The little boy just sighed, his deadpan expression completely out of sync with his otherwise cherubic face.
“Took you long enough.”
“But... What…? How…? … You’re tiny!” Pinkie Pie cried out, the recent revelation exploding inside her head and causing her eyes to bulge like a bullfrog.
“So it would seem,” Graves shrugged, the oversized T-shirt slipping off one shoulder as he did. “I shrank. Or de-aged. Something like that.”
“Well I’ll be,” Applejack breathed in disbelief, “If that don’t jess beat all. Why, yer no bigger 'n knee-high to a grasshopper!”
“Yeah, you’re puny!” Rainbow Dash snickered, walking over so she could pat him on the head. “I guess I should stop calling you Big G, and start calling you Baby G!”
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t,” the mini marshal grimaced, his childish voice doing nothing to lend his request weight. Naturally, the tomboy simply ignored him and continued patting his head, grinning like the Cheshire cat as if his noggin were an immensely amusing bouncy ball.
“Oh, please don’t do that,” Fluttershy pleaded as she fidgeted behind the cyan flier. “You need to be gentle with small creatures: they don’t like it when you hit them.”
“So I’m a creature now,” the little boy muttered darkly. “Great.”
“Marshal, you know Fluttershy didn’t mean anything by that,” Rarity smiled as she swatted Rainbow Dash’s offending hand away. “I think we’re all just a little taken aback at your… dramatic makeover.”
“Yeah, how’d it happen anyway?” Pinkie Pie asked, literally bouncing in curiosity. “Last time we saw you, you were old, and I’ve never heard of an old person getting un-olded before. Hmm, un-olded. Is that a word? Olded? Un-olded? Olded? Un-olded?”
“I’ll let Twilight answer that,” Graves interjected before the tangent-prone baker could build up momentum. “Miss Sparkle, if you would?” The sweater-vested girl grinned sheepishly.
“Yeah, so it seems like I kind of maybe, possibly turned the marshal into a little kid. It was all by accident, of course,” she hastily added.
“Accident?” Applejack repeated. “Well how in tarnation do you ‘accidentally’ turn somebody into a little kid?”
“Well, it’s actually kind of a funny story…”
Earlier that Day:
“Twilight? You wanted to see me?”
“Graves! You made it!” the young librarian beamed as she flew around the room jotting notes, grabbing books, and mixing potions. “Thank you so much for coming today! I really needed your help with an experiment.”
“Er, what kind of experiment?” the marshal asked hesitantly. He hadn’t had many encounters with magical research and development, but the ones he had had been… interesting to say the least.
“Well, a while back,” she began, now tweaking a beaker giving off sparkling purple smoke, “I found one of Starswirl the Bearded’s spells for time travel. Problem was, it only let you travel back for less than a minute, and even then, it could only be used once.”
“That got me to thinking: was there a way to improve the spell? You know, make it last longer, multiple uses, those kinds of things. So I got to experimenting and I think I may have done it!”
“Great. So what do you need me for?” Graves asked, the hairs on the back of his neck starting to tingle. Twilight’s hesitant smile did nothing to assuage his worries.
“Okay, hear me out on this,” she said cautiously. “I’ve already used the spell, and I haven’t quite figured out the multi-use part yet. Spike’s a Salamander, which means he’s too magically resistant for a test run. So–”
“You want to use me as a guinea pig,” the marshal sighed wearily: he should have known.
“Please?” the little bookworm begged, her eyes big and sparkly with pleading intent. “I’m 99.8% sure that it’s safe, and I’m 99.995% sure that if anything happens, I can reverse it: it’s an experiment, so I’m only conducting it with low level power, which is why I can’t use Spike.”
“So you decided to ask me?” he asked incredulously, the precision of her odds making him even warier than before.
“I need someone who can tell me how it went,” she smiled, a faint blush in her cheeks, “and I thought that a tough, ready-for-anything marshal would be the best bet?”
Graves almost smiled at that: compliments to butter him up. Still, regardless of ill-attempted flattery or not, he did owe her: after all, it had been Twilight who’d magically levitated the entire landslide out of the way to extract Rarity and him out of the cave. And besides, refusing a girl with more raw power than any spell caster, shaman, or sorcerer in the last thousand years - minus the princesses of course - was probably not the best idea.
“Only once, right?” he finally agreed, already sure he was going to regret his decision.
“Yes! Oh thank you thank you thank you!” Twilight squealed as she jumped around clapping her hands in delight. “Okay, you just stay there: I’ll get everything ready and we’ll get going right away!”
With a wave of her wand, a purple glow appeared on the ground and magic runes and circles began to form. The same lilac aura surrounded the various beakers of potion as they further traced the lines on the floor in magical brew.
“Okay, so here’s what’s going to happen,” Twilight announced while flipping through her notes. “I’m going to send you back in time sixteen minutes: I’ve also added in a teleportation spell so you end up on the second floor. Spike’s been up there all morning, so he’ll be there to take notes on anything you notice in transit. Any questions?”
“Just one,” Graves said. “Why sixteen?”
“Time seems to like multiples of twos,” Twilight shrugged. “Can’t say why.”
“Huh. Well I’ll be.”
“Alright, so are we ready to go?” the young librarian eagerly asked. The marshal sighed
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Great! Then here we go!”
Violet lightning crackled around Twilight as she began charging energy for the task. The runes on the ground began to glow, each arcane symbols shining with a different color till the whole room shone like a rainbow. The humming of contained power grew to a deafening pitch till finally, eyes glowing with pure white light, Twilight unleashed the spell.
One blinding flash of light later, Graves was gone. It’s important to note however, that this quite literally meant that only the marshal was gone, meaning he had left behind some rather important souvenirs.
“Oh boy, I think I might have missed something,” Twilight grimaced, picking up the marshal’s hat and pants from where they lay on the floor. “This… was not supposed to happen.”
“Uh, Twilight?” Spikes voice called from the top of the stairs, “You said Graves was coming over to help you out, right?”
“Yeah? Why?” she called back, a sinking feeling appearing in the pit of her stomach.
“…I think you’re gonna wanna see for yourself.”
“Which brings us to here and now,” Twilight finished. “Or at least, until I sent Spike over to Rarity’s. Then you guys show up. So I guess it does take us right to now.”
“I still don’t get it,” Applejack frowned, brow furrowed in confusion. “How’d yeh go get a time travel spell to turn the marshal into a little kid?”
“Well Applejack,” Twilight began, unable to resist giving a lecture despite the circumstance, “I believe it has to do with the runes I used. A small transcription error translated sixteen minutes into sixteen years, and by using the subjunctive on the line on Conjuring and Conflux instead of the indicative, I temporally altered his physical form instead of physically altering his temporal status.”
“…So, in English?” Applejack asked again. Twilight sighed.
“I messed up the spell and time got all… wobbly. So, Graves is now a little kid.” The other girls stood around, just blinking, till Rainbow Dash finally shrugged.
“Meh, works for me.”
“Well, what do we do now?” Fluttershy asked Twilight, though the little boy drew her eyes like a lodestone drew iron dust: her love of all things adorable was making it very hard to concentrate. “I mean, Mr. Graves is very cute and all, but I doubt he wants to stay like this and have to grow up a second time.”
“Go through puberty twice?” the marshal shuddered. “No thanks.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t have to,” the librarian assured him, flicking her wand and summoning over half a dozen texts that she seemed to read simultaneously. “It’ll take a bit of doing, but I should be able to rewrite the spell and completely reverse it, bringing you back to your normal age.”
“And… how long's that gonna take?” Spike asked dubiously: he knew where he’d be through the entire process.
“A few hours at most,” Twilight answered as she waved her wand again and began mixing various levitating bottles of potion. “If all goes according to plan – and it should this time – I’ll have the reversal spell ready by this afternoon.”
“Great,” Graves nodded, his shirt almost slipping off again. “What do I do till then?”
“Ooh, ooh, pick me! Pick me!” Pinkie Pie called out as she frantically waved her arm in the air. Twilight just gave her a curious look.
“Um… okay. Pinkie?”
“How about we babysit him for you?” she grinned, her smile splitting her face like a ripe melon. “We could totally take Baby G around town and keep him out of trouble while you work!”
At first, everyone joined in staring at Pinkie Pie as they always did when she went off on one of her crazy tangents. However, one by one the girls all broke out into the same, mischievous smiles as they each caught on to the idea.
“First, don’t call me that,” the little boy grimaced, oblivious to the grins passing above his head: he wasn’t used to having to look up to people. “And second, I’m older than you: I can take care of myself.”
“You were older than us,” Rarity corrected as she schooled her face into a serene smile. “And as odd as that was to say, since you are currently a child, I’m afraid you will have to be treated as such.”
“What?” Graves sputtered, though it came out more like a squeak, “but… you know me: I don’t need a babysitter!”
“Normally, I’d believe yeh,” Applejack said, her grin now tweaked to look apologetic, “but it’d just break mah heart if we let such a cute little feller like you run off 'n get hurt.”
“Oh my, yes,” Fluttershy agreed in a tone suitable for placating newborns, “We wouldn’t want you to get any bumpy wumpies on your adowable widdle head, now would we?”
“Yeah, totally,” Rainbow Dash snorted, “bumpy wumpies on your… adowable…widdle…” the cyan flyer couldn’t contain it anymore and burst out into peals of raucous laughter.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Unable to contain themselves any more, the other four girls all burst out into side splitting laughter as well. Graves just stared at them – tears streaming and sides clutched – as shock spread all over his ‘adowable’ little face.
“I don’t believe this,” he gaped. “You’re actually enjoying this.”
“Aw, it’s not like that, sugar cube,” Applejack wheezed in a very unconvincing manner. “We jess figured that given a mighty peculiar situation like this, we might as well have fun with it.”
“Depends on what you mean by fun,” the mini marshal mumbled sullenly, which simply prompted Fluttershy to pick him up in a big, squishy hug.
“Well it looks like somebody’s getting grumpy wumpy,” she cooed in the same infantile tone as before. “Maybe you should take a nap before we go play, hmm?”
“No!” Graves screeched, tiny arms flailing as he futilely fought to escape Fluttershy’s expertly inescapable embrace. “No nap times, no babysitting, no nothing! You can’t do this to me!”
“So where should we take the little guy first?” Rainbow Dash asked, completely ignoring the little boy’s protests.
“Ooh, can we go to my boutique?” Rarity jumped in eagerly. “This is the perfect opportunity to try out my hand at making children’s clothes, and I have the perfect idea on how to dress up little Gravy Wavy.”
Good lord, it was getting worse.
“Twilight, please,” Graves implored with horror stricken eyes. “You can’t let them take me away!” His cries fell on deaf ears, however, as the young scholar was already lost in her work.
“Alrighty then!” Pinkie Pie cheered as she led the charge towards the door. “Next stop, Rarity’s shop and Baby G’s adorable new duds!”
The very young marshal’s last lingering cries were cut off as the door to the library finally closed. For a moment, Spike contemplated the door and thought of going after them. Then he simply shrugged.
“Hey, better him than me.”
And with that, he went to help Twilight with her work.