• Published 8th Sep 2023
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Bid Time Return - Commander30



Discord's attempts to think of a birthday present for Fluttershy keep getting sidetracked.

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Chapter Three

Discord was back in his home in Chaosville, adjusting a curtain that had somehow curled itself up against a window in an almost orderly fashion. Creating more chaos in his house, however, couldn’t cheer him now as it usually did. In fact, he was loudly grumbling as he formulated his course of action.

Time travel was something that he was capable of, but also something he’d never had any interest in, especially travel to the past. It was a tricky thing, time. It sat above the other dimensions that ponies were trapped in. And while Discord could, technically, move about it, he had no control over it. A trip to the past was a trip in which he could merely observe, not interfere or change things. The future was slightly more interesting, as there were so many more possible futures to see, many of them wonderfully chaotic. But lately, Discord had been averse to looking into possible futures, knowing that there would be just as many in which Fluttershy was miserable as there were in which she would be happy, and… he wouldn’t let himself even take the risk to see her like that and go mad with worry wondering which of her futures would ultimately come to pass.

But… enough about the future. This assignment of his was going to take him to the past, with the burden of a very unenviable task.

He was going to have to… write an entire history book.

Ugh.

Discord’s limitations in dealing with the past meant that he couldn’t send himself to Twilight’s old library ten seconds before its annihilation, grab the book, and bring it back to her in the present, as delightfully effortless that would be. No, a task like this wasn’t going to be simple. Granted… even if it could have been simple, Discord realized that he wouldn’t have done it that way anyway. If he was going to do this, he was going to do this right. And if Twilight really wanted a reference guide to the history of Ponyville, then she was going to get the most comprehensive, correct, and complete text that could ever possibly exist!

Of course, this meant that Discord had a lot of observing to do.

A whole heck of a lot of observing.

A whole heck of a lot of observing mayoral speeches, banal awards ceremonies, dreary financial board meetings, insipid city council elections…

Discord groaned loudly and dramatically, flopping onto the floor. “Why is it that the one pony with whom I most need to square away my debt is also the pony with the most banal and boring interests in the universe?!” He conjured up a tiny violin in his tail tufts and began to play a sad tune on it, somewhat enjoying the sensation of wallowing in his misery. “She’d better appreciate this, otherwise I’m never doing anything nice for her ever again.”

He snapped his fingers and was instantly surrounded by dozens of copies of himself—dozens of very grumpy, very critical copies of himself.

“I know what you have planned, and I refuse.”

“Not happening, bud!”

“We’re the Lord of Chaos, not the Lord of Record Keeping and Filing Cabinets!”

The original Discord sighed, snapped his fingers again, and zipped all their mouths shut. “And believe me, I know all that. But this is for Twilight. After what she’s done for us, it’s the least we can do.”

One Discord copy defiantly unzipped his lips. “I feel like there’s plenty less we could do.”

“And there was plenty less Twilight could have done for us. And should have done for us. And yet she took us back as a friend anyway.” The original Discord glowered at all the copies of himself, the disappointment he still felt at himself seeping into all his clones, and they frowned and looked away guiltily.

Another copy unzipped his own mouth. “Can’t we just get her a bouquet like we got Lester? That seemed to work fine!”

“Princesses like flowers, it’s a proven fact,” said another one, also unzipping his lips.

“That’s the lazy way out,” scoffed the original Discord. “It just screams ‘I wanted to get you something but didn’t know what, so here’s the gift of least value and effort possible.’”

“And that’s what we did for Celestia!”

“Celestia didn’t care. And I don’t care about Celestia.” Discord folded his arms crossly. “You all know that.”

“But… we care about Twilight?” The clone who asked this question did so with slight hesitation and confusion. The other clones all fidgeted slightly as well, knowing what the original knew yet not quite wanting to admit it.

And Discord could hardly fault them for that, because… well, they were him. Every doubt and snarky spark of disobedience they had came straight from the source. And he was starting to find that convincing himself was much more difficult than it seemed.

“Twilight is our friend. Yes, we care about her. And if this is important to her, then we’ll make it happen for her.” He waggled a finger at his clones in a manner indicating that the debate was over.

But his clones ignored that implication. “We care about Fluttershy more!” one snapped.

“Indeed!” another clone agreed. “So why are we spending so much effort on Twilight when we haven’t done the same for our dearest and best friend in the universe?”

“And I would point out that Fluttershy has done far more undeserved good for us than Twilight ever has!” piped up another clone.

The room was soon filled with the roar of similar protests from the rest of the Discord clones, and it took the original Discord flinging the entire room underwater (into a lake that he’d had to create just for the occasion) to quiet them down again.

“Oh yes, of course, you all know Fluttershy so well!” he snapped at them. “It’s so obvious! Because if Fluttershy knew that one of her friends, who’s recently been through the wringer, was wanting just a simple, boring thing like a book, she’d say, ‘No, no, focus on me, I deserve a gift more than she does!’”

Now all the clones were quietly. Deathly so.

Discord scowled at his copies, furious at them. Furious at himself. “Think what Fluttershy would do,” he continued in a quieter, more serious voice. “What would she do if she had our powers and knew what we now know regarding what Twilight wants?”

The copies guiltily looked down at the floor, saying nothing. One was even trying to melt into the floor.

“I know you all know what I know.” Discord took only a second to yank his melting copy out of the floor by the tail before continuing. “She’d go to the ends of Equestria to make her friend happy. And that is exactly what we are going to do.” He snapped his talons and a number of flashcards and notebooks appeared in his paw. With a quick flick of his arm, he distributed a flashcard and notebook to each of his clones, one of each remaining with him. “Your time period assignments are on the cards.”

“Can I trade mine with a buddy?” asked one clone, looking hopefully to the clone on his left.

“I couldn’t care less,” muttered Discord Prime.

The clone on the left shook his head. “No, you can’t,” he informed the questioning clone, who scowled and muttered angrily at the rejection.

“Stake out your assigned time periods,” the original Discord continued, “make note of every boring little detail you can, especially details you think Twilight would find interesting, and then report back here.”

“Easy for you to say,” a clone mumbled darkly. “Making all of us do your dirty work.”

Discord Prime flashed his own notebook at them. “I gave myself an assignment just like all the rest of you. Never think of me of nothing less than a fair boss.”

“Spare me,” another clone muttered under his breath.

“Gladly. It’s time to report to your stations! Toodle-pip!” Discord Prime snapped his fingers and in an instant, he and all of his clones were gone.

And an instant later, they were all back… groaning and wailing and smacking their heads against the wall.

Discord Prime was not above the dramatics of his unruly clones, either. He too was clutching his head and moaning, his eyeballs so saggy that they were drooping out of his eye sockets. He snapped his tail feathers over and over in an attempt to bring more chaos in his surroundings in order to offset the drudgery he’d just experienced. The sky turned multiple shades of plaid, his melted eyeballs stretched into silly putty, gravity flipped and set the numerous Discords upside-down in the air, and the wind howled with the sound of klaxon horns.

It helped… a little.

But as the wailing and complaining of his clones died down slightly as well, Discord snapped again and united them all with him once again, and the years and years and years—centuries!—of monotony he’d lived through in pieces were now all united in his mind as well.

It was very nearly too much, and if not for gravity once again going haywire and continuously swapping, bouncing Discord back and forth between the sky and the ground, he very well might have gone mad from the sensation.

After a few minutes of this, Discord finally managed to pull himself together—literally, as the bouncing seemed to have shattered him a few times—and he then reached into his ear and, with great difficulty, pulled out a huge, hardcover book.

Looking at the book, he gave another shudder of repulsion. “Twilight had better like this,” he muttered darkly. He hoped that she would, but it had been so long since he’d talked to her—over a thousand years!—that he found himself struggling to remember what kinds of things Twilight liked and disliked. Which was preposterous, really—this whole horrible excursion had been for her benefit, after all. But throughout the unbearably long years of observing Ponyville history, Discord’s thoughts had stayed with a different pony entirely.

His gaze fell upon the picture of himself and Fluttershy that he kept on his end table and felt his heart go through a juicer.

“Fluttershy,” he whimpered pathetically. Oh, how he missed her! Going over a thousand years without seeing the most wondrous pony in existence left him hollow. Raw. Nothing in this world mattered more than seeing her, being with her… just her. And he was about to snap his fingers to see her again and joyfully embrace her after so long apart, but an often-dormant rational part of his brain was aware enough to remind him that when he’d last seen her, she’d been curt with him, telling him that he needed to do something for her birthday in order to make it up to him…

…and this talk of birthday had distracted him and made him go on this quest for Twilight before he could even begin to ponder his gift for Fluttershy. He couldn’t approach her empty-handed. Not that he was empty-handed at the moment; the gigantic history tome was weighing his arms down considerably.

Yes, it was definitely best to punt this horrid volume to its rightful owner and never, ever think about it again.

Discord groaned. Getting past a thousand years, even a thousand years of total banality, wasn’t so easy, and he already knew this from experience.

He snapped his fingers and was gone in a flash, not allowing himself any more time to dwell on it.

Twilight Sparkle was seated at a small desk in her castle/library, shuffling through the pages of the morning newspaper with her hooves and using her horn to keep a cup of warm tea hovered in the air next to her, from which she sipped occasionally. Thankfully, she wasn’t having any trouble staying awake despite her late night, but she definitely still felt a bit groggy, and she still had plenty to do that day.

Flipping the page, she perked up a bit. “Aha, there you are!” She couldn’t quite smile, though, not until she read what the article actually said. Despite the reassurances of Princess Celestia and all of her friends, Twilight knew that the Grand Galloping Gala, the very first gala she’d ever helped plan, had been… maybe not a disaster, per se, but certainly not perfect, either. Not a good start for the new princess.

But, well, the historical record had to be accurate, and ever since the previous records of Ponyville had been destroyed, Twilight was all the more determined to preserve what she could now.

“Look on the bright side, Twilight,” she murmured to herself, telekinetically placing her cup on the table and raising a pair of scissors to trim the article from the paper. “You can only improve from here. I’m sure Princess Celestia had plenty of snafus when she was first starting out, too…”

“Oh, she did! I should tell you sometime about the time she and Lulu made a dedication for the first bridge to Canterlot—what a disaster! I was laughing for weeks!”

Twilight yelped and jumped out of her chair, the scissors she had been levitating clattering to the desk and taking part of the newspaper with it. “Discord! You scared me!”

“It wasn’t my intention. You don’t like being scared, right? I can’t remember.”

Twilight frowned.

“Sorry,” Discord added, quite sincerely.

“It’s alright,” Twilight said, also relaxing a bit. “No harm done.” She glanced at the torn section of the newspaper. “I didn’t need that section.”

“And why, pray tell, would you need to cut out any section of this rag? Are you forming a ransom note?”

“I’m just going to ignore that that’s the first place your mind went to…” Twilight’s lips pursed a bit before she continued. “Actually, I’m working on creating a scrapbook that will serve as an official record of the beginnings of my princess journey. After recent events, I’ve become even more dedicated to preserving whatever official record that I can.”

“Funny you should mention that.” Discord snapped his fingers, transporting Twilight’s scrapbook to his hands so that he could better examine it.

“Be careful with that, the glue hasn’t quite dried yet!” Twilight barked out.

“Oh no, you’re mistaken. Your gluing job was top-notch. The glue’s dried already.” Discord carefully closed the book and handed it back to a somewhat befuddled Twilight. “But the scope of this book is sadly lacking. Wouldn’t you prefer a record that that goes back further than last month?”

“Of course I would,” said Twilight, still confused, “but the records were all lost in the fight with Tirek that destroyed my library.”

“Records are easily replaced,” said Discord with a knowing smirk. “At least when you have me around.” He snapped again, and a box gift-wrapped in paper that seemed to have an aluminum sheen appeared on Twilight’s desk, right next to her scrapbook and newspaper.

“What… what is this?” Twilight raised a suspicious eyebrow. “If you’re trying to apologize for the gala, your apology from last night was sufficient—“

“Oh, I know. Well, I’d hoped, at least.” Discord’s shoulders shifted a bit awkwardly. “But no, this is actually an attempt at rectifying a previous atrocity of mine. I recently became aware that you had a birthday not too long ago, and it was on a day that my actions, unfortunately, made it not quite such a festive day for you…”

At this explanation, Twilight relaxed, giving Discord a reassuring smile. “Is that what’s this about? Because even if a lot of the day was pretty horrible, it all turned out marvelous in the end, so I don’t hold any ill will against you, believe me. You didn’t need to go to the hassle a month after the fact.”

“Well, whether or not I needed to, I did anyway,” said Discord. “And if my efforts ended up being all for nothing I may possibly rip my own head off, so please open your present before I engage in premature decapitation.”

That didn’t sound pleasant, so Twilight quickly activated her horn to tear the paper off the gift, finding it surprisingly tough and unyielding. After a few fruitless attempts, she finally levitated the scissors and used them to carefully cut the paper open. It fell off quite easily after the first cut.

Inside was a very large book, a plain brown color that was surprising considering its source. The words on the cover were small, so small that Twilight thought she’d misread them at first: “PONYVILLE: A COMPLETE HISTORY”.

“Discord…” Twilight tried to move her jaw from its slacked position, still not believing what she was seeing. “Is this… are these really the records that I lost?”

“No, absolutely not,” Discord said bluntly. “They’re far superior. Every inane little detail of the history of this town is contained within these pages. Trust me, I had to sit through all of it, so you’d better believe I made it worth my while and worthy of your lofty, exacting standards by including everything. I’d be willing to bet your old volume didn’t have half of what’s in here.”

Twilight could only babble lightly, only just managing to lift a hoof and flip through a few pages. Her jaw was still so slacked that Discord was a bit worried she’d drool on the pages. Absolute and complete shock was a positive reaction, right? He was still so new to this gift-giving thing he had no clue.

Finally, Twilight looked back up from the book and at Discord, her wide eyes blinking twice before she abruptly flung herself at him, enveloping him in a hug. “Oh my goodness oh my goodness thank you! Thank you so much! I don’t know how you did it, but—but—you don’t know how much this means to me!”

Discord stood, stiff and awkward, at the display. This was the first time anypony other than Fluttershy had ever hugged him, and… and, well, he still wasn’t quite used to even Fluttershy’s hugs. He was supposed to hug back, right? Was that the protocol?

He carefully wrapped his lion arm around Twilight’s withers and gave her a light squeeze in return. “You’re quite welcome, Twilight, but I have an idea of what this means to you, Spike implied as such.”

Twilight laughed at that, lightly and freely. “Spike does know what’s important to me.” She pulled away, but her face was still nearly split open by her enormous smile. “Seriously, thank you so much. You’ve done so much for Ponyville’s legacy with this.”

“Oh, please, you flatter me!” Discord dramatically flung an open palm out towards Twilight. “A parade and a statue in the center of town will be sufficient imbursement, thank you.”

“A parade? What did I miss?” Spike sauntered into the room, munching on a sapphire.

“Spike!” cried Twilight, sounding almost like a foal in a candy store. “Look what Discord got me! It’s a replacement for all the Ponyville records that were lost in the explosion!”

“Huh, so you did manage it after all!” Spike smirked approvingly in Discord’s direction.

“Yes, duh, did you forget who you were talking to?” Discord groused, although he was sporting a playful smile of his own. “I’m Discord, Lord of Chaos and Doer of Just-About-Darn-Near-Everything, time and space are my playgrounds!”

“So you gave him the idea, Spike?” Twilight didn’t even wait for an answer, engulfing Spike in a gigantic hug. “Thank you so much!”

“Hey, I just planted the seed,” Spike said good-naturedly. “Discord’s the one who made it happen. How did you do it, anyway?”

“Trade secret,” said Discord. “And besides, it’s so tedious that I don’t want to relive it at all anyway. I’m never doing this again, Twilight, so don’t get used to this level of birthday present!”

“That’s fine,” laughed Twilight. “This is worth ten birthdays, at least!”

“Well, good,” said Discord. “Now that I’ve squared away the business of your birthday present, I can focus wholly on Fluttershy’s. Which is what I was trying to do in the first place before Pinkie Pie informed me that I’d missed your birthday…”

Twilight was still smiling, not bothered by the seemingly dismissive tone of Discord’s statement. “I’m sure you’ll knock it out of the park.”

“Yeah, you’re great at thoughtful birthday presents!” added Spike. “What did you get for Rainbow Dash’s birthday?”

Discord spluttered, eyes bulging, his arm frozen in the air.

“Hmm, looks like not everything’s squared away just yet,” said Twilight, smirking.

“Oh for pity’s sake!” cried Discord, exasperated. “Why must I keep getting sidetracked?! What was it Pinkie said—Twilight’s birthday was in August, Rainbow’s was in July… but I haven’t missed anypony else’s since becoming reformed, have I?”

Twilight’s grin faded a bit with the realization of how much this actually seemed to matter to her draconequus friend. “No, it’s just me and Rainbow. Fluttershy’s birthday is on Tuesday, and then Applejack’s birthday is next, and that’s not for a few more months.”

“So now I have to belatedly give Rainbow Dash a birthday present before I can figure out what to get Fluttershy?!” A large mallet appeared in Discord’s hands, and he dramatically whacked himself over the head with it. “I’ll never figure out the perfect gift for Fluttershy at this rate!”

“Dramatic much?” Spike muttered, raising an eyebrow.

“Uh, yeah, calm down, Discord,” said Twilight, using her magic to levitate the mallet out of Discord’s hands. “I don’t think Rainbow even expected a gift from you at all.”

“Besides, she’s easy to please, even easier than Twilight,” said Spike. “Get her candy.”

“Candy? Really?” asked Twilight, looking at Spike inquisitively.

“You know that almond fudge you had at the snack table at the gala last night?” Spike gave a light shrug. “It was gone barely an hour in, because Rainbow Dash scarfed it all down.”

Twilight drew in her breath. “So that’s where it all went…”

“Okay, I’ll get her fudge, then.” Discord immediately waved his lion paw, causing the mallet to disappear just as quickly as it had appeared. “Done. So now, finally, I can focus all my energy on what to get Fluttershy. And I’ll need all my energy, because I’m at a complete loss as to what to get her!”

“Seriously?” both Twilight and Spike blurted out, befuddled.

Discord glared at them both. “Yes, seriously. Fluttershy deserves only the best of the best, and I have no idea what to give her that will make her feel as appreciated as she deserves!”

Twilight and Spike exchanged a slightly puzzled glance.

“Discord, if I may… and speaking as someone who has a lot of experience in this,” Twilight finally said, as tactfully as she could, “but I think maybe you’re overthinking this? I mean, I’ve known Fluttershy longer than you have—“

“But not better,” Discord interrupted fiercely.

“—and I can tell you that she’ll appreciate even the smallest token of appreciation.” Twilight cocked her head at Discord imploringly. “She’ll honestly be happy with any sort of acknowledgement on her birthday. I get the feeling she thinks even that is excessive. You could just make her a card and she’d—“

“After everything I’ve put her through, after everything she’s done for me, she deserves far more than just an impersonal, bland card!” Discord spat out.

“I’m not telling you to just get her a card,” Twilight continued levelly. “I’m just saying that she would honestly and truly appreciate that. You don’t need to move mountains for her or anything.”

“How little you know,” Discord muttered.

“Besides, you know Fluttershy better than any of the rest of us,” Spike added. “So you should already know everything she likes.”

“Of course I know her interests—but that’s not enough!’ Discord dramatically flung himself against the wall, hitting a number of Twilight’s bookshelves in the process. “Whatever gift I give her has to evoke the same reaction that your gift gave you, Twilight. If not greater! And I can’t think of anything!”

Twilight bit her lip thoughtfully. “Well, I react to books and records the same way that Fluttershy reacts to… animals, I suppose?”

“And music,” said Spike.

Both Discord and Twilight looked at Spike inquisitively. “Music?” Discord repeated. “I know she likes to sing, but I never got the feeling that music was something overtly special to her.”

Spike just shrugged. “Come on, you were even dancing with her last night when the Bid Time Return theme played! Didn’t you see how she lit up when that song started? And I don’t blame her, I love that movie…” He sighed blissfully, the look in his eyes similar to that when he talked about Rarity.

“The orchestra was playing a song from a movie?” Twilight asked.

Discord immediately moved away from the bookshelves and right into Spike’s face. “What did you say the name of the movie was?”

“Bid Time Return. It’s one of my favorite movies.” Spike let out another wistful sigh. “It’s about this earth pony who sees the portrait of a pegasus from the past and—“

“Hmm. I can work with this.” Discord moved away from Spike and adopted a thoughtful pose, leaning over as his talons stroked his goatee. “If I could just somehow use the song in a personal way—AHA!” He instantly brightened, a large lightbulb appearing over his head. “I’ve got it! Thank you, Spike! Oh, and Twilight, too!”

“I’m not sure what I did to help, but you’re welcome!” said Twilight amiably.

Discord wrapped the lightbulb up in a purple fern leaf and handed it to Twilight. “Pardon me for gifting and running, but I’ve got work to do! Ta-ta!” He snapped his claws and disappeared in an instant.

Spike was still smiling, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. “I should listen to that song again…” He ambled out of the room, not seeming to notice Discord’s disappearance.

Twilight, left alone again, examined the lightbulb Discord had left with her.

“Uh… what am I supposed to do with this?”