• Published 27th Dec 2014
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Antaboga. - Reptilicus



Spike struggles to adjust to a new home and a new life.

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The stairs creak as you sleep.

Days passed and the maids acquainted themselves with Twilight and her new castle. The alicorn was very talkative, they noticed, and for the most part as they worked they would nod politely and ask questions. Twilight's range of subjects would hop from philosophy to the arcane to the sciences and back again. Some days she would go out and see her friends, a group of ponies known far and wide as the Elements of Harmony. And sometimes these ponies would visit the castle instead, though usually it was only to convince Twilight or Spike to come outside. This would leave Eric and his sister, Estee, free to get the crystal palace looking in tip-top shape. It wasn't a very big palace, quite a bit smaller than the one belonging to Cadence and Shining Armor back at the crystal empire, but what it lacked in size it made up for with interior complexities. There were numerous vacant halls and rooms, stairwells leading up to the observatory spires, and on the lowest floor, a few oubliettes which after some furnishings had been made into some nice cellars. These were empty and Estee made a mental note to request Cadence to send over some wine. Eric thought this idea to be in poor taste, since the Apple family lived just nearby, and would probably be more than happy to supply barrels of cider for the cellars. Estee would argue back that Princesses should drink wine because it is a high class drink for nobles, unlike cider.

But it didn't matter who was right, really. What was important was getting the castle liveable and comfortable. Because as nice as it looked from the outside, the entire thing was a sort of deranged plant made of rock that had sprouted from the ground in a matter of minutes thanks to a magical seed. A seed which has been fertilized with the power of friendship when Twilight and her friends had finally defeated Tirek, sending him back to the underworld. Technically the castle was a tree, and trees for all their talents, weren't very good at interior design. Not even crystal trees. A few removed walls here, a fleet of extra stairs there, some buffing of rough edges, removal of dangerous stalactites, and a few nice flickering oil lamps hanging in every dark spot had soon made the castle look much more like a home than a house. And Twilight was ever grateful to the crystal ponies for their help. And they were honored to be thanked by the Princess herself, whom despite being young had made quite a name for herself as of late. But these home improvements did little to improve the mood of the real hero of the Crystal Empire, Spike the dragon.

As the days passed and the maids worked, it was obvious something was wrong with the little drake. He seemed constantly drained and seemed to avoid speaking most mornings. He was lethargic, and had mostly stopped doing his chores, letting the maids entirely take over. The only time his mood seemed to lift was when Twilight showed concern for him, but she was clearly stressed herself, due to poor dreams. Even the crystal ponies themselves were concerned and urged her to see Princess Luna, as so many others had suggested already. Twilight was stubborn but she knew at this point a good nights sleep was more important than her pride. Spike however, was taking frequent naps. It was becoming common to see the little dragon underneath a rug or curtain or curled up on a piece of furniture, snoring sweetly. It reminded Eric and Estee of their pet kitten back at home, and how often it would take naps throughout the day. Of course their kitten did not breathe fire like Spike did. Along with his energy, Spike's appetite seemed to be diminishing slightly as well, and he would apologize when he was unable to eat one of the meals Eric had made for him.

But finally Friday had arrived, and with it would be Rainbow Dash and with her the arrival of Scootaloo, who would be in Twilight's care until the following Monday. An impromptu meeting was called that morning in the castle kitchen between Twilight and the two maids, who saluted her as she entered despite begging them not to give her special treatment.

"Estee, Eric, I would like to thank both of you for your time here. You've both gone way beyond what you needed to do for me and Spike and I really can't thank you enough. I wish I could pay you to stay here longer as I've enjoyed having you here, but I also know you both would like to return home. If Cadence asks me about your work ethic I will tell her you are two of the friendliest crystal ponies I've met!"

"It was no trouble at all, Princess." Eric crowed with a deep elegant bow.

"We wanted to do it, Your Highness!" Estee continued, her deep red dreadlocks swaying as she curtsied. "After all you helped save our Queen and you are sister to our King. You and your heirs deserve nothing but the best."

Twilight smiled but cringed internally at the usage of royal titles to address her. Try as she might she couldn't get these two to drop it. It would be one of the only things she wouldn't miss about having them in the castle.

"I think I've solved the dilemma of cleaning such a large castle while also not overworking Spike!" Twilight made her way to a broom and mop that were leaning against one of the walls. She raised one hoof then brought it down with a loud clack.

A lavender aura appeared around the broom and mop for a brief moment. Then they shivered slightly, as if cold, before rising into the air and setting down on their brushes. Then they began to sweep, the broom pushing a small cloud of dirt around the room on its bristles with the mop right behind, trying to wipe the floor even though it wasn't wet.

"That's very clever." Eric stepped out of the broom's path as it brushed past him. "How did you come up with the idea of enchanting the cleaning equipment to work on its own?"

"I saw it in a cartoon at the local theater in Canterlot when I was very young." Twilight replied with a grin as the mop chased the broom slowly around the room. "With a few tweaks I should be able to get this entire castle cleaning itself every few days. You two should be able to head back to the Crystal Empire on Monday or Tuesday."

"Should we not be preparing for the arrival of Dame Rainbow Dash of the Wonderbolts, your ladyship?" Estee asked, sidestepping the mop.

As if on cue, there was a metallic rapping at the front doors of the castle, making the three ponies immediately turn toward it. The broom and mop paused their work as well, seeming to realize they weren't needed, and falling to the floor. Twilight scuttled out of the kitchen, making great haste on her way to answer the door. She stopped for a moment before opening to take a look at Spike who was slumped on the welcome mat.

"Spike look at me." Twilight whispered, smiling as the little dragon looked up, his green eyes focusing on her. "I know you aren't feeling well but please try to help me be a good host. I was thinking of letting Scootaloo sleep in the den with you. It'd be like a slumber party. Would you like that?"

Spike nodded groggily, something resembling a grin playing about on his snout. Twilight gave him another worried glance before finally opening the doors, revealing Rainbow Dash. Dash fluttered in, dressed in full Wonderbolt garb. As a performing military outfit, they wore a simple skintight bodysuit made of aramid fibers that could sustain quite a bit of damage. Their uniforms were bright aquamarine, very visible even against the sky, with lightning bolt shaped yellow trim around the hooves, and a broad gold stripe that began right under the jaw, went over the belly and ended at the flank of the suit where the wearer's tail was. On top of all this Dash wore a thick brown pilot's jacket that was zipped up with Scootaloo peeping out from within through the neckline. A large rucksack hung at Dash's side, filled with contents she'd need for her stay at the training camp.

"Hey Twilight! Hey Spike!" Dash called with a wave, unzipping her jacket so Scootaloo and her own small backpack could come tumbling out to the floor. "I know I'm a bit early and stuff but I wanted to get a move on. Quicker I get there the quicker I can leave and come back."

"Hi Twilight! Hi Spike!" Scootaloo echoed, clumsily dragging her backpack into the house with her teeth.

Spike waved sleepily, wobbling on his feet. Dash extended a wing around Twilight, ushering the mare away from the children for a private chat.

"Spike looks worse than before, Twi. Is he sick with something? Is he contagious? Is this a bad time?" Dash tried to keep her voice low so as to be polite.

"He's not sick. At least I don't believe he is. I think whatever is wrong might be a dragon problem." Twilight whispered back, quickly glancing past Dash to be sure Spike wasn't listening. "But I don't know what to do. None of the pediatricians in Ponyville know how to treat baby dragons. But I'm still willing to look after Scootaloo, Dash. I know this is important."

"Thank you again, by the way, for doing this for me on such short notice. I really owe you this time." Dash reached into her rucksack and pulled out a small cooler, with several child-sized plastic thermoses inside. "Scoot's diet is pretty simple. Just nutritional junk and stuff. She needs to drink at least one of these a day during a meal. It's mostly protein and hormones and pegasus magic and stuff she never got from her birth mom. Pretty important if she wants to fly properly."

Twilight flinched a bit as she used her magic to levitate the cooler into the kitchen as Dash continued pulling stuff out of the bag. "So those thermoses. That's the formula Zecora helped you with? Which means it's made of your...."

"Yes." Dash noticed the shocked look on Twilight's face. "Hey I told you and the others when I said I was gonna nurse this kid back to health, I meant it. You should be impressed Zecora even knows this stuff or else Scoot would have been in a bad spot."

"I just think it's really sweet of you." Twilight mumbled, her eyes looking glossy as she saw her friend in a new light. "You really went the extra mile for her."

"Yeah yeah, I'm a big ol' softie. I love that kid. Ah ha, here we go." Dash fished out a few small textbooks. "Okay so this is basic algebra. I don't understand math much myself, and I'm not asking AJ about math again, so I told her you'd help her out. Sorry about that."

"It's fine!" Twilight stifled a chuckle. "You know how much I enjoy helping children learn."

"Good! Oh and here's her sleeping cloud." Dash pulled a small pinkish cloud out of the bag that drifted slowly towards the floor, giving off a very subtle glow. "I made this for her and she pretty much goes out like a light on it. What else is in here, oh yeah her toothbrush, toothpaste, comb she never uses, pajamas..."

"Dash if you have all this stuff in your bag, then what is in Scootaloo's bag?"

"Power Ponies comics." Dash deadpanned, buttoning the rucksack back up and heading towards the door. "She knows, thanks to me telling her about our little comic adventure, that Spike is a big fan of the same comics she likes. I'm trying to get her into Daring Do or Harry Trotter these days. Feel free to help out with that."

Dash hovered over to where Scootaloo was sitting near Spike, unpacking her comics and toys from her bag. Sensing that the time was here for her adopted guardian to leave, the orange pegasus filly began to tear up slightly, clinging to Rainbow as the elder mare leaned down for a hug.

"Okay squirt, I'm gonna head out." Dash gently nuzzled the filly in her arms. "Be good while I'm gone."

"But I wanna go with you!" squeaked Scootaloo in a hurt tone.

"I know you do, squirt. But I can't risk you falling off Cloudsdale. I'd never forgive myself if you got hurt again. I'm gonna be back in three days, okay? You're gonna have lots of fun with Twilight and Spike and I bet the time is just gonna fly by. Be on your best behavior, and make sure you do all your lessons and exercises."

"I will." came the tearful reply before the filly buried her face in Dash's chest, her voice becoming muffled. "I love you, mommy."

"Geez Louise. I'm never gonna get used to you callin' me that." Dash gasped as she caught her breath and wiped her moist eyes, leaning down to wrap up the filly with her powerful wings. "I love you too, Scoot."

And with that Dash flew out of the castle, the golden doors closing behind her with a dull thud. Leaving Twilight and Spike standing awkwardly around as a tearful filly sat on the floor, sniffling and staring at the doorway. Twilight cleared her throat, getting Spike's attention and flicking her head to motion towards the kitchen. Spike nodded and waddled slowly in that direction, as Twilight cantered over to the sombre foal, gently steering her towards the kitchen as well with one of her large alicorn wings.

"You are just in time, Scootaloo." Twilight began, trying to sound as cheerful as possible. "Spike and I, and our temporary servants Eric and Estee, were just about to bake a big chocolate cake! Even with our new crystal pony friends, we need more help with making it. Would you like to provide assistance?"

That seemed to cheer the filly up. Dry her tears for a while and distract her from the short separation from her guardian. Twilight knew very well the kind of stress that came from being apart from one's family. Twilight hadn't come to Ponyville of her own volition, instead being ordered there by Celestia, goddess of the sun. It had all worked out for the best, and Twilight had fallen in love with the quaint little village, making new friends and having adventures, but those first few months had been hard without her parents or her brother there to support her. All she had was Spike in tow when she arrived. Twilight looked over at the dragon in question and couldn't help but feel her heart drop. Despite the small grin on his face, his skin still looked grey, and his eyes still looked tired. Something was definitely wrong with her little assistant, but she couldn't be sure what.

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Night arrived swiftly on the final day before Dash's return, and brought with it sheets of light rain. The Ponyville weather pegasi generally preferred to schedule storms at night, so the water could soak into the ground and not be evaporated by the heat of the sun. It also made sleeping more pleasant, with the hum of droplets as they fell across the cobblestone streets and flowed down in rivulets from rooftops. Rain sparkled in the moonlight as it hit the striped spire atop Twilight's castle, the water bouncing off and smattering against the battlements before falling into the grass below. Flickering orange light from the inner bailey and keep, created by the new oil lamps, gleamed through all the small windows, giving the violet exterior an inviting mauve and orange tint. It made the whole structure glow in the night, illuminating the entire village ever so slightly.

The inhabitants within the castle itself were mostly all asleep. Twilight turned fitfully in her bed, trying to stave off nightmares. Eric and Estee rested in one of the guest rooms, having spent part of the night packing for their return trip to the Crystal Empire. Scootaloo lay curled up on a small pink cloud that had been brought for her by Dash. It hovered silently half a meter from the floor, ebbing and contorting as it kept it's occupant warm. Spike lay in his hammock, unable to sleep. It wasn't that the hammock was bad, far from it actually. It didn't have the same comfort as his old basket but it was certainly better than the bed. It was just round enough for him to curl up on, and had been filled with three downy pillows, soft enough that he could wriggle into them, but tough enough where his green back quills wouldn't damage them. He and Scootaloo's beds were near the fireplace, which still crackled with a few glowing twigs remaining, the fire lasting far longer due to magical means. As with many nights, Spike's mind was full of thoughts and questions, and the coincidence that he'd been sleeping so much lately, except now when he needed it most, was not lost on him and only served to make him more frustrated. And so his mind wandered as it often did until a particular loud pop from the fireplace embers served to wake up their new sleeping guest.

"Hmm?! What?" Scootaloo jumped up as the spark from the fireplace flew overhead, on full alert. "Who's there!? Dash? Luna?"

"It's just the fireplace. Go back to sleep." Spike mumbled, barely audible.

"Are you still awake, Spike?"

"Yup."

A gentle gust of air blew past the hammock as the foal's tiny wings flapped, pushing her cloud closer to her conversation partner.

"Why are you still up?"

"Thinking about stuff. You should go back to sleep."

The filly drifted closer to Spike, her large eyes observing him with curiosity.

"What kind of stuff do dragons think about?" Scootaloo asked innocently. "You're the only dragon I know."

Spike let out a long groan, needing great effort to turn over in the bed, his muscles still sore and weary for reasons he couldn't explain. The scruffy filly was curled up on her cloud, her lavender eyes gleaming in the embers of the fire as she stared at Spike expectantly. He knew her inquisitive nature wouldn't allow him to have peace, but maybe talking with someone would help him get the calm mind and restful sleep he so desired.

"All kinds of stuff." Spike began, scratching his head where his scales itched. "Like if I'll remember anyone."

"Remember anyone?" Scootaloo tilted her head in confusion.

"Yeah. Dragons live a really really long time. By the time I'm grown up, everyone I know now will be gone. Sometimes I just stay awake and wonder if I'll still remember Twilight when I'm 100 years old. Or 1000 years old. Will I forget who I was? Who I used to be? Will I forget Rarity and how beautiful she is? Will I forget how Twilight raised me? Will I forget all the adventures I've had? Will Ponyville even still be around by the time I'm old?"

"That...." Scootaloo shivered. "That sounds really scary, Spike."

"It is really scary. Celestia says I shouldn't think about that kind of stuff but I can't help it." Spike whispered, panic rising in his voice. "I don't even know if dragons have souls like ponies do. Like if I'll see my friends in Valhalla after I'm gone. If I'll even have friends by then. I don't know if I'll even be able to live with ponies when I'm older and bigger."

Scootaloo was quiet for a moment before speaking. "Is that why you've been so sad?"

"No that's.... somethin' else." Spike muttered, turning over in his hammock.

"You've been sad since the day we snuck into the old library!" Scootaloo observed, scratching her chin with a hoof. "What happened in there? I ran away to get help once I saw all the smoke."

"Nothin'." Spike grumbled, growing quiet.

"Can't be nothin'!" Scootaloo chirped cheerfully. "Fluttershy says its not good to keep bad feelings inside of you. Or at least that's what she's always telling me and Rainbow."

Spike sighed and flipped back over. Maybe Fluttershy was right. Maybe it was time to open up. Scootaloo was sitting upright on her small cloud now, looking genuinely concerned.

"Can I ask you somethin' Scootaloo?" Spike whispered, his voice trembling and his throat starting to hurt.

"Yeah, anything!"

"Is... is the...." Spike began to shiver. "Is the Ponyville Almshouse nice? Are the ponies there friendly? Do you think they'd want me? Do you think they'd care that I'm a dragon?"

Scootaloo's ears folded flat against her head at the mention of her former home. "Why would you ask me that?"

"I think that I'm gonna have to go there at some point." Spike's voice became a squeal of fright as he teared up.

"It's an OK place to live I guess... but why would you wanna go there? Why not stay with Twilight?"

"Cause I'm... just her assistant. And I can't assist anymore. I can't help her. She doesn't need me to send mail. She doesn't need me to help clean, now she has magical brooms to do it for her! She doesn't need me for anything! Our books are gone and I have nothing to do! I'm useless. And I know she knows it. I know she knows it."

Scootaloo felt her hairs stand up as Spike wept. "But... what about getting her a Mother's Day present? I thought... I thought like... everything was good here."

Spike shook his head and sobbed, his small grey body trembling as he hugged his tail to his body. The hammock rocked slightly as Scootaloo pulled herself up into it from her cloud, hugging Spike in the hopes it would bring him some comfort.

"Please don't cry, Spike." Scootaloo murmured, feeling Spike's cold dry skin shift as he hyperventilated. "You're a cool dragon! You aren't supposed to be crying!"

But it did little to help, as Spike quivered. It frightened Scootaloo to feel just how cold and dry Spike felt. As with others who had seen the little dragon lately, she had noticed just how pale he had become. Normally his hide didn't feel too much different than Rainbow's pet tortoise, Tank. Or that of Pinkie Pie's pet alligator, Gummy. But now he felt like luggage, chilly and weathered, leathery even. It didn't seem natural for a dragon to feel this way. They were monsters that breathed fire after all. Scootaloo stretched her small wings out and wrapped them over Spike, trying to keep him warm. As his sobs faded a bit, Spike opened his eyes and glanced down at the sad little pony that was trying her best to comfort him.

"Your wings look longer." he croaked, his voice hoarse.

"Yeah they've been growing since Dash started taking care of me." Scootaloo spread them wide to take a look at her own limbs. "I can fly for almost 15 seconds now! Straight up! I'll get better at it."

"Is that what those exercises are for?" Spike asked, recalling how over the last few days it seemed like Scootaloo was taking every opportunity to jump from the top of stairs and flutter clumsily down to the foot, before running back up again.

"Mmm hmm!" Scootaloo nodded, smiling proudly. "Rainbow's been teaching me how to strengthen my uh... stairmina? Staminas."

"It must be great to have someone who understands you like Rainbow around." Spike mumbled, as the filly nodded in response. "A few months ago... I tried to run away... and see if I could travel with some migrating dragons and learn from them. So I could figure out what... I am. I thought they'd understand me."

"You came back I guess."

"I had to." the dragon's eyes began to tear up again. "They were horrible. They just wanted to hurt things. They tried to hurt a baby bird just cause they could. Just cause it couldn't fight back. I don't want to be like them."

"I know what that's like." Scootaloo snorted. "I'm sorry it didn't work out."

"Sometimes... sometimes I wish..." Spike began to shiver again as new sobs writhed from his throat. "I wish that I'd been born a pony. I wish I was just like everyone else. And then maybe... Twilight would... maybe she'd love me... and... and..."

"Be the mom you wish she was?" Scootaloo swallowed, hugging Spike tightly as he began to cry again. "I'm sorry."

Spike sniffled and wiped his face, rubbing it into the pillow.

"I know how you feel, Spike. When I'd go home after hanging out with Rainbow or those two traitors, Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, I'd always feel really sad. And I didn't know why. I could have a really nice day and... I'd still feel sad at night." Scootaloo bit her lip. "And sometimes I'd cry. And I couldn't figure out why I was so sad."

"So what did you do?"

"I didn't do anything. I didn't understand why I was sad. I thought I deserved to be sad cause my wings didn't work and no grown-up ponies wanted me around. And then one day after school, Diamond Tiara said something that made me realize why I was sad, and it made me really angry."

"What did she say? I heard a rumor you kicked her teeth in."

"She said... Rainbow doesn't love you. Nobody does. She'd never want a grounded pegasus like me. She only hung out with me cause she felt bad for me. She'd never be my big sister, or aunt, or mom, or whatever silly things I was hoping she'd be. And I was a dumb talentless filly who would never have a family."

"Wow." Spike cringed. "What an awful little kid."

"I got so angry at her for saying that, Spike. I've never felt so upset at anything ever! Cause I thought... she was right." Scootaloo grew very quiet. "I felt so alone... and so angry that she'd make me feel guilty for wanting to hang around Rainbow. So I said some stuff..."

"Stuff?"

"Like a bunch of bad words I'm not allowed to say anymore." Scootaloo mumbled, her cheeks turning pink. "Anyway I kicked her in the mouth and stole her dumb hat and smashed it real good on the roof."

"You climbed onto the roof of Ponyville Elementary?"

"Yah! When you can't fly you get really good at climbing." Scoolatoo said in a very informative way. "But then I fell off the roof and I got a big cut on my shoulder."

Scootaloo backed away from Spike and turned to point out the small jagged scar running down her left shoulder blade.

"Ow." Spike winced.

"I don't remember much after that. I cried a lot, that's all I remember." a small smile grew on Scootaloo's face. "I just remember waking up at the Almshouse, with Rainbow and Cheerilee packing up my things. Cheerilee was apologizing about something. Rainbow was holding me and telling me... that... it was going to be ok. And after that I lived with her."

Spike wipes his eyes, grinning. The filly's infectious optimism finally making him feel less miserable.

"Well I'm glad that story has a happy ending." Spike scratched his itchy back.

"I think yours will too, Spike." Scootaloo yawned, curling up next to the dragon. "Maybe not today or tomorrow. But you're too cool to not have a happy ending."

Spike stared into the fireplace, the last of the burning twigs becoming ash, and the crackling embers having diminished almost entirely. He let out a long sigh, still not ready for sleep.

"When me and Twi went to the Crystal Empire to help Cadance and Shining Armor we weren't expecting all the stuff that happened. Sombra was really scary and even though Celestia and Luna had burned away his body centuries ago, he was still floating around. Like a big evil cloud. And he'd filled the castle with traps and weird stuff that we had to get past to stop him. Stuff not even Celestia knew about."

He turned to the filly to be sure she was listening, her eyes wide as she lay, though she looked ready to nod off.

"Twilight found these old catacombs under the main throne-room where Sombra had practiced dark magic back when he used to rule the Crystal Ponies. It was a really creepy place full of old suits of armor and statues and black crystals. There were stairs that went on forever. It was like a maze."

Scootaloo stared as Spike seemed to turn even greyer, beginning to look almost ghostly as he recalled the memory.

"I found Twilight staring into this... weird door. It looked like an ordinary wood door but it had this big black diamond on top. She was crying when I found her. There was nothing past the door just... solid crystal wall. But when I looked into it I saw... I was pulled into it... it was like a daydream but it felt real. And it made me feel so small and scared."

"What did you see?"

"I was home. Twilight was angry with me. But she wasn't scolding me. She just wanted me to leave. She told me she didn't need me anymore. She just said she'd be getting a new better assistant. And then I was outside and the library was gone. And I was big, huge like on my birthday when I stole all that stuff around town. And everyone was angry. They were screaming at me, telling me to leave town. Throwing garbage in my face. And Twilight was there with them. Ponyville isn't for monsters, they said."

Spike swallowed as he pulled one of the pillows over his cold trembling form.

"Twilight pulled me away from the door when I started to cry. She told me that it was dark magic, designed to show you your greatest fear. She said I had nothing to worry about. That she would never send me away and I shouldn't be afraid. But everything has changed so much since then. And with everything that's happened... sometimes... I wonder if any of this is real. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I never left that room. Maybe I'm still there looking into the door. And that scares me more than anything."

The quiet snores of Scootaloo and her grip on one of the pillows let Spike know that his conversation partner had checked out for the night, probably having missed the tail-end of his admissions. He wiped his eyes again and stared into the silent emptiness of the room. He still felt sad, and unwanted. But he did feel less heavy, having told someone of his troubles. And that was apparently enough to grant him the slumber he'd been craving. With a few sniffles and snorts the little dragon was asleep, his head sinking into the pillow, enjoying a rare dreamless sleep where nothing could bother him.

Twilight sat at the foot of the stairs to the den. Slowly she stood, her legs burning as her muscles, which had fallen asleep, were woken up. Quietly she crept forward, her face moist with tears. She'd come down from upstairs after yet another poor dream, hoping to check on Spike and Scootaloo. Just to be sure they were safe. They had been talking. She hadn't wanted to interrupt their conversation, not until she truly understood what was wrong with her little dragon. She stood before him, feeling her heart break as she looked down at his pale body. It all made sense now. She still couldn't identify what was wrong with his skin, but now she knew why his self-esteem had been so irregular. Her stomach clenched as she felt new hot tears form. She hadn't meant for this to happen. She'd never meant to hurt her little one. Her own little Spike. When she'd been crowned Princess, she knew many things would change, but had her devotion and love to Spike changed?

NO. It hadn't, and as Twilight leaned down, and gave the slumbering mite a gentle kiss goodnight, she knew she'd need to find some way, ANY way, to remind Spike what he meant to her. To finally make him really believe that she wanted him around as much as he wanted her. No matter what it took, she was going to fix this. She turned and quietly pranced out of the room, looking over her shoulder one last time before ascending the staircase.

"I'm going to make it up to you, Spike. I promise."