• Published 31st Aug 2017
  • 960 Views, 38 Comments

Time Goes On - Fangren


Princess Celestia has finally decided to introduce her two prized pupils to each other, hoping that together they'll finally start to appreciate the magic of friendship. They'll go even beyond that in time, but the road they'll take is a rocky one.

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The Twilight Zone

Author's Note:

This chapter was not included in the original version of the story created for the 'Changing Seasons' contest. It was added as part of the October 2017 update to the story.

“Hey, Twilight?” Spike asked. “Can I ask you something real quick?”

“Mm-hm.”

Spike snickered into his claws, not that Twilight noticed. “Do you mind if I rearrange a few things?”

“Nope,” she murmured, eyes glued to the page in front of her. She was reading a thick tome on the history of the steam engine; to her right was a small pile of similarly steam-related books, and to her left a much taller stack of ones she hadn't yet read.

Again, Spike kept himself from laughing too hard. His every move full of mischief, he tiptoed over to a bookshelf and switched a whopping four books onto different shelves. Epic prank completed, he stifled his guffaws and walked back over to Twilight. Making sure to keep a healthy two feet from her, he leaned in and slyly asked “Can I... have the last of your potato chips?” He waggled his brow for extra-devious emphasis that he knew wouldn't be noticed.

“Mm-hm,” Twilight said. She turned the page.

“Thanks Twilight!” Spike told her, scurrying off to the lower level of their home before she could take it back.

“Mm-hm,” Twilight said again, focus still entirely on her book.

Spike stuck a claw inside the mostly-empty bag the moment he could, closing the pantry door with his foot and heading back towards the stairway. “Not as good as gems,” he remarked with a smile, soon stuffing it with chips. He made short work of them, adding “But still tasty!”

Another clawful of oily goodness on the stairs, and he got to thinking. “Now, what next? I bet I can make Twilight agree to all sorts of goofy things!”

He laughed, but the moment he reached the top of the stairs a pounding at the door gave him pause. He looked over at Twilight, but she didn't seem to have noticed.

More pounding at the door, this time accompanied by an angry (though muffled) shout of “Are you in there, Sparkle? Open up!”

Recognizing the voice, Spike dithered anxiously for a moment before looking back and telling Twilight “I'll get that for you!”

He was halfway down the stairs by the time Twilight mumbled “Thanks, Spike.”

A third round of impatient door-pounding had come and gone by the time he was able to answer the door, and the moment it was open a crack Sunset Shimmer forced her way in. A cold wind followed her, and Spike shivered. “Brr. First big snow of the new year, huh?”

“Yeah,” Sunset said shortly, closing the door with her magic then shaking a light dusting of snow from her mane and back. “And I really don't appreciate having to walk through it to track down Twilight.”

Spike blinked. “Well why'd you do it in the first place?”

“Because she didn't show up when she was supposed to,” Sunset answered, craning her neck to look around the room, “and I got tired of waiting in the library after fifteen minutes.” She turned her head to Spike just as he stuffed another clawful of chips into his mouth. “She is here, right?”

He swallowed immediately and without trouble. “Oh yeah. She's just, y'know-” he leaned forward conspiratorially with a claw raised to shield his lips from nonexistent readers- “in the 'Twilight Zone' right now. Has been all day.”

Sunset raised a brow, and raised her head in the direction of Twilight's desk. “Really? What subject is she trying to get ahead of me in this time?”

“I don't know,” Spike answered, mouth half-full again. “Something about steam, I think.”

“...huh,” Sunset said, looking back down at Spike. “I wonder what brought that on. Did the Princess send her a new book today or something?”

Spike swallowed. “Not that I can remember. Besides, her reading list is pretty backed-up right now.”

Sunset's brow creased, and she stared back up the stairway. “Yeah, well, it's gonna keep being backed-up the way she studies.” She sighed, then put on a small smirk. “Oh well. Might as well have some fun with her while she's in the zone.”

She began a slow, cautious walk up the stairs, ears alert as she made each silent step. Spike giggled, then scurried after her. “Yeah. I've been doing that all morning.”

Twilight didn't so much as twitch her ears at their approach, not like they expected anything less. The pair shared a mischievous look, then Sunset cleared her throat. “Hey, Twilight,” she began in a peppy voice, grin quickly broadening. “Can I style your mane real quick? There's a new look I wanna check out, but I need a model first.”

“Go ahead,” Twilight droned, still thoroughly lost in her book. Spike snickered into his claws.

“Thanks,” Sunset said, voice dripping with smarm. She quickly bit her lip, though, stifling her giggles as she took Twilight's mane in her magic. Her touch was light and her work quick, though she didn't style it so much as tie into a number of ugly, uneven tails.

“Oh, it looks beautiful,” she said once her work was complete. She stifled another laugh and looked down at Spike to see him doing the same.

“Totally,” he said.

“What do you think, Twilight, do you like it?” Sunset asked next, as sweetly as she could manage.

“Yup,” Twilight answered without so much as looking to the side. She turned the page, and the two pranksters had to look away from her entirely to hide their laughs.

It was Spike who took the next crack with childish eagerness. “Hey, hey Twilight. Can you get me some rubies tomorrow? I've got a new recipe I wanna try out.”

“Sure thing, Spike,” Twilight answered automatically. She turned the page.

“Actually, how about you take us all out to dinner tomorrow night?” Sunset added moments later. “It's been awhile since you treated us.”

“Mm-hm” was the response she got.

Sunset opened her mouth to say something else, but Spike cut her off with a tug on the shoulder. “Wow, I can't believe she agreed to that,” Spike whispered, leaning towards her. “You think she'll remember this tomorrow?”

She gave him an incredulous look. “Of course not! She's not even really listening to us, you should know that by now.”

Spike squirmed under her gaze, twiddling his claws and looking down in shame. “I know, I just hoped that, y'know, maybe this time would be different. I really do have a new gem recipe I wanna try out...”

“Then ask for some rubies for Hearth's Warming or something,” she hissed.

“But I thought you weren't supposed to ask for specific Hearth's Warming presents!” Spike protested, squirming even more at the thought.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Then heavily suggest it, whatever. Just don't expect Twilight to know what you want if you don't tell her.”

Spike looked down thoughtfully for a moment before looking back up at Sunset. “Are you gonna tell her what you want for Hearth's Warming?”

Sunset froze, blinked, and looked over at Twilight. Twilight turned the page. “That doesn't matter. Knowing Twilight she'll probably just get me a new book, and I trust her enough to know what I haven't read yet. Besides,” she looked down as a frown formed on her muzzle, “I don't think there's anything I really want for Hearth's Warming.”

“Well, if you say so,” Spike said with brow raised, sensing there was more to it than that but unwilling to press the issue.

Sunset let out a heavy breath, then smiled. “Let's get back to the fun stuff, okay?” Without waiting for a response she sidled up alongside Twilight, taking care not to touch the other mare. Spike saw her smile become sickly-sweet as she batted her eyelashes at Twilight and stuck his tongue out in distaste.

“Twilight, I'm the most beautiful, talented, and powerful unicorn in all of Equestria, right?” She batted her eyelashes again for what was almost certainly effect, as Twilight still wasn't paying her any attention.

“Nope,” Twilight answered without missing a beat. Spike immediately began to laugh as Sunset's face dropped into a glare, and only stopped when that glare was leveled at him. Eventually, anyway.

Feeling mischievous again, Spike hurried around to Twilight's other side. “Hey, you know what I think Sunset would like for Hearth's Warming?” he stage-whispered, eyes locked to Sunset's on Twilight's other side. “A new friendship book.”

Watching Sunset's puzzled look morph into one of utter horror and fury in the span of half a second very nearly made Spike crack up entirely, and he had to stuff a fist into his mouth to keep himself on his feet and reasonably quiet.

“Don't be ridiculous,” Twilight droned in the same far-off voice as the rest of her answers. “And I thought we all decided to never speak of those things again.”

“E-even in the Twilight Zone,” Spike said between struggled breaths, “she still remembers how much you two hated those things! That's rich!

“Yeah, hah hah,” Sunset spat at him, her fury already down to a steady glaring hate. “I think we've had enough of this for now. Time to do what I came here to do.” She moved a hoof to Twilight's shoulder, hovering just inches away from it, and Spike stopped laughing immediately. “Snap out of it Sparkle, we've got business to take care of.”

She gave Twilight a good poke, and the effect was instantaneous – Twilight let out a startled shout and recoiled away from the touch so hard she flailed her forelegs and fell over onto her side.

“Who? What? Where?” she said once she propped herself back up on her forelegs, looking wildly around her. Her gaze settled on Sunset on the third pass. “Sunset? What are you doing here? I thought we weren't supposed to meet until... until...”

Sunset raised a brow.

Twilight paled. Then she looked back over her shoulder at the massive, couldn't-possibly-miss-it hourglass that dominated the floor and paled even more.

“S-schedule, where's my schedule?!” she cried, panic setting in as swiftly as she turned to her desk and started looking through her stacks of books.

Spike looked around as well, and quickly found what he was looking for – a small, nondescript planner – on a nearby shelf. Retrieving it with ease, he carried it over to his frantic surrogate sister and presented it to her. “Er, here it is, Twilight,” he said, the guilt and remorse in his voice unnoticed as Twilight immediately pulled it from his claws with her magic.

Indistinctly nervous mutterings tumbled out of her mouth as she flipped to the relevant page. It wasn't long before she lowered it, horror etched into every feature as she looked at Sunset with wide eyes. She mouthed something just barely audible.

“What was that?” Sunset asked, making a show of putting her hoof up to her ear.

“...I didn't write it down...” Twilight repeated at little more than a squeaky whisper.

Sunset's brow shot up and Twilight recoiled in shock. “I'm sorry, did you say you didn't write it down? That isn't like you, Sparkle.”

“I know!” Twilight blurted out. She stared down at the open planner and put a hoof on her forehead, mumbling “I... I, I, I must've... gotten distracted. Or, no wait, I had this afternoon marked as 'Free Time', so I thought I wouldn't forget our appointment even without the schedule, since there was nothing else I had to do! But then the snow started falling,” she tilted her head upward, though didn't quite look out the window overlooking her desk. “And, and I thought I could get some reading in,” she turned her gaze back to the other mare, “and I'm so sorry, Sunset!”

She even dropped her planner entirely and got up close to Sunset, eyes pleadingly large and ears laid flat.

Sunset looked at her for a moment, sighed, and face-hoofed. “It's fine, Sparkle. Seriously. It's not that big of a deal.”

“But... but... but I missed our appointment!” Twilight stammered. “And not just any appointment! Our appointment to decide our Hearth's Warming gift to Princess Celestia!

“Yeah, but we only made the appointment yesterday,” Sunset replied with a light shrug, floating the dropped planner in front of her and looking through it. “And besides, we both have the time to do it now. Just call it an...” She tapped a hoof on her chin a few times before deciding on “Impromptu rescheduling!”

“Rescheduling?” Twilight repeated as though she'd just been told somepony had died. Her hindquarters even gave out.

Spike took a few steps towards Sunset and squinted suspiciously at her. “You're being awfully calm about this considering how ticked off you were when you got here,” he said.

Sunset shrugged. “Hey, I won't say I'm not mad. Twilight Zone or not, I don't like getting blown off. This is just something she'll have to repay me for later,” she said, leveling a devious smirk at her junior.

“It is?” Twilight said, her horror fading away. She blinked, then put on an anxious smile. “Of course it is! Obviously. I missed our appointment, so-” She stopped abruptly. Blinked. And then screwed her muzzle up in confusion. “Wait, 'Twilight Zone'?”

“Yeah,” Spike laughed. “It's when you get all, like, super into whatever you're studying and start forgetting or ignoring everything else. I came up with the name myself,” he finished with pride in his voice.

“It's a pretty good one,” Sunset admitted when Twilight looked at her. “Now, are we going to figure out the Princess' Hearth's Warming gift or am I going to have to get her something by myself like last year?”

That prompted a panicked gasp from Twilight. “No! No no no,” she stammered, standing up fully. “I'm ready to figure this out. Do you have any ideas?” Dancing antsily on her hooftips, she spun back around to her stack of books and began to sort through them quickly. “Because I have ideas. Did you want me to say them first?”

“Go ahead,” Sunset replied. A small smirk seen only by Spike formed on her lips. “I don't suppose your ideas have anything to do with steam, do they?”

“Yeah! How did you know?” Twilight replied, shock on her face and no less than three books with 'steam' in the title floating around her.

“Just a hunch,” Sunset said, eyes drifting towards the tomes.

Twilight looked that way as well, and her expression flattened. “Oh. Right. Well, I really think that steam power has enough potential that we can incorporate it into any number of designs the Princess will enjoy. I mean,” she giggle-snorted, “obviously it's not as useful as standard magic power, but it's still good enough for a variety of labor-saving devices. Like an automatic door-opener, or an automatic candle lighter-and-douser, or even a personal steam whistle! She can use it to signal things! Like when court is adjourned!” she told Sunset with an incredibly earnest look. “Or when she'd like a piece of cake!”

“She does love her cake,” Sunset said, thoughtfully tapping her chin.

“Exactly!” Twilight practically shouted out of sheer enthusiasm. “I've already cross-referenced both current and historical steam engine designs in order to determine which is best suited for our needs,” she said, opening each of the books that was floating around her so that Sunset could see them. “The Bronzehoof model is more compact,” she explained, moving one book closer. “But the Baltimare Aeolipile produces far more energy. And of course we need to take into account reservoir size, pipe installation, boilers-”

A hoof on her muzzle cut her off. “Yeah, no offense, but I don't think we should be getting the Princess a Hearth's Warming gift that requires extensive remodeling of the palace,” Sunset said with a little bit of sharpness and absolutely no remorse. She lowered her hoof.

Twilight stared at her for a moment, then looked back at the books floating in front of her. “Well, there wouldn't be that much remodeling, but I think I see your point.” She moved two of the books back to the table, and levitated three more to take their places. “Luckily, I have several ideas for portable steam-powered devices based off the work of Sauna Sweat that shouldn't be too hard to move around with the proper application of weight-reducing spells. Did you know that in northern Equestria, steam baths are often a communal affair? They-”

Once again, Sunset cut her off with a hoof on the muzzle. “That sounds fascinating, Sparkle, it really does, but I think we need to get back on track here. You shared your gift ideas, so how about I share mine?”

She removed her hoof, and Twilight blinked. “Oh! Right. Yes. Go ahead, Sunset,” she said, donning a smile and sitting down.

“Right,” Sunset nodded, putting on a smile of her own and drawing herself up. “So, it goes without saying that we need to get her something personal.” She began to pace back and forth in front of Twilight and Spike, and the two followed her every move. “Every year she gets given tons of expensive gifts from nobles and dignitaries – books, gems, statues, paintings, relics, you name it. But none of that stuff is what she really wants.” She stamped her hoof dramatically to emphasize her revelation.

“What she really wants?” Twilight repeated. She shared a look with Spike.

“Umm, what does the Princess really want?” Spike asked.

“Easy,” Sunset said, looking back at them with an unnerving intensity in her eyes. “You know what Princess Celestia does all day when she's not teaching us? Either meeting with a bunch of stiffs who want her to give them things or making public appearances at whatever two-bit festival or store opening managed to book her. She never gets any time for herself!”

“Ooookay, but what are we supposed to do about it?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow and cocking an ear. “We're just her students, we can't do anything about her schedule!”

“Can't we, Sparkle?” Sunset asked with a knowing smirk. “Can't we?”

Twilight shared another confused look with Spike, then hazarded a “No?”

“Pfft, fine, maybe you can't,” Sunset said, rolling her eyes. “But I can.”

“How?” Twilight questioned, her confusion overrun by skepticism. “Nopony's just gonna give up their appointment with the Princess just because you asked.”

Sunset tutted and shook her head. “You should really know by now not to underestimate me, Sparkle. I've got enough dirt on the ponies in this town to clear Princess Celestia's schedule for at least a week.”

Twilight face-hoofed. “Sunset, we're not blackmailing half of Canterlot into giving her a week off for the Princess' Hearth's Warming present.”

“Hey, don't worry!” Sunset replied with a bright smile, sidling up alongside her and throwing a foreleg around her shoulders. “I'll handle all the blackmail. You just need to get me a copy of the Princess' schedule.” She detached herself, then gave Twilight a sly look. “Unless you don't think you're up to the challenge...?” She wiggled her eyebrows.

Twilight immediately became thoughtful. “Well, I suppose it wouldn't be too difficult to convince Ms. Raven to give me a copy if she knows it's for the Princess' present...” And then, just as quickly, she blinked and shook away her complacency. “No! I'm not going to ask her,” she said with a defiant stomp, “because we're not going to resort to blackmail!”

“Oh come on, Sparkle, just think!” Sunset said. “We'll have an entire week with the Princess all to ourselves!”

“Do you really think Princess Celestia would be okay with us bullying our way into spending time with her?” Twilight countered. “Because I don't!”

“Well how else do you suggest we get her some free time?” Sunset asked testily. “Bribery? Because we do not have that kind of money, even together.”

“We don't need to get her free time!” Twilight yelled. “We can get her something else!”

“Like what, some steam-powered contraption?” Sunset said, angrily pointing at Twilight's books. “Cause I hate to break it to you, Sparkle, but those aren't exactly practical gift ideas.”

“Neither is committing a bunch of crimes to clear her schedule!” Twilight replied, throwing her forelegs into the air.

Spike, who had been silently watching the two throughout the discussion-turned-argument, decided to take the chance to speak up before things got even more heated. “W-well, why don't we just... bake her a cake or something? It's simple, it's personal, and I'm sure she'll love it.”

He flinched under the combined glares of Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle. The former broke her gaze first, turning her muzzle up at him and sniffing in disdain. “Please. Princess Celestia deserves something way better than some measly cake.”

“No offense, Spike, but I have to agree with Sunset on this,” Twilight said, closing her eyes and becoming calm. “I suppose we have no choice but to work together to come up with a new idea for Princess Celestia's Hearth's Warming gift,” she told Sunset. Her eyes popped open into a pointed look, and she added “One that doesn't involve acts that neither she nor I would approve of.”

Or anything impractical or impersonal,” Sunset added with a pointed look of her own.

“Fine. It's a deal, then,” Twilight said, defiantly closing her eyes and looking away.

“Yeah. Deal,” Sunset replied, mirroring the gesture though with a haughty flip of her mane.

Spike looked from one to the other and back again, then sighed and shrugged. “Whatever. You two do what you want,” he grumbled, “I'm just gonna bake her a cake.” He turned and left for the stairs before the next round of 'discussion' could start.