Eyes Without a Face

by theycallmejub

Chapter 7: Prison Without Bars

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Chapter VII: Prison Without Bars

Commissioner Sparkle. Didn’t think anything of the name when I first heard it over the bullhorn. Probably because I was clinging to the side of a wall seven stories up, trying not to get split in half by unicorn magic. Sparkle. Commissioner Sparkle. The name rolls around in my head right alongside the fog and the splitting headache. Must have heard it wrong. Not thinking straight. Ears are still ringing from when the cops beat the hell out of me. Cops tossed me in a cell. Dragged me out. Dragged me down down a hall. Down a flight of stairs. Then they beat the hell out of me some more before cuffing me to a chair in a small room.

In this small room. Small and oppressive and box-like and white. White as innocence. The room has four white walls. A white door. A lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling. A beetle-black window I can't see out of. A gun-metal grey table directly in front of me.

Commissioner Sparkle. The words run a victory lap around the inside of my skull, pleased with themselves, having a laugh at me for disbelieving so stubbornly. I must have heard it wrong. I’m beat up. Disoriented. Not thinking straight. Can't be real. Commissioner Sparkle. No. Can't be real.

It doesn’t hit me until she comes in the room. The oppressive room. Kind of room ponies get tortured in. The walls echo with the lost pleas of innocent stallions and mares. Innocents picked and poked until they cried guilty for crimes never committed. Just echoes now. Small sounds haunting a small room.

It doesn’t hit me until she comes in. Doesn't become real until I see her. Purple coat. Blue mane interrupted by two streaks of lighter colors: one violet streak and other pink. Her bangs lie neatly against her forehead, ending just above a pair of flat, no-nonsense eyebrows. Her horn is hidden beneath a black fedora that matches her black overcoat. She comes in and sits down in a chair waiting for her at the opposite end of the table. I recognize her. It’s been while but I recognize her. Commissioner Sparkle. Commissioner Twilight Sparkle. What the hell is an Element of Harmony doing in this city, and how the hell did she become commissioner of Manehattan's finest?

I know for a fact that Twilight left Ponyville long before I did. Two years, I think. Two years before Daisy and Lily were murdered. Killed in my own home while I hid. Two years before. I'm not sure why Sparkle left. Ponyville is a small town with small town gossip. There was talk. Talk that she and her friends had a falling out. Talk of a break up. Fights. Just talk. Small town gossip. I wrote it off then as nothing but empty rumors filling empty heads. All I know for sure about Sparkle is that something happened and she couldn’t stay. I suppose she and I have that in common.

Seeing Sparkle here and now makes me think of home. Ponyville. Ponyville is a beautiful place and those lucky enough to count themselves among her populace know it. She's nothing like Manehattan. Ponyville loves. She's beautiful but her beauty doesn't come without a price. Ponyville has a way of reminding you of things you've lost. Daisy and Lily died in Ponyville, and the sleepy little town never let me forget. She held up images of my dead friends everywhere I went. The market place. The school where we first met. I saw them in the flower gardens tended by my neighbors. Saw their smiling faces glinting in the sunshine, and heard their voices in the easy laughter of children playing that in Ponyville has a way of finding you not matter where you are. Everything reminded me of them, and everywhere I went, there they were also. Haunting me. I had to be rid of them. Had to flee. Flee to someplace ugly. They still haunt me but Manehattan is full to the brim and spilling over with haunting things. My dead friends have plenty of competition.

Something happened and Sparkle couldn't stay. Something made her flee to Manehattan. I suppose we have that in common. We warred with demons under Celestia’s day and were defeated, so we fled to Manehattan to fight them under the cover of her sister’s night. Fight them on our own terms.

Sparkle trots into the room. Sits down. Eyes me. There’s no recognition in her face. She doesn’t remember me. I’m not surprised. We never really knew each other and my face is a forgettable one.

She eyes me. Glares. The table shrinks a few inches. The walls move in closer, eager to hear what Sparkle has to say. The walls are, but I’m not. My head is throbbing. Limbs are whining. Begging to be moved. I try to explain that I’m cuffed to a chair, and that the cuffs are too tight, but they keep on complaining, bawling and begging like spoiled children.

Sparkle doesn't say a word at first. Just looks at me as she sets a vanilla colored folder down on the table. She opens the folder and pulls out a newspaper clipping.

“You gave Lieutenant Smolder quite a scare up on that rooftop earlier today,” she says casually as she lays the clipping on the table. I glance at it. It’s the picture of me from the post. The sketch. I glance back up at Sparkle. She adjusts her tie. It's as purple as the streak in her mane and something about the way she handles it seems odd. Clumsy, almost. Like she’s unfamiliar with it.

“In fact, I understand you’ve been giving much of this city quite the scare,” she says, pulling more pictures and papers from the envelope. “My city. Your hoofprints are all over my city, Rose. They’re calling you a vigilante. Is that what you are, Rose? Are you a vigilante?” Something about Sparkle’s tone feels off. It’s as condescending and loveless as I'd expect the head of Manehattan's finest to be, but it feels forced. Feels like an act. A good one. Good enough to fool most but Hooves taught me well. Taught me how to read ponies. Their expressions. Body language. The subtle twitches in their facial muscles and the fluctuations in their voices. Their smallest gestures; the ones they make absent thought. Like Sparkle with her tie. She adjusts it again. Then her hat. It’s a nervous tick. Something has her rattled.

“I want my phone call,” I tell her. It’s the only thing I plan on telling her. Sparkle ignores me. She gets right down to business, and the business is grim.

She pulls her badge from around her neck and tosses it on the table. Metal falls upon metal with an ominous clang. No...Not the clang. The movement. The movement is whats ominous. The action of pulling off her badge and tossing it. Something about the way Sparkle moves unnerves me. Makes me uneasy.

“You know what that is, Rose?” she asks. I don’t give her an answer. She doesn’t wait for one. “That is my second cutie mark. Matter of fact, it’s more important to me than the one on my flank. See, I got this cutie mark because my special talent is doing whatever I want, to whomever I want, whenever I want to.” Sparkle leans forward and I see a cruelty in her features that almost seems real. Almost, but It’s just another part of her act. A good act but I’m not convinced. Either Sparkle is lousy at this or she’s hiding something from me. From me or from somepony else.

“Now you can cooperate with me and make this easier on the both of us, or you can keep doing what you’re doing and I can show you exactly how I got my second cutie mark.”

We eye each other carefully. Size each other up. Sparkle’s looking for a way to break me. She has a predator’s eyes. Gauging. Searching for weakness.

“Buck you,” I say. “I want my phone call.”

It’s the answer she wanted to hear. Sparkle grins like a fiend. Smacks me. Once. Twice. She hits like a foal. Nothing on her slaps at all. She slaps me again. Again. When Sparkle gets bored of taunting me with her feeble slaps, she grabs the back of my head and slams me face first into the table; then jabs the base of my skull with an aroused front hoof. I see spots. Random blotches of fuzzy light splattered carelessly on a black-grey canvas. Then something solid and loveless bludgeons my cheek. Then my side. My neck. The oppressive little box-like room churns, blinks, then disappears with an odd, moist, slapping sound. I squint into the blotchy splatter of nothing for a few long, labored breaths. Then a mocking pain giggles at me from inside my own aching skull and Twilight's face slowly comes back into focus, like a radio with its dial between stations.

Sparkle leans in close, pinning my head to table with that same aroused front hoof. I feel her breath brush against my ear. Quick breaths. Quick and hot and excited.

“There are two unicorns watching us through that window,” Sparkle says in a hushed voice. Her tone changes. The superior attitude becomes a bad memory. She tells me we're being watched and my eyes move without me giving the go-ahead, flicking in the direction of the window.

"Don’t look," Sparkle warns, "listen. Two unicorns are about to come into this room. They're Feds but they work for a crime boss named Filthy Rich. They think you killed the doctor, and they know you killed Baritone.” Sparkle talks fast. I try to keep up but my head is still swimming and she’s not making any sense. “I’m going torture you for information. You are not going to tell me anything. You are not going to cooperate. Blink once if you understand.” I blink. She glances toward the door just as it begins to open. “Follow my lead and I’ll make this as bearable for you as possible.” Sparkle turns me over and looks me square in the eye, her brow furrowed with concentration and worry and weakness and fear and something else. Something stalwart. Frightened but unflinching. I meet her gaze and in it I spy something familiar. Something in her eyes that I often see in my own. I decide to trust her. I don't like unicorns and I don't make a habit of trusting them, but I decide to trust Sparkle. Before the first Fed gets all four legs through the doorway, Sparkle silently mouths the words “get ready,” before letting me up.

The unicorns come in the room. One mare. One stallion. They aren't cops. I can tell just by looking at them. Not cops and not from Manehattan. Too poised. Rigid. They have the look of ponies who live disciplined lives. Definitely not from Manehattan. Manehattan has a way of loosening you up. I can tell Sparkle’s been here for a while; she’s looser than a cheap whore, but these two are stiff as boards. Canterlot types. Royal Guard types. They aren’t dressed in armor but they’re guard ponies all right. They’ve traded their golden armor for matching suits, matching grey gloves, and matching blank expressions. Their manes are sea foam green and their coats are pale. Almost identical. Definitely brother and sister. Maybe twins.

Sparkle leans back in her chair. She clears her throat. Adjusts her tie. Then her hat.

“Agent Temporal. Agent Thymus. How good of you to join us. Miss Rose here was just about to explain where we can find her accomplices.”

Accomplices…? Scope’s killer had help? The thought is jarring. Rattles me. Gets my attention. Gets my heart, lungs, and brain working a little harder.

“Partners? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say. It's true, I don't.

Her face twists into a sadistic grin as she fleshes out her role of crooked Manehattan cop. It’s an act I have a feeling she’s played before and one she enjoys. The small oppressive room is her set. The twin unicorns and the echoing walls, her audience. She puts on a hell of a show, and as I watch her up on stage, I become aware of something inherently and acutely dangerous about Commissioner Sparkle. Something she manages to hide from the guards standing on either side of her but not from me. Sparkle is having fun. Call it a hunch. Call it predator’s intuition. Call it whatever you want but I can feel it. Sparkle is having a ball. Enjoying the chase. She has these bastards by the balls, at least she thinks she does, and she’s having herself a time.

Sparkle throws her weight around and the title of police commissioner makes her plenty heavy. She tells me she's going to make me talk. Break me. She asks where my partners are. I tell her I don't know what she's talking about. Tell her I want my phone call.

Sparkle turns to the mare at her side and nods. When she turns back to me the mare’s horn lights up and I feel a small tickle swim through my body, like a feather brushing against my insides. At first I think I’m just imagining it. The feather starts in my chest and swims down into my stomach. It circles. Drifts this way and that as if looking for something. At first I think I’m just imagining it, but when the feather settles on one of my ribs, I know it’s real. The feather leans against the rib. It tickles. Feels odd. Almost pleasant.

Sparkle asks where my accomplices are. I tell her to go buck herself. Tell her I want my phone call.

The mare’s horn glows brighter, and the feather leaning against my rib becomes heavier, and the tickle is replaced by a slight pressure.

Sparkle asks one more time. Same question. I give her the same answer. She asks, and when I fail to answer, the feather becomes an anvil. The pressure builds. Swells. Then Sparkle gives a nod—and the bone splinters—and the sound it makes as it gives is horrible, and the ache is worse. The ache is a living thing. It skulks into my body and squeezes its way between the jagged fissures of my fractured bone. Squeezes. Skulks. Sneaks about on careful hooves and finds places to have its fun. The ache doubles me over and likely would have floored me if not for the cuffs keeping me shackled to the arms of the chair.

"It stops as soon as you tell me what I want to hear, Rose.” I don’t answer. Don't even try.

The mare with the glowing horn doesn't wait for Sparkle to nod again. The feather finds another rib. Becomes an anvil. The bone creeks. Resists. When it gives, the most pathetic sound I've ever heard a living thing make wriggles up my throat, falls from my slack mouth, and joins the chorus echoing from the walls: the voices of those tortured innocents. They moan their welcome to me. Call me sister and accept me, eager to share in my suffering. Yesterday’s agony weaves into today’s, and the sounds are sad, and the pain in my side dances. Shakes and gyrates to the music of our dirge.

Sparkle says something I don’t understand. Her voice reaches me. The texture of it. The tone. But the words are a gnarled. They tumble out of a cruel mouth and plop uselessly on deaf ears. Another rib breaks. Snaps like a dry cactus needle. I gasp. Inhale sharply. Grit my teeth. Sparkle says something else but I miss it. Then the feather spreads itself thin across my spine, and I shut my eyes just as it begins to twist.

I shut my eyes and the noose slips easily around Daisy's neck, and her coat is a vibrant velveteen purple: practically glowing in the near perfect darkness—and the noose is the color of sand: sand carried from the shores of some insane, apocalyptic beach waiting for me at the end of the flat, flat earth, and...and...

...And then the door swings open—is swinging open; the moment bright and searing in my mind, like the glimmering end of a heated cattle prod, branding me with its severe intensity.

The door swings open, and a sharply dressed baby dragon enters the room carrying something under his arm. I pray silently to Luna, thanking her for her divine intervention. The dragon talks with Sparkle a moment. She frowns. Then he says something I can’t make out to the twins before the three of them shuffle out hurriedly.

Once the door closes behind them, Sparkle doesn't waste anytime. She talks fast. Excited.

“We have a few minutes before Filthy’s thugs come back in here and finish what they started,” she says as she unlocks my cuffs with a key tucked away in her coat pocket. Her eyes flash. Something wild stirs behind them. Something hungry. Looking to consume.

She unlocks my cuffs. Does it with her hooves. Reaches in her pocket, pulls out the key, and unlocks the cuffs with her bare hooves. My limbs sigh with relief as the restraints fall away.

“My partner is distracting them with a false lead on the whereabouts of Scope’s murderers. Once they believe they know where to find the other two, you'll be of no more use to them.”

"So there are two of them?" I hear myself ask, the words forming absent thought.

"Not now," Sparkle says in a hurried voice. "I'll tell soon. Tell you everything I know, but not now."

Sparkle removes a cord of some kind from her sleeve and begins tying one end of it around each front hoof. When she has it nice and tight, she pulls the cord taut, testing it. I don't like it. There’s something unnerving—almost phallic—about the way the cord goes from limp to rigid.

When I see the cord go rigid, I finally figure it out. Figure out what it is about Sparkle's movements that make me so uncomfortable. Sparkle does everything with her hooves. She's a unicorn, one of the most powerful in Equestria, yet she insists on manipulating things with her bare hooves. Her tie. Her hat. The key, and now the cord. It's unnerving. The way she touches everything. The way her limbs come alive, stirring with fearful, anxious, excited energy.

Sparkle lays my head down on the table so that I’m facing away from the door. Then she pushes a hoof into my side. Feels around. Counts the number of broken ribs. Her touch is rough. Makes me wince.

"Can you fight?” she questions. It’s the kind of question that only has one answer. Like the captain of a sinking ship asking his first mate whether or not he can swim.

“I’ve been through worse,” I say. It’s true. I have.

“Good. When the Filthy’s thugs come back in this room, you and I are going to kill them,” she says plainly. At least she tries to say it plainly. Tries to sound in control, but Sparkle is rattled. On edge. Straddling. Teetering. Staring down into the abyss that awaits her should she fall. Teetering and staring down and trembling with nervous energy. Trying hard to stay in control. Trying to keep the fiendish grin that’s tugging at the corners of her mouth from spreading itself wide across her face. Intoxicated by the promise of conflict. Drunk and aroused and frightened and loving every second of it. Sparkle’s having fun. Having herself a time, and that only makes what we’re about to do all the more dangerous.

Then Sparkle surprises me. Without warning, she cups my chin. Lifts my head off the table. Closes her lips around mine and has herself a bit more fun. Sparkle's lips are steel. Her tongue is iron. Rusted. During our impromptu kiss she slips something other than her tongue into my mouth and I realize that it, not Sparkle's kiss, is responsible for the metallic taste. It’s small. Sharp. A razor. A weapon. Meant to give me an edge against the unicorns and their magic. I tuck it under my tongue. Our lips come apart and Sparkle’s hooves disappear under the table just as the door is opening.

As I lay my cheek back town on the table like Sparkle instructed, I catch one last glimpse of the unicorn, and I see a focus in her expression that is sexual in its intensity. I see fire, and ice, and lust, and anger, and longing—and something else as well. Something completely mad. It’s the same something I see so often in myself. Sparkle has been where I have been. Seen what I have seen. She peers out at the living world through dead eyes. Whatever was left of the kindhearted filly who once upon a time harnessed the Elements of Harmony—the magic of friendship—to save all of Equestria is gone. Gone from Celestia's green earth.

I take a moment to mourn her passing. When beautiful things die they deserve to be mourned. Daisy and Lily taught me that. I close my eyes. Clear my head. Focus on the ugly work that needs doing. I'm beat up. Tired. I've been in more fights than I can count, but somehow I know this fight will be different. This will be the first time I fight not to protect my life or the life of another. This time I will fight to kill. I've killed before but it's never been my sole intention. I've always held back when I could. I can't now. The thought makes my hooves tremble.

Yes, this time will be different, and when it is over I know in my heart that I'll be different as well. I tremble. Part of me is afraid and some other, darker part delighted. I close my eyes for one very long instant and recall all of the times before.

I close my eyes and the noose is slipping easily around Daisy’s neck, and Lily is screaming, and Grift is grinning from the cover of the Manehattan Post, and Tracy and the swing shift are kicking thunder out of the clouds, and Fedora is spitting red water and curses, and Blondie smells like fresh picked fruit, and Tiger Voice is making love to Manehattan, and Stephen Scope is lying face down on the carpet in my bedroom, and Red Aura is cowering at my hooves, and Sparkle is grinning like a fiend, and Redheart…

…Redheart is leaving. Skirting out the front door of my apartment. She is a water fly and as she goes, she doesn't leave a single ripple in her wake.

When I open my eyes Sparkle is already making her move. It happens fast but the details are so rich I will be able to recall this moment for the rest of my life. It will stay with me forever. Another nightmare to haunt me day and night.

Sparkle makes her move. She springs up on her hind legs and throws herself at the female unicorn. The length of cord stretched taunt between her excited hooves slips easily around the guard pony’s neck, and the guard gasps as the two of them tumble to floor.

The stallion’s horn is sparking.

It happens fast. No—it is happening fast. Fast and slow and right now. I take a deep breath. Remember my training. I am taking a deep breath and the air is hot in my lungs. Smoldering. Billowing. Hot and thick like smoke rising above a burning forest. I focus on it. I focus. Am focusing. Focusing on my breath and on the light and nothing else.

The stallion’s horn is sparking and the light is pale green. It is a shade that does not exist anywhere in nature. Impossible. Beautiful. He turns—is turning—aiming his glowing horn at the ball of flailing limbs that used to be Sparkle and his sister.

I accidently nick the inside of my cheek as I move the razor from under my tongue and hold it between clenched teeth. Then I exhale—then I am exhaling. Pushing the smoke out of my nostrils and coming alive. My limbs burst into flame. The three broken ribs on my left side curse me. Hate me. The pain dances—is dancing. I let it have its fun. Push it from my thoughts and focus on the pale green light.

There is nothing else. Nothing in the world but the pale green light.

I leap at it. My wings unfold—are unfolding. My horn is spiraling out of my forehead and igniting, splashing the white walls with light from my own special brand of magic. My limbs catch fire, and my ribs hate me, and it takes every ounce of strength I can muster but I leap over the table and slash at the stallion. It's impossible. In my condition I shouldn't be able move at all. Impossible. I was born an earth pony, and if tonight is the night I am to die, then I will die an alicorn.

The blade nicks his face. Opens a small gash under his eye.

Then I spit the razor from between my clenched teeth and his eye becomes the gash. He clutches his face, blinded by sharp steel and crimson mist. I buck him. He falls. I bite the back of his shirt collar. It takes everything I have, and my limbs are on fire, and my ribs will never forgive me—but I bite the back of his shirt collar, and his hooves leave the ground as I swing him the into the wall. His body cuts the air like a living blunt blade and when his back meets the solid white surface, I swear I hear his spine shatter. He goes limp in my grasp. Feels good. So, so good. I let myself feel it. Enjoy it. I forget the dancing pain and let glee take its place. Let it sneak into my broken mind and find places to have its own fun.

The unicorn goes limp. He’s done. He is but I’m not. I’m just getting started. I swing him into another wall. Another. I drag his nearly lifeless form across the room and throw him into another. He groans. Cries. I swing him again. Drag him. Swing him. Again. Swing. Drag. Swing. Again. Again. Drag. Swing—swing. Again.

He is a rag doll in my grip. Helpless and weak and fragile as I bounce his dying body off the white walls. I don’t hold anything back. I lose myself—no—I give myself freely to the dark impulses. To that ugly broken part of me that hurts and smiles when other things learn of its pain.

The suffering of the dying unicorn mixes with my own and together we create a new melody for the walls echo. It’s an angry song we sing. One of revenge for those picked and poked until they plead guilty for crimes never committed. Vengeful and angry and sad. The cries of today and those of days past bump and grind against one another as they melt into a singular, awe-inquiringly venomous lament. I lose myself in the echoes. The dirge. The music of things soft and wet meeting things solid and dry. My partner and I dance, and when the dancing is done the white walls are streaked red and all of the echoes fall silent.

I spit out the dead unicorn’s collar and step back, my head spinning. Spinning fast. Too fast. I try to slow it down. Focus. I Look at what I’ve done. At what I can do. I take it all in.

The stark contrast of blood-red against white gives me pause. Makes me sick. Makes my stomach curl into itself. I take it in. Don’t like it. Red against white. Reminds me of my nightmare. Don’t like it. For some unknown number of seconds or minutes I stand trembling in the wake of my own fury, trying to calm myself. Slow my breathing. Think of my next move. After the ruckus I kicked up, this place is sure to swarming with officers any minute. But Sparkle likely already has a plan. She’s been pulling all the strings right up until this point. She has a plan.

I turn in search of her. Sparkle has a way out of this. I know she does. I turn to her…

…I turn to her and I don’t like what I see. Sparkle is sitting upright on the mare’s back, cord still wrapped around the guard pony’s neck. She leans in close. Whispers something to her victim. Nibbles the guard's ear. The cord loosens. The mare beneath her gasps, inhaling sharply. Desperately. The mare gasps, and Sparkle makes the sort of sound that forbidden lovers make when they sneak away to touch each other in secret. When the mare’s horn starts to shine, Sparkle pulls the cord tighter and the light leaping from it dims again.

I watch Sparkle as if in a daze. Fascinated by her cruelty.

The cord loosens. Sparkle whispers something. Nibbles the mare’s ear. Her horn shines. The cord tightens. The light dims.


Cord loosens. Sparkle whispers. Nibbles ear. Horn Shines. Cord Tightens. Light dims.


Loosens. Whispers. Nibbles. Shines. Tightens. Dims.


I watch Sparkle as if in a daze and all at once I realize what miserable creatures we all are. This is what we look like. Mangy things killing and dying. Chasing. Fleeing. Breaking. I watch Sparkle as she toys with her prey. Sparkle and her prey: they are the entire city in microcosm. All of her hatred summarized. All of her apathy condensed. Her brutality, and her misery, and her loneliness, and her anger, and her fear—all of it captured, brought to light and made plain by one simple senseless act of violence. Together they are chasing and fleeing in its purest form, and as I gaze into Sparkle's mad eyes, I realize that Sparkle is me.



I realize that she is all of us. She is every broken thing that ever was, and ever will be, and she is mad, and there is no hope for her. No hope for any of us. Redheart was right. We are too broken. Broken—and we can't be fixed.

The city is laughing at me. Laughing. The sound of it shakes me from my daze. Reminds me of the moment I shared with the old mule up on the rooftop, and the one after as I sailed miles above her ugly face. Our understanding. This is what she wants. Manehattan, the old mule—this is exactly what she wants. I should have seen it sooner, but it takes me killing a pony in cold blood and the image of Sparkle doing the same before I get it. This is what she wants. To taint me. Taint me the way she's tainted Sparkle. It was never her desire to kill me. That wouldn’t be good enough for her. No, our hatred of each other runs too deep to be resolved by something as kind as death. As humane as murder. Not good enough. Not nearly. Manehattan wants me for herself. She wants me to be like her. To be another of her criminals.

Criminals. I hate criminals. I’m afraid of them. Still. I am still afraid of them.

With trembling hooves I charge headlong into Sparkle, knocking her away from her victim. I look down at the mare whose brother I murdered, and she looks back. There’s no fight left in her eyes. I rise up on my hind legs, and when I return to all fours, I close them for her. Not permanently. I don’t kill her but tomorrow when she wakes up in a hospital bed, she’ll know she came close.

Before I can make another move, Sparkle returns the favor. She tackles me from behind. Wrestles me to the floor. She’s not very strong but I’m in bad shape, and she gets the better of me. Wrestles me to the floor. Then she stands me up on my hind legs, before bringing me down hard on the table. She pins me. Pushes my face into the dented surface and straddles my hindquarters while an eager front hoof goes to work groping my haunches. She kicks my legs apart, and I feel a shiver run up my spine as Sparkle traces the curve of my inner thigh with her tail.

She leans forward, her chest heavy against my back, her breath sultry and sinister on my face.

“I see why AJ wanted you so bad,” Sparkle purrs like a cat in heat. “The way you killed that unicorn was...overwhelming. You’re an animal, Rose. A real monster.”

Sparkle purrs and my heart skips. A wild gust of butterflies make a home of my stomach, fluttering about and crashing into each other in a crazed orgy of beating wings. Sparkle bites her bottom lip. I blush. My cheeks flush; then catch fire.

I’m not sure exactly what it is I feel but Sparkle feels it right along with me. Anger or lust or some insane merging of the two.

Sparkle replaces her tail with a hoof. She slides it up my inner thigh, cupping my crotch. Her touch is rough. Loveless. I gasp. Her lips press against the back of my neck and my body quivers. Quivers with rage. Quivers with pleasure. She nibbles my ear the way she nibbled the ear of the pony she was murdering only moments ago. It's disgusting. A cold-blooded murderer is nibbling my ear, and my body is quivering, and my breathing is hot and heavy, and—and it’s not enough. I want more. I hate cops. Hate unicorns. Hate Sparkle. Hate the way she plays with her prey. The way she tortures them. Takes pleasure in their pain. I hate her but that ugly part of me that smiles at the suffering of others is madly in love. I want to hate Sparkle, but it wants her touch. Needs it. Her rough excited touch that reaches for things as for the first time. As if everything in the world was new and mysterious and bubbling with possibility. So raw. So consuming. I give myself to her touch and it consumes me as well. Claims me as its own and promises to never let go.

Sparkle cups my chin. Lifts my head up off the table. Closes her lips around mine. It's a bloody, gritty kiss we share. No love in it. More brutal than it is carnal and more feeble than anything else. What I had with Redheart was real love, and what I had with Blondie was lust, and what I had with Fedora and Tiger Voice and Red Aura was at least some sick perversion of the two. But with Sparkle... What Sparkle and I have is that confused little something that makes its home between disgust and desire. When our lips come together we make love and war, and it's as passionate as it is violent, and as beautiful as it is ugly.

If there is a name for what we have, I don’t know it.

We kiss. Then all of sudden the door swings open, and I hear the end of my ecstasy, as well as my freedom from madness, come marching clumsily into the room. Half dozen cops. No riot gear. Only a few horns.

Sparkle makes a small surprised sound as Manehattan herself forces our lips apart.

“They hay is going in here, Commissioner?” one of the officers asks. Sparkle inhales sharply.

“The prisoner managed to escape during interrogation. She had a weapon, a razor blade tucked under her tongue.” Sparkle doesn't miss a beat. She shakes the shock out of her face and falls right back into character. “She took agents Temporal and Thymus by surprise, but I managed to subdue her.” Sparkle pulls me upright by my mane and forces my forelegs behind my back. The cops at the door inch toward us.

“Follow my lead,” Sparkle whispers in my ear. She's focused again. Still excited as all hell, but focused at least. It takes me a few seconds to find my rhythm. To get back into the swing of things

She marches me over to the group of cops. Warns them to be careful. Tells them I’m dangerous. Tells them I’m a real animal. A beast pushed out off the festering womb of the Everfree Forest. Half a dozen unsuspecting gazes spy the blood-streaked walls, and one by one the color drips out the cops’ faces. Sparkle warns them. Tells her fellow officers I’m a monster. Then she lets me go and I show them. I show a half dozen of Manehattan’s finest what a real monster looks like. Six of them. With Sparkle's help it doesn't take long.

Sparkle has herself a time. I suppose we both do. She puts one headfirst through the beetle-black window. Breaks another one’s jaw. Sparkle butts and bites and bucks and stomps. She takes as good as she gets but it doesn't stop her from enjoying the brawl. Having Sparkle at my side makes the whole confused tumult of kicks and butts and bites seem otherworldly. Surreal. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpse Twilight Sparkle—the tenderhearted filly from Ponyville who always had her nose in a book—break a cop’s nose by smashing him in the face with one of the chairs, and it just doesn’t seem real. The world has gone mad, and Sparkle loves it and I suppose I love it too. We have ourselves a time. Wild-eyed and drunk off the sheer hateful craziness of it all.

Once the room is clear, Sparkle and I make a run for it. She leads me down a hallway. Through a door. Down another hallway. Takes me by the foreleg and as we flee I'm reminded of a similar experience I shared with Redheart. I remember taking her by the hoof and fleeing from the rain. The drops like ice-cold needles on my back. The pegasi kicking thunder out of the clouds. As we run, Sparkle looks at me from over her shoulder and my heart flutters. I blush. My cheeks ignite. Catch fire. I feel dizzy. Light. High off the adrenalin leaking out of my ears, the residual taste of Sparkle's tongue in my mouth, and even the soreness in my limbs and the ache in my ribs.

I'm alive. Celestia damn it, I'm alive!

Eventually our flight leads us around the back of the police station. It’s dark out. Luna’s cool night air caresses my face. Silvery strands of moonlight find me. Welcome me. The goddess’ touch is like that of a concerned mother. She missed me. Silently, I tell Luna that I missed her too, and I assure her I’m fine and thank her for watching over me.

Sparkle leads me around back. She takes a moment to catch her breath. To let the drunken excitement work its way out of her system. Then she talks. Talks fast.

“I've made arrangements to get you out of here. Had my partner send a pick up for you.”

“A friend of yours?” I ask.

“No. A friend of yours. When she arrives, she'll be out front. Wait about ten minutes after I leave before you make your way around, and make sure nopony sees you. When you get out of here whatever you do, do not go home. Scope’s killers know where you live, and after what we did too his foot soldiers, Filthy Rich will likely be looking for you too.”

“Why are you helping me, Sparkle?” I finally ask. The question has been sticking to the back of my head since Sparkle first warned me about Filthy’s goons, but things have only slowed down enough now for me to get the words out.

“I’m not helping you. I’m helping myself,” Sparkle says. Her answer doesn't surprise me. “The ponies that killed Scope and set you up—they took something from me. Now I have to take something from them. I let you live because I believe you can yet be of some help.”

“So you’re just using me to take revenge?” Sparkle opens her mouth to say something but then turns away, sullenly. Thought takes her from me for a moment. A long moment. She is with me but she is gone, her mind wandering elsewhere. I don't know where she goes but I miss her for as long as we are apart, and I find myself waiting impatiently for her return. Sparkle is mad. She is a unicorn, and worse than that she is a cop, and her mind is fractured beyond repair...and yet I find myself hanging on her every word. I swoon when she gives me attention and pine when she withholds it.

“They cost me everything I have,” she finally manages. “I don’t know what you get out of it, Rose. I don’t know who Stephen Scope was to you. I don’t know why you jump off rooftops and beat the hell out ponies twice your size. I don't know and I don’t care. If you want to play vigilante that's your business, but I’m not here to save the world. I played that game once and look where it landed me. This is personal. This is between me and them. The rest of it doesn't matter.”

"You keep saying them. Who are they?" Sparkle has left me with a lot of questions in this past hour. I ask a few. "Who is Baritone, and who is this Filthy Rich pony you keep talking about?"

"Not now," she says. She rubs her brow with a tired hoof. "I'll be in touch. I'll tell you everything, but not now."

"Why? I can't help you if you insist on keeping secrets."

"Because you're dangerous,” Sparkle snaps. “You’re too emotional. If I tell you now you'll likely go looking for trouble and after the shit we stirred up tonight, the both of us need to lay low for awhile," she says. ‘Dangerous,’ she says. ‘Too emotional.’ Sparkle has some nerve.

"Me, ‘too emotional!?’ What the hay was that back there?"

"That was...it's just I..." Sparkle's words stumble over each other. They trip up and fall flat. "I can't always think straight when I get excited...Not since..."

“Since what? What happened to you, Sparkle?” I ask. It’s another question that’s been bothering me. Nagging me ever since she first trotted into that oppressive little room. “What happened to you? How did you get here?” Sparkle doesn’t answer. She turns her back to me. Turns to leave but then stops suddenly.

“You know Redheart will never understand you, Rose. Not the way I can.” Redheart's name falls from Sparkle's mouth and gives me pause. Words lose their meaning. We fall silent and search each other’s empty gazes for things we know are not there.

Sparkle adjusts her tie. Then her hat. Then she takes it off.

Twilight Sparkle drops her hat and it is falling. It is the last lonely leaf of autumn; the last delicate memory of a passing season, and it is falling, drifting down from atop the highest branch of a naked tree. When the tree from which it fell dies in the harsh winter, another will grow in its place. The dark world will turn beneath it as it wilts, and when it is gone only the leaves of the new season will cry. Dew from spring showers will run down their smooth green faces and they will cry, but no one else. The hat is falling, and tomorrow is the first day of winter, and somehow I know Sparkle will not survive it.

Sparkle brushes her mane aside and I see a scar on her head where her horn should be, and all at once I understand. Understand that what was taken from her can never be replaced. She was Celestia’s number one student. The bearer of the Element of Magic. One of the most capable magicians to grace Equestria in decades. And what is she now? A hornless unicorn; her entire life no doubt torn apart by some random thoughtless act of violence. I know the feeling. Know it a lot better than I’d like to.

I hate unicorns. I hate them and I hate their magic, but somehow what’s happened to Sparkle doesn’t seem fair. She was beautiful, once. I never knew her well, but you didn't need to know her to see that Twilight Sparkle was beautiful in every way a pony could be. The best kind of pony there is. I'm the worst kind. Trash like me belongs here, but Sparkle was too good for this place. The city had no right to taint her. Break her. We are kindred spirits, Sparkle and I. She is broken but I know in my heart that she is still beautiful, and as I grope blindly in the darkness for something to do or say, I find myself longing to help her. Fix her. Beneath all her cunning and her depravity, Sparkle is just a frightened child. Empty and crying out to be made whole. And as I gaze into the pair of lavender abysses before me, I see in Sparkle’s eyes what Redheart must see in mine.

I press my forehead against Sparkle's before kissing it tenderly. A pair of phantom lips return my affection. It is a silhouette of a kiss—a mere suggestion of intimacy—but it is the only one Sparkle gives me that comes from a place of sincerity. The only one that makes me want another.

Then she turns to leave. Before she escapes I reach into my boot and remove the plans for my disguise. I ask Sparkle if she can get the little slip of paper to a friend of hers, another unicorn named Rarity who still lives in Ponyville. She is a seamstress. The best I ever knew, though I never knew many, and the only pony I trust with the creation of my disguise. Sparkle smiles when I mention her old friend. It’s one of those laugh-so-you-don’t-cry smiles. They type ponies make when it hurts so bad it’s funny.

“We don’t really keep in touch anymore,” she says, suddenly unable to meet my gaze.

“Please,” I insist. “At least try.”

Sparkle lets out a tired sigh. “Okay. No promises, though,” she says. And then she is gone. Just another water fly skirting out of my life. I watch her disappear into the night. I watch her. Waiting to see if she leaves any ripples in her wake.

I watch. Wait. She doesn’t.

I wait awhile like Sparkle instructed before sneaking around to the front of the police station, eyes scanning with hurried care for this friend of mine that’s supposed to pick me up. It doesn’t take long for her intense electric blue gaze to spot me from the curb. She runs up the sidewalk and throws her forelegs around me. The display seems like a bit much coming from Yoosee Dee.

“Oh shit, I was worried about you,” she says. Her words collide into each other as she talks. “I got this letter that appeared by magic—you know like baby dragon magic—that told me to come find you outside the police station. The damn thing appeared out of nowhere in my bedroom. I was just about to go to sleep too, when this green flame scared the shit out of me and dropped the note on the edge of my bed.” Dee smiles big, happy to see me alive and, for the most part, in one piece. I’m happy to see her too. As we make our way to the carriage I stumble but Dee catches me, breaking my fall with her strong back.

“Whoa, you okay, Rose? You look horrible. You’re not in trouble, are you? They hay am I saying, of course you're in trouble.” Dee throws my front leg around her shoulder to keep me from stumbling again. “Let’s hurry up and get you out of here.” I lean on Dee as we walk. She keeps right on babbling, her words coming so quick they're nearly incomprehensible. I let her talk. I lean on her. She’s strong. Manages to keep me standing.

I nearly fall over again when I see a single white hoof step out of the backseat of Dee’s carriage. My breath catches in my throat when I glimpse her full pink mane, and when our eyes meet my heart skips a beat. We are still a few feet apart when she steps out of the backseat and onto the sidewalk, but I feel as though we have never been closer.

She opens her mouth to speak and the sound of her voice makes me feel faint. Makes me forget all about Sparkle. The image of my beautiful hornless unicorn fades from memory, no match at all for the kindhearted mare leaning against Dee's carriage. She opens her mouth and the sound of her voice sweeps the entire world aside. Every living thing and every dead thing and every inanimate thing on Celestia’s green earth clears out. Makes way for just the two of us.

She opens her mouth. I hear her voice. My Luna, her voice. It’s only been a few days but I’d almost forgotten what it sounds like.

“Hi, Rose,” she says plainly.

“Hi, Redheart,” I reply.

Next Chapter: Storm Without an Eye Estimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 15 Minutes
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Eyes Without a Face

Mature Rated Fiction

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