• Published 16th Dec 2013
  • 1,472 Views, 81 Comments

Limited - Cynical

It didn't exactly start out as the best day for Twilight Sparkle, and that trend doesn't seem to be improving anytime soon.

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Chapter 3: Tomorrow Comes Today

She woke up to the feeling of her head trying to implode. She wasn’t surprised; it wasn’t that uncommon of late. A cursory glance to the clock beside her showed that it was 9:30 in the morning again. A further glance to the bedside table showed an absence of the scroll she’d left there last night.

She grimaced and fell back against the bed, waiting for the knock that would inevitably arrive. Soon enough, it came, and Twilight called out, “Come in.”

Spike entered the room with a tray of breakfast. “Morning, Twilight,” he said, “How’re you feeling?”

“The usual of late,” Twilight grumbled, more to herself than to Spike, “Aching and with the distinct sense of déjà vu.”

Spike walked up alongside the bed and laid the tray down in front of her with a flourish. “Bon appetite,” he said in a faux-accent, grinning slightly.

Twilight chuckled to herself and shook her head slightly at his antics. She had more important things to focus on for the time being… the marmalade on toast was a good start.

“No more pancakes?” she asked, almost certain that the answer would be…

“Well… about that,” Spike said bashfully, “We’re all out.”


Twilight sighed, thinking over what she could do. She wasn’t really in the mood to repeat the actions of her last few days again; telling your friends that you were going to die was rather draining apparently.

No… if her hunch was right and she was stuck in some sort of time loop, it’d be better to just play along with it for the moment and act like nothing was wrong.

“I’ll pick some up later,” she said, taking hold of the toast and taking a bite from it.

“Why aren’t you using magic?” Spike asked curiously, watching her from the end of her bed.

“Mm?” Twilight paused to swallow before she continued, “Oh, I’m somewhat burnt out. I used a lot more magic than I meant to yesterday; that’s probably why I was dead on the doorstep when you found me,” she finished, chuckling to herself.

“Oh… right,” Spike said, turning towards the door and seeming disappointed that it was nothing more fantastical. “Wait…” he started again, pausing, “How did you know it was me if you were dead to the world?”

Caught out, Twilight fumbled her words for a moment before settling on: “Lucky guess.”

Spike shrugged and turned again. “Call if you need anything,” he said over his shoulder, leaving the room and Twilight to her thoughts with a slight click.

She remained still for a few more moments, taking another bite of her breakfast, before she grimaced. “So this is what it’s like to be stuck in a timeloop…” she muttered to herself, “I wish Spike could have gotten some more pancakes yesterday.”

The room was quiet again and she glanced around it, or more particularly, the bookcase lining one of the walls; a reference for everything she would ever wish to know. “Time loops…” she muttered, scanning the shelves for something that would be vaguely helpful. The Magic of Time, Starswirl’s Seconds, and Time and Consequence all came down from the shelves onto the bed, joined swiftly by Twilight as she flipped the first one open to the index page.

“Stopping time … no,” she muttered, flipping the pages as fast as her hooves would allow and reading off various hopeful items. “Slowing time… no, reality manipulation… no, time warp… no, time machine… Why is time machine in this?” She spared a glance at the page number before she glanced up again and grimaced. The next entry in the index was time killers, straight past any notion of Loops.

She snapped the book shut and put it aside, making room for the second book to which she subjected to the same treatment. Pages flicked by as she murmured to herself, pausing every now and again to flick through the book itself before she went back. The clock struck ten outside and she looked up, annoyed.

The second book hadn’t yielded any more information on the matter and she threw it off the bed, not caring that it was probably the most valuable book in the library. Before it had even finished falling, the final book was in front of her and she skimmed through the index as if her life depended on it.

The third book hit the floor with a thunk and she let out a yell: “Spike!”

There was a hurried patter of claws on the stairs and he stuck his head inside, red-faced and puffing slightly, hooking himself on the door to stop him toppling forwards.

“Do we have anything on time loops anywhere in this library?” she asked, frustrated.

“I- uh- no,” Spike wheezed, still trying to catch his breath as Twilight’s glare intensified. “But,” he quickly backtracked, “I think Canterlot library has a copy of A Stitch in Time; that’s about time loops I think.”

“Excellent! When’s the next train to Canterlot?”

Spike paused, thinking, “Well… usually there’s one an hour…” he started, standing up fully and pushing the door open a bit wider, “but I think they’re running a skeleton service at the moment… something about there being maintenance with the rails I think. The next one will be at six in the evening if I remember the poster correctly.”

“Six in the evening!?” Twilight exclaimed, disbelief running rife in her voice, “What the hay happened to early morning service?”

Spike twiddled his thumb nervously. “It left five minutes ago…” he admitted, biting his lip, and backing away from Twilight as she ground her teeth quietly. “What- What’s the sudden interest in time loops though?” Spike asked with a nervous laugh, trying to distract Twilight from the problem of reliable train times.

“I’m in one,” Twilight said, speaking through locked jaws and trying as hard as she could to burn a hole into the wall with her glare.

“A time loop?” Spike confirmed, walking forwards again as Twilight let out a grunt of acknowledgement, “Are you sure you’re okay, Twilight?”

She looked at him, irritated, “You don’t believe me,” she stated.

“Not in so many words… no.”

Twilight chewed her lip for a moment, thinking. “Alright…” she said finally, “I can prove it.” Wordlessly, Spike raised an eyebrow and looked at her patiently. “At a little past eleven, Rainbow Dash will knock on the door, looking for me.”

Spike looked at her in disbelief, “That’s your proof?” he asked incredulously, “That Rainbow will come calling?”

It was Twilight’s turn to look at Spike in surprise. “Isn’t it proof enough?” she implored.

“Well… you could have asked her to come around this morning,” Spike reasoned.

“Since when did you become a cynic?”

Spike snorted quietly, a slight smile breaking out on his features. “Alright,” he said, “So let’s say I believe you… you say that Rainbow is going to come calling at about eleven…? What’s she going to talk to you about?”

Twilight opened her mouth, then shut it again as she realised something. “I… uh… don’t know,” she admitted, looking shiftily at everything but Spike, “I always managed to cut her off before she spoke…”

“Right…” Spike said, “If it’s all the same with you… I think I’ll go and get you an appointment with one of those quacks they have at the docs.” His face a mix of resignation and weariness, he turned and shut the door behind him, the sound of his claws going down the stairs echoing a few moments later.

“Because I lie so often…” Twilight muttered vindictively to herself, trying to think of one such occasion, thinking of several, then resolving to stop the white lies… again.

She pushed the last book off the bed and flopped back against the sheets again, hearing the springs beneath her groan in dismay. “Oh, shut up…” she said quietly, shutting her eyes and thinking aloud, “Well… since Canterlot is out of the question for the moment… what was I going to do after I’ve looked at the book? Hell… the longer I stay in this loop, the longer I can stay alive.”

“What if I look for a cure?” she asked herself thoughtfully, “There’s been none found so far… but it seems that I have time on my hooves.”

With the thought firmly in her mind, she stood up and dragged down the large book of Minds and Maladies from before, immediately turning to the page she’d memorised about a week ago. Across the top, written in bold letters, was the object of her intellect.

Advanced Magical Hyperactivity Flux Disorder

This was a condition theorised by Clover the Clever over five-thousand years ago. The condition would occur when the magic-wielding creature does not prepare themselves for the sheer amount of magic that they would use.

Since we live on the natural magic in our bodies and the air around us, a complete absence of it soon proves fatal to the creature involved. Those conditioned to using vast amounts of magic on a regular basis, whether it be a unicorn, pegasus, or earth pony, will suffer a complete lack of their talents that could prove jarring.


An inability to use magic in whatever form it is usually used.

A lack of control over whatever magic is left.



None known.

“Well that’s a brilliant start…” she murmured to herself, taking a bookmark she kept on the bedside table and slotting it into the page before she shut the book. “Where the hell am I meant to go from that?” she asked herself again, wracking her brain for the possibilities.

“Where do I start… where do I start…” her muttering echoed around the room as she frowned in concentration, “Start… start- Start!” Her eyes shot open and she rolled out of bed with a thump, talking to herself, “Start from the start… of course… initial diagnosis to find out the individual problems.”

Grinning happily to herself, she ran out the room and down the stairs two-at-a-time, barely pausing as she hit the landing and careering straight down towards the basement. The door slammed shut behind her, plunging her into the darkness of the basement.

She paused for a moment, muttering darkly as she made her way forwards much more cautiously than before, her hooves scanning the floor and tables for a match of some sort.

After about a minute of fruitless searching, she ground her teeth together and sparks shot from her horn, illuminating the room as if it were midday down there and sending flames jolting from the lanterns hung around the room as Celestia played the bongos on Twilight’s brain.

Her eyes flickered open then shut rapidly and she hissed as the faint light from the candles burnt itself onto the back of her retinas.

Setting her face against the pain, she stood up, using the nearest table as support as she limped towards the desk at the end of the basement. On it was a notebook, several pens, and, what she was interested in, a medical spellbook that she’d borrowed from the hospital several days previous.

Squinting through barely-open eyes, she flicked through the book until she came to a section on diagnostics.

“Self-diagnosis… self-diagnosis,” she muttered, jumping from page to page with increasing ferocity as the book’s pages started to run out until, with a triumphant yell, she stopped on the penultimate page of the section and started to read, committing the spell on the page to memory.

She bit her lip; if her previous experiences were any judge, performing this spell would probably make her faint from the pain, once again, something she wasn’t too fond of happening while she was casting a spell.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” she asked herself darkly and charged up her horn regardless of the consequences.

The sound of the door rattling on its hinges echoed down into the basement as someone knocked firmly, breaking Twilight from her reverie. Magic splintered from her horn, backfiring and sending her reeling backwards as various bits of equipment shattered before her eyes.

“Ow…” she muttered from her new position against the wall.

She stood up again, trying to ignore the black dots flitting around her vision as she made her way slowly towards the staircase again. She’d been so close to completing the spell… She grumbled to herself as she emerged into the library, trying to think of a way to get rid of the caller as quickly as possible.

She swung open the door with a scowl to reveal Rainbow Dash, once more, nervously hopping to and fro. “Yes?” she asked curtly, mentally noting that it must be around eleven in the morning.

“Uh- hey… Twilight,” Rainbow greeted jerkily, surprise flickering across her nervous face at Twilight’s bluntness.

“Can it wait- whatever this is?” Twilight asked, not allowing her scowl to soften, “I’m busy and I’m working on a deadline here.”

“Well- uh-” Rainbow fumbled for her words for another few precious seconds and Twilight tried to keep her teeth from grinding together.

“It’s hardly a pop quiz, Rainbow…” Twilight said, irritated, “It’s just a simple yes or no question. So… can it wait?”

Once again, Rainbow opened and closed her mouth, mumbling half-formed words and not quite meeting Twilight’s eyes.

Twilight’s patience snapped and she said angrily: “Well… since you seem to be waiting just fine there, I think I can gather the answer. I’ll talk to you later, Rainbow.” She slammed the door shut, moving away from it in a huff as she went down towards the basement again.

She was busy… she didn’t have time to waste on waiting for Rainbow to say whatever it was she wanted to say. Especially not when she could just wait for when she came by tomorrow at the same time.

Her eyes scanned the smashed basement, making a quick inventory check of all the equipment which hadn’t been able to stand up to the magical backfire. By some miracle, the lanterns were still shining brightly, turning the smashed glass and apparatus into flickering shadows against the walls and floor.

She made a mental note to ask Spike to clean it up later, then moved to her previous position at the end of the room where the medical book was still laid open on the self-diagnosis spell she’d been looking at before.

She glanced at the page again, refreshing it in her memory, before she charged up her horn once more and cast the spell.

She teetered on her hooves as a migraine assaulted her, trying to block out the pain and to focus on the spell.

The spell was akin to looking at yourself in a mirror, only this mirror happened to show you what was inside rather than out.

She looked at the connections in her head, following the inactive line from her horn wherever it took her. The migraine pulsed once and her hold on the spell faltered before she strengthened it, working through the pain.

She followed the dead connection down her spine, ignoring the pulses that were coming more and more frequently and with increasing ferocity.

She was nearly there… she could sense it… it was heading towards her-

Something popped and clicked inside her ears and whatever control she’d had over the spell was lost as she fell to the floor, screaming in pain as the migraines took her and she drifted into blackness.

The candles had burnt to their death by the time she woke up in the pitch black. Her head felt as if it had split itself open and she could taste blood from when she’d apparently bitten her tongue.

She let out a pitiful moan as the pain washed over her again, sending darker spots scattering across her closed eyelids.

She needed water… Water and some painkillers…

Bracing herself, she planted a forehoof firmly against the floor followed by the other one, pushing herself up slightly before her leg gave way and she was sent crashing to the floor again.

Any breath that she would have used to yell was forced from her lungs in a quiet grunt as she laid there, trying to catch her breath and to force the pain back down.

The sound of the door opening above her barely registered, but the pattering of claws on the steps did. She managed to move her head towards the doorway and saw Spike, holding a candle and looking at her, aghast.

She managed to offer him a ghostly smile before she felt herself slipping back down into the blackness again.


The next time she came to, she felt much better.

That was an understatement actually. The headaches were gone, she felt as if she was lying on a bed with a comfy pillow behind her head. In fact, the only gripe she could conjure was that there was something sharp poking into her arm.

She grunted, opening her eyes and trying to blink away the bright light above her. Almost immediately, someone was at her side and leaning over her, blocking out some of that accursed light.

Their voice was muffled, as if through a thick wall, and she could only just make out their lips moving as her vision swam back into some sort of focus.

“- Twilight? Miss Twilight?”

“Uh… where am I?” she asked drowsily, looking up at a surprisingly familiar face.

“You’re awake,” the doctor said in relief, “You gave us quite a scare,” he said, smiling slightly and stepping back.

Letting out a small moue of effort, she tried to sit up, vaguely aware of the doctor looking at her anxiously.

“You’re at the hospital,” the doctor continued, still keeping an eye on her as she examined her surroundings, “Your assistant, Spike, brought you here after he found you collapsed in your basement. I’ll go and let him know that you’re awake.”

“Wait!” Twilight said quickly, settling back into the bed as the doctor paused at the door, “What time is it?”

The doctor looked at her in mild surprise before he glanced at a watch on his forehoof. “It’s half-past five in the afternoon; you were out for about five hours since you were brought in. I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, slipping through the doors and closing them quietly behind him.

Twilight sighed, closing her eyes and trying to remember what had happened. She’d been so close to finishing the spell before she’d lost control. The connection had been going straight towards her main organs… to speculate further could make any cure fatal, or even worse, useless to her.

She’d just have to try again when she was feeling stronger.

The door slammed open in front of her again and Spike ran into the room, swiftly followed by all five of her friends. Twilight noted how Spike’s eyes were red-rimmed and the tear-tracks that hadn’t quite been rubbed away completely.

“You’re alright,” Spike exclaimed joyously and ran forwards to embrace her, quickly followed by her other friends as the doctor quietly joined them in the room, shutting the door silently.

“What in the hay were you doing, girl?” Applejack asked incredulously to her right, “Your whole basement is all-but gone.”

“Give the poor girl some time, Applejack,” Rarity scolded to her left, “She’s just woken up from whatever it was that caused all this.”

“Ooh! Ooh! I know what to do!” Pinkie said cheerfully from in front of her, “Let’s throw a ‘Thank You Twilight for Not Destroying Ponyville with Your Super-Awesome-Power’ party!”

“How is that going to solve anything?” Applejack asked, puzzled.

“A party always solves everything!” Pinkie insisted

“Um… Pinkie,” Fluttershy started, still looking at Twilight in concern, “I don’t think Twilight meant to destroy anything.”

Pinkie paused, thinking for a moment, “Good point, Flutters,” she finally conceded, “But what should the party be for then? I need a reason to have a party.”

“How about a ‘Twilight Didn’t Fry Herself with Her Magic’ party?” Rainbow suggested, also looking at Twilight in concern.

“Excellent idea Dashie!” Pinkie exclaimed, grinning to herself.

“Wouldn’t a party be a tad premature?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow at Pinkie.

Twilight let the conversation wash over her, resting her hoof around Spike’s neck as he kept hugging her.

From behind all of them, the doctor let out a chuckle. “How about you give her a chance to get a word in edgeways,” he said, smiling.

“Oh yeah,” Pinkie said, as if the idea had only just dawned on her, “That’s a brilliant idea Doc, Twilight can tell us all about what went wrong and how she was going to destroy Ponyville but wasn’t in the end and ended up destroying her labrat- Mphh!”

“Ignore her,” Rainbow said, holding her hoof firmly in place inside Pinkie’s mouth, “Go on, Twi, what happened?”

Twilight let out a breath that she didn’t realise she’d been holding and released Spike, who stood up, looking at her with wide eyes. She had two options… to lie, or to tell the truth.

“It was a magical backfire,” she admitted, settling on a half-truth, “I overestimated myself and I must have knocked myself out during the spell…”

“Bwut khind ov sphell?” Pinkie said through Rainbow’s hoof.

“Ew… gross…” Rainbow muttered as her hoof was doused in a healthy amount of Pinkie’s saliva, withdrawing it and hopping towards the sink in the corner of the room.

“Not a destruction spell, no,” Twilight said, smiling, Something like that would have killed me… she thought to herself before speaking aloud again, “It was an experimental spell to find out something, that’s all.”

“Aww…” Pinkie said, drooping slightly before she perked up again, “Welp, a ‘Twilight Didn’t Fry Herself’ party it is then!”

Both Applejack and Rarity rolled their eyes as Rainbow Dash joined them again.

“How long is she going to be here?” Fluttershy asked the doctor, who looked up.

“That’s up to her,” he said smoothly, looking Twilight directly in the eye. She shook her head slightly and he sighed, “But we’ll keep her overnight at the very least, just to make sure that she’s fine.”

“I’ll be fine, girls,” Twilight reassured, “I’ll be out in the morning, okay?”

Pinkie leant forwards and laid an envelope in front of Twilight. She smiled at Twilight and said, “We’ll see you then, then!” before she turned and bounced out the door, followed by everyone but Spike and the doctor.

Curiously, Twilight opened the envelope with the edge of her hoof and looked at the invitation inside with some disbelief. “You are invited to a ‘Twilight Didn’t Fry Herself’ party tomorrow at Sugarcube corner at 10 AM,” she read aloud before she shook her head, clearing the doubts from her mind.

“And now why don’t you tell me the real reason that you were admitted,” the doctor spoke, looking at her with a steely gaze.

Twilight met his eyes, then glanced towards Spike.

“He knows,” the doctor answered briefly, “I may have let something slip when he came here with you.”

Spike remained silent, his red-rimmed eyes threatening to flood again.

Twilight sighed before speaking again, “It happened while I was casting a self-diagnosis spell,” she admitted, watching the doctor’s surprise, “I was trying to figure out where the block in my magic was. Diagnose the individual problems and make a solution to each of them,” she continued.

“But- but… your magic is blocked,” the doctor stated, shocked, “How were you performing magic in the first place?”

“I’ve been studying magic for about five years,” Twilight said, deadpan, “I found a way.”

“And you fainted half-way through this spell, is that correct?” the doctor continued, the wonder still evident in his eyes.

“Yes,” Twilight replied shortly, “The next time I woke up, I was here.” She left out the screaming and the pain and the time that she’d first collapsed on purpose. She didn’t want any more concern than she’d already garnered.

The doctor noted down something on the clipboard at the foot of her bed before he nodded. “I’ll leave you two alone for a little while. If you need anything, there’s a button on the table beside you.”

Twilight nodded her thanks then followed him with her eyes as he walked out the room, leaving her and Spike alone.

The silence of the room engulfed them for a moment before Spike finally spoke, “Why didn’t you tell me that you were dying?”

Twilight sighed, letting her shoulders slump. “And how was I supposed to do that?” she implored, “I’ve already done it twice now… I didn’t want to do it again.”

“That time loop stuff again?” Spike asked, grasping at that faint hope, “So you weren’t lying? You’ve done this all before? You’re not going to die?”

Twilight didn’t know how to answer that, so she didn’t.

Author's Note:

Writing has resumed now that it's not Christmas/New Year.