• Published 26th Mar 2012
  • 15,908 Views, 770 Comments

The Past is the Future - the_panic



A human escaping from a nuclear holocaust brings change to all of Equestria and a certain librarian.

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Twilight, You Have Strange Taste In Guys.

The first thing Sam noticed as he woke was a sharp, throbbing pain in his right side, and a soft warmth on his left. As he opened his eyes, he saw that it was nighttime, and Twilight Sparkle was still cuddled up next to him under his arm.

Great, my pain meds are wearing off already, and Twilight’s out like a light... Maybe if I just ignore it and try to go back to sleep, I won’t have to wake her up...

Sam quietly shifted around on the couch a bit before settling down, trying to block out the pain and go back to sleep without disturbing Twilight. Sure enough, though, she began to stir, groggily lifting her head off of Sam’s shoulder.

Noticing that Sam was wide awake, Twilight yawned before speaking. “Wow, looks like we slept clear through dinner, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m surprised Spike didn’t try to wake us up.”

Twilight laid her head back down, this time on Sam’s chest. “I’m not. Ever since the hospital sent me home, I’ve been sleeping a lot, and at odd hours, too. He’s kind of gotten used to it.”

“Yeah; so, Twi, not to complain, but I’m hurting pretty badly right now,” Sam said with a wince, “Would you mind levitating my medicine over?”

Twilight sat straight up, a look of concern scrunching her brow. “Sure!” Her horn glowed as the bottled floated over from the bags near the door, leaving Twilight lightly panting. “Do you need anything else? Do you think we should take you back and let the doctor check you out again? Oh I hope your wound isn’t getting infected, or maybe your head was-”

Sam gently grabbed her muzzle. “Twilight, I’m okay,” he chuckled lightly as he gingerly prodded the bandages on his hip, “But this still hurts.” He quickly swallowed a few of the pills, and silently hoped that they’d take the edge off of his pain.

Twilight laid her head back down against Sam’s body. “If you’re sure...”I can't believe he's put himself through all of that pain for my sake...

Sam laughed, and ran his hand through her disheveled mane. “I’m sure, but thanks for the concern. Sorry if I woke you up, by the way.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, it’s fine. You just try to go back to sleep; let ME worry about me.”

"Speaking of you, how are those stitches in your side?"

"They're fine, see for yourself," Twilight leaned a little further over Sam, showing her right side before partially peeling back the bandages and shining a dim light from her horn.

Where Sam had previously seen deep, ragged gashes in Twilight's body, there were only a few stitches across several small wounds that resembled thin, red cat scratches.

"Twi, do ponies heal incredibly fast or something?"

"No, not really, but I'm almost as surprised as you. The doctor used a healing spell to try accelerating things a bit with these stitches; I guess it worked a little faster than he thought."

Sam was incredulous. "What?! You can use magic to heal wounds? Why hasn't anyone tried that on me?"

Twilight reached up to rub Sam's shoulder. "…We have. Our healing magic apparently just doesn't work that well on humans. They did manage to stop your bleeding with a spell though."

"Huh. What about that pain spell you were talking about then? Will it work?"

"To be honest, I don't really know. Can't hurt to try; should I give it a shot?"

"Nah, I wanna give the medicine a chance to work first. Don’t want you exerting yourself unnecessarily on my behalf."

"Alright, let me know if you think it'll help though. Some of my magical strength is already returning, you know."

Sam reached over and tousled Twilight's mane. “Thanks. I think I’m gonna try to move to my bed. I really hadn’t intended to sleep here all night.”

“I’m quite comfortable myself,” Twilight with a sheepish grin, “but an actual bed does sound better. Let me get out of your way.” She began slowly stretching her three uninjured legs onto the floor.

Sam slowly and painfully sat up, and grabbed his crutches from the ground. Twilight filled the dark room with a faint purple glow from her horn and watched as he shakily hobbled over to the bottom of the stairway. She limped over beside him, and looked up at him with a confused expression.

“Um... Are you sure you can use crutches to go up stairs? I mean, I’ve still got three good legs, you’ve got just one plus those awkward crutches...”

The short walk to the stairs was more exerting than Sam had expected; he leaned on the wall as he regained his breath. “Yeah, I’ve done it before. A few years ago, I sprained my ankle pretty badly, and I worked on the third floor of my office building; you would know that the elevator was down that week.”

Twilight tilted her head. “I could try to lift you up using my magic.”

Sam waved that idea down. “No, I saw how tough it was for you to just get my medicine for me. Don’t worry, I’ve got this handled.”

The pair carefully made their way up the stairs, both pausing at different intervals to catch their breath. After a few minutes, and much effort, they finally arrived at the top of the stairs. Sam tried to open his bedroom door, a task that proved to be awkward while his arms were partially occupied with the crutches.

With the door finally open, Sam positioned his arms back on the crutches and gingerly stepped over to his bed. He sat down and noticed that Twilight was still in the doorway, looking as if she were thinking hard about something.

“Everything okay, Twilight?”

“Oh, yes, I was just wondering... Would you mind if I still slept with you? Please?”

Sam shook his head, laughing softly, and motioned for Twilight to join him on the bed. “Of course not, I’ve been fine with that every other time.”

“I know, I just figured you might want to sleep alone so you could stretch out; I know how uncomfortable that small hospital bed must have been...”

Sam laughed. “I appreciate the consideration, but remember, you put two beds together in here, there’s plenty of room. Besides, I’ve kinda gotten used to this.”

Twilight smiled as she felt a slight blush on her face. “Good, me too! By the way, how are you feeling? Is the medicine working?”

Sam began pulling back the bedsheets and laid down on his uninjured side. “Not really, but I’m still gonna try to sleep all the same. You should do the same.”

Twilight began settling back down next to Sam. “I hope it kicks in... Want me to try that pain reduction spell I mentioned at the hospital?”

“If you don’t mind, the more dulled down this feels, the better I can sleep.”

Twilight focused her concentration and energy on the spell, and Sam’s injured side. Sam began to feel a strange, but not at all unpleasant, tingling sensation. The pain began to decrease from a sharp stabbing feeling to a dull, throbbing ache.

“How’s that?” Twilight panted, before lying down with her back towards Sam.

Sam sighed in relief. “It’s still rough, but it’s miles better than before, thanks,” he reached his arm around to embrace Twilight and pulled her closer to him, prompting her to levitate the blankets over them both.

“I’m glad it helped, goodnight, Sam.”

Rather than reply verbally, Sam briefly tightened his arm around Twilight, enjoying the warmth she added to the bed.

Only a few minutes later did Sam find himself beginning to drift off; however, the sound of Twilight’s voice quickly brought him back from the edge of unconsciousness.

“Sam?”

“Wha...?” He drowsily replied.

Twilight rolled over to face him. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were already asleep...”

“Nah, I’m still-” Sam yawned, “-awake. What is it?”

“So... Just to be clear... You’re my... Special somepony now?”

“Special somewhat? Ohh...” He yawned again as he rolled onto his back. “Right, that’s your word for boyfriend?” He turned his head and saw her nodding. “Yeah, I thought our little speeches to each other made that clear.”

Even with just the dim moonlight, Sam could see Twilight beaming. “I thought so, but neither of us actually said it.”

Sam closed his eyes as he tried to sleep again. Twi, you’re great but damn would I like to get some sleep right now...

Twilight didn’t notice Sam’s attempts to return to sleep. “So... If I’m your special somepony... Does that mean it’s okay if I do... This?”

Before he could guess what she meant or react at all, Sam suddenly felt a bit of soft fur brush against his face and a pair of lips briefly and awkwardly pressed to his own. His eyes bolted open and were greeted by the sight of Twilight Sparkle’s face just inches in front of him wearing an expression that was a mixture of excitement and anxiety that complemented Sam’s own look of confusion and surprise.

As Sam continued to stare in shocked silence, Twilight laid back down, a few tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

“Ohmygosh I’m sorry, I'm sorry, I hope that wasn’t out of line, I thought that was normal and I-”

“It’s okay, it’s fine,” Sam cut her off, laughing nervously, “I’m not mad or anything. You just caught me off-guard is all. I was half-asleep, for crying out loud. Plus, I’m still getting used to the fact that my new girlfriend has a tail, two more legs than I do, and always has a fur coat on. That’s kind of a big adjustment for me to swallow, you know?”

Much to Sam’s relief, his explanation was enough to prevent Twilight’s tears from actually falling.

“I know, I’m sorry... I got a little nervous and it got the best of me,” Twilight giggled, “I just really like you, you know?”

“You don’t have anything to apologize for, really, it was okay. Like I said, I just wasn’t really expecting that.” Sam smiled, “and I really like you, too, Twi.”

Sam shifted back onto his left side, facing the again-smiling unicorn. Alright, a few minutes ago I just told her that she’s my girlfriend, time to put my money where my mouth is, I guess. Or is it the other way around in this situation? In any case, her kissing me didn’t really feel THAT weird... Here goes... Something?

“Besides,” he cupped her face in his hands, “If you wanted a goodnight kiss, you could have just asked.”

Twilight let out a surprised squeak as Sam moved his face closer to hers and kissed her. She felt her eyelids involuntarily fluttering shut and her face blush like a wildfire as Sam lingered a few seconds longer than she had the first time. As he pulled away, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against him.

Sam closed his eyes, chuckling. “I’m going to sleep now, for real this time, okay? Goodnight, Twilight.” The things I have to do to get some rest around here... I think I just might be crazy.

Twilight responded only with a contented sigh as she snuggled into his chest.

---

The next morning, Spike got up at his usual time, roughly twenty minutes after Twilight would have normally first tried to rouse him from sleep. He yawned as he waddled downstairs to get himself some breakfast. Noting that neither Twilight nor Sam were up, he went ahead and made some extra oatmeal and set it aside for them with a note for when they finally did get up. After he finished eating, he walked into the main room and flopped down on the couch, debating on whether to go ahead and do his chores right then, or go back to sleep for a bit.

Spike had no problems getting used to Twilight’s new, erratic sleep schedule. On one hand, he hated seeing her so weak and out of commission; after all, Twilight was the closest thing to an older sister he had. But on the other hand, he knew she needed the extra rest, and with her sleeping more, that reduced his list of chores, (which formerly consisted of helping Twilight with her endless studies and magical research), to just a few relatively quick cleaning tasks. This, in turn, meant that he, too, could get some extra nap time in.

Just as Spike was beginning to convince himself to sneak a few extra hours of napping, he heard a sudden burst of knocking and crazed giggling at the front door. He slowly got up to answer the door; opening it, he saw that Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie had come to visit.

“Hiya Spike! I was just hopping around town, I forget what I was doing, when I bumped into Fluttershy here! She told me she wanted to come check on Sam and Twilight, and that’s when I realized I hadn’t seen either of them since they got out of the hospital! So I asked if I could come along, and on the way over I decided I needed to try out a new cupcake recipe and-”

Spike cut Pinkie off with a claw over her mouth. She continued her muffled rambling for a few more seconds before she got the message, giggling all the same. Though he enjoyed the extra laziness, Spike took the job of making sure nothing interfered with Twilight’s recovery with the utmost seriousness.

Spike stared down Pinkie. “Pinkie, Flutters, it’s great to see you guys. I’m sure Twilight and Sam would love to see you, but they’re still asleep; so, Pinkie, if you want to come in and check on them, that’s cool, but if you can’t be quiet, we can do things the hard way.” He held up a handkerchief, folded into a gag, in his right claw and casually swung it around.

Pinkie just kept giggling as she entered the library. “Oh Spikey, sweet talk will get you everywhere!”

Spike scratched his head, and noticed a bright blush on Fluttershy’s face as she entered behind the pink earth pony.

“Oh, um, hello, Spike, I was just coming by to leave a gift and some herbal medicine for both of them. If they’re both asleep, I’ll just leave it in Twilight’s bedroom for her, if that’s okay with you.”

Spike nodded. “Sure, I’ll come up with you.” He turned to look for Pinkie, and saw that she had her muzzle stuck in a book he’d never seen before, labeled “Advanced Quantum Mechanics”. “Hey, Pinkie Pie, if you wanna see Twi and Sam, come on up with Flutters and I.”

Pinkie was deep in thought with her brow furrowed. “...So if I integrate this mass over that Higgs field... I think I’ve found a way to be in FIVE places at once instead of just four! Wait till Dashie sees what kinda pranks I can pull now!”

Spike was growing impatient. “What? Ugh, come on already if you wanna see them!”

Pinkie snapped to attention and tossed the book seemingly into thin air. “Okie dokie lo-”

“Quiet!” Hissed the young dragon.

Pinkie nodded, and whispered, “-okie!”

The trio quietly made their way upstairs, and decided to look in on Twilight’s room first. They were all surprised to see that her bed was empty, and perfectly-made as usual.

Fluttershy immediately felt a wave of worry wash over her. “Oh, my, I wonder where she is, I hope she’s okay...”

Pinkie gasped. “Oh! Oh! I know, maybe she decided to go camping!”

Spike facepalmed. “Before everypony loses their minds, let’s check Sam’s room. While Sam was in the hospital, Twilight would sometimes sleep next to him, and she was napping with him after they came home yesterday.”

They silently walked over to Sam’s room; as the door creaked open, they were greeted by the sight of their two sleeping friends lying next to each other. Sam’s arms were still entwined around Twilight’s upper body, and Twilight herself appeared to have fallen asleep while nuzzling Sam’s shoulder.

Fluttershy’s anxiety melted away and was replaced with a wide grin. She couldn’t help but let out a happy, exuberant, but inaudibly quiet “Yay!” Looks like Twilight and Sam figured things out! Oh I’m just so happy for them both... I better get Spike and Pinkie out of here, though, I’d hate to wake them up. I don’t think she’s going to keep this a secret, but I’m sure Twilight would prefer to tell everyone else about her and Sam on her own time. Fluttershy reached into her saddlebags and left the gift and medicine on the table just inside the door before gently ushering everyone back towards the stairway.

Once back down stairs, Pinkie was nearly beside herself in another giggling fit. “OHMYGOSHFLUTTERSHY DIDJA SEE ‘EM? THAT WAS SOOO CUTE!” Pinkie began rolling on the floor as she continued laughing uncontrollably.

“Pinkie! Calm down! You’ll wake up Twilight and Sam!”

“Oh, yes Pinkie, if you don’t mind, they need their rest...”

Pinkie nodded and immediately stood up straight and swiped a hoof over her face; her expression went from exuberant happiness to resolved seriousness in an instant.

Spike sighed with relief. “Thanks Pinks. You know, I wonder why Twilight has been so close and cuddly with Sam lately...” Can't say I've seen them quite THAT close and cuddly before, though.

Fluttershy was still smiling. “She’s probably still very happy that Sam is okay. He did save her life, you know.” She saw Pinkie quietly laughing again, with an almost-knowing grin on her face. I wonder if Twilight told anypony else besides me? Does Pinkie Pie know yet?

Spike shrugged. “Eh, makes sense I guess, they were getting to be pretty good friends before they got hurt, after all. I’m glad Sam’s okay though, he’s weird, but I think he’s starting to grow on me. Besides,” he grinned, “he still owes me an afternoon of fishing with me!”

Fluttershy giggled. “Well, be sure to tell Twilight and Sam that we stopped by, if you don’t mind, that is. I need to go home and get lunch ready for myself and Angel bunny. Bye Spike!”

“Yeah, see ya later, Spike!” The pink party pony extended a hoof bearing three envelopes to Spike. “Here! There’s one for you, Twilight, and Sam! They’re invitations!”

Noticing that she wasn’t wearing saddlebags, Spike briefly considered asking her where the envelopes came from. He quickly decided not to pursue the question. It’s Pinkie Pie, after all. “Thanks Pinkie, I’ll be sure to pass these along.”

“Okie dokie lokie! Bye Spike!”

As the door closed, Spike sighed and threw himself back on the couch with a strengthened resolve to get an extra nap in.

---

The morning sun had been streaming through Sam’s bedroom window for several hours. Usually, just a few minutes of morning light was more than enough to rouse Sam and his unicorn companion from sleep; as it stood, a marching band could smash through the window while setting off fireworks without waking them.

All the same, Sam began to awaken, as much from his growing hunger as the sharp pain returning in his side. As he opened his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of Twilight’s sleeping form still in his arms, her head still pressed against his chest. At some point during the night, she had hugged her tail to herself, covering her legs as she slept under the blankets.

Despite the shooting pain he was experiencing, Sam couldn’t help but smile at what was becoming a frequent occurrence since his awakening at the hospital. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, god that’s cute.

The growling in the pit of his stomach reminded Sam of the fact that he hadn’t eaten anything since being discharged from the hospital the day before. Knowing that it had probably been roughly as long since Twilight had eaten anything, Sam reached up and began gently caressing the side of her head in an attempt to wake her.

“Twilight, time to get up, let’s go get some breakfast.”

Twilight squirmed slightly, and began muttering under her breath. “An eigenvector... is a vector that... operator gives ...scalar multiple of itself...”

“Huh? Come on, Twi, wake up,” Sam gave her shoulder a slight shake.

With a tiny yawn, Twilight finally opened her eyes, squinting as her purple irises adjusted to the light. “Hm...?” Twilight smiled drowsily as she caught sight of Sam shaking his head and laughing. “Oh, good morning, Sam.”

“Welcome back to the land of the living. Let’s go eat.”

“Sounds like a plan. How are you feeling?”

“If you can hit me with that spell again and get to my pills, I’ll manage. You’re absolutely adorable when you’re asleep, by the way.”

Twilight felt her face burning. “What about when I’m awake, hmm?” She giggled.

“That’s a tough one... Lemme think... Yeah, still cute.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Slowly, the couple dragged themselves from the bed. Sam grabbed his crutches, and carefully descended the stairs with Twilight following behind. Once Sam had gotten a dose of his medication and a zap from Twilight’s pain relief spell, they set into spooning up some of the oatmeal Spike had left for them.

Just as they were settling down at the table, Spike entered the kitchen.

“Hey guys,” Spike chuckled, "It's about time you two got up. How are you both feeling?"

With Twilight occupied by a mouthful of oatmeal, Sam spoke first.

"I've certainly been better, but the meds and Twilight's magic have been helping some. I'd have to say that was the best night of sleep I've had in a while, though."

Twilight swallowed and nodded, smiling. "Yeah, my leg may have been throbbing a little, but I haven't slept that well in ages," She felt herself blushing ever so slightly as she remembered precisely how she'd fallen asleep.

Spike's mouth twisted into a devious little grin. "Yeah, you two did look pretty comfortable together."

Sam cocked an eyebrow. "And your point? Were you spying on us in my room or something?"

Spike shook his head. "No, well, sort of, not intentionally anyway. Fluttershy and Pinkie insisted on checking on you two and saw you both holding each other…"

Sam felt his own face heating up for a change. "Ah, gotcha."

Spike had a feeling he already knew the answer, but he wanted to ask anyway. "You're blushing a little there, bro, what's up with that?"

Sam looked down at Twilight. "Should I tell him, or do you want to?"

"I-I'll tell him," She said, feeling her face further reddening under her coat.

"Tell me what? Guys?"

With a wide grin on her face, she took a deep breath. "Spike, Sam is my special somepony now, or 'boyfriend', as he puts it," she giggled, looking away bashfully.

Spike stood there with a blank look on his face for a few seconds before realization hit him. Suddenly Twilight's behavior since her release from the hospital made much more sense; cuddling with Sam, crying over her self-imposed guilt before Sam's return to the library, and near-inability to leave Sam's side since his own release.

After processing this new information for a moment, he snickered. "Twilight, you have strange taste in guys."

Sam glared at him, his eyes shooting daggers at Spike.

"Whoa, I'm just kidding, bro. If you guys are happy, that's good enough for me." Spike looked over at Twilight, his eyes begging her to defuse the situation.

Twilight pulled herself closer to Sam and leaned against him, laughing softly. "Relax, Spike's just poking fun at us. He's practically my younger brother… Did you really expect anything less?"

Sam broke his glare and shifted his gaze, now much more gentle, to Twilight's eyes. "Oh I know. I just wanted to see him sweat a little." Returning his attention to Spike, he continued. "So anyway, Spike, you said Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were here? What'd we miss?"

Spike nodded. “Yeah, they came to visit and check on you both. Flutters left you guys a 'get-well' gift and some extra herbal medicine on the dresser in Sam’s room, and Pinkie brought us all invitations to something. I haven't opened mine yet, figured I'd wait for you guys.” Spike reached behind him and grabbed three envelopes off of the counter before handing them to his friends. “Here ya go, one for each of us.”

Sam quickly ripped into his envelope. The card inside was inscribed with flowing, elegant calligraphy. He began quickly scanning through the card’s text before stopping, and then facepalming. Oh yeah, I still can’t read Equestrian.

“Hey, Twilight, what do these say?”

After reading through her own card, Twilight cleared her throat and read out the card’s writing:

On Behalf Of Princesses Celestia And Luna,
Pinkie Pie, Party Pony Extraordinaire, Cordially Invites You
To Ponyville’s Town Hall This Friday Evening,
For A Public Ceremony Held In Honor Of Twilight Sparkle And Sam Mitchell,
And In Memory of Chip Circuits For Their Valiant Actions In Service And Defense Of Ponyville And Equestria At Large.
Super Casual Reception And Party Cannon Firing To Follow.

"Cool! A fancy honors ceremony and a party afterwards? Hmm… I should go get my suit cleaned! Gotta look my best for Rarity! Bye guys!" Spike took off out of the library into town.

Twilight groaned. "So much for Pinkie holding off on the parties for a while."

Sam finished another spoonful of oatmeal. "Well... She IS doing it for the Princesses," he put his arm around Twilight's shoulder, "and WE are going to be paraded around as a couple of heroes."

"I know… Still, I was hoping she'd wait until we were at least rested and recovered enough to actually ENJOY the party."

"Hey, it's two whole days away. It's not like we're gonna be running a marathon or anything between now and then. We could just read, watch some movies, or just sleep more, heh."

"True," Twilight replied with a sigh, "and I can't say that doesn't sound nice. It's been awhile since we've watched one of your movies."

"I thought so. Let's finish breakfast, go to my room and open Fluttershy's gift. Then we can bring my laptop down to your study, flop down on the couch, and watch movies until our eyes melt out of our skulls."

---

As the sun began to set and cast a soft, warm glow inside the study, Twilight realized that she had lost count of how many movies she and Sam had watched while sprawled out on the couch. She had more or less stopped keeping track or following the plots after the third movie, and she caught Sam nodding off several times throughout a movie titled "Blade Runner". Twilight could understand why; like Sam, she thought the movie's idea was interesting, and the visuals were amazing, especially when Sam told her that the movie predated him by over 200 years, but it was quite a slow, tedious story. But she didn't mind much; after the events of the previous week, Twilight was just glad to be able to spend some quiet time with Sam, and she felt all too comfortable laying across his lap.

Sam yawned. "I guess I can see why people back then thought it was a "classic", but I dunno. One thing is for sure, though, one more movie and I'll probably drop right off to sleep."

Twilight found Sam's yawn to be contagious. "Yeah. And how sweet was it that Fluttershy made us these patchwork quilts?!" Pulling hers up closer to her head, Twilight buried her face in it. "And it's so soft!"

"It was definitely a kind gesture on her part. Your friends really are the best, Twilight."

The purple mare groaned as she slowly sat up. "Aren't they though? They can really drive me crazy sometimes but I love them all th- AAHH!" Twilight began grabbing at her side.

"Twi? What's wrong?!"

"N-nothing, it's just, OUCH, my side and back are cramping up… It's been happening off and on since I got knocked to the ground back in the canyon, but never THIS bad."

"Hey, lean to your side a little, I might be able to help."

"Ow ow ow, okay one, OW, second… Okay, what are you, AUGH, gonna do? Massa-AAAhhhh…"

Twilight's sigh of relief trailed off as Sam began gently rubbing her back, slowly kneading into her velvet coat with his fingertips. As he began applying more pressure on her tensed up muscles and moved towards her stitched up side, he could feel Twilight growing more and more relaxed, practically melting. After several minutes of this, Sam noticed that Twilight was on the verge of falling asleep, her lips curled into a sweet little smile.

"Dear sweet Celestia, Sam… Not even the masseuses at the spa are that good…"

"Well… They have hooves. Hands and fingers are a LITTLE more suited to this sort of thing, heh."

After a few more moments of this, Sam ended the massage, yawning loudly.

"Hey…" Twilight looked up at Sam, almost pouting. "Why'd you stop?"

With a chuckle, Sam resumed his treatment as the next movie began to play.

---

"AUGH! Where is it?! I can't find it!"

Sam could do nothing but scratch his head helplessly as Twilight frantically hobbled around her bedroom, levitating any object she came across out of her way.

"Um, Twi, what are you looking for?"

"My dress! Tonight's the ceremony, remember?! The Princesses will be there, and we'll be up in front of everypony we know, and I think even my PARENTS are coming down for the occasion! Speaking of which, you need to dress your best, too, you gotta make a good first impression on them Sam!"

"Whoa there, calm down a second, come over here and-"

"Calm down? CALM DOWN?! I'm Celestia's personal student! If I don't try to look presentable, what kinda message do you think that will send her?!"

Sam laid back on Twilight's bed and thought for a second before an idea hit him. "Hey, Twilight, is this your dress over here on the other side of the bed?"

"YOU FOUND IT?!" Twilight quickly jumped onto the bed, spastically looking around before a look of confusion spread across her face. "Sam, I don't see it, where is it?"

Sam shrugged. "Beats me. I just wanted to get you over here so you'd calm down for a second."

Twilight glared at him. "If I didn't like you so much, I'd turn you into a cactus right now. This isn't funny."

Sam reached an arm around her and pulled her next to him. "Relax. I'm sure it's around here somewhere. Besides, you know as well as I do that the Princess won't be angry if you don't show up all dressed up. And the party isn't even for several more hours. I'm sure it'll turn up by then."

Twilight let out an exhausted sigh. "You're right… Honestly, I think it's the fact that my parents are coming that's got me so flustered."

While stroking Twilight's mane, Sam asked, "What's that got to do with anything?"

"When I was at my brother's wedding a few months ago, his name is Shining Armor by the way, that was the first time in several years that I'd really seen them. Living and studying as the Princess's personal pupil at a boarding school doesn't leave a whole lot of time and opportunities to go visit mom and dad. Their jobs don't exactly help matters, either…"

"What do they do?"

"They're both magical researchers. Basically, they do what I do, researching how spells work, looking into new ones… I take after them quite a bit. And Shining is the captain of the royal guard."

"So you're basically one big magic family, eh?"

"Yeah… So they stay about as busy as I do, and it seems I get my tendencies to tune out the outside world while I work from them as well. I just want to make them proud of me on their first real visit to see ME. Last time I saw them, they were more focused on my brother and sister-in-law, rightfully so, though."

"Ouch. All the same, I'm sure they'd be proud of you regardless of whether you are dressed up nice or not. I mean, from what you've told me, our little incident is the THIRD TIME that you've saved the world. You're the smartest pony I know and even Celestia knows it. Plus you're an absolutely wonderful friend to anyone, er, anyPONY, that needs you. Give yourself some credit, Twi. Just relax, and enjoy the party tonight."

Sam's speech forced a small grin to break through Twilight's anxiety. She rested her chin on his chest, and just looked at him for a few minutes.

"You are far too good at doing that."

Sam cocked an eyebrow. "Doing what?"

"That thing where you get me to stop worrying so much. You know, Princess Celestia herself can barely do that."

"Heh, I try. And I promise I'll do my best to avoid scaring your parents."

Twilight giggled. "I would really appreciate that; imagine their shock when they see I've got my first coltfriend, he's already living with me, and to top it off, he's not even a pony!"

Sam laughed. "That's a doozy, alright. But, if they're anything like you, I'm sure they'll be fine."

"Yeah…" Twilight got a mischievous look in her eyes. "So… Are you gonna keep telling me nice things about me?"

"Hmm… Well I could also say you're the prettiest pony I know."

Twilight blushed slightly at the compliment. "Oh you're just saying that…"

"Nope, I mean it. And the little hint of pink I can see through your coat when you blush, fits perfectly with that shade of lavender you're covered with."

Twilight leaned down and gave Sam a quick peck on the cheek. "You're sweet, Sam, but I really need to find my dr-"

The sound of the front door banging open carried throughout the library. "Hello? Anypony home? It's Rarity."

"We're up here," Twilight called out.

A few moments later, Rarity arrived in Twilight's room, and found herself giggling at the sight of Twilight laying across Sam's chest.

"I didn't know you two were that close… I hope I'm not interrupting anything, though I must say you two are quite adorable together, darlings."

Twilight felt her blush reappearing. "No, you're fine. And yeah, I'm Sam's special somepony now."

"Well I certainly can't think of anyone I trust more to treat you right, Twilight."

Sam slowly sat up, gently sliding Twilight into his lap. "Aw, thanks Rarity. That really means a lot to me, and Twilight, too, I'm sure."

Twilight nodded, beaming. "Yeah, thanks! So what brings you this way? I was just in the middle of tracking down that dress you made for me on my birthday; I want to look my best at the ceremony tonight."

"Oh that's actually why I'm here, Spike didn't tell you?"

Twilight shook her head.

"Well, a little after you and Sam fell asleep when we brought you both home, I came back over to get your dress. I needed to borrow it as a reference so that I could make you a new dress as a get-well-soon gift!" Rarity then lit up her horn as she levitated a pastel blue dress out of her saddlebag, as well as Twilight's old yellow dress. "It's very similar to your old dress, but I made some additions to make it a little less… Minimalistic." Pointing to the new fringes and added lace, as well as a few ruffles, she continued, "It's not too formal, nor too casual."

"Wow, Rarity, that's perfect for tonight! You're coming, right? To the ceremony and party that Pinkie is hosting for us?"

"Oh of course, wouldn't miss it for the world, darling. Anyway, I'm glad you like your new dress, I can't wait to see you in it at the ceremony! See you both tonight, I've got to go get ready myself!" With that, Rarity rushed downstairs and out of the library.

Sam looked down at Twilight, still comfortably curled up in his lap. "So, whaddya say, take a short nap before the party?"

Twilight yawned, stretching out across Sam's legs. "I want to say no and go through my pre-party checklist, but I just feel exhausted. When I'm recovered, I don't think I'll ever get back on schedule… But for now, I say buck it, let's sleep." She began pulling herself off of Sam and up to her pillow.

"I thought you might say that. But first…" Sam's smile grew into a devious grin as he reached down and began furiously tickling Twilight's stomach, causing her to yelp in surprise.

"Ahh! Hahaha, stopAHHSTOP, IM REALLY TICKLISHAHAHAHA, maybeDEARSWEETCELESTIAAAHAHAHA IF YOU DON'T STOPOHMYGOSH-"

Twilight's shrieks of laugher were quickly drowned out by a yell of pain from Sam. "OW, DAMMIT!"

Regaining her composure, Twilight realized she'd accidentally kicked Sam in the face. "Ohmygosh Sam, are you okay?! I didn't mean to, I swear!"

Sam reached up to examine his face, and was relieved to find neither blood nor a crooked nose. "Yeah, I'm fine, but you sure can kick, Twi."

"Well… I told you to stop," Twilight replied sheepishly.

"Yeah, I suppose you did, heh… So yeah, about that nap…"

"Want me to set my alarm clock?"

Sam nodded. "Before you drift off there, though, would you mind hitting me with that spell again? My side is flaring up pretty badly today, Twi..."

Lifting her head off the pillow, Twilight looked up at Sam worriedly. "Of course... Just a sec..." Oh gosh, I hope that pain isn't going to be a chronic issue after he's healed. How unfair would that be for him?

Within seconds, Sam felt the familiar tingle of Twilight's magical energy coursing around his healing wound, reducing the pain to a bearable level.

Sighing in relief, Sam began settling into the bed. "Thanks, Twilight. You're the best, you know?"

Twilight let out a weak laugh. "If you say so, Sam. Hope you sleep well!" She finished winding the alarm clock, cuddled up close to Sam, and began to float over to unconsciousness.

---

Later that evening, everything was coming together for the ceremony at Ponyville town hall honoring Twilight and Sam. Sitting back behind the curtains, Sam realized that Princess Celestia had been talking to him and Twilight for several minutes, and he hadn't paid attention to any of it; instead, he was completely focused on the intense pain chewing away at his side. I'll have to get Twilight to use that spell on me again before we do anything else, those pills aren't even putting a dent in the pain anymore.

“So... Uh... Princess, what am I supposed to do again?” Sam idly tapped his crutches against the floor.

The white winged Princess leaned down to his eye level, a reassuring smile on her face. “Just like I said before. My sister and I will be giving a brief speech, and then I will motion for you and Twilight to come stand next to me to be recognized, and I will give both of you an opportunity to say something, if you like.” She shifted her eyes to Sam's crutches. “Are you sure you would not like to use a wheelchair?”

“I'm fine, my leg won't heal properly if I don't try to use it just a little. It's not broken, you know.”

“If you insist.” Celestia looked behind her towards Twilight, who was frantically adjusting her new dress and muttering something worriedly about her parents. “Well, time to get started! Just sit here, and wait for me to call you both out!”


Celestia walked over to the edge of the curtains, giving the Mayor a nod to signal that it was time to begin. Luna promptly appeared at her sister's side, having galloped in at the very last second.

Celestia gave her sister a playful nudge, whispering, “So good of you to show, sister! How was your nap?”

 Luna nudged back, giggling. “We are sorry that we are late. What did we miss?”



The elder Princess laughed. “You are just in time. And you know that we don't have to speak in the royal plural anymore, right?”

“We, er, I find that it is a force of habit.”

Meanwhile, the Mayor was finishing up her introduction. “...So once again, I thank you all for coming out tonight, and without any further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you our benevolent rulers, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna!”

The two alicorns gracefully made their way to the podium, side by side, prompting the entire crowd to bow briefly, before bursting into applause.

After the cheering had subsided, Celestia spoke first. “My little ponies! It is always such a pleasure to see you all. It is an even greater pleasure to see that you are all recovering quickly and strongly from the recent calamity that befell Canterlot and of course Ponyville a few weeks before. While this was a truly violent and dangerous event, I think we can all agree that this could have been much, much worse. Though some of you are still healing and rebuilding, I am eternally grateful that you are all able to be standing here before me at this moment. This happy outcome was no mere accident, I must add. Our safety and survival through that tough time was due to the valiant efforts and sacrifices of three very special individuals, of whom my sister and I would like to introduce and honor tonight.”

Celestia took a step back, allowing Luna to take the podium. “Though tonight is a celebration, it is not an entirely happy event. The first pony we would like to honor, is Chip Circuits. Chip was a researcher, working in the labs at the Royal Academy, when the machines rose up and attacked. Without thinking for even a second of his own safety, he rushed into the test chamber to attempt to shut down the machines, or at least fight them back. It is no small source of sorrow for me to say that Chip lost his life, fighting an unknown threat so that others may live. As we speak, a statue is being sculpted to be placed in the Canterlot Gardens, so that the memory of his sacrifice will never be forgotten. Let us have a moment of silence to mourn and honor him.”

The meeting hall was deathly quiet. Some ponies bowed their heads reverently, others simply kept their attention on the Princess.

After a few seconds slowly passed by, Luna spoke again. “Thank you all.”

Celestia retook the podium. “Let us never forget what Chip Circuits has done for us, for Equestria.” She let another pause drift by before continuing. “As I said earlier, tonight is in honor of a few brave souls who have done a great service to us all. One of whom, I'm sure you all know all too well by now. I have had the great pleasure of taking her under my wing, teaching her, and watching her grow from a precocious little filly to the brilliant mare that she is today. Mares and gentlecolts, it is my honor to introduce my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle!”

As Twilight began cautiously trotting out onto the stage, the crowded auditorium seemed to explode into a caucophony of cheering and stomping hooves against the floor. Being careful not to put too much weight on her still-healing foreleg, she took her spot next to her royal mentor.

Luna stepped forward and motioned for the crowd to hold their applause. “Our final honoree may not be as familiar to you all as my sister's dear student is, but I am certain, nay, hopeful that you have met him or at least heard of him. Though he arrived in our fair country though some very incredible circumstances, I am glad that we took the effort to get to know him. He has proven to be a great friend to those who know him, and he brings with him a willingness to share his knowledge with us. Knowledge that could touch and revolutionize the lives of everypony in Equestria! It is with great pride that I call Sam Mitchell to the stage.”

Hearing his cue, Sam slowly struggled onto his crutches. Here goes nothing! He hobbled out past the curtains towards the sound of loudly clopping hooves, and ambled over next to Twilight. Nearly out of breath, Sam looked down at Twilight, who returned his gaze with a reassuring smile.

Once again, Celestia positioned herself behind the podium. “By the time the machines had reached Ponyville, Luna and I were exhausted. The mechanical beast had put up quite a fight trying to break through our magical barriers and attacks. We barely had the energy to hold the monster in place long enough for Sam to prepare his plan. Between his quick thinking, Twilight's cunning and top-notch magical skills, these two managed to not only safely lure the machines away from Ponyville, but also defeat it entirely. It pains me to see how they have both suffered in the aftermath of the attack, but I am glad that they are both on the road to regaining their health and strength.” Princess Celestia looked down towards Twilight and Sam. “I'm sure I speak for all of you when I say, Twilight, Sam, I wish you both a speedy and painless recovery.” She nodded to Luna, who promptly levitated two boxes in front of Celestia's chest. “It is no small pleasure with which I present to you each a medallion, in honor of your brave and brilliant actions in service of your fellow ponies, my sister and I, and all of Equestria.”

As Princess Celestia lit up her own horn, the two medallions rose out of their boxes, and looped themselves around their recipient's necks. As Sam and Twilight turned to face the auditorium, the crowd once again let loose a thunderous roar of applause and cheering.

After several minutes of nonstop cheering and yelling, Pinkie Pie managed to appear between the podium and the Princesses out of thin air. Jumping on top of the stand, she shrieked her catchphrase at the top of her impressive lungs as she fired her party cannon.

“LET'S PARTAYYYYYYY!!!!!”

A shower of confetti and balloons filled the air, leaving streamers hanging from every rafter. Within the blink of an eye, Pinkie had set up a record player, snack table, and party games, all at opposite sides of the meeting hall. The room began swirling in laughter, music, and dancing ponies. Even Luna joined in on the frivolities, creating quite a spectacle for the ponies who were not present for the last Nightmare Night.

Sam and Twilight opted to move towards taking a seat at one of the tables; both needed to get off of their legs. Before either of them could speak, Princess Celestia joined them, taking the seat next to Sam not occupied by Twilight.

“I hope I'm not interrupting anything, you two, but I need to speak with Sam for a moment, if you don't mind.”

Twilight nodded and began to walk away from the table.

“Oh, Twilight, you don't have to leave, what I wish to discuss with him isn't exactly a private matter.”

Twilight looked towards her mentor and smiled. “Alright, I'm just going to get something to drink, though. I'll be back in a few minutes.” She slowly began trotting through the crowd to the punch table, where the rest of her friends were gathered.

Celestia returned her attention to Sam. “So, how have you been? I haven't had many opportunities to check on you since Twilight first woke up.”

Sam rubbed the back of his head absentmindedly. “I've been better, but I'll be alright. Twilight has been great helping me with my recovery.” Sam sighed. “I can't even describe how relieved I was to see that she was okay when I got out of my coma.” He turned around to look towards the punch table just in time to see Twilight lean in to the group, giggling and murmuring something, before her friends smothered her in a group hug. Sam turned back to the Princess, grinning slightly. Looks like she told them all about *us*, heh... Those girls may not be human, but they sure do act a lot like the girls I knew back home, it's strange how that is.

Celestia smiled at him, almost knowingly. “Yes, Twilight really is special to many of us. She's lucky to have friends as caring as yourself.” Her voice shifted in tone, she had business to discuss. “Anyway, Sam, I'm glad the two of you will be okay. Since you're injured, I presume working with Applejack is out of the question, at least for now?”

Sam nodded.

“How would you like a new job? This incident with the replicators really hammered home to me that my little ponies may not be properly prepared to use and deal with the technology and innovations that you have brought us. It would really comfort me to know that someone intimately familiar with the details was overseeing any further development.”

“So, basically, you want me to make sure your researchers don't nearly kill us all again?”

“I wasn't going to be so blunt, but yes, essentially. It's obvious that the knowledge you have shared could do wonderful things for us, but I think the replicator incident proved that the opposite is doubly true.”

“I can't say it's a bad idea, Princess. Now that I think about it, I really feel a bit awful that I didn't suggest it myself. I guess I figured that what I had given the professors would be safe, assuming they fully read the warnings, anyway...”

The Princess placed a hoof on Sam's shoulder. “Oh, Sam, don't beat yourself up about it. The professors told me that the file was initially hidden, and even then they had to piece it together to read it. I'm sure you couldn't have possibly known they'd find that design.”

“You're right, still, even in my own time we were reluctant to use those machines. So, what would this job entail?”

“Well, I would like for you to move back to Canterlot, and work directly with the research teams. Teach them the proper techniques, maybe even teach a few classes on your specialty. But ultimately, your primary job would be to carefully inspect any new project proposals. Your approval will carry almost as much weight as mine would. In fact, if a project does not have your confident approval, it will almost assuredly not get mine.”

Sam looked away in contemplation. On one hand, the thought of throwing himself back into academia was incredibly tempting. He would be back in his element, experimenting, researching, and possibly getting to become a teacher, something he'd long hoped to try. But on the other hand, this would mean he'd have to leave Ponyville, the few new friends he'd made, and most importantly, Twilight. The decision was a no-brainer for him.

With a sigh, Sam gave his answer. “That's a very tempting offer, Princess. And honestly, in any other situation, I'd probably jump on it. I mean, I know Canterlot is just a train-ride away from here, but that's too far away from... Well, I've come to really like it here, for several reasons.”

Celestia nodded her head. “I see. Do understand, you would be doing me and the country a huge favor. We barely handled the last crisis, and should another problem occur from your technology, I wouldn't want any uncertainty about whether or not we can withstand such.”

“I know, but... I can't just pull myself away from here, especially not...”

A small smile crept across the Princess's face. “Is it Twilight?”

Sam was taken aback. “Well, yeah, actually... How'd you know?”

“When you've been around as long as I have, you tend to get quite talented at reading ponies, and humans too, apparently. All condescension aside, I've seen the way you've both looked at each other. Though, I had my suspicions long before; when she came to in the hospital, you were the first person she asked for. When we told her how you were at the time... Oh, it was like a knife in my heart. I felt so terrible for her...”

Sam cocked his head to the side in confusion. “So... You aren't the least bit concerned about your star pupil dating a bizarre time traveler who is of a different species?”

“Oh, a little,” she giggled, “though that last thing is uncommon, but not completely unheard of. There have been pony-zebra couples, and a few pony-buffalo couples, you know. Besides, you two care about each other very much, I can feel it; you did, after all, almost die trying to save her. That's what's important as far as I'm concerned, as long as you two together can handle the difficulties that usually come with such unconventional relationships. You need to ask yourself if you are up to that challenge. Are you?”

“I hope so,” Sam sighed, “I’m trying my hardest to get used to the idea. I really do care about her, you know.”

The Princess smiled. “Then I’m sure you’ll both be fine,” Celestia ceased her laughing and regained her serious tone of voice. “But I digress. I understand why you are hesitant to accept my offer. However, in all seriousness, this is something I really need from you.”

“Maybe we could compromise. I see Twilight get letters from you all the time. You said it yourself that the most important part of my job would be examining proposals. Why not just mail them to me? I've got my original copy of the archive data at Twilight's place, so I could handle that job easily. As for the training, I suppose I could try writing up the proper information when it is requested. I could possibly even make occasional, and I do mean occasional, trips to the city to host the training in person.”

The Princess brought a hoof to her chin as she considered the idea. “It wouldn't be as efficient,” she sighed, “but I think it's quite an amenable compromise. I must admit, I would have felt awful to tear Twilight's special somepony away from her and all of your friends.”

“...But you'd have done it.”

Celestia nodded, sighing. “If I had to. I've had the opportunity to look over some of the pending proposals; the risks presented in some of them...” She shuddered. “None quite as severe as a rogue replicator cloud attack, to be sure, but not too far removed, either.”

Sam chuckled. “I suppose they tried to modify the arc reactor designs into a weapon? Please don't tell me they're using palladium, the byproducts of that reaction are toxic!”

“Both, actually.”

Sam facepalmed. What do they even need an arc reactor for?

“So, I take it that you are willing to take the job?”

“As long as I can stay in Ponyville, yes,” Sam nodded.

“Very well. I've put a temporary halt on research since the incident, so whenever you feel up to getting started, just get in touch. And if you ever change your mind and want a change of scenery, the rest of my offer still stands. I think your personal involvement would be preferrable and beneficial, but your compromise is certainly agreeable. Thank you, Sam.”

Princess Celestia then rose from her seat, and began mingling with the rest of the party guests.

Sam replayed the conversation in his head. New job? Check. Related to what I'm good at? Check. Gettin' paid? Probably. Get to stay with my... Marefriend? (Man, dating a unicorn, dunno if I can get used to that. Damn life, you strange.) Check. Something still doesn't seem right... The gears in Sam's head were grinding at top speed. Realization hit him as hard as his hand hit his face. Still can't read or write Equestrian. That's no good.

Sam realized that Twilight had been gone for far longer than it would take to get a cup of punch, even on a healing sprained ankle. Rising to his feet and grabbing his crutches, Sam began walking about, scanning the crowd for the lavender unicorn. After accepting congratulations from several of the party guests, he finally spotted Twilight talking to two unicorns that he hadn't seen enter the auditorium earlier with the rest of the audience; a male with a dark blue mane, light blue coat, and a crescent moon mark on his rear, and a female with a light gray coat, a cutie-mark of three purple stars, and purple and white striped mane worn in a style similar to how Twilight wore her own. Both looked older than Twilight.

Once he had reached Twilight's side, he sat down in the nearest chair and tapped her shoulder to get her attention, causing her to jump in shock and forget about the ponies she was just talking to.

“Hey, calm down there, Twi, it's just me.”

Laughing nervously, she replied. “Right, so what did the Princess want?”

“She's offered me a new job. Don't worry, I can stay here, I'll explain the rest later, but uh... Do you know anyone who can teach me to read, write, and speak Equestrian?”

Smiling, she pointed a hoof at herself. “I'll be glad to teach you myself.”

“Great!” Sam looked at the two unicorns in front of Twilight, who were simply standing and smiling politely at the interruption, and then back to Twilight, with a quizzical look on his face. “So... Twilight, who are your friends here? Care to introduce me?”

Twilight gave another nervous laugh, her face clearly showing signs of anxiety. “Um, Sam, meet my mother, Sparkler, and my father, Moon Ray, they just got here a few moments ago. Mom, Dad, this is Sam Mitchell, the one I told you about that helped stop the replicators, and saved my life. He's also...” Just say it, they'll find out eventually anyway! “...My special somepony.”

Twilight's parents exchanged shocked looks with Sam. The tension was almost palpable, until Moon Ray extended a hoof in Sam's direction.

“Nice to meet you, Sam!” The unicorn exclaimed cheerfully. “And please, call me Ray!”

Sam, still in shock, grabbed Ray's hoof and shook hard. “Likewise, sir.”

Sparkler trotted over and gave Sam a quick hug. “So, you're the one that saved my little filly! Thank you EVER so much!”

Twilight stood stock still, her jaw agape. That went over far better than I had imagined it. Inside her mind, a scene played out in which her parents' reaction to Sam's alien appearance and relationship with her was far from friendly; after swiftly panicking and bucking Sam in the face, Moon Ray and Sparkler ran off, inciting a spontaneous stampede out of the auditorium. Once the dust had cleared, Twilight found herself being dragged back to Canterlot by her parents and the Princesses to study under their close supervision.

Sparkler looked at her daughter with concern. “Twilight, honey? Are you alright?”

Shaking her head, Twilight snapped out of it. “Oh, yeah, sorry mom. It's been a long day.”

Ray laughed knowingly. “Twilight, you weren't worried that we'd freak out over your coltfriend, were you?”

Twilight nodded. “I guess I was. So you're not?”

“Eh, I can't say I know for certain how I feel about you dating a...” Ray looked up and down Sam's form, “What are you, anyway?”

“A human, sir. Long story.”

“A human...” Ray mused quietly over the word for a moment, “Right, a human. I don't know how I feel about that, Twilight... But you're a grown mare, and I trust you to do what's right. You've never disappointed us before.” He shifted his eyes towards Sam. “Besides, if you saved my daughter and helped her stop that machine, you can't be all bad.”

Sam felt his sweating cease. Holy hell, these are the most reasonable “girlfriend parents” I've ever had.

Sam had a brief flashback to when he met the father of his last girlfriend. He had just been welcomed inside to wait as his date was getting ready. Her very tall, muscular father simply sat, silently, his eyes alternating between Sam and the very large and very well-stocked gun cabinet. After an awkward five minutes, the man said, “Boy, I trust ya to take mah little girl out tonight. You do anythin' to break dat trust, I'ma rip yer legs off at tha hip.”

Returning to reality, Sam merely nodded his head. “Thank you, sir. I can certainly see where Twilight gets her kind nature from.”

Ray laughed. “Don't call me sir, I'm Ray. I can appreciate proper manners, but you don't have to butter me up.” He looked around at his wife and daughter as if trying to remember something. “Oh! Right, Twilight, your mother and I forgot to tell you, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance will be joining us tomorrow! They just got back from some royal-business-trip-slash-extended-honeymoon a week or so ago. Sam, I think you, me, and Shining will have to go grab a drink and let the girls catch up tomorrow.”

“Whoa, Twilight, you didn't tell me that your brother married a princess!”

Ray pushed out his chest proudly. “That's my colt!”

Sparkler was giggling like a filly. “Me? Mother-in-law to a Princess? They've been married for months now, and I still get giddy thinking about it!”

“Anyway, Sam, really, it's been great to meet the... Is stallion an appropriate term?”

“My people usually refer to males as guys, men, boys... But I don't much care.”

“Alright. I'm glad to have met the... Guy... That's been watching out for my Twilight.” Ray looked over at his daughter. “We'll drop by tomorrow to really visit with you and Sam, and before then Shining and Cadance should be meeting us at the inn; for now we're going to go settle into our room. We would have been here earlier, but the darn train left Canterlot an hour late!”

“Yes, so nice to meet you Sam. And congratulations on your award, both of you." Sparkler took a step towards her daughter. "We are so proud of you, as always, Twilight! Good night you two!”

Twilight hugged both of her parents in turn, before bidding them goodnight.

Settling into the chair next to Sam, with the party still in full swing around them, Twilight pulled up close and leaned against him as he placed an arm around her. She opened her mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by a flash of pink as Pinkie Pie appeared in front of the couple.

“OHYMGOSH TWILIGHT I CAN'T BELIEVE SAM'S YOUR SPECIAL SOMEPONY! I MEAN I CAN BECAUSE HE'S A NICE GUY AND SUPER SMART AND ALL LIKE YOU BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! THAT'S SO GREAT TWI! You two are so cute together! OOOOH somepony wants to play pin the tail on the donkey! Gotta go! Congrats guys, bye!” As quickly as she came, Pinkie had vanished.

“Well, Sam, there you have it, you met my parents. I gotta say that went far better than I could have ever hoped.”

Recalling again his last girlfriend's redneck father, Sam laughed nervously. “You have no idea.”

---

The next morning, Sam and Twilight made an extra effort to be up in time to greet Ray, Sparkler, and the rest of Twilight's family. After dragging herself out of bed, Twilight went through the usual routine to help relieve Sam's pain; though it had begun slightly receding as the days passed, it was often enough to nearly make him vomit at times.

As Sam sat in the study, applying the ointment that the doctor had prescribed for his skin grafts, Twilight and Spike set about getting a few small snacks and some tea ready for their soon-arriving guests.

Around mid-morning, there came a knock at the door, which Twilight answered.

Opening the door, she found herself facing her parents, and two other ponies. One was a white-coated male unicorn whose dark blue mane slightly resembled Twilight's own with it's light blue streak down the middle, and the other was a pink alicorn with a flowing mane and tail made up of pastel purples, pinks, and yellows.

"Well, come on in everypony, welcome to my place! I've got some tea and snacks in the study for us, so help yourselves."

Her parents entered the library, followed by the unicorn and alicorn, both of whom quickly found themelves in a group hug from Twilight.

"Shining Armor! Princess Cadance! It's so good to see you both!"

The alicorn giggled. "It's good to see you, too, Twilight. You know you don't have to call me 'princess', though, right?"

"Oh, I know, force of habit I guess." Twilight turned to look at Shining Armor. "So, how was your trip, big brother?"

Shining shook his head. "I'll put it this way, Twiley, I'm just glad it was also doubling as a vacation."

"That bad, huh? Well, come on in to the study, I've got so much to tell you both, and there's someone I want you to meet!"

Twilight led her brother and sister-in-law into the study, where Sam had just finished treating his wounds and putting his shirt back on.

Ray and Sparkler had already exchanged greetings with Sam, and were focused on pouring themselves some tea. Shining and Cadance entered the room, and wore expressions of confused interest as they sat down next to Twilight's parents. Twilight herself finally took a seat next to Sam.

Twilight levitated the teapot towards her brother. "Would you or Cadance like some?"

Shining looked at Cadance, who shook her head. "I think we're fine, Cadance and I had a late breakfast, so maybe a little later. Thanks, though, sis. Why don't you introduce your... Friend over there."

Sam took the initiative himself. "Ah, sorry, where are my manners? I'm Sam. I'd shake your hoof, but I'm still recovering from an injury. It's kinda hard for me to walk over there. I'm guessing you and the lovely alicorn next to you are Twilight's brother, Shining, and sister-in-law, Cadance?"

Cadence smiled and nodded. "That would be right. And I'm guessing that you're the 'human' that Ray and Sparkler told us about?"

"Yep, the one and only."

Ray set his teacup down on the table. "Yeah, son, this is the hero that saved your sister!"

"Really? You saved Twiley? That probably means you're the one that Mom and Dad said is dating her, too, then, right?"

Twilight felt her face getting warm. "Yes, Shining, that's him."

Shining armor furrowed his brow as he considered the information he'd just heard. However, before he could say anything, a few words from Cadance set his mind at ease.

"It's hard to believe the little filly I used to foalsit is all grown up, and even has her own special somepony!" Cadance looked over at Sam. "So, you saved her life, what's the story behind that?"

Shining nodded. "Yeah, what happened? I heard there was some sort of attack in the area, but we've been a little cutoff from the rest of the world until we got back to Equestria this morning."

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. "Oh, it's a long story. Sam? Do you want to at least explain the first part of it? How you got here?"

"Sure. Believe me, you guys, you'd think the story would be as simple as a monster attacking out of the forest, but it's far more bizarre than that..."

The next half hour was consumed with Sam explaining the situation with the war back in his own time. He could see the shock in everyone’s eyes as he described the violent conflict he escaped. When he mentioned just how far back in the past he was from, they scarcely knew what to say.

"...And that brings me to the attack. After I got the archive working, I thought I'd removed any dangerous technology, especially designs that even my people were hesitant to use. I then sent that off to the academy, as per my deal with Celestia. Somehow, I still haven't figured it out, the researchers got hold of a design for a machine that produces clouds of tiny, microscopic machines called "replicators". They have the ability to build nearly anything you can imagine and program for."

Shining rubbed his chin with a hoof. "That sounds really beneficial, how did that end up with you and my sister getting hurt so badly?"

"Well, they made several modifications, and used an artificial intelligence in it. Basically, they gave it the ability to think and defend itself. It got out of control, and due to the use of magic in its manufacture and operation, it began seeking out sources of magical energy. First it tried to get Celestia and Luna, but they fought it off. The next best thing was Twilight, so it attacked Ponyville. Twilight and I had a plan to destroy it; she had to disable its magic, and I had built a device that would destroy the unshielded circuits. Just as we managed to get the right timing for our attacks, it lashed out one more time at Twilight. She had just unleashed a massive bolt of magic and was already beat up pretty hard; she couldn't move."

All four guests gasped in horror, and Twilight felt herself cringing at Sam's words. If you'd have just moved out of the way... Now Sam's in near-constant pain...

Sam put an arm around Twilight and drew her close to him. "I made a split second choice. Twilight would have almost certainly not survived the attack; ponies are pretty small in comparison to this thing. So, I did the only thing I knew to do and jumped in front of it."

Cadance gasped again, and Shining simply said, "Whoa."

"So, you knew you were large enough to withstand the hit?" Ray inquired.

Sam shook his head. "No, not really. I'd hoped, and obviously I was right, but just barely." He looked down at Twilight. "I just couldn't stand to see anything happen to Twilight. She's done so much for me. I can't express how tough it's been to deal with the fact that I'll never see my family again, but Twilight's been there for me the whole way."

Sparkler and Cadance let out a collective "D'aaawwww!"

Shining Armor rolled his eyes, as did his father.

Shining looked Sam in the eye. "Well, I'm glad to know somepony is looking out for my little sis." He shifted his gaze towards Twilight. "Ever since you moved here from Canterlot, I can't help but worry about you a little."

"Just a little, eh?" Twilight giggled.

Sparkler took another sip of her tea. "So, Sam, you and Twilight have told us a lot about you specifically, but how about telling us about WHAT you are? Are humans capable of magic, flight, weather control, or anything like that?"

"I'm afraid we can't do magic, or control the weather, but we have built machines that let us fly. Heh, I kinda wish I had one right now. No, our biggest ability is our intelligence, and of course these." Sam held up his hands. "If there's one thing my people are good at, it's problem solving, and hard labor, and being able to easily manipulate things with our hands makes doing all of that fairly simple."

"You look vaguely like a monkey." Ray interjected, his eyebrows raised and his mouth pulled into a devious grin.

Shining did his best to cover up his chuckling, which manifested as a loud snort.

Twilight nearly spat out her tea, and began waving her forehooves frantically to shut her father up. Please don't be offended Sam, oh Celestia my dad can be so embarassing... This is going to end up just like with Rarity! No no no... "Sam, please don't mind my dad, he's a real joker sometimes and-"

"It's okay, Twi." Sam simply shrugged and nodded his head. "Yeah, humans *are* classified as primates. But uh, MOST of us don't fling our excrement or hoard bananas."

Ray brought a hoof to his chin. "Hmm... I thought monkeys were a lot hairier than that, too..."

Twilight's jaw dropped as she facehoofed.

Sam laughed. If I didn't know better, I'd say this pony is trying to troll me. Heh, you're gonna have to do better than that, I've dated too many girls with redneck families in my day to have my jimmies rustled THAT easily. Only Rarity seems to know how to do that.

"Humans are just a naturally better-looking species than monkeys, Ray."

Ray finally ventured a laugh. "I can respect that, Sam. You know what? You're alright." He turned to look at Shining. "Son, how about you, Sam, and I go into town and catch up over a couple drinks. I saw a nice pub across from the inn last night."

Sam saw Cadance's face light up. "Oh! Twilight! You, your mother, and I should go have a little 'filly-time' at the spa! We have so much to talk about."

Twilight looked up at Sam, frowning slightly, as if she were asking if he was up for any of this.

"Don't worry Twilight, I'm just going to get to know your dad and brother. I could use the walk anyway, gotta get the strength back in this leg if I'm ever gonna use it properly again. Go have fun with your mom and sister-in-law. When we get back, we should all have a nice big dinner out somewhere."

Shining stood up and stretched. "You know, Sam, that's not a half-bad idea. It's been ages since mom, dad, Twiley, and I have all really been under the same roof."

Twilight nodded her head in agreement. "Alright then, Sam, you have fun with dad and Shining. Don't get into too much trouble, okay?"

Before Sam could get up, Twilight gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, which, after a slight hesitation that he hoped would be chalked up to shyness, he reciprocated.

Ray stretched, and rose to his hooves. "Alright, well, personally I vote that we meet up and eat at Chez Hay, Twilight. Your mom and I saw it coming in last night, looks pretty good."

"Sounds good to me, Dad. See everypony later!"

---

Twilight decided to treat her mother and sister-in-law to what Rarity had referred to as “the usual”. After massages, a sauna session, and a mud bath, the three mares found themselves relaxing in the hot tub.

Sparkler sighed contentedly. “Twilight, thank you so much for taking us here. I can't remember the last time I've done anything like this, let alone been able to spend any time with you.”

“Oh it's nothing, Mom,” Twilight replied, beaming, “honestly, with everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks, I needed this.” She turned her attention to Cadance. “So, Cadance, whaddya think? How does this compare to the places in Canterlot?”

“Oh, it's certainly giving them a run for their money.”

Sparkler pulled herself over closer to where Twilight was sitting. “Sam certainly does seem nice, if a bit strange. I hope you don't mind me asking, but what exactly about him caught your eye?”

Twilight blushed a little. “Oh, come on, Mom...”

“No, really, I'm not teasing, I'm genuinely curious.”

“I'd like to know, too,” Cadance giggled, “it's obvious that you two are close. How'd it happen?”

“Well... I'll admit, it isn't necessarily his looks. I mean I’m not saying I think he's ugly or anything, no. But... I don't know, it's hard to explain, we just get along so well. He and I share so many things in common.”

“Don't tell me he's obsessive-compulsive, too, dear,” Sparkler chortled.

“Mom!” Twilight glared at her mother. “... No. Like, he loves figuring things out and learning new things, and he and I have spent hours at a time just talking about things like math and science. And not just because we were working on something together, no, we just had fun discussing it because it interested us. He's fascinated by my magic, and the things he's taught me about advanced mathematics are mindblowing!”

Cadance smiled. “So, what you're saying is, he's a sort of kindred spirit?”

“Exactly! And it's funny that you would think he's an OCD case like me.”

Sparkler raised an eyebrow. “Why's that, Twilight?”

“Well, he's the complete opposite. And I realized yesterday that that's one of many reasons why I like him so much. I was having another episode, this time over a dress I couldn't find. You both remember how I can be...”

Sparkler rolled her eyes. “I certainly do, dear.”

“Well, Sam somehow knows how to talk me down from it. I don't know that anypony has been able to do that before. It's almost always like that, I just feel right when he's around me. I know that sounds like something from some sappy, amateurish romance story, but it's true.”

Cadance and Sparkler smiled knowingly at each other.

“What? What'd I say?”

Still smiling, Cadance pulled herself closer to her sister-in-law. “Oh, nothing. It's just that your mom and I know what you mean, and I couldn't be happier for you.”

Sparkler was looking giddier than a young filly about to open gifts on Hearth's Warming Eve. “You realize what we're getting at, right Twilight?”

“Um... Not really...”

“How about I put it this way... When's the wedding?”

Twilight's pupils narrowed to the size of a pinhead. “Wha-? Mom! No, no no no... We just started “dating” like, just a few days ago! We haven't even really been on a REAL first date yet!”

Cadance cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean real?”

Twilight quickly walked them through the evening she had Sam take her on the “mock date”, a story that quickly left Sparkler and Cadance in tears from both how ironically hilarious and adorable the whole situation was.

Sparkler finally regained her composure and placed a hoof on her daughter's shoulder. “Twilight, honey, I know your father and I have encouraged you to read and do independent research, but sometimes I think you should really put down the books and just wing it.”

Twilight blankly stared at her mother as if she'd spoken blasphemy.

Cadance nuzzled Twilight's shoulder, trying to cheer her up. “Oh, come on, we're just messing with you! Seriously, I've always wondered when some lucky stallion would catch your eye, and I'm glad one finally has, even though he's not exactly a stallion.”

“I know, I know, still... I was really worried about how this would go over. I know it's not unheard of for relationships like this to happen, but Sam is the first and only of his kind we've ever seen, and I had no idea what some ponies might think. In fact, Sam himself is having to try very hard to get used to the idea of dating me. He thinks I don't notice, I think. You see, humans were the only sentient race in Sam's time, not like today. In his time, our relationship would have been seen as way beyond strange.”

Cadance nodded. “I noticed he seemed a little tense, and I saw how he hesitated before returning your kiss earlier, which was absolutely adorable by the way. But look at it like this; if this sort of thing really is that big of a deal for him, then he must care about you as much as you care for him; otherwise, he wouldn't be trying so hard to get past it. And, he risked his life to save yours, after all.”

Twilight looked up pensively. “That's a good point, Cadance,” she sighed, “you always do manage to see the best in everypony.” Though, I wish everypony would quit reminding me that Sam got hurt because of me...

Cadance smiled. “Well, it's like you've said before, I 'spread love everywhere I go', and my cutie-mark is a heart, it's kind of my thing.”

“Like we said, Twilight, we're happy for you, and Sam certainly seems like the type to treat you well.”

Twilight finally allowed herself to sink a little further into the steaming water. “Thanks, Mom.”

The mares spent the rest of their spa time exchanging stories, with Sparkler recounting expeditions to Gryphonia in order to research ancient forms of magic. Cadance couldn't resist bragging a little about the luxurious resort that she and Shining Armor had taken their honeymoon to. Not one to be outdone with storytelling, Twilight gave them both the full details of how she and her friends had defeated Nightmare Moon and nearly been beaten by Discord; she followed those stories up with the countless hilarious pranks that Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash had pulled on everypony in Ponyville.

In Twilight's mind, the only thing that could have made that afternoon better would have been for Sam to have been there with her.

---

Sam found himself crouched over a table in a small establishment that Ray had told him was called 'The Feisty Mule'. Shining Armor had ordered the three of them a round of drinks, something that Sam thought tasted much like a wheat beer from his own time.

“Thanks for the drink, Shining. I wish I'd found this place earlier, it's been ages since I've had a good Belgian white,” Seeing his companions' confused faces, he continued, “it's a type of wheat beer. Tastes a lot like this stuff, but with less of a fruity, apple-ish flavor, usually. What's the brand, anyway?”

“Don't mention it. I figure after what you went through, you could use a cold one. It's called 'Hoofenbräu', one of my favorites.”

“You have good taste, Shining. I wish I could show you and your dad my favorite bar from my time. If you enjoy a good drink, you would think you had died and gone to heaven; over a hundred monthly-rotated beers on tap. Oh man, I miss that place, not gonna lie.”

Ray chuckled. “Sparkler would KILL me.”

Sam shrugged. “What can I say? It was a college town, and my particular college was known for studying hard and partying harder, if you know what I mean.”

“Sam, I'm a royal guard, nopony throws down like a soldier,” Shining chuckled.

“Is that a challenge? I’m certainly no pony.”

Shining grinned. “It just might be.”

Sam glared at Shining. “Alright, then, as soon as I'm healed up, it's on, bro.”

“You, me, our friends, Las Pegasus.”

Ray shook his head. “Alright, you two, contrary to popular belief, the liver is NOT evil and must NOT be punished. Only occasionally antagonized because it is merely a bit annoying. Anyway, Sam, what exactly do you do?”

Sam took a sip of his drink. “Well, back before I wound up here, I was a computer hardware engineer. I helped design complex electrical power management systems, worked with computer programmers to design high-speed logic chips, and I had a brief foray into transistor layout and mask design.”

Ray nodded. “You'll have to explain to me what half of that stuff is, sometime.”

Sam chuckled. “Basically, if I had the right equipment, I could design, manufacture, and program my own computer system from scratch. I'm actually about to start working with the Royal Academy to adapt some of my technology.”

“Interesting. So what do you do now?”

“When I first got here, Twilight helped me get a job with her friend Applejack; she owns an apple orchard, you see. At first it was just to help me acclimate to this place. The farm environment reminded me a lot of my childhood, and that was comforting; it helped me cope with the stress of pretty much losing everyone and everything I knew and loved from my own time,” Sam sighed, “but with my injuries from the replicator attack, I don't know if I'll be able to work on the farm again. Like I said though, Princess Celestia is taking me on as a technical advisor for the Academy researchers, so I have that.”

Shining set his mug down. “Wow, that's a pretty big jump in a short time. It took me ten years to work my way up the ranks from private, and I supposedly made that ascension quicker than anypony before me. Not bad, Sam.”

“Heh, thanks, Shining. So, Ray, Twilight tells me you and Sparkler are magic researchers. What does that entail?”

“Well, we focus on ancient magic, so we often get pulled out on expeditions to various places, looking for old scripts and texts. The aim is to hopefully track down ancient spells that might shed some insight on exactly how magic works. That could lead to any number of improvements in our current abilities.”

Sam took a long drink from his glass. “So you travel a lot? I kinda envy you, my old job didn't permit me more than a week or two of vacation every year. That's really cool though.”

“It can be pretty dull, but the traveling perk does make up for some of it.” Ray took a sip of his beer. “So, if you don't mind me asking, Sam, what do you intend to happen with you and my little filly?”

Sam felt every muscle in his body tense up and his face flush.

Ray noticed, and laughed. “Chill out there. It's a totally innocent question. I'll admit I'm a little surprised to see Twilight chasing after a non-pony. But like I said last night, I'm told you nearly died protecting her, that goes a long way with her mother and I.”

“Fair enough. Let's just say I've had bad experiences with the fathers of one or two of my last girlfriends. If there's one thing I've noticed so far, it's that a lot of you ponies are far more rational and trusting than most humans I know. But to answer your question... I just want her in my life, you know? I don't know how our relationship is gonna go; bear in mind it's completely unheard of for my kind to date non-humans. In my time, no other species was sentient. It's going to take some getting used to, but I really care about Twilight. She was the first friend I made here, and she's been there for me during some pretty tough times in my acclimation here.”

Ray pensively sipped at his drink. “I think I can live with that answer. You seem like a good kid, Sam. Funny-looking, but you're alright. I'm definitely still on the fence about you two already living together, but given your circumstances,” he chuckled, “I guess I'll have to let it slide, for now at least.”

Sam idly scratched the back of his head. “So, Ray, I understand relationships like the one I have with Twilight aren’t TOO uncommon here, but I still can’t help but be surprised at how easily you and the rest of your family are accepting this.”

Ray furrowed his brow, thinking for the right answer. “You know, I don’t really have a good answer for you,” he looked towards his son, “but let me put it this way. I have a daughter who has turned her mother and I into potted plants, helped defeat a demon-possessed Princess Luna, and the embodiment of chaos himself, and my son was nearly tricked into marrying the Queen of the Changelings, only to defeat her with the help of the REAL bride and Princess... After all of that, I guess seeing Twilight date a time-travelling primate is the LEAST bizarre thing that’s happened with our family.”

“Yeah,” Sam chuckled, “I suppose you’re right.”

“Besides,” Ray continued, “like I said, you put yourself on the line pretty hard for Twilight. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about Twilight being with you.”

Shining lightly punched Sam in the shoulder. “And remember, if you hurt her, you're gonna have to deal with me.”

Sam returned the punch. “Don't worry, I have, er... Had a younger sister, before I got here. I used to be a bit more aggressive than you are, though; I would threaten my sister's potential boyfriends with the 'fact' that I knew how to kill them without leaving any evidence,” he said nonchalantly.

Ray raised an eyebrow at that remark. “Should I be worried about that?”

Sam laughed, waving his hands in front of him. “Oh, no, no, that was just something I said to scare them, because they knew I was smart enough that I just might not be bluffing. My sister was... Overly trusting, and would often meet the biggest jerks. Trust me, you'd have dealt with them the same way.” He turned to look at Shining. “So, change of subject, how'd you meet Cadance? I mean, you married a princess, that's like an astronomical combination of luck and pure game.”

Shining felt his face flush a bit. “Luck? Yeah, sometimes I still can't believe it, but game? Heh, nope. I don't know if you picked up on it, but she was Twiley's foalsitter back in the day. Of course, I had a really awkward crush on her from day one. It took me ages, being the awkward, lanky nerd I was back then, but I finally managed to ask her on a date or two. We kept it on the downlow from Twilight, because she still thought that “colts were icky” and we'd have never heard the end of it from her. The rest is more or less history, though we didn't get REALLY serious until I'd gotten through basic training with the royal guard.”

“Awkward nerd, eh? Sounds like you've got a little more in common with me than I thought,” Sam chuckled.

Ray put a hoof on Sam's shoulder. “Son, awkward doesn't even begin to describe this colt back then.”

“Heh, so even MORE in common with me.”

Shining responded by facehoofing.

Sam reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of bits. “Next round of drinks are on me guys.”

Ray looked up to the clock on the wall. “Eh, it's getting pretty close to dinner, so we should probably head on over to Chez Hay, but thanks for the offer, Sam.”

“Alright, but we gotta do this again sometime, on me. It's been awesome hanging out with you two.”

“Heh, likewise. I gotta say, my little filly has good taste, at least in personalities, anyway. I still say you look kinda funny, monkey-man,” Ray chuckled.

Shining just shook his head in exasperation. “Dad, Sam, let's go, you know how Mom gets when you keep her waiting...”

---

Sam looked at the menu, examining the pictures of each dish while the others conversed amongst themselves. Garden salad, grilled daisy sandwich, whole-hay breadsticks… Damn, what I'd do for a good steak burger or something these days…

Twilight prodded Sam's shoulder to get his attention. "Everything okay?"

Sam set down the laminated sheet, and looked down at Twilight. She was the only one of the group who decided to show up dressed up, wearing the simple blue dress Rarity had made her for the ceremony the night before. Sam couldn't help but smile at how adorably beautiful she looked. The fact that the group had opted for an outdoor tabled served to intensify the effect, with Twilight's eyes reflecting a few rays of the setting sun.

"Yeah, Twilight, I'm fine. I just can't make up my mind on what to order. Kind of a problem, seeing as how I'm starving right now," Sam chuckled.

"Have you tried their garlic and herb pasta?"

Sam took another glance at the menu; the dish looked a lot like pasta primavera, but with the addition of a few vegetables he wasn't familiar with. "No, I guess not, looks good though, I guess I'll try it. How was the spa day with your mom and Cadance?"

"Oh, it was great! I haven't gotten to spend time with either of them like that in ages! But," Twilight looked at him slyly, "after having one of YOUR massages, the ones that Aloe and Lotus give just don't compare."

The waiter arrived to take orders as well as serve the wine that Ray had ordered for everyone. Once all orders had been placed, and all wine glasses filled, Ray levitated his glass into the air.

"Everypony, I'd like to say a brief toast here. First, I still can't say enough how proud and happy I am for you two, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance. I'm sure you have many happy years ahead of you. Second, I want to wish my little filly and her new special somepony a speedy recovery, and a happy relationship together. It's been wonderful getting to see my family together again, as well as meet you, Sam. Cheers!"

With that, everyone else floated or otherwise lifted their glasses up, and took a drink. Sparkler smiled and gave her husband a light nudge.

"What was all that about, dear?"

Ray laughed. "Nothing, really. A stallion can't just express his positive emotions from time to time?"

"You like Twiley's new coltfriend, don't you Ray?" Sparkler asked, smirking.

Ray shrugged. "What can I say? I'm not a racist, honey, and he's a good kid. Almost as smart as Twilight, too."

"Ooohh, sounds like my big Ray has a colt-crush!"

Ray just glared at his wife.

"Honey I'm kidding. Honestly I'm glad you two got along. I remember how you used to talk when Twilight was growing up, 'any colt so much as lays a fetlock on my filly and he'll wish he'd never been born', blah blah blah," Sparkler giggled, and lowered her voice to a whisper, "But, no, I'm glad you like him. You should have heard Twilight this afternoon talking about him! It was adorable."

Twilight started laughing too. "Yeah Dad, don't you remember? How many times did you try to get me to let YOU take me to school dances? I didn't even wanna go in the first place, I just wanted to stay home and read!"

Ray rubbed the back of his head, grinning sheepishly. "Heh… Yeah… Wait, you all heard that?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah, you weren't exactly whispering. But thanks, though. Really, I'm amazed at how accepting you folks are, that really means a lot to me."

Ray took another sip of his wine. "You're welcome. I would also like to apologize, Twilight."

"What for, Dad?"

"For taking so long to come visit you. I swear your mother and I would have been right there beside your hospital bed if we'd gotten the news on time. As it were, we were deep within the Gryphon kingdom, in the middle of one of their deserts. By the time Celestia's messenger found us, well, you were already out of the hospital. We're just glad we made it in time for your party last night."

"Dad, really, it's okay, I understand. You don't have to apologize."

A few of the wait staff trotted up to the table, each holding a dish on their backs.

"Thank Celestia," Shining exclaimed, "enough of this sappy stuff, let's eat!"

Cadance rolled her eyes and laughed. "Stallions, always thinking with their stomachs."

The rest of the meal passed by pleasantly. After everyone had finished eating, the waiter dropped by again to inquire if anyone wanted dessert. Without exception, everyone politely declined, to the visible disappointment of the waiter.

Sam chuckled. Even millions of years in the future, restaurants serve ridiculous portions of food and act surprised when no one has room for dessert.

As everyone stood up to leave, Ray and Sparkler trotted over to where Sam and Twilight were standing. Ray extended a hoof towards Sam, who was righting himself onto his crutches.

"As I've said, it's been a pleasure to meet you, Sam. Take care of my little filly, alright? Remember," Ray said with a wink, "my son is the captain of the guard AND married to royalty. And I mean that both as a friendly threat, and to let you know that if you need anything, let us know."

Sam took Ray's hoof and shook. "Heh, thanks. Seriously though, you and Shining should come back some time. I still owe you two a drink."

Sparkler laughed. "How about you and Twilight come up to Canterlot sometime? Once we get back from finishing the Gryphonian expedition, we should have at least a month or so back here."

Twilight hugged her parents. "Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think, Sam?"

"Sure, just let us know. I haven't been up there since I got moved to Ponyville."

Ray nodded. "Well, Sparkler and I had better get outside, we're hitching a ride with Shining and Cadance back to Canterlot. Until next time!"

Shining and Cadance were already waiting outside of the restaurant, standing beside a royal chariot that had been sent to pick them up. Imitating his father, Shining reached up to shake Sam's hand.

"If you're ever in Canterlot, let me know, there's this bar in town I think you'll like. Me and some of my soldier friends hang out there sometimes when we're off duty."

"Sure, I'll keep that in mind. Been nice meeting you, Shiny."

Shining frowned. "Only my sister can call me that."

"Sorry."

Shining bent down to meet Twilight's embrace. "It was good to see you kiddo, take care of yourself, okay?"

Twilight laughed, and let go of him. "Oh, you know me. Don't be a stranger, okay, B.B.B.F.F.?"

Cadance leaned down to hug her old friend. "If you ever need any advice," subtly motioning her eyes towards Sam, "let me know!"

After everyone had said their goodbyes, Twilight and Sam began strolling back home.

"Your family is great, Twilight. Thanks for letting me meet them."

"Heh, I don't know what you said or did but you really impressed my dad."

"Did I now?"

"I think so. You know what Sam?"

"What?"

"This has been a really good day."

Sam thought back on the day's events. For the first time in quite a while, Sam had forgotten all about his pain and difficulties. He had awakened next to someone who cared about him, spent the afternoon drinking and hanging out with Ray and Shining as if they were old friends, and had dinner with a family that he could almost envision being his own.

Smiling, Sam replied. "Yeah, Twi, it really has."

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