"It might be longer than that, but I cannot say for sure," a third voice broke in. Spike yelped, and Twilight rolled off the bed in less than a second with an “oof”. Princess Luna stood in the doorway looking neither amused nor repentant. Twilight struggled to extract herself from the sheets she'd gotten entangled in and failed miserably in her panic, ending up almost fully cocooned.
"I'm sorry, Princess," Twilight groaned, but she wasn't really surprised when the alicorn failed to even bat an eyelash.
"My meeting with Mayor Mare dragged on a little, and shortly following that, I got caught up into a conversation with my sister," Luna explained. The last few words made Twilight freeze as surely as if if she'd been Stared. Oblivious, the princess walked over to a bookshelf that sagged under the weight of glorious literature and made it un-sag with a brief glimmer of umbral magic.
"I had hoped to talk more with you and your friends before you went to yours. I do not know if I managed to make my intent clear, and I suspect I came across a little strong," Luna admitted, frowning and turning to the still-trapped Twilight. She gently unwrapped Twilight and telekinetically made the bed as she spoke. Spike looked as if he wanted to protest to the princess doing housework, but he said nothing.
"Tia felt that we should leave you to decide for yourselves, and I of course agree, I just wonder if I sufficiently explained what the purpose of this little journey is, as it pertains to you as Elements." Twilight had no idea why Luna was telling her this. She didn't owe her an explanation at all, she felt. It was true that there had been a quarrel in her wake, but that wasn't Luna's fault.
Shakily getting to her feet, Twilight shook her head a little to right her mane. "That's okay, I know at least four of us are coming with you, if you'll have us." Twilight tried to smile, but she knew she was a mess, and her mind was already working against her. She's talked to her sister, to Celestia, already. How had she even done it? Did she teleport to Canterlot and back? Twilight knew very little of Luna. Perhaps they could simply speak mind to mind? Could they do that across such vast distances? Twilight suddenly became acutely aware that she had been staring at the princess while she was talking to her, all without actually hearing a single word because her mind had skipped from worry to arcane questions. Kill me now.
"I, I'm sorry, I sort of, um missed that, Princess," Twilight admitted, hanging her head.
"You do look a little out of sorts. Might I suggest that we retire for the evening? There is nothing that cannot wait until later," Luna offered. Nodding dumbly, Twilight snagged on one thing before she acquiesced.
"Wait, we? You sleep? During the night?" It sounded rude coming out of her mouth, but Twilight was genuinely surprised. Luna nodded.
"That is why I requested a room be prepared, yes." Twilight blushed a little, realizing that she really hadn't given this all that much thought.
"I just figured you slept during the day, but I guess that would make this whole journey very awkward and, yes, that would be very silly. I mean, I know Celestia sleeps during the night, but that doesn't mean you should, um, I mean, that you have to be a polar opposite and everything, but-" Twilight was rambling, she knew it, but she couldn't seem to stop.
"I used to," Luna said, halting Twilight and gesturing to the two beds in the room. "Now, which of these beds is mine? This one, I presume?" She indicated the guest bed. The one Twilight hadn't been in when she entered.
"Oh, um, actually, this one, mine. I've got a mattress in the cellar that I'll drag up to the main floor," Twilight explained, calming down a little. Spike perked up at this and sauntered off.
"That does not seem right at all," Luna frowned.
"Why, what?" Twilight was back in panic mode immediately looking around for anything that might put the princess off. Had she forgotten to hide all her personal effects? Was something not properly cleaned?
"There are two beds, Twilight Sparkle."
"My bed is softer, and it wouldn't be appropriate for us to sleep in the same chamber, surely?" Twilight blanched. It was Rarity who had mentioned this to her, that it would be very 'unseemly' to share a bedroom with a princess. "Twilight, Darling, in all your years as her student, have you ever been to a sleepover with Princess Celestia?" It just didn't add up.
Luna regarded her carefully. It felt like the moment stretched out, and Twilight had more than enough time to go through the conversation so far and try to decide when, how and if she'd jammed her hind-hooves in her mouth. She was still drawing a blank when Spike burst back into the room.
"Got the mattress up by the 'Fantasy and Ponytales' section, Twi."
Twilight smiled. "Thank you Spike, you've been a great help today." The dragon preened until Luna turned to him.
"Spike, thank you, but that won't be needed."
"I, um." Spike glanced up at Twilight, but she had no answers. In the end the dragon just shrugged and left, grumbling. Luna closed the door gently behind him and hopped onto the spare bed in a very unprincesslike fashion. She looked a lot less intimidating all of a sudden, but that didn't make Twilight any less of a statue. Twilight yelped when she felt herself lifted by telekinesis and promptly got put down on her own bed.
"This is getting silly," Luna said. She looked exasperated.
"I'm so-" Twilight didn't even get that third word out before Luna held up a hoof.
"I am a guest here, and I am thankful for your considerations, but I will not chase you out of your own bedroom, Twilight." Noting she didn't use Twilight's full name, the unicorn pony blinked. "I am not my sister, and I am not here just on a whim or on impulse," Luna added.
Twilight had no idea what to make of those words. Obviously Luna wasn't Celestia. She of course knew that Luna was getting at something else, but she couldn't think very straight, locked in her own room with one of the royal sisters. Well, the door wasn't actually locked, but it might as well have been.
"What worries you?" Luna's voice was soft now, and for a moment, it was very easy to imagine that the alicorn who sat on the bed opposite wasn't the co-ruler of Equestria and the creator of the night sky, but merely a concerned friend. Tired and dejected, having no will to resist, Twilight Sparkle told Luna everything. That she'd yelled at Rainbow Dash. That she worried that she only went on the trip because Rainbow Dash was right and that she didn't know how to say no to Luna. She told her how she worried that her friends would argue with each other and stop being friends altogether because of this. It was all too easy to just talk, suddenly, and Luna made all the right noises at the right time, though never interrupting.
"And now," Twilight concluded soberly, "I've been whining to you like a foal for over an hour, and I'm sorry, princess. Please don't tell Princess Celestia about this." Glancing out the window, she saw that that it was deep night already, the moon hanging high in the sky. Luna followed her gaze and magically closed the curtains. Twilight thought she saw the princess frown from the corner of her eyes, but when she turned back to her, Luna was wearing that same calm smile she'd had since Twilight began pouring her heart out.
"I understand you worry about your friends, Twilight. If you did not, I would worry about you, instead. Trust me when I say I did not mean to cause strife amongst you, and I am quite sure it will be okay. You might be a very clever pony, but you need to realize that just because your friends do not necessarily appreciate a good book, they are not stupid."
Twilight blushed even though it didn't feel much like an admonishment. Luna smiled for as long as it took Twilight to realize she didn't mean to offend. "I cannot tell you what your motivations for joining me are, though. That is something you have to figure out for yourself. And besides, I am fairly sure everyone is going to come along, anyway."
Twilight scratched one hoof with the other, uncertain. "I don't know if Applejack can find time off, and even if Rainbow Dash and I do make up, I just don't know, she didn't sound like she liked the idea. And I don't know about Pinkie Pie. Nopony ever does."
Princess Luna chuckled a little, honest amusement that was as far from Nightmare Moon's mad cackle as anything could possibly be. It was a sound of contentment and mirth that made Twilight a little happier just for having heard it, though she couldn’t quite say why. Even so, she didn't know what was so funny, and she didn't like the idea that she was being made fun of, not even by a princess.
"Twilight Sparkle, what are my domains?" Luna asked. Twilight blinked and quickly started going through the library that was her head, the fruits of years of meticulous study.
"Domains, in the meaning of areas of influence and power?" she asked. Luna nodded, appearing very pleased. It was not unlike the private little smiles that Celestia graced Twilight with when she had performed above expectations, and it drove Twilight on.
"The Studies of Power, which claims to reference now-destroyed books over one and a half thousand years old, acknowledges that the banishment upset the balance between the royal pony sisters. It goes on to explain that beyond their association with celestial objects, sun, moon and stars, Celestia was specifically closely associated with daylight, creation, birth and various weather phenomena. Luna was associated with darkness, renewal, prophecy and dreams." Twilight snorted and shook her head. "Personally, I'm leery of a book that claims to cite other material that mysteriously doesn't exist anymore. Princess Celestia recommended it, though."
Princess Luna was grinning. "I have read it. It references Sources of the Divine, Demystifying the Goddesses, yes?"
Twilight nodded, fully in scholar mode by now. "That would be one of the books it claimed to reference, I think, yes. You've read it? Really?"
"That volume was written by a scholar named Sand Burst after a good amount of lengthy discussions with a certain princess over the course of many years."
Twilight gaped. "With you?"
"Indeed. It was a very good book, but ponies are not generally very interested in the collection and archiving of knowledge, as you no doubt can attest, Twilight." Luna smiled wryly, and Twilight had to give a grumpy frown and a nod at that.
"No books have been written on the subject for hundreds of years," Twilight said, awestruck. The few books on the Elements of Harmony were old and rare enough in and by themselves, but everything written in recent times on the subject of the princess – princesses, now – was of the sort that made its way into the newspapers and trashy magazines.
"To repeat myself, I am not my sister," Luna said patiently. "But that is not very important right now. My point is that while I have not had any prophetic vision of tomorrow specifically, nor have I peeked into any of your dreams recently, I can still tell that it will all work out. So please do not fret."
Twilight nodded, trying to make herself trust Luna, though it was a little hard without any scientific explanation. It was like Pinkie Pie's twitches all over again. She smiled privately at the thought.
"Can you really do that? Look into anypony's dreams?" Twilight asked.
Luna nodded. "It used to be considered an honor, but these days, I feel most ponies would think it rude. On the subject of dreams, though, you should get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day, I suspect."
Twilight nodded, though she wished she could ask Luna about the second issue – she had alluded to there being a second reason for seeking out Twilight and her friends. She thought she'd try to find a careful way to broach the subject before sleep claimed, but she was gone the second her head touched her pillow.
And awake again after what felt like no time at all. She doubted Celestia would raise her bothersome ball of sleep-deprivation earlier than usual just to spite her, so it had to be morning. She slowly got out of bed noting that the other bed was empty and neatly made. The curtains were pulled aside, and the sun was higher in the air than it usually was when Twilight got up. Well, higher than it was when she woke, but she didn't allow herself the extra happy snoozing hour today.
Rubbing her eyes with a hoof as she worked her mane into shape, Twilight wondered what today would bring. She always wondered what the day would bring when she did her short morning routine, but today it was more an honest question and less idle curiosity. Making her way downstairs, she saw the library was far from empty. Around the table, presumably repaired by magic, sat Spike, Princess Luna, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.
"And there she is now," Luna said, gesturing to Twilight as she made her descent. Twilight tried to avoid Rainbow Dash's eyes, and instead found herself looking at at Pinkie Pie, who was suddenly so sternly neutral and unreadable that Twilight would've preferred a second round of her staring contest with the cockatrice. Pinkie Pie was supposed to smile.
"Morning," Spike said.
"Hey," Dash said, quickly followed by a yelp. "Whoa-hey, Pinkie!" Pinkie Pie was shoving the pegasus towards Twilight with all her might until the unicorn had to back up a little lest they collide. Ponyville's primary party pony stared at them each in turn.
Twilight sighed. It wasn't the ideal way to start the day, but it would be nice to get it over with.
"I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash. I didn't mean anything with what I said, I was just stressed out, and it was unfair of me to take it out on you," Twilight said and smiled hopefully at her friend, sincerely apologetic.
The pegasus whooped and did a hoofpump. "Ha! See? She was wrong, and I was right! I don't have to apologize! I win!" Rainbow Dash cheered, but she shrank back as Pinkie Pie leaned over her, pushing her down to the ground with only her nose and her glare. Dash shrank and eeped as she became a multi-hued carpet. "I'msorrytooTwilight."
Twilight took a deep breath and chanced a laugh. "That's okay. Water under the bridge."
Rainbow Dash nodded and got back up as Pinkie Pie pulled back, but Pinkie was not satisfied. Her voice was frosty. "Hug," she commanded. Twilight was getting a little scared now, but it was Rainbow Dash who took the initiative, snaring Twilight in a crushing hug with speed born of fear.
"We cool?" Rainbow Dash asked desperately, though Twilight wasn't quite sure whether she was addressing her or Pinkie.
"We're, um, cool, Rainbow Dash. I really am sorry," Twilight agreed. Pinkie Pie's smile returned as if it'd never been gone in the first place, and she grabbed both of them in a group hug.
"Makeup mini-party-hug!" Pinkie yelled happily as she did her best to suffocate the other ponies. Twilight and Rainbow Dash shared a bewildered look and just went with it. It was probably the safest thing to do. Luna could barely contain her amusement over by the table, while Spike went into the kitchen with a little gesture that explained exactly what he felt about girly stuff such as hugs. It was not a particularly nice gesture.
"Come on in, Fluttershy!" Pinkie suddenly and cheerily chirped as she let Twilight and Rainbow Dash tumble to the ground, bouncing over to the new arrival.
"I'm not, um, interrupting anything?" Fluttershy asked. She wore the saddlebags that Rarity had made for her for an earlier trip, and they seemed packed to the brim.
"Don't be silly, Fluttershy. Come in!" Twilight said, waving her over, and the timid mare joined the other ponies with a bit less reluctance than yesterday. Privately, Twilight hoped that she warmed up to Luna quickly. If not, this could get very frustrating, very fast. Not that it was easy to be angry with, or even frustrated with Fluttershy for more than a second at a time.
"What're you bringing, huh, huh? Tell auntie Pinkie Pie, I just have to know!" Pinkie Pie giggled as nudged Fluttershy in the flank repeatedly and stared at the saddlebags. Fluttershy smiled back.
"Oh, just some, um, supplies," Fluttershy explained as Rainbow Dash flew over and opened one of the saddlebags and peeked inside, taking the more direct approach.
"Bandages? Salves? Oh come on! Booring!" Rainbow Dash declared. Pinkie had been distracted by Fluttershy’s tail, batting at it with her hooves.
"I think it shows foresight, but I can guarantee you will be safe with me," Princess Luna said, reminding everypony that she was still in the room. Fluttershy yelped and backed into Pinkie Pie, who blinked, fell back on her flank and stared at Fluttershy, muttering something about "One nil, Flutterbum. One nil."
"Um, I didn't mean any offense, Princess Luna. I- I can leave them here," Fluttershy stammered, but Luna shook her head.
"That is not what I meant. We cannot know for sure what we run across. I only mean to say that I am delighted, but not surprised, given what I have read about you. Ah, and unless we are in public, just 'Luna' will do, Fluttershy." The yellow mare nodded and stared at her own hooves, muttering.
"O-okay, thank you, Luna."
"Right!" Pinkie Pie said, bringing the noise level in the room back up. "What're you bringing, Twilight? Books about travelling? Books about books about travelling?" The bubbly earth pony was giggling, and Twilight huffed at the good-natured insult.
"I'll have you know there are many good volumes on travel and geography that might be useful," Twilight said, indignant. She glanced at Luna for support, but the night goddess wasn't sticking her snout anywhere near this debate, content to watch.
"Yeah, see, that's also totally boring," Rainbow Dash sighed, then grinned as she pointed to a pair of saddlebags parked by the door that were emblazoned with three balloons. "Pinkie Pie is bringing a party!"
"You're coming with us?" Twilight asked, delighted and incredulous, trying very hard not to ask how you pack a party in two small saddlebags. She would ask, she would get a silly answer or a random fact in return, and in the end she'd be none the wiser and possibly one headache richer.
"Of course!" Pinkie Pie beamed before dropping her voice to a nigh-inaudible whisper, intense. "It's dangerous to go alone." She grinned and put a hoof on Rainbow Dash's withers. "And Rainbow Dash asked very nicely. So there's that, too!" The pegasus groaned.
"Pinkie!" Dash said, looking a little hurt. Pinkie blinked.
"But, but, you didn't say it was a secret! And we're all friends, and, aw. Don't be sad Dashie. Wait! I know how to make it up to you! Muffins!" Rainbow Dash blinked and barely had time to start complaining before she was being carted off to the kitchen.
"Wait, I just ate, it's not-"
"Silly pony, there's always room for muffins. And besides, Luna hasn't tasted my double-blueberry triple-chocolate quadruple-pistachio muffins yet!" There was a loud clatter of pots and pans from in the kitchen seconds later.
"Wait!" Twilight yelled after them. "You're coming too, Rainbow Dash?"
"Yeah, that a problem?" The pegasus' head poked out from the kitchen. Her mane was already covered in flour.
"No, no, that's great!" Twilight said with an earnest smile. "I just didn't expect..."
Rainbow Dash disappeared back into the kitchen soundlessly and Twilight looked over at Luna. She didn't know if she expected her to smile innocently and whistle or something, but the alicorn just gave a very unprincesslike shrug.
"Well, I guess that means we're all going, if everything works out for Applejack," Twilight said to nopony in particular as she started roaming around the room gathering all the books she thought she'd need.
"Oh, she's coming," Fluttershy said. "I talked to her, she said Big Mac didn't at all mind the idea of hiring on Caramel while she was gone, and they found the bits for it."
"I am glad to hear that," Twilight admitted.
"Yes. I have made arrangements on that front," Princess Luna said, frowning. "I really do not like the idea of using my status so directly as it is not quite in the spirit of this journey, but I provided a sum."
"If Applejack was forced to stay here while we travelled, she'd go mad with worry," Twilight said, thinking about it. Applejack was protective and dependable, and forcing her to split her loyalties would drive her crazy, even though she'd never admit it.
"Poor Applejack couldn't be the only one staying!" Fluttershy agreed, aghast, apparently having come to the same conclusion.
"She can of course stay if she wishes to, but I agree that it would be sad if bits were what made the decision for her. That is why I offered to cover the inconvenience out of my own pocket. Whether she thinks of it as payment for her services or a gift is up to her." Luna nodded.
"Hey, uh- whew, er, Luna, does that mean we get a reward too?" Rainbow Dash asked, sticking her head out of the kitchen again. She looked worn out and even more of a mess, now. Her snout was covered in melted chocolate, and from what they could see, one of her wings were splotched with blueberry jam. If Rarity had seen what had happened to her mane, she might've fainted.
"I'll tell you what, Rainbow Dash," Luna said, smirking ever so faintly. "If you feel you want a reward when we get back to Ponyville, ask me for it, and I will give you whatever you desire. Within reason, of course."
Rainbow Dash grinned widely. "Cool!"
Failing to see the pink hoof closing on her from behind, the pegasus was yanked back into the kitchen with a yelp. There was a moment of relative silence, Luna still staring towards the kitchen. Twilight and Fluttershy both looked at the princess.
Twilight was just about to apologize for Rainbow Dash being Rainbow Dash, when Fluttershy spoke up, wearing a nervous smile. "Um, is something wrong, Luna?"
"Hm? Not at all. I am just pleased that I really have not seen it all yet," Luna said with a growing smile. "Are they always so, hm."
"Energetic? Um, yes," Fluttershy admitted.
"I would have gone with 'loud'," Twilight muttered.
When Applejack and Rarity arrived a little later, they found two very messy ponies and three less messy ponies in the middle of devouring a batch of very complicated muffins. In addition, there was also one very distraught baby dragon wailing over the state of the kitchen that he considered his territory. Pinkie Pie had tried distracting him with muffins to no avail.
"These are really very good," Princess Luna said enthusiastically as she took a good chunk out of one of the multi-colored treats. Rainbow Dash blushed a little, and Pinkie Pie beamed.
"Thank you Princess Not-At-All-Snooty! You're very good, too! I mean, at the stuff you do, you know, um." Pinkie Pie paused, scrunching up her face for a second in concentration. "I think the moon is very pretty," she finished.
Princess Luna lowered her eyes to the table at that and gave a weak chuckle. "Thank you."
"Princess Luna," Rarity said by way of announcing their arrival to the muffin-frenzied table, bowing. Forsaking form for functionality for once, the fashionista favored fewer fru-fru, frilly dress elements, instead simply adoring her head with a simple hat that matched her saddlebags very well.
"Naw, it's just Luna, now!" Rainbow Dash said, happily spraying crumbs all over the table. Rarity turned her eyes on the pegasus who, for all purposes and intents, was fifteen minutes in the oven short of being a muffin herself. The unicorn looked like she couldn't decide whether to cry "makeover!" or just plain old regular cry.
"S'that really alright?" Applejack asked with a cocked brow as she shed her own saddlebags on the floor and took both a seat and a muffin.
"As long as it is just us, I would rather we dispense with the title, if it is all the same to you," Luna said, giving Rarity a glance as she said so. "If it makes you uncomfortable, do as you please. I draw the line at 'Lulu', though." This drew assorted chuckles and giggles.
"Well then, Luna, um." Applejack swallowed the better part of the muffin she’d collected. "Ah'm to say thank you from me, Big Mac, Apple Bloom, Granny Smith and Caramel all. Ah don't reckon' Ah'd enjoy staying behind, though Ah might not care too much fer the goal of this here journey."
Twilight winced at Applejack's trademark candidness, and sighed inwardly at herself for doing so, considering Luna had yet to take offense to any of her friends' antics or remarks. Perhaps she gave the princess far too little credit.
"I am glad to be of help, though I hope you might come to change your mind. We are shaped by all our experiences," Luna replied. Applejack nodded and then shrugged as if the words meant little to her.
"Ah wouldn't hold my breath, but Ah'm still plum grateful," Applejack said with a tip of her hat. “A while ago Ah might not’ve let anypony help, even, but if this is what it takes for me to come with, then that’s how it has to be. Which reminds me...” Applejack said, getting up and trotting over to where she'd put her saddlebags, rummaging around in them.
"Princess Luna, you mentioned earlier something about Prince Blueblood?" Rarity asked while Applejack was busy.
"I did," the princess said, focusing on her muffin. She offered Rarity no further reply, something Twilight found quite odd.
Rarity tried to cover up her frustration with relative success, but the silence stretched on until Applejack came back to the table, tossing a large and tightly closed pouch onto the table in front of Rainbow Dash. There was a clatter as it hit, and the farmpony walked up to the pegasus. Rainbow Dash said nothing as Applejack nosed her withers. "You're solid stuff, sugarcube, but Luna had it covered," Applejack said before taking her seat again.
The clattering noise had unmistakably been that of bits. Twilight blinked. “Um, what’s going on?”
Applejack frowned and looked over at Rainbow Dash. “Ah ain’t gonna lie, so you’re gonna have to answer that for me.”
Rainbow Dash stuttered and fumbled for words. “Oh, yes, that’s, uh, my huge bag of bits. Which I dropped as I flew by your farm, and, um, thank you for returning it to me! You’re the best, AJ!”
All eyes turned to Rainbow Dash, and Twilight could swear the pegasus’ ears were so red they could be used as very creepy reading lights. There was an awkward silence in the wake of Rainbow’s refuse to elaborate further during which Twilight joined the club of those who were trying to find answers deep inside their muffins, instead.
"Well then, Princess Luna, you spoke of an early departure?" Rarity finally asked, clearly trying to distract herself from Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash who sat nearby. She was constantly twitching and jerking away whenever one of the two offending messy ponies moved.
Twilight elected not to mention to the white unicorn that she had already gotten some blueberry jam in her mane.
"Indeed, Rarity,” Luna confirmed. “In fact, I was thinking of leaving once we have finished eating, but my plans were made fairly arbitrarily. If you need more time, I am sure we can arrange for something." She glanced around the table, having spoken not a single word on the topic of her ignoring Rarity earlier.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cake were very glad to have me out of their manes!" Pinkie Pie chirped as she licked her hooves clean. Twilight blanched. She was eating plain flour as she was talking. "And they'll take care of Gummy, no problem-o, though he'll miss mommy."
"Eh, I'm always ready to flAUGH, Pinkie!" Rainbow Dash yelled and fell over as Pinkie Pie shifted her licking efforts over to her. Rarity nearly fell over on Twilight trying to get away, and Twilight stood up, stopping the domino effect before it reached Luna.
"You had chocolate on your muzzle. And I like chocolate!" Pinkie Pie pouted. The pegasus was just staring at her incredulously.
"Anyway!" Rarity huffed before sitting down again. "Carousel Boutique will be closed for the season, and Sweetie Belle is with our parents. I'm scheduling it as a research trip, gathering inspiration in royal company!" Rarity's eyes actually threatened to sparkle.
"Ah don't have that sort of wiggle room, but with the bits to hire on some extra help for the chores, Sweet Apple Acres won't mind me being gone," Applejack said by way of a summary.
"I asked Lyra and Bon-Bon to check the cottage once a day. They were very nice, and Angel knows what needs to be done," Fluttershy said with a smile and a nod.
All eyes turned to Twilight Sparkle, and she herself looked over to the kitchen entrance just as Spike exited. He hummed happily to himself, evidently content with having restored order to the kitchen.
"Spike?" Twilight called, making the dragon stop in his tracks.
"Uh. It was like that when I got here?" Spike said as he slowly turned to suddenly face over a half-dozen pairs of pony eyes. Pinkie Pie took a sudden step towards him.
"We know what you did last summer..." the pink pony said darkly, making the dragon back up against the wall.
"Actually, I was just checking that you are okay with minding the library while we're gone. I checked with Cheerilee yesterday, and she agreed to pop by to see if you needed help," Twilight said, making Pinkie Pie stare at her and pout as her fun was ruined. Spike, however, breathed a sigh of relief.
"Oh, that. Yeah, no sweat! Just, uh, come back safe and all?" Twilight felt a little touched at Spike's concern, especially consdering he usually wouldn't be caught dead saying anything bordering on mushy near anypony.
"I'd Pinkie Pie Swear properly if we had cupcakes, but you can count on it," she assured him. "I'll see if I can find you something nice out there."
"Like a big ruby?" The dragons' mouth dripped a little and his eyes glittered. Twilight sighed in exasperation.
"We're gonna travel the countryside and you want food?" Twilight asked. She shook her head before he had time to answer, chuckling. "I'll see what we can do."