• Published 18th Sep 2012
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Faith and Doubt - defender2222



After everyone fails to heed to her warnings about Cadence, Twilight gives in to her darker thoughts

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Brothers

And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Or am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
My god, what have I done?
-The Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime


Shining Armor found himself trapped in an endless stream of nightmares. Or perhaps they were memories. It was possible that he wasn’t trapped at all but had chosen to punish himself. It was hard to tell…it was all so muddled and he wanted to sleep. But he was asleep…wasn’t he?

He remembered from his youth those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books; you read a page or two and then were offered a choice. Depending on which choice you made, the story might end in an instant of continue on, presenting a new choice.

Several of his friends had loved them and would sit together at lunch happily debating which path to take. They would make rules and bets about who could get the best outcome and then argue over minor details.

Shining had always left the cafeteria during those conversations.

He hated those books. His friends swore that they were lifelike but Shining thought they were anything but. You could always peak ahead and you could go back, even if you promised not to. Your choices were never truly your own, as they belonged to the author and what seemed like the most logical choice seemed to always end in the worst possible way. There was no control, just the cruel illusion, driving you towards randomness disguised as control.

As he laid on that hospital bed, memories flashing through his addled brain, Shining felt as if somepony had ripped up the endings to one of those books and pasted them together so they could wallpaper his brain. All he saw was different paths…the maybes and the never-weres and the could-have-beens. They taunted and teased him like bullies on the playground, whispering of lost chances and paths not taken.

“Twilight…I know you are upset…let’s talk this over, ok? Why are you so upset with Cadence…what did you see that would make you ever think she was trying to hurt me?”

“Well, if that is how you feel, don’t show up for my wedding either!”

“I’m getting married, Twiley! Can you believe it? I asked Celestia to let me use a chariot so I could tell you face to face!”

“You’re wrong, Twilight! How could you think Cadence would ever hurt me?”

“I think we should visit Ponyville, sweetheart…Twilight would love to see you again and I want to tell her all about us!”

“What were you thinking, Twilight?”

“So this is your new home, huh? When the Princess told me you were living in a library I thought she was joking!”

“By Celestia, how could you be so stupid!?! ‘Want me/need me’? Are you kidding me?”

“She isn’t alone, Nightmare Moon! She has her friends and her family standing beside her! And as long as we are with her, there is nothing you can do that can stop her!”

“Stop crying!”

“I am so proud of you, Twilight!”

“Stop following me around!”

“I love you, Twilight!”

“I wish you’d never been born!”

“I…I’ll be the best big brother ever…I promise baby sister…”

Shining Armor shuddered, his heart pounding so hard he was sure it would burst out of his chest and a cold sweat breaking out all over his body. The beeping of the heart monitor filled the air around him and he used that to ground himself. It was his anchor, allowing his trouble mind to sift through the different memories and discover which ones were real and which ones were brought on by heartache and guilt.

His own sister had attacked him. She had nearly killed him, slamming him into a wall after he had rushed to protect Cadence…but that didn’t sound right. Why would his little sister do that? Why would she lash out at him? He remembered… something… at the wedding rehearsal. Why couldn’t he focus?

And why had he felt so much hatred for her?

None of it made sense. Things that had seemed like solid fact now were jumbled numbers that didn’t add up. Cadence’s actions, which at the time had caused him to smile and laugh, made him frown now that he looked back upon them. So too did his own actions…his coldness to others and his almost slavish devotion to his bride-to-be. Why hadn’t he gone to see his parents sooner, to talk to them about the wedding and get their input? Why hadn’t he let his sister know about the wedding? Why…did he get the feeling that Cadence…wasn’t his Cadence?

Why did his Twiley try to kill him?

And why did he know he would have done the same to her?

A clawed hand grabbing his mouth, preventing him from letting out a yelp.

“Hello Shining Armor,” Spike said coldly. “We need to talk about Twilight.”

Shining stared at the baby dragon, wondering if this was another attack. Had something corrupted everypony? Was that why Cadence and Twilight and now Spike were acting so strangely? Had they come to take over his mind too?

So…so many questions. They made his body ache.

“You and I have never gotten along, Shining,” Spike said simply, releasing his grip on the unicorn’s mouth. The glare the baby dragon flashed at him warned that, if Shining did attempt to speak, Spike would find a way to keep his jaw permanently shut. "I don't remember the first time I met you, but I do know that all my life I didn't like you and you didn't like me. And I get it, I really do." Spike began to pace along the edge of the bed, hands folded behind his back. "We both were brothers to the same filly. Twilight is your little sister...but she is MY big sister. We both love her and both saw the other as somepony that was stealing time away from her.

"Except one of us didn't always use the time that was gifted to them. I remember well our visits, Shining...and I remember how you squandered your time with her. Twilight was always willing to forgive you when you wanted to go hang out with your friends or just be alone instead of spending a few moments with her. I remember every broken promise and slip of the tongue...and more than anything I remember how much they hurt her. We were both given a gift, knowing her, but only one of us truly appreciated her."

"I love Twiley," Shining Armor snapped, "and I am not going to lay here and let you-"

"You will do exactly that!" Spike thundered. Any other time hearing the baby dragon yell like that would have caused Shining to burst into laughter. But at that moment there was no humor to be found. "You are use to barking orders and having others follow your lead but this time you are going to listen to me!"

Shining hated the fact that he nodded his head and agreed to Spike's terms.

"You broke her heart this time, Shining. She loves you and always thought about you. When the Princess asked her to stay in Ponyville do you know what she said her biggest regret was?" Spike leaned in close. "She was sad she didn't tell you ASAP. She was so depressed when she realized she had made such a big decision without asking you. She always sought out your advice Shining...why I have no clue..."

"I never asked her too," Shining said softly. "I...I was glad when I heard she made friends. I was thrilled she was going out into the world..."

"And glad she was leaving you alone?" Spike asked.

"NO!" Shining shouted. "No...Spike, I do love Twiley but...but it wasn't healthy, the way she clung to me. The best thing she ever did was decide to move to Ponyville and make her own life."

Spike accepted that argument. He’d said similar things himself, if only in his head. "Yes...yes." His shoulders slumped slightly. "But that doesn't mean she wanted you completely out of her life. You never visited; you never attempted to stay in contact-"

"I was busy...with the guard...the Princesses-"

Spike laughed, but it wasn't with joy. "Shining...Princess Celestia somehow found the time to visit Twilight. It wasn't often...but she found a way. And when she couldn’t come to visit she figured out how to get Twilight to visit her in Canterlot. Are you saying your duties are more important than hers?"

Shining shut his eyes. "I made mistakes, ok? I should have tried harder but life...life caught up with both of us. We drifted apart and it was both of our faults!"

Spike nodded. "I'm glad you accept that. And you aren't the only one to blame. There is plenty of that to spread around." The baby dragon turned, staring at the wall, his back to the captain of the guard. "Why didn't you tell her about the wedding, Shining? How could you be so cold?"

"I...I don't know. I wanted to and yet...and yet I didn't. I...I don't know why..."

'You know why,' his mind whispered, sounding a lot like Spike. 'You were jealous. You were captain of the guard...you were marrying the princess...and all anyone could talk about was Twilight Sparkle. Been that way for a while. You have risen up in the ranks and in society but Twilight has managed to outshine you. It isn’t 'There goes Shining's sister'. It's 'There is Lady Sparkle's brother'.

“When Nightmare Moon attacked you were stuck protecting the likes of Blueblood. When Discord was rampaging across Equestria you were hiding in your room, to scared to fight back. Twilight is more of a hero than you ever were and you hate it. You hate her. You were mad and petty and you waited too long to tell her because you wanted to punish her...'

The unicorn lowered his head, tears in his eyes.

"I...I was stupid, Spike. Is that what you want to hear?" He shook his head violently in frustration. "I wanted to put on a show, to prove to her how great I was. I didn't want to tell her till everything was ready. I wanted to bring her to Canterlot and show her my great life and… and prove to her that... I don’t know what I wanted. But things kept coming up..." Shining gathered himself up, forcing himself to remain calm. "But...but that doesn't excuse her! She attacked my wife, Spike! She accused her of being a monster-"

"She was a monster. A changeling, actually."

Those words were a worst blow than any shot of magic Twilight threw at him.

"Wha...what?"

"The queen of the Changelings took Cadence's place. She had performed a spell that made you love her, so that's why you didn't see her faults. Twilight saw right through them though...that is what she was trying to tell you. That was her great crime, Shining: trying to save you from a parasite."

Shining's jaw trembled as he tried to make sense of it all. "A...a changeling?” Hope flared in his eyes. Maybe...just maybe...he hadn't meant the vile things he had-

"Twilight said that changelings can't stand negative emotions; hate and anger are like poison. All the queen did was make you think she was Cadence and be devoted to her. How you did that was all you.”

The stallion lowered his head. He wanted to argue Spike's comments, tell the dragon he was wrong...but he just couldn't do it.

Because he knew Spike was right.

All the horrible things he had done to Twilight...the way he had treated her, disregarding her feelings and worries, belittling her, taking away her title as best mare, cutting her out of his life...those were all him. That hate, that anger...it was all from him.

The captain wept.

"The greatest mistake I've ever made was walking away from her last night," Spike said softly. He turned and Shining saw that Spike hadn't turned his back to him out of rage, but to hide his own tears. "I am going to spend the rest of my life making it up to her. I am going to do anything she wants...just to prove to her I am worthy of her love." Spike jumped off the bed and began to walk to the door. He paused for a moment, looking back at Shining Armor. "We are her brothers, Shining. I don’t like you and you don’t like me. But Twilight needs you. So are you going to wallow in pity? Or are you going to fight to save her?"

And with that, Spike was gone.

~MC~MC~MC~

"Alright, we are nearly done!" Dr. Stitch called out as he began to transfer that last bit of white magic into Twilight's body. Magic Infusion was a difficult process and only attempted in the most dire of situations. It was better to let a unicorn build their reserves back up than to attempt to inject them with foreign magic.

But Twilight had been corrupted by the dark magic she had called upon to defeat Chrysalis. While Shining Armor had been under a spell much like her, Twilight had already allowed a spark of darkness into her heart and the changeling magic had only caused it to grow. Black magic was like tar, clinging to a unicorn and tainting all it touched. They had used every spell they could to drain the black magic from her horn and now they were refilling her with pure white magic. The dangers were great...Twilight might lose her ability to use magic or could suffer from memory loss or personality changes...but it was better that she suddenly became shy or forgot her 5th birthday than to allow the black magic to remain.

"Status?" Stitch asked.

"88%, doctor," a nurse said.

'No...don't allow them to do this. The fire must remain...the strength it gives can't be stolen away.'

"Doctor, her heart rate is spiking."

"Monitor it...we are almost there," Stitch said gruffly.

'They want weak Twilight back...doormat Twilight. They are pumping in white magic in the hopes of make a docile little unicorn that is more of a foal than a mare. One that will say, 'Oh, I'm sorry for not doing what you wanted! Let me wait on you knee and hoof in order to make it up to you!' Don't let this happen...don't let them destroy-'

One of the nurses gasped, pointing a shaking hoof at the container of pure white magic. Stitch turned, his jaw dropping as he saw that the magic reserve was no longer pure... but becoming gray... then dark... then black.

"We are getting a bleed through!" he shouted, scrambling to unhook Twilight from the corrupt magic. "Hurry, before-"

Twilight's eyes snapped open.