.
"Since last night." Fluttershy offered. Trixie took a deep breath and turned to Twilight. She just looked her up and down, trying to sort out her feelings in this underwhelming confrontation. This...this young mare, no doubt a few good years Trixie's junior, had stepped in and done what Trixie had been fairly sure was impossible - best her at her own game. Trixie had blamed her for everything, even though she knew it had been her 'fans' that had brought the beast into town. Yet now...
"Trixie, I'm so sorry about what happened." Twilight said, sincere and worried. Trixie's eyes widened.
"I thought we should just let you go...without any of your stuff, or any idea if you knew the area, or..." she looked away. "I really should have known better."
"Twilight...Trixie has spent a long time thinking on that day. And she has thought long and hard on your role in that day." Trixie said. Twilight's eyes widened, and Trixie saw what she least expected - fear. This mare, with all her power and all her friends, feared Trixie. It brought a bitter taste to Trixie's mouth; once she had wanted Twilight to fear her. But it only served to remind her of her own rage, of the way she had lashed out at everypony. Trixie approached Twilight slowly, stared at her, and then brought herself down, going onto two knees while her back legs stayed up.
"I-I am sorry." Trixie said. Twilight stepped back.
"Trixie understands now, not every pony is like her. You never meant to show her up. Trixie envied your power, but she understands that she forced your hoof with her actions."
"It wasn't your fault. Snips and Snails..."
"Were led astray by Trixie's boasting. But aside that, no, Trixie apologizes for the insults she inflicted upon you and your friends."
"Trixie, please, you don't need to..." Twilight looked incredibly awkward. Trixie raised herself up.
"I...you..." Twilight stammered uselessly. Trixie nodded.
"You did not expect this of Trixie, did you?"
"To be honest? No, actually."
"Trixie, perhaps, has a new perspective on life." Trixie found her gaze sliding over to Fluttershy before she caught herself. Twilight noticed and nodded.
"I think...um..." Twilight scratched the back of her head, looking awkward. "I never wanted to make an enemy. I'm glad you've pulled through."
Trixie nodded. "Trixie couldn't have done it on her own."
Twilight nodded. "I learned that lesson."
Twilight smiled. "I kind of used to think, well, that friends got in the way. That they distracted from what was important. I was a bit of an introvert"
"You?" Trixie tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She could see Fluttershy looking to her hesitantly, and wanted the other pony to know... something. That Trixie was trustworthy of her friendship, she imagined. "No. What, what changed your mind?"
Twilight chuckled. "Same as you, in a way. I wasn't given a choice in making friends. I don't regret it."
"I...Trixie didn't realize it, but she supposes..."
Twilight nodded, and conversation petered out. The three ponies looked at each other, slightly hopeful, slightly awkward, before Twilight gave a cough.
"We...I kept what we could salvage from your cart."
Twilight nodded. "I didn't know where to send them. We...only looked a little, to respect your privacy, but we couldn't find any home address or anything."
"That's because Trixie doesn't have a home." Trixie responded glibly. Twilight startled.
"You mean the wagon was your home?"
"As much as it could be called such, yes. Where are Trixie's things?" Trixie hadn't imagined getting anything back. She dearly missed her old hat and cape now that it occurred to her.
"Oh, in the basement." Twilight nodded to a stairwell amongst the shelves. Trixie and then Fluttershy followed her in single file.
"And how did you come to live in a library?" Trixie asked. Now that she had stopped seeing Twilight as her foe or rival, Trixie admitted she was curious about her. They looked to have a surprising amount in common.
"Oh, um...Princess Celestia set me up here."
"The Princess?!" Trixie stopped, nearly making Fluttershy run into her. Twilight flinched.
"I'm, um...her personal student."
"...you. You are the Princess's... You." Trixie's brain stopped working. So much for the common ground theory.
"I...don't like to brag."
"...so Trixie is aware." Trixie managed dryly. "You...I." she sighed. "Of course. Of course!"
"Hmm?" Twilight had led them down into what looked like a combination storage room and laboratory. Trixie looked away.
"I hope you know how lucky you have it, Twilight Sparkle." she said lowly. Twilight tried to say something, but her mouth worked silently. She turned away and walked up to a chest in the corner of the room. Trixie walked up as Twilight opened it.
"It's...everything!" Trixie exclaimed. Her books, her notes, her mirror, her wallet...full of all her bits! Trixie felt like pieces of her life had been restored.
"It was really hard not to open those books. A couple of those books weren't even in my school's library."
"Probably because Trixie stole them from Celestia's school. Well, from a teacher at that school at least."
"How did you know I...you stole these?"
"In a way, yes. Call them family heirlooms."
"What?" Twilight's confusion deepened. Trixie sighed.
"Trixie will explain to you another time. If it is of such a concern to you, the books can stay here. Trixie hardly has the room for them in any case."
Twilight nodded, at least slightly mollified. Her brow furrowed again however, and Trixie could see the question forming in her head.
"Did you go to-"
"No. Another time. Trixie is most grateful however, do not get her wrong. Where is..." she looked closer, her heart sinking. "Where are my hat and cape?"
"What, they're-" Twilight stopped, and Trixie noticed the unicorn looking past her. When she turned around, however, it was just Fluttershy.
"I'm... sorry Trixie. It's all here." Twilight said. Trixie slumped but nodded.
"So Trixie sees." she sighed. "Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. Since, since you will have the books, could Trixie ask you to store her things a while longer?"
"Oh sure, I mean I have the space."
"Well then." Trixie turned to her. "You have done Trixie a great service. Trixie hopes from here on out we can be...agreeable towards one another."
"I would like to get to know you better." Twilight said, trying to smile. Her eyes kept glancing away from Trixie back to the open chest, specifically the books. Trixie stopped herself from rolling her eyes. She was getting the sneaking suspicion that Twilight might possibly be a bit of a nerd. A sweet nerd nonetheless, certainly showing Trixie more kindness than she had dared hope. So, Trixie smiled back, finding the gesture surprisingly easy.
"That would be welcome." she said, before turning to the stairs. Her mind turned to the 'others' Fluttershy had mentioned. Those she had mocked and outdone on stage. The pegasus was one, and Trixie imagined that they might be even by now. Then there had been an earth pony and a rather high-spoken unicorn....
Trixie was nearly out the door when she turned to ask Fluttershy about her friends. It was then she realized she hadn't been followed. "Fluttershy?" Trixie turned around. The library was empty except for a small purple dragon shelving books in the corner. Trixie nearly startled before remembering that she had seen him in Twilight's company before. A dragon assistant? The girl had even more to boast about if she ever desired. Still, the dragon appeared to be ignoring her, and Fluttershy nor Twilight were anywhere to be seen. She headed back for the stairs, and heard two ponies talking as she neared.
"...her whole life."
"I never would have thought..." Twilight responded. Trixie paused. She forced herself to call out through a suddenly tense throat.
"Fluttershy! Are you coming?"
"Oh!" the yellow pegasus appeared in the stairwell. She smiled up at Trixie.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay any longer?"
"I...not today. Are there not others?"
Fluttershy nodded and followed her up the stairs. They exited the library and Trixie slowed down to walk abreast of Fluttershy.
"You don't need to excuse Trixie."
"Huh?" Fluttershy blinked and then turned away, guilt clear on her face. "I-I wasn't. They, they all need to know..."
"Why? To pity Trixie?"
"They need, um, they need to know how much you've fought. How strong you are."
"I..." Trixie looked away. She drew a blank, so just let Fluttershy guide her through town. Her gaze kept sliding away from the town and back to the pink-maned pegasus that Trixie owed so much. She nearly didn't notice as Fluttershy turned to two particular ponies.
"Hah, see! Told you I could do it!"
"Yeah, but you didn' get th' clouds right!"
Fluttershy giggled, and Trixie looked over to find a familiar blue pegasus hovering nearby, arguing with a slightly less familiar orange earth pony.
"Hello Applejack, Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy's voice was so quiet, yet apparently her friends were used to picking it up and turned to her.
"Well howdy sugar...cube..." Applejack's face fell. Trixie felt the earth pony's eyes bore a hole through her.
"See, told you!" Rainbow Dash hissed, loud enough for everypony to hear. Applejack nodded, not taking her eyes off Trixie.
"Ah see it but Ah don' believe it." she approached Trixie slowly. Trixie leaned back.
"Um, Applejack was it?"
"Eeyup. Surprised you remember. Ah was only the pony you hog-tied on stage."
"T-Trixie apologizes. Trixie was only-"
"Trixie, Trixie. What, love the sound of yur own name so much y' can't bear not to hear it?" she circled around Trixie like a shark. Trixie didn't have a response.
"Well, oh Great and Powerful-"
Everypony blinked and turned to the owner of these words. Fluttershy was staring at Applejack. For the first time since she had met the mare, Trixie saw Fluttershy get mad.
"Pardon?" Applejack asked, dumbfounded.
"She never meant to hurt you, Applejack. S-she told you it was a challenge. B-but she's still sorry." Fluttershy's voice was unsteady, but she managed to keep her head up.
"Sugar, this is Trixie! Miss 'Great and Powerful' and whatnot. She brought an ursa major, er, minor-"
"How did she do it?"
"But, you, you bragged you could....you bragged you could clear your whole farm yourself."
"Th-that was different!"
"Rainbow Dash bragged to you. In the, um, the iron pony thing. Do you hate her?"
"Tha' was also different!"
"You know, AJ." Dash said, coming down to the ground. "She kinda has a point."
"Wha- not you too Dash! C'mon, where's yer loyalty?"
"I am being loyal - to Fluttershy. I don't like it either, but trust me, Fluttershy wouldn't hang out with her if she was trouble. Come on AJ."
Applejack turned back to Trixie and looked her in the eye. Trixie just blinked, unsure what to do with herself. Her instinct was to glare back at the earth pony, but she knew it wouldn't help anything. Part of her called it cowardice, but the other part claimed it to be wisdom that motivated her. In any case, Applejack snorted and turned away. She didn't stop walking, apparently finished entirely with the group.
"Hey." Dash caught Trixie's attention. "Sorry about that. Oh, and the whole puncturing-your-spleen thing. That was my bad."
Trixie chuckled. "Was it now?" she shook her head. "You were trying to protect Fluttershy. I can hardly blame you." she smiled to the yellow pegasus, which earned her a brief smile in return. Dash looked between them, curiosity showing itself on her face.
"Well...yeah, right. So no hard feelings?"
"Not really." Trixie replied. She smirked. "Maybe a little."
Apparently the brash pegasus could accept this, grinning widely at Trixie. "Heh. Don't think about getting me back. You're looking at Ponyville's number one prankster."
"Prank? Me? Why the thought never crossed Trixie's mind." she chuckled. Dash laughed back and took to the air.
"You know Trixie? You're pretty cool." with that, Dash was off. Trixie chuckled a bit more and turned to Fluttershy.
"Quite the compliment." she joked. Fluttershy's eyes were bright.
"Actually... I think she's starting to like you." Fluttershy replied. Trixie blinked.
Fluttershy nodded. "Dash is really cool. She's fast, and strong, and can do oh so much..."
"Alright, alright, Trixie gets it." Trixie said, surprised at her own curtness. Something about having Fluttershy talk up another pony just didn't sit right with her. Perhaps it was taking away from her own greatness, Trixie mused. Still, she could see Fluttershy had been caught off guard by Trixie's sharp tone. The unicorn's mind raced to salvage the conversation.
"I know! A new title is in order!"
"Trixie the Cool! No, it doesn't have the same ring to it." Trixie joked. Fluttershy brightened and giggled. Trixie's heart warmed. It shouldn't matter to her, she told herself. So what if these ponies liked Trixie? Did she think she was going to stick around? Did she think these ponies would have more than a passing impact in her life? Her smile faded.
"Oh, except, um, Applejack..." Fluttershy said, misconstruing the source of Trixie's small frown. "But don't worry. She's just...stubborn."
"Mhm. It's not like it will matter, in the long run."
"Trixie is already well enough to walk around town, Fluttershy, look at her. And she has bits to her name again, enough for a small wagon if I remember right. How much longer until she must leave this town?"
"...w-what about your magic?"
Trixie flinched. "Oh...yes. Trixie had almost managed to forget."
"So you'll stay?"
"A little longer, at least." Trixie admitted. Fluttershy smiled at her. Trixie felt oddly relieved by this decision. She had to remember that this couldn't last. She needed to be strong, not become any more dependent than she had already allowed herself to become. She looked around, trying to guess where they were going.
"The white unicorn. Trixie remembers her." Trixie realized aloud.
"Rarity." Fluttershy said with a nod.
"So, is it the five of you then?"
"Six. Pinkie Pie is, um, out of town. I don't think you met her. She'll be back next week."
"Oh. The six of you, all friends with one another..." Trixie shook her head. "How do any of you ever get anything done?"
"It's always...exciting." Fluttershy said with a small smile. Trixie could only imagine. It did sound...exciting. Trixie imagined what kind of antics they could get up to. It was probably up to her friends to drag Twilight out of her library most of the time. Fluttershy was good with animals... she wondered if any of the pegasus's friends had pets. They probably had to come to her for help. And Rarity, she was the fashionable one, Trixie remembered her. By Celestia, how she got along with Applejack was anypony's guess. Trixie smiled. The stories they must have...she was just interested in the stories, that was all. She wasn't envious in the slightest.
"This is Rarity's shop." Fluttershy told her quietly. Trixie looked up in surprise, unaware of how long she had been daydreaming. Trixie found the shop bright, flashy, nearly gaudy - absolutely perfect. It was like a high-class circus tent. As a showmare, she couldn't help but respect the flashy store front; it had to attract the eye of every last passerby. Fluttershy led her inside.
"Rarity?" Fluttershy called into the empty shop.
"Just a minute!" came a call from the back. Trixie looked around. The dresses on display were eloquent, all colors of the rainbow. Trixie felt pangs of desire - any money she had had gone towards mere sustenance or essentials, but with her wagon finally bought for, she had set her sights on something eloquent, something as dashing as these dresses. She wouldn't trade her hat and cape for the world, of course, but she had been sure something to play up her natural beauty would be just what she needed to take her act off the streets and to the royal court.
"Fluttershy, darling!" a white unicorn with a perfectly curled purple mane stepped out of a back room. Fluttershy walked over and greeted her friend with a quick embrace, one that the unicorn returned. Trixie raised an eyebrow. She guessed these two were closer than most.
"You're not here for that...order yet, are you?"
"No, no." Fluttershy shook her head. "Take your time. I was showing Trixie around."
"Oh yes." Rarity looked past Fluttershy. Her eyes widened and she held a hoof to her mouth, stifling a giggle.
"Excuse me?" Trixie had not expected this reaction.
"Well, glad to see someone has already received their comeuppance."
"Your mane, dear, your mane!" Rarity started to laugh. Trixie blinked and looked up. Realizing what Rarity meant she lowered her head.
"I know." she whined. "All Trixie's beautiful locks, the years of care and careful grooming!"
Rarity stopped her laugh and gave Trixie a second look. "Why, my dear, I never knew you had such style!"
"Please! Appearance is the most important part of Trixie's show! She can hardly flash and dazzle looking like anypony."
"Oh I know! Why, I am forever trying to convince the others to put a little more care into their looks."
"Let me guess, Applejack?" Trixie asked. "Ugh! Has she even seen a brush?"
"Oh dear Celestia I've asked the same thing myself." Rarity said with a wave of her hoof. Trixie nodded.
"You know, Trixie has often thought that she could have done with something more...dazzling. She was The Great and Powerful after all. Um, is, is. Excuse me."
Rarity chuckled. "Well well. I wouldn't have imagined, but I think you and I may get along fabulously."
Trixie lifted her head, holding herself proud. She looked over and saw that Fluttershy was positively beaming, eyes closed and the cutest little smile on her face. Trixie began to smile back before a small voice in the back her head reminded her of the situation.
"Well, for the short time Trixie is here, at least."
"Oh? You'll be leaving soon? Why ever would you do that?"
"What? Trixie has no home here!"
"Are you sure about that dear?"
"What?" Trixie blinked, but Rarity just gave an enigmatic smile and turned away.
"I hate to be rude but I do have work. It's been a pleasure."
"I...what?" Trixie turned to Fluttershy. The pegasus said nothing, hiding behind her mane again. Trixie gave the pegasus a look that she ignored by turning away. Trixie had no real choice but to follow her out, shaking her head at whatever she was missing. When she left the store she found Fluttershy standing just outside, watching the sky.
"It's such a beautiful day, isn't it?" Fluttershy whispered. Trixie looked up. She was about to ask Fluttershy what she was getting at when she felt a light pressure on her side. She looked over to see Fluttershy had closed her eyes and was leaning just against her.
"Yes..." she said softly. "Yes, it is."