Chapter One: Welcome Back, Alice
Twilight Sparkle walked slowly down the corridor, the lavender-colored unicorn shaking her head briskly as if to try and clear it, making her dark mane sway. Both it and her tail were run through with a line of bright pink and warm mauve; colors that seemed almost obscene in this humorless and sterile building.
Her worried violet eyes glanced to the side, at the much-taller winged unicorn beside her: with her ivory coat, cutie mark of a brilliant sun, and the ever-flowing, almost-ethereal rainbow locks and tail that swayed through the air of their own accord, she was a regal and majestic figure even without the diadem and peytral plate she wore. Her amethyst eyes looked reassuringly down at Twilight, but the purple mare could only give the weakest of smiles up to her mentor, her teacher, her idol, Princess Celestia. The Princess of the Sun, who brought the day, who ruled all of Equestria... alone.
They passed a group of lingering ponies in blue and white hospital gowns, one who was only staring vacantly at the ground, two who looked at them with hollow eyes. Twilight shuddered despite herself as she turned her head quickly away, then she grimaced as another pony shoved past them with a clipboard, half-muttering an apology and clad in a lab coat.
“Are you alright, Twilight Sparkle?” Celestia asked quietly, and when Twilight managed the faintest of smiles as they continued down the corridor, the Princess of the Sun visibly softened. “I'm sorry. But there simply isn't anyone else, and... you were always close to...”
Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, even as they continued down this seemingly-endless corridor, and Twilight shivered. She didn't know how to respond as she looked ahead, a tremble running through her body before Celestia forced her eyes open and gave a small smile, forcing some warmth back in her voice as she murmured: “Besides. You may be gifted in the realm of magic, Twilight...” A glance back at at the violet mare's cutie mark, of a six-pointed, reddish-pink star surrounded by white sparkles. “But you have a true gift for making and taking care of friends, too.”
“It's... it's okay, Princess Celestia, I'm just...” But before Twilight could finish, a graying unicorn emerged from a door ahead, irritably motioning away several other ponies in gowns with a clipboard held aloft by telekinesis before he glanced towards them and gestured almost curtly.
The two fell quiet as they approached, and the unicorn studied them almost distastefully from behind his clip-on glasses as he tilted his head to the side, closing the door marked 'Window Room A1' almost completely with telekinesis. Then he sighed before gazing back and forth between the two as Twilight looked almost desperate and Celestia smiled weakly, the Princess of the Sun herself seeming humble and withdrawn as the doctor looked down at his clipboard before saying finally: “Well, we have some paperwork to sign, and I'd like to go over a few things with you, and then you can leave with him, I suppose.”
Twilight hesitated, and then, before she could stop herself, she said apprehensively: “You don't sound very... confident. Is... is he okay?”
The doctor snorted at this, looking up almost irritably before he replied brusquely: “The patient has been in treatment for two years now with no significant signs of improvement. He's delusional, combative, suffers from bouts of depression and paranoia, and he has on several occasions gone into a psychotic delirium. But again, we've treated him for two years, he refuses to take his medications and lies about his health constantly, and now I have the Princess herself leaning on me to have him released from our care. No, I do not think he should be released, any more than I think he should be here. He should be locked up in Ward D, where he can talk to himself all he wants in a padded cell.”
“He's schizophrenic?” asked Twilight incredulously, leaning back and looking shocked: both by what she assumed the diagnosis was and the doctor's cold behavior.
“Schizophrenic? Please. Not every mental patient suffers from schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder or other popular catchwords.” The doctor retorted, looking irritated as he shook his head before glancing towards the door. “His condition stems from chronic anxiety, severe depression, and nightmares. The trauma of losing his fiancee simply pushed him over the edge, and he crafted these delusions and fantasies to try and desperately deny what happened.”
Celestia closed her eyes and lowered her head, and Twilight trembled a bit... and finally, the doctor relented a little, sighing softly as he lowered his clipboard and looked across at them quietly. “I'll be honest. He protects and clings to his psychological condition, and I don't... entirely hold it against him. It's a harsh world out there, and even though I strongly dislike him I sympathize. The only reason I'm willing to go ahead with this is because I hope that being in the real world helps cut through this shell he's formed, and helping him understand he's clinging to delusions, not reality, is the first step towards fixing what's wrong with him.”
“But... he does display schizotypal tendencies? Is that what the medication is for?” Twilight asked after a moment, even as she was trying to process things, and the doctor looked at her meditatively.
“Fine. A little bit of my contempt is revoked.” he said after a moment, and then he sighed and shook his head slowly. “No, the most important thing is to keep his anxiety levels low. And keep an eye on him... we've only had to stop him from hurting himself once or twice in the past, but the level of self-mutilation he came in with... it was severe enough to leave me extremely concerned about what he's capable of doing to himself.”
Twilight swallowed thickly, looking down as Celestia nodded slowly and murmured quietly: “It's why Twilight Sparkle has volunteered to keep an eye on him and help him adjust. He's going to stay with her in Ponyville... it's a quiet, small village, and I think it will be good for him to get out of Canterlot. He always liked Ponyville, just like... just like Luna did...”
Twilight and Celestia both traded silent looks, thinking of that night, long ago, when the worst had come to pass. When Celestia's little sister and the Princess of the Night had gotten on the Friendship Express with a bright, happy smile to go to Ponyville... and in the morning, the wreckage of the train had been found at the bottom of a mountain gorge, with few survivors... and Luna dead.
Her then-fiance had gone insane with grief over losing her, refused to believe it even now... but Luna had likely been napping, and there would have been no time to react anyway. The moment the tracks had given out, it had spelled the death of every pony except for a few who had survived by sheer stupid luck. And as Celestia and Twilight traded silent gazes, the doctor hesitated before he sighed and pulled a few sheets free of his clipboard, passing this to Twilight with telekinesis. “These are his medications, names of his doctors, and a schedule of appointments. He's all packed up and ready to go. Please make sure that he takes his medication... or at least the anti-anxiety meds. The only time we've ever made headway with his condition is through treating the anxiety, it's very important we keep that to a minimum.”
Twilight nodded slowly, taking the sheets in her own telekinetic grip as Celestia looked hesitantly towards the door, and then she said quietly: “Go ahead, Twilight Sparkle. I have a few more questions for the doctor.”
The violet mare smiled nervously, then she sighed after a moment and nodded, carefully turning to push through the door as the doctor and Celestia both watched her enter the room beyond. It was large and empty and somehow ghostly despite the light shining in through the massive picture window... a window made of reinforced, heavy-duty glass and crossed by heavy bars that looked ornamental, but clearly were there for more than decorative purposes.
Only a single figure sat in the room, staring out the window: a large earth pony, with a charcoal, dirty coat and a ragged white mane and tail. She could see his cutie mark on his haunch, and she smiled faintly as she slowly, nervously strode towards him, looking down and studying this: a black rose blossom, with a black raven feather quill overtop. His talent was for writing... his dark but romantic poetry had been much of what had won Luna's heart.
As she approached, he looked up a bit, but didn't turn, and Twilight swallowed a little as she drew up beside him and carefully put the sheets aside for a moment, simply sitting beside the earth pony. She looked at him slowly, shivering a little as she always did: scars covered his body, from the hoof-shaped marring on one side of his face to slashes and lines across his strong frame. He wasn't handsome... but she didn't find him ugly, either. He was hard for her to look at, not because of the pity and sadness and pain she felt for him, or because of the unattractive scarring that distorted his strong frame... but because once she started looking at him, she found it hard to look away.
Slowly, his chestnut eyes turned towards her, meeting hers for a few moments: they studied each other, and then Twilight trembled before she slipped over beside him and hugged him fiercely around the neck, closing her eyes and burying her face against him as she whispered: “We're gonna leave, okay, Scrivener Blooms? We're gonna go back to Ponyville, and we're going to work through this together. I have a room in the library set up for you, and... we're going to work through this.”
Scrivener only lowered his head silently, not speaking, and then he finally sighed and reached a hoof up, halfheartedly returning the embrace as he whispered: “I'm not crazy, Twilight. This... this is all wrong, that's all.”
“It's okay. We can talk about it after we get out of here, okay? You can talk as long as you want with me, and I'll listen to every word and try to understand...” Twilight hesitated, then she slowly pulled back, looking up at him almost pleadingly. “But... Scrivy. Can't... can't you at least try and see that... these fantasies, they're not real. I know I can't imagine what you're going through, but-”
Scrivener only grunted and half-turned away, and Twilight quieted before the earth pony stood and stepped back from her, the violet mare dropping her head forwards as the stallion picked up a small cloth satchel and quickly slipped it onto himself, muttering: “It's real, Twilight, and it's the only thing I'm sure of these days. Look, let's... let's just get out of here, okay?”
Twilight hesitated, and then she looked silently over Scrivener before nodding slowly to him, picking up the sheets of paper. She smiled a little as she tucked these into the satchel hanging at his side, and the earth pony looked over at her for a few moments before he closed his eyes and bowed his head, mumbling: “Thank you, though.”
“It's... it's really Princess Celestia, not me, who got you out of here, Scrivener.” Twilight said finally, smiling faintly before she looked ahead towards the door, hearing the doctor and Celestia talking, but not paying any attention to their words as she murmured: “You and Luna were such good friends to me. Besides, it'll be... I'm glad to help.”
Scrivener nodded and lowered his gaze, then he sighed softly as he strode behind Twilight Sparkle, following her to the door as the voices outside quieted a little. The two stepped out into the long hallway, and Scrivener and the doctor glared at each other for a moment before the charcoal stallion's attention was drawn by Celestia, as she bowed her head towards him and said quietly: “It's good to see you, Scrivener Blooms.”
“You too, Celestia.” Scrivener said after a moment, studying her before he sighed a little and bowed his head quietly, closing his eyes. “Let's please get out of here. I'm... anxious to get out of here.”
“Wait. Scrivener.” the doctor said clearly, and Scrivener sighed even as he looked up and across at the psychiatrist. “Please remember to take your medication... and even as an outpatient, you still need to come in for counseling and regular interviews. I'll be requesting blood work to be done, too, to make sure you're taking your medication... and keep in mind that if you act out outside of this facility, you could end up in jail, not back here at CIMH. You don't want that, do you?”
“I don't want a lot of things.” Scrivener muttered, looking irritably across at the doctor before he nodded slowly, dropping his gaze. “Right. I already promised to behave, didn't I?”
“You did, but I wanted to make sure anyway.” For a moment, the doctor paused... and then he sighed and reached a hoof up, touching Scrivener's shoulder gently and looking across into his eyes when the charcoal stallion looked silently up. “Take care of yourself.”
Scrivener only closed his eyes in return, and then he shook his head slowly before turning to leave. Twilight hurried after him, and Princess Celestia gave a faint smile and nod to the doctor before she turned to follow the two out of the endless hall.
The travel was a blur for Scrivener Blooms: all he knew was that on the way through Canterlot, Celestia had kept a sharp eye on him and Twilight had talked and rambled and questioned him, but he'd barely responded. Barely been aware, as he looked around at the dusky sky overhead and the world that seemed so big, buildings tall and looming and ponies chattering, all of them seeming to stare as if they knew he was different, he wasn't like them.
Celestia parted ways with them at Canterlot Castle, and sent them to Ponyville by sky chariot: Twilight had smiled, and Scrivener had simply continued to stare around, still lost in his own thoughts. He was out of the mental institution, but what did it matter? Everyone still thought he was insane. And this wasn't home... this wasn't his world, these weren't the ponies he knew, had been friends with. Everything was different.
Scrivener Blooms was quiet, mind racing and rampaging, eyes betraying his inner turmoil. Twilight tried to distract him, keep him entertained, but it was all useless, and she eventually fell quiet until they touched down in Ponyville, in front of the enormous tree that housed the library. Scrivener looked at it silently, studying it, thinking of how similar this was to what he remembered... but in his world, everything was different, too. And most important of all, in his world... Luna wasn't dead.
He stepped out of the chariot, shaking his head and looking up, and Twilight Sparkle smiled faintly at him, saying quietly: “I asked Spike to stay over at a friend's tonight, so... so we can talk about things, and you can settle in. It's been a few weeks since I last saw you and... well... visiting you at the Canterlot Institute for Mental Health never exactly made conversation easy. But... I want you to know this is a safe place here, and you can say anything you want and I'm not going to judge you or hold it against you or call you crazy, Scrivener, no matter-”
Twilight was cut off by a blare of trumpets and a burst of confetti as she opened the door, stuttering to a halt before a bright pink earth pony with a mane and tail like tumbled cotton candy leapt out, declaring happily: “You guys are right on time!”
Scrivener only had a moment to stare before the pink mare hurried behind him, shoving him quickly forwards into the room... and immediately, he ground his teeth together, eyes going wide as he stared around like a hunted animal as cheerful yells filled the air and confetti flew in all directions.
“Hey, welcome to Ponyville! You're Scrivener Blooms, right, and you're staying here with Twilight now, right? Well, everypony who comes to Ponyville gets a welcome party, and if you're friends with Twilight, then you're my friend too!” exclaimed the bright pink pony as she leapt in front of Scrivener, and now other ponies were clustering in, Scrivener all-but-hyperventilating as he looked back and forth through the wild throng of multicolored ponies, the music, the sounds, the bright colors after the dull and drab and calm grays and blues and greens of the mental health facility all assaulting his senses.
Paranoia ripped through his mind as Twilight shouted angrily, desperately, but it was swallowed up in the din of the crowd as another pony leapt forwards, seizing one of his front hooves and shaking it firmly: a goldenrod mare, with a well-worn cowboy hat over her head and her mane tied back in a ponytail, as she declared: “Well, I reckon you must be even bigger than Big Mac! My name's Applejack, and-”
“And is it true you were locked up with all the psychos and crazies and stuff?” interrupted a Pegasus pony that shot down from the air, powder blue and with a mane and tail both streaked with a rainbow of colors, grinning widely as her magenta eyes locked on him. “How'd you survive? What was it like? Dude your scars! You-”
Then Scrivener dropped forwards, yelling loudly and covering his head as Twilight rushed to his side with a curse, half-embracing him with one leg as she glared up at the others and shouted: “Stop, stop! He can't handle this, everyone needs to get out, now!”
“Twilight, hey now, calm down...” Applejack's voice began hesitantly, sounding surprised... but in Scrivener's mind, the voices were melding into the cacophony of music, becoming a discordant chorus. Frustration and paranoia and anxiety bubbled upwards, making his mind boil as he breathed hard in and out, clutching tighter against his own skull as laughter began to rise through the sound, as he heard mockery, as he heard...
Then, slowly, Scrivener rose his head... and he realized that everyone was gone. He was sitting, alone, in the middle of an empty room, the decorations still floating around him and a table still covered in food, and the charcoal stallion looked nervously back and forth as shivers passed through his body before Twilight's voice asked worriedly: “Are you okay, Scrivener?”
Scrivener jumped, then he spun towards the archway leading into a long corridor, and Twilight winced before the stallion nodded hesitantly, reaching up to touch his own chest and try and calm his thudding heart. Twilight smiled at him encouragingly when she saw him settling, and she carefully stepped forwards, studying him as she said slowly: “You... you were mumbling to yourself and... I didn't know what to do. I was scared that...”
She quieted, and Scrivener looked down silently before Twilight shook her head quickly and said hurriedly: “Anyway, I'm really sorry. Pinkie Pie just got ahead of herself, even though I tried to ask her to wait to throw a quieter party... she... she really didn't know. About your condition, I mean... they know you were... in a safe place for a while... but they don't know about your...”
“My past.” Scrivener muttered, and he shook himself out briskly before sighing a little and nodding as Twilight looked over him apprehensively. “I... thanks.”
Twilight only nodded a little, and then she quietly strode towards him and sat down in front of him, and the two looked at each other for a few long moments before she asked quietly, even as a blush suffused her features: “Do... do you want to talk about... it?”
There was only one thing Twilight could be referring to... and Scrivener sighed softly as he lowered his head forwards, slowly shrugging off the satchel before he looked bitterly at the ground and murmured: “Why should I bother anymore, Twilight? No one believes me... and I can't even blame them. Even I have my own doubts sometime...”
He turned away, but only hesitated a moment before whispering: “Look. I'm really glad that whatever the truth is... we're friends. But you don't want to hear me tell this story for the thousandth time, do you?”
Twilight sighed softly, looking down for a moment before she glanced up with a faint smile, murmuring: “Scrivener, I'm here to help you. I can't imagine what it must have been like, losing your fiancee...”
“Wife. She was my wife. She was my... soulmate.” Scrivener murmured, closing his eyes tightly, and Twilight looked at him silently. “And Luna is dead in this world but... but my Luna isn't. She can't be. She has to be... somewhere, I don't know where, I don't know how, but sometimes I almost hear her in my mind, calling out to me through our link. I have no idea how we've survived being apart for so long but... I know she's got to be alive somewhere. All I remember is falling into that deep, dark abyss with her, holding her so tight... and next thing I know, I'm in a mental ward...”
Twilight looked at him quietly, and then she turned and headed towards a shelf, and Scrivener looked up to watch her before he frowned when she lifted several large manuscripts free with telekinesis. Then she turned and headed back towards him, quietly putting these down in front of him as she said quietly: “And this is what you believe happened... these are your stories from the world you believe you come from, right?”
Scrivener snorted in contempt, but it badly hid the surprise and what was almost gratitude in his eyes as he looked silently down at the manuscripts. They were copies of his own writing, the one thing he'd been allowed to do in the mental institution... and he sighed after a moment, looking away as he murmured: “Yeah.”
Twilight nodded slowly, smiling faintly as she reached forwards and touched one of the large manuscripts, blushing a bit as she lowered her head and said awkwardly: “I... you and Luna and... I mean...” She cleared her throat, then shook her head hurriedly before murmuring: “Scrivener, look around, though. You saw Rainbow Dash tonight... she's a mare, not a stallion. There was never any Ragnarok, Princess Celestia is... no tyrant, no Valkyrie... and you and I and... and Luna were... I mean... we never...”
She flushed and looked aside again, then finally smiled faintly before returning her gaze to him, gauging his reaction. The stallion was only silent, however, closing his eyes as he bowed his head forwards, shivering a little and thinking of her words. Thinking of the Luna he'd known, that he would swear up and down he'd known... a laughing, proud Valkyrie, not a Princess of the Night. A warrior, who had taught him everything he knew, who had made him strong, who he had loved, stood beside, raised children with as husband and wife...
He shook his head out quickly, then finally looked up, seeing that Twilight was still studying him, still measuring him with her eyes before he sighed a little and said quietly: “I don't know what happened or how it happened, Twilight... I'm not saying it makes sense, but... look at me. The doctors keep telling me I cut myself up like this but how could I plant a hoof mark into my own face? How do you explain the fact that even while seeing Luna, the Scrivener Blooms of this world was small and lanky and I'm big enough to pull a freight car behind me if I wanted to?”
He fell silent, and Twilight looked at him quietly, then she shook her head slowly and said gently: “I never saw a stallion more dedicated than you were to Luna, Scrivener. You were doing everything you could to try and be better for her... opening up to people, taking care of yourself, and... well, we both know you never did that before.” She laughed a little, and Scrivener smiled faintly, glancing down and earning a curious tilt of the head from Twilight. “What is it?”
“Just... the way I remember it... we always butted heads. We were never very good friends until...” Scrivener looked at the manuscripts, and there was quiet for a moment before Twilight Sparkle smiled faintly, drawing her eyes down to the stories.
“Scrivy... I...” She stopped, then looked up at him and studied him quietly for a few moments before she said gently: “You and I met after I visited Canterlot to see my big brother, Shining Armor.”
Scrivener grimaced and began to turn away, but Twilight stepped quickly forwards, past the manuscripts, urging quietly: “No, just listen. I'm not trying to convince you of anything, I'm not... saying that I believe in or doubt your own memories or... stories or... anything. But listen to me for a minute, okay? Because this is what I remember...”
For a few moments, they were both quiet, and then Twilight smiled a little, bowing her head towards him as she said softly: “I remember I was heading up into the Castle to try and find my brother. I figured that I might try and see Celestia, too, and make my latest report on the magic of friendship to her in person... which was really always just an excuse to visit her for the sake of visiting her.”
She laughed a bit, then shook her head slowly before continuing: “And then, as I was cutting through the gardens, I heard voices. I was... drawn to them, curious, and I saw Princess Luna and you. You were both talking so fast, like you two had your own language, going over old myths and legends...”
“She always loved them... all the old stories, from the ballads about Melinda the Sky Witch to any pre-Equestrian lore I could think of... even the silly stories we both knew were all lies about her own heritage. She loved stories... maybe even more than I did...” Scrivener murmured, and Twilight smiled a little across at him, giving him a quiet, encouraging look.
“Yeah. She did. And you two were so good together... I came over to see what was going on and... you two were such good friends. I was so glad to see it, and... the three of us, we all quickly became close friends. You...” Twilight smiled faintly. “You had a weird sense of humor, you were quirky, and you could be so... eccentric and kind of dirty... but somehow they were all good qualities in you. We argued but... we never fought, and I liked that.”
Scrivener looked down and nodded slowly, murmuring softly as he stepped slowly towards her, studying her quietly. “When I... first met you, Twilight Sparkle... we didn't like each other very much. We'd argue and get kicked out of the library for it, we'd mock each other and bicker with each other, but... we became friends after Luna... took a quick and nasty revenge on some guards who tried to get between you two, and Celestia caught her. And we still argued a lot... but like you said... we argued, but we never fought.”
Twilight nodded encouragingly again, and Scrivener grimaced a little as he lowered his head and the violet mare stepped forwards, smiling faintly at him. “See? There are lots of similarities, Scrivy, between... between what we both... remember. I'm not going to say I understand what it's like for you, Scrivy, but... keep that in mind while you walk around and see the real world, instead of the... the world you've been stuck in inside your head for the last two years. Maybe the memories will merge together, and you'll start to see... and accept... everything that's happened.”
Scrivener sighed quietly, and then he looked moodily back and forth before Twilight lowered her head and asked impulsively: “Did you write anything new in the last while? I... I only have up to chapter sixty of your last story.”
The stallion cocked his head curiously, glancing over at her and hesitating before he sighed a little and nodded, gesturing at his satchel. “Most of my notes are sent to storage after one of the attendants copy-edits them for you and Celestia...” He stopped, then laughed a little. “It's funny. That always made me feel both honored and a little pissed off. That I was allowed to write as much as I pleased... so long as everything was copied and collated for you and Celestia, and the team of shrinks you all hired to fix me.”
Twilight smiled faintly at this, glancing down almost embarrassedly before she swept up the manuscripts and carried them over to a table, gently putting them down as she murmured: “Well, it lets us know more about you, Scrivener, and... about... what you think your past is.”
She looked over at him hesitantly, but Scrivener only shook his head, replying softly: “Go ahead and say it, Twilight. You don't have to try and spare my feelings... my delusion, my fantasy world. My psychosis, since I choose to live in the sky house instead of just seeing it like neurotics do.”
Twilight sighed softly, but she was smiling still all the same as she walked towards him, reaching up a hoof to gently rest on his shoulder as she looked into his eyes quietly. “Scrivener... I'm going to help you. Whatever it takes, I promise that I'm going to help you.”
“It's a nice thought, Twilight, but... I don't think anyone can help me.” Scrivener said quietly, glancing away with a faint laugh, and the violet mare studied him before he hesitated, then looked up and asked finally: “But why... do you want to? You have all your friends, after all, you have Celestia, and... you're very well-liked. Why would you go through this trouble for me?”
“Because we were good friends, and friends help each other out... because... I cared about you and Luna, and seeing you together. Because...” Twilight hesitated, then she shook her head and studied him quietly, murmuring softly: “Because Celestia asked me to keep an eye on you too, yeah. And I think you'd prefer to be here with me than in Canterlot under guard, wouldn't you?”
Scrivener grunted after a moment, looking down before he added finally: “But don't flatter yourself. Being the lesser evil isn't all that much to be proud of, Sparkles.”
But Twilight only smiled, studying him before she said quietly: “It's funny. I never thought I'd be glad to see you being a jerk, but... here we are. Anyway, come on. You need to take your medication, and I'll make you something to eat.”
“No, no. Let me make something, it'd be nice to make my own meal.” Scrivener started towards the corridor, and Twilight sighed as she looked nervously at his back and followed, the stallion looking moodily over his shoulder at her as they headed towards the kitchen. “Look, I'm not going to try and kill myself. I didn't... I didn't give myself all these scars.”
“Scrivener... even you have to remember...” Twilight began, and then she stuttered out when Scrivener frowned and looked over his shoulder at her. She quickly averted her eyes, but the stallion turned sharply around, frowning deeper now as he leaned towards her as she looked down and blushed deeply, then said quietly: “I don't want to upset you. Especially right now, while you're still adjusting...”
“Twilight... just... just tell me.” Scrivy said finally, leaning forwards and looking at her apprehensively, and Twilight sighed quietly before she looked up and met his eyes.
“You did give yourself most of those scars.” Twilight said finally, and when Scrivener frowned, Twilight shook her head and continued hesitantly: “It was when you found out what had happened... don't you remember? First you took off like a shot out of Canterlot, and the Royal Guards had to drag you away from the... where the train had crashed. And then a patrol found you on the road leading back to Canterlot, covered in blood. You... you had a knife, and you were screaming and raving and threatening everything that came close... it took four Guards to subdue you. That's why... why you were committed in the first place, don't you remember?”
Scrivener shivered a bit, but then he shook his head slowly, looking down and reaching up to touch his forehead. “But... but these scars are clearly... different from knife wounds. T-They can't be... and... no, no. It doesn't matter. I know what's true. I'm not insane.” Scrivener looked up, breathing a little harder but quickly trying to reel himself back in, looking across at Twilight firmly. “I'm not insane.”
“I never said you were.” Twilight said gently, even as she hesitated for a moment... then she stepped forwards, asking quietly: “Let's try and put things out of mind, and just... have a nice meal together, okay?”
“Real food instead of mush.” Scrivener muttered, and he nodded a few times as he sighed a little, bowing his head forwards. “Most days I just... didn't eat.”
“I know.” Twilight said softly, and Scrivener looked at her curiously as she took the lead to the kitchen.
They were quiet for a little while as they worked around Twilight's small kitchenette... and the violet mare found it unsettling how easily Scrivener found his way around, even though she couldn't remember if he'd ever actually been here. They worked side-by-side, occasionally bumping into each other... but Twilight felt like sometimes it was on purpose, and it made her smile a little despite herself. He clearly craved contact, touch... but just didn't want to admit it. He kept sneaking little looks at her, giving her little smiles, and it made her feel good inside... even if at the same time, she was a little scared of him, too.
He believed so fervently in these stories he had written... stories that could get so dire and dark and twisted, stories that included so many of her friends but all of them had ended up... twisted and dark. Stories about gods she had never heard of before, filled with complications and an undertone of... something she couldn't quite put a hoof on. And stories in which she had been written as being the adored third member of Scrivener and Luna's strange relationship, making her smile a little and shake her head slowly. It was such a strange idea... but she wasn't offended and didn't take issue with it, even though it made her feel little awkward, a little afraid, with the way Scrivener had written her, and him, and them...
She realized she was staring at him, and he was staring back, before they both quickly turned their gazes back to the counter as Scrivener went quietly back to putting together the salad. Then Twilight cleared her throat a little before asking finally: “Are you going to be okay sleeping in the back room? I'm... well, the doctor didn't want you left alone at all, but... I'm going to trust you. I... even if you're a little... you know, I know you wouldn't...”
“Yeah.” Scrivener said finally, and then he shook his head and murmured: “I'll be fine, Twilight. I don't sleep much anyway. I may just stay up most of the night reading in the main room... if that's alright with you. I...” He stopped and looked over at her, smiling a bit. “I want to thank you a little more honestly this time. Being out of that place... it feels like being out of prison. Out of a bad prison, at that.”
“What was it like?” Twilight asked quietly... and when Scrivener realized she was asking just about the mental facility itself, not about his thoughts, his so-called delusions, his 'illness,' he smiled a little and half-turned towards her.
“It was... lonely.” he began slowly, and then he nodded to himself, dropping his head forwards as he murmured: “And it was cold. The ward I was in was... a secure ward, so the patients were all aggressive, all had... problematic tendencies that made the doctors and staff wary of us... they didn't like us, and they didn't care if we got better or worse, just that we stayed quiet. The nurses weren't pretty mares but large, burly earth ponies and ex-Royal Guard. They didn't have the time or patience to understand us... it was easier to wrap us in straightjackets and shove us around if we argued, easier to administer a dose of lorazepam than try to just calm down a patient having a nightmare or paranoid fit. But sedatives don't make the delusions and nightmares just magically go away. They just stop us from reacting to it for a little while... and while some ponies would calm down and that would be enough to stop the hallucinations... for others, it just made everything worse.
“You couldn't trust anypony. The pony beside you, talking coherently and quietly to you, might suddenly start throttling you because the voices in his head just told him you're the one who murdered his son. Another pony might be the nicest, sweetest mare you've ever laid your eyes on... but that's only because one of the guards is sneaking her the heroin she craves to stop the chills, the withdrawal symptoms, and worst of all, the never-ending guilt in her heart... but that same guard sometimes dangles the drugs in front of her to make her spill all the patients' secrets and... do things for him.” Scrivener grimaced, looking moodily away as Twilight shivered a little. “And the doctors only care about fixing you. Not as if you're a pony or a person... like you're a broken part of the grand machine, like you're some test in school where you can try and try again, like you're nothing more than a logic puzzle. And if they start getting frustrated about how they can't fix you, how they can't solve this puzzle, they either throw a label on you they know and don't care is a lie, so they can then say it's completely your own damn fault you're not getting better even though they're prescribing you all the wrong treatments, or they pass you on to some other doctor, because misery loves company. The good doctors are few and far between... and usually end up locked up in the asylum with us.”
Twilight Sparkle looked at him quietly, and Scrivener smiled a little after a moment, glancing away and murmuring: “Sorry. But remember, I might be bias too... I was one of the locked-up crazies and all.”
“Yeah, but... I trust you.” Twilight said quietly, and Scrivener looked almost surprised as he glanced up at her, then he closed his eyes and bowed his head towards her, honestly touched. For a few moments, there was quiet... and then Twilight hesitated before she turned back to the counter, playing a little with some of the ingredients that were still sitting out before she asked softly: “Was it all bad?”
“Nothing is ever... all bad. Even North Neigh wasn't all bad.” Scrivener murmured softly, and Twilight looked at him curiously before the male smiled a little. “North Neigh is-”
“Where you grew up.” Twilight said quietly, and Scrivener looked almost surprised as he nodded slowly before saying hesitantly: “You... you had a rough childhood. You were treated horribly by your parents, because... you're an earth pony, and they were pureblood unicorns, right?”
Scrivener nodded slowly, tilting his head a bit towards her before she smiled faintly and glanced back to the counter. “So some things are the same... your memories and reality do match up a lot, Scrivy. But you know, you're not... forty, fifty years old. You and me may be getting older but we're still... well... young.”
“You don't say that with a lot of conviction.” Scrivener laughed a little despite himself, looking at her quietly, studying her features: maturing, beautiful... for some reason, the word ripe rose in Scrivener's mind, and he hurriedly glanced away from her even as Twilight cocked her head curiously despite the faint blush that spread over her face. “But you and your friends... you all act younger than... I remember.”
He quieted, looking down for a moment, and they finished preparing the food in silence: a rich salad, and muffins with jam. The two headed to the small table at the side of the kitchen in quiet to eat slowly, studying each other a little, both filled with thoughts and questions.
Finally, Twilight looked up as they neared the end of the meal, asking impulsively: “Are you attracted to me? Sexually, I mean.”
“Wow, Twilight Sparkle, I can't see at all how your tact and obvious knowledge of romantic relationships could leave you without a special somepony in your life.” Scrivener remarked dryly, and Twilight blushed deep red even as she glared at him... and perhaps the smallest bit of a smile twitched at the side of her mouth. “Why, because of my memories... or, as everyone thinks, the 'stories' that I wrote?”
“I just...” Twilight hesitated, then plunged onwards: “You write the romantic love between you and... and Luna... so well, you refer to her constantly as 'soulmate,' but you also include... me, a lot.” She hesitated again, glancing up at him and asking quietly: “How can she be your soulmate but... you both... clearly show an... interest... in...”
Scrivener only smiled a little, then he looked down at his mostly-empty plate before picking it up and heading towards the sink, saying quietly: “Because we cared about each other, and that was all that mattered. Because it wasn't about sex... it was about being together, and taking care of each other. And besides... I was the one who was the extra piece there, Twilight. The slipped-in cog between everything that was supposed to be.”
Twilight looked at him curiously for a few moments, and then she picked her own plate up to drop it in the sink as the stallion headed towards the corridor. But they were quiet, and it wasn't an entirely uncomfortable silence, even as they sat together in the main room and simply looked at each other, getting used to one-another and forming silent questions they both sought the answers to in the other's body language and gaze.
Eventually, Twilight smiled a little and glanced toward the window, looking out at the deepening darkness before she said softly: “I'm going to spend tomorrow with you, okay? We can get you a little more acquainted to things around here, and if you feel up to it... we'll go out into Ponyville, just a short trip to the bank, and maybe to the pharmacy to pick up your medication. You can get your financial situation in order and we'll... just talk, and get you settled in.”
Scrivener smiled a little at this, glancing down and saying quietly: “I appreciate it. But don't... don't worry about me. I don't want to be a burden... giving me free room and board and getting me out of the asylum, it's more than I ever expected anyone to do for me, Twilight.”
“Princess Celestia asked me to.” Twilight glanced away before she smiled a little, looking over at him softly. “And it's not entirely free, Scrivener. I mean, once you're settled in, I would like your help with things around here... Spike is a great assistant and all, but you know archiving and Equestrian literature up and down, and I was hoping that you could help me pay for some groceries and a few repairs around here.”
“Even in my own mind, I'm not rich, Twilight. Luna and I...” Scrivener started, then he cut himself off when Twilight looked at him softly, shaking his head and murmuring: “I mean, I don't have any money. As it is, I know that Celestia footed the bill for my stay in the asylum.”
“It wasn't an asylum, Scrivy.” Twilight smiled all the same, and then she said gently: “And Scrivener... Luna... Luna left everything to you in her will, including her personal treasury. You... you're not going to have to worry about money.”
Scrivener looked up dumbly at this, frowning in surprise before Twilight softened, half-tempted to probe him further, but instead forcing herself to say quietly: “I'm going to head up to bed now... I'm... I'm trusting you, Scrivener, not to do anything too stupid, okay? And do you mind if I take the rest of your manuscript?”
“I... no, go right ahead.” Scrivener said after a moment, gesturing quietly to his satchel. Twilight smiled after a moment and nodded, walking over to the bag, and Scrivener looked at her for a few moments before he bowed his head and said softly: “Thank you. I'm... Twilight, I'm not going to hurt you.”
“I know.” Twilight looked up with a bit of a smile at the charcoal stallion, as she lifted a thick sheaf of pages free from the satchel with telekinesis, and then she hesitated before walking over to him and hugging him tightly. He returned the embrace, squeezing her close, and she felt the smallest of trembles run through his frame as they rested together.
Twilight lingered, and then finally pulled carefully away, looking up at Scrivener. He looked back down, and she reached up to quietly brush his mane back, saying softly: “Maybe take a bath or a shower, Scrivy. It might help you relax a little, and you're kind of a mess.”
“Yeah. I know.” Scrivener replied softly, and they studied each other for a moment longer before Scrivener asked finally: “Why are you helping me?”
“Because you're my friend. Because Celestia asked me to... because Luna would want me to, and you're... you keep her... there.” Twilight said quietly, and Scrivener smiled faintly, bowing his head a bit before the violet unicorn finally turned, then she hesitated before looking over her shoulder and murmuring: “Goodnight, Scrivy. Remember to take your medication, okay? And try to get some sleep.”
Scrivener simply nodded a little in return, then he rose a hoof as Twilight headed to the stairs at the back of the main room and made her way up them, watching her leave before he sighed softly and lowered his head, a shiver going through him as he murmured: “Medicine... I'm... I'm not insane.”
All the same, Scrivener turned towards his satchel... then he sighed a little, walking over to pick up the bag and carrying it to a nearby table. He set it down and pulled out one bottle after another of pills... five in total. Two anti-anxiety medications, an antidepressant, an anti-psychotic, and an all-purpose sedative... the last, at least, was just in case he had a severe panic attack.
There were a few other bottles of pills in the bag, but Scrivener disregarded them as he opened the ones in front of him, mumbling under his breath. The anxiety medication he took first, chewing them up and grimacing at their bitter taste even as he used his tongue to paint his gums with the pills. Addictive behavior, sure... but it made the pills hit faster, among other things.
He dry-swallowed the antidepressant next, then looked moodily at the anti-psychotic: by now, Scrivener had learned that this kind of medication didn't actually prevent psychosis. All they really did, all they were really designed to do, was make someone feel either so horrible or so exhausted that they simply didn't have the energy to act out. That, or they simply didn't work at all... and Scrivener grumbled under his breath before he finally put the lids back on the medications, muttering: “I took most of them. Besides, I'm not crazy.”
He shook his head, then shivered a bit as voices of doubt whispered through his mind, as they did more and more often these days. He knew what it must seem like, after all... clinging to the idea that these stories he had written out were all reality.
The stallion breathed quietly as he sat back in the chair, looking silently down at the medications before he dragged his gaze back and forth. This library felt so familiar and so different all at once... just like it had in the other layers of reality he had visited. That he was so sure was the truth, no matter how everything else... gnawed at him. No matter how many questions and doubts rose in his mind...
And Luna. He couldn't live without her, he literally couldn't live without her after she had bound their souls together... but Scrivener trembled at this thought, leaning forwards and resting his elbows on his table as he dropped his face in his hooves as he felt one of the cracks in his self-assurance pulse and widen a little as he whispered: “But then how am I here and... where... where's Luna...”
He breathed slowly through his mouth, thinking back. He thought of all the battles he had fought beside her, of the things he had witnessed, of their son Antares and adopted daughter Scarlet Sage... and he thought of the Nibelung, and the Strange Ones, and Discombobulation... and the Tyrant Wyrms, Clockwork World, and worst of all, grinning and callous Valthrudnir. But none of them existed here... he was told again and again that magic like he described didn't exist, creatures like he described were tales of fantasy, that he had been lost in his own mind for a very long time, ranting and raving and only at peace when he'd been allowed to frantically write his stories after... after he'd lost Luna...
Slowly, Scrivener pushed himself back in his seat, looking silently up at the ceiling as he whispered: “But it can't all just be a dream, can it? It can't all just be a story... that's impossible. And Luna has to be alive somewhere... she has to be. I know that she has to be...”
Scrivener shivered and hugged himself, then he sighed a little as he lowered his head to look down at the tabletop, murmuring: “Well, I'm out of the asylum, at least, so I... I can start looking into things. I can start looking up the old stories, figuring this all out. I know I'm not insane. I know I'm not. I know... I can't be...”
All the same, he shivered a little even as he pushed himself away from the table to begin looking over the shelves, worms of doubt twisting and gnawing their way through his mind as he wondered what was real... and what had been nothing more than a wistful dream.
Chapter Two: Déjà Vu
In the morning, Twilight Sparkle found Scrivener reading quietly at a desk, a mug of coffee that had gone mostly untouched beside him. Several other books were piled over the surface, and Twilight smiled faintly as his eyes roved up to her. “Good morning, Scrivy. Did you sleep?”
“No.” Scrivener smiled a little in return, reaching up and rubbing slowly at one cheek. “But honestly, I'm not tired, either. I don't sleep much and... I prefer to nap a little during the day, if I sleep at all. It's... safer.”
Twilight studied him for a moment, then she nodded slowly before striding towards him, hesitating, and then smiling a little bit. “I read the story last night, Scrivener. I stayed up... a lot later than I usually do to get past those last fifteen chapters. Well... your writing didn't help much. I think chickens write neater than you do.”
“Thanks, Twilight, but we don't all have fancy unicorn powers, you know.” Scrivener said mildly, but Twilight only laughed and shook her head a bit before the earth pony asked awkwardly: “So... what... what did you think?”
“Dark. Strange.” Twilight hesitated, and then she stepped forwards and surveyed him quietly, studying him as Scrivener looked back at her. Her mouth opened... then it closed before she simply smiled, asking finally: “How would you like some pancakes for breakfast?”
“Sure.” Scrivener began to get up, and then he rolled his eyes when Twilight pushed him gently back into his seat. “Oh, as if you know how to actually make pancakes.”
“I know perfectly well. Besides, I have a recipe book that Pinkie Pie gave me.” Twilight replied with a shake of her head, giving him a soft look. “I'm supposed to be the one making sure you take care of yourself and getting you used to things again. Not the other way around.”
Scrivener only shrugged a bit, and then Twilight paused, bit her lip, and then she asked softly: “Scrivy... at the end of the story, you and Luna... fall together. End up in... darkness, together, it seems like... why... why that ending?”
“Because that's what I remember.” Scrivener said finally, and Twilight nodded slowly to him, studying him intently for a few moments before the stallion shook his head quickly and lowered his gaze. “I know you and... the rest of the world, pretty much... all think I'm crazy-”
“I don't think you're crazy, Scrivener...” Twilight interrupted, and then she sighed when Scrivener held up a hoof and gave her a half-imploring, half-frustrated look.
“You don't have to lie, Twilight. And it's okay. I understand why everypony thinks I'm more than a little off and it's not like I can blame them at all or anything. And I'd... I'd rather people be honest and say they think I'm crazy than be pitying and tell me it's okay and they believe that I believe it's real and all that nonsense.” Scrivener paused, and then he shook his head slowly, muttering: “Honestly. Better to have people telling me I'm a psycho than that 'it's okay if you believe in spooky demons and magical dwarves.'”
The violet mare studied him for a few moments, and then she nodded before saying softly: “I do believe you're a little... delusional, Scrivener. But I also was being honest... I don't think you're crazy.”
Scrivener looked up for a moment at her, and there was silence between them before he smiled a bit when she turned and left. He went back to his reading, and twenty minutes later, Twilight called him to the kitchen, embarrassedly giving him a plate of half-burnt pancakes. Scrivener smiled at her, and she only gave him a flat look in return before he picked up a bottle of syrup she had set out and murmured softly: “It's still better than I've eaten in years, Twilight.”
The unicorn seemed oddly touched by this, and the two ate in peace and quiet before the mare asked curiously: “So what exactly are you researching out there, Scrivener?”
“Crazy things.” Scrivener said after a moment, and when Twilight sighed and gave him a flat look, the stallion shook his head and smiled a bit in return. “Well, it's true. But I was looking into... some old fairy tales and mythology. Stories about ponies appearing out of nowhere, 'descending from heaven,' who traveled into other worlds. It's a lot of interpretation and digging, but there are a few that... well...”
Twilight only looked across at him curiously, not judging him, and it made the charcoal stallion smile a little before she asked softly: “So what if... you're right, Scrivy? Then what would that mean for you?”
“It would mean I'd have to find a way to get back home. Opening the Bifrost or... finding some other portal or... figuring out a way to contact someone up in Asgard maybe.” Scrivener looked down moodily, rubbing at his face slowly. “Assuming Kvasir is willing to help, of course.”
Twilight continued to gaze at him softly, and there was silence for a moment as Scrivener tried his best not to blush, going over the words in his own mind and realizing how insane that must sound to anyone other than him: how senseless, crazy, and... stupid. Horses of Heaven, I... I'm not insane.
Instead of pointing any of that out, however, Twilight only studied him for a few seconds longer, then she finally asked gently: “And what about Luna, Scrivener?”
“I... I'd have to find her. She... she must be somewhere in this world. With our link, though...” Scrivener fell silent again as once more, that question rose up in his mind. As once more, he felt his inner beliefs tremble a little more as the problem of their soul-binding returned: how could he be here, if Luna wasn't? One couldn't exist without the other... so why wasn't she here? How could she be gone? Why couldn't he sense her in anything but his memories...
There was silence, and the two ponies let the subject drop, picking at their food until Twilight asked softly: “Are you up to going out to the bank today, Scrivener? You can withdraw some money, and just get a look around town.”
“I... I feel good today, actually. And as long as we don't run into another surprise party, I think... I think I'd like to actually spend a little time outside today.” Scrivener hesitated, and then he blushed and looked down, mumbling: “But I would really appreciate it if you could... stay by my side. I'm not quite ready to be alone in society yet.”
Twilight Sparkle only smiled faintly, replying: “Well, I have to anyway, Scrivener. That was one of the conditions of getting you out of the mental institute, remember?”
Scrivener grunted, nodding moodily before he pushed himself away from the table, picking up his plate to toss it into the sink. He looked over the growing pile of dishes, and then he smiled over his shoulder, saying finally: “If I have so much money, let's buy something special for tonight. And Twilight... don't take this the wrong way, but... do you know if there's any place around Ponyville where we can buy meat?”
Twilight looked less-than-thrilled at this, leaning back with a grimace before she said slowly: “Scrivy, I'm... all for letting you believe what you want, but I don't think I'm about to let you start cooking and eating meat.”
Scrivener grumbled a bit, but then he nodded and mumbled: “Guess the craving will pass sooner or later anyway. I just got used to having it fairly regularly with Luna... been weird without it.”
“Actually, it's kind of weird that you want it at all.” Twilight replied pointedly, and Scrivener gave her a dour look before she hesitated and said slowly: “Scrivener, ponies don't eat meat. It would make you sick to eat it... you've never eaten meat in the past, and nor has Luna, nor Celestia. None of us have, just like I... I never...”
She glanced away awkwardly, and Scrivener smiled a bit as he strode towards the table, picking up her empty plate to take to the sink for her as he asked mildly: “Just what topic are you so embarrassed about, Twilight? There's something you think I would have forgotten if I was really the Scrivener you knew, something about something that happened between you and me and Luna... and Twilight, you do know that we can't advance my recovery if you're lying to me. That might just make me more insane and deluded and I might start talking about the little gray ponies that want to come and kidnap me to probe me on their spaceship.”
“You'd probably like that.” Twilight muttered, and Scrivener stared at her as she looked back at him with defiance through her embarrassed blush... and then the two ponies shared a laugh, Scrivy shaking his head slowly as Twilight looked surprised at herself, but also happy.
Then Scrivener smiled and turned towards the corridor, and Twilight seemed relieved to have the subject drop as she slipped away from the table to hurry after him, saying: “Give me about twenty minutes to get ready and make sure everything's in order, then we can leave. It should be pretty quiet around Ponyville until midday … are you sure you're up for this, Scrivy? No offense, but your reaction at the party...”
“I was... I was just in a bad way, that's all.” Scrivener shook his head quickly, laughing a little before he dropped his head forwards and nodded slowly once. “And besides. I went from being locked up in a sterile prison to having Pinkie Pie bouncing gleefully around me and all the ponies of Ponyville cheering in my ears. I'm doing better today... besides, I already took my pills this morning and we can take my downers with me. If I start freaking out, I'll pop a double dose and put myself in a stupor.”
Twilight sighed at this, looking tiredly at Scrivener before the charcoal stallion gave her a flat look in return, saying dryly: “Hey. You should be glad I'm willing to take my pills at all. I could just as easily not take my meds, and then the day before my blood work, take a triple dose. You know how inaccurate those tests are to begin with? Particularly when they're just looking for whether or not it's in my system, not any certain amount.”
The violet unicorn shook her head slowly, and then she simply turned to head back towards her room as Scrivener added almost cheerfully: “Crazy people learn to manipulate the system just like convicts in jail do, Twilight!”
Twilight only grumbled in response, and Scrivy couldn't help but smile despite himself: it was a little strange, perhaps, but getting to tease Twilight really did help his mood and made him feel... saner. Like things made more sense, as he gazed after her thoughtfully before shaking his head slowly and murmuring: “Still, Twilight, no offense... but you're not my Twilight Sparkle.”
He laughed a bit at this phrasing, realizing after a moment how awkward it sounded... and then, slowly, his eyes roved to the side as he thought quietly of her. Wondered how she was doing... wondered how long he'd been away from home. Sure, he had spent... so many months in the mental facility, but who knew how much time had really passed back home? It made him worry for his family... it made him wish that he could at least know what was going on, because not knowing was likely part of why he felt so goddamn tense all the time.
He closed his eyes, shaking his head out and forcing himself to calm down: working himself into an anxiety fit wouldn't help with going out, after all, and he was... honestly excited to be reintegrating into society. Weird for him, but after two years of being locked in a small padded cell, allowed only short and carefully-watched visits, never permitted more than to look out into the metropolis of Canterlot from the barred and dirty windows, he thought it was understandable.
And besides, he was... curious. No, that wasn't the right word to use... but it was the closest he could come up with to the feeling he had. He wanted to know just what was waiting for him in his bank account, and he wanted to see what it was like to wander this Ponyville. He wanted to test his sanity, and see what would happen, exposing himself to a world he knew in his heart wasn't his own... and even with all the friendliness around him, constantly felt paranoia creeping on the edges of his senses, trying to convince him that these ponies all didn't like him.
Scrivener grimaced a bit, feeling another shiver run down his spine: before, with Luna, things had never been like this. He didn't crumple up into a little ball when faced with noise and ponies, even if he'd been... shy, he supposed was the word. Now, ponies and sounds seemed to do more than just agitate him... they hit nerves, made him scared and angry and defensive. So why was he getting that way now? Why did he react so badly? Was it because of the corruption?
Scrivener slowly looked down at his hoof, then he shook his head slowly, closing his eyes as he felt another shiver run through him. The corruption, as far as he knew, was gone... he couldn't see auras or 'behind the masks' anymore, his blood was red instead of black, he healed quickly but not with supernatural speed. For a moment, he only studied his hoof... then he finally sighed and shook himself briskly out, muttering even as he felt a pulse inside him: “It's not important. Don't... don't think about it. I'm not crazy, I can't have just made everything up...”
He lowered his head, and when Twilight came back shortly, she frowned a bit as she found him sitting silently near the door, satchel on his side and head bowed. “Are you okay?”
“What? Oh... yeah. Just thinking too much.” Scrivener shook his head out a bit, murmuring: “It's funny how... I'm thinking more about things now than I ever did in the asylum. But I guess it makes sense in its own weird way, too. I never did do well taking orders, did I?”
“Now that part is true, yeah.” Twilight smiled a bit as she headed past him to the door, pushing it gently open, and Scrivener looked almost nervously at it for a moment as he felt his confidence deflate into sudden worry, butterflies fluttering through his stomach. The lavender unicorn looked at him softly for a moment, then she smiled again, beginning quietly: “Look, if you're too scared-”
“What? No, no, no.” Scrivener scoffed, shaking his head hurriedly before he added lamely: “Why don't you go out first, though? You know. To make sure I don't go charging off without you.”
“Right.” Twilight gave him a faintly-amused look despite herself, shaking her head before she headed out into the sunlight. Scrivener carefully peeked his head around the door, and then he stepped hesitantly out into the square in front of the library, glancing lamely back and forth before straightening as his eyes slowly roved up to the sky above.
He gazed into it: clear and blue and beautiful, the sun shining high above, a few wispy clouds floating slowly through the air... and Scrivener closed his eyes, simply basking in the rays of the sun for a moment, feeling the natural warmth over his body as his anxieties settled little by little. When his eyes opened, he felt... almost revitalized, ready once more to put his best hoof forwards as Twilight smiled at him, then asked curiously: “Do you want to pick up some new glasses, Scrivy? I always forget to ask but... how's your sight? They... they told me that you weren't allowed to wear your glasses in the mental institution because you could hurt yourself or someone else with them.”
Scrivener grunted a bit, reaching up and slowly rubbing at his features as he said softly: “My eyes are pretty good, don't worry. The glasses I used to wear were just fakes... after Luna shared her vitality with me, and then bound her soul to mine, it strengthened my senses and my body a lot.”
Twilight was looking at him almost sympathetically, and Scrivener winced a bit, but thankfully the violet mare didn't say anything before she turned and gestured for him to follow.
The two ponies fell in pace with one-another, and Scrivener felt himself relaxing little by little as they made their way through Ponyville at a slow, easy pace, heading for the bank. For the charcoal earth pony, it was both strangely uplifting and exhilarating, his first true taste of freedom after so long being locked away in the asylum.
He smiled over at Twilight as they finally approached the bank, realizing that she had likely led them on the long way on purpose before he murmured quietly: “Thank you, Twilight. I'm glad... you're here.”
“It's the least I can do, Scrivener.” Twilight replied quietly, and the charcoal earth pony turned his eyes forwards before Twilight asked curiously, as they strode through the double doors and into the large, stoic structure: “But if I'm not the Twilight from the story, why do you seem to treat me... a lot like her?”
“I think you just want me to treat you more like the Twilight from the story.” Scrivener replied dryly, and Twilight rolled her eyes but looked at him insistently, and the charcoal stallion sighed and shrugged awkwardly after a moment, saying finally: “Because you seem... similar to her. I mean, okay, you're not a winged unicorn-”
“Alicorn.” Twilight corrected, and Scrivener gave her an amused look. “What? You know that's what they're called. Like Celestia and Cadence and... like... Luna was.”
She quieted a bit, and Scrivener shook his head as the two stepped up to the back of a line, the stallion glancing down before he said softly: “Where I come from... that word has a different meaning, actually.”
Twilight looked curiously over at him, tilting her head, and Scrivener reached up and gently touched her horn with a hoof, the violet mare blinking in surprise. “Where I come from, the material a unicorn's horn is made of is called alicorn. 'Corn' is actually the word that eventually evolved into horn and the 'ali' part I think comes from 'áil,' which can be translated as 'wish.' I'm obviously not arguing that Celestia isn't really called an alicorn or anything in this world, I'm just... telling you what I know the word as, and I never heard Celestia nor Luna referred to as an 'alicorn' in my own world... but then again, they were also the only two of their kind, too. Well, until you became one.”
“Wishing horn.” Twilight frowned at him, but it was a curious look, as she prompted: “Well, you're saying that they were just called winged unicorns, then?”
“Well, yeah.” Scrivener smiled after a moment, shrugging a bit. “Again, the only two of their kind in my world. We didn't have Cadence or an entire species around them or anything... so instead, alicorn just referred to the horn material.”
“You're pulling my leg.” Twilight said finally, and Scrivener looked at her mildly before he sighed and rolled his eyes. “You can't be serious.”
“You know I am. There's poems and everything about it... although it's very obviously illegal to do this, unicorn horns are said to be able to heal any disease if ground into a fine powder and mixed into an ointment or elixir.” Scrivener said mildly, and several ponies standing in line looked back to stare at him, before Scrivener glowered in return, and they hurriedly looked back ahead.
Twilight sighed and shook her head, but she seemed to be mulling something over now as the line lethargically moved forwards until they reached the counter. Then Scrivener simply looked stupid for a moment as he stared at the grumpy-looking teller behind the counter, before Twilight winced a bit and turned to dig in her own satchel, saying awkwardly: “Oh, wait, I have your bank book and everything.”
The teller sighed, the drab green unicorn looking sour as she adjusted her oversized glasses, and Scrivener offered a dumb smile even as he felt something twist inside him. She was judging him, mocking him in her mind, he could see it in her eyes... she didn't like him and here they were, standing around like idiots, and he could feel the gazes of all the other ponies behind them on the back of his neck...
Scrivener forced the paranoid thoughts away before they could take over as Twilight straightened and quickly put a card and a payment book on the bank counter, and the teller looked down at this, tiredly picking it up and flipping through it... then almost falling out of her seat as she stared at something before dropping the book and quickly righting herself. “I... uh... how can I help you today, sir?”
“So I take it that's good?” Scrivener asked dubiously, and when the teller gave him a forced smile, he gave her a meditative look in return. “Okay, that's very good. Well, uh... I've been... away... for a while, and I need to know what my account looks like.”
“Well, uh...” The teller picked up the booklet, flipping it open and looking through several authorization stamps that looked like they were in fairly new ink. “According to this... sir... you have two accounts with us. A savings account where most of your money has been accruing interest for the past two years, and a checking account with roughly five thousand bits.”
“So how much is in savings?” Scrivener asked dubiously, and the green mare looked at him for a moment before she turned the accounts book around and pointed at a number on the page, Scrivener glancing down at this... then staring stupidly as he mumbled: “Oh. Well, I think I can afford to buy groceries for you, Twilight.”
Twilight leaned in curiously, then she reared back in surprise herself before Scrivener smiled faintly, closing his eyes as he murmured: “Luna... Luna always did take care of me... always made sure I'd be okay, even when I was...”
He broke off, then cleared his throat and shook his head out hurriedly, returning his eyes to the bank teller and saying finally: “I want to withdraw two hundred and fifty bits for now from my checking account. And I guess I should order some checkbooks, too.”
The teller nodded hurriedly... and ten minutes later, Twilight and Scrivener left the bank, the charcoal stallion's satchel now heavy with money as he smiled a little over at the violet mare, bowing his head towards her and saying quietly: “Thank you.”
“No, it's no problem, Scrivener... thank you for... offering to help out some. I really appreciate it.” Twilight replied, and Scrivener only shrugged a bit, smiling a little as they walked onwards and she studied him for a few moments, then asked curiously: “So... Scrivy... I noticed in there you got a little... tense.”
“Yeah, I guess... I got anxious. Paranoid, to be more precise.” Scrivener said finally, shaking his head out a bit as he lowered his head, then he smiled a little. “But I still feel pretty good, and... I'm up to walking over to the pharmacy or something, at least. I know you want to put in that order for my meds, and you know. I feel good still. I'm getting used to being out here, bit-by-bit... it's still just a little weird and all.”
Twilight nodded slowly, and then she hesitated before stepping a little closer to him, studying him almost intently as Scrivener winced back a bit before the violet mare said gently: “You're doing good, Scrivy. Just... just try and stay loose, and relax, okay? Have any more memories come back?”
Scrivener only smiled a bit at this, asking quietly: “You mean, has my delusional shell magically vanished from around me and I've come to realize that everything I believed was a lie and my wife is dead?”
Twilight sighed a little at this, shaking her head slowly as she muttered: “Only you would try and joke about this.”
“Yeah, well. It works for me.” Scrivener shrugged a bit, looking up before he murmured softly: “And maybe that's my real delusion, Twilight. If I keep telling jokes, if I keep refusing to take things seriously, I don't have to think about... what might have happened to Luna.”
The violet mare softened as they walked slowly across town together... but before she could ask another question or even think of anything to say, there was a loud call from above before a sky-blue Pegasus shot down from the sky and dropped in front of them, grinning widely as she leaned in brightly. “Hey, guys! I've been looking everywhere for you two!”
“Rainbow Dash.” Scrivener said softly, and he gave a hesitant smile after a moment even as Rainbow leaned in close, studying him intently. It set his nerves on edge as he looked back at the sleek mare, measured her in return with his eyes as Twilight winced a little.
“Rainbow, hey, it's great to see you and all, but-” But Twilight was cut off as Rainbow laughed and hopped into the air, hovering eagerly around Scrivener and ignoring Twilight completely as she rapidly began to ask questions.
“So you're Scrivener, right? You were in an asylum, yeah? How'd you get those scars? How strong are you? Do you race? What's the deal with you and Twilight?” Rainbow flitted back and forth, almost marveling over him as Scrivener winced a bit before the Pegasus brightened and shot suddenly in front of him, making him rear back a bit. “No, wait, wait, I remembered the question I wanted to ask! You think you're from some other world, right?”
“Rainbow!” Twilight half-shouted, and Scrivener grimaced a bit as he pawed a hoof nervously at the ground, as the Pegasus finally looked lamely at the violet mare. “We talked about this!”
“But look at him!” Rainbow exclaimed, shaking her head rapidly. “The dude is huge! Besides, seriously, Twilight, out of the blue last week you just come and tell us that some guy is moving in with you into the library and we all have to treat him nice 'cause he's a little crazy-”
“I didn't say that! I didn't say it like that!” Twilight interrupted hurriedly, wincing at Scrivener, but the charcoal stallion was still only looking moodily at Rainbow, who was continuing to ramble away.
“-and yet last night you threw us all out of the library before we could even meet the dude and here you two are, walking around like best pals ever after you also said we had to leave you and him alone for like, a week or something, while he... deflates...”
“'Adjusts,' Rainbow, the word I used was 'adjusts.'” Twilight said flatly, and then she shook her head quickly, almost pleading: “Look, I'll explain everything to you all when I can. You're all my friends and you're good friends, but Scrivener is a good friend too, and... and he's had a really rough time. Please.”
Rainbow didn't look convinced, turning her eyes to Scrivy and measuring him again before she dropped down, asking curiously: “Well, have you? I don't think I've heard you say a word yet. You're quieter than Big Mac.”
“Yup.” Scrivener deadpanned, and when Rainbow gave him a sour look, the charcoal stallion sighed before he said mildly: “Yes, I'm crazy.”
“Cool. So what was it like in the insane asylum?” Rainbow asked with a grin, leaning forwards as her eyes brightened. “Did you ever get a hole cut in your head? Did they do electroshock therapy on you? Was it secretly run by an evil overlord?”
“You need to stop reading Daring Do. I'm banning you from the adventure section of the library.” Twilight said flatly, and Rainbow glowered at her as a faint blush rose in her cheeks. “Come on, Scrivy. And Rainbow, I will-”
“Why don't you come over tonight? I know a story you can read.” Scrivener said abruptly, and Rainbow Dash looked at him meditatively before he said seriously: “It has evil monsters. And demons. And it's about a different world where you and your friends battle terrifying evils. The world where I come from.”
Scrivener put his best 'I-am-very-possibly-insane' expression on as he stared across at Rainbow Dash pointedly, and the Pegasus leaned slowly away from him before she huffed a bit and hopped into the air, flapping her wings and saying finally: “Twilight, your friend is kinda weird. But sure, I'll see you tonight. I'll round up the others and bring them, too.”
“Wait!” Twilight winced and flailed a hoof in the air, trying to get Rainbow's attention, but the Pegasus was already flying away, and now Scrivener stared morbidly up into the sky after the winged pony before the violet mare shot him a sour look. “If you have a breakdown tonight, it's not my fault when you end up back in the mental facility.”
Scrivener only grumbled a bit, turning and muttering: “Well, how was I supposed to know she'd immediately want to grab all your friends? Besides, the only one I'm really worried about is Pinkie Pie. I might like her and all, but she's very loud and energetic. Applejack's loud too, but at least she understands personal space. And Rarity and Fluttershy will probably both just stare at me.”
Twilight frowned curiously at this, as Scrivener started to meander down the street, and then she followed after him and asked slowly: “You know, I meant to ask this before, but... how do you know about all my friends and everything? Luna... Luna met them a few times, but never really knew them. But the way you write about them...”
“I'm sure I didn't capture them perfectly, but... that was how I knew them in my world.” Scrivener said softly, shaking his head and smiling a bit. “I wasn't... as close to them as you are, of course, and it was only... only at the end that Luna and I really developed an appreciation for certain ponies... but... they were friends, too. I got along well with them...”
The violet mare studied him as they headed onwards, and then she sighed a little, murmuring: “You have so much conviction, Scrivener... it kind of scares me a little. The doctor's orders included reminding you regularly when you start talking about these delusions and not to reinforce them, but... but you honestly believe them, don't you?”
Scrivener was quiet for a few moments, and then he lowered his head a bit, murmuring: “Let me tell you a secret, Twilight... I... have my doubts sometimes, about everything. I mean, it does sound insane, doesn't it? And impossible, and... I look around at reality, I hear all these ponies telling me I'm insane and what the real truth is and walk around in this world and I think... I might be crazy after all. I look at all the medication I need just to stay stable and I think all these unhealthy thoughts, and I know that even if I'm not insane... I'm not sane, either.”
The two ponies were silent as they strode onwards through Ponyville, and they only spoke again when they reached the front of the pharmacy, Scrivener looking up over the storefront and asking after a moment: “Everything here is so quaint. I really... I really like that. I hate Canterlot, I hate big cities...”
“I know.” Twilight smiled a little after a moment as they headed to the door, pushing into the building and heading towards the counter at the back, the unicorn looking across at him softly. “It took me a few weeks to learn that... even though Ponyville might not have the best facilities, it has a lot of the best people I've ever met. And good ponies make all the difference in the world.”
Scrivener grunted, not knowing if he wanted to agree or argue as they approached the counter at the back, and the pharmacist looked up before Scrivener glanced over at Twilight Sparkle. The unicorn smiled at him, stepping ahead as her horn glowed and lifted the flap of her satchel, pulling free a few sheets of paper. “My friend needs to set up an account here and get these prescriptions filled.”
It took them thirty minutes to set up the account at the pharmacy and get one of Scrivener's prescriptions: not a bad time, all in all, considering how the dispensary at the mental hospital had regularly been roughly an hour behind schedule. After they left, Scrivener realized Twilight was looking at him, and he looked back at her for a moment before almost blurting: “Do you want to go and get lunch somewhere?”
Twilight looked surprised at this, but then she smiled a little and nodded before leaning towards him, saying softly: “So long as you honestly feel up to it, Scrivy. I'm glad to just go home with you, too.”
“Home...” Scrivener looked over at her curiously, and Twilight shrugged after a moment, giving him a small smile.
“Well, it is your home now, Scrivener. I mean, I gotta look after you and all, right?” Twilight laughed a little despite herself, and Scrivener thought he could see the faintest of blushes in her face as she smiled across at him. “My home is... your home, Scrivener. At least for now.”
She glanced away almost embarrassedly, and Scrivy nodded hesitantly before he'd looked back and forth, then started towards what looked like a cafe a short distance away. Twilight quickly fell into pace with him, and the two had fallen into comfortable quiet until they'd been seated at an outside table by a waiter and passed menus.
Scrivener grumbled a bit at the selection, but Twilight only looked amusedly over her menu at him, asking finally: “You can't seriously still be looking for meat, can you? Scrivy, that's one part of your delusion I refuse to believe.”
“Oh, don't be a wimp.” Scrivener scoffed, and Twilight gave him a flat look before the charcoal stallion added meditatively: “Besides. Think of it this way: if I get my hooves on some meat and eat it and it makes me sick even after I prepare it properly, it'll prove pretty conclusively that I'm crazy, right?”
“I know you well enough, Scrivener Blooms, to know that if the urge took you, you could find a reason to deny that the sky is up and the ground is down.” Twilight said mildly, and then she put down the menu, smiling across at him. “Have a sunflower sandwich.”
“That's gross.” Scrivener muttered, and then he added, glancing over the top of the menu: “And up and down are relative terms, Twilight. They only exist because of our perception of reality. Being crazy as I am, up could very well be down and down could very well be up.”
“Oh, quiet.” Twilight laughed all the same, however, shaking her head, and when Scrivener smiled and went back to his menu, she leaned forwards a bit with a soft smile on her face. “I'm... I'm really surprised you're doing so well, Scrivener. But I'm glad for it.”
Scrivener only grunted a bit, then he put down the menu as he looked across at her curiously: she was still gazing at him tenderly, and he cleared his throat, looking pointedly back at her before Twilight smiled amusedly, shaking her head a bit even as a faint blush rose in her cheeks. “Sorry, Scrivener. I just... I'm so glad to see you doing better. Every time I visited you in that institution, after all, you were always so depressed...”
The stallion softened at this, looking across at her before he asked hesitantly: “I... how often did you come and see me, Twilight? I know you were there more often than Celestia, but... the way my memories of that place are all blurred together, and how I spent so much time sedated or... addled... or just, you know, in a bad way...”
“At least an hour every week.” Twilight said softly, and Scrivener looked up in surprise before Twilight shook her head slowly, smiling faintly. “We were good friends. You, me and Luna. And... after she passed on... I wanted to spend as much time with you as possible. I really... got to know you, I think. I saw a lot of sides of you, good and bad, while you were in that institution...”
She looked away, and Scrivener gazed at her quietly before she glanced up, hesitating, opening her mouth slowly... and then she closed it and simply shook her head. Before Scrivener could prompt anything, either, he was interrupted by the arrival of the waiter, as the pony asked calmly: “May I take your order, sir and madam?”
Twilight looked up with a nod as Scrivener smiled hesitantly, gesturing at the violet mare to go first. He couldn't help but study her curiously all the same, however, wanting to know why she kept looking at him the way she did... and moreover, what secret she was half-hiding from him, hidden just beneath the surface of her thoughts.
After lunch, Scrivener and Twilight returned to the library, and the two had just talked for a while, on all kinds of different topics. A few times, Scrivy tried to tell her that she could go about business as usual, but... Twilight seemed to honestly prefer spending the time with him, and he appreciated it more than he could say.
Spike returned to the library sometime in the afternoon: a baby dragon, he was a chubby, cute little thing with mauve scales and a lime-green underbelly. His emerald eyes were large and expressive, and his nervousness was almost palpable as he looked awkwardly up at Scrivener and Scrivener looked meditatively back down at the dragon.
“You're not really crazy, right?” was the only question Spike had a chance to ask before Twilight embarrassedly hustled him off to take care of some cataloging for her, and Scrivener had smiled despite himself before Twilight had come back with an apology.
Scrivener insisted on following through with his plan of getting something nice for dinner, and Twilight relented after only a little badgering. Mostly, he thought, it was because she seemed surprised that he was doing so well, and enjoying the time spent outside, free... and the charcoal stallion was admittedly surprised himself at how well he was holding up.
So the two ponies left to pick up food, and when they came back with all the junk food they could carry, Spike seemed to lose most of his apprehension for the large stallion. The three ate together, talking a little, letting Spike get a bit more used to Scrivener and giving Scrivener the chance to study Spike... who he'd known as an teenage dragon, not as a baby.
After the meal, Spike and Twilight flitted around the library, preparing for the arrival of her friends as a worm of anxiety twisted through Scrivener's stomach, even as he poked through the shelves of the library until he found the manuscript he was looking for among the other archived papers. He looked thoughtfully down at it as he sat with it in his hooves, feeling the same nervousness as he always had when allowing other people to read his writing... and then he winced and jumped a bit when Twilight touched his shoulder.
He turned to her, and she winced back a bit, looking embarrassed before he smiled lamely, shaking his head quickly. “Sorry. Guess I got lost in my own thoughts and... didn't hear you coming.”
Twilight nodded a bit, and then she smiled a little and nudged him quietly. “Well, come on, Scrivener, my friends are here. They're anxious to meet you.”
Scrivener smiled after a moment, then Twilight hesitated before her horn glowed and gently lifted the manuscript from his hooves, saying awkwardly: “Also, please do me a favor and don't be too much of a jerk, huh? And remember, these... they're not the same ponies you wrote about.”
“Well, they are but they aren't.” Scrivener replied, but he nodded slowly all the same, turning to follow Twilight back to the main room. He paced behind her almost nervously as she carried the manuscript for him with telekinesis.
Five ponies were waiting for them: Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy. The last two Scrivener hadn't met yet in this world, and yet he recognized them easily all the same: the shy blonde Pegasus with her pink mane and sea-green eyes looked as humble and pretty as he remembered, and the beautiful ivory unicorn was, if anything, more flawless than he recalled, from her styled mauve mane and tail to her glimmering sapphire eyes.
He studied the five of them, from their cutie marks to their faces, as they looked back at him, even as Twilight cleared her throat and announced almost shyly: “I know you've all been curious... so uh... here he is. This is my friend, my very good friend, Scrivener Blooms. He's going to be staying with me for a while, because...”
She looked at him nervously, and Scrivener smiled a bit before he straightened a little, bowing his head forwards and reminding himself not to be too crazy, but to also try and be as honest as possible as he swallowed back both nervousness and a whisper of shame. “I was in a mental institution in Canterlot. I suffered a bit of a breakdown after... my wife died.”
“Oh, you poor thing!” Rarity leaned forwards as a murmur went through the ponies, the white unicorn studying him for a moment before her eyes widened. “That's why I thought I recognized you under all those awful scars! You were Princess Luna's fiance!”
Scrivener nodded with a quiet laugh, feeling a tremble run through his mind that he did his best to ignore as he said softly: “Yeah. She was...” He halted, then cleared his throat and asked hurriedly: “So, odd question, but do any of you remember meeting me before? Rarity, I know we must have met, but... Fluttershy, do we know each other?”
“I... no, I don't believe so...” Fluttershy murmured, shifting a bit so her long pink mane half-covered her face with a blush, likely only responding out of surprise. She studied him from behind her safe curtain of her mane, and then she smiled hesitantly as she rose her head a bit, saying quietly: “But I could be wrong, of course...”
“Yeah, how do you know us all?” Rainbow Dash asked mildly, the Pegasus hovering in the air and looking a little suspicious before her eyes flicked to Twilight moodily. “And what's the story with you and him, anyway? And hey, what's that, that story you were talking about?”
“Yes, it is.” Scrivener said mildly, glancing up at Rainbow Dash and giving a slight smile. “It has all of you in it, actually, and it's one of... six?”
“Yeah. Six.” Twilight replied quietly, gazing across at Scrivener softly for a moment before she shook her head and gave a bit of a smile in return. “Although you should probably warn them that-”
“Oh, no, no, it'll be fine. It'll be fine.” Scrivener interrupted with a slight smile, waving a hoof airily, and Twilight Sparkle sighed and rolled her eyes even as she gave him an amused look. Rainbow was now looking more curious than before, however, before Scrivener said mildly, glancing up at her: “It's the second story in the series but... somehow, I think it's fitting you start with this one.”
“I don't trust you.” Rainbow Dash said finally, even as she swooped forwards and snatched the manuscript from Twilight's telekinetic grip, looking down at it thoughtfully. “Lunar Lights. This better be good.”
Pinkie Pie smiled brightly, looking enthusiastically up at Rainbow Dash. “You'll have to tell me all about it! I wanna read it next if I'm in it, too! Imagine, having a story written about you... you could read about yourself doing all sorts of crazy things.”
“I already do all sorts of crazy things. And awesome things.” Rainbow Dash said mildly, even as she flipped the manuscript open, and asked while she began to scan the page: “So like. You still haven't told me how you got all those scars. Were you like a soldier or something, is that how you met Luna?”
“No, no, no... he was a scholar, isn't that right?” Rarity interjected, studying the earth pony stallion oddly intently, and Scrivener shifted a bit with a small smile.
“Well, kind of. I was a scribe... I worked for Luna and that was how we met.” Scrivener replied quietly, trying to stay away from specifics before he frowned a bit when Rarity stood suddenly.
“Would you mind terribly standing up?” she asked, and Scrivener looked at her blankly before the white unicorn strode quickly forwards, and Scrivener staggered to his hooves more out of reflex than anything else as she briskly began to flit around him as the other ponies stared. “Yes, yes, I thought so! I may not remember each and every customer perfectly, but I remember that particular order I was working on for Princess Luna very well, and the sizes of clothing I made for you are completely different than what I estimate your sizes are now... my, you're much bigger than I recall!”
“I work out?” Scrivener said lamely, and Rarity straightened and looked at him mildly as the charcoal stallion smiled awkwardly, feeling her judging him, a shiver running through his body... but at the same time, a strange kind of relief rising in his heart. So he was larger... so much so it was noticeable.
Then Rarity hesitated for a moment before she straightened and looked at him softly, saying gently: “Perhaps this is improper, Scrivener Blooms, but if you would like to stop by my boutique, I would be very glad to take your new measurements and... finish the outfit I have sitting in storage for you. And... it may not be much, but... I would be very glad to let you have Princess Luna's dress. I don't know why I kept it and I don't know what you would do with it, but... perhaps you could find a place to keep it.”
Scrivener looked at her for a moment, and then he bowed his head and closed his eyes with a faint smile as the paranoia and anxiety were both washed away by honest, tender gratitude, murmuring: “I... I would like that a lot, Rarity. I... thank you.”
Rarity only smiled, then turned to head back and sit down again as there was quiet for a moment, before Applejack piped up curiously: “So uh, Scrivener... you gonna be living here long? You look like a good hard worker, though, don't expect you'll find it hard to get a job.”
“And hey, can we have a party now?” Pinkie Pie asked brightly, leaning forwards with a warm look at Scrivener. “'Cause I gotta welcome every new friend to Ponyville with a party, and it just doesn't feel right to delay a party, 'cause that's like delaying making a new friend and that's never right!”
“Manic as ever.” Scrivener murmured softly, but he was smiling all the same before he glanced over at Twilight as she gave him a nervous look. “Maybe tomorrow, Pinkie Pie. A small party.”
“Good..” Pinkie Pie said warmly, and then she leaned forwards and studied him almost intently. “You know, it's funny. You remind me of a dream I had once. Not a dream, really, more like a nightmare, but it wasn't a nightmare either, it was like Nightmare Night: scary but good. Do you know what I mean?”
“I have those dreams all the time, Pinkamena.” Scrivener said softly, and Pinkie Pie laughed as she straightened a little.
“Pinkamena! No one calls me Pinkamena...” Pinkie Pie suddenly cocked her head quizzically. “Hey, wait, how'd you know that was my name?”
Scrivener only shrugged and glanced at Twilight pointedly, and the violet unicorn shrugged back before half-reasoning: “I probably mentioned it at some point, that's all. But oh, I know. We have lots of leftovers from dinner, so I'll get Spike to help me bring some of that out... if that's okay, I mean.”
She looked at Scrivener softly, and the male nodded a little, smiling almost embarrassedly before the violet mare turned to head towards the corridor leading out of the main room. For a moment, Scrivy watched her leave... and then he was distracted as Rainbow scoffed loudly from above: “You can't do stuff like this. Luna wasn't like this... was she?”
The pale-blue Pegasus softened visibly as she looked up from the manuscript in her front hooves at Scrivener, even as Applejack and Rarity both glared up at her, but Scrivener only smiled faintly as he looked up at the Pegasus mare and said gently: “She was my hero.”
This earned smiles from the mares... and Scrivener cleared his throat after a moment before he looked mildly up at Rainbow Dash, adding: “And besides. You haven't gotten to the fun part yet.”
Rainbow Dash only grunted, then she closed the manuscript and hugged it against her body, looking moodily down at him. “Well, I'll start reading later. But this better be good. And no offense, but you're no Daring Do.”
“I would hope not, I'm a stallion, after all.” Scrivener remarked dryly, and Pinkie Pie giggled as Rainbow fixed him with a flat look before he drew his eyes over the five ponies, then asked impulsively: “So does anyone know about... Twilight visiting me?”
“Kind of.” Applejack answered, and when the other ponies looked at her, the earth pony mare hesitated before she asked quietly: “You were really in an asylum for two years?”
Scrivener nodded slowly, glancing down and clearing his throat as he pawed a hoof at the floor. “Yeah, I... I was. Delusions, they tell me... believe in an entire world that was all inside my head, raving and ranting about it and unable to... connect to this reality. Being inside my own world, that entire time...” Scrivener smiled a bit. “That's... what they told me.”
“And what do you believe?” Fluttershy asked softly, clearly catching on to what the stallion wasn't saying, and Scrivener looked at her with surprise before she blushed and lowered her head. “I mean, you don't have to answer, but... I suppose I'm very curious. You sound... you're so...”
She broke off, and Scrivener shrugged a bit, saying softly: “There's just... no point in hiding it. I get paranoid anyway from time-to-time and keeping the truth from ponies just... just makes them question me even more. What I believe is...”
He hesitated, as all five ponies leaned towards him expectantly... but before he could answer, Spike toddled into the room, smiling and holding a large box of pizza out in front of him. Behind him, Twilight followed with glasses and bottles of cider, calling easily: “Come on, more than enough for everyone.”
“Hey, great!” Rainbow Dash flitted down with a wide grin as Pinkie Pie bounced cheerfully past Scrivener as well, and the stallion sighed in relief as he turned towards the food. As the ponies helped themselves to pizza and then the other snacks that Spike and Twilight retrieved, the conversation naturally shifted to lighter topics. They were curious, of course, about Scrivener's life behind padded walls... but their questions were so honest and almost naïve that he had little problem answering most of them, and Twilight seemed relieved to see this.
Their visitors only stayed a few hours, then left almost as a group: surprisingly, it was Fluttershy who was the last to go. She lingered for a moment even after Rarity, who stayed to wish Scrivener well and remind him to come by her boutique when he had the chance.
The blonde-coated Pegasus looked with quiet insistence at Scrivy, blushing a bit as he stepped in close to her and tilted his head, as Twilight stepped hesitantly backwards after a moment. For a few moments the Pegasus remained silent... and then she asked him quietly, closing her eyes: “Were you alone, when you were... in that world?”
“No. No, I was...” Scrivener bowed his head forwards, closing his eyes. “I was the luckiest stallion in the whole world, whatever else it might have seemed like.”
Fluttershy was quiet for a few moments, then she nodded a little before turning and hurrying out, and Scrivener looked after her curiously before he sighed and shrugged a bit, stepping forwards to close the door. He turned around, then smiled a little when he saw Twilight gazing at him softly, saying after a moment. “I was... glad to see your friends. They're good ponies.”
“Yeah. They are.” Twilight said softly, and then she smiled back at him, saying quietly: “I'll be back down in a few minutes, Scrivy. I'm just going to make sure Spike gets to bed okay.”
Scrivener nodded a little in return, and while the violet mare was gone, he busied himself by cleaning up the library. She returned just in time to find him pouring himself a new glass of cola, and then she smiled when he poured her one as well in a clean cup, joining him at the table as he said finally: “Thank you, for... you know. Everything. I guess you know I have my demons, huh?”
“Yeah, I do. But we all do, Scrivener.” Twilight said softly, looking down into the cola before she shook her head a bit when Scrivy glanced up at her. “You did really, really well today. I hope this doesn't come across as patronizing, but I'm proud of you.”
“Thanks, Twilight.” Scrivener said softly, and the two sipped at their cola in silence for a few moments before the charcoal stallion asked finally: “So tomorrow...”
“You have an appointment at the mental health clinic in Ponyville, to assess how you're settling in here. And next week, you have a visit to Canterlot to see a psychologist.” Twilight replied, then she smiled. “But that's all. Otherwise, we can just take everything as it comes.”
She and Scrivener studied each other across the table, and then the charcoal stallion nodded slowly, glancing down and looking into his cola as he said softly: “I still felt... paranoid now and then tonight. I don't think they all liked me very much and I worry what they think of me, and... what they think of us.”
“Why... why do you worry about what they think about us?” Twilight asked slowly, looking strangely hurt, and Scrivener looked up at her dumbly.
“What? I mean, here I am, after two, two and a half years of being locked away in a mental institution because I got unhinged when... when my wife...” Scrivener shook his head hurriedly, then continued wryly: “I just mean, I don't want them worrying I'm going to kill you in your sleep or something. Or that I'm abusing your trust and well-being.”
“Oh.” Twilight blushed a little, playing a hoof over the tabletop before she smiled faintly across at him. “Scrivy, come on. You look scary, but... I don't think you made a bad impression tonight. And I've never seen Fluttershy take such an interest in a pony before...”
“Yeah, what was with that?” Scrivener rubbed meditatively at his features, and when Twilight glanced away, the stallion looked up at her curiously before he frowned a bit. “What?”
“Nothing.” Twilight mumbled, and then she shook her head quickly, gulping down the rest of her cola before standing up from the table. “I'm going to go to bed, I think. We aren't all crazy night ponies like you, Scrivy, and... I think I can trust you to not... do anything silly. I can, right?”
Scrivener nodded after a moment, saying softly: “Yeah, of course. I'll take my pills like a good little colt and maybe even try to get some rest for a few hours or something.”
The violet mare smiled a bit at him, hesitated... and then she stepped around the table and hugged him almost impulsively, and Scrivener was surprised, but quick to return the embrace as she buried her face against the side of his neck for a moment.
A strong, intense feeling rose up through his being, reminded him of all the times he'd felt this: holding Twilight, holding Luna, features buried into his mane like it was now... and then Twilight pulled back, and Scrivener felt what could only be described as emptiness the moment contact was lost even as she smiled at him and said quietly: “I'll see you tomorrow, Scrivy. Have a good night.”
Twilight turned and hurried to the steps before Scrivener could speak, and the earth pony was left looking after her, still sitting back in his chair, front hooves half-raised as he sat alone in the room. Fullness... then emptiness.
He closed his eyes, fighting off the feelings and resisting the urge to chase after Twilight: that would be a great demonstration of how sane he was, after all, chasing down the violet mare for another hug. He shook himself out, grimacing as he scrubbed his hooves against his face for a moment before sighing quietly and embracing himself, closing his eyes as he whispered: “These feelings can't be lies... these memories... Twilight... Luna...”
Scrivener shivered for a moment, but then forced himself to still as he looked down at the table. Memories played through his mind, comparing themselves to the reality around him... and the charcoal stallion wondered silently if he really was insane for a moment... and if he wasn't, how he would ever manage to find his way back home.
Chapter Three: Which Dreamed It?
Scrivener Blooms grumbled under his breath as he waited impatiently in a narrow hallway, ponies bustling by every now and then. This was where he had been told to wait, however: standing across the hall from an ugly wooden door, covered in the same peeling paint as the rest of the hallway, giving everything a run-down and rotting air.
The earth pony sighed tiredly, then he looked morbidly up at the ceiling: it was twenty minutes past the time his appointment was scheduled for, and he would have gladly left already if he could. If he left, however, he had no doubt that the psychiatrist he was supposed to meet with would claim that he had skipped out on his probation, and large, scary ponies would undoubtedly then show up at the library to drag him forcefully back to the asylum.
The male muttered under his breath, and then he returned his eyes to the door as it clicked before a mare stumbled out, sniffling a little. She was followed by a lanky brown pony with a large, rounded pair of spectacles and a combed-over scraggly yellow mane, who was saying soothingly: “-and just remember what we talked about, and you'll be fine.”
“My daughter's dead, I don't think I'll ever be fine again.” mumbled the mare, storming off, and Scrivener took this as a bad sign as the psychiatrist simply sighed and shook his head, then turned his eyes to the earth pony.
He looked surprised at his size, and the charcoal stallion immediately seized on this, straightening a little and holding his head up to make himself appear even larger than he already was. It made the small psychiatrist wince a bit, but then he forced a smile as he said slowly: “You must be Scrivener Blooms, ah, yes. I'm Dr. Duck.”
“Hello, Dr. Quack.” Scrivener said blandly, and the psychiatrist's smile fell from his face before the charcoal stallion asked mildly: “Can I go now? You've seen me, you see that I'm not covered in blood or having psychotic episodes, and I have an appointment in Canterlot next week anyway. Let's save everypony some trouble.”
“I'm afraid we still have to run through the motions, Scrivener Blooms. Please, come inside.” Dr. Duck said mildly, and he turned to head back into his office. Scrivener sighed loudly, rolling his eyes, and then he grumbled and strode forwards, pushing through the door and kicking it closed behind him as he looked back and forth.
It was a cluttered little office, crowded with shelves filled with psychology texts and books that looked self-important, and the little wall space left was used up by posters of happy kittens with self-help messages and framed degrees. Scrivener looked around, unimpressed, as he sat in a tiny green chair in front of a massive mahogany desk that Dr. Duck was barely able to squeeze around before he climbed up into his throne of a leather armchair, beginning pleasantly: “Now, Mr. Blooms. I understand that you have a deep-rooted fear of the mental health institution, but let me assure you this is a safe place-”
“I'm not scared of doctors. I'm annoyed by them.” Scrivener retorted, and Dr. Duck looked less-than-thrilled at being interrupted as the charcoal pony looked back and forth with a grimace. “Bet you never do well with the claustrophobia patients, do you?”
“On the contrary, I've seen a lot of success in my practice. On that note, why don't you tell me a little about yourself, Scrivener Blooms? I've read your file up and down, after all, but that only tells me so much.” Dr. Duck tented his hooves, leaning forwards and nodding seriously, and Scrivener only gave him a flat look in return.
“I'm making good progress, and I'm reintegrating little by little with society. I'm not having anxiety attacks as often anymore and as a matter of fact, this morning I was measured for a nice new set of clothes. I'm taking my medication and being a good little colt.” Scrivener said calmly, and Dr. Duck gave him a measuring look before the charcoal stallion smiled wryly and held up a hoof. “Scout's honor.”
Dr. Duck sighed a bit, then he instead turned his attention to his messy desk for a moment, pulling through a few files, and Scrivener stiffened: this was the part he hated. He knew by now that dealing with these doctors was the same as dealing with a lot of authority figures: you repeated the same old party lines to them again and again, and they had no choice but to believe you and eventually move on from you to something else, so long as you never gave them the satisfaction of seeing you act out. But a lot of doctors liked to poke at nerves: even if they tried to project an atmosphere of compassion and kindness, there was almost always cunning in there as well. It wasn't so different from a police interrogation... and all patients were criminals guilty of insanity until proven innocent.
Finally, Dr. Duck looked up and asked in a falsely-gentle voice: “Can you tell me about Princess Luna, Scrivener Blooms? Are you still seeing visions of her?”
“I never saw visions of her, she...” Scrivener caught himself, then he smiled slightly, shaking his head slowly. “Nice try. But I'm perfectly sane now and I know that my wife is dead and seeing the world has helped me understand, cope, and move forwards.”
“You're lying to me, Scrivener, and I don't quite know why.” Dr. Duck said softly, leaning across the desk and looking serious. “Now you know that unless I give my approval, you'll be taken back to the Canterlot Institute for Mental Health for reassessment: we're concerned that you still present a significant risk of danger to yourself and others, and you have to make it through a ninety day parole period before anypony will let you simply prance off into the sunset. Now, I have no doubt you can lie your way through your teeth to get through a simple assessment on the good days... but it would be a waste of our time and yours to go through that whole process, and you could end up spending a few days back in the institute, or be placed into one of the halfway house programs... you don't want that, do you?”
Scrivener grumbled under his breath, and then he looked up and said moodily: “I don't want to discuss Luna with you.”
“Okay, then we can avoid that subject for now.” Dr. Duck looked pleased with himself as he sat up, asking in his falsely-kind voice: “Tell me about how you've been doing these first few days of freedom. Honestly.”
“Honestly? I've been... I've been better than I expected.” Scrivener said finally, sighing and lowering his head a little, grumbling inwardly. But it would be a small price to pay to be forced to play this stupid game with the shrink if it would just keep him out of the asylum. “Yesterday... Twilight and I went to the bank, and to the pharmacy... we even stopped for lunch and picked up dinner at a restaurant. I was around other ponies almost all day and I only had a few bad moments, but nothing awful.”
Dr. Duck nodded slowly, then he looked down at the files laid out across his desk as he said calmly: “Tell me about the bad moments, Scrivener Blooms. Did you believe these ponies were out to get you, trying to persecute you?”
“No, no...” Scrivener hesitated, then he sighed when Dr. Duck looked up at him, shifting and muttering: “It's not persecution as much as I believe they just don't like me. That they don't want anything to do with me or they... hate me, find me stupid.”
“I see.” Dr. Duck reached up, the lanky earth pony picking up a quill and making a short note on one of Scrivener's files, making him grimace before the psychologist said gently: “You understand that these ponies don't feel that way about you, correct? That it's only all in your mind?”
“Yes, I do.” Scrivener sighed tiredly, looking down and muttering: “But even with all the anti-anxiety medication running through my system, I still end up thinking these... things.”
“Well, these medications make handling stress easier, and allow you to better cope with anxiety, but they don't eliminate it completely. Think of it this way: without the medication, you may not be able to control your emotions or remind yourself that your perception of their feelings is only all in your own mind, and then where would you be? Coping with another delusional state.” Dr. Duck said pointedly, and Scrivener grunted and nodded moodily before the psychologist smiled. “Good. Now, you're living with a friend, Twilight Sparkle, correct? She's a nice mare... I've met her once or twice.”
Scrivener looked moodily across at Dr. Duck, remaining quiet, and the psychologist sized him up for a moment before asking: “How do you feel about her? Are you ever concerned she's 'out to get you,' or do you ever feel the urge to hurt her? Conversely, are your feelings for her strong, do you want to make her 'yours?'”
The charcoal stallion shivered once, grunting and looking away before he sighed when the shrink only continued to smile kindly at him, and finally, Scrivy sighed and said moodily: “I... I've never once felt like Twilight wanted to hurt me.”
He halted, then frowned in surprise as he realized it was true, prompting Dr. Duck to lean forwards curiously. Scrivener remained silent for a moment, and then he nodded slowly, looking up and saying quietly: “She's better to me than I deserve, and I trust her completely. Yes, I care about her very deeply... I want to do everything I can for her, because of all the help she provides me, and because she doesn't judge me. But I fail to see how this has anything to do with the fact everyone thinks I'm nuts.”
“On the contrary, I think it's a very good sign. It means that little-by-little, you're beginning to move on from the loss of your fiancee, and as you move forwards, I have faith that your mental health will substantially improve.” Dr. Duck replied, and even when Scrivener gritted his teeth, the psychologist only smiled. “Don't worry, Scrivener Blooms. These feelings are very natural. And we'll work through that guilt you feel over the death of your loved one. Like I tell all my patients, you have the power to make yourself well.”
Scrivener grunted at this moodily, and then he dropped his head forwards before Dr. Duck said gently: “I think this is a good start. I won't press you any further for now, Scrivener Blooms, but try and let go of the past, and look forwards to the future. I believe you have a very happy future ahead of you, if you're only willing to move towards it.”
Scrivener only grunted as he stood up from the chair, and then he nodded once before turning and heading to the door. Just as he pushed it open, however, Dr. Duck said kindly: “Let's meet at the same time, two weeks from now. I'll send you a letter so you don't forget, with a few anxiety exercises.”
The charcoal stallion nodded silently again, and then he let himself out of the office, closing the door behind him and feeling cranky as he headed down the hall and hurried out of the rundown mental health clinic. He muttered to himself under his breath about self-important doctors, then shook his head out as he strode slowly down the street by himself, looking almost nervously back and forth.
The skies were cloudy and gray above, casting a gloomy pall over Ponyville that at least seemed to be keeping most of the ponies inside and the streets relatively empty. It made the walk easier, and he felt his mood slowly evening out with his movements as he headed back towards the library.
He had asked Twilight not to come with him, not just because it would waste a lot of her time, but also because he knew he had to adjust to being outside and around ponies by himself, too. Maybe he was pushing himself a little fast, but... all the same, he didn't want to be a dead weight. He didn't want to be dependent on Twilight to take him everywhere like she was his foal-sitter... she deserved better than that. And besides... Ponyville was small, and the ponies didn't set him on edge like the people of Canterlot did... well, most of them didn't. Dr. Duck had been a clear exception to that rule.
Scrivener shook his head out a bit before he looked up at the sky overhead, hearing the rumble of thunder. There was going to be a storm today... and he grimaced a bit, picking up his pace as he hurried back towards the library. He could feel his anxieties writhing around in his head, but they were quickly being displaced by a simple desire to avoid the rain if at all possible... he hated the rain.
He made it back to the library just after the storm began, avoiding being drenched by the rainfall and letting out a sigh of relief as he kicked the door closed behind him. He glanced up to see Twilight already approaching with a warm smile on her face... an expression Scrivener realized after a moment was just a little bit anxious, too, as she asked quickly: “So how did it go, Scrivy? Rarity's, and then the psychologist?”
Scrivener smiled a little across at her, shaking his head as he straightened before shrugging a bit and meeting her eyes. “Good, I think. I... got a little paranoid over at Rarity's, but... she was also hovering around me with a lot of needles and scissors and sharp objects.”
Twilight laughed a bit at this, nodding slowly to him as she smiled a little in return. “Yeah. I get a little paranoid there myself sometimes too... but what about the psychologist, then?”
“Slow down, Twilight, I just got in the door.” Scrivener laughed despite himself, shaking his head as he approached, and then he blushed and winced back a bit as the violet mare checked him quickly over, mumbling: “Oh come on, you can't think that I did something stupid out there, can you?”
“Hey, I'm supposed to keep an eye on you at all times, Scrivener. I was just... I was just worried. You're kind of a trouble magnet most of the time.” Twilight said softly, and Scrivener nodded a bit after a moment, meeting her eyes before she shook her head and reached up to gently touch his face. “I'm glad you're okay.”
“I am. I am okay.” Scrivener affirmed softly, more to himself than her, and then he nodded thoughtfully before saying: “And things went okay with the shrink. I don't like him but I guess that's to be expected anyway. But I didn't make too much trouble so... I just have to go back in two weeks' time and he's going to send us a letter or something.”
Twilight nodded, then she stepped back and smiled, saying softly: “Come on. I'll make you something to eat.”
“Why don't I make the food, Twilight? You know I don't mind. I'll just put together grilled cheese or something.” Scrivener said after a moment, and Twilight sighed but then nodded, giving him a soft look. “Or grilled tomato? Would you prefer that?”
“Whatever you're having is fine, Scrivy.” Twilight said with soft amusement, and Scrivener grunted at her with another nod as he headed towards the kitchen, the violet mare smiling a little. “You know, this almost makes me believe your stories. I didn't know you actually knew how to cook.”
“Well, I wouldn't go that far, Twilight; I might be able to throw food together but I'm no master chef either.” Scrivener smiled over his shoulder at her, then returned his gaze forwards, continuing with a shrug of his shoulders: “But Luna was never any good at cooking and... I liked being useful to her. So I gradually learned to expand my repertoire of a few simple dishes into a small variety of meals... you know, when we had to eat, anyway.”
Twilight looked at him softly, and Scrivener shook his head a bit before the violet mare asked quietly: “What was it like? In the world you lived in?”
Scrivener looked over his shoulder at her, halting just outside the kitchen with a bit of a frown, but Twilight Sparkle only smiled faintly, murmuring: “I'm not saying I believe you, Scrivener. But I'm saying that if everything felt so real to you... if everything was so... vivid, and that world you lived in, whether in reality or just delusion was... was the world you lived in... I'm just curious. I want to know what it must have felt like for you... and I wonder sometimes...”
“What's the difference between dreams and reality, if you believe in it?” Scrivener finished softly, and Twilight looked at him for a moment, then nodded slowly.
Scrivy smiled a little after a moment, then he bowed his head forwards and thought on Twilight's question as he headed into the kitchen. She followed him, sitting back at the table and watching as the stallion slowly went about the process of gathering up the things needed to put together a simple meal.
Then he finally looked up, glancing over his shoulder at her and answering softly: “Fluttershy kind of asked me that same question, you know. And I told her I was the luckiest stallion in the world, which... I'll repeat to you. But... I guess you deserve a fuller explanation, too, Twilight. If not just because of your obsession with knowing every little thing, of course...”
The violet mare gave him an entertained look, and the stallion looked thoughtfully ahead before he said quietly: “I'm not saying that it was paradise... there was a lot of pain, and there was a lot of hardship. My relationships weren't perfect... far from it. And they required more work and effort than most people would believe, too... but they were worth it, always. And I never once questioned how lucky I was to...”
He quieted, then shook his head as his hooves continued to go about the simple process of putting the pan on the stove, buttering bread, getting other things ready. “I have a lot of good memories, and a lot more powerful memories... stuff that I wouldn't trade for the world, even though... they aren't memories that make me happy, either. I remember being strong, and... I liked being strong, Twilight Sparkle. I mean, I know, there aren't a lot of ponies who want to be weak, but...”
He laughed a bit, shaking his head slowly as he tossed the bread into the pan, sending up a hiss of steam and the distinct smell of frying butter. “I liked being... in control, in a sense. I mean, Luna was always telling me what to do and so was... the Twilight I knew...” Scrivener smiled over at her. “But I was able to throw my own ideas and weight around too, when I liked. And I was strong enough that I... I didn't have to be afraid of anything. Not with you and Luna behind me, supporting me...”
Scrivener lowered his head, and then he shook it hurriedly and went back to cooking, mumbling to himself: “I mean, my Twilight. Well. You know what I mean. What I'm trying to say is... I was never alone.”
Then he glanced up in surprise as he felt limbs wrap silently around him from behind, and he looked quietly up as Twilight held onto him, pressing herself close against his back and her eyes closed, her head resting silently on the back of his neck. He breathed slowly in and out as he felt her heart thudding in her chest, almost in time with his own... and then the violet mare smiled faintly, whispering: “You never have to be alone, Scrivener. Never.”
Scrivy blushed a bit as he lowered his head in silent thanks, but he didn't need to speak as Twilight simply held on to him, her eyes closing, pressed against his back.
He remembered it so clearly: his Equestria, the Looking Glass World he came from, populated with ponies and Nibelung and Strange Ones and other races. He remembered the gaze of a falcon-headed once-god who had learned compassion, and the callous and childlike snarl of a Jötnar that had sought to destroy everything simply because he wanted to.
Scrivener twisted back and forth on his bed, shivering and sweating, deep asleep and breathing hard as the nightmares and memories mixed together and tore through his mind. And so bittersweet, so wonderful and terrible at the same time, he could see Luna, too... but what made it so painful was the fact that every time she appeared in his memories, there were afterimages, overlap: it was like he was remembering two different Lunas at once.
She smiled at him and swayed a bit in his mind, and the overlapping Luna moved with her only a little out of time, her expression more of a grin, their eyes both so beautiful, so deep, so determined, but so different. One had the eyes of a warrior... the other, the eyes of a dreamer. One was filled with longing to be more than she was; the other was filled with the desire to make who she was into something better. And yet in both of them, for all their differences... they were both everything he had ever admired.
Scrivener shifted back and forth with a quiet groan on the bedding, as the memories split apart in his mind, leaving him to stare at two different images: at a Luna that stood in a beautiful bedroom in a castle, and a Luna that rested in a comfortable den in a hidden and comfortable cottage. Then the images blurred, and Princess Luna was wearing a dress as Warrior Luna stomped something to pieces beneath her hooves, before both grumbled, in voices that echoed and overlapped: “I hate pretty clothing.”
A flash, and then both Lunas were smiling towards him, one now wearing only a band of ivy with a beautiful black pearl engraved with a rose blossom, while the other had a gorgeous necklace of dark gemstones now on as well, that matched her peytral and tiara. “It's beautiful, Scrivener...”
The images fizzled again, and a moment later, the two Lunas were again in a different position, one laying on comfortable bedding and the other smiling as she sat at a writing desk, both gazing at him softly. “Come join me, poet.”
A flicker, and then this time, darkness assaulted his senses, so thick that it threatened to suffocate him... before cold, callous eyes opened in the shadows as a blue-fire mane cast ill light over the features of the being he'd known as Nightmare Moon, her voice whispering with soft, poisonous love: “We shall never leave you and you shall never leave us, Scrivener Blooms. Our love is the greatest love of all; our love is the love that kills and makes strong.”
Scrivener shuddered and groaned before Nightmare Moon vanished into the darkness, and visions tore through his mind, of massive, mottle-scaled Tyrant Wyrms striding over black and rotten mire that reeked like gasoline and charred metal, bone pistons pumping on the backs of the grinning, dragon-like monsters. They moved through the wastes, sounding like rumbling, thundering trains as blue steam hissed out of their jaws, before one of them looked directly towards him and opened its maw with a roar that sounded like a crash, a bang, a scream of metal and gears and machinery-
“Scrivener!” Twilight's voice cut through the nightmare, and Scrivener sat up on the bedding, gasping hard, clutching at his chest as he looked wildly back and forth. Twilight was beside him, breathing hard as she leaned over him worriedly, and Scrivener trembled violently before he turned towards her and buried his face against the side of her neck, clutching at her almost desperately.
She hugged him back immediately, holding the larger stallion as best she could and looking down over him worriedly as she stroked a hoof through his ragged mane... but after a few moments, Scrivener sat back, breathing a little hard and shivering a bit, but obviously calmer as he rubbed a hoof at his face, mumbling: “Sorry.”
“It's okay. Are you okay?” Twilight hesitated, looking over him as Scrivener nodded slowly and sat back a bit, breathing slowly before she carefully slipped forwards to sit on the futon beside him. “How long did you sleep for?”
“A few hours. Just a few hours.” Scrivener shook his head a bit, rubbing at his face slowly. “I... feels like morning.”
“The sun's not even up yet, Scrivener, but I thought I heard something while I was getting a glass of water, and... I'm glad I came to check on you.” Twilight said softly, and then she reached a hoof up and frowned a bit, murmuring: “You're covered in cold sweat...”
“The... the memories get to me. Make me question my sanity and... it... it's worse than any nightmare...” Scrivener shivered a bit, looking away before he closed his eyes. “Let's not talk about it. Look, I'll be fine. You go back to bed, Twilight, but... thank you for making sure I was okay.”
Twilight hesitated... and then she quietly laid down on the futon, and Scrivener glanced over his shoulder at her with surprise as she looked up at him softly, saying finally: “I... I can trust you, right?”
Scrivener was quiet as he looked down at her, before blushing a little as his eyes roved slowly downwards... but Twilight only smiled faintly, reaching a hoof out and touching his foreleg quietly. “Come on. Lay down. I'll stay with you and make sure you can get a little more rest.”
“Y-Yeah.” Scrivener said finally, and he slowly settled down beside her, laying facing her. Their eyes locked in the darkness, violet and chestnut irises staring into one another's before Scrivener smiled faintly and slowly reached up, not speaking as he gently took one of Twilight's front hooves in his own.
Twilight smiled at him, slowly squeezing his hoof in return as she leaned towards him a bit, her lips parting slightly, breathing quietly as Scrivener felt his body settling. He looked into her eyes, and saw the same Twilight he had lived with, spent time with... loved...
He closed his eyes... and when he opened them again, Twilight's own irises had slid closed and she was breathing slowly and regularly, already asleep. Her hoof still gripped his tightly, though, and Scrivener looked slowly over her before gazing silently down at this, and a shiver ran through him as thoughts of Luna rolled through his mind, whispering: “I... I don't want to betray her...”
But she would want you happy... we desire to see you happy... chided Nightmare Moon's voice, and Scrivener swallowed thickly before the voice whispered teasingly through his mind: Why should we not encourage this? Another delight, to add to our collection...
Scrivener shivered at this thought, grimacing as he slipped himself protectively closer to Twilight, and then he laughed despite himself at this, feeling bitter and frustrated with himself. He wanted to protect her... but he had a horrible feeling that while that was Nightmare Moon's sultry tones, that thought was purely his own.
He made a face at his own desires... then silently looked down as Twilight shifted and slipped herself closer to him in her sleep, the charcoal stallion softening. He hesitated for a moment, then reached forwards and silently brushed her mane away from her face, studying her silently: there were so many physical differences between this Twilight and the Twilight he had known... but at the same time, they were so much the same, in so many ways. Putting him first, trusting him, caring for him... now here, even if he could see she was a little scared of him, a little worried about what he might do... she was here with him.
He wondered silently, again, just why she was going to such lengths for him... and then Scrivener shook his head slowly before he shifted a little and closed his eyes. Sleep didn't come to him again that night, but by the time morning came, he still felt well-rested thanks to the comfort of the violet mare's presence.
Her eyes opened, and she smiled softly as she found herself in his embrace, her head on his chest, his forelegs around her. Then she slowly looked up, and when their eyes locked, Twilight blushed suddenly before hurriedly pushing herself up and away, Scrivener unable to repress a wry grin at her as she cleared her throat and sat back a bit, shaking herself briskly out. “G-Good morning, Scrivy. Did... did you sleep?”
“I didn't need to.” Scrivener said softly, and Twilight blushed deeper before she smiled hesitantly down at him, reaching out to almost nervously touch his chest. Scrivener gave her an amused look, and then he shook his head slowly, asking: “Want me to throw on breakfast for you and Spike?”
“No... not right away, anyway.” Twilight hesitated, and then she shook her head a bit. “I should write a letter to Princess Celestia, and I also need to do a little bit of work around the library today, sorting books and cataloging. Maybe you could help Spike with that, if you're up for it... and I've got a stack of articles to sort and transcribe, too.”
“I could just hire someone to do all the work for us.” Scrivener said mildly, and when Twilight gave him a sour look, he grumbled and shoved at her. “You're as fun as I remember.”
“I guess some things never change.” Twilight smiled a little at him, studying him before she glanced down and rubbed a hoof at her chest slowly... then finally drew her gaze upwards, asking softly: “Scrivy... do you remember...”
Scrivener frowned a bit, tilting his head slowly, and Twilight smiled faintly again before she reached up and touched under his chin softly. “You really don't, huh? It was years ago, though, and you've been in such a confusing, dark place for more than two of them... I know that you've... rewritten history for yourself. Or... what do I know, maybe you're telling the truth and...”
Twilight laughed and shook her head slowly, before she looked down and whispered: “But I don't want to believe that... but not because I think it's crazy, Scrivener, or impossible. Not because... I think you're mentally ill... because of what it means for me. Because it means you already have a better Twilight waiting for you, whatever's happened to Luna... if you lost Luna at all, that is. Because I'm selfish, and I can't stop thinking of the promise we made to each other...”
Scrivener cocked his head as he sat slowly up, and Twilight's eyes locked with his, smiling faintly as she whispered: “We all promised each other... the three of us, that we'd always take care of each other. You, me, Luna... if something happened to one of us, the other would be there. We promised each other, Scrivy... we were best friends.”
“We did...” Scrivener murmured quietly, lowering his head and remembering that same promise, made between him, Luna and Twilight in his own world. A promise to watch out for one another, to always be friends no matter what happened and how the world around them changed... to take care of each other if anything happened. A promise that had grown and always held true... and Scrivener closed his eyes before he slowly looked up as he said quietly: “Then why do we both feel guilty?”
“Because you still love Luna, even if she's been gone for so long now...” Twilight laughed faintly, glancing to the side. “Because here we are now, and I'm sitting here, trying to convince you that everything you thought you knew was a lie... because I feel like I'm betraying both of my best friends.”
Scrivener closed his eyes... then he reached up and touched her shoulder, looking into her violet eyes as he said softly: “I care about you very deeply, Twilight... more than I can say. But let's take this slow then, okay? I... I don't know what's real and what's not, we need to adjust to living together, and... you're kind of crazy.” He smiled a bit as Twilight gave him a frustrated but strangely-relieved look. “Besides. You might not find me so attractive after a few sessions of me crying like a little filly.”
Twilight only sighed and shook her head slowly, then she smiled a bit and nodded slowly once, murmuring: “I think I'm more worried that you won't like me after you spend some time with me, than I won't like you for who you are.”
Scrivener frowned at this, tilting his head curiously, but Twilight only hurriedly shook her head before she stood up, gesturing to him awkwardly. “But... come on then, Scrivener. Let's do some work around here.”
She paused for a moment longer, however, then she looked at him and asked curiously: “How would you feel about spending a little more time around my friends? I understand if you don't want to, of course, Scrivy, but... they seemed to get along with you pretty well. And more than that, you seemed to do good with them... it might be nice for you to try and socialize a little more. It might... help with things.”
Scrivener shifted a bit, and then he finally grunted and nodded slowly, saying after a moment: “Maybe. If only because you probably just want me out of the library.”
“I just want my friends to approve of you.” Twilight said softly, and Scrivener looked dumbly up at her before Twilight blushed and shook her head rapidly. “I... I mean, I want them to get to know you better, not... not... that.... I mean... I'm going to go put on coffee!”
Twilight spun and hurried out of the room, and Scrivener sighed and rolled his eyes, but he was smiling warmly all the same, feeling lightened as he carefully climbed up to his hooves and stepped forwards. Then he reached up and silently rubbed at his chest, lowering his head a bit and feeling a rumble run through his body as he murmured: “What should I do, Luna?”
Only silence greeted him in return... and Scrivener shook his head slowly, striding forwards with his head lowered as he closed his eyes and murmured to himself: “Come on, Scrivy. Get though the day... you can try and put the pieces back together later.”
He nodded slowly to himself, readying himself for what he expected would be a long and tiresome day... but thankfully, it proved the opposite of what the charcoal stallion expected. It had been a long time since he'd done the kind of work Twilight had laid out for him, and with Spike working with him, he was able to almost meditate in the monotony of transcribing and sorting articles between sharing conversation with the baby dragon. It also seemed to soothe Spike's worries to sit and talk with the large stallion, and learn that his talent really was for writing... just as he was fascinated when Scrivener found himself beginning to ramble once more about his delusions, unable to stop himself.
But talk of other worlds wasn't so fantastic to the baby dragon: he was still naïve enough to simply accept the things he was told. It probably helped that he was able to mention the Spike of his world had both grown into a fine young warrior and eventually married Rarity.
Spike looked dreamy with these thoughts, and when Twilight had come back, she had been both amused and irritated with Scrivener, reminding him gently that this was the real world, and he should at least be pretending that he was trying to reconnect to reality instead of giving in to the delusions. Scrivener only grumbled at her, but he had nodded all the same... although once Twilight was gone, he went back to gladly answering any questions Spike had to ask.
In the afternoon, while Scrivener had moved to the main library to start sorting shelves and argue with Twilight Sparkle about her filing system, a window was kicked open and Rainbow Dash shot in and tackled Scrivener, knocking him off the ladder he'd been standing on and driving him to the ground. Twilight had winced as Scrivener had looked stupidly up at Rainbow as she'd leaned over him, glaring down at him challengingly. “Do I look like a dude to you?”
“Yes.” Scrivener said seriously, and Rainbow Dash spluttered for a response before he held up a hoof and asked mildly: “Can you get off me now? Because even if you aren't a stallion you weigh about as much as one.”
“Dude, you're asking for it.” Rainbow said threateningly, and then she leaned forwards and poked his face a few times. “I'm not reading a story where I'm a dude. That's dumb. D-U-M dumb. Also, what's with Pinkie being all crazy? That's stupid too.”
Scrivener paused for a few moments, then he looked up at her thoughtfully and asked curiously: “If you're not reading the story, then why are you more than halfway through it? And I also note that you've objected to being a guy but not to marrying Applejack.”
“I was just getting to that!” Rainbow snapped in a flustered voice, blushing deep red for a moment before she grumbled and smacked him several times with her front hooves, Scrivener wincing and covering his head. “You can't write this kind of stuff about real ponies!”
“Tabloids do it all the time and they actually publish their stuff. The only ponies who know about these stories are you, Twilight, and Celestia. You should feel special.” Scrivener replied grumpily, and when Rainbow gave him a dour look, the stallion continued in a kinder voice: “But I completely understand your feelings on the subject, so why don't you just return the manuscript to me, and we'll lock that and the other stories away?”
Rainbow cleared her throat at this, then she mumbled grudgingly: “Well... you know... I mean, I'm... halfway through anyway. And you know, I guess the action was kind of cool. The whole crazy running through Canterlot thing, I liked that, that was okay. Just okay, of course. I don't like it at all but I figure since I'm in it I should read the whole thing. But you gotta totally thank me for it.”
“Thank you, Rainbow Douche.” Scrivener said dryly, and then he winced when she smacked him firmly again, the stallion muttering: “Exact same reaction as you had in the story.”
Rainbow grunted, then she finally slipped off him and cleared her throat at the smoldering look Twilight was giving her, grinning lamely. “Hey, at least this time I didn't wreck anything. Oh, yeah, by the way, Scrivy. You wanna come out tonight for drinks? Twilight, you can come too... you know, if you're not going to give me the same excuse as you always do.”
Twilight and Scrivener both looked surprised, and Rainbow shrugged a bit, saying finally: “Well, it'd be nice to have a pony there other than Big Mac and maybe Applejack. Fluttershy never joins us and Rarity's too hoity-toity for a bar and Twilight's boring. And Pinkie joins us sometimes but we always have to keep an eye on her, since she doesn't really understand how livers work.”
Scrivener hesitated, and then he stood up and said quietly: “I appreciate it, and... I'll come if I can just stick to cola and stuff. I don't.. do well with alcohol.”
Rainbow studied him for a moment thoughtfully, and then she smiled a little, raising a hoof and saying softly: “Sure. And see, Twilight? Now you gotta come if the crazy jerk here is coming out with us.”
“I'd... rather not.” Twilight said delicately, before she smiled a little across at Scrivener, giving him a soft look. “I think instead I'll pay Rarity a visit tonight, if that's okay, Scrivy. I'll pick up your clothes and... Luna's dress for you.”
Scrivener nodded, smiling a little over at her and oddly appreciating the chance to try and do this on his own, even if the idea of not having her as a safety net to fall back on worried him. But he thought she had something else in mind, too, even as Rainbow groaned and rolled her eyes, grumbling: “You're never going to get over that one time, are you?”
Twilight only gave the Pegasus a flat look again, and Rainbow Dash finally sighed and nodded, then hopped into the air and said pointedly: “I'll be waiting for you, then, Scrivy, don't you let me down! The Golden Horseshoe, don't forget it!”
With that, Rainbow turned and flew quickly out an open window, Scrivener and Twilight both looking up with relief as she left... before the Pegasus awkwardly poked her head back in, asking lamely: “Can I have the next story, by the way?”
“No. Finish the one you have, first.” Scrivener said flatly, and Rainbow huffed at him before leaving, the charcoal stallion looking wryly amused as he muttered: “I really enjoy how my special talent is to make people read stories they absolutely hate.”
“Oh, stop it.” Twilight was smiling all the same, however, giving him an amused look before she said meditatively: “Although you could try and write something positive for a change... or you know, take the feelings of your audience into consideration...”
“Well, I guess I'm just a cold unfeeling bastard who thrives on pain.” Scrivener remarked cheerfully, and Twilight groaned and dropped her head forwards before he smiled over at her. “Think of it this way. I write what one person wants to see, I make one person happy. I'd rather write what I want to see and make myself... well. My writing doesn't often make me happy. But not writing the story as I'm told makes my hooves try and suffocate me in my sleep.”
Twilight only looked at him for a few moments, and then she sighed and shook her head slowly, muttering: “I'm going to ask the doctors to double your medication.”
Scrivener only gave her an amused look, and then he shifted a little before glancing towards the door, adding moodily: “And you know. Then I stop and realize what I just did and I wonder if maybe tonight's the night I have a psychotic break again.”
Twilight softened at this, striding over to him with a shake of her head and reaching up to touch his shoulder gently. “They're good ponies, Scrivy, and it won't be crowded. Besides, Rainbow seemed interested in having you along and... she and Applejack will take good care of you.”
Scrivener nodded a little, and then he looked curiously over Twilight before he asked: “And what are you up to tonight?”
“Just... putting my best hoof forwards.” Twilight said finally, smiling at him, and Scrivener tilted his head a bit before the violet mare shrugged and murmured quietly: “If you want something, you can't just sit back and wait for it to come to you, can you?”
“Ponies say that, but... it's not always true. Sometimes running towards something is what drives it away.” Scrivener said softly, and Twilight nodded slowly before the stallion lowered his head, murmuring softly: “Luna and I... after all, we just... we just kind of happened. Same with us, wasn't it?”
“Yeah.” Twilight smiled a bit as she lowered her head, and neither said anything even as they both felt it: that moment, that twist. Then, finally, the violet mare turned to head back to work, and Scrivener quietly went to do his own job as well.
They ended up not having much of a dinner, neither very hungry and Spike napping, before the two left together after Twilight made sure Scrivener took his pills. He had to take them three times a day, although the stallion wasn't very careful about keeping to his schedule and regularly ignored the instructions on the sides of the bottles. Twilight walked Scrivy into town to help him find the bar, then left quickly to head to Rarity's boutique... but not before another quick hug that lingered just a little long.
Scrivener went inside, feeling anxiety rolling around inside of him as confused thoughts spilled through his mind, but he managed a smile when Rainbow called to him from a nearby table, walking over to sit down with her. Applejack was here as well, and she smiled and pointed across the room to a large, crimson stallion with a hay-colored mane and tail and a thick oaken yoke around his neck, saying warmly: “See that guy over there? That's my brother, Big Mac.”
Scrivener nodded, studying the male for a moment with a smile: from his green eyes to his cutie mark of an apple half on his flank, he was- “AJ, the dude knows. The dude knows all of us. And personally I'm starting to think all these stories are some crazy prank by Twilight, she put you up to this, didn't she? Revenge for all the times Pinkie and I owned her.”
The charcoal earth pony looked mildly across at Rainbow Dash as the Pegasus leaned forwards, grinning across at him victoriously, and then he asked plainly: “If Twilight really wanted to get revenge on you for those pranks, do you really think she'd need my help? Or more importantly, that this is the worst I could do?”
“It probably is the worst you... could do.” Rainbow retorted lamely, and Scrivener laughed as Applejack cleared her throat and hid her grin behind a hoof. “Okay, you both shut up. Anyway, I'm gonna bring your manuscript back to the library tomorrow. What's the next story?”
“Seriously, you read it already?” Scrivener looked dumbfounded, and when Rainbow peered at him as if expecting some insult or mockery, he shrugged after a moment, saying finally: “Thank you.”
The Pegasus seemed surprised by this, but she quickly only shrugged, replying mildly: “Well, you know, it was okay and stuff and... I didn't have anything better to do today, that's all. Hey, Big Mac, what's taking so long? Come meet the dude we were talking about!”
“Since when was I promoted to being 'the dude,' anyway? Not that I'm complaining or anything, but. All the same.” Scrivener smiled as he relaxed a bit before glancing up when a large red stallion slid into the booth seat beside him, the charcoal stallion grunting and nodding to him, and Big Mac returned the gesture easily as he put down a tray loaded with drinks.
Applejack snorted in amusement at this as Rainbow said mildly: “This is the guy we were talking about.”
“Nice to meet ya.” Big Mac said kindly, and the two stallions looked at each other for a moment, Scrivener Blooms feeling that odd sense of familiarity again before the red earth pony picked up one of the bottles of beer in front of him and popped the top off with the edge of the table. He offered it to Scrivener, but the charcoal stallion only smiled and rose a hoof with a shake of his head, and the red stallion grunted and instead took a deep swig of the beer himself.
“Well, glad you two are getting along.” AJ rolled her eyes in amusement, leaning back in her seat and trading an entertained look with Dash. “Good thing we got two such conversational ponies here, huh?”
“Seriously.” Rainbow Dash looked entertained as well, then she grinned and nudged Applejack lightly, saying in a conspiratorial voice that clearly carried over to Scrivener. “But a little birdy told me that Twilight might just have the hots for the dude here. She even scheduled a visit over with Rarity or something this afternoon.”
Scrivener looked meditative at this as Applejack huffed, but she looked intrigued all the same as her eyes roved curiously to the charcoal stallion. “You're just trying to stir the pot Rainbow, even though Celestia knows you've been talking about that damn silly story he wrote so much I think you don't really hate it at all.”
“I hate it! I totally hate it!” Rainbow said in an outraged voice, and then she added hurriedly: “And hey, this is Scrivener's humiliation, not mine. Also, he wrote Luna making out with Twilight.”
“What?” Applejack leaned up and glared over at Scrivener, saying flatly: “Now that, on the other hoof, ain't really a good way to go remembering your dead fiancee.”
Scrivener grumbled at this, but Rainbow Dash only interjected cheerfully: “Well, cut him some slack, AJ, he is a madpony and all. Besides, if it wasn't so creepy it'd be cute. Twilight was always going to Canterlot, remember, when... when Luna was around.”
The other ponies quieted a bit at this, and then Scrivener looked up and said mildly: “I'm not a madpony. I'm a lunatic.” A pause. “Get it?”
“Did... did you just make a joke about your dead fiancee?” Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Big Mac all stared at him, the Pegasus' jaw working stupidly and Big Mac with his bottle raised to his mouth, but not drinking, only staring.
“Dead wife, and yes, I did.” Scrivener halted, then he looked down and smiled faintly. “She would have absolutely loved that. She would have wanted me to make that joke... because that was just the way we were. We were always... yelling at each other, and hitting each other, and arguing and grumbling and fighting, but... at the same time, we never fought, do you understand? She'd call me names and I'd undermine her and we were... more than husband and wife, we were the very best of friends. I can't explain how important that was... that we were best friends.”
Applejack and Rainbow Dash traded a quiet look as Big Mac slowly lowered his bottle, the three simply looking at the charcoal pony before he cleared his throat and rose his head with a bit of a smile. “Anyway, let's... not let me depress us all or start going crazy.”
There was quiet for a few moments, and then Rainbow Dash finally asked curiously: “So... honestly, Scrivy, 'cause... you know, I'm her friend, and I just wanna know the score... are you and Twilight...”
Scrivener shrugged after a moment even as Applejack looked pointedly at Rainbow Dash, and then the charcoal stallion said softly: “It's hard to say. I still... I still think about Luna all the time. Feel for Luna... and Twilight feels a lot of guilt and shame, too. She and Luna were good friends... we all were, even if... my memories are all weird.”
“Yeah, well. I don't think you were as good friends as you wrote about.” Rainbow said mildly, and when Scrivener gave her a sour look, the Pegasus held up a hoof in a gesture of surrender. “Okay okay, dropping it for now. But if it continues to pop up I claim the right to continue to make fun of you for it.”
“It does, and you also continue to be a guy. Did you tell Applejack about-” Scrivener paused at the frantic head-shaking of the Pegasus, and the charcoal stallion looked pleased with himself as Applejack only looked up curiously. “Oh, you didn't mention that-”
The table jounced, and Big Mac winced before scowling across at Rainbow Dash, who shrank back a bit in her seat as Scrivener coughed and cleared his throat loudly. Applejack only sighed and rolled her eyes, then she looked moodily over at the Pegasus, saying dryly: “Rainbow, you're three kinds of idiot, you know that?”
Rainbow only nodded awkwardly, and Scrivener smiled despite himself before he glanced over at Big Mac and asked impulsively: “Do you play pool?”
Big Mac only shrugged and looked at him curiously, and Scrivener nodded a little after a moment, feeling oddly disappointed. Rainbow and Applejack both looked with curiosity towards Scrivener, but he simply stayed quiet before he excused himself for a moment.
He headed to the bar to get a glass of cola, and when he returned, Applejack studied him for a few moments before she said thoughtfully: “You know, Big Mac and I could use another hoof 'round this time of year...”
“We got it covered, AJ.” Big Mac said stoically, and Scrivener let his eyes rove towards the large red stallion thoughtfully, picking up the differences he noticed in all the ponies here from the ones he had known himself... or perhaps created, as the back of his mind whispered. As Big Mac and Applejack argued for a moment, Scrivy felt a chill run down his spine: suddenly, he was wondering whether or not he had simply romanticized all the ponies of Ponyville Luna had told him about... exaggerated their qualities to form his cast of characters in his delusional world, added what he had observed himself, had he met them... which was why some ponies were so different, but others, like Twilight, were almost the same in mind and perhaps soul...
Scrivener was brought back to reality when Big Mac grunted and Applejack nodded firmly and hammered a hoof on the table, before she smiled over at Scrivener. “Sorry 'bout that. Anyway, I don't reckon a big fella like yourself would have the worst of time with the work... more monotonous than anything else. But since Apple Bloom and Granny Smith can't help out much, and I don't want Big Mac hurtin' himself again, maybe you could lend us a hoof with the harvest. I'd be more than happy to pay you what I could...”
“No, no, you don't need to pay me anything. I'd be glad to help out. I think it would be good for me.” Scrivener agreed, nodding and smiling a bit. “Besides, Twilight wants me to make a good impression on the other ponies and at least pretend I can be social. This sounds like a good way to do that.”
Applejack laughed and shook her head, then she smiled warmly in return and said quietly: “Well, you gotta let me pay you back somehow, Scrivener Blooms.”
“We'll figure something out.” Scrivener said mildly, shrugging a bit before he turned his eyes to Rainbow Dash, who was looking at him almost suspiciously. “What?”
Rainbow only grunted, though, then she leaned back and asked curiously: “So what do you actually know about fighting and stuff? And how strong are you, really?”
Scrivener only shrugged a bit, and then he winced when Big Mac glanced at him and rose a hoof, the charcoal stallion clearing his throat and slowly shrinking back. Rainbow was grinning, however, even as Applejack scoffed and said dryly: “If you injure him before he can even come to work for us, Big Mac, I'm gonna tell Granny Smith you're the one who broke her rocking chair.”
Big Mac winced and nodded moodily, even as he looked insistently at Scrivener, and the charcoal stallion sighed before raising his own hoof and mumbling: “Well, there are worse ways to get your legs broken.”
Chapter Four: Madness
Scrivener Blooms was getting used to life in Ponyville, and Twilight Sparkle seemed glad for it... almost too glad, Scrivy thought sometimes, but he attributed that to his paranoia and anxiety. After all, it wasn't like Ponyville was providing him with some magic cure... but it was definitely helping, and definitely a far better place for him to be than the asylum he'd been locked away in.
One thing that gnawed constantly at Scrivener's nerves, however, was the fact that the more he talked to Twilight's friends and walked around Ponyville, the more it made him wonder whether or not he was insane. After all, here were so many characters he had written about, but none of whom were the same in his stories, his delusions, as they were in this layer... and even though he continued to excuse that by arguing with himself that he was probably from a different layer of reality anyway, it did little to comfort him or convince him he really was.
So he took his medication, kept track of things, and did his best to avoid letting himself get too worked up over memories and nightmares. Twilight helped a lot with that, though, and the two had come to depend on each other more than a little. They spent most of their time together in the library, and Twilight walked with him when he had to go out and sometimes even came out to see him while he was on break at Sweet Apple Acres... not because of her promise to keep an eye on him, but because she simply wanted to.
Twilight had changed a little, too: she had gotten Rarity to cut her mane and tail shorter, giving her a more rugged look, and she was a little more outspoken, a little more direct these days. Scrivener wondered a little what was going on with her, but he hadn't said anything about it to her: partly because he wasn't sure if he approved or not himself.
“Stupid everything.” Scrivener muttered as he reared back and firmly kicked a tree, and then he winced when an apple clunked off his head, groaning in irritation as he looked over his shoulder and saw that the other apples that had fallen from the tree had landed everywhere but the baskets. Meanwhile, just across one of the dusty paths leading through the orchards of Sweet Apple Acres, Big Mac calmly bucked another tree... and the apples somehow magically fell perfectly into the baskets, the red stallion looking up and giving an amiable smile to Scrivener before he hitched the tubs of apples to his sides to carry off to storage.
“Oh. Damnation.” Scrivener grumbled, one of Luna's favorite curses... and he halted for a moment at the thought of her, looking away with a quiet sigh as a shiver ran down his spine. Luna... what am I supposed to do without you? I know it's been years, but it only feels like... like I'm just now processing that... you're not here.
“And I suppose being insane doesn't help at all.” remarked a voice so calmly, so casually, that Scrivener only sighed and nodded in agreement... then he looked sharply up, just in time to catch some tall shape striding calmly away through the trees, and Scrivener's mouth went dry before he hurriedly stumbled away from the apple tree and ran quickly after the shape.
He opened his mouth to call out, but no sound came out as he lunged through a bush... yet the figure was far ahead already, heading towards the edge of the property. All Scrivener knew was that it wasn't a pony, and he lunged after it, looking up at the sky with a wince. The sun was setting, and the world was alight with a red pall that made the swaying grasses seem like fire; soon darkness would fall, and the only thing he was sure of was that while he was still preferred the night... it was no longer his domain. Not without his warrior princess by his side...
He shivered and shook his head, tearing after the creature through the field, not knowing why it was so important... and yet every muscle, every nerve, every fiber of his body ached with a need to find this thing. It made his head boil with a feeling he hadn't felt in years, since before he had awoken, raving and lunatic, in the insane asylum to discover that everything he had ever thought was real was just maddened delusion...
No... no, it is real. It is real! Scrivener thought desperately, shivering once as he ran onwards. I'm not insane... I'm not insane... and if there really are other things out there in the world, if... if something really is there...
He shook his head hurriedly as he stumbled around a large tree and into a clearing, and he finally staggered to a halt as he looked back and forth almost desperately. Red had turned to gray-violet, a poisonous dusk settling over the world as Scrivener trembled a little, looking slowly back and forth.
An abandoned, broken-down cart piled high with debris cast ghostly shadows over the field, and the trees all around the clearing seemed to loom almost hungrily over the earth pony as he breathed slowly in and out. The sky above was bruised and bleeding dry of color, and the little light there was reflected eerily off the broken chicken-wire and metal fencing that had mostly degraded away. Some old rope lay discarded near this, making Scrivener think of snakes and worms and intestines...
Scrivener shivered and shook himself out hurriedly, breathing hard as he looked back and forth for any sign of where the creature might have gone... and then he looked up sharply as a familiar voice whispered: “Scrivener Blooms?”
Scrivener's mouth went dry and his eyes widened as a figure hesitantly, carefully emerged from around the wagon, and a tremble ran through him as the sapphire mare slowly rose her head, starry locks swaying slowly backwards as she gazed across at him tenderly. Slowly, the earth pony took a staggering step forwards, breathing harder as a smile spread over his face and his eyes brightened, and Luna smiled faintly in return as she stepped towards him, whispering: “There you are...”
Scrivener's smile widened as his eyes locked with her green-tinted irises, gazing deep into them as he hurried towards her. “Luna! Luna, I... I knew you were alive, I knew I wasn't insane... Luna!”
Scrivener all-but charged into her, and Luna laughed as she was almost knocked off her hooves, the two embracing fiercely as she pressed herself close with a bright smile. The earth pony was trembling hard, tears leaking from his eyes as he clung to her desperately, before she murmured: “I'm here, Scrivener. All for you... I love you...”
“I...” Scrivener's breath caught in his throat, even as he continued to hold her tightly... but as his body stiffened slightly, he felt it. Her skin, so familiar to him, had a texture he didn't recognize... her eyes were greener than he remembered, her features prettier... but most of all...
He shoved himself backwards and away from her, and Luna stumbled in surprise, looking hurt as the two stared at each other... before slowly, a snarl spread over Scrivener's features as he rasped: “You're not Luna...”
“I could be.” whispered the creature, and then its eyes flashed, turning a brighter green as pupils expanded into dark slits, the pony-shaped entity giving a sultry smile as it leaned towards him and said kindly: “Come on, Scrivener Blooms. I can give you back your lost love. And nothing is sweeter than love renewed... we can both get what we want. You can have your princess back, and I get to infiltrate Canterlot for my queen... and I'll be her for you, Scrivener. I'll be her in every way... and better. I can do all the things for you she never would... I can make my body as beautiful as you want, as different as you want. And I can be your Luna, and cradle you and comfort you and love you just like you desire...”
Scrivener was only staring, his breathing growing harsher as his heart thudded in his chest. The sound of it was drowning out almost everything else as his mind twisted and emotions sent spikes through his heart and brain, the earth pony trembling before he whispered again: “You're not Luna.”
“I'm the closest thing you'll ever have to getting her back.” the creature replied, and then, as it stepped forwards, its body glowed before shedding the shape of Luna, revealing the chitinous Changeling beneath the glammer. It grinned at him, insectile wings buzzing once at its side as its tall and twisted horn gave a sickening green glow, long, strong, and holey limbs striding easily over the ground as it walked towards him, flicking its ragged blue mane as its eyes continued to look coldly down into his. “You should feel honored, pony. I'm of the royal family, very close to the Queen herself. Here I am, offering to do things peacefully with you, since among the delicious love there's so much bitter and powerful hatred for your own kind... but if you insist, we can do this the hard way.”
She leaned down, her eyes and horn glowing as she locked gazes with Scrivener, and the charcoal earth pony gasped and twitched, his own eyes beginning to glow as he felt alien thoughts intrude through his mind. Claws shredded his thoughts and seized his writhing emotions, and Scrivener yelled as he shook himself back and forth before the Changeling whispered: “Give in, earth pony. I'm trying to give you what you desire, after all... and you'll love me more than you ever loved precious little Princess Luna...”
Scrivener snarled as something in his mind cracked, and then he howled like an animal, startling the Changeling as he felt her mental grip loosen slightly before he dove forwards and tackled her onto her back. The two growled like beasts, rolling together before the Changeling bared her fangs and bit savagely into Scrivener's shoulder, and the earth pony howled before smashing a hoof into her face. It knocked her backwards with a hiss even as she wrenched her fangs through Scrivener's flesh, leaving a deep, ugly wound as she leapt away and the earth pony howled and clutched at the bloody injury.
She was on her hooves in moments, leaning forwards as Scrivener scrambled up a moment later, only to take a blast of green energy to the face that scalded his cheek and made his eye water... but he only glared in fury as he lunged towards her, and the Changeling's eyes widened before she leapt backwards, flapping her wings to take to the air.
Scrivener leapt upwards and clawed at her almost wildly with his front hooves, and the Changeling snarled in contempt as she easily weaved backwards to avoid him before diving straight down and crashing into Scrivener's head and shoulders, driving him to the ground. She leapt off him and then growled in frustration, her eyes glowing as she hissed: “Don't make me rip your mind ap-”
Her mental claws ripped through Scrivener's mind, but just as she began to seize into his thoughts, hoping to take control, Scrivener's emotions tore up in a flurry as he arched his back with another bestial howl... and this time, it was accompanied by an onslaught of terrible images, the Changeling gasping, then shrieking in surprise as she saw some monstrous, terrible entity lunging at her, hurriedly yanking herself free of the mental link.
She stumbled in shock, and Scrivener charged forwards, almost foaming at the jaws as he tackled her again and shoved her down to the ground. The Changeling hissed, then screamed when Scrivener's hoof smashed down again and again into her face, strength backed by madness and emotion and indescribable fury as dark blood splattered up from the creature.
She slammed her front legs up against him as she shrieked and spasmed beneath him, and Scrivener cursed as he rocked back and forth before half-falling to the side as she finally managed to shove him off. The Changeling snarled in rage, almost sinuous as she pounced immediately on Scrivener and snapped her jaws at him, the earth pony dodging the first bite before he brought a foreleg up when her fangs descended towards his face again.
Her teeth ripped into his foreleg, making him howl in pain as he sprawled backwards, a hoof hitting against the side of the decrepit wagon. The Changeling bore down hard, snarling and crushing his foreleg in her jaws, her eyes glowing with her rage as Scrivener simply fought to push back against her as her hooves pinned him. Her eyes glared down into his, and the earth pony turned his gaze away with another cry of pain as he felt his bones beginning to fracture, rear legs kicking uselessly at the air before his eyes locked on a nearby rock, and he stretched desperately for this...
The Changeling slammed her hooves down against him, forcing him to half-roll onto his back even as Scrivener made a wild swipe for the stone... and the moment he felt his hoof cup it, he brought it swinging up and smashing into the side of the Changeling's face, making her squeal as her teeth rattled free from where they were buried in Scrivener's limb before he slammed the rock into her temple again, and this time knocked her sprawling.
She looked dazed as she slowly began to crawl her way up to her hooves... and then Scrivener hammered the rock into her head again and knocked her flat, her skull cracked and bleeding, drool spilling from her bloody jaws as the charcoal stallion tossed the stone away. His breath rasped in and out as his eyes almost glowed it fury, bleeding heavily from the deep wounds in his leg and shoulder and yet barely feeling them as his head twitched violently once and his eyes locked on the Changeling.
He snarled down at her, grinding his teeth together as his eyes glowed with fury at what the Changeling had dared to do... pretend it was Luna, make him forget Luna, make him love her like Luna... Luna, Luna, Luna Luna Luna Luna...
Scrivener stepped forwards, raising the rock... and then he trembled once before throwing it aside as he grasped at his face, turning his head aside, feeling his emotions writhing wildly inside him as memories, images, and delusions screamed their way through his tortured brain before he grinned widely as his eyes locked on the rope, feeling a twitch run through him as his conscience fell and his darkness rose. He turned to quickly pick up the dirty but still-strong coils, hurriedly twisting it into an all-too-familiar shape as the Changeling rasped weakly on the ground before beginning to stir.
As it began to finally raise its head, some semblance of sense starting to return to the battered Changeling's features, something flicked over its head and then pulled taut around its neck. The Changeling gargled in surprise, eyes bulging in shock before Scrivener threw the other end of the rope up over the thick bough of a tree, seizing the loose end with a snarl as he began to haul upwards hoof-over-hoof, breathing hard as the Changeling tried to scream... but the tight noose cinched around its throat cut its cry down to a strangled wheeze as it was hefted into the air, hooves clawing against the ground for a moment before it was yanked off the ground.
Scrivener snarled up at it, features twisting into a grin as his eyes blazed with fury, frustration, and misery, watching as the Changeling was hauled higher and higher as it tried to flap its wings, to get its hooves under it, to suck down a single breath. But it was already suspended with its rear hooves a few feet off the ground, body unable to get the lift it needed as its wings flapped uselessly while it convulsed in the air.
Scrivener yanked the rope to the side, tying it off against one jagged wooden arm of the wagon to keep the Changeling aloft as he leaned forwards and yelled at it furiously: “Do you really think you have anything you can offer me? That you vampires have any notion of what love really is, apart from what you pathetic, drudging scum sustain yourselves with? Blasted and worthless monster! Let me tell you about love!”
The earth pony was barely aware of what he was doing as he stormed over to the broken fencing, mind sparking, eyes wild as he seized a loose metal post and began to yank on it, shouting at the same time in a furious voice that tore through the unearthly dusk: “How now is it that I taste still her kisses on these dead lips, and there she lay looking so alluring even in her bed of dust and ash...”
Scrivener ripped the post free, then he turned around just as the choking Changeling managed to make itself hover, started to ascend... before, with a sick, painful splat, Scrivener slammed the metal fencepost into its belly, and the Changeling shrieked and spasmed before the cry of pain was cut off into gargling as it fell limp again and dangled from the noose. And again and again, the fencepost slammed into the broken body of the bug-like creature, hammering into its form, crashing against its limbs as its blood splattered over Scrivener's features as he howled loudly over the sounds of its torment: “Oh how I long for her and love her! Sweet soulmate, I still see you in that pallid body, so perfect now and flawless and unchanging in your death... oh beloved, you lay there so coyly, as if you await me to crawl into your eternal embrace, to join you in the comforts of your coffin, waiting to make sacred again our love!”
The metal post descended again, again, again, clubbing, crushing, smashing, and the Changeling could only gargle as all sense left its rolling eyes, as it twitched only weakly with every impact as foam and blood dripped from its jaws, swaying limply as Scrivener shouted as tears rolled down his cheeks and mixed with the blood and sweat on his face: “How I long for and adore you, my eternal companion, and nothing shall ever take you from me... your spirit has left your body, but I shall cradle it in my embrace, smell your hair, taste your cold-lipped kisses, until I too decay with you... and for forevermore we'll be together, my beloved, closer in death than we were alive, and... and... and...”
The post slammed into the Changeling's body, and Scrivener breathed hard, leaning forwards, both front hooves gripping it tightly as he dropped his head forwards, tears streaming down his muzzle. He rasped in and out, a wave of nausea and dizziness passing through him as he felt something come undone in his mind before he slowly looked up, trembling, shivering, staring up into the dead eyes of the broken Changeling... and then he finally let his hooves drop from the post, leaving it imbedded in the crushed-in chest of the creature as he stumbled backwards and whispered: “And we'll be happy for all eternity, leaving behind mortal woe and serpentine sins in our rotten mortal forms. Oh... oh Luna...”
Scrivener stumbled backwards again and sat back on his haunches, and then he slowly looked over his shoulder as he realized he wasn't alone. Behind him, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Big Mac and a few other ponies that were blurry in his vision were all staring with horror at what he'd done, and slowly, Scrivener licked his lips, tasting drying blood as he rasped in and out of his parched throat before whispering: “She... I... she upset me...”
“Oh g-g-god...” Applejack moaned weakly, shivering violently and shaking her head wildly, and as Scrivener slowly began to stand up, she stumbled backwards as Rainbow only stared and trembled violently, and Big Mac stepped forwards, gritting his teeth... but he looked almost as scared as the others. Scrivener studied them for a moment, feeling hurt and yet detached from everything before a pony shoved past the others and ran towards him.
Twilight skidded to a stop in front of him, and Scrivener studied her for a moment as he looked back at her: she was breathing hard enough to stretch the material of the simple vest she was wearing, trembling beneath her trimmed locks before she almost whispered: “Oh Horses of Heaven... I... somepony, please! Get a doctor! Why isn't anypony helping him?”
“Twi... Twilight... get away from him, he's... he's dangerous...” whispered a voice from the crowd, but Scrivener didn't recognize who it was as he looked slowly back and forth. Twilight glared over her shoulder at the speaker, tears filling her eyes before she returned her gaze to Scrivener, her horn glowing, and the stallion groaned quietly as he felt her trying to heal his wounds.
He trembled, bowing his head forwards, closing his eyes as he felt pieces of his sanity falling away, heard laughter and screaming and panicking, heard questions being asked by countless voices. He did his best to respond to the last... but it was only after he finally opened his eyes that he realized he hadn't been talking to anyone... and that somehow, he'd gone from the apple orchard, to sitting in a jail cell.
He leaned forwards a bit, reaching up to touch his shoulder, and he glanced to the side in surprise: it was bandaged, but... he had no memory of anything. Just... Twilight, closing his eyes, and then all the voices and... and... I... don't know what happened...
Scrivener rocked slowly back and forth in the cell, breathing harder as anxiety ripped through his mind. They were out there, judging him... no, no, they weren't in the process of that. They had already done that, and had locked him up. Here, alone in this cell, as he looked back and forth at bleak stone, felt like the walls were closing in around him as he shivered hard and then hugged himself, lungs aching and heart thudding. He was alone, they were abandoning him, shipping him back to the facility, he'd be alone forever, he'd killed the monster but oh no, oh no, they knew that the real monster was him and they had to lock him up, up, up...
Stop it! he shouted desperately in his own mind, some lucid part of him struggling through the fog of madness before he gritted his teeth and slammed a hoof up into his own wounded shoulder. The agony it sent through him was indescribable, his entire body stiffening up as he whimpered faintly... but it also drove away everything except for the pain.
Scrivener concentrated on the agony, feeling it out, using it to judge how hurt he was before it began to fade slowly from a blaring siren to a slow pulse. He shivered a bit, and then settled himself little-by-little as he made his mind focus on what his body was telling him now: how as the major pain faded, he felt the outline, the edges of the wound rubbing against the bandages, he felt the sore and torn muscles, the numbness in his foreleg, the shivers in his body...
Then he twitched and looked up as there was a loud bang to stare out and see a police officer sitting outside his cell, frowning in at him. But beside him was Twilight Sparkle, and the charcoal stallion gave a weak smile to the violet unicorn, bowing his head towards her as he whispered: “Sorry, Twilight. I guess... this might get you in trouble, huh?”
“Oh thank Celestia... Scrivener, I'm... I...” Twilight trembled a bit, then she smiled weakly and glanced at the sheriff, murmuring: “See? I told you so. He just... needed to calm down and... I'm going to take him now.”
“I... alright.” The police pony sighed after a moment, nodding hesitantly before he pulled a key off his belt, then reached up and slipped it into the lock. He pushed the door open after a moment, and Scrivener carefully stood up before grimacing and flinching at the pain that went through him from his shoulder and bandaged foreleg, the officer saying quietly: “You stay out of trouble now, hear?”
“Yeah. I'll try my best.” Scrivener mumbled halfheartedly, and the officer looked at him for a few moments before he shook his head and turned to leave as Scrivener carefully dragged himself forwards.
He glanced up at Twilight, and the two looked at each other before she trembled for a second, then stepped forwards and hugged him fiercely. He returned the embrace after almost a full minute had passed with his good leg, breathing hard before she finally murmured: “Come on, Scrivy. Let's take you home. You... you stupid, stupid idiot...”
“That's me.” Scrivener murmured softly, and Twilight sighed a little before she hesitantly drew back, and the two studied each other for a few moments before the violet unicorn finally turned to lead him out of the building and back home.
It was late... by Scrivener's estimate, three in the morning. Still, there were a few ponies up that stared at him from their windows as he passed... not something that helped his paranoia, as he tried to keep his head down and plodded after Twilight in silence. When they reached the library, he was unsurprised to find the lights burning inside but no sign that Spike was here. Twilight had likely sent the baby dragon off somewhere...
And then the violet mare rounded on him the moment the door closed, and she whispered: “Scrivener, what the hell were you thinking? You... Applejack told me what you did to that Changeling. Said you were screaming about something as you... you beat it to death...”
Scrivener closed his eyes, bowing his head forwards and only shrugging slowly in response... before he opened them in surprise when Twilight's hooves touched his shoulders, the mare leaning in close and whispering softly: “No. No, don't shut me out, Scrivy. Please... I... I was so scared for you. You frightened a lot of ponies, Scrivy... you... you killed it in front of them, without even listening to anyone...”
“I... I didn't hear them. I didn't even see them until... afterwards.” Scrivener murmured in surprise, glancing up as a shiver rolled down his spine. “The Changeling it... Twilight, it became Luna, it tried to make me... desecrate her memory, it... taunted me and I got... I got mad...”
“You got mad... Scrivener... that's not going to cut it.” Twilight said in a harsher voice than she intended, even as her eyes stared at him with worry and unshed tears. “Scrivy, what do you think is going to happen when they ask you about this in Canterlot, because they undoubtedly are going to bring this up at your appointment in a few days, and you're only able to tell them that 'you got mad?'”
“I don't know.” Scrivener clenched his eyed shut, dropping his head forwards before he laughed weakly. “No, I... I do know. They're going to lock me up again. Say that I'm a danger to society or something, even though... I was just defending myself from the Changeling...”
“That didn't look like self-defense, Scrivener. That looked like butchery.” Twilight said quietly, and Scrivener opened his eyes and glared at her, but she only looked silently back at him, reaching up and touching his face with a hoof as she whispered: “Scrivener, I... I never imagined you were capable of that, that's all. I'm trying to wrap my head around things and I... I don't... I don't want them to take you away from me...”
Scrivener quieted at this, the two looking at each other silently before he reached up and slowly ran his hoof through her short, almost spiked-back mane, asking quietly: “Why did you do this?”
Twilight smiled faintly, then she reached up and took his front hoof gently in both of his before quietly kissing it as an answer to his question, and Scrivener closed his eyes, bowing his head forwards with a slow nod. For a few moments, they were silent, and then Scrivener sighed softly as he murmured quietly: “I'm sorry that I'm... I'm not who you thought I was.”
“No...” Twilight looked up into his eyes quietly, and when Scrivener gazed back at her silently, she reached one hoof up to slowly stroke over the scarred side of his face. “You're not. But Scrivener... you're also not... not, if you know what I mean. You're you... and I'm me... and... and I...”
She leaned in a little closer, and Scrivener breathed a bit harder before her hoof slipped slowly down, resting on his shoulder... and then he winced and cursed in pain as she pressed a bit too hard on the bandaging, and Twilight blushed deeply, sitting hurriedly back as she shook her head and murmured awkwardly: “Sorry, Scrivy. I... look, you need to rest. Come on, let's get you in bed.”
“I...” Scrivener was quiet for a moment, and when Twilight looked up at him, he hesitated before asking quietly: “Will you... stay up with me for a little while, instead? I just... I could use the company. Just for a little while.”
Twilight smiled faintly at this, nodding slowly to him, and Scrivener gave a small smile in return after a moment as he felt a flutter run through his mind before he whispered softly: “Thank you.”
A few days later, Scrivener sat awkwardly in a doctor's office in Canterlot, leaning back in a plush armchair as his psychiatrist silently read over some paperwork. The office was not at all like Dr. Duck's: it was wide, with only a few sparse shelves and massive picture windows that opened on a pretty garden where the patients weren't allowed to visit. Scrivener always wondered what the point of having courtyards and gardens for institutes like these was... they just seemed like extra work for the caretakers, after all, since he didn't think even the staff were allowed to sit outside there.
Finally, the doctor looked irritably up, adjusting his glasses before he stated moodily: “So you killed someone.”
“I... I killed a Changeling that attacked me, Dr. Sanus.” Scrivener replied defensively, wincing and rubbing slowly at his still bandaged shoulder. His foreleg was wrapped in a cloth cast as well, although he could at least hobble around on it. “Furthermore, it was pretending to be Luna. It goaded me on and I... snapped.”
Sanus looked at him moodily, and Scrivener looked awkwardly back, knowing better than to taunt him: Sanus was the one who would decide whether or not Scrivener would be sent back to Ponyville or dragged back into the asylum, after all. It was sometimes better not to bite the hoof that fed you. “You snapped?”
“I snapped.” Scrivener repeated lamely, and there was silence as Sanus' eyes bore into his, the unicorn almost glaring at him before the charcoal stallion added finally: “I... I was provoked. First something led me off there and then the Changeling came out in Luna's shape and then it... attacked me and...”
Sanus sighed tiredly, and then he nodded slowly before looking down at the papers, muttering: “I've spent all morning reading over witness accounts of what you did. You were apparently reciting poetry while beating it to death with a wooden signpost.”
“Metal... metal fencepost. I would have broken it if it was wood.” Scrivener mumbled, and Sanus slowly reached up to rub a hoof against his face as if he had a headache. “You know, eyewitness accounts are notoriously inaccurate.”
The doctor glared at him across the desk, and Scrivener glanced awkwardly away before Sanus shook his head and sighed tiredly. “Were you aware of the attack?”
Scrivener looked down, then he nodded a little, knowing there was no point in lying. “Until afterwards. I... I had a blackout, where I was trying to talk to people who weren't there, but... I think it was the loss of blood and everything that really sent me over the edge. When I came around after being treated I... I was a lot better.”
“A lot better.” Sanus said moodily, and Scrivener shrugged lamely before the unicorn sighed and closed the file. “You need to be reevaluated. I'm scheduling you for a battery of testing tomorrow.”
Scrivener winced and looked up worriedly, and Sanus rubbed slowly at his face with a hoof before he asked almost abruptly: “Before this. How was life in Ponyville?”
“I... good. Twilight and I get along well and I trust her, and I was talking to other ponies. I helped out with the harvest at Sweet Apple Acres, I socialized a bit, and... it was good.” Scrivener halted, then he leaned forwards and said weakly: “Come on. I don't want to go back into the asylum, not over one mistake, not because it was kill or be killed...”
“From a purely psychological standpoint, Scrivener Blooms, it's not the fact that you killed it that concerns me.” Sanus interrupted, looking meditatively across at Scrivy. “It's the fact that you bludgeoned it to death after subduing it, while screaming poetry, no less. Do you understand how those are worrying signs? Especially since I have no doubt this is somehow connected to your delusions even more than it is... anything else that's going on inside your head.”
Scrivener remained silent as the two looked at each other, and then Sanus sighed and said slowly: “But to be frank... I don't want to see you back in this facility. I know that... Twilight Sparkle has some personal interest in you, but she corroborated many of her reports and letters with witness accounts that can be easily verified. And two of the witnesses were terrified of what you did but stood up for you. Tell me, have you resumed contact with any of them?”
Scrivener looked down silently, rubbing at his neck slowly as he murmured: “Applejack was terrified of me and... she's still scared after she saw what I did. Only... Rainbow Dash is talking to me right now, apart from Twilight... well, Spike is, too, but he's a little afraid of me. They're all... a little afraid of me.”
“That's understandable.” Sanus said quietly, and Scrivener smiled faintly in agreement, glancing up before the doctor hesitated, then said softly: “Look at me and be honest. Is Ponyville helping you?”
“Yes, even when...” Scrivener closed his eyes. “Even when it hurts. It makes me question myself... but it also makes me... realize there's...”
The charcoal stallion trembled for a moment, then he looked up and whispered as his eyes met the doctor's: “There's still reasons for me to go on, hard as it is to think about... being stuck in a world without Luna. Hard as it is to... consider, even for a moment... that my 'delusions' as you call them... really are just that, delusions. A shell I forced myself to believe in so that... I would be safe from reality, and the world, and I could just live out all these adventures and fantasies in my own mind...”
“Until you woke up, because the story came to an end and you couldn't make it go on any longer. Because I think, subconsciously, you wanted those stories to end... you wanted to come out of your shell, because even if you honestly don't believe that you deserve to continue to live, Scrivener Blooms... you know that Luna would want you to move on with your life. To find happiness. To fight.” Sanus said softly, and Scrivener bowed his head. “Your writing contains many very clear metaphors and veiled allusions to reality, and one that I believe wholeheartedly is that Luna was a fighter, and cared very deeply for you. That she wanted you to be happy. And you know that, don't you?”
Scrivener only nodded silently, reaching up to rub at his face and not trusting himself to speak, and for a few moments there was silence before Sanus sat back and said quietly: “I still want you evaluated tomorrow, but... I can pull some strings and you can stay somewhere in Canterlot for the night, or go back to Ponyville. And if you pass the evaluation, and I don't feel you just lied to get your way, Scrivener... I'll put in a good word for you. Believe it or not, I do want to see you healthy and out of here... if only because I really don't want to go back to dealing with you anymore.”
The charcoal stallion laughed a bit at this, and Sanus studied him as the earth pony slowly composed himself, before the unicorn doctor asked calmly: “Are you in a sexual relationship with Twilight Sparkle?”
Scrivener snorted at this, muttering: “Yeah, beating that Changeling to death while screaming 'Le Petite Mort' really helped seal the deal.”
“So you do want to pursue a relationship with her. Interesting.” Sanus commented, and Scrivener looked irritably up at the psychiatrist before he simply shrugged. “It could be relevant to why you had a break, Scrivener, and you do know that tomorrow the doctors will question you on the subject.”
“I know. I just wish that you shrinks didn't think that your whole... psychological bull gave you a free ticket to ask anything you like about your patients' lives.” Scrivener muttered moodily, and Sanus gave the earth pony a wry look. “I dislike the fact that I'm not allowed to keep my personal life personal.”
Sanus sighed and shook his head slowly, then he said moodily: “Then lie to them, Scrivener Blooms, as you seem so willing and happy to lie to me and every other doctor you come into contact with.”
Scrivener looked dumbly up at this, beginning to open his mouth, and the unicorn psychologist held up a hoof, shaking his head slowly. “Like I said, I don't want you here. It's not doing anything but wasting my time and you've shown a dramatic improvement since you've been out of the institution. My focus is that you're honest with the doctors about the events surrounding the break, but if you can tell me that Twilight Sparkle has nothing to do with those events... then go ahead and lie, cheat, and do whatever you want to avoid talking about it. My emphasis is on finding the root of these delusions, and if anything, your personal business with Twilight seems to be helping, not hindering the situation. I have no desire to tamper with that.”
The charcoal stallion nodded a little after a moment, and then Sanus glanced at the clock on the wall before he sighed and leaned over to the intercom, pressing a button on it and saying calmly: “I need to schedule a full evaluation, early afternoon, for an outpatient. Preferably around one in the afternoon.”
Scrivener smiled a bit as there was a shuffling of papers, and then a voice spoke up from the intercom: “I can schedule it for... one fifteen, in conference room A?”
“Good.” Sanus nodded as he glanced back towards Scrivener, tenting his hooves as he looked meditatively across at the charcoal pony. “Now, if you have no other concerns, Scrivener Blooms, I want to speak to Twilight Sparkle alone for a moment. Please send her in on your way out.”
Scrivener winced at this, but then he grunted and nodded, slipping out of his seat as he headed to the door. He hesitated for a moment as he reached for the handle, then turned around and asked finally: “What am... what are you supposed to do when you fall in love... and you're scared that... you're going to spend every day thinking about and comparing her to... the love you already lost?”
Sanus looked at him for a few moments, and then he slowly leaned towards Scrivener Blooms, asking in a surprised voice: “Are you... honestly asking my advice?”
“I... no. Nevermind.” Scrivener muttered, and then he turned and shoved through the door, glancing around the waiting room before he smiled wryly as Twilight stood up, giving him an anxious look. “He wants to talk to you.”
Twilight nodded hesitantly after a moment, and then she smiled a little before shaking herself out and taking a slow breath. Scrivener drew his eyes over her as she strode forwards, and then he smiled a little as she stepped past, letting their sides brush together as she said softly: “I'll be quick, then.”
Scrivener nodded as he headed over to sit down in a chair, pointedly ignoring the other patients before one of them looked slowly over at the earth pony, hiccuped, and asked curiously: “Is that you, Lockwood?”
“Sorry, I'm not Lockwood.” Scrivener said gently, then he turned his gaze downward, trying his best to ignore the mare as he nervously counted the seconds waiting for Twilight, as anxiety fluttered a bit through his chest and mind.
But the violet unicorn was gone less than a minute before she opened the door and smiled over at Scrivener, gesturing to him, and the stallion gladly hopped up to his hooves to fall into pace beside her as she said softly: “He just wanted to see how honest you were being and... I said you were. Because... you are, right?”
She gave him a pointed look as they left the waiting room and headed down the hall, and Scrivener Blooms grunted and nodded after a moment. “Yeah, I am. You know I am... I mean...” He shook his head a bit. “Things still feel... rough around the edges but...”
He fell quiet, and Twilight smiled a little before she leaned over and nudged him gently with her shoulder. “I know, but... we're gonna get through this. So are we going to head back to Ponyville, then? He mentioned you have to take a test tomorrow...”
“Evaluation, Twilight Sparkle, not a test like you oh so love to do.” Scrivener said mildly, and when Twilight favored him with an irritated look, he only smiled before saying softly: “Don't take this the dirty way, but let's get a room at a hotel.”
“You wish I'd take that the dirty way.” Twilight muttered, but then she nodded in agreement. “But you're paying then, since... you know. You have the money.”
“Yeah. I'll get us the nicest rooms in the hotel.” Scrivener said softly, and Twilight blushed and looked awkwardly away, Scrivener glancing at her curiously.
She remained awkward and quiet until they were out of the building, however, and then she said finally, as they stepped out onto the streets of Canterlot: “Just get one room, Scrivy. I know how... stingy you are and... we can share.”
She smiled embarrassedly over at him, and Scrivener smiled a little in return before he nodded slowly, then they both glanced down. They walked along in quiet, their bodies naturally drawing a little closer to each other's as they strode onwards until something caught Scrivener's eye, and he paused in front of a store they were passing to peer through the window.
Twilight cocked her head curiously, glancing up and muttering: “'Ravish's Specialty Boutique...' I think Rarity might kill us if we go in here, Scrivy. She doesn't even like it when I wear my old clothes, much less anything I didn't buy from her shop.”
“I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I think she doesn't like your clothes for a different reason than that you didn't buy them from her, Twilight.” Scrivener remarked wryly, and Twilight gave him a sour look as the stallion pushed into the boutique, then she rolled her eyes and followed.
The smell of polish and leather hit her nose, and she blinked in surprise before looking back and forth and realizing what the word 'specialty' meant in this instance, staring at the leather, the hide, the latex, the... other... garments. She blushed a bit as Scrivener headed up to the counter, suddenly almost bold, while she wanted to make herself small and just hide behind Scrivy.
The bright-red-coated mare behind the counter looked up, rubbing absently at one of several silver piercings along her features before Scrivener asked curiously: “That collar in the window, the one with the ornamental clasp... do you have others like it?”
Slowly, the mare looked up and down him, then leaned past and studied Twilight... before she grinned widely, leaning back as she reached up to brush back her short, dyed mane. “Funny, you're the one who looks like he enjoys being roughed up, not her.”
Scrivener looked at the clerk flatly as Twilight turned scarlet, and then the pierced mare laughed and leaned forwards, shaking her head amusedly. “Okay, okay, settle down, just a joke. Yeah, I got a whole bunch of different collars, but maybe you want to go down the street to buy from one of those more respectable shops.”
“Are you saying they make a better product than you do?” Scrivener asked mildly, tilting his head curiously. “Pretty odd sales pitch.”
“Hey now, let's not make this personal.” The clerk lost some of her grin, looking at him moodily, and then she grunted and held up a hoof. “I got it. Here.”
She ducked low for a moment behind the counter, rummaging loudly through things before she sat up and dropped a wooden box on the table. She pulled this open a moment later, and both Twilight and Scrivener leaned forwards to study the collar that was revealed. “Full grain, high quality leather, midnight black, hoof stitched. The clasp is silver and we can etch it with your name, if you want. Next day pickup.”
She looked at him almost challengingly, and Scrivener smiled as he reached out to touch it gently: thick black leather, high quality, smooth to the touch, and the clasp was large and perfectly-shaped. He whistled a bit, then glanced over his shoulder at Twilight, asking quietly: “What do you want it engraved with?”
Twilight only smiled at him, blushing deeply as she bowed her head towards him, and the mare behind the counter looked surprised before she said mildly: “Well... okay, I'm not going to turn down good money. You want me to etch her name?”
Scrivener smiled after a moment, then he shifted a bit, saying quietly: “Etch a rose, like my em... my cutie mark. How about that, Twilight?”
“I... like...” Twilight flushed deeply, and the mare behind the counter cocked her head before the violet mare whispered: “I'd like that a lot.”
“And folks say I'm weird. Still, gotten worse orders.” The mare shrugged after a moment, nodding thoughtfully. “Fine. I'll get to work, but I need a down payment on the collar first. Etching you can pay for after it's done.”
“Do you have my money?” Scrivener glanced curiously over at Twilight, and she nodded quickly, glancing back at the satchel hanging from her side as her horn glowed. And five minutes later, they were leaving the store and Twilight was smiling warmly over at him, Scrivener looking embarrassedly over at her before he said finally: “You're weird.”
“No weirder than you. Besides, I... I know what it means to you and... what it means to me and... I mean... just. Thank you.” Twilight said finally, then she blushed a bit and mumbled: “But I don't think I'll ever admit where it came from.”
Scrivener grunted as they continued down the street until they reached a hotel: it was large, classy, and everyone going in and out was wearing expensive-looking clothing or adornments, while the most they had between them was Twilight's satchel and the plain black vest she had on. She looked nervously at the front of the building, while Scrivener looked meditative... and then he finally shrugged and said mildly: “Come on, then. Let's enjoy throwing my money around a little.”
Twilight smiled despite herself, nodding firmly once and following Scrivener towards the doors. At first, the uniformed staff all stared with something like horror at the two as they approached... but after Scrivener asked curiously what the best room they had available was, they became more suspicious than outright hostile.
The luxury suite they got for the night was plush, comfortable, and had a single massive bed. Scrivener enjoyed poking at things around the room while Twilight settled in a bit, smiling as she gazed out the window and at the sight of the buildings and in the distance, Canterlot Castle.
Scrivener joined her side, and as the two sat quietly together, gazing out at the beautiful city, the stallion gently took her front hoof in one of his own. Twilight blushed a little as she bowed her head forwards, eyes flicking towards Scrivy as he smiled a bit despite the flutter of nervousness that ran through him... but right now, his mind was on something else. Something he needed to do, he thought, before he would finally feel... alright about the way things were going. “Twilight... I... I think I'm going to go visit Luna's grave.”
Twilight looked at him with surprise, as Scrivener gazed across at her quietly, and then he looked back out the window, asking quietly: “It's out by the castle, right? Somewhere... did... did I go to her funeral?”
“You were... you were in the mental institution by then and... they were too worried you were dangerous.” Twilight said quietly, and Scrivener drew his eyes to her, as they studied each other. She smiled faintly after a moment, bowing her head. “It wasn't your fault.”
“It probably was.” Scrivener laughed a little, and then he looked back out the window, saying finally: “Whether... I'm delusional or not... I feel that I have to visit her grave. It... it scares me a lot. It scares me a lot a lot, as a matter of fact... but I have to do this. For Luna... for myself... for you.”
He glanced at her quietly, and then he hesitated before reaching up to touch her face gently, saying softly: “And Twilight... if... if I'm right about who I am-”
“No. I don't want to think about that.” Twilight closed her eyes, bowing her head against his hoof before she smiled a little, then she glanced up and asked softly: “Do... do you want me to stay here?”
“No, what I want right now is to hide here under the bed and pretend that I don't have that evaluation tomorrow and the world is made of candy...” Scrivener sighed after a moment, as Twilight gave him a dry look. “But... I know. I know I have to do this on my own, and... I appreciate you understanding.”
“It's okay, Scrivener. You're... you're braver than I am.” Twilight halted, then she looked down and said softly: “Maybe this will help settle things for you, though, and... and in more than one way.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” Scrivener smiled a little after a moment, and the two looked at each other in soft silence before the charcoal stallion reached up and gently grasped her shoulders, then he leaned forwards and kissed her forehead quietly. “Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. For everything. I can't describe how... how lucky you make me feel. You deserve better than me.”
“Maybe, but... I kind of like knowing that I'll always be the better half.” Twilight smiled a little after a moment, looking up into his eyes softly before she touched his chest gently. “Do you want me to walk with you through Canterlot?”
“No, no.” Scrivener shook his head and returned his gaze out the window, saying softly: “I'm not... afraid of the city in the evening. I'm a bit scary for most muggers to risk hitting, especially when I'm not carrying anything. And I think I should do this alone, anyway... just have to hope that no one from the mental institution sees me running around on my own.”
Twilight sighed a little, then she nodded slowly and glanced out the window, saying softly: “Alright Scrivy. Then come on, I need your help with something anyway. I brought this journal to decipher...”
Scrivener grumbled under his breath at the fact that Twilight had actually brought work along on the trip... but all the same, it at least kept him occupied and helped pass the time until dusk began to settle in, and Scrivener felt his anxiety growing even as his determination to do this – and on his own – remained strong.
Twilight was clearly worried... but when Scrivener caught her expression sometimes, he didn't think it was his paranoia or anxieties that made it seem like she was worried about something apart from the fact that he would be walking through Canterlot alone. It made him wonder, but he didn't ask since she didn't seem to want to talk about it at all.
And as Scrivener had been leaving, literally as he'd been opening the door after goodbyes, and a perhaps too-long-held hug... she whispered quietly: “Come back.”
Scrivy glanced over his shoulder at her as Twilight simply sat in the middle of the room, offering him a faint, supportive smile, but her eyes still had that concern in them. That worry that was beginning to worry him... and he forced a smile in return before heading out the door.
It made his anxieties writhe a bit as he headed out into Canterlot... but on the bright side, at least, it stopped him from fretting over every other little thing as this remained chief in his mind. And even though he'd never been to Luna's grave... even though he'd never even really known more than the general location of where she had been buried... he still found his hooves leading him there all the same, as naturally as if it were a place he'd visited every day.
Like a coming home. whispered a voice in his head, and Scrivy grimaced in distaste at this thought, shivering and shaking his head out hurriedly as he strode down the streets. Yet all the same, his anxieties only made it easier for the cunning voice to twist itself firmer through his brain, strange images forming as it murmured: Maybe she's behind everything. Maybe she's Wisdom's sweet revenge. Maybe she's a monster. Maybe she just enjoys you suffering...
Scrivener gritted his teeth, bowing his head forwards with a rumble as the voice laughed quietly, mockingly, but the charcoal stallion forced it away as he mumbled: “There's no evidence of any of that and it's insane to think, anyway. Twilight is... is my friend. I trust her. I care about her...”
Or maybe you just want her because she's like a taste of home... or because you are nothing but a gluttonous, greedy animal, longing to possess every little thing you can, like a beast in the wild. You use one up, you move on to the next:how sweet, isn't it, that your 'one true love Luna' died and left you with the means to keep hopping from pretty to pretty, sucking them dry, eating them up, using them until they're all gone... the voice whispered, and Scrivener snarled as he looked ahead, forcing himself forwards as he shivered and tried to repress the terrible narrator in his mind. That's what you do, isn't it? You're a parasite... you always have been, and you always will be.
“I am not... I am not...” Scrivener whispered, shaking his head hurriedly before he cursed under his breath as he forced himself to continue forwards, then he suddenly stumbled to a halt as he realized he had somehow walked all the way through Canterlot's suburbs, the stars and moon shining above and casting a pale luminescence over the world that made it almost as clear as day to his strong eyes.
He looked slowly back and forth before his eyes locked on a hilltop in the distance, surrounded by tall iron fencing, the heavy gates standing invitingly open at the end of a long, cobblestone path. For a few moments, Scrivener gazed at this, and then he smiled faintly, glad that he wouldn't have to try and break in at least as he began slowly down the road towards the hill. Further on, Canterlot was framed by the enormous pearl of the moon... and Scrivener laughed faintly as he continued forwards, whispering: “Luna would have hated to be buried here...”
He frowned a bit, then he gritted his teeth as a bolt of pain shot through him, reaching up to touch his head as there was a flash of white, and suddenly, he saw the overlapping Lunas, heard them as her voice said: Canterlot Cemetery... that's where the monarchs are entombed, and I suppose one day Celestia and I shall be as well. But I don't really want to be... it seems so... morbid, somehow...
A crackle, and then the Lunas split apart into two distinct shapes for a moment, smiling Princess and grinning Valkyrie. Then the polite, refined Princess Luna said softly: If... anything ever does happen to me, Scrivener Blooms... please try and convince Celestia to bury me... somewhere quieter.
Well, Scrivy, when we die, I fully expect it to be in some glorious way that will leave nothing but smoldering ashes behind. Therefore I do not think it is very important that we decide a place to be buried. Let our ashes simply be scattered to the wind... A laugh, that sounded so real from this Luna everyone told him was a delusion, was him trying to make his dead wife into some kind of fairytale heroine. Just so long as Pinkamena does not eat us.
Then the silence came back, and Scrivener breathed hard as he shook his head out and looked up... then stared stupidly as he saw the open gates were now only a few feet away. He was standing at the end of the cobbled path, not on the hard, paved road, and he winced a bit before shivering once as he realized he'd just lost time with that flash of... warring memory again. “What... what is happening to me...”
Scrivener shivered for a moment, then he gritted his teeth and gazed into the cemetery beyond the gates, breathing slowly before muttering under his breath: “We call it a necropolis because really it's a metropolis, the difference being the acropolis, is not at the heart of this cosmopolis. And of course that there's more dead, laying here and there in bed, but you should still be careful where you tread, because restless may still raise their head.”
He halted, then looked down grouchily and rubbed slowly at his face with a hoof, shaking himself briskly out before he strode boldly into the cemetery beyond, muttering: “Horses of Heaven give me strength.”
A shiver ran down Scrivener's spine as his nervous pace gradually slowed into a careful, cautious walk, carefully, closely sticking to the dirt path as he looked carefully back and forth. He felt... strangely watched, like he was being judged by the countless ponies that all lay here in their eternal slumber... and the charcoal stallion couldn't help but look back and forth, searching through the darkness around him as moonlight made the tombstones and markers over the graves almost seem to glow.
He breathed slowly in and out through his mouth as he faced forwards, feeling uneasy. He couldn't even put a hoof on why: he'd fought worse things, after all, than the living dead. And he knew that these dead bodies... that was all they were, empty vessels, buried beneath solid earth that was far harder to crawl out of than all the zombie folklore made it seem like. And he thought of Twilight... his Twilight, back home, and smiled faintly as he murmured: “Come on. There's... nothing to be scared of here. This... cemeteries aren't for the dead. They're places that the living build to try and put a bridge between worlds... they're places we make, so we have somewhere to go when we need to talk to those who are beyond and... hope beyond hope that they can hear us, wherever they are...”
He apprehensively looked back and forth as he continued down the path, feeling that strange weight increasing on his shoulders as he understood all too well that it wasn't the idea of lingering or malevolent dead that made him nervous... it was that with every step he took, the image of Luna in her grave became more and more real in his mind. And more and more, he felt something inside him shifting, twisting in turmoil, whispering denials even as it was forced to accept what seemed more and more like the undeniable truth.
Scrivener looked up silently as he strode onwards through the cemetery, looking slowly back and forth as he passed an enormous, faceless statue with wings spread and upper hooves lifted as if pleading to the skies above. He hesitated for a moment as he studied this, feeling strangely drawn to it... and then he shook his head slowly as he understood why, gazing quietly over the lunar lilies that grew all around its base. “Morgan, Keeper of Night, one of the three legendary heroes. Was it my obsession with all the old stories that made me want to pretend... you were her, Luna? No... I really... you really were my hero...”
He closed his eyes tightly, then turned and headed onwards until he reached a heavy iron gate, a sign bolted to the front of the bars declaring it was the entrance to the 'Royal Burial Grounds.' Scrivener sighed a little before he frowned a bit at the closed, tall gate, reaching forwards and pushing on it gently... and with a click, it swung slowly open, as if it had been left unlocked for him.
Scrivener strode carefully from the dirt trail he had been following onto cobbled, well-worn stone, his hooves quietly pacing along the path as he looked up, to the top of the gentle slope only a short distance away, where large and gilded mausoleums stood framed in shadow against the night sky. Then he frowned as he drew closer, eyes gazing through the darkness as he realized there was something ahead...
The charcoal stallion trotted faster, breathing harder as he passed by the graves of nobles, marked here and there with fresh flowers, their headstones and markers kept clean of both graffiti and natural dust. He hurried upwards, drawing closer to the tombs as he made out a blur of purple color, and what looked like the texture of cloth on a tall figure he couldn't quite identify...
But before he could cry out, before he could even draw close, the figure stood tall on its two legs and made a gentle tossing gesture with one long arm as it gave a quiet chuckle. Scrivener's attention was drawn to the thing it threw into the air, the bouquet framed for a moment against the stars as Scrivener began to open his mouth... and then there was a sound like a gasp of wind as a flock of black birds rose up from all around him.
Scrivener staggered with a wordless shout as the murder of crows blocked his vision, made him stumble as he felt them pass by like smoke made physical, their caws filling his ears. He cursed, clenching his eyes shut as he dropped his head instinctively before he hesitantly looked up as silence filled the air... and if not for the few feathers that were floating quietly down around him, he would have never thought the flock had been real after all.
A gentle breeze kicked up, pushing Scrivener's mane back as he grimaced a bit, then his nostrils twitched as a rich perfume touched his nose. The smell of roses... and as he hesitantly stepped forwards, he saw the bouquet that the figure had thrown, black roses that were bleeding their petals into the sky from the gentle wind, laying on the ground in front of a tomb marked with the symbol of Luna's beautiful night.
For a few moments, Scrivener only stared at this, mouth going dry as he realized this thing he'd seen... this thing, perhaps the same thing that had led him away in Ponyville... it was real. It had to be real, it had to have some answer for him, maybe he wasn't insane after all as he smiled and stepped forwards, breathing hard as he reached down and touched the bouquet... but the moment his hoof brushed against it, it was simply gone like a mirage, and Scrivener felt the gears in his mind clank and grind together painfully as a chill ran down his spine. “N... no...”
Slowly, Scrivener's hoof settled down on the short grass, breathing hard as he stared weakly at the place where the bouquet had been. There and gone, like an illusion... like a hallucination, as he trembled for a moment before looking slowly up at the mausoleum that housed his beloved as tears filled his eyes, whispering: “Luna... Luna, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do without you... oh Horses of Heaven, I... I don't care what was real, who you really were, who I really was, I... I... I need you...”
Slowly, Scrivener sat back on his haunches, bowing his head forwards as a tear spilled down his cheek, breathing hard in and out as he trembled a little and then continued, rambling weakly: “Luna, you were everything to me... and you still are and... and... and I don't know what's real and what's not. But if you were here you'd... hit me and scold me and tell me to figure it our or move on with my life, I... I know you would. I'm trying, I'm trying so hard to be strong for you but I'm not strong, I'm weak, and... I don't want to forget you. I don't want to move on... I want you. It's selfish but... I still love you and I don't want to let you go and yet...”
He slowly looked up, staring at the tomb as he whispered: “Are these delusions, these... hallucinations... is it because... because I have such strong, intense feelings for Twilight, because... maybe the doctor was right, and I do want to move forwards with my life? Is it because I'm trying to move to the future, even though everything inside me screams for the past... Luna, how do I let go? How do I move on? How do I know what's real and what's not... I need help...”
Scrivener lowered his head forwards, then he reached a hoof up and silently touched the front of the mausoleum, whispering quietly: “I love you, Luna. You're my soulmate... you were always the one. But... does that mean living alone forever, pushing everyone away, secluding myself and... finding some way to always honor you? Or do I move on with life... do I try and embrace these feelings I have for Twilight, do I push through the delusions and remember you but... try and let go? Try and make a new life, a new start...”
He breathed hard, then stepped slowly backwards and whispered: “Give me a sign, Luna. Please... please tell me what I should do...”
Scrivener closed his eyes as he took another step backwards, moving his front hoof back... before a hoof tore up out of the ground, seizing into his and dragging it down, Scrivener yelling in horror and surprise as he looked down: and a moment later, Luna's head shoved upwards out of the earth, her eyes glaring at him, her locks like blue fire as she whispered: “Scrivener Blooms...”
Scrivener howled again, ripping his hoof free as he staggered backwards, shaking his head wildly in denial as Luna's hoof clawed into the ground before she clenched her eyes shut... and then she grinned, yanking herself upwards as twisted horns pushed out of her skull, blue-fire mane lashing back and forth as her pupils became slits and her coat turned dead black, Nightmare Moon whispering as bloody scars formed over her face: “We shall never let you go, beloved... come, come with us, come down into the darkness and join us in our warm cradle...”
The stallion could only shriek, shaking his head wildly as Nightmare Moon tore out of the earth as geysers of blood and black mire burst from the ground around him, and then Scrivener's eyes rolled up in his head as terror and horror overwhelmed his senses, collapsing forwards in a dead faint... and the last thing he was aware of was that amidst everything else, there was the faintest sense of relief... and a whisper of his undying love for her, even now.
Chapter Five: Red-Painted Roses
Scrivener Blooms sat at a large table in a slate-colored room, breathing quietly in and out, still a little shaken from his visions the night before. Early in the morning, a groundskeeper had found him... but thankfully, anger had turned to sympathy when Scrivener, after awakening in a panic, had hurriedly confessed that this was his wife's tomb... and that he guessed that he'd fallen asleep here and... had a nightmare.
So he'd rushed back to the hotel, where Twilight had been up all night, worried for him. She had gotten part of the story out of him, but what Scrivener needed more than anything at that time had been to quickly shower himself off and get ready for his interview in the afternoon, so the unicorn had extracted a promise from him to tell her about what had happened later and then thankfully left it alone.
The stallion had arrived early at the mental institute to go through check-in procedures, and they had taken him in around one-twenty to the conference room. On the other side of the table, four pony doctors were all assessing him with their clipboards in front of them, occasionally making notes on what he said or how he behaved and generally doing everything in their power to make him uncomfortable.
He'd been through this more than once before, so he knew the procedure, and the charcoal stallion was careful to keep himself as calm as possible. He was well aware of some of the nervous tics they'd be looking for and was doing his best to control himself by keeping his front hooves on the table and reminding himself to make eye contact when answering their questions.
It was a fine balance to run, though: if he was too calm and cordial, they'd suspect he was faking or hiding something, and would draw on the probing as much as possible. And if he was too aggressive or gave away too many signs of anxiety, they'd start pushing him harder. The trick was in irritating them just the right amount.
Scrivener looked meditatively across at the doctors, as one of them finally gazed up and asked calmly: “Are you taking your medication?”
“I suppose you have my blood work right there in front of you, don't you?” Scrivener asked dryly, and when the psychologist only looked at him as the others made notes and one mumbled disapprovingly, the charcoal stallion sighed and nodded. “I'm taking everything except the anti-psychotic. It doesn't help. It just turns me into a drooling moron.”
“You need to take all prescribed medication as you've been ordered to, Scrivener Blooms. It's for your own benefit. Or do you believe the doctors have an agenda, or are trying to hurt you in some way?” asked another psychologist, and Scrivener smiled wryly.
“Well, we all have our own agendas, don't we?” the charcoal stallion asked mildly, and then he shook his head and said quietly: “I don't think any doctors are conspiring against me, no. I do believe that if you had to actually sample some of your own medications instead of just the fun ones, you'd be way more careful about prescribing them. Like I said, I don't like the anti-psychotic because I literally will end up spending most of my day just sitting on the floor, drooling and staring at things, without the fun of being high. The anti-anxiety and antidepressants keep me in check.”
The doctors made more notes, were quiet for a little while, and then another asked calmly: “Have you suffered any seizures or catatonia within the last two weeks?”
“I haven't no. The worst I've had is insomnia but... that's nothing new.” Scrivener shook his head, and then one of the doctors looked up mildly.
“That's a lie, Scrivener Blooms, as I'm sure you're well aware of yourself. You suffered a very serious break with reality in Ponyville only recently, is that not correct?” asked the psychologist who had looked up, as the others continued to make notes.
Scrivener looked moodily at the doctor, then he gazed slowly over the panel that was judging him. For all their differences, they all seemed the same, too... like one faceless entity, a hydra that was trying to devour his sanity instead of his body. “Well, yes. But I wasn't seizing, catatonic, or even suffering from insomnia while that happened. I slept quite well that night, thank you very much.”
All four doctors looked up sourly at this, and Scrivener cleared his throat and glanced awkwardly away for a moment before there was silence again, except for the scratching of pens against paper. Scrivener shifted a bit, then reminded himself to stay calm as he breathed slowly and straightened a bit, waiting for what he knew was coming next.
“Describe your emotions during the event. Were you sad? Happy? Mad?” one of the other doctors asked, and Scrivener couldn't completely hide his scowl. It always bothered him, how patronizing they could be, claiming it was for simplicity's sake... but Scrivener was well aware that too many of them thought 'unwell' meant 'stupid.'
“I was...” Scrivener closed his eyes, mentally searching for a word before he said seriously: “Lugubrious.”
“Please don't make up words.” said one of the doctors irritably, before another leaned over and whispered hurriedly in his ear, and he looked surprised before blushing a bit and adding hurriedly: “By which I mean, it would be much better if you stuck to simple definitions. We can better understand each other that way, don't you agree?”
“Did you know that the word eros has no translation into our language? Yes, it's clearly got something to do with erotic but that doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what it really means.” Scrivener said dryly, and when the doctors all looked at him darkly, Scrivener continued mildly: “If I tell you that I was sad and I was mad, that does not even scratch the surface of what I felt. Well, sad does, yes: the word is so simple that only it can describe the absolute depth of what I was feeling. I was... I was sad. But mad? I wasn't mad, in any sense of the word... I was furious. But more than that, I was in pain, and I was lashing out, fighting back against this thing that was causing that pain. To make it stop hurting me.”
“You're justifying your act? You're saying that what you did was righteous?” asked another doctor, and Scrivener smiled faintly and shook his head slowly.
“No, I'm not, not at all. I said I did it to stop it from hurting me. I didn't say I did the right thing, or that I...” Scrivener quieted, glancing down at the table. “That I didn't lose control for a moment. But I was thrown into a situation where... dying... would... have been a pleasant outcome. Because otherwise, it would have... used me... for... to...”
Scrivener shivered a bit, and the doctors looked back and forth before they went back to making notes. Scrivener kept his eyes down, not wanting them to see his pain... it might be better for him if they did, but he didn't want to share that with these doctors. He didn't want to use that as a shield... as much as he wanted to get out of here, some things were best left... unturned.
Then, after a moment, a doctor asked quietly: “Do you understand that you took a life? Yes, Changelings are a threat to Equestria and we do not value them like we do the lives of ponies, but they are still sentient beings and most ponies prefer them subdued or driven off instead of killed.”
The charcoal stallion nodded a bit, looking down as he murmured quietly: “I do. And if I could do it all over again, I... I wouldn't do the same thing, obviously. I'm not stupid or prideful enough to think that what I did was right or just... I... I only know that... I did defend myself. I killed a monster, not a pony... and I'm not saying it was a monster because of what it looked like or because it was a Changeling, I'm saying it was a monster because it tried... it tried to use my memories of Luna.”
The doctors traded looks again, and there was silence before one of the doctors asked calmly: “Did the violence excite you? Did you feel powerful?”
“No.” Scrivener shook his head a bit, looking down as he said quietly: “I know I... that it's in my file that I have sadomasochistic tendencies. That I... enjoy... pain. But honestly, I... I didn't enjoy this. I was out of my mind with anger and misery and... there was no pleasure in the act. I was only thinking of... of Luna.”
Pen scratches, rumbles, a few murmurs... and then a doctor asked calmly: “Have you been suffering hallucinations? Delusions?”
“It's... kind of hard for me to tell you if I've been suffering from delusions. You know, apart from what you all tell me are delusions.” Scrivener said after a moment, and one of the doctors looked at him tiredly as the others only went back to writing, before Scrivener hesitantly shook his head as he lied: “No. Just... just nightmares.”
“Tell us about the nightmares.” one of the doctors said, and Scrivener hesitated again and shifted, moodily looking down and wondering how much of the truth to tell before the psychologist prompted: “Scrivener, you have to tell us. Otherwise we can't approve of you leaving this facility... a powerful enough nightmare could trigger another violent episode, which would make it too hazardous for you to be out in society right now.”
“No, no.” Scrivener said a little too fast, wincing and looking up, and then he sighed a bit and nodded slowly, mumbling: “I... okay. They're... they're not... violent nightmares, though. They're... about... Luna. About my... delusions, as you call them, and... I see...”
He reached up, grasping at his forehead and murmuring quietly: “I feel powerless, and I don't know what to do. I see Luna... I see two Lunas, who are both so different and so much the same, and... I don't know what's real or what's not. They make me want to just curl up and cry... they suck the life right out of me.”
One of the doctors nodded, and there was silence for a few minutes as they wrote and checked notes. Scrivener was glad for the short reprieve, as he gathered himself again... then he looked up with a grimace as one of the doctors asked: “You currently have a caretaker helping keep an eye on you, correct? Her name is Twilight Sparkle... what is your relationship with her?”
“Friends. She's... my friend. My best friend, I guess, with Luna gone...” Scrivener shook his head a bit, looking down. “She's been extremely understanding and she's one of very few ponies who don't set off my anxieties or my paranoia. I'm lucky to have her looking out for me. I just wish... she didn't have to, you know? That I wasn't... that she didn't have to always keep an eye on me.”
The doctors showed little reaction to this, before one asked calmly: “Are you in a sexual relationship with her?”
“No, I am not.” Scrivener said dryly, and the doctors all looked at him pointedly before the charcoal stallion pointed at his own face, saying moodily: “Have you looked at me lately? And Twilight Sparkle is kind of a big deal. She can... do a lot better than creepy me, who she has to babysit all day.”
This seemed to convince most of the doctors, although one was still scrutinizing the charcoal stallion, and he shifted a bit before the psychologist that was still looking at him asked slowly: “Do you ever have sexual thoughts about her?”
“I... well, I am now.” Scrivener grimaced and rubbed at his face with a hoof, then he muttered: “Thanks for that, really.”
“Please just answer the question. Do you ever have sexual fantasies involving Twilight Sparkle?” the doctor reiterated, and Scrivener wondered morosely why they had to be so fascinated with this, of all subjects.
“She's attractive, strong, composed, and a librarian. How could I not... think... you know?” Scrivener said finally, and the doctors all made further notes.
For a few moments, there was silence, and then one of the doctors looked up, questioning: “How would you describe your stay in Ponyville so far?”
“Good.” Scrivener said softly, and he smiled a bit, nodding slowly after a moment. “It's been good. I was able to do work at Sweet Apple Acres, and I'm... a lot more relaxed than I ever was in the institution. I was getting to know other ponies and... building relationships. I felt more at peace there than... I have in a long time.”
More note-taking, and Scrivener hesitated before he asked finally: “Are we going to be much longer?”
“We still have more questions.” said one of the psychologists, and Scrivener sighed a little as he slumped back in his uncomfortable seat, nodding moodily.
The doctors questioned him about every detail of his life in Ponyville, and on his mental state, his delusions, his past, present and future. They seemed determined to rout out something, or perhaps just to stress him into having a fit, but Scrivener refused to give them the pleasure or satisfaction, keeping himself as civil as he could while sliding in the occasional biting remark here and there.
After another grueling forty minutes, they finally sent him outside to wait so they could confer, and the charcoal stallion grumbled a bit as he paced in the hall of the mental institute, looking gloomily back and forth as patients and doctors and staff milled by. He knew the wait would be short, but if anything, that only made him all the more anxious.
Five minutes later, the door was opened and a doctor brought him back in, Scrivener rejoining them at the table. For a few moments, there was silence as he shifted back and forth uncomfortably... and then one of the psychologists leaned forwards, saying quietly: “Scrivener Blooms. We have causes for concern with your case: you have a violent neurosis and borderline psychosis, you prefer fantasy over reality, and you refuse to follow the instructions of your doctors. We feel... uncomfortable, letting you resume life outside this mental institution.
“However. You are under careful observation and guidance, and Dr. Sanus has vouched for you. We are willing to release you on the condition that you meet with Dr. Sanus once a week and take all prescribed medication, which we will be monitoring. We will also be asking Dr. Duck in Ponyville to have regular sessions with you and keep an eye on things.
“Also, if in the future there is another incident like what occurred with the Changeling... you will be brought back to the Canterlot Institute for Mental Health immediately, and placed back in care here. The same goes if we receive any reports of violence against other ponies, and this includes strong verbal threats. Your deteriorated mental health is not a shield or a crutch, Scrivener Blooms. You will be held accountable for your actions, do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal.” Scrivener said moodily, but he felt a burst of gladness all the same, breathing a little easier now as he bowed his head and mumbled: “Thank you.”
The doctors only nodded, and then they all climbed to their hooves and filed out. For a few moments, Scrivener sat at the table, slumping back a bit... and then a nurse poked her head in the door and looked at him before saying awkwardly: “Excuse me, sir, we need this room...”
“Sorry, the. Shrinks just up and left me. I guess saying 'goodbye' is too much of a waste of their valuable time.” Scrivener muttered, standing up, and the nurse smiled, then hurriedly covered her mouth, but the charcoal stallion only laughed and shook his head as he headed to the door and out past her, trading a nod with the mare on the way out.
He made his way to the front of the institute, where Twilight Sparkle had chosen to wait for him in one of the reading rooms. He entered the den-like room, seeing a few ponies sitting and reading hand-me-down books from the battered shelves, his eyes easily picking out the violet mare and smiling widely as he noticed that she was now wearing her new collar around her neck.
He figured she must have picked it up while he was in session: it looked beautiful on her, the etching of the rose on the clasp perfect from what he could see. He smiled softly, then shook his head slowly before asking calmly: “You ready to go home?”
Twilight glanced up with surprise, and then she smiled warmly and set the book down, nodding slowly once as Scrivener noted with surprise she had picked up an earring, too: a black, moon-shaped stud, and he softened at the sight of this before the violet mare said quietly: “Yeah, I am, Scrivy. You're getting out?”
“I am.” Scrivener nodded as Twilight stood up and slipped her satchel on, then she strode quickly across the room to him, and the two shared a tight hug. They parted, and Scrivener smiled at her as they both turned and fell into pace, saying softly: “You look... good.”
“I feel good.” Twilight replied softly, shaking her head and laughing quietly as they strode slowly down the corridor, before the violet unicorn murmured quietly: “Now we can sort everything out in Ponyville, Scrivener. You'll see, everypony will come around.”
“Yeah.” Scrivener said softly, and he smiled a bit at Twilight even as he felt a strange chill run down his spine, studying the mare for a moments as her eyes remained distant and a strange, small smile played over her face.
Scrivener Blooms found himself sitting quietly back on his futon in the back room of the library that evening, jotting down notes in a notebook. Twilight Sparkle had taken Spike out for ice cream at Sugar Cube Corners, but Scrivener wasn't alone, either.
Rainbow Dash was sitting across from him, the mare watching moodily before she said grouchily: “This is supposed to be cooler.”
“You're supposed to be cooler. Shut up.” Scrivener mumbled in response, and Rainbow glowered at him before the male finally spun the journal around and poked the page a few times with his quill. “There's the outline.”
The Pegasus snatched up the journal, eyes flicking back and forth over it before she frowned and asked: “Are you sure this will be cool enough? I want it to be cool. I don't want it to be lame like your stories totally are.”
“Yes, that's why you're more than halfway through Starlit Knights.” Scrivener muttered, then he asked finally: “What's the deal with you and Applejack in this world, anyway? Why do you get so worked up every time I threaten to tell her? Not that she'll even talk to me right now, of course... just giving her a look when she passed us today, I thought Big Mac was getting ready to kick me to the moon.”
Rainbow Dash snorted in amusement, then she smiled a little and reached up to pat his shoulder. “Hey, don't worry about it, dude. He's... he's protective of his family, that's all, and... you were kind of scary.” She softened, leaning in and asking quietly: “You are okay now, right? 'Cause seriously... that made me believe some of the stuff you've written about yourself in these dumb stories of yours.”
Scrivener nodded after a moment, glancing down and rubbing the back of his head before he sighed a little. “Yeah. I'm okay, Rainbow, I am. But you're not answering my question.”
“Yeah, exactly. I'm not.” Rainbow said in a surly voice, and Scrivener rolled his eyes before the pale-blue Pegasus mumbled and picked up the journal, asking moodily: “I thought you said you taught writing before. This isn't teaching, by the way.”
“Yes, it kind of is. I'm just neatening your ideas a little so that you'll actually start writing yourself. But until you actually... write something... I can't really do much to help you or judge your skills or strengths or weaknesses.” Scrivener replied pointedly, then he reached up and knocked firmly on Rainbow's skull, and the Pegasus flailed at him a bit. “Besides, I thought you were too cool for this sort of thing. Training for the Wonderbolts and... being... stupid... and everything.”
“Hey! You're stupid.” Rainbow said defensively, and then she sighed and rolled her eyes, adding moodily: “And it's off-season. I just need something to keep my hooves busy, that's... that's all. Besides, Daring Do is cool, and your stories are kind of okay. I liked when the demon got the snot kicked out of him. And I'm pretty badass. But I'm not a dude, you do know that, right?”
“Spread your legs and prove it.” Scrivener grumbled, and Rainbow stared at him, then glared and leaned forwards challengingly, and the earth pony cleared his throat and leaned back lamely. “Sorry. It's... it's been a rough day, and my mouth is talking before my brain can process what I'm saying.”
“Yeah, well. I have no clue what Twilight sees in you.” Rainbow paused, then leaned forwards and poked at him a few times, Scrivener looking grumpily at her. “Still. You are pretty big and all. Not too easy on the eyes but I guess with a paper bag on your head I might still take you out for a spin. Assuming you're not tiny down there to make up for how big you are everywhere else.”
Scrivener grumbled again under his breath, and then she picked up the journal and muttered to herself as she read through it quickly again, saying finally: “Anyway, I came to you and not Twilight because you're the writer guy, and Twilight would never let me live this down and would also make me read like. Textbooks about writing stuff or something. How do I-”
“Just write.” Scrivener interrupted, and the Pegasus glowered at him before he added: “And try to make it a story. Not just one long action scene. Remember, Daring Do doesn't set off the traps while fighting the evil witchdoctor and his entire tribe while trying to stop the world from being destroyed by... cosmic rays, I dunno, I never read the books. I just always made fun of Twilight for reading them.”
“What's wrong with Daring Do?” the Pegasus asked defensively, and Scrivener snorted in amusement and gave her a pointed look, and a moment later Rainbow relaxed a bit. “Oh, right, yeah. Twilight reading adventure stories, not... textbooks and... instruction books and... all those other big scary old books she reads. You know, I tried to pick up one of her other books she recommended to me, and it was awful. Something about a ring and tiny ponies. And dwarves.”
“Did you read it or did you just give up? Some stories are just a matter of pushing forwards a little... especially if they make you feel out of your element. Our natural instinct when we don't fully comprehend something is to push it away, same goes with something if it's a challenge... you're not a quitter, are you, Dashie?” Scrivener asked mildly, and Rainbow glared at him balefully.
“You're not getting me with that line again, you jerk!” Rainbow swung a hoof at him, but Scrivener easily ducked back before the Pegasus grumbled, then asked moodily: “Anyway. You gonna join me and Pinkie for a drink tomorrow at the tavern? AJ and Big Mac won't be there.”
Scrivener nodded hesitantly after a moment, and Rainbow paused before she said slowly: “By the way... do... did something happen between you and Fluttershy? She's been even quieter than usual lately, and when I tried to go over and see her and talk to her about things, she just kind of quietly shut me out. But she mentioned that she was thinking a lot about what you had been saying.”
The earth pony frowned at this, shaking his head and saying softly: “Really? Because I only talked to her once...”
Rainbow looked thoughtful at this, and then she grunted and shook her head quickly, saying quietly: “Well, whatever. I'm sure she'll come around... you know, sometimes I really do wonder about what her parents must have been like. But I don't think... anyone could survive a childhood with Sol Seraph.”
Rainbow shivered a bit, making a face, and Scrivener grunted in agreement before the Pegasus shook her head and smiled a bit. “Anyway. You're an interesting guy, Scrivener. Crazy, sure, but that's pretty cool, too. I just know that if I ever got in a bad fight, I'd want you at my back, not against me. Maybe you're not as strong as Big Mac but you might be scarier.”
Scrivener smiled despite himself before Rainbow stepped forwards and held up a hoof, and Scrivener reached out and bumped his against her's, saying softly: “Thanks. You ain't so bad yourself, Rainbow.”
“Yeah.” Rainbow and Scrivener studied one-another for a few moments, and then the Pegasus shook her head and smiled. “Alright, I'm gonna go then. Try this stupid stuff. And you're not going to tell anypony, right?”
“No more than I've told anyone about your crush on Applejack.” Scrivener said blandly, and Rainbow rolled her eyes and punched him in the shoulder.
“I don't have a crush on Applejack. I just...” Rainbow hesitated, glancing away and rubbing at her scalp moodily. “I dunno. It doesn't matter either way, AJ is kinda... you know. Not. Into that. And Big Mac is also kind of. Not. Into. That. And... and why do you even care, anyway?”
“Because I'm nosy.” Scrivener shrugged, then he sighed and looked down, rubbing at his own face as he murmured softly: “And because I cling to every little thing that could possibly form a link between the real world and my delusions. Between what's real and what I believe in...”
Rainbow shook her head a bit at this, studying him curiously before she finally simply nodded a bit and sighed moodily. “Well, still totally none of your business, but...” She hesitated, then grumbled and rubbed at the side of her neck. “I dunno why I'm telling you anything.”
“I'm also completely insane. Which means that no one is going to believe whatever I say and thus I'm the only person who it makes sense to tell anything.” Scrivener said mildly, and Rainbow looked thoughtful at this before she nodded slowly, as the charcoal stallion said softly: “Might be nice to get off your chest, anyway.”
“Okay, okay.” Rainbow shook her head slowly, looking down and mumbling: “Don't get me wrong. I got no interest in being a guy... well, I mean. Might be fun to try, admittedly. Being big and strong and handsome and I could set up a mirror and... hey, don't give me that look! Seriously, though... I'm just saying maybe you're not wrong on all accounts. Do I see myself sometime in the future... you know, waking up next to... a certain... someone... every day for the rest of my life? I don't know. I don't think so. Would I like to try it out, get a taste, see what happens? Yeah, I would. Even putting things as they are right now at risk... yeah, I would. Because... what's life without a little risk, right?”
Rainbow grinned faintly, glancing up with a blush, but when Scrivener only smiled and nodded a little, she sighed and dropped her head forwards. “But it's not that easy and I know she doesn't feel the same way and... well. I don't think either of them would like it very much if I came out and said I... uh...”
“Play both sides of the field.” Scrivener supplied, and Rainbow grunted and looked at him mildly. “It's alright, Rainbow. Then again, I'm fairly sure most would be amazed you're not some butch bull-dyke.”
Rainbow glowered at him, and Scrivener held up a hoof, saying mildly: “I'm allowed to say things like that. My daughter is a lesbian and I love her to pieces. Luna and I would tease her and... and...”
Scrivener bowed his head forwards, then he laughed a bit as Rainbow gazed at him softly, the Pegasus studying him before she said quietly: “Even with all this evidence in front of you, even living in this world like you are and with Twilight and... hell, me, sitting here, clearly not a stallion, maybe lusting on but far from madly in love with a certain mare like you wrote... you still believe in this crazy stuff, don't you?”
The earth pony looked up quietly, and then he asked softly: “If you had a choice between living in a world where you don't know the difference between hallucinations and reality, where the pony you love is dead and you're scared of what you could do to the few ponies you care about... and a world where you had your soulmate beside you, a wonderful life with maybe not everything you wanted, where maybe you spent a lot of time fighting back awful things... but a life with meaning, and wonderment, and adventure... and most of all, friends and family... what would you take?”
Rainbow was silent, the two looking at each other, and then the Pegasus stepped forwards and hugged him awkwardly, and Scrivener smiled a little as he hugged her back as she mumbled: “You're such a big baby.”
“You remind me a little of Pinkamena sometimes. You're much grouchier as a mare than you are as a stallion.” Scrivener muttered, and Rainbow grumbled under her breath. But before she could say anything, there was the sharp, loud sound of a throat clearing, and Scrivener and Rainbow both looked up in surprise to see Twilight standing in the archway leading in from the main room.
She was studying them both perhaps a little too intently as Rainbow grinned awkwardly and hurriedly shoved herself away, and Scrivener simply sat back and rose a hoof to her, saying quietly: “Hey, Twilight.”
“Hey, Scrivener.” Twilight said softly, turning her eyes to him before her irises roved to Rainbow... and they became much moodier, almost sharp, as she asked calmly: “What are you doing here?”
“Uh.” Rainbow Dash looked caught off-guard by the near-hostility of the unicorn, and Scrivener frowned a bit before the Pegasus answered lamely: “Getting writing advice?”
“Well, Scrivy and I still have some work to do before bed, and it's starting to get late. Maybe you should head home.” Twilight said quietly, and even if her voice was gentle, her eyes made it clear she wasn't asking.
Rainbow frowned slowly at this, but she nodded hesitantly all the same, muttering: “Yeah. Yeah, I guess you're right. Alright... see you tomorrow, Scrivy.”
Scrivener nodded, then he frowned a bit as he stood up, watching the Pegasus sweep up the journal before she took to the air and flew quickly over Twilight and presumably out of the library. The charcoal stallion had his eyes on Twilight, however, as the violet mare relaxed visibly before tilting her head when Scrivener asked: “What was all that about?”
“What? Oh. Nothing, nothing at all.” Twilight smiled across at him, then she blushed and glanced down, saying awkwardly: “I guess... just... just stress. And I just wanted to be alone with you, Scrivener, that's all... that's why I decided to let Spike stay over at Applejack's tonight. Applejack is looking after the Crusaders, see, and they're having some campout so... you know. Let Spike spend time with kids his own age.”
“Isn't Spike really only a few years younger than you?” Scrivener asked finally, but Twilight only gave him a look before the charcoal stallion shook his head and smiled a bit. “Alright. Just.. you know. You were kind of creepy there for a minute.”
“You're creepy.” Twilight grumbled in response, and Scrivener laughed despite himself before the violet mare added: “And I do actually have some work for us to do, by the way. Princess Celestia asked me to help edit and sort through a new anthology of Canterlot poems and writing, and I figured since you know the subject, you could help. I think she even asked for some of your work to be included.”
“Oh hell.” Scrivener rolled his eyes, and Twilight smiled amusedly at the charcoal stallion before he sighed tiredly and nodded grumpily, mumbling: “Alright, alright. Let's get to work, then.”
Scrivener strode towards the violet mare, and she gazed at him almost adoringly as he approached, making another chill run along his spine before he shook himself out... but even as they worked late into the night, side-by-side, he thought he caught flashes of it, and his anxieties began to feel more.. pronounced. He couldn't put his hoof on it, since he was well-aware it could just be paranoia and the fact they had both had... emotionally tumultuous days for the last while... but something seemed off. Something seemed almost wrong...
But by the next morning, Scrivener had forgotten about it, and as days passed and became weeks, he found himself concentrating much more on surviving his nightmares and settling back into Ponyville, rather than focusing on what was worrying him about Twilight. Besides, she treated him wonderfully: she was understanding, compassionate, gentle, and she was always there for him. He was able to talk openly with her, and share his every thought with her; she comforted him after his nightmares, and often, they found their bodies close, their gazes lingering, their emotions feeling sweeter and stronger when they were together...
And yet it wasn't like his worries vanished completely, either: they surfaced from time-to-time, as Twilight Sparkle became a little more different. She had started practicing older magic, scarier magic, than most unicorns were taught in this day and age... and she had gotten Rarity to provide her with an onyx rose earring for her other ear, taking after the Twilight that Scrivener had written about. More than that, she had added several other piercings: two rings in one eyebrow, one in her nose, and a stud... in her tongue.
The first piercing had been in her eyebrow: she and Scrivener had been joking around, talking as they walked through Ponyville, and as they'd been passing a tattoo parlor Scrivener had glanced in and mumbled that he thought piercings were kind of neat. Twilight had teased him, and he had argued, and then suddenly they were both inside, getting matching eyebrow piercings.
And Twilight had gone back to get the others over the course of a week, although Scrivener and her friends had teased her a lot about the tongue stud. Still, it was... strange. The charcoal stallion never would have expected it from her... and while she was still the same book-smart Twilight Sparkle, with her piercings, shortened mane, and growing bold streak, she was becoming a very different pony at the same time, too.
Scrivener Blooms didn't want to think about why she was doing this... mostly because he thought that some ponies blamed him for Twilight's transformation, and he couldn't completely blame them. He himself wondered sometimes if Twilight was changing herself to try and make herself more appealing to him... even if, at the same time, they hadn't shared so much as a kiss yet, and even if they were living together and spending plenty of time in close quarters, they weren't really in any official relationship, either.
It felt almost like they were both waiting for the right moment, but Scrivener didn't know what that meant. Rarity would sometimes question him about this; strangely, he could comfortably call her a friend like Rainbow Dash was, even if Applejack was still wary of him and he had caught maybe a bare glimpse of Fluttershy since his initial meeting with the blonde Pegasus.
Scrivener wondered sometimes what Celestia would think if she caught sight of her student: apparently Shining Armor hadn't been completely thrilled with his sister's new look, and Scrivener also questioned morbidly whether or not he was going to end up pummeled by Twilight's big brother one of these days. Although at the same time, Scrivener wondered what Twilight would do if a confrontation arose between him and someone else Twilight was close to, considering the way she was acting...
With these thoughts whirling around in his head one night a little more than a month after his assessment in Canterlot, Scrivener made the mistake of trying to catch a nap... and three hours later, he was shivering and sitting at the table in the library, slowly stirring a cup of tea he'd made to try and help calm his nerves. He'd had another nightmare... Lunas, Nightmare Moon, and this time Twilight Sparkle had all been in the mix... his Twilight...
He remembered her so vividly... touching her, stroking silently over the stitching lining her body after what she'd survived, and yet he hadn't been repulsed but enthralled. How shy she'd been, how quiet, but how alluring and still so beautiful, even with the changes that had gone through her body... what they called winged unicorn, and here, everypony called 'alicorn.'
And then he jumped and spun around when Twilight's voice called quietly: “Scrivy, are you okay?”
The charcoal stallion breathed hard in and out, and then he finally smiled faintly and reached up to touch his own chest, closing his eyes and bowing his head forwards as he mumbled: “Yeah... yeah, I'm fine... I'm... I'm sorry. I thought you were... somepony else.”
Twilight... this world's Twilight, with her piercings and messy mane and concerned eyes, strode towards him and tilted her head, asking quietly: “What is it? Did... did you have another nightmare?”
“I did, yeah. Just...” Scrivener shuddered after a moment, lowering his head and grasping his cup of tea before he sipped slowly from it, mumbling: “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up.”
“You didn't. I guess I wasn't sleeping very well... I saw the light on and...” Twilight hesitated, and then she approached him carefully, asking quietly: “Are you sure that you're alright? You look shaken up.”
Scrivener only smiled a little, drawing his eyes back to her, slowly gazing over her before his eyes locked with hers, drinking in the details, seeing the subtle differences amongst the larger ones between his Twilight Sparkle, and this Twilight Sparkle... who... who is... “I... Twilight...”
Twilight stepped towards him hesitantly, and Scrivener studied her before he shook his head hurriedly and dropped it, murmuring: “Sorry. I just keep... thinking. Comparing this world to my own... I mean, my delusions...”
“It's okay. I know it happens after the nightmares... I just... I just wish you'd recognize this is your world now. And that...” Twilight hesitated, reaching a hoof up to touch him gently, getting his attention as he glanced up at her quietly. “Scrivener... I'm...”
She quieted, and the two ponies studied each other in silence for a few moments before the violet mare blushed and shook her head, closing her eyes. “Sorry. I guess I'm tired and... I don't mean to come across as so selfish. I know how important it is to you, I just... I just want you to know the truth. Even if the truth... hurts.”
She looked away silently, and Scrivener turned towards her, reaching up and touching her shoulder gently. Slowly, she drew her eyes upwards, and they looked at one another as Scrivener felt his heart thudding in his chest, his mind rising violently... and then settling slowly as he reached both hooves up to grasp her shoulders, and then leaned forwards to gently meet her lips with his own.
Their eyes slid closed as they kissed, and Twilight's hooves reached up, sliding slowly along his chest to his shoulders, her forelegs sliding around his neck as he pushed forwards against her. Emotions, needs, instincts rolled and roared through Scrivener's body as he pulled her closer, deepened the kiss for a few moments before their lips broke, then met again.
Twilight pushed against him, their bodies grinding together before he pushed her down and she let herself be pinned, closing her eyes as their mouths worked together, then parted again so she could bury her face into the side of his neck, whispering his name as their bodies moved in time with one-another's, as passion and pleasure and longing and lust all twisted into one glorious meeting...
In the morning, Scrivener opened his eyes with a quiet yawn before he realized he was laying back on his futon... and then he smiled softly as he looked down and saw that Twilight Sparkle was snuggled up against him, held safe and close, looking content and peaceful. He gazed down at her affectionately, and then her eyes slowly opened before she looked up at him and smiled softly, leaning up... and they kissed gently, quietly for a moment, before she snuggled into his neck and whispered almost shyly: “Good morning.”
“Good morning, Twilight.” Scrivener replied softly, squeezing her closer before he laughed a little as he nuzzled her gently, feeling a flutter of warmth and tenderness run through him, displacing everything else for the moment: for once, for this rare moment in time, he was content to simply... be content. “How are you feeling?”
“Amazing.” she murmured, blushing, and Scrivener laughed quietly before she nuzzled up against him and added quietly: “You better not run off and leave me now.”
“I was thinking about it, but I guess I'm used to living here. That, and, you know, the doctors are still keeping an eye on me and everything.” Scrivener replied mildly, and Twilight smacked his chest gently, making him laugh before he smiled down at her. “Okay, okay. You were pretty good last night, too, how about that?”
“I really like it when you smile.” Twilight said softly, looking up at him warmly, and Scrivener blushed a bit before the violet mare added playfully, sitting up and pushing her front hooves down against his chest: “And well, you could use a few pointers yourself, but... it was... good.”
“Oh screw you.” Scrivener laughed all the same, shaking his head and shoving her off, and Twilight joined in his laughter as she fell on her back, the two gazing warmly at one another before she smiled softly and reached out to touch his face gently as he rubbed a hoof slowly down her front. “Twilight...”
“Yeah, Scrivy?” The violet mare gazed at him affectionately, and then she blushed and reached a hoof up to his lips, covering them as she murmured: “No, wait. I want to say something.”
Scrivener softened, tilting his head a bit as she drew her hoof away, then she sat up a bit and bowed her head towards him, murmuring softly: “Scrivener... from the moment we met... there was something special between us. We've been friends since that first day I saw you... and you and Luna taught me so much, and took care of me, and now I want to take care of you. I remember what we all promised each other... and I'm going to honor that. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't doing this for me, but... I want to think that this is what Luna would want, too. Us both to be happy like this... together, like this. Her best friends, taking care of each other... loving each other... with her gone.”
Scrivener slowly lowered his head, nodding and closing his eyes even as he felt a strange, indistinct twist run through his body... and then he finally looked up, as Twilight said softly: “I want you to know that I want to... to be more like you. I want to grow more into what you're comfortable with... I want to experience the world you were building with Luna, that you two always talked about. I know Celestia didn't always approve of your relationship with her little sister, but I did. And I know my friends are a little worried about us, but now that we can tell them that... we're... well...”
Twilight blushed awkwardly, looking down and rubbing at her face slowly as she mumbled: “I mean, we are... you know... this isn't just... I mean...”
Scrivener smiled a little, sitting up and brushing away his anxieties as he reached a hoof out, guiding her chin up as he said quietly: “Yes, Twilight. It wasn't a one-night-stand and... as far as I'm concerned – and I think a few of the others are, too – we've... been together for a while now, actually. I mean, we spend all our time together, looking out for one-another... and... well... other things.”
Scrivener laughed and shook his head, then he smiled after a moment at her as she looked up and nodded warmly. Then the two carefully stood up before he stroked her face gently with a hoof, meeting her eyes with his own. “And you shouldn't... worry about being more like me, or trying to... fit in. You already fit because... you are who you are.”
“I am... but all the same, I'd like to be closer. I'd like to fit better... and I guess...” Twilight shrugged a bit, blushing and looking at him embarrassedly. “I'm curious and I trust you. I... more than that... I... I love you.”
Scrivener looked at her with surprise as she blushed deep red, and when he opened his mouth, she shook her head vehemently, saying embarrassedly: “Don't. You don't have to say it back and I mean, I just... wanted to get that off my chest. I do and... I have for a long time now.” Twilight looked slowly up at him, trembling a bit even as she smiled faintly. “Don't hate me, Scrivy, but... I think I loved you even back when you were with Luna and... when she died...”
The charcoal stallion nodded, closing his eyes as he bowed his head forwards, and Twilight flushed deeply as she looked away and murmured: “I should have kept that to myself, I'm sorry.”
“No. I understand and... I appreciate your honesty.” Scrivener murmured, and he looked down as he said softly: “We're all just... animals, aren't we? Balls of need and desire and primal instinct... I guess that's why it means so much when we do manage to work together and overcome our own natures...”
Twilight only looked at him for a few moments, and then she stepped forwards and hugged him tightly, and Scrivener returned the embrace after a moment even as he felt uneasy. Not for her confession, which did send a strange ache through him... but because of something else. Something in her eyes, before she murmured softly into his ear: “But don't worry, Scrivener. I'm here for you, and for you alone. I'm going to be here for you forever... and I don't think I'll ever be able to let you go.”
Scrivener smiled a little when she drew back, even as it sent another chill down his spine, before Twilight shook her head and turned, saying softly over her shoulder: “Come on, Scrivy. Let me make breakfast for once, and then... I guess we can go and pick up Spike, and... we should tell him about things.”
She looked down, shaking her head slowly and mumbling: “I have to admit that... this kind of scares me. Almost as much as it scares me to think of what it's going to be like telling Celestia and Shining Armor...”
“We could just. Not tell them?” Scrivener suggested lamely, and Twilight gave him an exasperated look as they headed out into the main room of the library, the charcoal stallion shrugging and mumbling: “Well, it was worth a shot, anyway. I don't want either of them mad at me, Twilight. I even less want either of them pummeling me.”
“They're not going to pummel you, Scrivener. Besides, look at you: you're a big, tough pony. You can handle a little beating here and there.” Twilight smiled and tossed him a wink, and Scrivener grumbled at her before she gestured to the table. “Go sit down, puddin', and I'll go and get breakfast ready.”
Scrivener looked blankly at her as Twilight turned and headed to the kitchen, and then he blinked after a few moments and mumbled: “'Puddin'?' Where the hell did that come from?”
He quickly shook his head out after a moment, then headed over to the table and fidgeted a bit as he sat down, looking over the scattered papers and books before he sighed quietly and picked up a nearby tome. He studied it for a moment, then tossed it aside with a mumble: “I guess it could be worse... right?”
There was no answer, and Scrivener shrugged a bit as he half-neatened the desk by shoving most of the books and papers on it off to one side. Then he sat up and rubbed at his face before finally glancing at the corridor, and he couldn't help but finally sigh and slide free of his seat, heading into the kitchen after Twilight as he said mildly: “I was getting bored, so-”
“I was wondering when you'd finally show up.” Twilight interrupted with a wink and a sultry smile, and Scrivener stared at the particular food objects she'd set out on the table as she gazed over at him: chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and what looked like a variety of sugary treats. “I thought we could have something special... to eat...”
Scrivener grinned dumbly, but before he could respond, Twilight was already kissing him, and all his protests were swallowed as the taste of sweet candy invaded his lips.
Chapter Six: The Boojum
Scrivener rubbed his hooves lamely together as Rainbow Dash continued to glare at him across the table, and Pinkie Pie did her best to mimic the Pegasus' expression before the stallion said finally over the music pouring through the tavern: “I'm sorry?”
“Okay then!” Pinkie said brightly, and when Rainbow gave her a sour look, the pink earth pony quickly nodded seriously, then returned to glaring at Scrivener, giving a little growl that sounded about as menacing as an adorable puppy. “I mean, not okay then!”
“Dude, we were waiting here for thirty minutes for you!” Rainbow said finally, looking frustrated, and Scrivener rubbed the back of his head awkwardly before the sky-blue Pegasus groaned. “You and Twilight have been seeing each other for like a week, officially, and... dude, seriously, you two have the rest of your lives to spend together. We're still your friends and you're not supposed to act like some high school colt with his first crush.”
“I'll buy all the drinks tonight to make it up to you two. And I'll stay as late as you do.” Scrivener promised, and Rainbow finally looked pacified before Scrivener settled back with a wheeze, rubbing at his face and mumbling: “Besides. This is a slightly-more... shall we say... 'active' Twilight Sparkle than I knew.”
Pinkie Pie giggled behind her hooves as Rainbow grinned wryly at him, picking up her bottle of beer and saying mildly: “You should count yourself lucky, Scrivy. Twilight's a good pony... and she really cares about you.” The Pegasus hesitated, then traded a look with Pinkie Pie before the blue mare asked slowly: “Look, I'm only going to ask you once, because I've started to like you a little bit over the last month, but... about Twilight and her... her changes... you...”
Scrivener only shook his head slowly, then he held up a hoof to a waitress that was doing her rounds, the mare approaching them as the charcoal pony said to Rainbow and Pinkie “I didn't have anything to do with that, I swear up and down. I... I guess Twilight has more of a wild streak in her than any of us guessed, you know? Maybe all those years of tutoring under Celestia and working her hardest to be the very best means that when she finally kinda let go, she... really... really let go.”
He shook his head, then turned to the waitress as she reached their table, saying quietly: “Colt cola for me, lemon shooters for Pinkie, and a pitcher of whatever ale's freshest on tap.”
The waitress nodded, and then Rainbow hurriedly rose a hoof, adding mildly: “And since my generous friend is putting all this on his tab, get us a round of nachos, too, will ya?”
“One day you're gonna get yourself killed, Rainbow.” the waitress said mildly, and the Pegasus nodded agreeably before the serving mare smiled wryly and turned to fetch their order as Scrivener glowered over at the now-complacently-smiling Pegasus.
Before he could say anything, however, Pinkie looked up and said kindly: “Look, Scrivy, Twilight might be acting a little silly right now but she's just real happy, happier than I've seen her since she first came to Ponyville! I mean, she's usually so quiet and private about her personal life, but... she's really out and open about you and her, and even though it's uh...”
“Gross.” Rainbow supplied, and Pinkie nodded fervently.
“Gross and maybe just a teensy tiny little bit scary when she gets a little too sharey and detaily, I think it's good, too. I just think that... it's like when I first got off the rock farm, and suddenly I was allowed to be happy and bouncy and party all I wanted.” Pinkie smiled warmly. “She just needs to adjust, then she'll settle down, just like I did!”
Scrivener and Rainbow Dash both looked at Pinkie Pie for a few moments, and then Rainbow asked finally: “This is you... settled down?”
“Well, sure! Remember what I was like when I first came to Ponyville?” Pinkie giggled a little, and Rainbow nodded moodily after a moment as Scrivener smiled despite himself. “Look, I might not know much about much but I'm pretty sure of myself on this.”
Scrivener glanced over at Rainbow Dash, but the Pegasus only shrugged after a moment, raising her beer, and Scrivener grunted and nodded as he sat back and lowered his head thoughtfully. Before he could say anything, however, a quiet voice surprised them as it asked: “Excuse me but... but may I please sit here? If it's no trouble, of course...”
The three ponies all turned to see Fluttershy nervously standing nearby, and Scrivener nodded quickly as he slipped to the side in the bench seat, the Pegasus smiling a little at him as she quietly slipped in to sit beside him. Pinkie smiled warmly, and Rainbow continued to look surprised, studying Fluttershy curiously as the charcoal stallion looked towards the shy blonde mare with interest. “It's good to see you, Fluttershy... it's been a while since... well, since we met. I don't think we've talked since then, have we?”
“No...” Fluttershy murmured, bowing her head quietly, and Scrivener cocked his head as he gazed at her before her sea-green eyes slowly, nervously looked up at him. “I... was doing a lot of thinking. I hope you don't think I was avoiding you, Scrivener Blooms.”
Scrivener only gave her a bit of a smile, saying quietly: “Not at all.” He paused, then glanced up as the waitress headed back towards him, tray loaded down with their order. “Let me get you a drink, Fluttershy.”
“Oh, you don't have to...” Fluttershy blushed and dropped her head forwards, looking embarrassed before she glanced up at him again with a faint smile when he gave her an insistent look. “Okay. Just something light, though. I don't plan to stay for very long.”
“Come on, Shy, you should stay! It's great to see you out here and stuff.” Rainbow said empathetically, and Pinkie Pie nodded and smiled in agreement before the blue Pegasus said clearly, as the waiter approached: “Cosmopolitan for Fluttershy!”
“Oh, no, no, I would much rather just have some... apple cider, or even just water...” Fluttershy's voice eventually became a near-silent mumble, and the waitress was already walking away, Rainbow Dash smiling amusedly across at the blonde-coated mare.
“Relax a little.” Rainbow invited, and then she looked over at Pinkie Pie as the brightly-colored earth pony nodded rapidly in agreement. “Anyway, hey, why don't you tell Scrivy here about all the animals you look after? I bet he loves animals.”
“Really?” Fluttershy brightened a bit, and when Scrivener smiled and nodded, she sat up and gazed at him with a small smile in return. “I thought you did. It was just a feeling, but... it was there and... I'm very glad to hear it. Oh, listen to me ramble, I'm sorry.”
Scrivener only shook his head and rose a hoof with a quiet laugh, then he picked up the cola in front of him and sipped at it slowly as Fluttershy looked up at him. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, meanwhile, both began to talk away about something, but the charcoal pony's eyes locked on Fluttershy as she held his gaze with her own, still smiling shyly, but her eyes were anything but.
There was something else there... some message she was trying to give him, as his eyes locked on her and he leaned in towards her, tilting his head as a chill ran down his spine before she said quietly: “I don't get along very well with other ponies all the time... but I've never had any problem with animals. Big or small, fierce or timid... and the time I spend with them is a little like... Nirvana.”
Scrivener looked with surprise at Fluttershy at this comparison, and then the Pegasus said quietly: “Please excuse me. I'm going to go freshen up. I'll only be a moment... just... wait a moment, please.”
The Pegasus looked at him almost imploringly as she slipped carefully away from the table, and Scrivener stared after her before Rainbow Dash cleared her throat loudly, asking mildly: “Hey, Scrivy, you okay there? You look a little freaked... what, did Fluttershy somehow freak you out instead of the other way around?”
Scrivener grunted, then he shook his head and returned his eyes awkwardly to the two ponies that were now looking at him curiously before he swept up his cola and took a deep drink from it. He looked quickly out over the tavern, watching as Fluttershy pushed carefully through a door into the bathroom... and then he shook his head and mumbled: “Excuse me. I'm... I'm just going to go and uh... yeah.”
Scrivener slipped out of the seat, hurried past the waitress that was returning with Fluttershy's drink, and then made a beeline for the bathroom door. He all-but-charged into it, knocking it open and letting it swing closed behind him as he found himself faced with two doors before stepping forwards...
His hoof splashed in something, and Scrivener slowly looked down, feeling his heart pulse in his chest as he saw he had stepped in... red...
A puddle of what looked like thick red blood had spilled out from beneath the bathroom door, and Scrivener breathed harder, trembling before he looked up and shoved the door open, and he had to bite back a scream as he stared into a tunnel of flesh beyond, pulsating red walls lined with thick, black cables and pipes that pumped and leaked steaming black corruption, massive gears and apparatus sticking out of the walls here and there like hideous mechanical tumors before his eyes stared into the darkness as he heard Fluttershy scream, saw something large and brutal and monstrous dragging her slowly away...
He gasped for breath, almost retching at the rotten reek of the tunnel, tears filling his eyes as panic and fear and misery tore through his veins. And then Scrivener trembled as he gritted his teeth, seeing Fluttershy's terrified eyes, saw the bruises and blood over her body before he yelled desperately: “Oh screw it!”
With that, Scrivener lunged into the tunnel, hooves hammering over the fleshy floor as he charged after her, snarling as the massive, lumbering thing glared over a shoulder at him, all teeth and bruised, veiny flesh and raw muscle. He thought he saw twisting black fire spilling down its back like hair, but the thing was so godawful, so hard to look at, that he couldn't make it out. It filled him with fear and revulsion and horror, just as the tunnel he was running down sent terror through his heart and he was so scared he felt numb, his heart thudding hard enough to rattle his body, and yet part of him was laughing, excited, aroused, enjoying this...
There was a terrible clanking, and Scrivener looked up before he skidded to a halt just before several massive pipes, girders, and boulders of what looked like flesh fell in front of him, crashing down and blocking the tunnel. Fluttershy screamed beyond the barricade, and Scrivener howled in denial, running up and ramming into the barrier before he clawed desperately at it, gritting his teeth, feeling flesh and rock and stone and marble and tile-
“Scrivener!” shouted a voice, and Scrivy spun around, breathing hard, to see Rainbow Dash standing behind him... and no walls of flesh, no machinery, no sparking electricity or blood, but just a bathroom that looked like a whirlwind had torn through it. The tiles were scuffed, the garbage can was knocked over and trash spread all over, one of the stalls had been hammered apart... and when Scrivener slowly looked forwards, he stared in horror as he saw not an awful, horrendous barricade, but a shattered sink and scuffed wall and a cracked mirror and... and the blood...
He stared weakly at his broken reflection, trembling as he reached up and touched his face: blood was dripping from his ears and an eye, and he looked bruised and scuffed and badly beaten. Rainbow and Pinkie were both shouting at him, other voices were adding to the din, and then Scrivener looked slowly, weakly up before he pointed at a high window that had been forced open, whispering: “It took Fluttershy.”
Rainbow went silent and pale at this, looking back and forth around the bathroom before she snarled suddenly and leapt into the air, shooting up and through the window. They could hear her, yelling Fluttershy's name desperately to the night, as Pinkie stared and trembled before Scrivener turned slowly around and slumped back against the wall, grabbing at his head and shivering violently as he whispered: “I saw... I saw such... I... I...”
“Get it together.” snapped a voice, and Scrivener looked up at the bright pink pony... except she was now grayed, her mane straight, teeth sharp, piercings in her ears and eyes the red-rimmed blue of Pinkamena as she said quietly: “You're better than this. Hey, do you hear me? I said-”
“Do you hear me?” Scrivener blinked, and in that sparse second, he was staring weakly up and seeing only Pinkie Pie again, the bright pink pony looking worriedly down at him, eyes concerned. “Are you okay? You look really badly hurt!”
“I'm... I'm fine.” Scrivener whispered, slowly pushing himself to his hooves before he clenched his eyes shut, wobbling a bit as a wave of lightheadedness and nausea passed through him. “I just... I need to...”
“Come on, let's get you a drink.” soothed the waitress that had served him before, stepping forwards to quickly help Scrivener out of the bathroom. And for the earth pony, everything passed in a blur as he found himself at a table, clutching a mug of coffee between his front hooves and stuttering his way through weak, confused statements as ponies clustered around and asked him what had happened.
Eventually, Twilight Sparkle showed up, running to Scrivener and hugging him fiercely around the neck as she trembled and looked at him worriedly, whispering: “Oh Scrivy... I... I was so scared when they told me.... come on. Come on, let's... let's get you up and get you out of here, okay?”
“Listen, he doesn't seem able to remember what happened... from that hit on his head, it looks like... your friend got a little addled.” said a voice, and Scrivener looked blearily up as he realized it was a police officer. When the hell did I talk to a cop... “I know... he has his problems, on top of that...”
“He'll be fine!” Twilight said sharply, emphatically, and then she trembled a bit as she looked down at him, reaching up and slowly stroking through Scrivener's mane, whispering: “He... he just needs rest. Scrivy, god, you idiot...”
“I... I had to try and help her.” Scrivener said weakly, and then he closed his eyes and shivered. “And I couldn't... I couldn't save her...”
Twilight only silently hugged him around the neck, and the officer sighed before saying quietly : “We'll need him to come down to the station tomorrow to make a statement. He should see a doctor, too.”
The violent unicorn only nodded, and then she gently pulled Scrivener to her hooves, and he fought to register what was going on around him as he allowed the purple mare to lead him onwards and out of the bar. He felt a daze descend over him, a weight heavy on his shoulders as his eyes slid closed... and when he opened them next and forced himself up through a haze of tiredness, he realized that he was laying in bed with Twilight curled up against his chest, holding tightly onto him and with her face buried against the side of his neck.
Scrivener took comfort in it even as his mind whirled with questions; after all, what had happened? Had his vision been another hallucination, or had he really seen the tunnel... had Fluttershy really tried to tell him something or had he just imagined it...
The earth pony slowly reached up and touched his head, closing his eyes as he felt the bandages, and he breathed slowly through his mouth as he felt Twilight shift a little before she clung tighter to him and buried her face deeper into his mane, murmuring wordlessly in her sleep. Scrivener looked down at her quietly, and then he silently kissed her forehead, closing his eyes and wrapping his forelegs around her as he trembled a little, scared of what was happening in the world around him... and even more afraid that all of it was just in his head.
Fluttershy had been found early the next morning in the Everfree Forest, badly hurt. She was bleeding, and someone had left awful words scrawled all over her and cut into her body, and she had been...
Scrivener shivered at the the thought as he sat in the library silently: Twilight had gone out to the pharmacy for him, but Rainbow Dash and Rarity were both here, the blue Pegasus trembling with anger and misery and Rarity looking with silent sympathy between her friends as she slowly sipped at a cup of tea. She had cups for them all, but Rainbow was trembling so badly she couldn't even pick hers up. That someone had hurt Fluttershy so badly... scrawled and cut and beaten and bloodied and assaulted her... and then...
“I'm going to find them and kill them.” Rainbow whispered, and Scrivener looked up silently as the Pegasus looked across at him, her magenta eyes burning with fury. “After what they did to her... I'm gonna find them and kill them.”
“Killing them won't solve anything.” Scrivener said quietly, and when Rainbow glared at him furiously, he slowly brought his chestnut eyes up and murmured: “Killing them will make you feel better... for a little while. But what would Fluttershy want?”
“They raped her! They shoved things in her, they cut her up!” Rainbow shouted angrily, leaping to her hooves and snarling as tears formed in her eyes. “I've been friends forever with her, what am I supposed to do, just-”
“Killing them is one moment of fear, one moment of pain, one moment of everything, and then nothing.” Scrivener said quietly, lowering his head, and the Pegasus fell silent before the earth pony closed his eyes and whispered: “You would be showing them mercy by just killing them, Rainbow Dash.”
“We need to think about what's best for Fluttershy.” Rarity interrupted gently, looking worriedly between Scrivener and Rainbow Dash even as the Pegasus sat back and lowered her head, shivering a little but with a strange, almost-dark glow in her reddish eyes. “We need to look after her and take care of her first... if she's not okay, what would your revenge accomplish?”
Rainbow grunted, then muttered: “It might save another pony's life... but... but I know. I know. I just... god...” Rainbow clenched her eyes shut, then she shook her head out and breathed slowly before looking over at Scrivener, asking finally: “And you really don't remember anything at all?”
Scrivener looked away, and Rainbow frowned a little as Rarity gazed nervously over at the earth pony, before he lowered his head and whispered: “Just... madness. I guess when my head got... broken... hallucinations and nightmares filled in the blank gaps in memory. I... did you see Fluttershy and me talking?”
“I... I don't remember, Scrivener, honestly. All I remember was that first Fluttershy left, and then you got up and left in a hurry after her, like you knew something was wrong. And then I just remember hearing a panic and...” Rainbow fell silent, shaking her head and clenching her eyes shut. “And Twilight can't help with magic or anything?”
The charcoal stallion shook his head slowly, and Rainbow cursed under her breath before she looked slowly up, studying him silently. “I guess... you must have been hit hard. I mean, you're not some little pony... but Twilight was saying she spent most of the night picking bits of porcelain out of your mane, so... something must have smashed you through those sinks...”
Scrivener only nodded slowly, looking down, and there was silence for a few moments before Rarity asked quietly: “I know this might not be the proper subject to ask about, but... the visions you had, Scrivener Blooms... what were they of? Maybe there's some clue there...”
The charcoal stallion grunted, looking down and muttering: “I doubt it... but... well...” Scrivener hesitated, and then he sighed and shook his head slowly, murmuring: “I saw blood first. I stepped it in, felt it on my hooves... and when I threw open the door, I saw this... this tunnel. Of flesh, and... machinery and...”
He shivered a bit, looking down and whispering: “It was like Clockwork World, but worse. Alive. And Fluttershy was being dragged off by... by this thing. This gigantic monster, and she was bruised and screaming for help, and I... I ran forwards, but then the ceiling collapsed in front of me and blocked my path, and I started hitting the barrier and...”
He petered out, trembling for a moment before swallowing thickly and murmuring: “And that was when you found me, Rainbow. And the moment I hear your voice, I look around, and I'm just in a bathroom and I'm punching the wall, not...”
Rainbow looked down silently as Rarity shivered a little, and there was quiet for a few moments before Scrivener grasped his own cup of tea in front of him, and hurriedly gulped the contents down. Then, finally, the Pegasus looked up and asked quietly: “Could it have been real? The... the monster, I mean.”
“Then how would it have escaped? It was... it was huge.” Scrivener shivered a bit, shaking his head slowly before he grimaced as he remembered the wrecked state of the bathroom. “I just... Fluttershy told me...”
Both ponies looked at him... but a moment later, there was a click before Twilight entered the library, a satchel hanging at her side as she gazed softly towards Scrivener. Scrivener smiled faintly, glancing up at her before the violet unicorn looked almost nervously at Rarity and Rainbow Dash. “Sorry I took so long, I... I stopped in to see Fluttershy, too. She's... she's not doing too well. How are you holding up, puddin'?”
Scrivener shrugged after a moment, feeling a moment of awkwardness before Twilight Sparkle nodded slowly again and then sighed a little, saying apprehensively: “Look, I... I know you hate this idea already, Scrivy, but... I would really like to talk to Celestia about this, maybe even visit Canterlot. She might be able to reach further into your mind than I can...”
“I... I'll think about it, Twilight. But... my mind might not be able to handle that, either.” Scrivener murmured, shaking his head and looking down as he closed his eyes. “We'll find who did this though, one way or another.”
“I know, puddin'. I know we will, and... we're gonna make sure Fluttershy gets through this, too.” Twilight said softly, striding over to him and leaning down to kiss his lips gently, and Scrivener blushed a bit even as he returned the affection before giving an embarrassed, apologetic smile to the other ponies. “Oh, I got your medication. Take your pain pills, then go and lie down... your eyes are all bloodshot.”
“Yeah.” Scrivener said finally, as Twilight used telekinesis to draw a bottle of medication out of her satchel, and the earth pony sighed as he took this before nodding to Rarity and Rainbow Dash, turning to head for the stairs. He made his way up to Twilight's room, wondering absently for a moment where Spike was before he crawled into bed and dismissed it: this morning, he'd found what looked almost like a tent in the back room on his old futon. Spike was perhaps not entirely pleased with Scrivener now being more than just a tenant and all, but it looked like the dragon was also going to make the most of it as well.
The charcoal stallion popped the pill bottle open, glanced at the label, then shrugged and simply shook a few pills out into his mouth after he recognized the medication. He took three: not to deal with the throbbing pain still running through his body, but instead in the hopes it would help knock him out, before he laid himself down on the bed, closed his eyes, and curled up to try and get a little bit of sleep.
But he remained wide awake, even as the pain went away completely... and after forty minutes, he was joined by Twilight Sparkle, who slipped into bed with him and pushed her face against his chest. He held her closer, rubbing a hoof slowly along her side before she murmured quietly: “I love you, Scrivener. And I want you to know that... I'm so proud of you. Even if you didn't save Fluttershy... you tried your hardest to.”
“But I didn't save her.” Scrivener said quietly, looking down, and Twilight shook her head slowly before she leaned up and gently kissed his cheek.
“You did everything you could, for a pony you barely know. You're brave, Scrivener...” Twilight nuzzled him soothingly, rubbing a hoof along his chest before she gently pushed him onto his back, slowly straddling him as she breathed a little harder and murmured softly down to him: “I admire that, puddin'. You're so strong... such a powerful, handsome pony... but you have that dark side too, yeah?”
She rubbed her hooves up along his chest, and Scrivener swallowed awkwardly, body tingling even as he mumbled: “Not... not now, Twilight... this... this isn't right and I really want to just rest for a while...”
“Come on...” Twilight leaned forwards, hooves playing slowly up his chest as she half-lidded her eyes. “Tell me what you'd do to the monster that did this, then... tell me how you'd make them hurt... 'cause you want to make them hurt, don't you? You want revenge...”
“Twilight!” Scrivener reached up to push at her, but she caught his front hooves with her own, their eyes locking as she breathed hard and he shivered a bit. “Twilight, come on, this isn't-”
“Isn't exciting enough? Isn't good enough? Scrivener, I know you want it...” Her eyes half lidded as she gyrated her hips, and Scrivener grunted and ground his teeth painfully together. “I can... feel... how much you want it, puddin'. Because you're my black knight... you're my handsome beast, right? And I'm here to give you what you want, give you release, take away the real world but give you something even better, even greater than the delusions and fantasies...”
She leaned down, breathing out over his face, and Scrivener shivered before, with what felt like monumental effort, he finally managed to shove her off before rolling out of bed and whispering hurriedly: “I need to go for a walk.”
“Wait!” Twilight shouted almost desperately, half-rolling towards him and reaching up a hoof, but Scrivener ignored her as he hurried to the door and down the stairs... and then stared stupidly as he stumbled into the main room of the library and found... Twilight Sparkle?
The violet mare looked at him with worry and confusion, putting aside several files as she asked in concerned voice: “Scrivy? Are you okay?”
“I... I...” Scrivener stared at her, jaw dropped, eyes wild... and then he spun around and hurried back up the stairs to the bedroom, staring into it and then moaning low in his throat as he saw it was empty, wondering what the hell had just happened before he staggered forwards when Twilight's hoof gently touched him.
He whirled around in a circle, and Twilight winced before the charcoal stallion trembled, mouth working weakly. Then she frowned and leaned towards him nervously, studying his eyes before she murmured: “Okay. It's okay. Let's get you to bed, Scrivy...”
“I... I saw you, and you were... all over me, and I ran away and...” Scrivener babbled, shaking his head stupidly, and Twilight only looked at him with soft concern as she gently pushed him into bed, carefully helping tuck him in before the stallion curled up and grabbed at his skull, whispering: “What's happening to me...”
“Scrivener, you had a concussion, your skull was fractured... and knowing you, you probably just took a bunch of painkillers without reading the label. All that, and the fact you have... trouble sometimes... telling fantasy from reality...” Twilight hesitated, then she slipped into bed with him... but instead of curling up beside him, she gently pulled her head up against her chest, nuzzling quietly into his bandaged scalp. “I'm here, okay? I'm here for you, to help you out every step of the way. I love you very much and I'm going to protect you and watch over you, so just... just try and sleep, Scrivy. Try and sleep.”
The charcoal stallion could only tremble, staring blankly at the ceiling as he breathed hard in and out, resting back against her and feeling almost maternal love coming from her now instead of sexual, heavy passion. And for an hour or so, he simply laid back against her comforting form, until finally he felt some semblance of sanity finally return to him.
But it felt like he was on a seesaw for most of the day, slowly tilting back and forth between madness and sanity as he heard inaudible whispers, had bouts of paranoia, felt anxiety creeping and crawling along his spine the entire day, like ghostly fingers that wanted to keep him constantly tense. He found himself questioning himself, questioning the ponies around him, questioning reality itself as Twilight did everything he could to help keep him stable.
Time became hard to tell, as Scrivener found himself unable to sleep at all: not because of the pain, because he was scared of the nightmares that might come. But the only time he felt comfortable, all the same, was when he was curled up in bed with Twilight against him... and his eyes closed, so they couldn't play tricks on him. He still heard whispers, but they were easier to deny, easier to ignore than the other sights and sounds that sometimes threatened him...
It wasn't until a few days later, after Scrivener and Twilight went to Canterlot for his regularly-scheduled meeting with Dr. Sanus, that Scrivener finally felt his sanity beginning to return. As he sat in the psychiatrist's office, Sanus looking at him meditatively and slowly tapping a hoof on the police report he'd left out on his desk, Scrivener swallowed... and then he simply blurted out the events of what had happened in a jumbled rush, starting from the conversation at the bar and ending with his hallucination of Twilight.
Sanus had been surprised by his honesty and thoroughness, but had listened intently, likely realizing that if he asked Scrivener to stop the charcoal stallion might simply bottle everything up again. Finally, when Scrivener rambled to the end of his long spiel, the psychologist had been silent for a few moments before he leaned forwards and said quietly: “You must be scared as hell if you're coming to me for help.”
Scrivener simply nodded silently, and Sanus sighed for a moment, sitting back and gathering his thoughts before he closed his eyes and rubbed a hoof against his features. “You present me with a problem. On the one hoof, your hallucinations and paranoia are both worsening and growing more frequent. If we look at your behavioral patterns and match that to your psychological history, it looks like you're on the edge of another breakdown... which would be a sign that you should be reevaluated again, and perhaps spend some time at the facility under observation.
“On the other hoof... you only really started to improve once out of the facility. You see this place as a hostile environment instead of a safe place, and it makes it very hard for us to treat you while you're here. And even if you're having hallucinations more frequently... your willingness to question their reality, to try and understand they are not real, they are not part of your delusions... it shows your ability to separate fantasy from reality is growing and improving.” Sanus looked across at the earth pony quietly, giving a small smile. “It may not be comforting, but your discomfort, your anxiety... it may come from your mental health improving instead of further deteriorating.”
“Then why the hell would anyone want to be healthy if it means I lose the ability to believe in all my wonderful little fantasies and instead get stuck with trying to live through a life of pain?” Scrivener asked pessimistically, and Sanus shook his head slowly with that same wry smile.
“You're in the desert now, Scrivener Blooms. It will be a long, difficult, and painful trek, but ultimately it will take you away from your mirages and delusions and into the real world. You just need to get there.” The doctor hesitated, and then the unicorn reached down and pulled open a drawer before removing a large sheaf of papers, beginning to flip through them as he muttered: “Let's see...”
Scrivener tilted his head, and then the psychologist nodded slowly, tapping a name. “I'm prescribing you a drug called 'Ultinsiolisashin,' commonly referred to as ULT. It's exceedingly toxic and made for short term use only: the chemical compound comes from poison joke extract, among other things. You'll need to strictly follow the instructions that come with it and only take it for two weeks, otherwise you run the risk of damaging your blood vessels and nervous system. At that point, we'll leave you off for a day or two while we evaluate how you handled the drug, and then either run a second course or switch to something gentler.”
Scrivener grimaced at this, making a face as Sanus continued: “I have faith you'll be able to tolerate it and the side effects well, but I'm going to prescribe some medications for the nausea I have no doubt you'll get, too. The reason I'm giving you this is because it should stave off your hallucinations and anxiety.”
“There is one side effect that I am a little concerned about, however...” Sanus looked up, meeting Scrivener's eyes as he said quietly: “ULT has been known to cause aggression. You are not a pony I want to encourage to be aggressive for any period of time.”
Scrivener nodded nervously, rubbing slowly at the back of his neck before he asked finally: “Then why give me it at all?”
“Because if we can stave off the hallucinations, your mind may adjust to the real world. You may be able to actually start finding yourself able to sort delusion from memory in your mind and, in the best case scenario, you'll be able to find your real memories of Luna.” Sanus responded quietly, and then he shook his head slowly. “I believe that the... most serious hallucination you described, of your friend being dragged off by that monster... that was your mind's way of filling in the blanks, just as it filled in an entire world for you while you were out of your mind with despair over what happened to your fiancee. But your mind's ability to produce delusions, to make you believe in this non-reality, has weakened. The only reason it happened again at all is because you took a blow to the head that likely caused some short term memory loss.”
The charcoal stallion nodded slowly, looking down before the doctor asked quietly: “But I am curious. Doing this... it put you at great personal risk. Not just your physical well-being, but getting involved in this confrontation meant risking being immediately taken back to this institute for reevaluation and holding, and from all accounts you have had very little contact with the victim involved before this. Why risk your life for hers?”
“Because it was the right thing to do. Because Luna would have wanted me to. Because... she was my friend, I guess. And whether I knew her or not, she was also someone I had written about in my delusional world...” Scrivener smiled faintly. “Maybe it was really just veiled self-preservation. Trying to save her to cling to... fantasy.”
He stopped, then looked down and closed his eyes. “And Luna was my wife. Whether we were married or not... she was my wife, my soulmate, my everything.”
Sanus sighed a little, but then the unicorn nodded a bit before he asked quietly: “And what about your current relationship, Scrivener Blooms, with Twilight Sparkle? Would you like to touch on that subject? It sounds like it's a source of stress for you as much as one of comfort, after all, because of this deep love and attachment you still have for Luna.”
“She calls me 'puddin'' a lot. It creeps me out and I can't quite explain why.” Scrivener mumbled, and Sanus smiled wryly. “And this isn't her first relationship but... she acts almost like it is sometimes. Or... I dunno. It's... it's hard to explain, because she makes my anxieties act up, but at the same time she doesn't. It's not like with other people, who I get suspicious and paranoid about... it's more like... concern. Worry.”
Sanus simply nodded, and Scrivener let himself continue to ramble out, knowing that he was falling into the simplest of all psychologist traps: the long silence, which he himself was now filling with his chatter. But at the same time, for the first time, Scrivener also didn't feel like it was a trap or like the doctor was against him... for the first time, he was willingly divulging all this information because it felt like Sanus actually might be able to help him... like maybe he didn't have to actually deal with all this alone.
It was the first time the session actually went over the time limit... and Sanus finally had to stop Scrivener, standing up on the other side of his desk and saying quietly: “I'm afraid we're long out of time, Scrivener Blooms, but... we can revisit this subject next week. Oh, here's your prescription... and Scrivener, try and remember one thing: as you get more in touch with the world, you're going to have a lot of strange feelings. But this is natural, and it may take some time before you understand what these... emotions and signals are all adding up to. But they will add up, I promise.”
Sanus paused, then he held a hoof out over his desk, and Scrivener looked surprised for a moment, and almost suspicious. But after a few moments, he rose his own hoof and carefully took the psychologist's, shaking it slowly and saying finally: “Thank you.”
“No, Scrivener, thank you.” Sanus gave a small, dry smile. “I have a two year bet running with the other doctors that I can fix you, one way or another. You may make me a rich pony shortly... as long as we continue to get you feeling better.”
Scrivener laughed despite himself, and then he nodded and smiled, turning away and saying over his shoulder as he headed for the door: “Then let's hope I don't have to fake being sane for very long, huh?”
The charcoal stallion pushed open the door and let himself out, feeling... almost light on his hooves as he stepped into the waiting room outside. He smiled at the sight of Twilight Sparkle, who gazed up at him softly before he nodded once to her, studying her piercings, her spiky mane, her warm, caring eyes... “Let's go.”
Twilight smiled warmly in return, and the two ponies traced the familiar route out of the building in comfortable silence. But as they headed through the gates and out to Canterlot's streets, Scrivener impulsively turned and kissed her firmly, and the violet mare's eyes widened in surprise... then closed slowly as she returned it, smiling in delight before their mouths parted and she let out an almost dreamy pant, and Scrivener murmured softly: “I'm lucky to have you. I love you, Twilight Sparkle. I honestly do.”
Twilight gazed at him radiantly, her eyes almost shining as their irises locked... and then she laughed brightly and hopped forwards, shoving up against him, the two almost running down the street together side-by-side, content and free. Scrivener let himself relax, let the enjoyment simply be for this moment in time, as instead of heading straight home, they wandered through Canterlot together, enjoying the sights and sounds and turning this usually-feared trip into a little getaway from everything for themselves.
It was evening before the two ponies made it back to Ponyville, both in high spirits still, Scrivener feeling better than he had in days. They found a note from Spike saying that Fluttershy had woken up, and Rarity had taken him to see her... and while both Scrivener and Twilight wanted to rush to the Pegasus, they also didn't want to overwhelm her, and that by now visiting hours were likely over anyway. Where Spike was now, Twilight didn't know... but that was okay. If he was with her friends, then she knew he was fine... and she smiled softly across at Scrivener Blooms, and Scrivener Blooms smiled back at her as they shared a light salad together. She had more than enough to keep her entertained.
That night, they slipped up to the bedroom, and Twilight closed her eyes and reveled in bliss as Scrivener made love to her. Romantic, gentle, passionate... it was good, and she loved every moment of it. And when it was over, him breathing hard, body resting overtop hers, his weight so comforting, still feeling his strength thrumming in his muscles as her hooves played slowly along his body, she leaned up and whispered quietly: “I'm yours, Scrivener. I'm all yours. Forever and forevermore...”
Scrivener smiled softly, kissing her ear, her cheek, her lips... and later, as the two curled together, Twilight half-asleep and the male dozing a bit as he held her close, he couldn't help but ask quietly: “Twilight... don't you ever worry about... about what could happen if...”
“No.” Twilight closed her eyes, snuggling tighter into him as she murmured: “No, I don't worry about anything, Scrivy. Not anymore... because you're here with me, aren't you? You're here with me, and I'm all yours... forever. And you know...” She looked up at him softly, reaching up and stroking under his muzzle gently. “I'm... I'm willing to do anything for you. Absolutely anything for you... I want to experience the world with you. I want to share everything with you... I want you to be happy, first and foremost, because when you're happy, I'm happy, puddin'. So don't be scared of telling me what you want. If you want to try something different, or if you have anything in mind. I'm here for that... I'm yours, all yours...”
Scrivener smiled down at her as a thrill of both interest and worry twisted through him, trying to drown out selfish more-primal instincts as he leaned forwards and nuzzled her quietly, and then he asked finally: “And what are you going to do when I do ask you one day to do something that no sane pony would be comfortable with?”
Twilight grinned up at him, and Scrivener stared a bit at the almost-hungry expression on her features as her eyes half-lidded, hooves stroking slowly down his body as she said teasingly: “Then why don't I show you some of the things I'm willing to do for you, Scrivener Blooms...”
“Uh, Twilight... Twilight, that's very nice and all but, uh... T-Twi...” Scrivener's protests were cut off as his eyes rolled back on his head as Twilight descended, a pulse of pleasure running through him as he stared at the ceiling and mumbled incoherently as his body reacted to her eager ministrations.
When morning came around, Scrivener awkwardly, carefully slipped out of bed, still feeling a little dazed as he carefully made his way to the stairs and down them. He rubbed slowly at his face, feeling both embarrassed and... eager, in a word. Upstairs, Twilight was still sound asleep, and had likely... worn herself out... so she would probably remain asleep for another hour or so...
Scrivener smiled a bit as he made his way towards the kitchen, even as an odd chill ran down his spine. Yes, they were still in that phase where their love was new, they were both ponies who had gone quite a while without any sort of sexual contact, and Twilight was doing her whole... trying to please him thing... but he was sure it would all find some semblance of normal sooner or later.
And even if it didn't, what was there to complain about? Sex, romance, love, friendship... they took care of each other, watched over each other, and did things for each other... so... why did these positive things give him such a feeling of... strangeness? Scrivener only shook his head, thinking of what the doctor had said, of what he knew himself to be true... that he was still clinging to his memories of Luna, that he was still having trouble letting go of the past, knowing real from fantasy, and it was all... stirring things around in his head. And maybe the whole thing with Fluttershy...
Scrivener lowered his head as he stood in the kitchen, then he nodded slowly, murmuring quietly: “I should go and see her. Maybe if I talk to her, maybe if I can help her... then I can start settling these bad feelings I've been having. Maybe...”
He only shook his head, then sighed and did his best to shake off his worries, trying to convince himself none of it was important. To seize this second chance at life for what it was: happy, lucky, and wonderful, not something to be scared of, to feel paranoia over... and yet all the same, his fears remained, and it was more than just nervous anxiety that twisted its way through his mind and heart and soul.
Chapter Seven: A Harlequin Romance
Twilight Sparkle smiled faintly as she stepped hesitantly into Fluttershy's room at the hospital, knocking once on the door, and Rainbow Dash glanced up from where the blue Pegasus was sitting at her bedside. She smiled faintly, studying Twilight for a moment before nodding to her and saying quietly: “Hey, I was just about to come and get... where's Scrivener? Fluttershy's been asking for him.”
“Has she?” Twilight cocked her head curiously, then she softened as she gazed towards the blonde Pegasus: she was bruised and battered, her coat more purple and red and black than it was golden from the savage beating she had taken. Bandages covered her, and her pretty mane had been unevenly cut back: both because they had been forced to do an operation to relieve a pressure buildup in her brain, and because whoever had done this had sliced off much of her pink locks. Machines beeped on the other side of the bed, monitoring how she was, and tubes stuck out from beneath the sheets that covered her, feeding into bags hanging off metal stands and other strange machinery.
The violet mare slowly shook her head as her features darkened, looking at the Pegasus as she murmured: “Poor Fluttershy... are there any leads on who did this?”
“None at all.” Rainbow sighed and shook her own head, then she hesitated before prompting almost apprehensively: “Scrivener...”
“Oh. Sorry, I just... seeing her... like this...” Twilight silently reached out, pulling the blankets up a bit as she shivered a little, then she glanced over at Rainbow Dash and answered quietly: “Scrivy is going to come by in the afternoon. He wanted to come by with me now, but I had to remind him that he had an appointment with Dr. Duck to go to. So I thought I'd... come by here now, get Scrivener's prescription filled at the pharmacy, and then meet him for lunch. Then he'll be by in the afternoon.”
“Good. Fluttershy will be glad to see him.” Rainbow looked at the pony laying in bed quietly, and then the blue Pegasus sighed a bit before turning her eyes to Twilight, saying hesitantly: “You and him... you're good for each other, yeah? He doesn't...”
“He's what I want... and what I need.” Twilight smiled a little glancing over at Rainbow softly before she shook her head slowly. “Don't worry about me, okay? Besides, Fluttershy... needs our help right now. Everything else can wait.”
Rainbow Dash nodded slowly, shaking her head before she sighed and cracked her back, muttering: “Yeah, you're right, and... Scrivener's a good guy. And you're a good friend too, Twilight. I'm glad Fluttershy has you both looking helping me to look out for her.”
The unicorn nodded, and then the blue Pegasus smiled a bit, saying finally: “If you don't mind, I'm gonna go home, get a shower, and catch a nap. Been here most of the night and morning... and if you don't mind, I think I'll come back in the afternoon, too. See what the whole fuss is about... maybe what Fluttershy has to tell Scrivy will open up some memories or something about what really happened.”
“Yeah.” Twilight said finally, and then she shook her head slowly before finally smiling a little, glancing over at Dash and saying quietly: “I'm sorry if I've... ever been short with you or anyone else or... clingy... to Scrivy. If I've ever... made you guys uncomfortable. I just... you know.”
“It's okay, Twilight.” Rainbow Dash smiled a little, looking strangely relieved before she nodded and headed for the door, saying softly: “Be gentle with her if she wakes up, huh? She's been... really scared. More than usual I mean, but I guess that's... that's understandable, isn't it?”
Rainbow closed her eyes, then she shook her head and turned, heading out the door as Twilight gazed after her softly before the violet mare turned her eyes back to the Pegasus laying in the hospital bed. This room felt so small, so desolate, with only the beep of machinery and the poor, wounded pony laying in bed... and Twilight sighed softly as she reached out and touched her shoulder silently, closing her eyes and bowing her head forwards as she whispered: “It's going to be okay, Fluttershy. Okay? I promise you that it's going to be okay, and this will all be over soon. I... I hope you can hear me. I hope you believe me. I hope... I hope you know we're all trying our hardest to make things better. To fix things.”
She fell quiet, then looked down and studied her friend's face before hesitating... and finally smiling a little, reaching into her satchel bag at her side to pull out a notebook and quill. She jotted a short, quick message, and folded it so it could stand and face the Pegasus so she would know who had been here before finally getting to her hooves.
She hesitated a moment longer... then simply shook her head and murmured quietly: “No, better to let you sleep through this. It'll be okay, Fluttershy. I promise.”
With that, the unicorn turned and headed out into the hospital corridor, passing a few nurses as she glanced at her satchel and made her way towards the exit.
The hospital was slowing down as lunch arrived, patients who were well enough for it and doctors both making their way down to the cafeterias, others returning to rooms and offices. A few still patrolled the halls, but none of them thought anything was out of the ordinary even as a pony with a painted face and a red-and-black jester's costume carefully pushed a large wooden cart down the hall.
The cart was painted with smiling faces and happy animals, and a bunch of balloons were tied to it, of every color, all large and rotund. The pony paused as she passed a mother and a young foal who were making their way out of another patient's room, and the clown smiled as she pulled a balloon free from the cart, leaning over and saying gently: “Here, sweetie. Smile, you'll feel better.”
The foal smiled brightly up at the clown, who winked and flicked her head, making the bells of her jester's cap jangle. Her ivory-painted features returned the smile, exaggerated by her black lipstick and obsidian eyeliner, and then she giggled a little as she went back to pushing her cart forwards, humming a little under her breath before halting at the door to Fluttershy's room.
She reached out and pushed it slowly open, then smiled and swiveled the cart to carefully push inside, balloons gently scraping against the top frame of the door as she called kindly: “Wakey-wakey, honey! Someone saw this room looked boring, so they sent a little something to spruce it up, sweetie...”
The clown pranced forwards as Fluttershy stirred weakly in bed, eyes slowly opening... and then staring in horror, beginning to tremble violently as the clown untethered the bunch of balloons and strode calmly forwards, her eyes half-lidded, her smile predatory. Fluttershy shook her head wildly, and the clown giggled quietly before she leaned forwards and easily swept the call button away from Fluttershy's hoof, whispering around the strings in her mouth: “Oh, no. Come on, sweetie, we haven't even decorated your room yet...”
With that, the clown began to tie the balloons, one-by-one, to Fluttershy's headboard. She tied them slowly, Fluttershy spasming on the bed, eyes rolling in fear as she tried to gargle out something, anything, but the clown only giggled as she pulled the strings tight, tied the balloons so they floated low and ominous only a foot or so above the Pegasus' head, as the clown whispered: “Now, we can't have you telling our little secret, can we? Thankfully the only pony who saw was the lunatic... and now, you'll never be able to make him see the truth. The truth dies with you, honey... he'll just go on thinking he's crazy, and eventually everyone will quietly accept that bad things happen to good ponies, and that's that. Everyone's happy!”
The clown finished tying the balloons in a bright rainbow of colors that hovered low over Fluttershy before she straightened and headed back to her cart, smiling positively as she pulled a side door on it open. A moment later, the clown grunted and yanked out a large metal cylinder and an uninflated balloon, slipping this over a nozzle sticking out of the top of the large canister.
She spun a valve, and the balloon quickly filled up, becoming round and large and strangely obscene as the clown pulled it away from the hissing nozzle, humming softly as she tied this easily off. The nozzle continued to spew its gases into the air, but the clown paid it no heed as she reached into the cart and pulled out a pre-cut line of string, knotting this around the bottom of the balloon and then smiling warmly as she easily tied it to the bottom of the bed.
Fluttershy whimpered weakly as the balloon floated into the air, and the clown stepped back, letting the hissing canister fall with a terrible, loud clang before she booted it hard, sending it rolling under the Pegasus' bed. The terrified pony stared at the clown as the somehow-ghastly figure grinned at her, then turned and bounced cheerfully out of the room, leaving Fluttershy alone.
The Pegasus shifted back and forth in bed, but she was too weak to get up, breathing hard in and out and trying to scream, but barely managing a loud rasp. She could hear the cylinder still hissing, still filling the air around her as the balloons all swayed slowly above... and then she twitched in horror and looked up as the clown bounced back into the room, chiding: “Sorry, silly me! I forgot something.”
With that, the clown reached into the cart she had left behind, then pulled out a silver lighter, winking at Fluttershy before she headed out of the room and began to close the door behind her. Then she glanced up in surprise as a nurse approached, the pony tilting her head and asking curiously: “Excuse me, but what are you doing?”
“Oh, a friend of Fluttershy's hired me to set up a small surprise for her, that's all.” The clown smiled and pushed the door open, showing off the balloons as the Pegasus on the bed twitched, then desperately tried to raise her head, to scream, to do something that would get the nurse's attention. “Isn't it lovely?”
“Well, how nice! Fluttershy... Fluttershy, is something wrong?” The nurse approached quickly as the clown once more pulled the door mostly closed with a smile, then she flicked the lighter open in one hoof before clicking the wheel, and easily tossing it in through the door as she spun around on her heel and hopped down the hall.
And she only grinned and continued to bounce easily forwards even as an explosion ripped through the air behind her, blowing the door off the hospital room as flames spread greedily up the wall and screams of agony and terror filled the air. Soon, they mixed with the fire alarm as ponies ran into the hall, panicking, the clown patiently making her way through the crowd with a bright smile on her face even as the sprinkler system began to wash away her makeup. Yet she was barely noticed, ponies all too busy trying to save themselves and find out what was going on as many rushed for the exits and others only added to the furor with their cries and rioting.
Not long after the hospital fell into chaos, Twilight Sparkle was all-but-shoved out of the front doors of the hospital by the surging crowd, looking over her shoulder in anxiety the moment the crowd stopped pushing her along to spot smoke rising from the third floor. The floor Fluttershy was on, as she shook her head in denial and trembled a bit, before she flinched in surprise as Scrivener's voice shouted to her: “Twilight!”
“Scrivy?” Twilight spun dumbly around as Scrivener pushed through the crowd towards her, and then the violet mare hurried to meet him halfway, the two colliding with each other as she hugged him fiercely. “I thought you were at your appointment...”
“Yeah, we didn't need the full hour.” Scrivener muttered, and then he grimaced and looked up at the hospital, asking: “What happened, do you know?”
“N-No... I... I was on my way out and I heard the fire alarm go off...” Twilight shook her head hurriedly, looking up with fear at Scrivener. “It all happened so fast... I... but that's where Fluttershy...”
“Oh no.” Scrivener whispered, staring up at the window and shaking his head in denial. “But who... what would... why...”
Twilight clung to him, burying her face against his neck, leaving wet smears over him as Scrivener hugged her fiercely and looked down at her silently. She was trembling, so scared that her eyes seemed darker, dripping with water from the sprinkler system as other ponies milled around and scared shouts rang up from the grounds around the hospital exterior.
It was twenty minutes before the fire chief finally strode up in front of the building, saying curtly: “We've put out the fire, but it already looks like this arson. Two ponies have been killed... a nurse, and a patient who was in care on the third floor, and we won't be releasing their names. We'll need to speak to anyone who visited patient 307 short-”
“No!” Twilight yelled almost desperately, and all eyes turned towards her before she fell against Scrivener, burying her face against his neck and beginning to sob as the earth pony held her tightly, squeezing her close. “F-F-Fluttershy...”
An officer was hurrying towards them, and Scrivener looked up and motioned at the police pony to wait a moment. Then the charcoal stallion kissed Twilight's forehead before gently shushing her and leading her carefully forwards, the crowd whispering and staring at them as Scrivener said quietly to the officer as he passed: “You need to send messengers to Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack. They'll all want to know what happened. But Rainbow has been here constantly... she might know if anyone was lingering around the room.”
The officer nodded, and Scrivener turned his attention forwards, letting himself be led by a waiting firepony to a quieter area where a fire engine and several police wagons were sitting. As Twilight calmed down, officers and fireponies ran back and forth, largely avoiding each other as they argued over who should be doing what.
Eventually, an investigator walked over to them, the aging Pegasus pony saying quietly: “I'm Detective Shield. You have my condolences for the loss of your friend... we think we figured out how... how this happened. We found the remains of a canister... we're fairly certainly it contained hydrogen. Someone snuck it in with what looked like a wooden cart, filled with party favors for kids... balloons, things like that. Whoever inspected it probably just assumed it was full of helium.
“The hydrogen was allowed to fill the room, then ignited to set off the blast. Your friend... was killed instantly. The nurse was badly scorched, but... it was the shock and trauma that killed her.” He fell silent, then looked quietly at Twilight Sparkle as reached up and rubbed a hoof through his pepper mane. “The logs show you left around the time of the explosion. Did you see anything, anything at all, that was suspicious?”
Twilight trembled, shaking her head and looking down as she shifted a bit, leaning against Scrivener and whispering: “I just... I left her a note because she was asleep, after Rainbow Dash left... she... oh god, this is all my fault...”
“No, no... no it's not.” Scrivener said quietly, looking at the violet mare silently and reaching up to stroke slowly through her mane, and Twilight turned to bury her face against him, breathing hard before he frowned a bit and asked quietly: “Do you know if anypony else saw anything?”
“We're checking the logs, but the cart was quickly identified by some of the staff. It was being pushed by a pony dressed as a clown, who likely slipped in under the pretense of handing out balloons at the children's ward or something.” Shield shook his head slowly, then he looked up and said quietly: “This was clearly a targeted attack, not a random act of violence, especially with the fact the victim was earlier assaulted... and you... you're Scrivener Blooms, aren't you?”
“That's right!” Twilight looked up suddenly, making both Scrivener and Shield look at her with surprise as she trembled, then said hurriedly: “R-Rainbow Dash said... Fluttershy wanted to tell you something! That...”
She was cut off by a loud yell, and Shield and the other ponies all looked up to see a rainbow blur tear through the air, flying up towards the smoking, shattered window as other Pegasi pursued after the shape. It easily shook them off, however, leaping inside... and then there was a howl of pain and misery before Twilight clenched her eyes shut, and Scrivener lowered his head as the violet mare whispered: “Rainbow...”
“Do you know what it was that Fluttershy wanted to tell Scrivener?” asked the Detective quickly, and when Twilight only shook her head, Shield nodded and sighed before he stepped back, the graying pony brushing back his long overcoat. “Then excuse me. I had better take this opportunity while I can to go and speak to your friend. I'll be back with her shortly.”
Scrivener and Twilight both nodded... and true to his word, the Detective returned with a trembling Rainbow Dash in tow, the blue mare shivering and breathing hard as she shook her head weakly. For a few moments, she looked across at Scrivener and Twilight... and then she stumbled around the table, and both ponies stepped forwards to hug her tightly, Rainbow Dash half-collapsing as she whispered: “I s-shouldn't've left...”
“No, this isn't your fault... for all we know, whoever did this was waiting for you to leave... or you could be dead up there right now, too.” Scrivener said quietly, as Twilight only clung to her friend. Rainbow looked up weakly, almost disbelievingly, and Scrivener smiled faintly as he trembled a bit and said quietly: “I've had... lots of practice losing people. In the real world and in my own head.”
The Pegasus closed her eyes, bowing her head forwards, as Detective Shield watched them silently for a few moments. Then the investigator finally cleared his throat, saying quietly: “I'm going to give you three some time. But tomorrow, I plan to come by and speak to each of you again, once we have more details on what's happened here.”
Scrivener nodded silently as Twilight and Rainbow Dash both only looked up weakly, and the investigator hesitantly nodded back before he turned and left, tossing one last apprehensive look over his shoulder at them. Scrivener shoved away his paranoia before it could rise up, instead turning his eyes back towards Rainbow Dash, asking quietly: “Did... what...”
Rainbow trembled, then looked up at him and simply shook her head slowly, clenching her eyes shut as she whispered: “I can't... I... I can't... the... the smell. I'm never going to forget that smell, the sight, the... the... oh g-g-god...”
The Pegasus shoved herself away, taking a few steps before she leaned over and retched a few times, and Scrivener closed his eyes as Twilight looked up with a tremble, asking weakly: “Did... was there... do you know...”
Rainbow rasped for breath, shivering once before she slowly looked over her shoulder at them, tears spilling down her cheeks as she whispered: “All I know is that she wanted to talk to you, Scrivener. That she had something to tell you...”
“It... it must have been about what she said at the bar. She was killed because she knew something...” Scrivener closed his eyes, trying to think, to add things together in his mind as he whispered: “About my home, about where I come from, something must be trying to-”
“Goddammit, you're making this about you?” Rainbow shouted angrily, rounding on him suddenly as she glared at him with fury and despair. “No! You're insane! You're nothing but a goddamn crazy lunatic, and she got killed because she knew who hurt her, who was after her! They killed her to keep her quiet, not because you're some magic pony from a different goddamn dimension! And I don't know why she put her faith in you of all ponies, why she would only talk to you of all ponies, and n-not me, not her b-b-best friends, but a stupid piece of garbage scumbag n-nutjob who... w-who... Scrivener...”
Rainbow stuttered out, choking on her own words, trembling violently as Scrivener quietly pushed Twilight away and looked silently over at the Pegasus... and then he closed his eyes and strode towards her, reaching up to simply hug her silently. For a moment, Rainbow snarled... but then it vanished into sobs as she buried her face against the side of Scrivener's neck and simply gave vent to her misery.
The charcoal stallion held tightly onto her, breathing hard as he held her close, then whispered quietly: “Rainbow... I'm sorry.”
Rainbow only shook her head weakly, then she finally pulled away and rubbed furiously at her eyes, trembling before she looked up and rasped: “I don't care. I... I don't care what you believe, or what you think, or anything. But I do goddamn c-care about Fluttershy, and making sure that we... that we... don't let this go unpunished. Do... do you understand me? I... I need your help. P-Please...”
“And we'll... we'll do this, together. We'll find the answer.” Scrivener promised quietly, nodding slowly, and Rainbow nodded firmly back before she gritted her teeth and locked gazes with him.
For a moment longer she was silent... and then she whispered through grit teeth, so quiet that not even Twilight could hear, and yet to Scrivener every word echoed through his mind: “And when we find the bastard who did this... you're going to help me m-m-make them suffer...”
Scrivener closed his eyes, shivering once... and then his chestnut eyes simply flicked up, giving an almost tangible flash, and Rainbow grinned through her tears: and it was not a pleasant expression as she nodded slowly once. “Good.”
With that, Rainbow shook herself out and then threw herself into the air, flapping her wings hard and propelling herself skywards, and Scrivener trembled as he looked slowly up at the hospital before shaking his head quickly out, murmuring to Twilight weakly: “Come on. We... let's get out of here. I... I feel sick to my stomach.”
Twilight nodded slowly, breathing hard as she turned to follow him as they slowly made their way back to the library. By now, Scrivener thought, everypony in town knew what had happened... and it was no surprise when they found the library empty, but worried letters left for them all over the table. For the moment, however, Twilight ignored these as she turned her eyes to Scrivener, the two brushing themselves off as they sat on either side of the table before Twilight finally asked quietly: “Were you... Rainbow Dash, she asked you to...”
“Yes.” Scrivener said quietly, looking slowly up, and Twilight studied him before she simply nodded. And Scrivener smiled in faint surprise and almost bitter gladness, even as he asked: “You don't have a problem with the fact that... I...”
“Not... in this case.” Twilight slowly looked to the side, then she closed her eyes and trembled once before whispering: “Scrivener... you... you should teach me more about... that side of you. Just... because... I'm curious.”
Scrivener was silent, and Twilight turned her eyes to him, the two regarding one-another quietly before the earth pony said softly: “It's not something... most people want to know about. To learn about. It's not a fun subject, or an easy subject. It's... evil.”
“Maybe... I like the fact that you're a little evil.” Twilight said quietly, studying him silently, and then she slowly walked around the table, looking down into his eyes before reaching her hooves up, grasping his shoulders tightly as she looked down at him, and he looked back up at her. She swallowed slowly, and Scrivener tilted his head a bit before she reached down and grasped one of his front hooves, guiding it to her chest, holding it there so he could feel the thud of her heart. “What will you do to the pony who did this?”
“I don't know. I don't... want to know.” Scrivener shivered and tried to look away, but Twilight quickly reached her free hoof up, catching his cheek, forcing him to look at her again as his other hoof remained held tightly against her breast. For a few moments, there was silence, and then he asked quietly: “Why are you so interested?”
“I want to be more like you, puddin'. I want to be the best I can be for you... I want to share in all your hobbies... good and bad.” Twilight replied quietly, then she slowly leaned forwards and whispered in his ear: “I want to share everything with you.”
Scrivener closed his eyes, feeling the beat of her heart as he heard the implications in her words, shivering a little bit before he murmured quietly: “You know, they say a masochist and a sadist is a match made in Heaven, assuming Heaven has a little bit of Hell in it.”
“Everything, and everyone, all have a little bit of Hell inside them.” Twilight replied quietly, studying his features before he slowly stroked under his muzzle, smiling faintly as her heart thudded slowly, powerfully. “But maybe, if you look hard enough, you can find Heaven inside that Hell, too.”
“Pain is pleasure.” Scrivener muttered, and then he shook his head and grimaced a bit, a shiver running down his spine as he looked up at her and said quietly: “Twilight... you don't have to do this. You... you don't want to do this.”
“I do.” Twilight gave him a strange smile as she leaned forwards and touched a hoof to his chest, whispering: “Oh, you have no idea how much I do. After all, what could make us closer than sharing blood and nightmares and pain as well as pleasure and all these good things? Everything that's happened... everything that's taken place... all it goes to show is that bad things happen to good ponies all the time, that so much of the world's truth is primal hunger and random violence and lust and self-preservation... give me this, Scrivener. Make me your prey: be my hunter, and my protector. Take away the random chance that some pony is going to come and do violence to me by doing violence to me yourself...”
“Your... that... that makes no sense...” Scrivener turned hurriedly away, flushing, before Twilight seized him almost painfully by the face, leaning forwards as she looked half-desperately, half-longingly down into his eyes.
He gazed back, breathing hard in and out through his mouth before the violet mare leaned slowly down and kissed him, working her mouth against his, urging him to returning it before their lips parted and she leaned up to murmur into his ear: “Give it to me... give me pleasure, give me pain... and I'll make you forget about everything else for a little while...”
Scrivener clenched his eyes shut, cursing weakly as he reached up to shove at her shoulders, but Twilight's eyes almost glowed as she pushed back roughly, insistently, making his blood boil, her words echoing through his mind as he felt awful, voracious hungers rising up through his body... and next thing he knew, he was standing in the bathroom, breathing hard as he stared into the mirror at his own pale features.
He leaned forwards, hooves resting to either side of the reflective glass as a shiver rolled through him... and then he cursed under his breath weakly, shaking his head in denial before his eyes returned to his reflection. Then he twitched, his eyes widening in horror as the image of him in the mirror grinned eagerly out at him, eyes glowing like spotlights...
The earth pony shoved himself hurriedly backwards, breathing hard and shaking his head out violently, trembling a bit before he looked back up at his reflection... and again, saw only his pale, paranoid features. He breathed slowly in and out before shivering and grabbing at his face, whispering: “What is going on... we just... I just... and Fluttershy's corpse isn't even cold yet...”
“I'm just trying to find a way to cope.” said a voice from behind him, and Scrivener looked over his shoulder with surprise to see Twilight Sparkle there, smiling faintly at him as she leaned in the bathroom doorway. Scrivener looked at her, and she gazed back at him before the violet mare closed her eyes and lowered her head forwards, whispering: “Maybe that's why I wanted you to hurt me, Scrivener. Because I needed that pain and that pleasure to wash away... all the thoughts about how I failed Fluttershy...”
There was silence for a few moments... and then Scrivener finally nodded slowly before the unicorn shook her head with a shiver. “But... but you're right. I... I don't know what came over me, I'm sorry. We're... we're good for each other, but we're bad for each other too, aren't we? We influence each other's... darkness, as well as keep each other... balanced.” She shivered a bit, then laughed faintly and slowly looked up, whispering: “I warned you that I was a bad pony too.”
Scrivener only shook his head at this, however, closing his eyes and murmuring: “You're not a bad pony, Twilight, and... and you don't have bad instincts. It's just... everything that's happening, maybe, all these different emotions that are running rampant all at once... it's... we're all just trying to find our ways to deal with it.”
Twilight nodded a little, then she sighed softly and turned around, and Scrivener watched her leave before he shook his head. He washed his face and tried to calm himself down, then joined Twilight a few minutes later in the main room, smiling faintly over at her as he asked quietly: “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty awful. And...” Twilight blushed, looking down and silently rubbing a hoof over her body as she whispered: “You know. Other things, too. I don't know why, but... I... well... no, we just need to focus on other things. Rainbow would be so mad at us if she knew, and... so would everyone else. And they'd have every right to be, too...”
“Twilight...” Scrivener said softly, and then he sighed and shook his head out a bit, smiling faintly at her as he strode over to sit quietly at the table with her. They only looked at each other, and then the charcoal stallion bowed his head to her quietly, saying finally: “We'll get through this... okay?”
The violet mare smiled faintly at him, nodding slowly in return as she looked at him trustingly, almost naively... and yet Scrivener thought there was something else in her eyes, too. Something deeper, darker, and that sent a chill along his spine; something that made her devotion to him seem not like a blessing, but more like a warning of a worsening storm.
Shield came and spoke to them again several times over the course of the week: he seemed like a good pony, and was dedicated to finding Fluttershy's killer... although he'd warned Rainbow several times not to do anything she might later regret. But as the police investigation slowed down and leads turned up nothing, Rainbow became more fanatical in her need to find out who had done this to Fluttershy... to the point she was scaring Rarity and Pinkie Pie, and maybe even Twilight.
Applejack was trying her best to soothe Rainbow, and had put aside her lingering concerns about Scrivener Blooms to spend time with them both. Scrivener was thankful for it... even if it didn't seem like Big Mac liked him very much, and Apple Bloom was downright scared of him now, which hurt the stallion strangely deeply.
When the weeks became a month, and Ponyville as a whole tried to start moving on from what had happened to Fluttershy, Rainbow had seemed betrayed. All she could think about was that there was a torturer and murderer on the loose, that someone had done horrible things to an innocent, loving, wonderful Pegasus who had never raised a hoof against anypony... and now they were simply giving up. They were letting the monster get away. Shield, Scrivener, everypony tried to reassure her that wasn't the case, but Rainbow wouldn't, couldn't listen... could only focus on doing everything in her power to avenge her friend.
The others were trying to move on: Rarity said Fluttershy wouldn't want them focusing on revenge... that they had to be like her, patient, and graceful, and careful. And Applejack tried to reason with Rainbow, said that she wanted to catch whoever did this too, but that maybe letting the killer think they got away with it would be the best thing right now... they might get cocky, they might make a mistake, they might try something else that would lead to them getting caught.
And Rainbow spent a lot of time with Scrivener Blooms, talking with him, going over things with him. Her plans for revenge, her thoughts, her suspicions, everything. She was furious and bordering on paranoid and a mess, and yet Scrivener knew the only thing he could do was be there at her side, talk with her, and try and gently turn her away from the path she was on... even as he answered her questions willingly about what he knew about darker things.
Sometimes Twilight sat with them, but often, Rainbow would get uncomfortable: a good sign, Scrivener thought. Rainbow got nervous not because she didn't like expressing her ideas in front of Twilight, but because Twilight had a bit too much of a dark fascination with the things Scrivener would sometimes start talking about, would look a little too excited at times, got a bit too vivid and detailed in her own thoughts and descriptions.
Scrivener knew that Rainbow wanted revenge: what he wasn't sure of yet was what would happen when they did catch whoever hurt Fluttershy. His hope, though, was that while Rainbow might lay a righteous beating into the monster that did it... she would falter before she took things too far. She would seek justice, not brutal revenge or even callous retribution... and now, as they sat together more than a month after the arson at the hospital in the library, Rainbow hesitantly looked across the table at him and asked quietly: “Scrivener, I don't like to bring this up... but... Twilight has... I saw that Twilight has some bruises on her. Do you... wanna explain that to me?”
The charcoal stallion glanced down, then he shook his head quietly, feeling a rumble run through his body as he breathed slowly in and out. Then Rainbow leaned forwards, reaching a hoof across the table as her red eyes locked on him, making him draw his gaze up to meet hers almost shamefully as she said quietly: “Just tell the truth, okay? I'm not leaping to conclusions here, I'm your friend. I want to hear your story before I decide if I gotta kick your flank or not.”
Scrivener smiled faintly after a moment, then he tossed an almost nervous look towards the door, before his eyes drew slowly around the library interior. For a few moments, he was silent as he took everything in, let himself really see the way things had changed. How the books had been resorted messily in the shelves, and erotic fiction and books on sex had been left out in the open. At the bedding on one side of the room, and the beaded curtain that now hung and separated this almost-dangerous kingdom of books from the back room where Spike spent most of his time, amongst the fiction and the children's stories, with his fortress of blankets and pillows and a few stuffed animals.
The charcoal stallion's eyes drew back to the table, and they settled for a moment on another empty chair: a set of leather reins hung off the back of this, casually left out in the open... and it was no wonder ponies didn't like coming by anymore, and especially didn't like their foals stopping in. He grimaced a bit as he felt his mind spark, shuddering with the epiphany as he muttered: “Twilight and I have really fallen hard, haven't we?”
“Yeah. So tell me what's going on, dude.” Rainbow said quietly, and Scrivener closed his eyes before nodding slowly, giving a soft sigh after a moment.
“We get... rough, sometimes.” Scrivener began slowly, bowing his head forwards, and he wanted to look away, wanted to not say anything, wanted to lie... but he forced himself to keep his gaze locked with Rainbow's even as shame rollicked through him, mixing with his paranoia, his fear... and ever since he'd been taking the ULT meds, that festering, rumbling fire that sometimes burst up and made him act almost... animal, aggressive, made it harder for him to hold back. “She... Horses of Heaven, Rainbow, I... I know what this sounds like, but she likes it when I... when I...”
He swallowed slowly, and Rainbow shook her head slowly, Scrivener feeling a burst of pain as he dropped his head and whispered: “She knows just what buttons to press, Rainbow. And I wanna blame her and I wanna blame the fact I'm still on the ULT and I want to blame everything else but... I know it's my fault, yeah. And I know I probably do deserve to get the snot beaten out of me. But... she... asks for it. I mean literally, she literally asks me to... especially when we're... I...”
He shivered and shook his head hurriedly, and Rainbow looked silently across at Scrivener before she said softly: “I thought you were better than that, Scrivy. You know... you know she's not well, don't you?”
“Yeah. I do. And... I'm not.” Scrivener glanced to the side, shaking his head a bit. “Look at me, Rainbow, I spent most of my life believing that... I was some kind of... special. But I'm not. I lived in fantasy and delusion for years after losing Luna, and now I've got Twilight and... I can't even do what's right for her. I'm just... corrupting her. Hurting her. Ruining her. I still... I still cling to the hope that none of this is... that I'm not insane, but what does that mean, Rainbow? It means I'm not only hurting Twilight and using her, it means that I'm only waiting for the day I can up and abandon her to go back home. What kind of scumbag am I?”
“Scrivener, now I'm pretty sure you just want me to come over and there and smack the hell out of you, and I'm not going to.” Rainbow sighed, shaking her head slowly and glaring across at him, and the charcoal stallion smiled faintly as their eyes met. “But this stuff with Twilight... it's gotta stop. Even if she likes it, even if she wants it, you... you gotta stop. You're better than that... and the only reason I might half-believe you is because... lately, Twilight's gotten so... so weird.”
Rainbow Dash glanced to the side, shivering a bit, and Scrivener frowned at her before the Pegasus muttered: “She's not... I haven't seen her... you know, hurting herself or anything, but it's... the way she looks so excited when ponies start talking about pain. Hell, the way she reacts to seeing other people's pain these days... Pinkie Pie said she was helping look after the Cake foals the other day when Twilight came in to pick up an order, and poor Pound Cake took a nasty fall out of the air and got a big nasty scrape on his head. Poor kid is wailing away and Pinkie's freaking out, but she's sharper than we give her credit for, you know? She still saw Twilight grinning, licking her lips, like she... like she liked it. Like she was drinking up that kid's suffering...”
“Oh God.” Scrivener grimaced and leaned back, and when Rainbow looked at him, the charcoal stallion looked away with a flush and mumbled: “That was two days ago, wasn't it? Because Twilight came back... excited... and... wanted me to...”
He broke off, then shook his head out hurriedly and whispered: “I know. I know this has gotta stop. You're right, Dash, and... I just... this is all my fault. She tried to change herself for me, she kept talking about wanting to be more like me, and she's warped herself into this... this...”
“Psycho.” Rainbow muttered, and Scrivener hesitated, beginning to open his mouth before they both looked up as the door to the library was booted open, and both ponies stared as Twilight stormed angrily in, her eyes almost glowing with fury.
“Puddin', don't you listen to her!” Twilight said sharply, looking at Scrivener as her eyes turned pleading for a moment, and then she snarled and glared over at Rainbow Dash. “And you... you backstabbing bitch. I knew you wanted him all for yourself... trying to convince my puddin' that I'm sick in the head, so you can sweep in and steal him away, is that it?”
“Twilight, look at yourself!” Rainbow shouted angrily back after a moment, even though hurt flashed in her eyes and she still looked shocked. But Twilight only snarled, the bruising over one side of her face almost proudly on display alongside her glinting piercings, clasp of her collar gleaming, and bandaging now covering most of one leg... and Scrivener looked at the last dumbly as he realized she hadn't been wearing that when she'd left. “What would Celestia think? What would your big brother think? Twilight, listen to me-”
“No, you listen to me!” Twilight shouted, and her voice almost cracked the windows with how loud it was, Scrivener and Rainbow both wincing backwards before the violet mare approached slowly, snarling and hackles raised, looking as fierce and intimidating as a dragon. “How I live my life is my business, not yours. What I like, that's my business too. And if you got such a problem with it, Rainbow, you come and talk to me about it instead of goin' behind my back and talkin' to my puddin', do you hear me? You're just jealous and angry... I gots a stallion, after all, a stallion I knows how to please, and you don't got nopony!”
Scrivener shivered as he leaned back a bit, hearing the fanaticism in her voice, staring at her: this wasn't the Twilight he knew... except no. As she grinned, as she leaned forwards aggressively, as her eyes burned and her very voice changed, he realized this was the dark Twilight. The savage Twilight, who came out at her primal moments, who encouraged his hungers, who fed off pain and passion. “What's wrong, sweetie? Something got your tongue? That's probably good, 'cause if you keep flappin' it I might have to show you what happens to naughty ickle girls who talk outta turn.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Rainbow yelled raggedly, shoving up from the table and striding towards Twilight... and then the Pegasus gasped, head wrenching to the side when Twilight punched her hard across the face.
Rainbow shivered violently, breathing hard in and out through her mouth, too shocked to react before Twilight seized her short mane and dragged her head up and in close, making her curse before the violet mare leaned forwards and whispered fiercely enough into her ear that Scrivener could hear every word: “Keep this up, toots, and I'll do a lot more than bruise that pretty face of yours. Sometimes I get bored, see, and worse, sometimes my puddin' needs a little pick-me-up. And nothin' makes him happier than when he gets to put his special talents to use, when he gets to teach people to smile by-”
“Get off me!” Rainbow tore herself backwards and free from Twilight, breathing hard and staring in horror at her before she shook her head wildly and shouted desperately: “You need help, Twilight! God, what is wrong with you?”
“Nothing! I ain't got nothin' but smiles!” Twilight screamed back, and then she grinned viciously, striding towards Rainbow Dash and breathing hard in and out as Scrivener cursed and shoved himself out of his seat, as the blue Pegasus trembled and stumbled backwards. “Now come on, sweetie, don't make this hard... you don't wanna end up like poor wittle Fluttershy, do you, who just couldn't keep her nosey-wosey clean...”
“W-What...” Rainbow stared, trembling, breathing hard before a snarl slowly spread over her face even as she shook her head in denial, whispering: “No. No way, no, no, it's... it's not possible. You.... Twilight, please tell me you didn't... that it wasn't...”
But Twilight only licked her lips slowly in response, and Scrivener trembled, even as he held up a hoof and whispered: “Wait. Everypony just... just... just calm down, okay? Let's all just calm down and-”
“You never forget the smell of barbecued rat, do you sweetie-pie?” Twilight said softly, and Rainbow let out a howl before the Pegasus charged forwards and smashed into Twilight, but the violet mare only laughed as she took the hit, rolling backwards with the Pegasus and yelling furiously: “That's it! Let's play, let's put on a show for my puddin'! Watch me, watch me, watch me, puddin', and let me show you how much I've learned!”
Rainbow reared back, raising a hoof... only to take a hard punch to the face that sent a burst of blood from her nose before both Twilight's rear hooves slammed into her stomach, knocking the Pegasus mare backwards. She gargled and clutched at herself, and Twilight pounced on her, pinning her down by the shoulders as she mocked: “What's wrong, I thought you were supposed to be the best at everything you do?”
The Pegasus snarled, throwing a hoof hard upwards, the blow splitting open Twilight's lip and bloodying her muzzle... but the violet mare barely flinched before her tongue slid out and licked along the bloody wound, grinning wider as Rainbow shivered in horror. “Oh, poor sweetie. I think you meant to do this.”
With that, she swung a hoof viciously down into Rainbow's face, smashing into her eye, making her cry out in agony before Twilight brought punch after punch after punch down into the Pegasus. She laughed as she did so, before cursing when Scrivener seized her and threw her backwards, the unicorn bouncing and rolling once before she landed on her back and looked up at him with a hurt expression, whining: “Puddin'! I was just startin' to have fun!”
Scrivener didn't even know how to respond, only shaking his head stupidly before Rainbow leapt up to her hooves and barreled forwards, smashing into Twilight and tackling her backwards. The two mares skidded into a shelf, knocking several loose books free as Scrivener cursed and Twilight snarled, shouting angrily as she dodged a punch from Rainbow: “Hey, no fair! I was talkin' to my puddin'!”
Twilight slammed both hooves up into Rainbow's stomach, knocking her backwards again as Scrivener lunged forwards into the fray, cursing as he tried to get between them. But Twilight slipped elegantly around him, moving with awful, sinuous grace as she dove past and seized Rainbow's shoulders, slamming her face-first into the ground before leapfrogging her fallen form with a laugh.
The unicorn landed easily on her hooves and skidded around as her eyes blazed... and a moment later, Rainbow Dash kicked both rear hooves hard outwards, Twilight crying out in shock as she was knocked rolling from the powerful double-kick. Scrivener winced, turning, grabbing at Rainbow, but she was already on her hooves and charging for Twilight as tears and blood streamed down her face. “How could you?”
“She was trying to take my sweet puddin' away from me! No one's gonna take my puddin' away!” Twilight shouted in return, then she swung her head forwards when Rainbow leapt at her, their skulls colliding and Rainbow collapsing senselessly before Twilight stepped forwards, slamming a front hoof down into her again, again, again, grinning as blood splattered up over her features as she said disgustedly: “Seems to me you're pretty fond of pain yourself, sweetie, seein' how you're just lyin' there lettin' me beat your face!”
“Stop it!” Scrivener shouted as he ran forwards, and he grabbed Twilight as she looked up with that same almost injured expression, shoving her backwards. She stumbled, her lower lip trembling as she stared at him, and the earth pony snarled at her, leaning forwards as he snapped: “What the hell are you doing? Goddammit, Twilight, who the hell are you?”
Twilight fumbled for a response, looking wildly back and forth... and then she snarled, tears in her eyes when Rainbow began to lift herself slowly, groggily up, and shrieked: “You! This is all your fault, tryin' to take him away from me! How dare you mess with my puddin's head! Now I'm gonna make sure you can't upset him ever again!”
Twilight leapt to the side, then lunged forwards as she lowered her horn, Rainbow looking up in stupid shock... and then Scrivener snarled and leapt between them, before he gasped when Twilight's horn sank into his flesh, feeling it driving to the hilt. He shivered hard, his eyes staring blankly at the floor as a bit of blood dribbled from his slack jaw, and then he gasped when Twilight stumbled backwards with a moan of horror, reaching up to cover her mouth with a hoof, staring in disbelief. Scrivener's blood rolled down her horn, spilled along her face like tears... and then she whimpered and leapt forwards when Scrivener collapsed, the earth pony staring mindlessly across the room.
Twilight leapt forwards, hugging him tightly, shaking him firmly as she whispered: “Puddin', puddin', oh no, no, no, don't die on me, baby, no, you come back to me... you... you... I was only ever tryin' to be what you wanted me to be...” She whimpered, trembled... and then her violet eyes flashed as she looked up at Rainbow Dash, glaring as the Pegasus stumbled slowly backwards before the unicorn hissed: “This is all your fault!”
And Scrivener trembled weakly as Twilight vaulted over him, his eyes sliding closed as he fell into darkness... and the last thing he heard was the sound of Rainbow Dash screaming, the last thing he felt was that he had failed to protect another of his friends.
Chapter Eight: Madness Returns
“Dr. Sanus, it looks like you lost the bet after all. But you have bigger things to worry about than that, don't you? You prescribed a possibly-dangerous patient ULT that induced a psychotic state... you better hope they settle for taking away your license, or you're going to be spending the next decade behind bars.”
“Look at him. Doesn't look so scary now, trussed up. Bet he doesn't feel so strong, either... but we're not a couple of helpless mares, you sick bastard.”
“Lay off... for now. He has an examination in an hour, to see if he can stand trial, see if he's faking this catatonia. I hope like hell he is. I want to see him hung.”
“Oh, don't worry. Don't worry about a goddamn thing. Even if his lawyer sweet-talks the judge into believing he's insane and they send him back here instead of to jail, we got a nice welcome party planned for this shithead. He's gonna get what's coming to him either way.”
“Here's the doctor... yeah. Yeah. Like this, yeah. Uh... okay, yeah, we have that in stock... wait, transfer him? Solitary confinement, but... we can do that here, why transfer him... wait, all the way over in Ward F? Look, if he really is catatonic he's not going to... I understand. Yes, sir. Of course, his own safety. Uh... oh, I'm sorry I... I forgot his...”
“Immunization. We forgot to give him his shots. Yeah, I know, we'll just be a minute. Tuberculosis is going around with the patients, though, better safe than sorry, right? Right. Good. Yes, just outside. We'll just be a minute... no, it's fine, I can handle this by myself, you go wait with the doctor... okay. Here, pal, here's your shots.”
Thwack. Thwack. Thwack... crack. Crunch.
“Okay. Let's get him moved over.”
“...stupid doctor. Ward F, why the hell Ward F...”
“Visitors? I don't think... wait, lemme ask... yeah. Yeah, I think we can work out an arrangement. For 'family' and all.”
“Hey, guess what, sicko? You got a visitor. Now, we don't usually allow this, but we're sayin' he's your brother-in-law. You ain't gonna tell on us now, are you? Why, gosh, he looks just so darn happy to see you, sir. Look at that big smile on his face. Well, we're just gonna leave you two family members alone in this nice private little cell. Just knock on the door when you're done, and uh... don't you worry if you... spill any jam, if you get what I'm saying. We'll take care of it. You two just... have fun getting reacquainted.”
“Hello, Scrivener Blooms... do you recognize me? They tell me you know what's going on, even if you can't move at all. That's not as fair as I wanted it to be... yeah, because unlike you, I believe in honor. I believe in fairness. But you know what? Under the circumstances, I'll gladly take what I can get. I will gladly make an exception for such a waste of life like you. And now, here you are, hiding. Pretending to be sick... or maybe you really are. But even if you are... I don't forgive you. I will never forgive you. What you did... you killed two of my sister's friends, you... you raped her, you raped her and beat her and abused her over and over and over until she was just this broken shell doing everything you wanted, and thinking she liked it... you turned her into your toy you sick... you... you sick piece of slime.
“I'm not going to kill you, don't worry about that. No. Not until you're forced out of that shell you're hiding in. Not until you're made to suffer, made to pay, for everything you've done. Not until my little sister finally understands that you did not love her and she does not love you. Not until you've suffered as much as you made her and her friends suffer.”
Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Crunch. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Crunch. Crack. Thwack. Thwack, thwack, thwack, thwackthwackthwack... thwack.
“Patient was moved to ICU last night, placed under heavy guard. An inquiry has been made but its only a weak gesture... everyone believes he raped and killed two ponies, and was systematically torturing, raping, and brainwashing the third before she managed to rebel and injure him. They have no sympathy for him and it was incredibly difficult to find ponies who were willing to stand guard over him and would not use it as an opportunity to further harm him.
“But even given his mental history, his delusions, and possible aggression brought on by ULT... something here is wrong. I have met with Scrivener every week, and... I do not believe he did this... I don't believe you did this, Scrivener Blooms. If you can hear me... if you can find the strength... swim to the surface. I know you're scared, and it's hard, and it's probably more comforting for you to simply be locked away, in that timeless sea where you are right now... but please. Maybe we can still give this story a good ending. Maybe we can still save you.”
Scrivener's eyes slowly opened, and he rose his head weakly, tiredly. His eyes blinked, and his entire body ached, as he gasped softly before shivers raced through him: not cold shivers, but his very nerves felt like they were trembling, and pulses of heat were tearing up and down through his body as his hooves pressed down against a cool metal table.
He was sitting back in a chair, frowning a bit before he looked back and forth, rasping quietly for breath as he realized he was sitting in a 'conversation room.' It was a pleasant term for an unpleasant place: what was essentially an interrogation room, where psychologists would meet with violent and uncooperative patients. The walls were slate gray, and there was a large panel of one-way glass on the wall, so that burly security guards could monitor the doctor and the usually-tied-down patient.
But Scrivener wasn't in restraints of any sort, as he looked blearily back and forth before groaning in pain and reaching up to touch his jaw, and a voice said quietly: “You're going to hurt for a while, even with the cocktail I gave you. You've been nearly beaten to death several times already.”
“I... I know. I was aware of at least two of them.” Scrivener muttered, looking tiredly over at Sanus and giving a faint smile, and the unicorn studied him silently. Slowly, the charcoal pony's eyes roved down to the empty syringe beside the doctor, and he asked finally: “How did... I...”
“Whatever happened... you had another break from reality. A very serious one, resulting in a catatonic state where your body was trying to shut down and your mind to run away from reality... but for some reason, you couldn't. Did you dream? Did you have delusions? How aware were you?” Sanus asked quietly, and Scrivener only laughed weakly in response.
The charcoal stallion shivered, and then he cursed under his breath and hugged himself, another tremble running through him. “I... I don't know. I remember darkness, nightmares, bad memories and... hearing voices. Not seeing anything, but hearing voices and...” He clenched his eyes shut. “Feeling... they... they blamed me for what happened? Rainbow... Rainbow is...”
“Rainbow Dash was murdered. Beaten savagely to death by a very strong pony's bare hooves, and there were signs of sexual assault, akin to the other mare who was killed.” Sanus looked across at him silently. “They believe it was you. In a few days, I'm going to lose my license and I'll be fired from this facility: the only reason I'm still working here right now is because I know enough about my coworkers and superiors to make them nervous, and I convinced them that I would be able to get through to you, and find out what happened. I only have one question for you, though, Scrivener... did you do it?”
“No.” Scrivener looked up, trembling... and the relief he felt was immeasurable when Sanus nodded calmly, the charcoal stallion whispering: “Thank you.”
“I need you to tell me what happened.” Sanus said quietly, and Scrivener nodded, then cursed weakly when a convulsion tore through his body, the unicorn grimacing a bit. “I don't wish to rush you, but... I'm not sure what's going to happen over the next few minutes, or even whether or not you'll lapse back into catatonia or... whatever it was.”
“Whatever it was? Sounds like you got great faith in whoever diagnosed me...” Scrivener laughed weakly, then he shivered again and cursed. “What did you give me?”
“A cocktail of opiates, antidepressants, and amphetamines. In other words, I mixed whatever I could find together and hoped that the benefits would cancel out the side effects.” Sanus replied calmly, shaking his head quickly. “Please, Scrivener. I need to know what happened. Before-”
Scrivy began to open his mouth... and then there was a loud banging, Sanus turning around with a wince before the door was thrown open and several large, uniformed guards stormed in, followed by two furious-looking doctors. “Sanus, this is unacceptable! Get the patient back to isolation, immediately, and take Dr. Sanus into custody... and remember, do not harm Scrivener Blooms! Celestia herself will be passing judgment over him, and wants nothing done that could mitigate his sentence!”
The guards started forwards, and Scrivener tried to push himself backwards, as one seized Dr. Sanus as well... and Scrivener cursed, then looked up sharply as Sanus shouted, even as he was dragged forcibly backwards: “Think about what she wants, Scrivener Blooms! Why is she so desperate to-”
“Shut him up!” shouted one of the doctors, and the guard threw Sanus backwards into a wall as Scrivener began to lunge forwards... but something smashed into the back of his head, and everything became a blur as Scrivener fell to the ground, drooling slackly.
When he finally managed to regain his focus, he realized he was in a straightjacket, his forelegs bound tightly together across his chest and straps around his hind legs so he couldn't do anything except lay on his side in his padded cell. He rasped hard in and out, trembling and then gritting his teeth as he looked slowly up at the door, staring through the barred window... and then gasping as he saw someone staring in at him with mismatched green and hazel eyes.
The eyes winced, then drew hurriedly back with a mutter, and Scrivener gave a raw, desperate yell, flopping weakly in the bottom of the cell. “Help me! Help me, I'm not crazy! Help me, please!”
But whatever it had been was gone... and Scrivener shivered, trembling and smelling sweat and piss and fear, breathing hard as he looked wildly back and forth and tried to process what was going on. The only pony who believed him was Sanus, every other pony was dead, and he was stuck here, in the madhouse, in the madness...
He clenched his eyes shut with a curse, trembling violently before he rolled onto his back as tears formed in his eyes, whispering: “Luna... Luna, without you... everything's fallen apart. I... I don't know what to do, but... if you were here, you would. Please... please, what do I do? I'm sorry I betrayed you... I'm s-s-sorry I was so weak... is this punishment, for all the times I failed? Is this because I was the one who caused your death... because I didn't stop you from getting on that train... because I'm the reason we fell into darkness...”
He clenched his eyes shut, hearing mechanical laughter that blurred into the pumping of pistons, hearing the crash and bang of steel and metal and stone, a train falling as a platform fell, screams of passengers mixing with the howls of two ponies... and then Scrivener threw his head back and howled miserably at the ceiling, flexing, shaking his head wildly, kicking his legs as hard as he could, overwrought with emotion and madness and not knowing what was real and what was false.
Then Scrivener managed to tear one foreleg free as the straps of the straightjacket popped and snapped, and he gasped for breath, staring and trembling as he slowly rose this in front of his face. He trembled hard, then snarled, tears in his eyes before he rolled over and shoved himself to his hooves, feeling... he didn't know. Memory? Delusion? Or was it simpler than that... that need to set things right, that need to make the scales balance one way or another as he roared at the door: “Let me out! I don't belong here!”
Scrivener charged forwards on three legs and slammed himself into the door... and to his shock, it crashed open, the charcoal stallion flopping forwards and rolling stupidly over a cold concrete floor. He looked back and forth wildly, then shivered once as he saw splatters of blood and other ichors over the walls and floor, breathing hard in and out before he carefully, slowly sat up and hugged himself. “Where... what...”
He swallowed thickly... and then he shook his head hurriedly before reaching a trembling hoof up and quickly undoing the straps of the straightjacket still holding one foreleg across his chest. They popped easily loose, and Scrivener stood and shook himself out briskly, breathing hard in and out, his aching body trembling before he slowly, finally drew his gaze around the room.
Countless doors, many ajar, all heavy and fortified. Confinement cell doors... and Scrivener shivered as he backed up and then bumped into a surface behind him. Slowly, he looked over his shoulder, and swallowed as he saw another door... and realized there was a message, painted in blood:
Scrivener groaned and shook his head out weakly, whispering: “Oh Horses of Heaven... oh... oh Horses of Heaven... I...”
Slowly, Scrivener reached a hoof up for the handle, and with a trembling foreleg, he shoved the door open... and stared back and forth in horror as the walls around him cracked like burnt glass and shattered into a maelstrom that swirled upwards, the door tearing off its hinges and leaving only the skeletal frame of the doorway behind. And all around him now, Scrivener could see swirling red light and sky, faces seeming to push out in thin air, the only way forwards a twisting, serpentine black path of asphalt and metal.
The male moaned low in his throat, staring out at this, wondering how insane he had become before he took a trembling step forwards through the doorway... and then he clenched his eyes shut, whispering hoarsely: “Delusion or reality... I have no choice. Oh Horses of Heaven... oh Luna, give me strength...”
Scrivener shivered... and then he snarled before forcing himself onwards, starting a stumbling-run along the curving, curling road that twisted through the reddish, formless hell all around him. He dared one look back over his shoulder, but saw behind him only a smoldering wreck of what no longer looked like cells, but a broken hulk of a train... except among it, there were too-large pistons, and blackened bones, and what looked like the remains of grinning steel skulls full of awful teeth...
The earth pony looked back and forwards, and then he cursed as he tripped and rolled down the path, before yelling as he fell off the side of the road... and crashed down only a moment later, blinking stupidly as he found hard rock and tile beneath him. He breathed hard in and out, trembling violently before looking up, his heart thudding in his chest as he looked back and forth... and above, the crimson sky burned, as around him warped and looming structures stood.
They intimidated him with their hungry shadows and eager leans, made of blackened wood and bone and death... and Scrivener gritted his teeth, shivering weakly before a voice called warmly: “There you are, puddin'!”
The stallion stiffened, then he slowly looked over his shoulder, swallowing thickly as his eyes widened in horror. Twilight was standing behind him, her eyes bright and happy, looking at him excitedly as she bounced from hoof-to-hoof. Then she threw her head back and laughed before prancing forwards, nuzzling into him lovingly and kissing all over his face, and Scrivener couldn't resist a cry of revulsion and horror as he hurriedly yanked away, stumbling quickly backwards. “Stay away from me!”
“Oh, you're still mad that I left you in that mean old facility for so long, aren't you? I'm sorry, puddin', but I needed to think about how I could fix everything up and make everything okay again!” Twilight said brightly, then she gestured back and forth, smiling warmly. “And look, I did! When I finally saw how much everyone would hurt you... when no one would believe me that you were my lovey-dove-dove and my special somepony and you were so good to me, I finally realized the solution was right in front of me all along, and it was so simple that I just kept overlooking it!
“I mean, think about it. If you want to be with just your one special pony, then no other pony matters, right? As long as we have each other, love each other...” Twilight gazed at him adoringly, and then she sang happily: “So I just killed everypony!”
Scrivener rasped for breath, shaking his head in weak denial as he looked back and forth, reality around him sparking, the red sky swirling, the blackened homes looming... and then Twilight brightened, adding warmly: “And I got you a gift!”
With that, her horn glowed as she bowed her head forwards... and Scrivener screamed in horror as something massive and awful ripped out of the ground behind Twilight, as the violet mare looked up and smiled warmly, her eyes glowing with longing, with desire, with joy, with madness as the shadows of her terrible 'gift' fell over her. “It's a collage, and I made it myself, puddin', all for you! It's real special, don'tcha know... I made it outta all the people who wanted to get between you and me!”
Scrivener shouted in denial again, stumbling backwards, staring at the massive, crisscrossing bars of metal... and pasted over them, the countless dead bodies, of Shining Armor, of Celestia, of Sanus, of Rainbow Dash and burnt-up Fluttershy. They had been shoved and mangled and twisted together almost to form what looked like a giant heart, held on by enormous rail-spikes and barbed wire and horribly... they were writhing, as if they were still alive, and Scrivener saw Celestia's eyes were open and horrified and pleading and... and... “Enough!”
Twilight winced backwards, and it took Scrivener a moment to realize that he had shouted it, as he breathed hard in and out, before he trembled and looked squarely at Twilight, saying harshly: “No. This has to end, and this... this ends now. I don't know if this is an illusion, a nightmare, insanity, magic or... I don't know, but it's over! It's all over Twilight, and... and you're not Twilight! You're a monster, a monster I don't love, a monster that I am turning my back on and leaving here, forever, that I don't need in my life! I'm leaving... I'm leaving now, I'm leaving forever, I'm going, gone, goodbye!”
Scrivener spun around, and Twilight trembled hard, tears rolling down her cheeks as she whimpered weakly, then leaned forwards and whispered: “Puddin'... pookie-bear... what about us? P-P-Please, wait, I can be better! Look, come on over, come and hit me some, or we can go and find some more ponies to play with, or we can just cuddle and I'll reassure you and hold you nice and tight like you like... or I'll-”
“That's not love! That's... lust, and sin, and... depravity and... falseness!” Scrivener shouted, and then he trembled and looked ahead, whispering: “You're not my Twilight, and you're never, ever going to be my Luna. So I'm going to do the only thing I can do, because whether this is real or delusion or nightmare or anything else, it doesn't matter without them. It doesn't matter. I'm going to go now, Twilight, and I'm never coming back... I'm going to find my Luna. And if there's no Luna in this world... then soon, there will be no Scrivener, either.”
He clenched his eyes shut, snarling, shivering, before he whispered: “I'm coming, Luna. Maybe I'll really be killing myself... maybe I'll just wake up back in my cell from this nightmare. Or maybe, I'll prove that none of this is real... and even if it's only for a second, I'll be back in Luna's embrace as we fall into darkness together... but I'd rather die in search of her... then spend a million years with a monster like you.”
“Y-You... you... you.... y-y-y-you...” Twilight whimpered, trembling, shivering, shaking, as Scrivener turned and strode away... and then she snarled, her eyes glowing, her mane exploding into black fire as she screamed: “I don't think so, puddin'! You're gonna stay with me, and you're gonna like it, and that's that!”
Scrivener stumbled, turning around... and then he stared in horror as Twilight roared, corruption and drool flying from her jaws as her eyes glowed violently, her hide ripping as her muscles bulged and flesh expanded and grew, a front hoof raising... only to smash down into the ground as a massive, gnarled claw. Sharp teeth expanded in a grin that was too large for her head, her body flexing and twitching and blood and corruption burst from her as her skin flayed apart and black fire boiled up from her body, enormous, dark veins pumping obsidian fuel through her system as metallic pistons and cables ripped out of her body, steam and smoke hissing from her as she shrieked: “You're going to love me!”
The earth pony yelled in horror at the godawful, terrible monstrosity, eyes barely able to process this thing... this same, hideous monster that had dragged off Fluttershy, and he shook his head wildly before staggering around in a circle and sprinting away down the streets of warped Ponyville. But the monster lunged after him eagerly, its massive forelegs tearing into the ground and yanking itself along as huge claws flexed and tore at the earth, body still rippling with its transformation as black fire burned over it, gears clanked, pistons hissed...
“No, no, no!” Scrivener shouted, shaking his head wildly, tossing a terrified look over his shoulder as the grinning, massive monster dove after him... and the stallion threw himself to the side, smashing through a door and rolling into the dark interior of an empty, blackened home. He began to claw to his hooves, but the monster merely plowed forwards, smashing easily through the rotten walls as Scrivener desperately ran through the house.
He leapt upwards and crashed through a boarded window into an ally beyond, landing in a pile of debris... and a moment later, one massive forelimb ripped out through the wall in front of him, clawing at him as the monster screamed: “I can be anything you want! I can give you anything you want! Or I can become everything you hate and loathe and fear and either way I'll never, ever, ever let you go!”
Scrivener leapt over the claw when it grabbed at him, lunging forwards... and the monster's head smashed out through the wall, jaws biting at him savagely before it tore itself through the house wall, and the battered home collapsed. For a moment, the cloud of dust and ash kicked up by the accidental razing blinded them both, and the charcoal stallion gasped as he ran quickly ahead, weaving back and forth between houses, stumbling out into another wide thoroughfare and turning to bolt down it... and then the massive monster fell from the sky like a meteor and crashed down in front of him, grinning as she swept both claws forwards and seized him between them.
The stallion stared as Twilight lifted him in front of her muzzle, panting roughly, glaring down at him as she rasped: “Playtime's over, Scrivy. Now I got you. Now you're mine... and I'm sure you'll come around. I'll let you hurt me and hit me and 'get revenge' on me, don't worry... I'm here to make your every fantasy come true... but I'm never, ever going to let you forget...” Twilight snarled, her claws flexing, and Scrivener vomited blood as he leaned forwards and howled in agony. “That you are never, ever allowed to leave me, puddin'! I'm giving you Heaven and Hell, just like you want... I'm giving you more than you ever had in your miserable life, and I am going to force it down your throat if I have to! I am going to-”
“Well, this has all gone to hell in a handbasket. Great work, really, you did exactly what we were hoping you would.” a voice muttered, dripping with sarcasm, and Twilight froze up as Scrivener gasped... then groaned when the monster threw him to the ground before it turned around. Slowly, the stallion forced himself up to his hooves, gritting his teeth as he half-dragged himself to the side to stare past the beast... and in shock at the creature that was calmly, slowly approaching.
It was a Draconequus... or at least, that was what first sprang to mind when Scrivener stared at it. It had the chestnut-colored head of a pony, black mane trimmed short and naturally brush-like, and its eyes were the mismatched green and brown Scrivener had seen staring in through his cell window. It wore a worn-out, cheap-looking purple suit, large bits of cloth here and there sewn badly on to patch up rips and holes, and one hand was covered in white scales and adorned with rings while the other was covered in black fur and ended in chipped claws. Its fingers were currently squeezing the steel body of a cane compulsively: this was topped by an ornate gold handle in the shape of a roaring dragon's head, with beautiful gemstones for eyes.
Then it glared, gritting its teeth, and Twilight squeaked as there was a loud pop before she turned from monster back into unicorn, falling through the air to bounce heavily and almost comically once on her rear before the Draconequus pointed at her and shouted angrily: “You're fired!”
“What, wait! I can e-e-explain, we can still fix this, j-just like we did over that one scene where I got too heavy too fast... c-come on, we can work this out!” Twilight begged, holding up her front hooves as Scrivener only stared weakly, and then the unicorn looked over her shoulder at the stallion, pleading: “Please! Please, tell him, tell him you still love me, puddin', that you're gonna give me another chance, p-please, please, plea-”
“Oh, was I not clear?” The Draconequus reached up and scratched his chin, pretending to look thoughtful as he spun his cane in his other hand, then pointed it at her. “You're fired. As in, like in a kiln.”
Twilight stared... and then she screamed when a blast of fire erupted around her, hiding her from view as Scrivener staggered backwards with a gasp... and then stared in shock as the flames vanished, leaving a petrified statue of the unicorn behind, frozen in mid-scream. The Draconequus glared at this, and then he rose his fist, shaking it angrily as he slammed the butt of his cane against the ground. “And then fired, as in out of a cannon and into the sun!”
A massive black cylinder ripped out of the ground around Twilight, followed a large base that it spun around on once before pointing into the distance... and a moment later, there was a tremendous bang as the enormous cannon fired the statue high into the air, ripping through the red sky above and vanishing into a pinpoint of bright light. Then the cannon simply vanished, and the Draconequus sighed and slumped a little, mumbling: “Good help is so hard to find these days.”
Scrivener was only staring in horror, and the Draconequus looked at him meditatively before crossing his arms, shaking his head slowly as he grumbled quietly: “But then again... this, this, and all this? This is all your fault, too, you know. I mean, look... I tried to give you a nice story at first. It would have been beautiful, if a little sad... the loss of your true love, but moving forwards and finding someone to spend the rest of your life with all the same. Just like I was ordered to.”
The chimerical creature halted, then laughed and smiled, shaking his head slowly as he muttered: “Me, ordered to do it! Seriously, you have no idea how ironic that was... but... I'm sorry, this whole environment is really getting to me. Do you mind?”
With that, the Draconequus stepped back and waved his cane easily through the air... and in that simple gesture, the entire world was washed away, Scrivener stumbling on what was nothingness for a moment before simple, plain grass filled in under his hooves, and stars began to twinkle quietly in the blackness above, turning it into beautiful night sky. The Draconequus smiled, his features softening with this expression before he shook his head hurriedly and returned his glower to Scrivener, leaning grumpily forwards. “But yes. We had such a nice theme planned out! Tragedy, romance, good for all ages! But no. No, no, no, you had to go poking at everything, didn't you? You couldn't leave anything well enough alone, no matter what we did to you... no matter what we gave you!”
The Draconequus stepped forwards and poked at Scrivener a few times with his cane, and the stallion winced before he shook himself out of his stupor, staring up at the creature and asking sharply: “Who are you? What... what have you done to me?”
“Call me Allonym.” The chimerical creature bowed his head politely, reaching up to tip an invisible hat towards him, and then he added mildly: “And just like I just said, I... did this because I was told to. Well. Threatened repeatedly, technically. Honestly, it wasn't... it wasn't supposed to end up like this. Horror, mystery, intrigue... no! But again, your fault.”
Allonym reached down and shoved a white-scaled hand against Scrivener's nose, and the stallion wrinkled his muzzle before stepping quickly back and glaring up at the Draconequus... before a shiver ran through him, as he stared at this creature. It smiled benignly back down at him, leaning on its cane... and then a frown crested its muzzle when Scrivener asked quietly: “What the hell are you...”
“Great. Everyone notices. Why the hell does everyone notice?” Allonym muttered, and he tossed his cane into the air, letting it float beside him as he dug in his purple suit jacket for a moment, then pulled out a large, black can. He cracked it open, and sipped moodily at it, reaching his other hand out to pull his cane back out of the air. “I'm an Avatar. No, not that kind of Avatar. I do not bend things. I totally could if I wanted to, though I just don't want to.”
Scrivener blinked slowly at this, and Allonym grumbled under his breath before the Draconequus added moodily: “But let's just stick to calling me a Draconequus, it's simpler that way. What kind of Draconequus? The kind that feeds off your discomfort, your misery, your pain. If Discord is chaos, and Discombobulation is confusion, then I am most definitely... uh... need another c-word... caustic! Causticness!”
Allonym nodded violently, and when Scrivener only glared at him, the chimerical creature huffed before throwing his drink at the stallion. It bounced off his face and made him stumble with a curse of surprise as he was splattered with some kind of carbonated fizz, and the Draconequus licked his lips as he lidded his eyes and peered down at him as the earth pony swept the can up and stared at it for a moment. “Yes. Yes, your pain sustains me.”
He paused, then cleared his throat and pointed down at the can as Scrivener glared up at him, still too stunned by the turn of events to know whether he should be terrified or panicking or just incredulous. “Yeah, uh. Can you give me that back now? I'm still thirsty.”
Scrivener glowered... and then he slowly turned the can upside down, emptying its contents out onto the ground before simply dropping it, and Allonym slowly narrowed his eyes as he took his cane between his hands, squeezing it slowly as he muttered: “You are just the worst kind of person, Scrivener Blooms. If it were up to me, I'd leave you here. Not to die, but to be alone. Forever. Because seriously, you suck, and no one was supposed to like you.”
Scrivener grunted, feeling his fears of this creature vanishing despite its shows of power, hearing things between its words before he leaned up and asked quietly the most important question that he could think of: “Where's Luna?”
Allonym flinched... and then, slowly, he closed his eyes and slumped, sighing softly as he murmured: “Scrivener... I want you to know that I sympathize more than you might imagine. That... I hesitated to do this to you, that I hesitated to write this story, because the thought of separating you two and the repercussions I knew it could have-”
“Wait, story? What the hell are you talking about?” Scrivener asked sharply, leaning forwards, and then he shook his head violently and shouted: “This isn't just a story! This is my life you've been playing with, this is-”
“Just a midsummer's night dream.” Allonym said gently, and Scrivener twitched before the Draconequus smiled faintly, shaking his head slowly. “No. Everything is only a story, Scrivener Blooms, and there are all kinds of writers out there. Good ones, bad ones, lame ones like me who will probably end up stabbed in a parking lot over some stupidly-offensive thing he wrote...” The Draconequus touched his own chest thoughtfully. “This is kinda like having a Breakfast of Champions with a good friend, a friend you always wanted to meet. You know, as long as your testicles don't end up curling all the way into your stomach from terror. But well, unlike certain writers, I'm not so lucky. I don't have a say in where these stories go...”
The Draconequus leaned forwards, bringing his cane up and gently bopping Scrivener's nose with the snarling dragon-handle. “And I warned Luna that. I warned Luna that the characters make their own stories, that my hands do all the work for me... and tell me, do you recognize one of these hands?” Allonym tossed his cane to his black-furred fingers, stretching his white-scaled, ring-adorned hand towards Scrivener... and the charcoal stallion stared and staggered backwards, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Valthrudnir...” he whispered, studying the rings... and then he snarled, looking up at the Draconequus sharply and shouting: “This won't work! This is all just some goddamn nightmare, some kind of... sick game! I'm not playing, now tell me where Luna is or I'm going to... I'll kick the crap out of you!”
Scrivener stepped forwards, ripped straightjacket fluttering around him making him all the more intimidating, and Allonym winced and hurriedly staggered backwards, waving his hands frantically: “Okay, okay, okay, for the love of crap! I'll tell you!”
“You better tell him, you limey bastard.” snapped another voice, and Scrivener looked stupidly up as another Draconequus appeared, crossing a metallic arm with one that was covered in red fur. It snorted in disdain, white pupils glaring out of black eyes, and Allonym scowled across at the creature Scrivener recognized as Discombobulation.
“Go away, this isn't even the right frigging story. And I'm also not British.” Allonym said distastefully, and Scrivener tried to process what was going on, what was happening.
The other Draconequus only leaned forwards, absently polishing his metallic claws against his chest before he remarked mildly: “You put the Queen on your money. You're British.”
“Then why don't you have some tea!” Allonym retorted, snapping his fingers, and a large teapot appeared over Discombobulation's head before dropping down on his skull. It shattered and all but exploded into porcelain shards and amber-colored liquid, and Discombobulation flailed wildly before he vanished, Allonym sighing and dropping his head as he mumbled: “Never did listen very well to me. Always popping up where I didn't expect him to.”
“What is going on?” Scrivener almost shouted, voice cracking, and the Avatar Draconequus winced and turned awkwardly towards Scrivener before the earth pony clenched his eyes shut... then looked up and whispered: “Please. I... I can't take any more of this. I don't even know if any of this is real anymore or if I'm just... just...”
Allonym sighed, then he lowered his head and replied quietly: “This was all an exercise, Scrivener Blooms, to see what would happen if you survived, but Luna didn't. To find out how you would cope in the world without... Luna. I told her, again and again, what would happen, but... she thought she could give you... freedom. She thought that... well, no, I don't want to put words in her mouth. Her... filthy, filthy mouth.”
Scrivener shook his head, staring, understanding and yet not as the Draconequus turned around and closed his eyes, bowing his head forwards. “It was an interesting little ride, though. You turned my romance into something macabre, dragged in a hell of a lot of pretty obvious references I found pretty amusing all the same, and we ended up with this... horror story that devolved completely into a full-fledged plot Armageddon. You clung to your memories, refusing to believe they were delusions... believing so hard, putting so much faith into the idea they were real, that you caused distortions in the story. That you warped, and twisted, and... and snap-crackle-popped everything that had been put in place to keep you here, to keep you... convinced, that all of this was real.”
The Draconequus turned around, smiling wider, shaking his head. “I gotta admit. I'm impressed. You twisted little bastard, you took everything I threw at you and messed it all up. Then again, that's partly my fault too. See, I may have leaned just a smidgen too heavy on making sure that Twilight would be willing to do anything to make you happy. Didn't see the whole Harley Quinn theme coming, either, but... you're a little evil, I'm a little evil, that apparently adds up to a lot of evil.”
The chimerical creature laughed and shook his head, then he tapped his cane against the ground before murmuring softly: “Stupid of me, wasn't it? Nothing is more dangerous than love... you and I both believe that, too. And I mean, yes, once or twice I was able to step in, change things around a little... like uh, when you came running down the stairs that one time when she leaned too heavily on you. I stepped in and switched out Psycho Twilight with Maternal Twilight, of course, but... my power to apply those fixes is a lot more limited than I'd like. You kept challenging the illusion... challenging reality itself. Do you understand? Your mind was helping power this palatial prison I built for you: and every time it locked onto some detail beneath the story, every time you focused on something, it transformed the whole wide world around you. That's why Fluttershy knew something, because you convinced yourself she knew something... and that's why Fluttershy had to be removed, because you also knew that she would never just stand by and let someone suffer. Although I do wish I hadn't stupidly left Psycho Twilight in charge of dealing with keeping you in the illusion.”
Allonym sighed and shook his head, and Scrivener looked silently at the Draconequus before he met his eyes, saying quietly: “And now here we are. You tore down your illusionary prison and there's no way I could pass this off as some bad trip or hallucination. Not with how fervently you cling to your memories. Not with everything you've been through. And hell, let's be honest here. You've earned your freedom. You pushed through, right to the very end, and broke free of this really retarded story.”
“No, damnable idiot!” shouted a familiar voice... and Scrivener looked up, his breath catching in his throat as Luna shot out of the shadows, running forwards and then leaping up as Allonym looked dumbly towards her before she slammed a vicious headbutt into his face and knocked the Draconequus sprawling with a yelp of pain. Then the winged unicorn crashed down on top of him, stomping her hooves firmly up and down across the chimerical creature as he yelled and flailed wildly. “Thou promised me! Thou promised, swore it!”
“Luna!” Scrivener shouted... and Luna turned and looked at him, flushing deeply, her eyes the eyes of a warrior, her only adornment the beautiful ivy collar around her neck inset with an engraved black pearl, which rested in a silver hollow... and she trembled as their eyes locked, and in that moment, Scrivener felt everything come together: felt their link restore, felt their souls crash into each other, felt each other's emotions...
And Scrivener snarled before he charged forwards and tackled her backwards, knocking her sprawling and skidding as she cried out in shock before they rolled together, Scrivener wildly grappling with her as he shouted into her face furiously: “No! No! It was you? You did this to me? Goddammit, Luna, after all we've been through-”
“Because of all we have been through!” Luna shouted back, tears in her eyes as they rolled together, and then she snarled and slammed a hoof across his face, stunning the male before she quickly rolled on top and pinned him beneath her, breathing hard as tears spilled down her cheeks, trembling as she stared down at him, whispering: “Because I must save thee, Scrivy. Because I needed to show thee... there can be life for thee without me, but... but thou just messed it all up, great idiot!”
Scrivener trembled, beginning to shake his head weakly, and Luna reached up and shoved a hoof against his lips, whispering: “No. Cease, do not speak it, do not even think it, because no. Thou art wrong, Scrivener, thou art not the weakness, thou art not a failure... I am Nightmare Moon. I am the darkness... and thou, thou art the one who even made of clockwork and corruption and worst of all, thy damnable poetry, rose up and fought beside me. Who saved me from myself, and so many foes besides... thou art the one who overcame us both, and... I love thee. I love thee more than I shall ever love any other... including myself. And by all that is and ever shall be... I shall not let thee die. I shall do anything, everything it takes... to save thee.”
“Luna... without you... I can't go on.” Scrivener replied simply, trembling as he stared up at her... and Luna breathed hard, shivering as she looked down at him before the earth pony reached up and whispered: “You're what keeps me stable, and sane, and strong. Without you... you saw what I did to what should have been... paradise for me. I warped it into hell, without even knowing it... and I would never forgive myself, letting you fall... so I could live. No, Luna. We left Canterlot together. You saved my life when you bound your soul to mine... you stopped Valthrudnir before he could drag me into another twisted game with him... you gave me the strength to resist the corruption, and the reason to not give in to Clockwork World. You stupid crazy Valkyrie idiot... I love you. And I'm never going to let go, whether we live or die together.”
There was silence for a few moments, and then Allonym groaned as he carefully crawled up to this hooves, muttering: “Told you so...” He paused, winced at the glares both ponies shot him, and then sighed tiredly as he reached up and rubbed slowly at his forehead. “Look. Creating a dreamworld was one thing. This doesn't have any effect on anything else, technically, so... there's no paradoxes or disruptions. And I wasn't exactly inclined to argue with Luna's 'polite request' to try and get Scrivener Blooms to see that he could live without her after I poked my way into your linked consciousness. Muffling the soul link between you two? Took a little more work. Stopping Nightmare Moon from interfering? Took a lot more work.
“I can't magically save you both. It doesn't work like that. I can't just magically whip up a happy ending when I return you to the physical world, where you fall into... sunshine and daisies instead of certain doom. Now that you're both awake and aware, too, I can't even... keep you trapped in this illusion much longer. Your minds are already beginning to reject it, to return to reality.” The Draconequus said quietly, rubbing moodily at his face before he absently slipped a scuffed shoe under his cane, then kicked it easily up to one hand and spun it nervously at his side. “I wish I could fix everything, but I can't. The most I can do is make sure it doesn't... hurt.”
Luna and Scrivener traded a look... and as their eyes met, their souls twisted together inside of themselves. Memories traded back and forth, thoughts and emotions swirled, and after a few moments the two soul-linked soulmates smiled faintly before they both carefully sat up, side-by-side.
They both looked at Allonym as he cocked his head, and then Scrivener asked quietly: “Why did you do this for us? I get that in some weird way... you were trying to help us. But why?”
“Aye, creature. Thou created the most beautiful Heaven for me...” Luna closed her eyes and smiled faintly, murmuring: “Apart from the fact that... it was missing my sweet Scrivener Blooms, and I knew something was wrong.”
“Yes, at least Scrivener didn't turn genocidal. He just turned Twilight Sparkle into a freakish monster and corrupted reality around him. You, I had to run down and stop from killing everyone around you because you became convinced they were all evil illusions made by... I dunno. Pretty much everyone who didn't like you two is dead.” Allonym snorted, and Luna blushed awkwardly and turned to bury her face against the side of Scrivener's neck, and the earth pony smiled faintly as he closed his eyes: he wanted to be mad at her still, but... he understood at the same time. And he didn't want to waste the last of this precious time with quarreling. Not when they had so little time left.
For a few moments, there was silence... and then Allonym shrugged and rolled his head, muttering: “Oh, why not? Because... I have a soft spot for you two. Because you've lasted so long, and I wanted to see if I could make things last a little longer... but I can't. Your story is over now... but... when you mold these characters, work with them for so long, pour so much into it... you develop feelings for them. Attachments. They become so real to you, and... you yearn for them. Or perhaps it's more apt to say, you pour your yearning into them...”
Allonym stared up into the dark night sky above, spreading his arms, his cane gleaming before he slumped a bit and sighed softly. “So I wanted to play one last game, write one last little story out where you two got the focus. Except that jerk-bag Scrivener got the focus because Luna stabbed me right in the goddamn leg and threatened me into playing her game.” The Draconequus mumbled under his breath, rubbing slowly at his lower limb. “But it was okay, in the end. Completely butchered everything, all fell apart, there's no plot, no sense, no nothing, and I didn't even get to work in all the references I wanted to, but that's fine. That's how it always goes.
“I don't... control the way the stories go, after all. I'm not the Norns, and well...” Allonym smiled a bit over at Luna, who rose her head almost challengingly. “Not that they were anything more or less than three very self-centered nutjobs, anyway. But then again, look at me: form of a Draconequus, of course I didn't like them and all their mechanical order. I loathe predetermination... but at the same time, I do believe just a little in destiny. That some things are meant to happen, meant to be, but... I believe we have free will all the same. We decide how we get there. We decide what we do with those chances. And that's what truly proves that we are free, and not... just fractals of chaos and coincidence. That we are forced into certain situations, but all the same we still can make the choice to do whatever the hell we please in those moments of destiny.
“I just write down what happens. My job is just to watch you guys run along on your way, write down what happens.” Allonym shook his head as he quietly tapped his cane against the ground, looking down meditatively. “I'm not very good at it, of course, and I seem to have a penchant for hitting all the wrong nerves. And you guys are really frigging weird, by the way, which leads to... you know, hitting even more nerves. But hey, ain't like I'm in this for... anything, really. I just write stories. And hope that I don't half-ass it all into the ground.”
The Draconequus laughed after a moment, shaking his head slowly before he leaned forwards and said softly: “And that is why I wanted to save you both, get it? Because your pain, is my pleasure, which is my pain... which is also my pleasure. I'm a little twisted like that. But maybe that's a good thing, too, because I'm never going to be popular, never going to be well-liked, never going to be successful, and yet... does it matter? No. Because I am not the potter, but the potter's clay: I might be the writer, but that only means I write the stories. You two? You're the ones who make the stories. These stories will go on without me... but they could never exist without you two. Writers are very unimportant in the grand scheme of things... and that's also, Scrivy, why as you went more psycho, you made the whole frigging world around you more psycho. Same goes for you, Luna.”
Scrivener smiled faintly as Luna laughed a little, and the Draconequus nodded slowly as he said softly: “So see? I helped you not because I want you two to continue to exist... but because I, Allonym, want to continue to be me, be here, enjoy this little patch of comfort. I mean, seriously, what choice did I have but to step in with all that in mind? A writer can't be a writer, can't exist, without writing, right? Oh, sure, I could go tackle something different... but then what would I become? Not me.” Allonym brought his cane up, tapping it against his own head seriously. “Change scares me, see. And I really hate the fact that you can tell a whole lot about a person if you can figure out the key words in their writing.”
He shook his head, then Luna cocked her head and asked curiously: “Then creature, with that in mind... why was it that in both our dreams... 'twas a train accident that killed our beloved? Why did thou give us sorrow's sweet kiss, instead of blinding us with joy in thine efforts to convince us to continue to fight, to exist?”
“Because fiction is lies, and lies begin with truth. Because there's only one place a writer can turn to when they're stuck in a corner, trying to make up a story on his own... but you probably figured that answer out already, huh?” Allonym smiled softly, closing his eyes and bowing his head towards them before he turned around and began to stride off. Then he suddenly slumped and sighed, and he glanced over his shoulder, saying quietly: “Oh, by the way. Your son Antares... he's gonna grow up good, from what I can tell so far. You'll be proud of him. Hell, you might even meet him one day. Although I do need a better term for whatever the hell he is with his wings and all.”
“I thought Twilight said if you have wings and a horn you're called an alicorn.” Scrivener said mildly, as Allonym began to walk away, and then the Draconequus groaned at this and dropped his head moodily, reaching a hand up to rub at his face slowly.
“You really are Scrivener goddamn Blooms.” the chimerical creature muttered, and then he said moodily over his shoulder: “It's a personal quirk, okay? Everyone can call it that, and whether it's wrong or right I don't really care. I was raised... or raised myself, rather... on certain folklore. And if I started misusing that folklore it would be like a betrayal of my writing roots. And then those roots would reach up and choke me to death and I would die horribly... why are we talking about this? You two have to resume falling into darkness, and I have to go and mope for a while before stalking your son.”
“Wait!” Luna shouted, and the Avatar groaned and threw his arms out, then turned around and slammed his cane down, leaning on this and glaring at them before the winged unicorn smiled across at him, and said quietly: “Thou hast my thanks, creature, for allowing Scrivy and I... this final meeting. I understand that thou cannot give us reprieve here forever, that... thou cannot save us, and I do not hold these things against thee. But ten more minutes, creature... can thou spare us that, before we die, to spend together?”
Allonym lowered his head, closing his eyes... and then he smiled faintly, slowly drawing his mismatched eyes up as he said quietly: “I suppose I can give you two ten minutes.” He paused, turning around and striding off, fading into the darkness as he added nonchalantly: “And whoever said you two were going to die, drama queen? I just said your story's over. Give your kid a chance in the spotlight, you selfish jerks.”
With that, Allonym vanished, and Luna and Scrivener stared after him before they both turned their eyes to each other, warmth, hope, and love filling their eyes... before they simply traded a firm, tight hug, and Scrivener whispered: “We're together, Luna. That's all that matters... no more trying to save the other, if we can't save ourselves, too. I love you.”
“Aye, Scrivy... together. Forever and evermore... I love thee too, my sweet daydreamer.” Luna replied softly, sitting back, and their eyes locked before she murmured: “But thou art still an idiot.”
“I know. And you're a jerk.” Scrivener said quietly, and the two ponies smiled at each other, before their mouths met in a soft kiss as they embraced fiercely. They held each other close, their minds, hearts, and soul as one, feeling each other's heartbeat and hearing one another's thoughts as they felt themselves awakening as if from a deep sleep... only to descend once more into darkness.
But all the same, they smiled, fearless of the void that waited hungrily below: to fall together, was better than to sacrifice the other half of their mixed soul: to fall together, was like entering a restful slumber well-earned after a long day... with the lingering promise that after the darkness, there would always come a new dawn.
Epilogue: Back In Wonderland
The young unicorn frowned curiously as he slowly strode through the forest, drawn onwards by a strange, reasonless feeling. He resembled his father, Scrivener Blooms, with his glossy black coat and tousled white mane and tail... but he had his mother's brilliant cyan-green eyes. And technically, he also had his mother's wings and teeth... although the leathery wings and sharp fangs clearly came from that darker half of Luna Brynhild called Nightmare Moon.
A necklace swayed around his neck, a glowing black star: it was precious to him, as it had been a gift from his father years ago. More than he liked to think of... he was sixteen years old, and had been without his parents for eight of those years. Yet all the same, he was strong, he did his best to be happy... and he clung to the hope that they were still alive.
Slowly, he stepped into the heart of the forest: a large clearing in front of a crystalline pond, a natural stone face jutting out over this like an altar. On one side of the clearing stood two massive ash trees: one twisted and strange, the other reaching high, branches eternally sweeping lightly through the sky, even on the windless days like this.
Antares Mīrus frowned in surprise as he saw that someone else was here, though, cocking his head curiously as he stared at a Draconequus in a patched purple suit. It looked back at him dumbly from beneath the black fedora on its head, a dragon-headed cane beside it and a notebook opened in one hand, a mala of onyx prayer beads dangling from the other as its jaw dropped before it spluttered: “What... what the hell are you doing here?”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Antares blurted in reply in the same incredulous tone, and the two glared at each other for a few moments before the young stallion blushed, then stepped forwards and said awkwardly: “I... I mean, I'm Antares. What's your name? I'm sorry, you just... startled me. You're... no, you look like a Draconequus, but you're not, are you?”
“Oh come freaking on! It can't be that easy to tell!” the creature complained, looking hurriedly back and forth over himself before he grumbled and snapped his book closed, tucking it and the mala both hurriedly away. Then he sighed before sweeping up his cane, looking flatly at Antares. “Just call me Allonym. Come here, I got a story to tell you about your parents.”
“You knew my parents?” Antares asked sharply, looking surprised, and the Draconequus smiled wryly, nodding slowly to the stallion. He hesitated, however, and then Allonym winced as he felt the young stallion's eyes drawing slowly over him, as his cutie mark of a constellation made up of nine different stars forming a rose gleamed quietly over his haunch. “You... you're telling the truth, and yet you're not.”
“This is why you're going to be fun to work with, kid. You seem to be able to sneak up on me, and you've got those freaking x-ray eyes.” Allonym muttered, and when Antares frowned, the Draconequus only smiled in response before he swept up his cane by the neck and spun it once, then gently bopped the stallion's nose with it. “What would you do if just your Dad had come back, at the expense of your Mom?”
Antares only looked down at this, and then he shook his head firmly, saying quietly: “That would never happen. Mom and Dad loved each other. They would do anything to save each other... but I know that no matter what happened, at the end they were together in everything. If Mom saved Dad at the expense of her own life... Dad would have seen it as a betrayal, and it would have been. I'm not glad they're both... lost... but...”
He stopped, then laughed a little, looking up and murmuring: “I know it sounds weird and all, but... I know Mom and Dad would pretty much attempt to kill themselves for each other. To save each other, you know? But I know, too, that... no matter how close they came to sacrificing themselves... they always stopped each other, too. Because they... they loved each other, so much. And it's not like they never loved me, or they don't love Twilight... or Aunt Tia, or Pinkamena, or Uncle Sleipnir or all their friends and family...
“But I also know that they... they were who they were because of each other. Because they were two halves of each other... they balanced each other out, gave each other strength, and I know that without that...” Antares smiled faintly, looking away. “Mom or Dad, alone, would still do anything for us. But I think that... they would also hurt a lot more, without the other, without that soul-link. They were like one person together. I can't imagine what it would feel like to be without that. The kind of tricks that would play on their mind, their heart, their soul... which would only be half a mind, half a heart, half a soul, without the other there. Sure, we would do everything we could to take care of Mom or Dad if they came back alone, but... I... I worry that it wouldn't be enough. And Mom or Dad would... use themselves up. One can't be without the other, like light and darkness, yin and yang. I mean, I look at Twilight, and see how much she hurts every single day... I think... of how much I miss them every single day... but I know the real reason we both keep going isn't... isn't even for ourselves. It's because we both believe Mom and Dad will be back one day, Luna and Scrivener will be back. And that the fact they're both gone, is... is actually a good thing. Because it means they're together... because it means that maybe we have the chance to save them both.”
Allonym gave a quiet laugh, holding up a hand as he nodded firmly once, saying softly: “Because there's always light at the end of every long, dark tunnel, huh? And maybe... just maybe, Antares... you have what it takes to find them after all.”
And Antares smiled up at the Draconequus, nodding slowly as the two looked at each other: storyteller and story-player, both looking forwards to the future and the tales yet to be told, the adventures to be had, and the darkness to be delved in the hopes it would give all that much more meaning to the light.
The depth of love shows not in joy,
But in sorrow, pain, and sacrifice:
Anyone can smile on a sunny day...
True love stays to weather the storm.
August 9th, 2012 – August 16th, 2012