Luna's moon rose with the darkness, and everypony slept. When Celestia's morning came, things quickly became busy for many of the residents of Ponyville.
Applebloom and Applejack came by Fluttershy's early that morning for a visit. The smaller filly had a saddlebag full of potatos, and Applejack had brought a barrel of apples balanced on her back. Johnathon was genuinely glad to see them, but they couldn't stay. Applebloom had to get to school, and Applejack, in her own words, had "a bunch of applebucking to do."
Promising to visit later, the two Apple family ponies set off, leaving Johnathon and Fluttershy alone. As he was still recovering, Johnathon spent the day resting quietly in Fluttershy's cottage. The yellow pegasus's initial shyness, now that Johnathon was starting to recover, hadn't quite faded yet, but she found herself relaxing more and more as the day wore on.
She found herself telling him about all her animal friends, while the human shared stories about the animals, pets and livestock, that he had kept or known. While hardly an expert, Johnathon seemed to know a lot about many different types of animals.
Both he and Fluttershy were amazed by how many species their two worlds seemed to have in common.
"Maybe it's the translation spell..." Johnathon mused. "I mean... I really don't know how it works, but perhaps it's translating concepts a bit TOO well? I mean... a pink flamingo? And we both use the same term for it? What are the odds of that?"
He frowned. "Or do we really both know the same animal? It sounds like we're speaking in English to me, only I know we're not." the archeologist wrinkled his nose as he tried to figure something out. "OK... do you have any more parchment? I'd like to try drawing a flamingo... and see if they're really the same." Fluttershy rummaged though her drawers till she found a scrap of parchment, and Johnathon started to draw. He spent several minutes on the picture, then showed Fluttershy.
The yellow pegasus considered the drawing, then nodded. "Yes, that looks like a flamingo to me."
Johnathon glanced at his own drawing with a frown. "Huh... well, I guess I sort of got the basic idea down in my picture... although I'm not the best artist."
Fluttershy shook her head, smiling politely. "No, it's very good!"
He raised an eyebrow. "It looks like a kid's picture."
Fluttershy giggled. "Well, perhaps just a little, but it's better than I could do."
Johnathon shook his head again. "Pink... like Pinkie Pie, and sometimes stands on one leg? About as tall at the shoulder as you are?"
Fluttershy nodded again. "Yes, that's a flamingo!"
Johnathon nodded again, looking thoughtful. "Huh... interesting. I really want to ask Twilight how this spell works. I mean... it seems like if I know something, and there is a word for it in your language, it comes across fine... but... if it's something that doesn't exist here, it doesn't translate..." he looked puzzled. "Wait... that... how does that work? I said a couple words that no one here seemed to understand... did I suddenly sound funny to you when I did?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Um... I'm not sure? What do you mean funny?"
Johnathon considered that. "OK, let me ask a question... when I first heard a pony talk... well, it was Applebloom, it sounded like... well, like a pony talking. The sounds weren't really broken up into individual sounds that humans use for language. But when I speak to you do I, I don't know, do I sound like you? I mean, I'm using the right sounds, right?"
Fluttershy considered that. "I remember that you DID try to speak before Twilight put the spell on you... and you're right, I think. You didn't make sounds that sounded very much like any pony I've ever heard before... not that your voice was unpleasant, but the sounds you were making were... different." she thought about it. "Your voice... SOUNDS the same, but you make sense now." she shook her head. "Oh... this is rather confusing, isn't it? I was never very good at understanding things like magic."
Johnathon chuckled. "Don't look at me. As far as I knew before two... three days ago, magic didn't exist." he shrugged. "I should probably be asking Twilight this stuff, huh?"
Fluttershy shook her head. "Oh, I don't mind. It's kind of interesting... like a riddle."
Johnathon grinned. "Oh, you like riddles, then?"
Fluttershy nodded. "Oh yes, they're... nice. I'm not really very good at them, but they're fun when you figure them out."
He nodded. "I agree, I actually love riddles myself, and puzzles. Any sort of intellectual challenge, really."
Fluttershy smiled at him. "You really would get along with Twilight. She's the same way."
Johnathon grinned. "Well, that's nice to hear." he took a deep breath. "Well... let's try an experiment, shall we? I'll try to think of some words... concepts, that you haven't heard before... hopefully ones that aren't even part of your language yet, and you tell me if I start using weird noises instead of the er... sounds you're used hearing as language..." he scratched his head. "Does that make sense?"
Fluttershy nodded. "I think so. Go ahead."
The archeologist hesitated. "OK... rocket."
Fluttershy blinked. "You mean like in fireworks?"
He grinned. "Oh, you have those here? OK, I'll try again." he blinked. "Oh, I've got one! Computer! Ram! Hard Drive!"
Fluttershy blinked. "What's a com pu ter?" she tried to sound the word out. "It sounds familiar... does it have something to do with a mathpony?"
Johnathon blinked. "What? You understood that word?"
She frowned cutely, as if thinking hard. "Well... it sounds... vaguely familiar. Something about a pony who's really good with numbers?"
Johnathon's mouth fell open, then he closed it. "Oh... huh. Er... now that I think about it, that word DID used to mean that in my language as well. But I wasn't thinking about a mathematician when I said it. Maybe the spell is linked to my sub-concious, and...." he shook his head, then looked curious. "How about the other words?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Ram? That's a creature that looks a bit like a pony, only with big horns. They live up in mountainous areas."
Johnathon's eyes widened. "OK, that's cheating. Sure, in my language, that word does have two different meanings, but... I mean, I was thinking about the acronym! R, A, M. Random Access Memory!"
Fluttershy raised an eyebrow. "Well, I understand all those words, but what does that mean?"
He shook his head. "RAM is... well, how a computer thinks... sort of. And where I come from, a computer isn't a math... er... pony, but a machine that thinks... or at least, manipulates data on a large scale."
Fluttershy's eyes went wide. "A machine that thinks? You mean, it's alive?"
He shook his head. "Oh no... computers aren't alive... not even by a loose definition of the word. They're not... aware, or conscious, and they don't... er... think for themselves. They're just very useful tools, really." He shrugged. "Anyway, I was pretty sure that you didn't have them here, and I guess you don't, but Twilight's translation spell found a way to get the concept across anyway."
He looked thoughtful. "I wonder if it's possible to stump it? It seems like if my mind knows a derivation of a word, or even another concept that fits the same word, the translation spell causes me to use that in your language."
Fluttershy blinked, then smiled. "Oh! Wait! Try saying that... that Acronym again, OK?"
Johnathon looked confused. "What, random access memory?"
She nodded. "That's the one... and what is the acronym that it goes with?"
Johnathon shrugged. "RAM." He blinked. "Wait... I just heard it. They don't match!"
Fluttershy nodded again, grinning. "I know what an acronym is. It's supposed to be a word made up of the beginnings of other words... but the beginnings of those words don't match the sounds in ram!"
Johnathon nodded thoughtfully, and tried another acronym, speaking out loud. "LOL... laughing out loud...."
He glanced at Fluttershy, who shook her head. "No... that one matched up. What does LOL mean?"
He blinked, then sighed. "Right, because LOL doesn't have another meaning. It's short for laughing out loud... but I think I'm starting to get a hang of how this works now. Let me think of another acronym that DOES have another derivation." the archeologist was silent for several minutes, thinking. "NASA? No... BASIC?" He frowned. "That might work, only... I can't remember what the letters in BASIC stand for!" he sighed, then shrugged. "Great, only one example I can actually think of. Guess that's a bust."
Fluttershy smiled. "Well, it seems that Twilight's translation spell is very good, doesn't it?"
Johnathon nodded. "Apparently. I've only found one small flaw, and only because I was actively trying to figure out how to trick it." he shook his head. "OK, just for the sake of completeness... let's try a few more words you might not have heard before." Johnathon frowned, wracking his brain. "Well... how about... television?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Well, I've never heard THAT world before." she admitted. "Although parts of it? I know vision. Like... to see?"
Johnathon grinned. "Alright then! So... tele?"
Fluttershy thought about that. "Like in telescope?"
He sighed. "Darn it... never mind, I'm going to give up. Either the spell will simply translate every concept I have in my head into something equestrian, or I simply am not imaginative to beat it."
Fluttershy smiled politely. "That's alright, Johnathon. It was a good try." she looked curious. "Why did you want to fool the spell though? Isn't it good that it works?"
The archeologist shrugged. "Well, of course, but...." he frowned. "Well, it bothers me a bit that I can't actually speak English any more... I can't even really think of how it should sound. I'm not even sure if I'd know it if I heard it right now." he picked up the parchment, then wrote the word Flamingo under his picture of the bird. "And this... I know it means flamingo... I assume I can read in your language now as well, but it... for some reason, I know that's now how it's supposed to look, although I'm not sure what it is supposed to look like in my own language anymore."
Fluttershy nodded. "I see. That must be difficult for you."
Johnathon shrugged. "Well... not really. I think it means I won't be able to learn your language naturally though... not with this spell on me." he grinned. "Not that it matters, I guess." he frowned. "I hope it's not permanent though. I mean... hopefully Twilight will be able to take it off me before I go home, assuming she can figure out how to get me back to my world, that is, or I'd go home and not be able to talk to anyone!"
Fluttershy smiled. "Oh, I'm sure she can." she looked thoughtful. "Actually, I'm not sure, but most spells wear off on their own, eventually, don't they?"
Johnathon grinned. "What, are you asking me?"
She giggled. "Um... no? I guess you can ask Twilight when she gets back."
Johnathon nodded. "Yeah. I hope she can answer my questions. Actually, I hope I don't end up boring her to tears with all the questions I have."
Fluttershy shook her head. "Oh, Twilight is a very nice pony. I'm sure she'll be happy to answer anything she can."
Johnathon shrugged again. "Well, I'll try to be patient, in any case."
Johnathon then asked Fluttershy about her normal daily routine, which lead to her telling him the story about how she had first come to live in Ponyville, rather than in her original home in Cloudsdale.
Johnathon's eyes went wide as some details started to become clear to him. "Wait... wait... you're saying you lived on an actual cloud? In the sky?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Yes? Er... is that strange?"
He nodded up and down several times. "Very! How does that work, anyway? Is it really made up of clouds? Regular clouds? And you... made a city out of it?"
Fluttershy hesitated. "Well... I guess, magic? Pegasi can walk on clouds... and move them, and shape them. The other types of ponies can't do that without magic though."
Johnathon looked excited. "So... a kind of inherent magical ability? That's... pretty cool. Do you think you could show me?"
Fluttershy blushed. "Well... I'm not... really much of a flier. And I don't like heights that much." she hesitated. "Maybe I could ask Rainbow Dash? She's on the weather team, and she's really good with clouds. She lives in a cloud house that she keeps over Ponyville most of the time."
Johnathon blinked. "You mean... she has a house... made from clouds, over your town... right now?!?"
Fluttershy nodded again. "Er... yes?"
He grinned. "I have GOT to see that."
Fluttershy smiled slightly. "Well, I could point it out to you if you like, although it's quite high up." she walked over to her kitchen window, and pointed a hoof at a white smudge in the sky. Johnathon followed the line of her leg and gazed out the window.
"Huh. That does look like a house... although you're right, it's pretty high up there." he shook his head in wonder. "I'd love to see it close up, but I guess, since I'm not a pegasus, that's probably not going to happen."
Fluttershy hesitated. "Actually, Twilight DOES know a cloud walking spell. She and some of my other friends came up to Cloudsdale one time to help cheer on Rainbow Dash during the Best Young Fliers competition last year." she smiled fondly. "Rainbow got first place after she did a sonic rainboom. I cheered SO loud!"
Johnathon's eyes were wide. "A... cloud walking spell?" He shook his head. "No... no way. That's...." he shook his head again. "Wow... that's awesome." He started to ask what a sonic rainboom was, then decided to just ask the cyan pegaus to show her sometime, if he caught her in a mood to perform.
Fluttershy giggled. "I guess you'd really like to visit Cloudsdale then?"
He nodded fervently. "An entire city... made of clouds? Full of pegasi? I can't even really imagine, but it has to be like nothing I've ever experienced before. Yeah... that would be..." he grinned again. "Fantastic. I hope I'll get a chance some day."
Fluttershy smiled. "Well, I don't know if we'll be able to go any time soon, but, well, I'll take you sometime, if you can't find another way."
Johnathon's eyes softened. "Thanks, Fluttershy. That'd be great." he shrugged. "There's no rush. There will be plenty of time, I expect." he lowered his head slightly. "I do want to go before Twilight figures a way to get me home though. That's something I'd really regret never getting to see."
Fluttershy nodded firmly. "I promise. I think I can understand how... special it might be, to somepony who's never been there. I grew up there, but the first time I saw what it was like down here on the ground... I was... well, it was a very magical feeling."
Johnathon tilted his head to one side. "I think I understand." he smiled slightly, then frowned as a strange sensation passed through him, leaving him slightly light headed. "Ohh... I think I'm getting a little bit dizzy again. I probably should go lie down for awhile."
Fluttershy looked confused, then spoke to him, or he assumed she was speaking, as she made a series of nickering and whinnying noises, although quite complex, which he remembered now from his first meeting with the Apple family.
"Damn." he said in frustration when it became obvious to him that he wasn't understanding a thing she was saying. "The translation spell must have worn off."
Fluttershy's eyes narrowed in confusion for a moment as he spoke, then they widened in comprehension. She spoke some more, then put a hoof up to his face, as if to reassure him. Johnathon shrugged back, helplessly, but gave her a small smile, which she returned gently.
He sighed and got up, walking over to her couch and reclining. "I didn't even notice, but it's already pretty late in the afternoon. I guess that means Twilight's spell lasted about two days?"
Fluttershy shook her head, then shrugged, and went to get him the blue blanket he had been using. He took it, and draped it over himself as he tried to get comfortable. Fluttershy laid down in front of the couch, her legs folded up under her body but her head up and facing him, and they watched each other silently for several minutes. He tossed and turned a bit, trying to get comfortable, and after a short time, he heard the yellow pegasus start to speak again... only it was rhythmic, and quite soothing. She seemed to be singing, and he smiled to himself. His head had been hurting again, although he'd been ignoring it during their conversation, but as she sang, it seemed to recede slightly, until he could push it aside. Slowly, he dropped off to sleep, the last thing he could remember that was the soft, pleasant sound of her voice.
Johnathon woke up in the middle of the night, and glanced down to find that Fluttershy had gone, presumably to her own bed. She had given him a short tour of her home the first morning, so he knew where that was, but immediately put the idea of waking her out of his mind. She had been a wonderful and gracious host, it would be unkind to be a bother now.
He closed his eyes, trying to get a sense for his physical condition. His headache had almost completely passed, and while his shoulder still ached slightly, there really wasn't any real pain. Why had he woken? He slowly got up off the couch, and slipped quietly to the front window in his stocking feet, glancing out side. He glanced at the kitchen, considering fixing himself a midnight snack, then settled for an apple, as anything more complex would chance waking up the gentle yellow pegasus.
Going back for his boots, he slipped outside, pausing to put them on before starting to walk quietly around Fluttershy's small fenced in yard. It was a lovely place, and it reminded him a bit of his own farm, and his wife's own love for animals, which Fluttershy obviously shared.
"She'd have loved this place." he said quietly, thinking of his wife with a wistful smile.
The next morning, Johnathon awoke as the first rays of light entered the window across the room and illuminated the couch he had been sleeping on. He stretched, and sat up, glancing around. He heard the sound of hooves coming down stairs, and smiled at Fluttershy as she came down past him. She smiled back, and asked him something, or at least, it seemed like a question from the look on her face. He suddenly found himself surprised at how quickly he had been able to pick up on pony facial expressions. They were quite expressive, really, weren't they.
"Sorry... I still don't understand what you're saying." he replied with a shrug. Fluttershy sighed and nodded, then walked into her kitchen, and started moving about, pulling containers off shelves with her teeth. Johnathon quickly realized that she was getting out foods that she knew he was able to eat, and he walked over to her, putting a hand in front of her nose to get her attention.
He pointed to himself, then to the food, and took the bowl of apples she had been moving from her gently, putting it down on the table. He made pushing motions at her, and gestured to the kitchen, then at himself. Fluttershy seemed dubious, as if she didn't quite understand, but when he moved into her place and started preparing a simple breakfast, she nodded, and headed outside.
Johnathon heard her moving around outside, taking care of her animals as she did every morning, and he busied himself with preparing a light breakfast. Eggs... carrots, some cheese? Much of what he'd look for in a human kitchen simply wasn't there, but he made do.
He heard a pair of extra voices outside, familiar ones. Johnathon poked his head out through the door and waved. Applejack and Applebloom were there again, smiling at him. Applebloom came up to the door, asking something... again, it seemed like a question to him, and he could only shake his head and shrug helplessly.
"Sorry, Kiddo..." he told the yellow filly. "I guess we'll have to wait for Twilight to get back before we can talk any more?"
Applebloom frowned, looking upset, and turned to Fluttershy, who said something that seemed to reassure the pony. Applejack nodded to Johnathon, looking a bit apologetic, and then to Fluttershy. The two older ponies talked for a short while, but before too long she and Applebloom turned to go, waving once with their fore-hooves before departing. He hadn't really given it much thought before, having had so many other things on his mind, but he realized that the ponies here seemed a bit more flexible than those from where he was from. Perhaps it was a cultural thing, and with practice, ponies from his world could do the same things? He wasn't sure. Perhaps it was simply an evolutionary adaptation to their intelligence. Ponies with more flexible limbs would be considered better mates in a society where they used tools, wouldn't they?
He didn't know, but it was interesting to think about. Fluttershy joined him for breakfast, and though it was quiet, it didn't really bother either of them. Fluttershy liked the quiet, and Johnathon's mind was busy. He kept coming back around to magic... and the translation spell. He was thinking in English again, or so he assumed, with magic he couldn't be completely sure anymore, but it was a pretty solid assumption. He was, presumably, able to write in English as well.
The archeologist's eyes widened with a sudden thought. Maybe he could approach the problem from a different angle! He left the table, got the parchment he had drawn the picture of the Flamingo on, and looked at it again. The picture was familiar, the word underneath was vaguely so as well. He remembered writing it, but aside from the fact that he now knew it meant Flamingo, he didn't know the word, or the letters it was comprised of. They weren't like any letters he was familiar with, and he had seen examples of many types of writing over the years. They... very vaguely seemed like they possibly might be a very advanced derivation of Minoan, but the differences were huge. It was an advanced written language, with each letter unique, and, he thought, without meaning save the sound they were supposed to emulate. Aside from the fact that the characters were all new to him, it might as well be English. He studied the individual characters for a little longer, then carefully wrote the word Flamingo in English underneath.
Johnathon grinned, and brought the parchment over to Fluttershy, who looked at it with some interest. He said the word in English, and she repeated it after him, only stumbling slightly over the unfamiliar sounds. He grinned, and gestured at her, pointing at the word he had written earlier. Fluttershy blinked, then said something in her language. A single word. She pointed at the picture, and said the word again, and he nodded, his face falling slightly. The sound of the word was completely unfamiliar to him! He had said the word several times while the translation spell had been working, and even drawn the picture to make sure they were talking about the same animal, but he couldn't recall making those sounds! He sighed, and tried pronouncing the word in Equestrian. It was actually rather difficult. His mouth could form the word, make the sounds, but it was still strange.
Fluttershy seemed to want to help him. She began pointing out various objects in the room, and saying what he assumed to be their names, but Johnathon was already losing interest. It wasn't that he didn't want to learn their language, but he had always been terrible at languages. He had studied Japanese for six years to manage to get even a beginner's understanding of the language, just enough to pass his foreign language requirement for his degree... and now he could barely remember a single useful phrase. It would take months of strenuous effort to learn to speak without the translation spell... and he wasn't sure he was up to it tonight.
He shook his head. What kind of ass was he, to refuse to try just because it was easier to rely on the spell? What if Twilight wasn't around to cast it? And Fluttershy seemed so pleased to be able to help him! Johnathon forced himself to pay attention for the next few hours as the yellow pegasus attempted to teach him the names of just about everything in her home. It went slowly, but she seemed endlessly patient. When she noticed his attention flagging after several hours, she nodded in acceptance and ended the lesson. Johnathon couldn't help feel a little guilty, and forced himself to go over the words he had learned in his head, looking at various objects in the room and remembering what they were called.
Later that afternoon, Applebloom and two other small ponies, one an orange pegasus and the other a white unicorn with a blue mane that looked quite a bit like one of the adult ponies he'd seen earlier, came to Fluttershy's cottage to visit. Applebloom came right up to him with a friendly grin, but the other two hung back, looking nervous. The yellow coated filly with the bright red mane said his name, and followed it with a bunch of other words he couldn't catch. Johnathon's eyes widened slightly. His name was the same in both languages, he realized! The translation spell hadn't translated it into an Equestrian alternative. That was interesting. He said his name aloud, then pointed at himself. He then pointed at Applebloom, and looked curious. The pony looked confused, and said a short word, pointing at her own chest with one forehoof.
Johnathon nodded, and pointed at himself again. "Johnathon Dwire." he said again, then gestured at her. Applebloom blinked, then said a longer word, one that sounded vaguely familiar to him. One of the other two young fillies said the same word, along with a string of others, but Johnathon had it. That sound was her name! Johnathon repeated Applebloom's name several times, realizing that the first part of it did indeed sound like the Equestrian word for apple. He pointed at an apple on the counter, and said their word for it, and nodded to Applebloom, who grinned back at him.
Applebloom nodded once more at him, and turned back to Fluttershy to talk, looking intent on something. The two ponies spoke rapidly, and Johnathon couldn't understand a word again, but he knew something was up. Before long, the three small fillies were pounding out the door, having gathered in the center of the room long enough to slap their front hooves together and say something as one... and very loudly. He shook his head, amused. To his surprise, they returned less than half an hour later, with saddlebags bulging with what appeared to be books, and leading an older mare with a Purple coat and a light purple mane and tail, and the image of three flowers on her flank.
The purple mare put her hoof to her chest and introduced herself, or at least, he assumed she had, and he repeated her name to her. Smiling, she helped the three young fillies bring out some of the books and lay them on Fluttershy's kitchen table. He followed them, getting a good look, and then picked one of the books up to flip through it. He realized at once that he was holding a picture book... one with pictures and words beside them. It was quite obviously a primer for very young children to learn to read. He held it with astonishment, suddenly filled with inspiration.
He quickly turned back to the couch, and got the piece of parchment he had drawn the flamingo on, and showed it to the purple pony, who blinked. She said the word he knew now to mean "flamingo" and he shook his head, turning the paper over, and running his fingers over it. She said a different word, and he nodded, and repeated it, flapping the parchment in his hand. He quickly went to get the quill, and the one jar of ink Fluttershy apparently had in her home, and held them up. The purple pony helpfully identified them for him, and he repeated the words again, already pretty much knowing them, as Fluttershy had done the same hours earlier, and put them on the table. He made a gesture, as if clutching something to his chest, then pointed at the parchment, then repeated himself.
The ponies looked on in confusion. He frowned, took the sheet, which was thankfully blank on one side, and opened the primer to the first page. Placing the parchment next to it, he started writing the English word for each object on the parchment to match up with where the Equestrian word was, then when he had finished with the page, he stuck the parchment page into the book like a bookmark, and turned the page. He gestured, and said the word for parchment again, smiling a bit plaintively. He felt a minor twinge of guilt at what he was requesting... surely parchment was expensive? But the purple earth pony smiled and nodded, turning to Fluttershy, who seemed to have gotten the idea as well. Fluttershy went into her living room and began rummaging around, and brought him several more sheets, although not nearly enough for what he intended.
Johnathon nodded gratefully, nevertheless, and immediately set to work, kneeling on the floor next to the table and opening the primer to the second page, and then writing down the English for each word, one after another. The purple pony sat down next to him, watching him work, and seemed to nod in approval. Turning to the three young fillies, she spoke to them in a firm but kind tone, and the three immediately listened obediently, obviously used to following her instructions. After a few moments, they rushed off, bursting out of Fluttershy's front door at high speed and racing away, their cheerful voices echoing in the distance as they left.
Johnathon glanced back at them in confusion, then shrugged and went back to his work, adding page after page of English words to the primer. He ran out of parchment about half way through the book, and sat back, frowning slightly. He had used both sides of each sheet in order to get everything possible, but Fluttershy didn't appear to have much in the way of writing materials on hand. The purple mare carefully took the half filled book, and making sure not to spill any of his notes out, turned it back to the first page. She pointed at the first word he had written, and looked at him with an inquisitive glance. He said the word in English, and she smiled. She pointed at the Equestrian word, and said it in her language, and pointed at the second word.
They had nearly gone through all of his notes by the time the three young, excited fillies returned, carrying rolls of parchment in several saddle bags, several bottles of ink, and a couple spare quills. The older purple earth pony looked pleased as she spoke to them, and the three fillies all grinned. Johnathon clapped his hands together, his face breaking into a huge grin, and he immediately began to work again. Behind him, he could hear the five ponies talking quietly, but he was focused on his task. Twilight was due back in... one, or was it two days now? He wasn't positive, but obviously she'd cast the translation spell on him again when she returned. It was possible it would last longer the next time, or even be permanent, he really couldn't be sure. He worked feverishly, taking as much care as he could to write legibly, but kept writing without a break till his hand started to cramp. He had finished with the first primer, and started on a second, slightly more advanced one, and was well on his way to working his way through that when he finally started to slow down.
He heard ponies come and go behind him, and paused to acknowledge the presence of the cyan pegasus with the multicolored mane... Rainbow Dash, and a small lizard... who approached to see what he was doing, walking upright as it did so. Johnathon paused in his work, looking at the small creature in astonishment. It was... bipedal? And appeared to have hands with fingers and thumbs!
Spike stared back at the tall, skinny creature with the strange mostly hairless face. "Whoa... it's staring at me. Are you sure it's safe?" he asked Fluttershy a bit nervously.
Fluttershy smiled gently. "Don't be scared, Spike. You're a dragon, remember? Anyway, I'm sure it's just because he's never seen a baby dragon before!"
Spike turned back to the human, who had sat back as well, giving him some space, and considered the creature thoughtfully. "I suppose." he turned to Fluttershy curiously. "Is this as big as they get? I thought he'd be taller."
Rainbow Dash chuckled at him. "What, didn't you get a good enough look after I clocked him upside the head?" the moment after she said it, her face darkened slightly. "I mean... everypony was crowding around when he was out...."
Spike shrugged. "I couldn't see that well before, and he looks different now that he's awake and moving around and all." the baby dragon glanced over at the table, and raised an eyebrow. "What's this he's writing? Looks like chicken scratches to me."
"I believe it's his native language, Spike." Miss Cheerilee, the Ponyville village school teacher said helpfully. "As far as I can tell, he's been creating a sort of... dictionary of his language, for some reason. He seems quite intent on it."
Spike glanced at all the parchments sticking out of the primer, and blinked. "How long has he been working? It looks like he's just about finished this book."
Cheerilee nodded across the table. "Actually, he's working on his second book already. He's been at it for about..." she glanced at a clock on a mantlepiece. "About two hours now?"
Spike raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. "Eh, my handwriting is better." he decided. "What is he doing all this for anyway?" the little dragon asked, looking confused. "I mean, Twilight will just put another translation spell on him when she gets back anyway, right?"
Fluttershy spoke up. "Well... he told me that he isn't able to remember his own language when the spell is working on him... so I think... he might want to get as many words down as he can before Twilight gets back and puts the translation spell on him again."
Spike blinked. "OK, but why?"
Cheerilee smiled. "Perhaps because his language is important to him? I think I would do the same thing, if I were in his place... and if I had gotten the idea to do it, anyway."
The human had been listening for awhile, having paused in his work, before he finally spoke. "Johnathon Dwire." he said simply, pointing at his own chest. He pointed at Spike then, and looked expectantly at him.
Spike blinked. "Oh. I'm Spike!" he told Johnathon proudly, sticking a thumb at his chest. The man repeated the name, and nodded. He made a gesture with both hands, as if to indicate Spike's entire body, and shrugged, looking confused. Spike turned to Cheerilee and Fluttershy. "What's he asking now?"
Fluttershy smiled. "I think he wants to know what you are, Spike. He did seem like he hasn't seen a baby dragon before." she brightened, and started flipping through the books Cheerilee had brought, till she came to a picture of an adult dragon, complete with a short paragraph about them. She put the book on the table, and pointed at the picture, then at Spike.
The human looked curiously at the illustration, then at the "scale" pony beside it, and then back at Spike. His eyes grew wide, and he held out his arms as wide as he could, making a gesture that almost had to indicate size.
Spike grinned. "Yeah, we get pretty big." he agreed casually with a nod. The human made a whistling sound, and grinned back in a friendly way. Spike glanced at Rainbow Dash. "Well, he doesn't seem so bad, I guess."
Rainbow Dash sighed and shook her head. "Nah... he seems like a nice... er... human or whatever." she looked side to side nervously, as if uncomfortably aware that the room was full of other ponies, then sighed. "Maybe I should wait to apologize till after he can understand me again?"
Fluttershy smiled slightly. "Oh, I don't think he holds a grudge, Rainbow Dash. Didn't he say he wasn't mad about you hitting him already?"
The cyan pegasus frowned. "Well, yeah, but... I want to tell him again, OK?"
Fluttershy nodded slightly, wincing at her friend's raised voice. "alright." she said quietly.
Rainbow Dash sighed. "I just... it seems like... maybe, just maybe, I've been jumping in with flying hooves a little too quickly. I mean, with that dragon that was smoking up the town? And now with him." she pointed at Johnathon with one hoof, then lowered it, frowning at the floor. "And I want to... I don't know, say it again, so I don't make that kind of mistake again, you know?"
Fluttershy nodded, and blinked, her eyes getting wide. Rainbow Dash looked at her, puzzled at her friend's strange expression, until she felt something come to rest on her shoulder, between her wings. She froze, and slowly turned her head to see that the human had put his hand on her shoulder. He patted her shoulder once, in a friendly way, and smiled at her with an understanding expression. Rainbow resisted the urge to hop away from him, and let her heart stop beating so fast before responding. She tapped the side of her head with one of her hooves, and pointed at his head.
"How are you feeling?" she asked slowly and loudly, exaggerating her words. "I'm sorry I hit you in the head!" she continued. The man grinned and looked like he was trying not to laugh, and Rainbow Dash turned to Spike, who seemed to be amused as well. "Hey, what's so funny?"
Spike shook his head. "He's not hard of hearing, you know, Dash." he told her confidentially. "I think he's laughing at you."
Rainbow Dash froze as the human's hand came down on top of her head. He let it rest there a moment, then playfully ruffled her mane with his fingers. Rainbow Dash ducked away and wheeled about, pointing her hoof at him again.
"Hey! Quit that!" everyone but the human and Fluttershy was laughing now, and Fluttershy looked like she was suppressing the urge. Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, then shrugged. "OK, OK... I guess you forgive me." the man shrugged back, still smiling at her gently, and she frowned, then moved up to butt him with her forehead. "Jerk." she said roughly, but she couldn't help but smile a little when he ruffled her mane again, and this time she didn't try to stop him.
"He's a jerk, apparently." she said conversationally to the others as he played with her hair. "Messing with my look like that." she grinned. "Ah well...." she jabbed him lightly in the ribs with one hoof, and pushed herself away, sticking out her tongue at him. "Jerk." she said again, although she was smiling when she said it.
She glanced at Spike. "Come on, Spike. I'll buy you dinner. I still owe you for the hay fries this morning."
Spike grinned. "Can we go someplace with gemstones?"
As they were leaving, Rainbow Dash could be heard groaning. "Are you kidding? Do I look like Rarity to you? I'm not made of bits!"
Johnathon watched them go, shaking his head slightly. The cyan pegasus had reminded him of, of all things, his rough and tumble son. She was certainly a tom-boy... if such terms applied to ponies. She had seemed upset, and he had desired, impulsively, to go with his craving to feel that rainbow hair for himself, and see if it was real. It certainly hadn't felt like a dye job, but how on earth could Rainbow colored hair be real? He rolled his eyes. The answer was probably "magic." He wondered how many other things he'd encounter that would be equally odd. Probably quite a lot.
Johnathon got back to work on the primers, although he was going through them slower and slower as they got more complex. Cheerilee started to help, but some concepts were not easy to explain without the proper words, and the lessons got more and more complex as the day started fading into night. The Crusaders quickly bored, and excused themselves, and Fluttershy went about her afternoon chores, then began fixing the three of them a late dinner, but Cheerilee had caught some of the human's infectious desire to get as much of his language down on parchment as possible, and before she realized it, it was well after dark.
She rose, stiffly, as they closed the fourth book, and glanced out the window to see the moon rising. "Oh dear... and I have class tomorrow!" she sighed, then put a hoof on Johnathon's shoulder. "Goodnight, Mr. Dwire." she said formally. The human blinked, then nodded at her. She smiled, then clearly said the word "goodnight" again, then pointed outside at the moon.
Johnathon blinked, then started going through the books, till he found a picture of the moon. "Goodnight?" he repeated, looking a bit dubious, glancing at the page, and then shaking his head, defeated. Cheerilee blinked, then shook her head. She stepped back, and waved.
"Goodnight, Johnathon." she said slowly as she waved. "Goodnight."
Johnathon seemed to figure it out, waving back. "Goodnight Cheerilee!" he said with a grin.
Cheerilee smiled. "Oh, he's a smart one...." she turned to Fluttershy, you said he's an archeologist?"
Fluttershy nodded helpfully. "That's right." she smiled. "Thank you so much for all your help, Miss Cheerilee." she said gratefully. "I don't know if I could have helped him with that last book at all."
Cheerilee smiled again. "Well, helping young minds grow is my special talent, after all." she said with a smile. "Although in this case, I suppose simply an open mind." she nodded at the yellow pegasus. "Well, goodnight Fluttershy. I should get going. I do have school in the morning, after all."
Fluttershy hesitated. "Pinkie Pie is throwing a party for Johnathon tomorrow, I think. Do you think you'd like to come? I don't think Johnathon would mind."
Cheerilee smiled. "I'd love to come. Do you know when or where?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Actually, no. If I see Pinkie, I'll ask her to tell you, alright?"
Cheerile grinned. "I can probably ask one of my students. The Crusaders in particular seem to be quite fascinated by your guest."
Fluttershy nodded. "I really can't blame them. He's the first human any pony has seen for... for over a thousand years, I guess."
"I suppose I'm a bit fascinated as well." Cheerilee admitted. "I was a bit nervous about coming to see him, but when the girls wanted to bring him those text books, well... I had to see what was going on for myself." she nodded at Johnathon, who nodded back, uncomprehendingly. "He seems like a nice fellow. It'll be nice when we can speak in more than just a word or two at a time though."
Fluttershy nodded her agreement. "He is nice." she said simply.
Cheerilee smiled and turned to go. "Well, thank you for dinner, Fluttershy. If Johnathon wants some more help later, I'd be happy to give him another lesson. It's nice when a student is that dedicated."
When the purple earth pony had gone, Fluttershy turned to find Johnathon Dwire yawning and stretching. "Oh my... you must be tired. You do seem to be doing a whole lot better though. Has your headache been back?" she tapped her own head, looking at him, and made a fake grimace.
Johnathon blinked, then smiled, shaking his head. "No." He told her in equestrian, having picked up the words for "yes" and "no" several hours before.
Fluttershy found herself yawning as well, and started cleaning up the kitchen. Johnathon was quick to help, clearing the books and papers off the table and stacking them relatively neatly on the small living room table.
Before long, the yellow Pegasus headed up to bed, and, with a sigh, Johnathon did as well, going to the couch to try and let himself wind down from what had been a surprisingly fun, if stressful day.
"I wonder how much good those notes will do me after Twilight casts her spell on me again?" he asked himself quietly. "Cheerilee seemed very nice. I wonder if she's a teacher or something? Probably. Applebloom and those other two fillies seemed to know her well. Probably their teacher." he smiled broadly. "Wow... that Applebloom. I have to say I'm impressed. That's a filly that thinks on her feet... er... hooves." he nodded. "Applejack must be pretty proud to have a little sister like that. I know I would be."
He let his eyes close, and found they were heavier than he had realized. Sleep came easily, although his dreams were vivid and strange that night.