“This is the place? Are you serious?”
“As serious as a suicide. My suicide.”
“It doesn’t look like anyone is home.”
“Only if I’m lucky.”
Appleloosa was not a city. It wasn’t even really a town. In fact, I’d entertain an argument that Appleloosa was a village or a municipality. The point is, the place was tiny compared to Canterlot. Being a city girl myself, I instantly despised the hot, arid, homesey feel of the desert settlement. I knew Spike agreed with me, I could see it on his face. Yet, for some reason he refused to share with the group, this was the only place we could go.
Over the thirteen hour drive, I’d managed to calm down considerably. I borrowed Spike’s laptop to check on Shining, and it seemed that he would be fine. Relatively speaking. The man did take a large bullet to the back at an age when he really had no business doing things like that. Still, Shining was tough (as I would soon learn, Appleloosans would compare his toughness to a “$2 steak”). He would persevere, just like I would. All we had to do was rest, calm down, and get back into the swing of things.
We parked outside of a music shop.
“Seriously, what are we doing here?” asked Dash. “I’m majorly lost.”
“Just… Get out of the van and get inside,” said Spike. “Hopefully, they’re not home yet.” He shepherded us out of the van, tossing Dash and Scootaloo a bag on their way out. He exited last, clutching his laptop as if it was the only thing keeping him alive.
We entered the dusty, decrepit, dilapidated music shop, trying our best not to inhale any dust or asbestos that may have lingered in the air. It looked as though the owner had left in a hurry; violins and sheet music littered the ground, and there was a grand piano near the back of the room, completely untouched. Strangely, it didn’t have a layer of dirt and dust on it, like most other things in the shop. It was clean.
Spike handed me his laptop, then sat down at the piano. He began to play a song I recognized.
“Since when could you play piano?” asked Scootaloo.
“Since never. I only know the one song.”
“You’re playing it wrong,” I said. He glared at me, but didn’t stop playing. “Well, you are. That’s The Gift of Music, right? It’s mostly there, but a few notes are out of place.”
“I know,” said Spike. He finished the song with another incorrect note. The wall next to the piano pushed inward, letting out a small puff of air, then slid to the right to reveal a ladder leading down.
“Well, this feels like home,” I said. “May I?”
“Please.” Spike was starting to sound more and more panicked as time went on, which wasn’t good. If he wasn’t comfortable in what he himself described as the only place we could turn, I needed to know why so I could fix it.
I made my way down the ladder, which dumped me into a long, narrow corridor. I slowly and quietly marched all the way down and pushed open the door at the end. The room I then entered was similar to my own at the laundromat, but not the same. There was no giant monitor or War Map, but there was a wall of telephones and computers. Instead of a chess board, there was a dart board near the back left corner. To the right was a decent-sized kitchen area, with a fridge, stove, oven, and what appeared to be an ice cream machine. The left wall had several doors, which I assumed led to some sort of sleeping quarters.
“Anyone else feeling a little deja vu-ish?” I asked.
Before I could turn to check on the Crew, I felt a knife press against my throat, digging into my flesh slightly. I froze, then slowly turned to see my assailant. Her skin, the bit I could see, was like porcelain, shining white to an almost blinding degree. Her eyes were bright blue, like sapphires, and her hair was long, shiny, and tied back into a purple ponytail. What I noticed most, however, was her mask.
It didn’t cover her whole face like a Mythos mask, but I immediately understood that to be a stylistic choice. It rested on her nose, covering everything beneath her eyes. It seemed whiter than her skin, if that was possible, and it had the image of a spider’s pincers etched onto it. It looked almost tribal, but with a distinct caution and patience to it. Raw, refined, rough, neat, terrifying, and beautiful, all at once.
I was smitten immediately.
“Hello, gorgeous,” I whispered. My assailant tilted her head, then pressed her knife a bit more forcefully into my neck.
“I’m flattered, really, but I’m afraid I don’t swing that way,” she said. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I was talking to the mask. Did you make it yourself?”
“Jesus Christ, Widow!” shouted Spike. “She’s with me! I told you I was coming!” As soon as she heard Spike’s voice, Widow removed her knife and slipped it into the pocket of skintight black bodysuit she was wearing. She pulled off her mask and flashed me her pearly whites.
“A friend of Spike’s? Why didn’t you say so!”
Spike pushed past me, followed by Dash and Scootaloo. Still slightly mesmerised by the mask, I took a few moments to compose myself before properly entering the room. Spike seemed to be standing as far away from Widow as humanly (draconically, I suppose) possible. If Widow minded, she didn’t show it.
“Introductions are in order,” said Widow. “I am your host, and you may call me Widow.”
“As in Black?” I asked. Widow scoffed, giggling slightly to herself.
“Oh, please, with my complexion?” She looked down at her hand, which was practically glowing in the light. “If you must do the full name thing, it’s White Widow.”
“Medusa,” I said. “Charmed. What I said about your mask, I meant it. If you made that yourself, I’m impressed.”
“Why, thank you. Not many appreciate how much time and effort it takes to craft something so intricate. Spike never did.”
“We were doing introductions, right?” said Spike. He didn’t seem to want Widow to talk. “This is Dash, and her little sister, Scootaloo. And Medusa is Twilight. We don’t need to do the whole codename thing with Widow, she’s cool.”
“Then why do you keep calling her Widow?” asked Dash.
“Because that’s how Spikey shows affection,” said Widow. She looked to Scootaloo. “How old are you, miss?”
“Uh… Fifteen,” said Scootaloo nervously.
“I figured as much. I have a sister your age. She should be popping in any moment now, I’m sure you’ll get right along. Ms. Twilight, it is a pleasure to meet you, and an honor to be able to live with the famous Mythos Crew.”
I stood in stunned silence until Spike introduced his elbow to my ribs.
“Sorry. I’m still stuck on ‘Spikey’,” I said. “The pleasure is all mine, however… I can’t say I’ve heard of you, and I know all of Spike’s friends. He’s never mentioned you.”
“Look, we’re all tired from the drive over,” said Spike, a visible sheen of sweat on his face. “Maybe we should all call it in early and start this back up in the morning?”
“I’m not surprised,” said Widow, completely ignoring Spike. “He likely didn’t want you trying to compete with me.”
“Compete with you?” I asked. “Why would I compete with you?
“Well, it would only be natural for us to butt heads.” Widow smiled, although it seemed that her smile was much like her mask; false, feral, and terrifying to lesser mortals. “Jealousy, you know.”
“No, seriously, I could really do with a good night’s sleep,” said Spike. I glared at my partner, which had an effect similar to turning him to stone.
“Of course. Though, you should know, I am not one to hold a grudge. I know when I have been bested, and I am big enough to accept my defeat,” said Widow through gritted teeth. “I just didn’t think Spike had a taste for older women.”
I tried really hard not to let that get under my skin.
“I beg your pardon?” I said, rasing an eyebrow. Widow seemed to only then realize what she had said, and raised her hands defensively.
“Oh, no, no, no, I meant no offense at all! You’re quite beautiful, you look great for your age,” said Widow, though I was positive she had no clue how old I was. “I just meant… Spike is a man’s man. He likes beer and sports cars and… Well, you just seemed to be outside of his target demographic.”
“For the record, I don’t drink beer anymore,” said Spike weakly.
“Miss, I think you may be confused,” I said, piecing everything together. “Spike is like my brother. A brother who has some explaining to do.” I turned to face him, and he shrunk down a bit. “Spike? This Widow woman wouldn’t happen to be your girlfriend, would she?”
“What? P-please, of course not,” said Spike. A bit quieter (but not quiet enough) he added, “Not anymore.”
“So we’re bunking with Spike’s ex-girlfriend?” asked Dash. “That’s gonna be…”
“Awkward?” suggested Scootaloo.
“I was gonna say ‘interesting’, but what you said is probably good, too.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” said Widow. “I’m not Spike’s ex-girlfriend. Heavens, no.” Spike let out a sigh of relief.
“See?” he said. “Why would I hide something like that from you? Honestly, Twi, you should have more—”
“I’m his ex-wife,” finished Widow.
Spike later described the instant as the scariest moment in his entire life. I thought I was handling everything pretty well, considering, but I was apparently glaring at him quite ferociously. And clenching my fist. And grinding my teeth. It’s funny what details you miss in the heat of the moment.
“Spike? A word, please,” I said through gritted teeth. I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him over a bit.
“Twi?” he whispered. Later, he informed me that I stared at him with “the wrath of the old gods” in my eyes. “I can explain.”
“When Mythos fell apart, and we split up for a while, I ended up down south.” I remembered hearing that he was travelling, of course, but I never asked specifics. If he wanted to share, he would have. “I… I got lonely, okay? And it was supposed to be a one time thing, but… We ended up really liking each other. A lot.”
“And you fell in love. Can’t fault you for that,” I said. “But why didn’t you tell me?” I thought about it for a few seconds. “Scratch that, why did you two split up?”
“You called me. You told me about the plan to break out Moondancer and Lyra. I couldn’t let you do it alone,” he said. “She couldn’t come with me, I couldn’t stay down here, it just wouldn’t have worked. We decided to walk away on good terms.”
I was stunned. I never knew that Spike had anyone like Widow in his life. Sure, he was a grown dragon with needs, but I never really thought about it. Like I said, I viewed Spike as my little brother. I guess I thought about him as too little. I never thought he’d get lonely.
“So, you threw away your marriage, your one true love…” I said. “For me.”
“It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Our jobs are too dangerous,” said Spike, though it sounded like he only said it to make me feel better. “We’d never be able to settle down. You’re the one who told me that dragons didn’t typically mingle outside of their species. That’s because we’re not compatible.”
“Spike, to hell with what I said.” I couldn’t believe it. He had a shot at true happiness, peace, and he gave it up to help me. And I’d repaid him by lying to him and getting him into the awful situation we were in.
“Look, I didn’t regret my choice then, and I don’t regret it now. If we were meant to be, we’d be,” he said firmly. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to start thinking it’s your fault. Also, I was scared of how you’d react if I told you that I had gotten married without your permission.”
“You think you need permission?”
“You’re scary as fuck, big sis.”
“Fair enough.” I actually chuckled a bit, which seemed to calm Spike down slightly. “So, the name Widow… Was that because you left?”
“Nah. A lot of her targets are men, so I used to joke that she was a widow-maker,” said Spike. “She liked the name, we ended up shortening it, and it stuck.”
“Yeah. She’s an assassin.”
Perhaps I’m not as sensitive as most, but I found that to be a bit more important than her history with Spike. I made it a personal rule of thumb not to bunk with hired killers. We generally didn’t get along. Rift was an exception, because he seemed to think of us as friends. I didn’t know Widow, and she already seemed to dislike me. I tried to calm myself down. Now that I knew the whole story, I could explain that Spike and I certainly did not have a romantic relationship, and she would drop her resentment.
“Let’s go mingle,” I said. We rejoined the little party, and Spike started over. He explained how he and I have known each other since we were children, and how he never mentioned me because he feared Widow’s jealousy. We shook hands, got back on the right foot, and she offered me a token of peace in the form of marshmallows.
When she said it, I was confused. I thought it might have been a euphemism for some sort of drug or something, but no. She meant the candy. She pulled a whole bag of jumbo marshmallows from her cabinet, the type you roast over a campfire, and offered me one.
“Marshmallows?” I asked, just to be certain. I took one, only popping it into my mouth after she ate one herself.
“Yes, ma’am, I have a bit of a weakness,” said Widow. “They’re almost pure sugar and not very good for you, but I love them nonetheless!” She ate another three before I had a chance to finish my one. “Oh, you want work, don’t you? Well, as far as robberies go, I don’t know how much I can do, but I can provide you with other jobs that should fit your skillset, if you just give me a day or two. If you like, you can make yourselves at home in any of the bedrooms save for the first and second. Each of you will have a room to yourself, if you so wish, and the one on the end is the bathroom.” She gestured extravagantly to each door as if she was offering us a chance to achieve our deepest desires. “We’ll have to share that, I’m afraid, but I’m sure we can make it work.”
“Thank you very much, Ms…” I realized I never heard her actual name. “I feel awkward calling you Widow, since you refer to us all by personal names.” Widow smiled, her eyes twinkling with what I thought might have been joy.
“Oh, of course. In the field, I am the White Widow,” she said, bowing her head. “But in privacy, you may call me Rarity. Charmed.”
“What was your first impression of the White Widow?”
“I hated her guts.”
“Really? And why is that?”
“Have you ever ordered a soda only to take a sip and realize that it was diet?”
The prosecutor didn’t really understand if Twilight was serious or not. She didn’t seem to have a habit of joking, but that could’ve changed in the last few minutes. Twilight was unpredictable like that. Just when he thought he knew what she would say next, she totally blindsided him.
“I… I suppose.”
“That feeling. That ‘something isn’t right but I don’t know what it is’ feeling,” said Twilight. “Rarity was that feeling incarnate. Everything about her made my skin crawl. The way she spoke, the way she acted, the way she thought. Something about her was off.”
“Perhaps you really were jealous.”
“Perhaps you really need to listen better,” snarled Twilight. “Ignoring blood and race, Spike is my little brother. A handsome little drake, but not someone I could ever be attracted to. He is my brother.”
“Like Brutus to Caesar,” said the prosecutor. Twilight grimaced, then laughed. She had to hand it to the guy. He set that up brilliantly.
“I suppose so.” Silence rose in the courtroom for a second, which Twilight took as her cue to take control. “That said, I cared about him. I didn’t voice my concerns, because I genuinely thought the two could reconnect. I just kept my mouth shut, worked, and watched Rarity.”
“What did you hope to see?”
“I hoped to see something I don’t think even Spike ever saw,” said Twilight, smiling darkly. “I hoped to see the mare behind the mask.”