• Published 12th Nov 2016
  • 12,454 Views, 4,891 Comments

Grief is the Price We Pay - Scyphi

Spike thought he could get them to trust and befriend Thorax. But they didn't.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
In This Together

Spike was momentarily disoriented as he began to wake up in the morning. Why was he so cold? Why was he sleeping in a snowy cave instead of his room? Where was his bed? Where was Twilight? Who’s this that was still dozing near—

Oh. Right.

The memory of the previous day’s events came crashing back down to Spike as he was given the horrible reminder that he had been effectively banished and his only friend in the world now was the changeling he had been cast out for standing up for and refusing to abandon him. He glanced over at Thorax, who has his eyes closed, but his tube-like ears were up, alert, and pointed in Spike’s direction suggesting that the changeling was more awake than he appeared. Not for the first time, Spike couldn’t help but wonder if it had been worth it, for the sake of this changeling he had only known for barely longer than a day now. But then he remembered the distrust the ponies he had come to see as almost family had given Thorax, and how quick they had been to not only ban the changeling but also alienate whoever stood with him without ever truly listening or hearing through anything they had to say by hiding it as “aiding and abetting the enemy.” Spike yet again decided that it had to be then, because he knew enough about Thorax to know he wasn’t like other changelings. He didn’t deserve any of this awful treatment. And if he was really going to be the only one who was willing to stand up and defend him from that, let alone believe it, then so be it. Spike was convinced that was the right thing to do.

…Even if it meant becoming an outcast in the process, apparently.

Unfortunately, sighing sadly as he sat up, it was obvious now that doing the right thing sometimes came at a very grave price, and that was hard for him to deal with right now. Not only was the metaphorical injury it dealt still very raw, Spike was finding himself having a hard time truly comprehending the magnitude of his situation. He had gotten himself banished. No matter where he went in Equestria now, he was effectively an unwanted exile. Not permitted anywhere in the country. Especially not home. Worse still, he was finding himself already longing for the home, friends, and family he had so easily and quickly been stripped from. He had possessed so many wonderful things and now he had nothing.

Grumpily, he kicked one foot at the snow, venting some of his frustration on the matter.

Noticing, Thorax opened his pupiless blue eyes and glanced over at the dragon. “Morning,” he said simply, without emotion.

“Morning,” Spike echoed back in the same tone.

They sat and stared into the remains of their magical fire. It still burned, but they had let Thorax’s spell on it wear off and now it had consumed enough of what little kindling they had that the flames had become mere flickers of heat, light, and color in comparison. They made little attempt to do anything to change it though. There didn’t seem to be much point. Fortunately, enough of the morning sunlight outside was finding itself into the cave that it helped to compensate a little. So instead, they both inwardly pondered the situation that faced them in silence.

Eventually though, a perfectly routine matter normally dealt with in the mornings that Spike had been trying to ignore finally reached a point that it had to be acknowledged. Groaning, Spike stood up and wearily surveyed the cave’s interior. “I wish I had access to a proper restroom,” he grumbled aloud.

“Can’t help you with that I’m afraid,” Thorax replied apologetically.

Spike glanced at him. “Do you…need to go too?” he asked more to be polite than anything. This was quickly followed by a semi-related thought. “Do changelings even ever need to go?”

Thorax made a small grin. “Already went,” was all he would say on the matter for now.

So Spike wandered off on his own to deal with his own business. Fortunately there were plenty of places in the cave where he could privately do it. When he came back, he found Thorax prodding at the fire to try and coax more life out of it, but he was having little success. Spike sat down in the snow to watch the changeling work at it.

“Did you keep warm enough?” Thorax inquired without looking away from the sputtering fire.

Spike rubbed his chilled shoulders. “Well…I don’t seem to have any frostbite that I can tell, so I must have.” He looked at the changeling. “How about you?”

“The same. Obviously the cold is still not that comfortable to have to deal with, but changelings are equipped to deal with it well enough.” He stopped and rapped one hoof on his dark-colored chitin. “Acts like an added layer of insulation,” he explained. He eventually gave up on the fire and went and joined Spike, sitting down beside him and staring at the fire as it started to flicker out.

Thorax spoke suddenly and without warning. “Spike, are you sure you’re really willing to do this?”

Spike blinked in surprise at the sudden question and comprehension was slow to follow as he struggled to find a way to respond. “What do you mean?” he finally asked.

“Getting yourself banished for my sake,” Thorax explained sadly, lowering his head, ears drooping as he stared into the flames. He took a deep calming breath and Spike realized the changeling was trying to keep a flood of his own emotions at bay long enough to explain. “I’ve…I’ve been thinking it over all night…” he managed to choke out uncomfortably. “I already don’t have anything so I don’t stand to lose much more from all of this…but you…you stand to lose…everything…keeping with me. And…after all the kindness you’ve shown me, I can’t possibly ask you to do that…not for my sake…so…”

“Thorax…” Spike began, the statement in his head only half-formed still.

Thorax interrupted him though, and looked to be on the verge of tears. As Thorax had up to now managed to shed very few tears during all of this, the sight startled the little dragon. “Please…” the changeling pleaded. “…I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, like you wouldn’t believe, I really do, and you’ve gone so far to do it, even going as far as to try and break…” Thorax trailed off for a split second. “…look…it was pretty clear to me Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor really only let you go too because you wouldn’t abandon me. I think they were more afraid you were going to show more loyalty to a changeling than to them that they didn’t want to risk it, but if you were to show to them that weren’t the case, they might change their minds, so…you should leave me and go back while you might still have a chance. I’m…” he squeezed his eyes shut, fighting tears. “…I’m not worth it.” He then averted his gaze, ashamed, and probably afraid of the answer he expected Spike to give.

Spike, shocked by this pronouncement, for a moment couldn’t find the words to speak. His mind was momentarily overwhelmed by a flurry of emotions and thoughts. A small part of him nearly did as told, too. Turned and ran for the cave exit, leaving Thorax behind. But Spike watched the distraught changeling and knew that, through thick or thin, Thorax had nobody else he could count on…except Spike. He didn’t actually want to send the dragon away…and Spike didn’t want to make him either, not for these awful and unfair reasons.

So Spike stayed. Deciding then and there he would not even consider going back on that choice from here on out and reaching out with one set of claws, he carefully took Thorax by the chin and turned the changeling’s head back to look at him. Seeing Thorax’s eyes fully watered and streaming tears didn’t help with Spike, trying to keep a steady composure, but he pressed on. “No,” he told the changeling firmly. “You are worth it. Because changeling or not, you’re just as much as a living thing in this world as I am, and I know you have done nothing wrong. Nothing. Anyone who says otherwise is blind. It isn’t right to turn you away because it’d be more…convenient for me to do so anyway. Where would that leave you? Alone, hungry…how could you even keep getting the love and emotion you need to survive?”

“I’d manage,” Thorax whispered.

Spike however knew the changeling had already been fighting off starvation just yesterday, was only way out here in otherwise hostile terrain because he hadn’t found a reliable source of emotion to feed upon anywhere else, and had become desperate. “You’d starve,” he pointed out seriously, knowing the changeling wasn’t going to find enough food to keep alive out here on his own at this point.

I’d manage,” Thorax repeated firmly, determined to dissuade Spike.

Spike wasn’t having it. “I’m not leaving you here to probably die, just because some narrow-sighted ponies say you can’t be trusted!” he snapped. “Frankly, they’re idiots to think that! And you know what? I’m okay with that now. I had thought them to be these high and mighty figures who would always do the right thing, but I see now that they’re not…they never were.” To empathize the point, he planted both feet firmly into the snow-covered ground and folded his cold arms together, showing he would not be moved. “And if that’s really what they are? Ponies that can’t see the obvious good in you and are too scared to befriend a stranger? Then I don’t think I want to be around them anyway. Because I’m at least not afraid to do that.” He gazed firmly at the changeling. “You’re right, the others were giving me a choice. I didn’t have to take banishment…but that’s what I chose anyway, because you and I both know it’s the right thing to do.”

“Spike…” Thorax began softly.

“I’m staying, Thorax,” Spike repeated firmly. “We’re in this together now.”

“…why, then?”

“Because you’re my friend. And good friends stick together. No matter what.”

“…even at great cost to themselves?”

Especially then.”

Thorax stared at Spike for a moment, his hooves fidgeting awkwardly as he worked to figure out how to answer. His tongue flickered out of his mouth at odd intervals, lapping at the air no doubt filled at the moment with the love he needed to survive. Finally giving up on trying to respond with words, the changeling instead lunged forward and wrapped his hooves around Spike in a hug, his turn now to openly weep. The hug was awkward; Thorax clearly didn’t have much experience hugging anything before. But Spike readily returned the hug and shed a few bitter tears himself.

“Thank you,” Thorax whispered, glad to have such a loyal friend.

“You’re welcome,” Spike answered back, similarly grateful himself.

And from that moment on, they both considered the matter settled.

Author's Note:

Continuing the trickle-feed of faint details on what exactly happened. Speaking of, in response to comments about readers' uncertainty about the plausibility about it all (to the point that I have legitimately been losing a little sleep over it, so yes, I'm not taking these comments lightly) I've been working at refining how I figure it all went down, why, and for what reasons. Already I feel like things are coming together better in this area that I feel more confident it will appease you readers, but as before, from the perspective of you readers, some of these details aren't going to come to light right away. I will tell you though that chapter 4 will probably have most of the key ones.

In the meantime, I hope everything else about the story continues to intrigue. :twilightsmile:

Minor edits made to chapter as of 11/24/2016

PreviousChapters Next