• Published 27th Dec 2014
  • 2,817 Views, 87 Comments

Antaboga. - Reptilicus



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

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In the yellow haze of the sun.

Here's a fun experiment to try at home, hopefully when it's quiet and clean. Purchase a fresh raw head of lettuce or cabbage and allow it to soak in water. Then allow it to soak in mud until it is sufficiently dirty brown. Afterwards, cover it in firecrackers and bubble wrap. Finally, grab the largest sledgehammer that is available, and bring it crashing down onto the vegetable. If properly struck, the vegetable and its contents should all burst at once, flying outwards and creating quite a impressive amount of noise. The sound should be quite grotesque, leaving any audience nearby with a queasy feeling, and it would be very similar to the sound that Spike's back made just now in the den of the castle.

"What... was that?" Spike wheezed, his body slumping itself back out after arching his back. "It sounded like a water balloon screaming really angrily."

"Oh gosh." Twilight covered her snout with a hoof. "It's alright, Spike. Your spikes just... tore open the thick old skin on your shoulders. Split it right down your back almost to your tail. It kind of smells. Actually, it really smells."

"I don't smell anything." Spike yawned, wanting badly to just go to sleep.

"Well you have old skin on your nostrils, too." Twilight winced as she started dabbing around the fissure of old flesh with the end of the towel Spike had been laying on. "Honestly, you should be happy you can't smell this. Apparently you've been sweating a lot under this old skin. It's reminds me of how Shining used to smell when he got back from paladin practice."

"That bad, huh? Like sweaty socks." Spike smiled weakly. "Well, now what?"

"I think the rest is up to you, Spike. You have a pretty big... exit wound... gap on your back now. You should be able to wriggle out."

The sun drifted lower to the horizon line, and the stars commenced their dance, decorating the evening sky. The black tapestry of the night unfurled and as the hours passed, Spike shed the remains of his old skin. It was a draining process, hampered by the fact the ash from the accident at the old library had mixed with Spike's perspiration, forming a sort of natural adhesive, making the old skin very sticky and hard to peel off. This made the delicate new skin sting when tugged on too hard. On top of that, he was still effectively blind, and needed Twilight to tell him where to move his limbs next. Progress slowed as Spike's last bits of energy fizzled out. A tiring week, culminating on an emotionally exhausting day, had siphoned out the usual energy he would have. Every few minutes he would stop to catch his breath, and Twilight would feel worried with how tired he looked, his small body heaving.

Chunk by chunk, limb by limb, the little dragon slipped off the dregs of worn hide, finally collapsing on his belly.

"Oh come on, Spike." Twilight pleaded. "You're so close! All that's left is your tail and your face. You can do it. I know you can."

With a miserable whimper of frustration, Spike lay still, too exhausted to continue. The sound was an agonizing one, of a child on the verge of defeated tears, and Twilight felt his pain and frustration become hers, breaking her resolve to not interfere as the mewls chipped away at her heart. This process was difficult. Too difficult for a baby dragon who had no knowledge of how dragons should act. Too difficult for a nestling that didn't have the sort of physical strength his kind would acquire from years of living in the wilderness and oceans. He'd done enough for tonight and Twilight decided it was now time for her to do the motherly thing, and step in.

"Don't cry, Spike. I'm right here. Please don't cry. Just relax, alright? I'll peel away the rest as carefully as I can."

A familiar warm tingle flooded Spike's weary senses. Twilight's magic had always carried with it a sort of je ne sais quoi, and now it felt gentler than ever. It was rather like being embraced by the sunshine or summer air, a pleasant heat that made its way to his tail. There were a few sharp pinches where the old skin adamantly refused to release its stranglehold on the soft new scales underneath, but Twilight kept the pain minimal. She worked the old bits of flesh off meticulously, the way one would cautiously solve a puzzle or undo a bandage. Once his tail was free, she released her hold on it, letting it droop as she turned to concentrate on Spike's head. The skin on his ear fins slipped off with ease, appearing very much like white lace, the shed very thin in this sensitive spot. She worked her way around his chubby face, peeling the lumpy chunks off bit by bit and placing them aside. Spike scrunched up his snout as he felt the skin around and inside his nostrils work its way free, clearing his nasal passages of ash and snot, allowing him to breathe easy. Twilight felt herself breathe easier as well when she noticed Spike's wheezing fade away. Her task was nearly complete. But now was the most difficult part.

Twilight took a deep breath, steeling herself. "Mmmkay... I'm going to need you to keep your eyes wide open for this next bit. I don't want any of this to tear and get stuck under your eyelid. I'm sure that won't be pleasant for either of us."

She tugged at two snags near Spike's tear ducts, a trailing end of ghostly skin connecting to the large, nearly spherical, globes of old grey flesh protecting his eyes. There was a sort of sucking sound, like the sound a pony would make when drinking a milkshake through a leaky straw. The globes shifted along his eye's surfaces, making a moist slurp as she pulled. Greyish yellow viscous fluid drizzled out, mixing with the sweat and pink stains on the towel. Spike cried out in discomfort almost immediately, his tail and stubby limbs flailing in midair, as a small spurt of green fire exited his mouth, nearly singing Twilight. She panicked and lowered him to the table. With what was left of his strength Spike clawed at his face, ripping away the old globules of flesh and rubbing his clean new eyes with his forearms, collapsing once again onto his belly.

A deep sense of relief replaced Twilight's terror as she saw something she had wanted to see since this ordeal had begun. The large green eyes of her little dragon, focusing on her for the first time all day. They were tired, and bloodshot, but still carried that same innocent optimism that always brightened her day. His tail swished happily as his vision cleared, letting him see the mare he knew as his mother for the first time in what had seemed like far too long.

"Welcome back."

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Zubairi's notepad was full of advice and instructions. Most had been hastily written down, with other parts being crude drawings, and combined with his odd grasp of the Equestrian language, it was a bit hard to read. Quite a lot of the information was interesting stuff that Twilight did not know about dragons in general. For example the reason Spike's tongue split at the end, similar to a snake, was because antaboga used the two ends like tentacles, snaring fish out of the water as they swam. She learned that Spike's quills were rather poisonous, able to deliver a considerable toxic payload via their pointy tips if he were ever eaten by something larger than him. This would fade with age, and was harmless unless ingested. Apparently in some lands the secreted toxin was used as a recreational stimulant in tiny amounts when burned on tea leaves and inhaled. Twilight made a mental note to keep this information away from Shining Armor and Cadence, lest they get any sort of ideas.

Some of the information was practical stuff that seemed common sense. The sort of things Fluttershy or Applejack would probably write down if giving advice for childcare. For instance, letting baby dragons hoard precious jewels or gold would cause fluctuations in their growth. This was something the entire town had experienced once. Their claws had arteries past the cuticle, and losing a claw was very painful. Same thing applied to their scales and quills. Quite similar to blood feathers that pegasus ponies used for controlling their wings. It wasn't healthy for him to eat candy or gems all the time, or play in mud, drink tap water, etc.

But the most important thing Twilight needed to know about was how to help Spike recover after his shed. As she cuddled him and he napped, nestled under her wing and clinging to her ribs, she couldn't help but notice how unnaturally soft he felt. And not soft in a pleasant way, like the spongy comfort of a pillow, but soft in a mushy way, like lukewarm mashed potatoes. As she read she learned that after shedding, many dragons would rest in molten rock or steaming geysers and underground hot springs. The heat produced by the steam or lava caused a chemical reaction in their skin cells, making them all lie flat and undergo a sort of magical calcination, becoming tough and rigid like iron, as dragon scales were meant to be.

It had been a long time since Twilight had tried any spells that caused an inductive effect in fluid. This was usually the sort of thing reserved for labs. Even magical unicorns heated water for soup and tea with ovens and furnaces like anyone else. But getting an entire bathtub boiling was tricky. Time to put some of the old lessons to work. She mumbled some old incantations to herself and channeled her energy, taking static charge out of the air, forming it into bolts of electricity, and sending them through the particles of water, looping around the basin of the crystal tub. The water quickly rose to a light boil, and gently Twilight unfurled her wing, dipping Spike into it as he dozed. The hot water slowly woke him back up, and he began squirming around trying to figure out why he was suddenly in a tub.

"What? Where? Why is everything bubbly?" Spike yawned, sitting up in the tub.

"This is the next step to getting you back to normal, I believe." Twilight flipped a page in the book, presenting it to Spike. "Your scales need to bake in high heat to harden up. It's supposed to be with lava but we don't have lava."

It was rather a lot like a sauna for dragons, Twilight thought to herself. Ponies went to the spa to bask in the steam, letting the heat open pores and help clear their skin and reinvigorate their coats. So dragons went to boiling water or lava to fix their own skin issues as well. It was an interesting coincidence, and brought up even more questions Twilight would want to ask Zubairi about if she ever got the chance. But for now she was just happy watching Spike. He had originally seemed confused as he floated atop the frothing water, but now he was smiling happily with his eyes closed, bobbing along the surface.

Twilight carefully levitated a globe of the water and let it splash over his head so his back spikes would get the benefits of the heat as well. As she did this she noticed Spike's tones of color were slowly returning, his pale pink scales tinting back into a subdued shade of purple, with the quills along his back turning a dull green. It bolstered her confidence, letting her know she was doing this right. Her biggest worry was doing something improperly and permanently harming her little one's fragile dermis. Spike seemed to be having the time of his life, gurgling and purring happily as the boiling hot water splashed and tickled around his body.

"I bet that feels really good, huh? After being stuck in that clammy gross old skin for the last week."

A nod and a few gleeful splashes answered her back, giving Twilight an idea. She wanted to test Spike's power at water displacement, but he seemed so relaxed she didn't want to interrupt him. His face was plastered with a blissful grin, now laying at the bottom of the tub on his back, the tip of his snout poking above the surface. She waited patiently until it looked like he was nodding off again.

"Hey Spike, have you ever tried using your tail when you swim?" Twilight asked, backing away from the tub a bit.

Spike lifted his head out above the water with renewed interest. "Nope, I always paddled with my hands and feet."

"Hmm. Could you... maybe paddle with your tail and ears for a second? Just so we can see what happens."

Momentarily a few gallons of water quickly surged into the air, splashing over the edge of the crystal tub and puddling onto the floor, sending steam clouding around the room. A few droplets hit Twilight's shoulder, making her back up further as Spike peeked his head over the brim, surveying the damage with a yawn.

"Whoa... did I do all that?"

"Any doubts I had about your origins as a water dragon just evaporated." Twilight smirked at her pun, levitating Spike from the tub, placing him on a bathmat and grabbing a cold dry bath towel.

The towel hissed as it burnt against Spike's skin.

"Hey... mom?" Spike asked quietly, pushing the towel aside to get Twilight's attention as she looked down on him.

Her heart jumped, doing cartwheels in her chest. That word suddenly had all new meaning. Now Twilight understood Rainbow Dash's emotional reaction from the other day when the athlete had dropped off Scootaloo. Twilight had known Spike since the day he hatched, watching him grow and learn and idolize her. He had made every day special. And never once in the years she had cared for him, had he ever called her mom. She had never expected him it from him, but now that he'd said it, it felt as though part of her had become better, happier, more whole. As though all the years of being responsible for his well being suddenly meant something more than they had before. Meant more than anything she had ever done in her life. She had molded him, inspired him, created him. It dawned on Twilight that nothing she had ever accomplished made her feel quite as powerful and amazing as Spike uttering that single word. That word that meant so much, and the unbreakable connection they shared.

"Mom?" he asked again, snapping Twilight out of her stupor.

Twilight took a deep breath, resisting the urge to tear up. "Yes, Spike?"

"Could I have another towel?"

"What for? We've barely used this one."

Spike tilted his head, motioning at the puddle of water around the tub.

"Oh don't worry about that. It's just water. I'll clean it in the morning. Let's get you to bed, sleepyhead. We've had a long day."

Twilight yawned and cantered out of the bathroom, levitating Spike onto her back. With a groggy trot she made her way past the den, turning to wince at the pile of old dragon flesh on the table. It looked like the peelings of some sort of giant tumorous fruit. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Spike doing that thing with his hands. Whenever the little dragon was feeling nervous or guilty he would always wring his hands and scrunch up his eyebrows. It was one of the telltale signs that let Twilight know something was wrong or that he was lying. He seemed to be staring at the mess on the table from his shed, before looking behind himself at the room they had just exited where he'd gotten his bath. The fidgeting seemed to get worse as she passed the table, and Spike looked ready to hop off her back, a panicked expression marring his face.

"Hey! Remember what I said?" Twilight sat on the floor and lifted Spike from her back, cradling him in her forelegs. "You're worth more to me than favors."

Spike nodded, looking unsure as he glanced at the filthy table again.

"I'm not going to stop loving you just because you make a mess sometimes, Spike." Twilight cooed, holding him close. "Just like I know you don't stop loving me whenever I make a mess. I'm never going to stop loving you. Alright?"

She held him up to her face, looking into his reptilian eyes. He still looked uneasy and afraid, her words apparently not having the effect she had wanted. Twilight felt awful, realizing this was her fault. She had made him feel this way. Taught him to be like this. Like his purpose was to do chores. Unknowingly conditioning him to have many of the same vices and fears she herself had.

"Spike do you remember why Celestia sent me to Ponyville in the first place?"

"To make friends?"

"Well, yes. But it's more than that. It was because I spent all day indoors, Spike. All I did was work. It's a bad habit and sometimes I still do it. But I shouldn't. And I have friends now to help me realize when I'm doing it. And until this week I'd never realized I've sort of... given you my bad habits. I guess that metaphor of the apple never falling too far from the tree is pretty accurate."

Spike's eyes searched Twilight's face, looking confused.

"You spend so much of your day indoors, Spike. Cleaning and doing things for me. But I don't want that for you. I want you to be playing, and having fun, outside with others preferably. It's not good for you to be cooped up inside all day. Even on those days... where... I'm stuck inside doing paperwork. That's why I'm trying to enchant the castle to clean itself. You shouldn't have to clean it. It isn't your job. Your job is to be a happy little dragon. Think you can do that for me?"

With a nod and a sniffle, Spike hugged Twilight, clinging to her as she stood and made her way to the bedroom. She dropped him gently down on the bedspread and went around the room, blowing out the candles. Clambering onto the bed next to the little bundle, she extended her wing, cuddling Spike against her side. With a spark of purple magic the sheets enveloped them both in a cocoon of warmth.

Twilight knew Spike would probably be asleep in moments, but she had one last thing she wanted to speak about. She already had a feeling of dread she knew the answer to the question she was about to ask.

"Spike why were you at Zecora's hut today?"

There was a deafening silence but she could feel him shiver, and when he finally spoke his voice was small and frightened.

"You can tell me, Spike. I promise whatever it was... I won't be angry."

"I wanted... her to... to turn me into a pony."

"Oh, Spike." she released a long sad sigh, nuzzling him lovingly as she heard him start to sniffle again. "Spike you don't need to change yourself to get me to love you. You are perfect and wonderful just as you are. I would never want you to change. If I ever hurt you and make you feel like this... like I don't love you... I want you to tell me Spike. I don't want you feeling like you have over this last week. Alright?"

She felt him nod and bury his face into her ribs.

"What are we gonna do with my old scales?" Spike whispered.

"Oh those." Twilight frowned. "I'll figure something out later. According to Zubairi's notes, often dragons, especially baby ones, will eat their old skin because its full of protein."

"I really really don't wanna eat that stuff."

"And I really don't want you to. It looks super disgusting."

Twilight lay her head onto her pillow, watching Spike snuggle under her wing. For a few moments he seemed to be deep in thought, then as the time passed she could see his eyes blink slower and slower, growing heavy until finally they shut. She smiled as she watched his resting form, his round scaly hide gently moving up and down with every peaceful breath. Hopefully tonight the two of them would have sweeter dreams, as Luna had said. It already felt like ages had passed since she'd spoken to Luna even thought it had only been hours. Twilight uttered a silent prayer to the Goddess of the Night, hoping that her promise of a restful sleep would be true, because if anyone in Equestria had earned a good night's sleep, it was little Spike.

Numbness spread from Twilight's hooves to her chest and head, her thoughts slowing. She knew she was nodding off and would soon be asleep as well. But before she turned in entirely, and was lost to the waking world, she felt Spike rustle slightly against her side, whispering in the darkness.

"I love you, mom."

Twilight smiled, feeling stinging tears seep from her sleepy eyes and soak into the pillow.

"I love you too, Spike. My precious little monster. More than you'll ever know."

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And for the first time since the chilling day Tirek had torn their comfortable lives apart, filling their minds with nightmares of brimstone and ash, Twilight and Spike both had a pleasant restful sleep. Their dreams soaked with slow-paced merriment and their bodies feeling unclouded. The sun and the moon watched over them both with great fondness, bringing reprieve to the night terrors that had haunted them for so many weeks. Twilight woke first, just as the sun peeked it's way into the sky, bathing the castle in red light. She slid quietly from the warm sheets, making sure Spike was still comfortable before she set about cleaning the castle and doing some early morning errands. Her eyes opened in surprise as she saw how Spike looked, his new scales shimmering in the light of the sun like crystals. She made a note to inform her friends of Spike's clean bill of health and recovery while out and about.

Much later, a bit before noon, Spike awoke as well. His senses had been invaded by a tantalizing scent. The smell of melted butter and spices with a hint of something else... maybe lemons. He wiggled his toes a bit, noticing the bed in the castle felt different. It no longer felt like the silken sheets he had drifted off on, and their light scent of laundry detergent. His eyes creaked open and he saw before him some sort of purple fuzzy carpet, smelling lightly of aloe. There was a heat on his backside, as though the sun were beaming down on him. It was strange, he could sense his energy replenishing as he lay, his whole body feeling electrified as he dozed off again. He was awake again minutes later as the smell of food intensified and his stomach growled. Blinking he sat up, the purple fluff moving away from his vision as his eyes adjusted and realization set in. He had been curled up sleeping on Twilight's belly the whole time, who was currently lying on her back on a lawn chair with a sun hat on. The two of them were out in the grassy field beyond the castle, in the early noon summer heat.

"Good morning, sleepyhead." Twilight smiled, petting his quills affectionately. "How do you feel today? Better I hope?"

Spike stretched himself out, testing his limbs, ears and tail. "I feel great. Better than I think I've ever felt."

And truly he did, Spike had never felt so alive. Every part of his body felt immersed with energy. Twilight drew out Zubairi's notebook from a nearby footstool in the grass, flipping a few pages.

"Basking in the sun is something antabogas are supposed to do. Sort of like how other reptiles sunbathe to replenish their energy from what I understand. But I didn't want to wake you so I just carried you out here. "

"Well well! Look who's up." crowed a familiar twangy voice. "Just in time for brunch."

Turning, Spike observed Applejack beaming at him from a few meters away. Behind her a small campfire crackled, with Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy attending to some sort of food in a frying pan. Whatever the heavenly odor in the air was, it was clearly coming from that pan. Rainbow Dash and Rarity sat nearby, Dash idly flipping through a book and Rarity laying on a deck chair in the grass, a floppy flowered sun hat and purple sunglasses perched on her head.

"Told y'all, nothin' gets young'uns out of bed faster than the smell of vittles." Applejack strode forward, sitting before Spike and Twilight. "Hey there little feller! You gave us all quite a scare. Poor Applebloom was cryin' when she got home. But I'm awful glad you're better now, sugar."

"Yeah, I feel like a million bits." Spike hugged Twilight, nuzzling her happily.

"You look like a million bits as well!" Rarity cooed, coming up behind Applejack and giving Spike a peck on the cheek. "Oh Spikey-wikey you should see yourself. Your new scales gleam like little sequins. Absolutely gorgeous. You might just be the most elegant thing in town now next to moi."

Rarity upheld her personal mirror to the tiny dragon. Spike stared into the reflection, finding someone staring back, a dragon who was both familiar and new. His fresh juvenile scales were indeed like sequins, Rarity was right about that. They were still mostly purple, but there was so much variety to the purple now. Mauve, indigo, magenta, orchid, and violet all shone across the facets of his skin. Every scale dazzled like little beads in the sunlight. The spikes along his spine seemed brighter than ever, their tips ending in a much lighter tone of yellowish green, subtle stripes of minty darker hues where they protruded from his back. Spike brought his chubby hand up to his face inspecting it. It was the same hand he had seen every day of his life, the hands he used for almost everything. Now they glistened in the sun, the knobby flesh sparkling with new life. It seemed indicative of how Spike now felt inside, warm and happy and most importantly, proud to be a dragon.

"Yeah, Spike you look wicked awesome." Dash added, sauntering over with a smirk. "You look like someone polished you up with wax."

Dash lowered her head and voice, giving Spike a respectful nod and shy grin.

"By the way, thanks... for talking to Scoots. I'm not sure what you said... but she's hanging out with her friends again. She's finally moved past her anger at the other Crusaders. Isn't just grumping around on her own. I owe you big time, pal."

"Indeed." Rarity seconded. "Sweetie hasn't been so jubilant in some time. Those three seem even closer than ever."

"Yup. Them three lil' fillies need each other. And I'm glad they have someone as clever as you to give 'em advice sometimes, Spike. Goodness knows they need all the positive influences they can get. Especially Scootaloo." Applejack remarked, earning a glare from Rainbow Dash.

"Hey!" growled Dash, fanning her wings to look intimidating, which never worked since she was a small blue pony. "They were gonna learn those swear words eventually anyway."

The look Applejack and Rarity fixed on Dash could have withered a redwood tree, and Dash decided it was best to stay silent and not incur further wrath. Fluttershy was next, bringing a plate up to Spike and placing it down in front of him.

"I'm so very glad you're feeling better, Spike. I was so worried you were sick." Fluttershy embraced Spike gently, her long pink hair tickling his snout. "Twilight told me your new diet is supposed to have fish in it. So... I thought it'd be nice if... uh, well.... I fried some salmon. I prepared it the same way I always prepare it for Sir Bearington."

"Who is that?" Spike asked, looking down at the steaming pink and black filet on the plate.

"That's her bear!" Pinkie leaped into view, her pink curls thrashing crazily. "He's a very smart bear but he likes his salmon in a weird kinda way. He doesn't like butter! I know things always taste better with butter. Butter is better than no butter, that's what Mrs.Cake always says. And whenever I give fish to Gummy he always seems to like it better with butter! He won't even bother if it has no butter! So I told Shyshy we should make the salmon better and add butter. So we fried it in margarine. Margarine is kind of like butter but a lot of ponies including me think it's even better than butter so we added black pepper and red pepper and green pepper and mmph mmPH MMHPH!"

A white hoof placed gently on Pinkie's mouth ceased the torrent of babbling.

"I think the poor thing gets the idea, Pinkie." Rarity admonished, turning back to Spike who was trying not to giggle. "We hope it's to your liking, dear. None of us have ever eaten meat before, obviously, so this is... a bit... out of the ordinary."

"That's not entirely true." Dash mumbled, drawing looks from the others. "What? Hey when you live with griffons for a few years you gotta learn to eat like they eat."

Fluttershy cleared her throat. "Um... I also brought some raw fish for you to try as well, Spike. I hope you're ok with that."

"Thank you all so much! You guys are the best." Spike reached into the plate and grabbed a chunk of the peppery fish. "It definitely smells really good."

"Anything caked with that much dressing and margarine is sure to smell good." Rarity flashed Pinkie a cheeky smile before the excitable baker could protest or launch into another butter themed rant.

A minute or so later found Rainbow Dash and Pinkie laughing uncontrollably as Spike ravenously devoured the fish, tearing it up and engulfing it with a gusto rarely seen in the small dragon. Twilight pulled him out of the plate while he stuffed the last few chunks into his mouth, peppery dressing all over his hands and snout as he munched excitedly.

"Oh gosh, Spike, you practically inhaled that." Twilight wiped his greasy face with a paper towel. "I think most of it didn't even wind up in your mouth."

"Tore that sucker up." Applejack shook, stifling her chuckles. "Goodness me! Like Mac near fresh flapjacks. Must'a been pretty darn delicious."

"Yeah, don't forget to breathe." Dash coughed out, wiping away tears of merriment.

"Well this seems to be a smashing success thus far." Rarity laughed with a smirk. "I haven't seen someone enjoy their meal that much since the time I introduced Pinkie to espresso and scones."

Pinkie drooled at the memory.

"It's... so... good!" Spike chattered, licking his fingers. "It's so salty and kinda sweet and soft but chewy and delicious. It's like the best parts of cabbage and carrots and potato chips all mixed together."

"Better than emeralds?" Twilight asked, wiping Spike's hands. "I know those are your favorite."

"No, but... for somethin' that isn't crunchy, salmon tastes just as good as emeralds. But salty and sour instead of sweet."

Pinkie clapped her hooves together and bounded to a styrofoam ice cooler near the campfire. She dipped her fluffy head into it's contents before coming back out with a small fish clenched in her teeth. She dropped it onto the plate in front of Spike, spluttering a bit as she wiped fishyness from her mouth.

"Blech! Ok Spikey, this is dessert!" Pinkie announced proudly, dancing on the spot. "These are Gummy's most favorite treat! Me and Shyshy caught this whopper out in the stream near her house!"

"A whopper, huh?" Applejack laughed as she looked at the small fish on the plate. "Looks like a little'un to me. Like somethin' I'd win at the fair for knockin' down a few pins. What is it exactly, Shy?"

"Oh! Uh... well it's a copper bluegill. They're very common around Ponyville and this region of Equestria. They live in ponds and lakes and are very um... plentiful. They eat bugs, usually."

"Are these the same fish I see stealing bread from ducks all the time, Shy?" Dash asked, giving the dead fish a glare of disapproval, hoping her malice could somehow kill it further. "It sure looks like them. Me and Scoot have to always lead the ducks out of the pond to feed them cause of these jerks. Little evil gluttons."

"Scoot and I." Twilight corrected under her breath.

"Probably?" Fluttershy offered, grinning meekly. "It could be any kind of fish but... it could also be these."

Spike inspected the small flat delicacy on the plate. It was a very round fish, almost oval shaped, with greyish green scales and small fat grey fins. It had a bright orange tummy and a dorsal fin made of thin needle-like quills.

"Neat! It has spikes just like I do." Spike observed giving the fish an experimental poke.

"It's so bigger animals won't try to eat it." Fluttershy nodded. "Although I'm not sure how well it works."

"Not well enough, today!" Spike boasted, grabbing the fish and holding it in front of his face. "Hrmm. I'm not... sure how to eat this one."

"With silverware this time I hope." Rarity muttered.

Twilight flipped through Zubairi's notes again, furrowing her brow. What little info there was on the eating habits of antaboga dragons didn't quite go into detail on how they chewed up fish in the ocean. As she stared at the notes, an idea hit Twilight. It seemed with larger animals, they often stripped the fish with their mouths and left the bones. Spike had tiny sharp teeth, so perhaps the same method would work.

"Spike maybe try, like, using your fangs to sort of... I don't know... peel the chewy bits off the bones? How do the griffons do it, Dash?"

"Gilda would always cut off the soft parts for me. But that was with like... trout and crabs and stuff. But when she ate alone, she just ate the fish whole, head, bones, all of it. Kinda like how birds do. Crunched it up with her beak." Dash shrugged. "I can't say I really enjoyed the taste but hey, it's food."

"I used to have a relative, looney ol' Uncle Pearmason, bit of a wild stallion. He used to eat chickens. Used to deep fry 'em. Lived to the ripe old age of 87." Applejack tapped her hoof to her chin thoughtfully. "Never had health problems in his life. Can't imagine it tasted as good as apples, though."

"Well if I can chew up rocks and gemstones... I'm sure I could chew up this fish." Spike deduced.

With a quick motion Spike had stuffed most of the fish, excluding its tail, into his maw and bit down with his tiny sharp teeth. The tail fell back into the plate with a clink and Spike chewed slowly, concentrating on the flavor. A few muffled crunches and snaps of bone were heard, and as he came to realize he enjoyed the flavor, he chewed far more quickly, fish fluids seeping from between his lips.

"You're quite lucky you're so cute and cuddly, Spike." Rarity raised an eyebrow with a small grimace. "Or else you'd look positively threatening with all that fish blood on you."

"Hm?" Spike mumbled even though his mouth was full, touching his hand to his snout and seeing all the pink and red rivulets of blood dripping down to his stomach. "Mmph!"

"Hah! You should just do this for Nightmare Night. Just chew up some fish and go door to door covered in blood." Dash snickered.

Applejack snorted and shook her head. "Yeah Dash, I'm sure the neighbors would love havin' a youngster covered in actual blood and stankin' of fish askin' 'em for sweets n' such."

"You'd laugh and you know it."

"How does it taste, Spike?! Huh!? HUH!?" Pinkie bounced up and down excitedly. "I always imagined fishies taste like toffee."

Spike swallowed and scratched his head as Twilight wiped his face again with a towelette, amazed he could make such a mess with such a small fish.

"I'm not sure how to describe it. It kinda tastes like... when you accidentally bite your tongue, I guess. But it's way better than that. It kinda reminds me of the flavor of amethyst. I like it!"

Fluttershy bowed gracefully. "Well Spike, if you ever want to, you can get them out of the stream near my cottage. I have an old fishing pole you may use. It's very shallow there and... OH!"

Fluttershy was interrupted by Spike leaping off the chair and waddling quickly past the rest of the adults.

"Where are you going, Spike?" Twilight asked, tilting her head in confusion.

"I wanna test how good I can swim!" Spike hollered as he crested the next hill.

"How WELL you can swim, Spike!" Twilight corrected, taking to the air. "C'mon girls, I want to see this too!"

So the troop of ponies ran, chasing the purple baby dragon as he scuttled down to the nearest pond in Ponyville. A few passing citizens stared in confusion as the group galloped by. Some onlookers felt a sense of panic. It wasn't every day that the Elements of Harmony all galloped through town, looking as if they were on a mission. A few of the bystanders scattered, hiding in their homes, dreading an incoming cataclysm, which happened more often then not in Ponyville. A few even locked their doors, wondering why they continued to live here.

Breathlessly the mane 6 all came to a stop at the bank of the pond where Spike was already hopping excitedly. He took a deep breath of air and leaped with all his might, which sent him roughly 4 inches off the grass, whereupon he bellyflopped into the water and sank. In the murky waves his small form nearly disappeared, and moments later there was a spurt of water and ripples racing away from the shore. The ripples sleeked quickly on the surface of the pond, tracing where Spike swam.

"Shoot! Is that lil' Spike doing that?" Applejack balked, staring wide eyed at the pond.

"And I thought Gummy swam fast!" Pinkie whispered, looking equally shocked.

"There he goes!" Dash shouted, flying into the air and trying to follow Spike above the surface. "Ah ha! Jeez he moves quick! Like a purple blur zippin' around down there! Oh... wait... hold on he stopped."

Spike rose the surface, popping out with a splash in the center of the pond and rubbing his head. "Ow! I hit a rock."

"Oh Spike! Be careful!" Twilight squeaked, pacing uncomfortably on the ponds edge. "I don't want you getting hurt down there."

"It's fine, mom. I'm just really excited! I've never been this fast at... well... anything!" Spike laughed aloud and dove back under the surface, his tail sending out several large splashes as he took off again.

"Mom?" Dash turned toward Twilight, her eyes shimmering as she smiled. "Heeyyy... does that mean you and the Spikester worked out all that emotional stuff Scoot was jabbering to me about?"

"What stuff?" Applejack asked, turning to look at Twilight with concern, the others following suit.

"I was hoping to announce this later in greater detail but I suppose there's no time like the present." Twilight cleared her throat and turned to her friends. "So I sort of learned that I am... technically Spike's biological mother."

There was a quiet thud as Fluttershy fainted.

"Shy is down. I repeat, Shy is down!" Pinkie flailed.

"What!?" Rarity cried looking disturbed. "What what what!? How? How is such a thing even remotely possible, Twilight?! Ponies do not lay eggs!"

"Dragon eggs absorb magic from their parents. The magic they absorb determines parenthood. Spike's egg absorbed all my magic when I got my cutie mark eleven years ago. So... YEP. Biologically, Spike is... well... my foal." Twilight beamed gleefully, blushing and drawing circles in the soil with her hoof. "So we talked about it and from now on I'm going to try harder to be the mother Spike deserves."

"Well ain't that just the sweetest thang I've heard!" Applejack threw her arms around Twilight in a bear hug. "Spike couldn't ask for a better ma than you, sugarcube!"

Applejack drew back and started tearing up a bit.

"First Dash n' Scoot and now Twi n' Spike, aw heck! Ain't the magic of family just beautiful, Rares?" Applejack sniffled, covering her face with her stetson hat.

"It is certainly... strange... but I'm ever so happy you learned about this, Twilight. Are you... alright knowing what you know now? It seems like quite a bit to take in all at once."

"I'm better than alright, Rarity." Twilight spoke gently, glancing out at the pond, familiar ripples drifting across. "I feel prouder than I've ever felt."

"Does this mean I can throw a baby shower?" Pinkie asked hopefully.

Rainbow tittered. "I think you might be a few years too late for that, Pinkie. Not like I turned down that offer after I adopted Scoot, though. That party was cool."

There was a splash in the lake and the five little ponies turned, as Spike leaped from the depths and landed on the bank, wobbling on all fours as water dripped off his new skin. He turned and tried to smile happily at them, which was difficult because he had caught quite a few small minnows, that dangled from his mouth, their tails flapping. With a few nods and crunches Spike had devoured them, sending out a small pink and red spray of fish blood as he happily chewed. There was another thud as Rarity fainted.

"Is it National Fainting Day?" Pinkie asked, looking around. "I didn't even buy a wreath."

"Minnows taste really good!" Spike announced as he toddled over. "Like popcorn with cheese powder sprinkled on. Uh... why are Rarity and Fluttershy asleep?"

"Fainted." muttered Dash, rolling her eyes.

"I was just telling everyone the big news." Twilight continued, lifting Spike up and seizing him in a hug, wrapping her broad alicorn wings around him. "About how you... are my son."

Spike nuzzled Twilight gleefully as he hugged back.

"You're getting fish slime all over Twilight." Dash mentioned, trying not to laugh at the red smear now on Twilight's shoulder.

"Well practice makes perfect." Twilight returned the nuzzle to her little one. "I'm sure he'll learn not to be quite so... grubby when he eats fish in the future."

"Yeah... about that." Spike began. "As nice and tasty as raw fish is, if living with you has taught me anything... it's the value of sanitation. I don't think it's very good for me to just eat fish out of the pond like this."

"Well how do ya figure?" Applejack asked, glancing at the water. "Seems clean as a whistle to me."

"It looks clean, sure. But what do the fish do in it all day? All those minnows I ate... for all I really know they might just lick frog butts all day and I just ate them."

Cheerful laughter filled the air as Applejack carried the comatose Rarity and Fluttershy back to the crystal castle on the hill. Dash hovered above, enjoying the warm breeze, with Pinkie bouncing along at her own pace, enjoying the sunshine. And in the back, Twilight had Spike clinging to her back, the baby dragon chattering amiably about all the strange things he had seen in the pond. The schools of fish, the frogs and toads, turtles and crabs. Swamp plants and caves full of coins, all sorts of odd little things he never would have thought would be just below the surface of the unassuming pond. Of the thrill of moving so fast underwater, and how his tail and ears gave him so much control when. Twilight listened with pride as Spike spoke of his feats, glad that her little assistant, her son, and her best friend, had found something new and special to be passionate about, understanding at least a little about his place in the world. Things would be different from this day forward, there would be changes to lifestyles and relationships, but Spike would always be at Twilight's side, happy to be family.

Author's Note:

One last chapter after this. Epilogue.