Fairy Gothmother

by forbloodysummer

Chapter 1: Can I Play With Madness?

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“How the fuck would you know?”

It wasn’t anything momentous that prompted the memory. Just doing some mental prep work before meeting up with her old classmates from CPA for the first time in a few months, trying to pick the moments that most defined each of the five of them to her.

Sugarcoat’s assessment of Principal Cinch’s behaviour at the Friendship Games. Indigo Zap walking into class the morning after getting her ears pierced. Lemon Zest being escorted out of the school library after turning her music up and dancing on the table. Sour Sweet’s unintentional demonstration of her health condition in morning assembly on their first day, right after Dean Cadance had warned them all about it.

But Sunny Flare was a trickier one to pin down. She was the most reserved of the Shadowbolts, and she had a kind of poise about her which reminded Twilight of Rarity. She wasn’t Fleur de Lis by any stretch of the imagination – a model from an expensive perfume commercial brought to life – but she still held herself in a way Twilight found more intimidating than it should have been.

The last person she’d have expected to be found ‘experimenting’ with a boy in the school bathrooms one lunchtime. And if Dean Cadance hadn’t used that exact word when she caught them, Twilight would never have zoned in on it when innocently passing by, and instead remained focused on the quadratic equation she’d been trying to unravel.

So she’d heard everything, eavesdropping at first to learn who the other scientist in the school might be, and unable to get away without being noticed once she’d realised she’d misconstrued the situation.

Sugarcoat, Indigo, and of course Sour Sweet – any of them could possibly have got away with swearing at a teacher, on account of their respective quirks or conditions. But Sunny must have known the additional trouble she’d be in, and yet she’d chosen to do it anyway. A kind and patient explanation from Dean Cadance about how much better it was to wait until marriage, and–

“How the fuck would you know?”

“That wasn’t a very nice thing for her to say. I’m sure Principal Cadance wouldn’t give bad advice,” Fluttershy said, looking up from her task of pouring nuts into a bird feeder.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t either,” Twilight replied. “Not intentionally, anyway. But” – she set down her own bird feeder, filled and ready to be hung up again, on the tabletop, and turned to face Fluttershy – “the thing I keep coming back to, as a scientist, is that Sunny was right.”

Fluttershy’s brow furrowed, but she didn’t say anything. It was odd, seeing her troubled when surrounded by happily chittering animals at the shelter, with the picturesque sun dipping down to the horizon through the window behind her.

Twilight explained. “Cadance and my brother are married. They’ve been a couple since they were several years younger than we are now. And I can’t believe either of them had much experience with others before they met.” An odd thought to have, about her brother and her former dean, but she considered it in the name of science. “So I have to concede that, objectively, Sunny had a point. How would Cadance know?”

“And, um, that’s what’s been keeping you up at night?”

Feeling her cheeks heating, Twilight had to look away. “I extrapolated a little. All the people I know are good people, just like you girls. Which means the advice we share is something of an echo chamber, because everyone has learned from the same guidance. Does that make sense?”

“I think so,” Fluttershy said as she completed work on a third bird feeder, “But I’m not quite following where you’re going with it?”

Twilight pulled a tall stool out from under the table and dropped onto it, spreading her hands as she spoke. “What if we’re missing something? What if we only think it’s best to follow the rules because we’re surrounded by people who’ve been conditioned to think the same, rather than for any objectively better reason?”

With a glance at an enclosure housing two baby crocodiles, who’d been fighting minutes before, Fluttershy frowned again. “Following some rules is objectively better for everyone, though. The golden rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated – well, we’re definitely happier than species which don’t have that.”

“Definitely, yes.” Twilight pushed her glasses back up her nose from where they’d slipped down. “But there’s a lot of leeway, even with that locked in. And how do we know which are objectively best? We could reason it out, but there’s usually one factor or another we overlook when theorising. What we need to do now is move onto the next stage.”

Very carefully, Fluttershy set down the rabbit she was grooming, and then turned to Twilight. “You’ve, um, you’ve been planning experiments for this, haven’t you?”

“I have!” Twilight beamed, reaching into her backpack for her notebook, so she could show the careful proposals she’d formulated. “First I tried crossing a quiet street when the light was red. That was more panicked, but I did get where I was heading faster. And it was a little exhilarating, as well.”

Fluttershy was following Twilight’s finger over the presented diagrams and research methodologies, and, while she nodded in understanding, she still looked concerned.

“But as you can see, I’ve had trouble ramping up the scale of the experiments. The next one I thought of was shoplifting.”

A gasp shortly preceded Fluttershy’s hands flying to her mouth.

“It’s ok, I haven’t done it!” Twilight hurriedly tried to reassure her. “I guess I just don’t know much about rebelling. How can I be bad, when everyone I know is good?”

Surprisingly levelly, Fluttershy appeared to ponder that. She even tapped her finger against her pursed lips. “I, um, may have an idea.”

Twilight shot forwards on her stool, listening attentively.

“A few years ago, a family of bats started nesting in the roof of the school gym. Vice Principal Luna liked them, but most students were scared of them and wanted them removed, saying they were nasty and scary. So I went and bought some clothes that night, and came into school the next day dressed all in black, with jagged piercings, dark eyeliner and big spiky boots.”

“...Huh. I’m really struggling to imagine that.”

Fluttershy giggled. “I know what you mean. The boots and skirt were even made of leather.” She brought a hand to her stomach. “I still feel a bit funny about that.”

Although Twilight didn’t know the statistics of the amount of beef consumed compared to the amount of leather used in fashion or furniture off the top of her head, she really couldn’t imagine the latter coming close to the former, so it was fair to say that plenty of cows would be dying regardless of whether Fluttershy then wore their skins or not. But before she could think of a delicate way to phrase that, Fluttershy continued.

“I wanted to show that someone could look dark and mysterious, but still be just as nice inside, and that it was no reason to be afraid of someone or want to get rid of them.”

Demonstration by analogy! A classic method of highlighting cognitive biases. “What happened?”

Fluttershy’s eyes dropped to the floor. “Other people did not agree.” She gave Twilight a weak smile. “They avoided me in corridors, or went quiet when I came near. A few of the teachers even looked a bit scared. No one got close enough to see past the surface appearance, so the idea of showing that I could look like that and still be nice never had a chance to be displayed. And soon… soon I even started to feel like I was dark and mysterious, because of how they all responded to me.”

Twilight stood up, stepped closer and laid a hand on Fluttershy’s shoulder. “I’m sorry your experiment didn’t work out.” Then she realised how it sounded like she was more sorry about the experiment itself than the real-world consequences that would have followed, and quickly added, “What happened to the bats?”

“They disappeared one night, with no official explanation given. But I’m sure I’ve heard bat chittering coming from Vice Principal Luna’s office a couple of times, so I think it turned out ok in the end.”

“That’s good to hear,” Twilight said, feeling her spirits lift at the sight of Fluttershy’s smile, and ignoring the number of public health code violations that knowingly keeping roosting bats in a school office would cause. “So your point is that Vice Principal Luna might be a good person to start with, for ideas on rebelling?”

“Oh, um, I don’t know about that. She could be? But she is still vice principal of a high school, and part of her job is making sure people do follow the rules. I meant that maybe if you dress the part, you might start to feel it, too? People were horrified by my goth clothes, so maybe that would be a good next step for rebelling?”

‘NIGHTMARE LOOM,’ the sign across the top of the entrance read. Welp, this was the place, just as Fluttershy had said. And it certainly looked the part! Black T-shirts and hoodies filled the front windows, each adorned with the logo of one band she’d never heard of or another.

Stepping inside revealed a small room, with several rails of clothes stretching out before her – all black – as well as lining every wall. The only break to the sea of dark fabric were the pictures on the front of some of the garments, sometimes colourful, and almost always intimidating or aggressive. There were plenty of shiny metal spikes adorning clothes as well.

And loud music was being played through the speakers that must have lurked somewhere out of sight in the corners. Not live-orchestra-loud, but a lot louder than in the average store she’d visit on a shopping trip with Rarity, and seemed to be deliberately trying to grab her attention with its abrasiveness.

She was definitely in the right place for a ‘rebel’ look!

Oh, and there was more of it, too! A small archway in the back wall, nearly blocked completely by clothes on hangers all around it, looked to lead into another room. Taking the plunge, Twilight walked over to the opening, hands clasped in front of her, and ducked through.

The room beyond, deeper into the shop, was similar to the last, but with less natural light, and a few more jackets instead of T-shirts. Twilight thought she could see a checkout counter right at the far end, with a sea of black clothes and accessories on racks between it and her.

A whisper of movement suddenly brought to Twilight’s attention that she wasn’t alone. Not only was there probably a store clerk at the far end on the checkout, but it looked like there was another customer browsing the clothes rails about halfway down the room. For the first time Twilight realised that not only could she see this strange place she’d never imagined herself being in, but she could also be seen in such a place.

Self-consciousness hit instantly, with her blushing so hard she thought her glasses would steam up, and she quickly busied herself studying whatever clothes were on the rail right in front of her.

Black T-shirt with white logo design, black T-shirt with red logo design, black T-shirt with surprisingly pretty purple image of castle, looking like her pony counterpart’s home might if it had been built by malice personified.

This was silly, though. She had come into this place looking for rebellious clothes as a good place to start, but if she could find someone here who would give her advice on where to go after that, then such an opportunity would be too good to pass up.

Taking a hold of herself, she lifted her head, located the shop’s other customer, and made a beeline in their direction. As she drew closer she was able to pick out more details, separating them from the backdrop of more clothes.

The other shopper was a girl, looking around her own age, but immediately obvious as a native to the Nightmare Loom environment and style. Her purple and teal hair was held back in two huge ponytails by star-shaped hairclips, and her tight black top was covered in rips, through which purple skin showed.

Reaching the girl and nervously drawing up next to her, Twilight finally had a view of the girl’s full profile unobstructed by clothing racks, and she had to make a specific effort to stop her eyes bulging. The girl wore tiny denim shorts that hardly covered any leg at all, but made up for it with black leather boots that stretched from the floor right up to her mid-thigh, and were tipped with long, thin heels that even Rarity would have struggled to walk in.

Twilight Sparkle had seen through genuine portals into a parallel universe, and that hadn’t looked as other-worldly as this girl. Because she should have looked ridiculous in those clothes. And she didn’t. She really didn’t!

Long ago, Twilight had pinpointed the exact feeling she got when she recognised someone she wished she could become a student of. And she felt it now.

“Hi there! I’m Twilight Sparkle, and I’m new to this style of fashion! Do you think you could help me pick out some clothes, and perhaps offer some further guidance on what I can do to become more naturally rebellious?”

Twilight managed to keep the friendly enthusiasm in her voice until she finished, despite the flat look she was receiving. A few moments of silence stretched after she finished, where the other girl continued to stare at her, expressionless.

Finally, she spoke!

“Get bent.”

Author's Notes:

Decided to write this this evening, on a whim. Not sure why, or when there'll be more of it, but here it is.

Next Chapter: Judas Be My Guide Estimated time remaining: 8 Minutes
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