• Published 9th Jul 2015
  • 1,884 Views, 106 Comments

Their Variables - Meta Four

A collection of short one-shots about alternate universes and "What if?" scenarios.

  • ...

Between a Spike and a Hard Place

Spike’s heart pounded as he approached the bed. He had been given just one job—to ensure that Twilight Sparkle got enough rest—yet here he was, about to wake her himself. Of course, Spike had been backed into a corner. Those pushy delegates doubtlessly would have woken Twilight themselves, and demanded even more of her time, if Spike hadn’t agreed to take their questions to her. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if there there was anything he could have done differently, to prevent this from happening.

He reached out and gently shook Twilight’s shoulder. She lifted her head off the pillow, looked straight at Spike, and said, “Huh?”

Spike tried to speak, but it just came out as an unintelligible squeal.

“Does something need scheduling?” Twilight asked.

Spike finally found his voice. “Oh, uh, yeah. Two delegates have speeches booked in the same hall. What do I do?”

“Okay, no problem. Just put the hay in the apple and eat the candle, okay?”

Spike blinked. “Huh?”

But before Spike could ask for clarification, Twilight yawned and flopped back onto the pillow. She fell back asleep in seconds.

“Oh, I need an answer, but Twilight can’t even think straight! What am I supposed to do?”

Slumping his shoulders, Spike retraced his steps back towards the door. And with every step, his frustration grew. Twilight had pushed herself too hard, again; the other princesses had let Twilight go without sleep for too long; some bird-brain had scheduled a polo game at the same time as this conference; some other dunderhead had delayed crucial maintenance until today; and now these delegates apparently couldn’t even wipe their own butts without asking for Princess Twilight’s help. Something had to give—and Spike just knew that when it did, everypony would blame him.

“Stupid delegates,” Spike muttered as quietly as he could. “Can’t leave Twilight alone for five flipping minutes. Why think for yourself when you can just ask Twilight?”

He froze at the door. As he listened to muffled sounds of the two delegates’ bickering, a devious smile spread across his face. “If they wanna hear from Twilight so much …”

Spike stepped out and shut the door behind him. The two delegates immediately ceased their argument and stared at Spike. He drew himself up to his full height, standing with his hands behind his back—and he said nothing.

Make them wait for it, he thought.

The stallion—the delegate from Manehattan, or maybe Baltimare, or maybe Stickupmybuttburg, Spike couldn’t quite remember—spoke first. “Well, what did she say? She picked me, right?”

“Hey, hey, hey,” the mare from Whogivesaflipville replied. “Let’s not be too hasty there, good sir. I got a feeling she went with me.”

The stallion opened his mouth, but Spike cut him off with an, “Ahem.” As the others fell silent, Spike continued. “Princess Twilight Sparkle has heard your questions. And this is her answer.”

He extended his left hand: it was holding an apple. He took a bite from it, savoring the sweet juice almost as much as he savored the confused expressions of the delegates. Then, with his right hand, Spike shoved a fistful of hay into the hole he bit in the apple.

The mare spoke again: “What in the—”

“Not yet,” Spike interrupted. “That wasn’t all Twilight said.” He reached behind his back once more and withdrew a white candle. After letting the two ponies get a good, long look at it, he popped it in his mouth and bit off half.

Mmmm, he thought, chewy.

Spike had mentally prepared himself for any reaction from the delegates: anger ... confusion ... angry confusion. But their reaction now took him completely by surprise. With wide eyes, both ponies said, “Oooooohhh.” Then they turned and quietly trotted back down the tower.

Spike stopped chewing. “What the hay?” he asked the empty landing.

“Princess Twilight! Princess Twilight!” A lanky blue pegasus rushed up the stairs, stopping in front of Spike.

Spike couldn’t remember this delegate’s name or where he was from. But after one glance at his mane—which looked almost exactly like a mass of fluffy clouds—Spike knew exactly what to nickname him: Fartface.

“Hello, random dragon. Is Princess Twilight available? I need to ask her … about …” As Fartface trailed off, his eyes darted from the hay-stuffed apple in Spike’s left hand, to the half-eaten candle in his right.

Spike swallowed the mouthful of wax. “Need to ask her what?”

Fartface stared into the distance. In a dazed voice, he said, “I suppose it doesn’t really matter anymore.” Then he turned and trotted away.

Spike scratched his head, accidentally smearing a bit of candle wax against his scales in the process. “I don’t wanna look a horse’s gift in the mouth, but this is weird.” He shrugged. “Oh well, back to more important things …”

But just as Spike turned towards the door, a dreadful sound reached his ears: the clop-clop of dozens of ponies ascending the staircase. And judging by their chatter, they were dozens of angry ponies.

Spike stood in front of the door and struck his most intimidating pose. But as the mob of delegates advanced, Spike knew he was powerless to physically stop them.

“Where’s Princess Twilight?” one stallion said, a little too loudly. “I need to lodge a formal complaint about the catered lunch.”

“My chair is too fluffy!”

“Somepony is wrong about bees!

My chair is too hard!

I can’t stand all this shouting!”

My chair is too hard and too fluffy!”

“Uh …” Spike’s first instinct was to back away—but he knew Twilight was counting on him. “By order of Princess Twilight, be quiet!” He punctuated the shout by waving his arms.

The crowd immediately fell silent. Every pony’s gaze was glued on Spike—or rather, on the two object he was still clutching.

One mare said, “Is that hay … in the apple?

“Uh, yeah?” Spike raised one eyebrow. Then, on a whim, he popped the remaining half of the candle in his mouth. “What about it?” As he chewed, every eye in the crowd widened.

“It all makes sense now,” the mare murmured.

“Why didn’t we see it sooner?”

“By Celestia, I was wrong about bees …”

Talking quietly amongst themselves, the crowd descended the tower in a much more orderly fashion, leaving Spike alone once again.

Spike stared long and hard at the hay-stuffed apple in his hand. “I think … I’m gonna need a lot more candles.”

Spike appraised the nerdy mare waiting at the table. She looked quite tired—frazzled, even—and the schedule said she was some kind of rock expert. Spike had no idea what to call her.

Spike sat at the table and said, “Uh, it says here you have a meeting with Princess Twilight?”

She adjusted her glasses and replied, “Uh, yuppers.” But she said it with a lisp, so it came out more like yupperth. “She wanted me to prep her on all the different gemstones in the Citizens of Equestria statue”—Thitithenth of Equethtria thtatue—“before the reception tonight.”

Spike shook his head to dislodge all the th phonemes from his ears, and he knew then exactly what to call the mare: Gemmy McGemface.

“Yeah, that’s great,” Spike said. “But first, check this out.” He set the apple on the table, and gave Gemmy enough time to glance at it, then back at him, before he ate another candle. This one had grainy bits that added some pleasant texture to it.

“My stars …” Gemmy McGemface said, with absolutely no trace of her former lisp. “This changes everything.” She placed her spectacles on the table and walked away.

Spike vaguely recognized this stallion, but couldn’t quite place where he’d seen him before. So he walked up and said, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, “I’m here for your two o’clock!”

The stallion was surprised, of course. “You? But I’m supposed to be briefing Princess Twilight on the progress with the water main.”

Oh, right. That’s who this was: Moisty the construction pony.

I speak for the Princess,” Spike retorted. “And she says …” He waved the apple in the stallion’s face, then ate another candle. This time, he ate an apple-cinnamon-scented one, but unfortunately it just tasted like more wax.

“Wow,” Moisty said. “Princess Twilight said that? That … I could fix all the pipes in Canterlot like that …”

A tall mare approached Spike. She was an obnoxiously cheerful mix of pink and purple—pinkurple—and she had a heart emblazoned on her butt. Spike decided to call her … Princess Cadance.

Spike was really on a roll with these names.

“Hey, Spike,” Cadance said. “What’s going on?”

Spike slouched against a nearby table and crossed his arms—a pose that was absolutely as cool as Spike felt inside right now. “Oh, you know, just settin’ ’em up and knockin’ ’em down!”

Cadance looked unconvinced. “What do you mean?”

“I mean …” Spike waved the apple in her face. “Bam!” He ate another candle, this one vanilla-scented.

Cadance’s jaw dropped. “By the powers of Harmony …” Her wings flared out. A sudden gust of wind swept her mane and tail up; bolts of electricity shot from her hair, nearly striking Spike.

Make way! The doors are opening to the Four Towers of the Night!” Cadance proclaimed. “Hidden wisdom is pouring upon us like new wine from a goblet! We must prepare the way!

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Spike said.

Princess Cadance disappeared. One instant she was standing right there; the next, there was a Cadance-shaped hole in reality, filled with blue crystals and pink lightning. Then the hole collapsed, and the entire mountain trembled beneath Spike’s feet. As the vibrations traveled up his spine, Spike was suddenly aware of every person within a ten-mile radius—and filled with a profound, overwhelming affection for every one of them. Then the feeling passed.

“Wow,” Spike said. “The vanilla candles taste really good!”

From the stage, Princess Celestia gazed across the crowd of delegates, chatting amiably amongst themselves as they filled the assembly hall. A quick glance at the clock confirmed it was time to begin; a glance to her side, at Luna, Cadance, and Spike, confirmed they were ready.

“My little ponies,” Celestia said. Everypony else went quiet and stared back at her. “I am so proud of all of you. At this conference, you’ve accomplished things we didn’t dare dream of. You agreed to a complete overhaul of Equestria’s economy, which shall make inequality a thing of the past. You created a practical roadmap to world peace. You solved the Rieponny Hypothesis. And it’s only been one day!”

Celestia stepped back, and Princess Luna stepped forward. “The sun will shine brighter! The rain shall make sweeter music as it falls! Procreation will be more fun!” She gave the audience a big wink. “Animals will be better behaved! And for this, we have the incredible wisdom of Spike to thank!”

The cheers and stomps of the delegates filled the hall. Spike waved back, then winced and put a hand to his distended belly. The mass of wax he had eaten felt like a bowling ball in his gut.

Luna stepped back. Cadance did not step forward; instead, the world warped backwards relative to her, until she reached the front of the stage. Speaking in a voice that sounded like a chorus of fifty mares, she said, “Behold, we stand on the threshold of a new age! As we look down upon the ants now, so too shall we in a fortnight look back upon our present selves!” Her mane and tail flowed like the other two Princesses’, and sparks of pink light streamed from the corners of her eyes. She hovered in the air without moving her wings. “The sky will roll up like a scroll, and the very foundation of the Earth shall be shaken! Three cheers for the harbinger of the new era: Spike the dragon!

The crowd obliged. On the second cheer, the gems of the Citizens of Equestria statue began glowing. After the third cheer, the light was almost as bright as the sun.

“Look!” Celestia said. “The statue is shining with the Harmony that exists between all citizens of Equestria.”

Spike shielded his eyes. “Wha—”

Every gem fired a laser at Spike. A flash of white light blinded everypony in the hall. When their sight returned, there was a black smear on the stage, where Spike had been standing. The dragon was nowhere to be seen.

“Oh,” Celestia said. “Excuse me, please.” Then she teleported away.

There can be no progress without sacrifice!” Cadance proclaimed. “Flesh and bone must be torn asunder before they can be created anew! All will—”

“Be quiet, you.” Luna’s magic clamped Cadance’s mouth shut. Then she flashed a big smile at the baffled crowd. “So, how about Spike, then? All that, and he’s a stage magician, too!”

“... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa …”

Normally, Spike would have to stop for breath by now. But he didn’t think anything of his suddenly increased lung capacity, because he was too busy screaming.

“... aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa … Oh, I’m not exploding anymore.”

Spike opened his eyes and stood up, then realized he had no idea where he was. He saw a dark blue void, littered with lights like a million stars. A carpet of similar lights formed a floor that Spike immediately looked away from, for fear that it would stop supporting him if he thought too hard about it.

“Congratulations, Spike. I knew you could do it.”

Spike spun to face the voice and found Princess Celestia, smiling at him.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Spike said. “I was afraid I was dead or something.”

“But you are dead.” Celestia didn’t stop smiling.


“Don’t worry, it’s just temporary.”

“I’m … dead?

“You’ll get better!”

How?” Spike’s urge to scream incoherently was rising. “How do you recover from being dead?

“Oh, normally there’s this whole ceremony that you and I do. But I imagine you’d find it boring, so I’ll give you the abridged version instead.”

Celestia waved her horn, and a bunch of glowing pictures appeared, hovering around her and Spike. “Hmm,” Celestia said. “Do you recognize any of these memories?”

“No. Should I? What the hay’s going on?”

Celestia dismissed the pictures and pulled up new ones. “Well, to be perfectly honest, I ought to have a bunch of your relevant memories prepared for when this happens. But your ascension caught me completely by surprise, so here we are. Ah!”

Celestia selected one glowing picture and expanded it. “Look,” she said, “it’s your memory of that rafting trip with your family. That was fun, wasn’t it?”

“I guess …” Spike said, glancing back and forth from the memory to Celestia. “But what does—”

“And now you get a song!” Celestia cleared her throat. Then with a voice as clear as water from a mountain spring and as beautiful as silver bells, she sang:

This is your Princess song,
It isn’t very long.

It took Spike a few seconds to find his voice. “‘Princess song’?”

“Yeah, you’re a Princess, now.” Celestia fired another laser at Spike from her horn. “Bam!” Again, everything went white.

Twilight Sparkle stretched and opened her eyes. “Wow,” she said, “I haven’t slept like that since I was a filly.” Then she started and leaped out of bed. “Oh no, oh no, I’m not supposed to be sleeping! What about the schedules? Was the water main ever fixed? What about—”

“Relax,” Spike said. “Everything’s fine. We all followed your instructions to the letter.”

“Oh. Good.” Twilight sighed, then squinted at Spike. “You look … different.”

Spike was twice Twilight’s height now. He wore black pants over his long legs. His chest was muscular enough to make Bulk Biceps jealous, and scaly wings extended from his broad back. On his forehead, he had a unicorn’s horn, and a golden tiara rested just behind it.

“Is it the pants?” Twilight asked. “Yes, definitely the pants. They make you look taller.”

Author's Note:

Big thanks to KuroiTsubasaTenshi and war877 for pre-reading, even if I wasn't able to use their suggestions. My fault, not theirs.