Midnight nervously paced through the library's main hall. Since he had nothing worth smoking on hand... hoof... whatever... he slowly chewed on some hay to calm himself down. While Spike had been positive that Twilight would make a swift recovery, he had called in a physician to take a look at her, just in case. It had been thirteen minutes since Spike and Doctor Stable went up to Twilight's room, and Midnight had nothing to do but contemplate the many ways this was all his fault. He had been the one who had asked Twilight for this favour. He had let her do all the work alone. He hadn't backed Spike up when he'd been trying to get her to take a break. He hadn't stopped her from performing her dangerous spell.
But worst of all, he had considered leaving her behind for the Ursa Minor. For years, he had been playing the world-saving hero from the comfort of his couch, but now that something was actually at stake, he had been shown an aspect of his person that he'd preferred to stay hidden: In order to save his own skin, he would leave a girl to her certain death, despite all she had done for his sake. And now that she was bedridden, all he could do to take his mind of the guilt was to endlessly walk in circles, around and around and around and...
“Oh, for the love of Celestia, could you please just sit down?” Rainbow Dash shouted. She sat in the corner of the hall with a large book.
Despite her harsh tone, Midnight appreciated the break in silence. Ever since she had arrived first thing in the morning, Rainbow had given him the silent treatment and acknowledged his existence only with the occasional scowl. While she probably expected him to wordlessly comply with her demand, he didn't want to waste this opportunity in any kind of conversation. “Sorry, I got some stress to burn. What are you reading?”
Rainbow opened her mouth to prepare a snide comment, but seemed to realise something, as she took a look at the cover of the book she was holding. The title read Alicornanatomy Through Curomantic Cases. “Nothing.” She sighed and threw the book on a big pile next to her.
It was silent once more. Even now that she no longer held an excuse in her hooves to ignore Midnight, Rainbow refused to give him any more attention than strictly necessary.
Finally, Midnight gave in and went straight for his usual answer to everything. “I'm beginning to suspect that you don't like me very much.”
This direct accusation finally triggered a response from Rainbow. “Gee, you think? What was your first clue?” she said with an inch-deep frown.
“Well, I'm not sure what gave me the crazy idea, but it might be the riveting conversations we've been having since I arrived here.”
“Oh, really?” Rainbow stood up and walked towards Midnight, staring him down along the way. “Well, I guess I could be a little nicer to some random guy that showed up out of nowhere and endangers one of my best friends without skipping a beat!”
Midnight did not back off. He was frustrated, tired and sleep-deprived, and he was going to unload it all right now on the nearest acceptable target. “Well, I guess I could have tried to tie her down, but that might have been somewhat counterproductive as I needed her help.”
“Oh, yes, of course you need her help. It would be impossible for someone claiming to be an alien from another world without any proof to be after anything besides help.”
Midnight was about to counter Rainbow's offensive when he was interrupted by a polite coughing coming from the doorway to Twilight's room. Doctor Stable had appeared with Spike in tow, and he gave the arguing pair a stern look. “Although it is terribly amusing to watch your attempts to sarcasm each other into submission, I must ask you to turn it down a notch for the sake of the patient.”
Midnight and Rainbow gave each other a glare before deciding that there were more important issues at hand. “Sorry, doctor. Will she be all right?” Midnight asked.
Doctor Stable smiled in response. “She will be fine. A few cuts and bruises, nothing that a band-aid couldn't patch up. And while seeing a unicorn expend all her magical energy is uncommon, it is certainly not lethal when properly treated.”
“Told you so,” Spike interjected, but was met by three disapproving stares.
The doctor continued. “Now, pushing her limits that far put serious strain on her mental strength. For a swift recovery, I prescribe many dreams.”
“Aha, I see,” said Midnight, “and I assume that you want us to go on an epic quest and collect those dreams from a magic fountain or something?”
“...No, I want you to stay quiet while she sleeps. I gave her a mild sedative that should help, but it is important that she dreams, which requires a very deep sleep. Therefore, no noise, no visitors, nothing but peace and quiet. That goes for you too, Rainbow Dash!”
Rainbow, who had started inching towards Twilight's room as soon as she'd heard "she'll be fine", turned around. “You mean I can't go see her?”
“I understand that this must be hard for you, but I have to put my hoof down here. Any noise could disturb her rest, and she needs every bit of it. Once she feels like waking up on her own, it will be fine, but for now, I must ask for your patience.”
Rainbow hung her head and closed the door. “Fine. I better go tell our friends now. Spike, you take good care of Twilight, ok?”
“No problem! I'll make sure that nothing happens!” Spike proudly puffed his chest. While it didn't do much for his stature, the gesture certainly showed his determination.
Rainbow nodded with approval. She opened her wings and flew towards the open window leading directly towards her house. Before exiting, she glared at Midnight one last time. “And don't you try anything funny while I'm gone,” she said, and carefully closed the window.
The doctor shrugged. “Well, I don't think all this house's problems have been resolved, but since you will need a different kind of doctor for that, I'll be taking my leave. Remember: no visitors before she wakes up, and try to discourage her from using magic for the next three days.”
Midnight meekly nodded along while Spike escorted Doctor Stable to the door. Now that his most immediate problem had gone out of the window for now, his thoughts returned to where they were several minutes ago, and by the time Spike came back, he had already resumed his frantic pacing.
“Look, I get that you're worried and all,” Spike said, “but Twilight will be okay; the weather is nice, and we still kind of need that carpet after you're gone, so why don't go outside to clear your head a little?”
Midnight considered the suggestion. There was nothing useful he could do around here, and he needed to see a friendly, understanding face (though none of those were available around these parts, so he'd have to make do with Lucky Chance). “Can you take care of Twilight on your own?” he asked.
Spike smiled with confidence. “Sure! This isn't the first time this has happened, though it has been a while. She won't be going anywhere or need much attention. Piece a cake!”
“Okay, then I'll be out for a spin. See you in an hour or so!” Midnight said as he walked towards the exit. As he opened the door, he concluded that Spike has not lied about the weather and stepped outside. He was back within a second, however, with cold water dripping all over. Rainbow Dash had left a short yet clear message for him just outside: do not pick a fight with a weather pony.
“On second thought, I might as well stay indoors and read a book.”
Lucky Chance chugged along the path towards the storage barn, dragging a cart full of apples. He tried to whistle a tune to lift his spirits, but the sound was as weak as his steps. He was never arrogant enough to think that working on a farm would be easy, but it had only been a full day since he arrived at Sweet Apple Acres, and he already felt completely drained.
“‘Just play along’, she said,” he mumbled bitterly to himself as he hurled the holdings of a basket onto the large pile. “‘You’re good at that’, she said. Well, I’ve had it! I might owe her one, but it just ain’t worth it! As soon as I see her, I’m gonna tell her where she can...”
“Who are yah talking to, boy?” a creaky voice interrupted him. Chance quickly turned around.
“Oh, hello, Granny Smith! I was just talking to... myself, of course. Do that all the time. Talking. To myself. For no reason. About nothing.”
“You don’t say.” Granny looked past Chance and towards the barn. “My, that’s a mighty large stock we got there.”
“You think? The barn isn’t even half full yet.”
“This many apples in a single day outside of applebucking season? That’s pretty special. You and Applejack must be quite the team.” Granny winked.
Chance kept silent, as he had to suppress the urge to make a snide comment aimed at a beloved granddaughter.
“But it’s a little worrisome,” Granny continued. “We may have plenty of apples, but Ah didn’t expect this, and now we may not have enough buyers to get rid of em before they all go bad.”
Chance couldn’t believe his ears. “Are you saying that we have too many apples?”
“Yes, pretty much.”
“Well, isn’t that a problem easily solved! I’ll go see Applejack now and tell her that we can stop...”
“Excuse me for interrupting,” a heavy, dignified voice sounded. While the pair were admiring the result of yesterday’s and today’s work, a large white stallion dressed in black with a huge black mustache had approached the barn, followed by four more stallions pulling a cart filled with a large stack of barrels. “My name is Cooper, representing the Cooper, Cooper & Cooper Cooperage Company. I am looking for a... Granny Smith.”
“That’s me, and we didn’t order anything!”
“Correct. Allow me to explain: Following a scandal about half a year ago, a customer of ours went out of business and was unable to pay for their order. Now we are stuck with what can be accurately described as ‘the mother of all overstock’. So now we are offering our wares at a fifty percent discount to our most loyal customers, such as yourselves.”
Granny seemed to have some trouble following the expressionless stranger’s explanation. “Yah’re selling barrels for half price?”
“Correct. Weather-resistant, parasprite proofed, lactose-free, grade A, high quality barrels, as you have been ordering annually for twenty-five years now. How about it?”
Granny put her hoof to her chin in a thoughtful gesture, after which she took a glance at her barn. Her face lit up, as she got an idea. “Drop the price to a third, and I’ll buy them all,” she offered.
The stallion did not hesitate. “Deal. We’ll send the bill later,” he said while shortly shaking Granny’s hoof, after which he turned towards his employees. “You heard her; empty the cart and we can go home!”
The stallions went to work immediately, and once the dust had settled, the salesman had left as suddenly as he arrived, and in his place remained a pile of barrels.
“Well, that was weird,” Chance noted.
“So, what do you plan to do with enough barrels to build a medium-sized fortress?”
The old mare grinned with glee. ”Why, fill ‘em up, of course! We’re gonna have ourselves an early cider season!”
Chance’s internal alarm bell started ringing. “Wait, what?”
“I’m gonna tell Big Macintosh to set up the press right away. You and Applejack just keep the apples coming! This is the best chance to make some money for the farm since Applejack got invited to the Grand Galloping Gala! Yah sure didn’t steal yahr name, did yah, Charm?”
“It’s ‘Chance’, and...”
“Oh, what does it matter? Just keep getting apples, and it will all work out! We’re counting on yah!” With those words, Granny Smith dashed off, for as much as her old bones would allow for any dashing, leaving Chance dumbfounded.
Chance stood there for a moment. I could go after her, he thought. I could explain that I’m not up to the task. Instead, he sighed and once again took up his cart.
But something was different. The words "we’re counting on you" echoed through his skull. So far, the Apples have been very kind to him. And now, only a day after his arrival, they considered him worthy enough to be depended upon with so much at stake. The more he thought about this, the more his step seemed to regain it's vigour.
This time, he would not disappoint.
Midnight Watch closed his copy of Daring Do and the Griffon's Goblet. While seeing all those cliches piled up without any sense of irony whatsoever made for a few unintentionally amusing scenes, he really didn’t feel like he could look past its flaws. Knowing that Twilight willingly recommended this to Rainbow made him wonder just a bit about the relationship between those two. With the book between his teeth he walked towards the shelf where Spike first took it from and tried to replace it.
A sharp pain surged through Midnight’s forehead as his horn clashed with the shelf above the one he was aiming for. It felt a whole lot like a stubbed toe, except on top on his head. Midnight gripped his head and bit his lips in order to prevent himself from yelling several sacrilegious terms.
But then he forgot his pain; He came to a sudden realization, and it made him feel pretty stupid that it had taken him so long to figure it out.
“That’s it!” he softly exclaimed.
“What’s what?” Spike asked from atop the bookcase.
“I have a horn!” Midnight answered with the enlightened tone of Galileo as he discovered that the Earth was, in fact, the one doing the turning.
Spike didn’t look very impressed. “And I’ve got scales. What about it?”
“It means that I could learn to use magic myself, so I can assist Twilight with her research once she back in the game!”
Spike tried to hold in his laughter. He used to think that unicorns didn’t get much weirder than Twilight, but he'd certainly hit the jackpot with this guy. “You want to learn magic in three days?”
“Not all of it, of course. Just enough of it so that Twilight can bounce ideas off of me. That should help her at least a little, right?”
“Whatever keeps you busy,” said Spike as he slid down the ladder. “Let me show you where we keep most of the magic textbooks.”
Spike indicated one of the library's many bookshelves, this one not particularly marked in any way. “These are Twilight’s personal collection, so don’t mess too much with them.”
Midnight nodded, and ran his eye over the titles on the spines. He decided that The Complete Guide To Magic seemed like a good place to start. “Whoa,” was his only possible reaction after opening the book. He was a university student himself, so he wasn’t a stranger to complicated books, but here he could hardly make out which lines were spells and which were the explanatory text. “Maybe something a little more basic.”
“How about this?” said Spike, holding up a book with a particularly colourful cover, even according to the standards of this universe. The cover read My First Spellbook and featured a little filly spraying sparks around with a big smile on her face.
Midnight turned up his nose. “Please, Spike,” he said haughtily. “I may not look like it now, but I’m an intelligent young adult. Surely I can handle something a little more in-depth.” His eye fell on a small booklet titled teleportation in ten easy steps. With some acrobatics, he managed to open it on the first page.
Step one: align your greater alinus with the minor gulpis. Optimize the magic stream by concentrating energy on the base of the banim.
Midnight did not read any further. Spike was still holding up his recommendation, except now accompanied by a smile of his own. Eventually, Midnight gave in. “Oh, please wipe that grin off your face and give me that.”
“Sure thing, sir!” Spike answered, still smiling.
(The author should make dramatic declarations of deadlines more often)