• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 7,661 Views, 342 Comments

Alienation - Longtooth



I am not Twilight Sparkle. We share one body, one past, but not our souls. I do not know why I am here, or why I have done these terrible things. This is my story.

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Spike had his own room in the hospital. It was as much for the safety of others as it was for his comfort, his fire-breath could come at inopportune times and would be a real issue if it hit some of the equipment monitoring another pony. I stood outside that room for a long time, willing myself the courage to go in.

After everything I've done, after everything I've see, this is still what gets to me. Spike didn't deserve what happened to him, and her certainly didn't deserve it being done by what he thought was the pony he trusted most. Spike... he really deserves better. Maybe he'll understand that, someday. Maybe...

Getting ahead of myself again. I was telling you about seeing him in the hospital. When I finally managed to force myself into the room, he was awake. He was covered in bandages, a little chubby mummy with claws. One of his arms hadn't been broken and he was using it to scratch at the edges of one of those bandages as I came in. When he saw me his eyes lit up and he smiled the widest, most innocent smile...

He's a baby dragon, but Spike's not a baby. His mind developed a lot faster than his body, and being around ponies his whole life has given him a maturity that others of his kind don't reach for centuries. That makes it so easy to forget that for all of that, he's still a child.

He looked at me with that childish innocence and called Twilight's name. There was no anger there, no recrimination. He didn't blame her.

He didn't blame me.

Shut up. Shut up! I'm allowed to cry. I'm allowed. So you can take that laughter and shove it!

...I'm okay now. It's just... things only get worse from here.

Spike called Twilight's name, and I rushed over to him, put my head on the bed beside him, and bawled like a foal. He combed my mane with his one good claw and tried to make me feel better. The kid in the body cast was trying to make the adult who put him there feel better. How's that for irony, huh?

Or compassion. It's something I struggle with. I want it, but it always seems I have so little to give. Fluttershy may be the bearer of Kindness, but for me? Spike was the really kind one.

When I'd calmed down, we actually managed to have a conversation. I apologized profusely, of course, but he waved it all away. He said that if I didn't know exactly why it happened, then I should probably find out. Heh, he was completely on board with the Canterlot plan, too.

"Wow, Twilight, abandoning the library for weeks? You really must need it," he said.

"Well, the library does have a big hole in it," I demurred.

"Never stopped you before." I didn't really have an answer to that. "So, what'cha planning on doing in Canterlot?"

I shrugged. "Visit my parents, do research in the library..."

Spike threw up his working arm. "Come on, Twi! This is your first vacation in, like, ever, that doesn't involve looming disaster. Don't tell me you're not going to do anything fun!"

I contemplated this for a moment. "Well..."

"Yeah!" He leaned forward, eyes wide and eager to hear more.

"I've been thinking... maybe, um, maybe I should explore some of the nightlife in Canterlot. You know... um, restaurants?"

"And!" he prompted, sensing there was more.

"And... bars?"

"And!"

"Dance... clubs?"

"Holy cow, Twilight!" Spike crowed, grinning. "Are you sure you're not the one who was hit by the table?"

"Pretty sure."

"Oh gosh!" He looked around frantically. "Why is there never a scroll and quill around when you need it!"

I blinked at him in confusion. "Why would you want a scroll?" A sudden chill went down my back as I imagined him writing a letter to Celestia, exposing me as an impostor.

"I gotta make a list, Twi! I gotta make a list of all the places you should go party at!"

My fear drained away as my confusion increased. "What? But you never went out to clubs or anything, right?"

"No, too young," Spike sighed. "But I hung out with college ponies, Twilight! I know all the best places! Moondancer always said she'd take me as soon as I was, you know, legal drinking age."

"Can you even get drunk?" I wondered aloud. I hadn't meant to, really, but the thought slipped out there. I was genuinely curious. Spike's draconic physiology made his reactions to chemicals hard to predict. I keep flashing back to Fluttershy making him swallow a whole hoof full of high-powered pain pills. Theoretically Spike can get drunk, but the amount of alcohol needed would almost certainly kill a pony, and would be way more than his stomach and bladder can handle in standard liquor concentrations. The interactions with his fire-breathing would be... spectacular. I'm not going to induce a minor to drink to intoxication, but wow do I want to find a slightly older dragon and feed them a couple barrels of good quality booze just to see if their fire does what I think it would do. No practical applications for it, of course, I'm just curious.

The funny thing about that little ramble there? I said it out loud.

"Wow, Twi, I didn't know you were that interested," Spike said, tapping his chin. "What do you think it would do to my fire?"

"I have no idea," I lied. "So you think you know all the good places?"

"I'm sure I do," he said.

"Well, then, we need some paper! Spike, let's make me a night-out checklist!"

So I got some paper and a quill and started writing down all the things Spike knew about clubbing in Canterlot. Which was a lot. I don't think... no, I know he didn't understand many of the things he was telling me. He was just repeating the slang terms and descriptions he'd heard from overenthusiastic students at Canterlot University. There were some things... I can't believe they talked about this stuff around him. Places to get drugs, places to have quick sex without being bothered, how much to pay and what questions to ask to find 'private' shows... Spike had the keys to a whole world of debauchery in his head, and all he knew about it was that they were places ponies went to dance and have fun.

I’m kind of glad he had no idea. He wouldn’t have understood the taboo nature of it, and he might have blabbed it where the wrong ears would hear. Or worse, asked Twilight about it. If he'd done that then I know I wouldn't exist, because Twilight would have died from embarrassment a long time ago. Heck, if it weren’t for my having spent the past few nights in the company of Heather and Berry Punch’s encyclopedic knowledge of alcoholic beverages, I would probably have died a little myself.

As it was, I just ended up taking notes. A lot of notes.

By the time he was done, I had a small stack of ideas to go and be naughty with in my free time. Spike was excited, making me promise to take pictures and tell him all about these places he’d heard about but never been able to get into. I had no problems lying about that, though I resolved to give him any of the details that wouldn’t be… um… scandalous.

Spike’s excitement is infectious. Most of Twilight’s friends have qualities that seem to spread from them, subtly influencing everyone around them. Spike’s excitement, Pinkie’s unholy cheerfulness, Dash’s confidence. They radiate these things like bonfires give off heat. I’m especially receptive to them, picking up the emotions and letting them blaze in me too. Even with Pinkie, though she grates on me horribly, if I spend enough time around her I can’t help but have my mood lifted. With Spike it’s like everything we talk about becomes a wondrous thing, ripe with adventure and possibility. And Dash… I can bask forever in that absolute certainty, that courage and determination and…

Off topic. Sorry, it’s early and I’ve been up all night. What this just boils down to is that the more Spike and I talked about this trip, the better it all seemed to me. Which was good, since it had been a mad whim and I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

You see, at this point I was lost in my own ignorance. I’d figured out some of who I was, but it wasn’t a picture of the complete person, just a sketchy outline so I knew where the edges were. But that barely told me anything important. I was defining myself through contrast with memories that weren’t my own. My whole existence consisted of negatives. Twilight is this, but I am not. Twilight was that, but I am not. I’d barely begun the groping, blind struggle to learn something positive about myself, something that didn’t rely on testing against the memories of a different mare. I didn’t know it at the time, too caught up in the emotion and ennui of it all to notice, but what I was really missing was something that serves as the lynchpin in making us who we are: a purpose.

A lot of ponies would say that they don’t have a purpose. A lot would say that they are always searching for it, that perfect goal, guided by their cutie marks and their special talents towards some imagined ultimate destiny. Of course, that just means that most ponies don’t have a clue what the word ‘purpose’ means. They have their purposes, their desires and their goals. They just refer to that as ‘living their lives’ and refuse to recognize it for what it is because it isn’t unusual enough to catch their attention.

To this point my purpose had been discovering who I was. But self-discovery can only take you so far. ‘Who am I’ as a purpose will stall out fairly quickly, falling into circular logic and a lack of anything to work with. Eventually you’re going to need to ask ‘what am I doing?’ That is a better question to ask, but still not where you want to be. No, the real goal is to get to ‘why am I doing it?’ Once you start asking that question, then you can really find the answer to ‘who am I’, because who we are, ultimately, is the reason why we do what we do. But you have to be doing something in order for the question to have meaning.

I wasn’t doing anything. I was marking time, fumbling around and being inquisitive but without drive and without focus. I needed a purpose, one that would get me active, working. I needed to be passionate about something.

I didn’t think this at the time. I didn’t even realize that I’d been so idle. I thought I was making tremendous progress, and the trip to Canterlot was just a way to do that without tripping over Twilight Sparkle every time I turned around. Yet, a purpose was what I was looking for, and like all things in those days I think I was turning to Twilight’s memories to inform me what I should do.

Twilight found her first purpose in watching Celestia raise the sun. It had ignited in her a passion for power that drove her to become the emotionally stunted, neurotic powerhouse she ended up as. Yes, power. She would couch it in different terms, of course, but that was what she was really after. She wanted knowledge, she wanted magic. She wanted to impress Celestia. She wanted power. It’s just her luck that she happens to be the most magically talented unicorn since the days of Starswirl the Bearded.

She found her second purpose in the defeat of Nightmare Moon and the discovery of the magic of friendship. It enthralled her like no power before or since. To have friends, other ponies relying on her, her relying on them… Well, words fail me there. I’d just end up sounding like one of those friendship reports she used to write Celestia. The point is that this purpose started in the same place her dedication to learning and power started: Canterlot.

Twilight’s memories were telling me that the place to find one’s calling was Canterlot, so that’s where I instinctively knew I had to go. I would find the key to myself there, somewhere in the narrow streets and spires of that shining place. And with Spike’s list, I was going to have a whole lot of fun doing it.

“So, you’re leaving right away?” Spike asked when I’d told him I had more than enough to occupy myself in Canterlot.

“Princess Celestia’s taking me back with her,” I said. “I just don’t want to spend more time in the library until I’ve got some solid ground under my hooves, you know?”

“I guess,” he said, but I could tell he didn’t really understand. “I’m gonna be stuck here for at least a week. Will you write to me? Tell me how it’s going?”

I nodded, smiling as warmly as I could manage and holding back tears. If our positions had been reversed I would be mad with jealousy… and just mad, I guess. I don’t take getting hit by loved ones as well as Spike does. Not. At. All. “Of course I’ll write,” I said. “Every day, when I get the chance. Even if it’s only to say how sorry I am.”

“Come on, Twilight! You don’t have to keep apologizing! I forgive you already.”

“I know, but I haven’t forgiven myself.” Ah, the sappy things we say. I meant it, though. I still haven’t forgiven myself. It’s important that I don’t. I need that shame, that guilt to keep me grounded.

“I’m gonna miss you,” he said, giving me a little one-armed hug.

“With Rarity fawning all over you?” I laughed at the image. He blushed hard enough that you could see the color right through his scales. Which shouldn’t, technically, be possible. Still happened.

“I didn’t say it was going to be all bad,” he said. “Just that I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” I said. Again, surprisingly, I meant it. Spike is a fixture in Twilight’s memories. He’s always around. Always has been since she got her cutie mark. Whether being in the background while she took her first lessons with Celestia, or as a permanent fixture in her rooms as her assistant, he’s been there for her. I wasn’t going to miss him like she would have, of course, but in a more nostalgic sense. He’s a part of the only past I know, an integral part. He’s also very important to my life, though not in the same way.

“And you’ll tell me everything that happens in those clubs, right?” he demanded, eager excitement back in his voice.

“Pinkie promise,” I said, carefully not going through the motions or saying the words, to avoid actually having to follow through. “You get better quickly, okay? Maybe you can join me in Canterlot.”

He snorted. “Are you kidding me? I’m getting all the free ice cream with gem shavings I can handle here. I’m going to milk it for everything it’s worth! I’ll be on crutches until it’s not even believable anymore!” We laughed at that. It was a joke with only a drop of truth to it, no more. “Are you going to invite any of the others to join you?”

“Well, I wouldn’t pull Rarity away from her job here.”

“But she loves Canterlot! And she always gets more business whenever she goes there.”

“I meant her job of doting over you, you silly little dragon,” I said, bopping him on the nose.

He blushed again, rubbing at his nose. “Jeeze, Twi. I’ve got a crush on her, but I’m not that pathetic.”

I giggled at that. “Sure you aren’t. No, I wasn’t planning on inviting any of my friends up. I need this time for me. But, you know, maybe once I check out this list I might decide I need to share it.”

“I hope you do,” he said. “Take it easy, Twilight. Relax. Enjoy yourself!”

“I will, I promise,” I said, and took my leave.

I felt a lot better leaving the hospital than I had going in. Lighter. Emotional catharsis, talking things over, confronting my fears, the magic of friendship. Call it what you want, it was exactly what I needed. Celestia was waiting for me by her carriage, her mane glowing with the light of dusk as she gently guided the sun to its rest. Twilight’s friends were arrayed beside it. A gauntlet I’d have to pass through before I could make my escape from Ponyville.

“Are you ready to go, Twilight?” she asked.

“Yes, Princess,” I replied, as proper as her true student had ever been. I turned to Twilight’s friends. “So, uh… I’ll be back.”

“Take care, sugarcube,” Applejack said with a tip of her hat.

“Yeah, don’t study too hard, or whatever,” Dash said next. “Remember to get out of whatever library you end up in, too. It would suck if you just did the same thing there that you were doing here.”

“I won’t shut myself in, I promise,” I said.

“Will you write?” Pinkie asked, with a wide-eyed bounce.

“To Spike,” I said quickly. “And I’m adopting a one-letter a day policy.”

“Oh! Oh! Will you take pictures of all the stuff you eat because food is an important part of feeling better, and then you can send it to us with commentary so that we know what you’re eating and if it’s healthy or not and if we should try out the same places when we visit Canterlot because we absolutely will once you’re feeling better and we can throw a ‘glad you’re feeling better’ party and we can have all the best stuff you ate while you were getting better so you can feel even better-er!”

“Sounds great,” I said, turning to the next pony in line. Which happened to be Rarity. Joy.

“Oh, Twilight, darling, I’m so sorry all this happened to you,” she said, and my smile grew more fake by the word. “If ever you need anything during your stay in Canterlot, such as the name of a good spa or mane-dresser’s… or a place to buy a decent dress… or–”

“I know who to ask,” I said, taking her by the hoof and wondering if it was possible to have an insincerity contest between us, and who would win. “Thank you, Rarity. I’ll keep an eye out for any interesting fashions I see.”

She caught on that I wasn’t genuine, I think, but her eyes brightened at the promise of fashion news direct from the capital. “Thank you, Twilight. And I’m sure that you will resolve whatever you need to as soon as possible.”

I didn’t reply to that, but nodded and turned to the last pony in line. Fluttershy watched me with her characteristic quiet. “I, um, have fun, Twilight,” she said, smiling sheepishly at me.

I drew her into a tight hug. She let out a strangled ‘eep’, but soon relaxed into the embrace. “Thanks for helping Spike,” I said. “I owe you one.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I hope you’re okay.”

“I will be,” I said, letting her go. I stood so I faced all of them at once. “Well, um, see you guys in two weeks?” Yeah, it was an awful farewell line, but even Twilight can’t come up with a speech on the spot every time.

“Come along, Twilight, we have far to fly,” Celestia said, and together we stepped onto the chariot. The two pegasi guards began to pull us away from Ponyville, and all of Twilight’s friends waved and cheered their goodbyes.

I waved back, but I couldn’t put my heart into it. My attention was caught by the city on the mountain, just beginning to be lit for the coming night. Everything was going to change soon, and I was eager for it. It was time to find my purpose.

Author's Note:

True word count: 16,832. Days 1-11 covered.