The Past is the Future

by the_panic

First published

A human escaping from a nuclear holocaust brings change to all of Equestria and a certain librarian.

A group of humans attempt to escape a global nuclear war through the use of time travel. However, something goes wrong with Sam Mitchell's pod, flinging him far into the future, into a time where humans no longer exist and a race of sentient ponies now thrive as the dominant life form. He eventually comes to the attention of a certain purple unicorn, who aims to learn all she can of Sam and his civilization as well as help him adjust to his new life.

Can Sam handle living as the only human? Can Equestria, and Twilight in particular, handle the changes this alien brings?

How Long Was I Out?

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Standing in the dimly-lit room, surrounded by crumbling cinderblock walls, Sam Mitchell stared at himself in the mirror. The single, feeble yellow lightbulb hanging over the cot behind him revealed an exhausted figure glaring back from the mirror. The weak light didn't do any favors for his pale complexion, and dulled the color of his eyes. He remembered that they used to be a bright blue. A long-established diet of war rations and military meals-ready-to-eat had left him with a thin, lean build, exaggerated by the unkempt mass of brown hair on his head.

"Today's the day", he noted.

The war had been raging for some time now, and the shells just kept falling. How one had not been dropped on THIS research station was a miracle, as it seemed like they got closer every day. Only a few nuclear bombs had been detonated, but they had managed to ruin and contaminate enough land to cover a huge portion of the planet in radioactive fallout. Even if anyone survived the war, there wouldn't be much left to go back to. Not for at least a few hundred years, anyway, hence the reason for today's "festivities", as they had begun to be referred to around the station.

Time-viewing had long been achievable, though actual time-travel was still in the works. Once string theory and M-theory had finally been combined into one workable "theory of everything" earlier at the turn of the 23rd century, it was just a matter of time before that level of technology was attained. It was also the cause of the war; as if out of a Greek tragedy, each country with access to time-viewing technology saw a future filled with attacks and conflicts, provoking them into becoming the very cause of those attacks by launching "preemptive strikes."

Sam reflected on the events leading to today. How fitting, then, that the very technology that started all of this would be what could hopefully save a part of humanity.

Today was to be the culmination of a year's worth of work. After several failed attempts over the previous months, last week the research team had finally sent something into the future: a living animal, a dog named Laika. Unlike her namesake, this dog survived the trip. When they activated the capsule, it appeared to vanish, only to reappear precisely five hours later. The clock sent with the dog registered a much shorter elapsed time, mere seconds. Today would be much different, though; in attempt to escape to a place untouched by war and nuclear fallout, Sam, his family, the scientists, and various other lottery-selected citizens would be using these capsules to send themselves a few hundred years into the future. By then, it was estimated that mother nature would have healed some of the ravages of war and that much of the nuclear fallout would have dissipated. Each capsule would be carrying with it a single passenger, a few personal luxuries, and a digital archive containing a history of human civilization and technical details regarding the passenger's occupation. Additionally, a survival kit featuring collapsible shelter, basic tools, a few meals-ready-to-eat, and a "universal translator" of sorts was stored in another compartment to give the survivor an initial boost. The capsule itself had removable panels that revealed solar cells to help power any initial colonies.

Sam had had his "personal luxuries" packed for days now; all he really wanted was his computer and digital music player. His laptop contained all that remained of his life before the war: photographs, books, favorite movies, music, and the project files from his job as a computer hardware engineer. Likewise, his archive would contain a veritable how-to on recreating almost every piece of computational and electronic technology Sam's country had produced.

He stood up, adjusted his blue, one-size-fits-all cloth shirt and pants, and grabbed his bag. He made a few steps down the hallway, just as decrepit and gray as his room, to claim his spot in the fleet of time-capsules. Sam was halfway through, and checking his watch when a massive quake tore through the complex.

Immediately sirens and warning lights screamed to life. A panicked voice on the intercom began shouting orders to scramble to the capsules. Not wanting to hang around to find out what happened, Sam sprinted through the corridor towards the capsule hangar, trying not to knock over or run into any of the other equally frantic base occupants. As he continued towards the hangar, he passed through a section of hallway featuring one of the only five windows on-base. What he saw froze him in his tracks and made his blood run cold: just on the edge of the horizon, Sam saw the flared top of a mushroom cloud blocking out the setting sun.

Snapping out of his horror, Sam noticed the crowd in the corridor had long outpaced him. He knew there were only mere minutes before the shockwave hit the base. His mind devoid of nearly any other thought, Sam raced as fast as he could to the capsule hangar. After what felt like an eternity of running, Sam was greeted by the sight of a grid of steel coffins laid out on the ground. Several capsules had already been activated and sent on their way; the remaining pods were still in the process of fading from the current time period. Though he had no time to express it, he was relieved that everyone else was safely on their way to the future.

Sam raced to his designated pod, and jumped in. He scrambled to enter the correct activation commands. Just as the hum of the time-engine began, he felt the world turn upside down as the nuclear shockwave hit the base, and his capsule. Even through the reinforced steel of the capsule, the roar of the inferno outside deafened him. He didn't even have time to scream before it all went silent.


The sun shone brightly; it was yet another beautiful day in Canterlot. The shopkeepers happily showed off their wares for the high-class ponies that window-shopped their way through the cobblestoned-streets. The stone and stucco walls of the buildings looked as if they'd been cleaned only moments ago. In the cafes, mares with perfectly-coiffed manes and intricately-designed dresses chatted idly as they sipped their tea.

This serene scene of everyday life was soon interrupted, as a bright orange flash illuminated the market square, followed by a loud crash and clattering of steel as a flaming, battered metal capsule came tumbling out of thin air, tearing out chunks of cobblestone as it careened into one of the many dress shops along the street.

As the dust settled, a brown stallion from the cobbler's shop next door stepped forward to examine the wreckage. Seeing a few flames beginning to leap about, he quickly stomped those out, and turned his attention to the charred, dented metal box that caused this. Extending a hoof to touch it, he swiftly jerked it back with a yelp; he could get no closer than a few inches from the thing without the tough, keratinous tissue of his hoof beginning to smolder.

A matter of minutes later, the shining armor of the Canterlot Royal Guard blocked the public's view. A crowd had long gathered around them, trying to peer over the guards' shoulders. Once the metal had cooled a little, the guards began inspecting the pod and brushing the charred remains of shredded cloth off of it, searching for any kind of writing or distinctive marks that hadn't been scraped off by the heat and impact.

One of the guards managed to partially pry open the lid; seeing the unconscious alien within, he quickly slammed it shut, and matter-of-factly said to his sergeant, "Sir, maybe we should inform the Princess."

The squad leader nodded. "While we wait for further instructions from Her Highness, let's get this... Thing... To the castle dungeons."


Sam awoke to find himself restrained on a gurney in what appeared to be a medieval dungeon. His eyes struggled to see in the torch-lit cell. Looking around, he saw two ponies alternating their gaze between him and their notepads, separated from him by a set of thick iron bars. One pony had a white, frizzed-out mane, an equally pale coat, and a pair of spectacles balanced on his muzzle. The other, younger-looking equine was a navy blue, with a short shock of green hair for a mane with what appeared to be a horn on its forehead. Both were wearing something resembling lab coats.

"Ponies...?" Sam shook his head a few times, not sure if he was hallucinating or having some sort of bizarre dream. He was leaning towards dreaming, considering the coloration of the more youthful pony, and the strange sounds coming out of their mouths. It almost sounded like speech, but like no language he'd ever heard before.

The two lab ponies, as Sam mentally named them, seemed to be conversing with the guards. The guards didn't seem to have nearly as much enthusiasm as the lab ponies had for whatever they'd written down. Though it would be futile to speak, Sam reasoned, he figured it wouldn't hurt to at least try to say something.

"Hey! Can you hear me?" Sam stared right at the white lab pony. It responded by excitedly jotting something else down.


"Professor Hoofstein, is that thing trying to speak to us?" Bunsen asked, moving his green mane out of his eyes.

The white pony adjusted his lab coat, "Why yes, I think it just might be! It's too early to say for certain, but judging by its morphology, particularly the shape of its head and the fact that it has opposable thumbs, it appears to be some sort of primate, possibly even one possessing sapience!"

"Should I loosen its restraints so that we can attempt to interact with it?" Bunsen asked curiously.

The bound alien shouted something, startling the pair of researchers.

Professor Hoofstein's pupils shrank. "Oh, Celestia, no! Not yet. It could be a dangerous species, whatever it is. Possibly a predator of sorts, given the forward-facing placement of its eyes. You heard the Princess when she called us here, our first assignment is to assess any possible threats this creature may pose. Which test would you like to try first?"

Bunsen raised a hoof to his chin and stared up at the ceiling. "Well, we may be testing it, but I don't think we aim to torture or starve it. Might as well go ahead and attempt to discern its diet."

Hoofstein nodded in agreement. "Very well. Grab that cart at the end of the hallway and bring it here."

The younger researcher left, returning a few seconds later with a wooden cart bearing a few different kinds of fruit, vegetables, some dairy products, and a few cages containing a rabbit, squirrel, and a mouse. The elder scientist mentally recoiled a bit at the thought of possibly feeding a carnivore, but it was, after all, part of the test, he reasoned.

The guard opened the cell. Bunsen placed the food near the gurney that the creature was bound to, and unlocked the cages containing the rodents, leaving the hungry guest to open them at its leisure.

"Bunsen, feel free to undo the restraints once the cell is closed."

Upon hearing the lock click, Bunsen concentrated and his horn began to glow a light green, as did the canvas straps on the creature's limbs as they loosened and fell away. The alien looked at both ponies, who could detect some confusion in its eyes. Hoofstein raised a hoof and pointed it at the food.


Guessing that the pony was signaling for him to examine what they'd put in the cell, Sam began picking through the pile. He wasn't sure why they'd put the little animals in with him, but the fruits, (at least he thought they were fruits), were pretty enticing to him, so he began to eat. Picking up a red fruit that vaguely resembled a cross between a strawberry and a pear, he took a small bite at first, in case it was poisonous to him, and set it down for a few minutes. He noticed that the two lab ponies had confused expressions on their faces.

After a few moments, Sam was feeling no ill effects. In any case, the fruit was sweet and his growling stomach demanded more, so he obliged. The lab ponies seemed elated by this as he stuffed his face with the various fruits, vegetables, and cheeses before him. Their expressions of excitement, however, quickly turned to shock as Sam turned his attention to the caged animals next to the veggie pile.

As he began petting the rabbit, he heard a collective sigh from the pair when he offered the rabbit a carrot.


Bunsen was grinning. "Does that mean its safe for us to get closer to it now?"

The Professor was more restrained. "Not quite, but its certainly a good step in the right direction. Next we need to examine the objects that it was found with." He pointed towards the saddlebags leaning on the corridor wall. "Let's start with this thing." The Professor pulled out a thin, curved, wiry object. It seemed to be made out of a flexible material, and certainly didn't seem capable of cutting, burning, or firing anything at anypony. One end had a small, foam tip, while the other end terminated in a rounded black box with a sort of hook.

The creature saw the Professor holding that, and began making motions toward both its ear and the Professor's ear, while loudly crying something out.

Bunsen scratched his head. "It seems to want that thing to touch yours and its ears together?"

"I'm not sure... One second... Oh! There are two of these... Things." Hoofstein leaned closer to the cell bars. The creature slowly moved towards the bars, holding its forelimbs out and the bottom of its front paws extended out flat. Once only a few inches separated the Professor and the alien, the alien turned its head and fully pulled its hair away from its ear.

"Bunsen, look at the shape of this hook," pointing to the heftier end of the object, "It looks as if it would fit on the creatures ear!" Hoofstein tapped the creature's shoulder, causing it to look him dead in the eyes. He lifted a hoof, pointed at the device, and then pointed at the side of the aliens head. The creature responded by repeating the gesture, and turned its ear towards the Professor again.

The Professor slowly hooked the object onto the creature's head. It then responded by pointing to the other, identical device, and pointed back to the Professor's own ears. He put the device on as securely as he could, given how different his own ears were. The creature then tapped something on the boxy end of the device, causing the one on the Professor's head to give out a small "BEEP."

"Professor, what are you doing?" Bunsen cocked his head.

"I'm not sure. Keep watching it." Hoofstein saw the creature making gestures towards its mouth and his own mouth, and it seemed to be gibbering endlessly.

Suddenly, the Professor heard a strange voice coming from the device on his ear, "Can... hear... me?"


"Can you hear me?" Sam practically shouted into the microphone on his ear. He continued speaking and gesturing to his mouth, hoping the pony would pick up on what was going on. He just needed for both of them to speak into these devices long enough for the translation algorithm to pick up some of the basics of converting between both languages.

Eventually, Sam heard the mechanical voice in his ear respond, "What... this... thing... ear?" The pony was moving its hoof towards its ear.

"Translator! Can you understand me at all?" Sam was elated to finally figure out what was going on.


"Can understand me?" The Professor heard it again.

He turned towards Bunsen. "This must be some sort of magical translator! The sentences are becoming a bit more clear and well structured. The creature just asked me 'can understand me?' !"

Bunsen's jaw dropped. "Incredible!"


After roughly an hour of them exchanging basic sentences, Sam found that the translation was becoming more comprehensible.

"I am Professor Hoofstein. The pony next to me is Bunsen. What are you?"

Sam stood still, staring in shock at the scene before him. I've just traveled in time, and am now a prisoner of sapient ponies. Who can talk. What. The. Hell.

The professor knocked a hoof against the cell bars, snapping Sam out of his daydream.

Sam startled slightly, and adjusted his mic. "Sorry. My name is Sam Mitchell. I am a human male. Why am I locked up? Where are the other humans? They were in capsules like mine."

Hoofstein shook his head. "We have never seen your kind before. You are locked up because we are studying you. For now, we are assessing if you pose us a threat. We saw no other capsules or... Humans? We only found you. But, there will be time for YOUR questions later. First thing's first, how did you get here, and WHY are you here?" The white pony had a slightly incredulous look on his face.

Sam considered arguing, but he realized, at least for now, it was probably best to cooperate. These ponies did at least do him the favor of not *immediately* assuming he was out to hurt them.

"Fair enough, I suppose. It's a long story, but the short version is that my people were caught in the middle of a massive, global war, and we tried to escape it by transporting ourselves into the future by using capsules like the one you apparently found me in."

Hoofstein took this information surprisingly well. He began scratching his head. "That is quite interesting. Provided we can reconstruct that machine of yours, that will certainly further our own understanding of time travel."

Sam doubted they'd be able to understand the time engine, but was intrigued that they might be familiar with time travel. "Your society is capable of time travel?"

Hoofstein nodded. "Somewhat. The spells we have developed through history have only allowed us brief, temporary existence in other time periods."

Sam's mind had stepped out of the building again. "Ahem, Sam? Are you ok?" Hoofstein coughed.

Sam shook his head as if something had landed on it, snapping back to attention.

"Spells? As in magic?" Sam's eyebrow was on the verge of rising right off of his forehead.

"Of course! You didn't think Bunsen's horn here was just for show, did you?" The Professor mumbled something to Bunsen, whose unintelligible response was accompanied by a slight chuckle.

"I guess I did. How does this magic work? Can you use it?" Sam was fascinated by the idea of this; it hadn't hit him until this point that when he was released, his restraints seemed to just let him go of their own volition.

"Me? No, I'm just an earth pony. As for where magic comes from... Well, frankly we've never really stopped to consider that." Hoofstein turned to Bunsen, and they conversed briefly in their own language. "Bunsen says it's second nature, as if it's an extra limb or an extension of your mind."

Sam scratched his chin. He theorized that, maybe, just maybe, 'magic' was a form of manipulation of quantum physics, and unicorns were a species capable of this. Shaking his head, he remembered he had his own questions that still needed answering.

"So, am I going to be allowed any questions yet?"

"Not yet. There's still the matter of all of the strange objects we found with you." Hoofstein motioned to Bunsen, who produced pictures of the gear Sam had packed with him. He was relieved to see that most of it, save for the tent and archive drive, were completely intact.

Sam decided to clear all of this up quickly. "Alright. The rectangular object there is a laptop computer. Later, I may be able to demonstrate what it does, but think of it as a small library or a very powerful calculator. The bottom part allows me to input text, and the top part displays the output, which may be more text or pictures. The small perforations allow sound to be output."

The two ponies exchanged a few brief words, and very excited looks. This visitor claimed to be from the past, but his technology was far more advanced than their own.

Hoofstein then pointed to a small, black device. Sam nodded. "That's a music player. You can connect it to the computer, and transfer music from the computer to the player."

"A miniature, record-less record player?" The Professor's jaw dropped slightly. Sam nodded.

Next, he pointed at the survival tools. Sam explained what they were for, and, satisfied that they weren't offense weapons, Hoofstein moved on to the final object, the archive drive. Sam was visibly bothered by its condition; the connection port had been broken off, and the case was dented. He wondered if anything would be recoverable, assuming he could fix the connector.

"That WAS a data archive. It's a specialized storage device with a data capacity far above that of my computer, hence the separate unit. Assuming it's still recoverable, it contains a large portion of my people's history as well as an additional section unique to the carrier. In my case, it's a database of computer technology, since I was an electrical and computer engineer in my own time."

Hoofstein's eyes went as wide as dinner plates. He knew that finding these objects and their owner would be an incredible find, but to realize that he'd practically been given a preserved copy of pre-Equestrian history... His mind was on the verge of exploding.

"Sam, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we have much more to learn from you than can possibly be relayed just through me." Hoofstein motioned towards the devices clamped on his and Sam's ear. "If you could be so kind as to describe to me the process by which these devices translate our words, my brilliant assistant here should be able to develop a spell based on the procedure that should perform the same function, but for everyone around you."

"If I do, will you FINALLY answer some questions for me?" Sam was slowly losing patience.

Professor Hoofstein nodded, and passed the headset to Bunsen. They then spent the next few hours discussing the process by which the headsets allowed them to communicate. Once satisfied, Hoofstein reclaimed the headset.

"It will take him the rest of the night to research this. Fortunately, he says there is a similar spell for another language our society is encountered; he should be able to adapt it based on your program. It seems that magic and your 'programming' style of describing processes aren't terribly dissimilar. I hope that your night isn't too unpleasant, but do understand that we initially locked you up for everyone's safety, including your own."

Sam realized he still had no real answers to his own questions, and he was getting a little pissed. "Oh no, you aren't going ANYWHERE until you finally stop and answer at least one of my questions."

Hoofstein was taken aback. He hadn't been outright ignoring Sam's requests; his mind was still reeling over the day's discoveries. "But of course, I'm terribly sorry. As I'm sure you can understand, this whole event makes one a bit preoccupied. Ask away, please."

Sam closed his eyes and let out a relieved sigh. "Ok. What year is it?"

The Professor said matter-of-factly, "Why, it's 1003 PCV, meaning after Celestia's victory over Nightmare Moon."

Sam cocked his head. "Ok, nevermind. That doesn't tell me how far into the future from my OWN time I am. Do me a favor, near where my head should have been inside the capsule, there's a small clock-like device, a chronometer, that measures how far the capsule has suspended itself from time. Dismount it and let me read it."

"Of course, Bunsen needs to grab something from that room anyway."

Bunsen returned a few minutes later with the chronometer in his mouth. To Sam's surprise, the three digits read '010', as if he'd only been sent 10 years into the future.

"You say that society as you know it has been around for at least a thousand years?" Sam was clearly worried about something.

Hoofstein responded, "Yes, probably far longer than that. The princesses are at least a few thousand years old, themselves."

Sam's mind was on overdrive. He was obviously further in time than a mere ten years, meaning the chronometer must have 'rolled over', having only three digits. After all, he was only supposed to travel a maximum of a thousand years. Coupling that information with the fact that a race of intelligent, talking pony-like creatures have evolved to become the dominant race on the planet...

Sam was easily estimating that the capsule had easily sent him at least a few hundred million years forward in time.

"What could have caused this?!" He screamed in his own mind. He realized he was pacing around his cell. "Right as I was activating the pod... The explosion hit me... There's no telling what that could have done to the controls, and the surge of energy from the radiation into the time-engine..."

The two researcher ponies exchanged worried glimpses, their 'guest' was now frantically pacing and yelling at the top of his lungs.

The Professor attempted to talk Sam down. "Everything ok? What's the problem?"


The two ponies realized their manes had been blown back. Meanwhile, their observation subject continued stomping around his cell, screaming out one continuous string of words that, although the translator could not process them for the Professor, were obviously not meant for the meek-hearted or soft-hooved.

Professor Hoofstein nervously grinned and quietly mumbled a goodnight before the two scientists left for the evening, with Sam still cursing as hard and as loudly as he could.


Sam's anger finally burned itself out, leaving him laying on the straw-pile of a bed. He stared blankly at the wall opposite of the cell bars. His mind could only focus on a few words, usually a variation of 'they're all gone' or 'I'm alone'. He couldn't sleep. As the realization slowly mounted, he could feel his eyes stinging a bit, as a few heavy tears fell from them.


The next morning, Bunsen and the Professor returned, with Bunsen bearing a scroll in his mouth. It took him far less time than he expected to adapt the translation spell, much to his relief. After the previous day's excitement, he needed a good night's sleep. Once they reached the end of the dank, stony dungeon, it became apparent to them that Sam had not had such rest.

The human was sitting slumped against the wall, and his eyes had formed dark circles beneath them. The cell was a mess; Sam may have burned his anger out, but not before upsetting, overturning, or smashing anything he could. Fortunately, that was a limited list of items.

Hoofstein motioned to Bunsen. "Alright, let's try out that spell of yours."

Bunsen nodded, and began focusing his energy. Sam's ears and throat began to glow, and he took notice of a slight warming sensation as the spell did its work.

Bunsen was the first to speak. "Sam? Can you understand me? Please let me know so I can adjust the spell if need be."

Sam replied, with a very monotone, very emotionless intonation. "Yes. I can hear you. The spell worked."

Bunsen triumphantly pumped a hoof in the air.

Hoofstein spoke up with a slight tone of concern in his voice. "Sam, are you alright?"

Sam continued staring into the floor. "Yes. Fine."

"Good! Let's get started, then, shall we? That archive of yours, how do we access it?"

"Can't. It's broken."

Bunsen piped in, "Can it be fixed?"

"Maybe. I don't know."

It was clear Sam wasn't totally willing to cooperate anymore. Hoofstein was the one getting impatient for a change. "Sam. I don't think you understand. This is a huge discovery for us. Can you fix it?"

Sam briefly came to his senses. He realized this was his one bargaining chip. He knew exactly what needed to be done to attempt to recover the disk, and that he was literally the only living being on the planet that could fix it. He turned his gaze back to the Professor. "Yes, actually, I'm pretty sure I could. And I'm willing to..." The scientists were beaming. "...On one condition." The ponies smiles vanished.

The Professor responded, "What's the condition? Seriously, name it and I'll do whatever I can to meet it, just promise me you can and will fix that archive!"

Sam rose to his feet, walked over to the cell door and grasped the bars. "You let me out of here. It's apparent that I'm here in this place and time for the long-haul, and I don't aim to be locked up like a criminal for the rest of my natural life."

Hoofstein shook his head. "Sam, it's not that simple. Bunsen, myself, and the rest of the research team, who you'll meet soon, are used to seeing strange things, no offense. But the rest of society... We have no idea how they'll react."

Sam began his death glare again. "Oh, it most certainly is that simple. You want that archive fixed? You get me released, or at least more civil living conditions. I don't care WHAT you have to do. I'm the only one who can fix it. Assuming I can physically repair it, I'm also the only one capable of accessing and interpreting the data it contains and I don't aim to do it for nothing." Sam reached through the bars and jabbed Hoofstein in the chest with his index finger. "Let me reiterate: if you want the data, you're going to get me out of here."

There was an awkward silence as the Professor attempted to process the ultimatum, and avoid Sam's furious stare.

Bunsen spoke up. "Professor? We already noted that the subject possesses no natural defenses. The artifacts that came with him are clearly not weapons, at least not for offensive purposes, and his diet doesn't suggest a predatory nature. Surely that would be enough to convince Celestia that Sam isn't a threat when she comes to see all of this for herself?"

Professor Hoofstein scarcely had enough time to formulate his reluctant assent when a tall, slender, white alicorn slowly walked into view, her shimmering multi-colored mane seemingly giving off its own light.

The two researchers immediately dropped into a kneel, and collectively shouted, "Princess!"

The Princess broke the silence, smiling kindly. "Sounds like you two have a lot to catch me up on!" She gestured towards Sam. "I'm guessing that is the cause of yesterday's excitement?"

Bunsen and Hoofstein nodded.

"Can he understand us?"

Bunsen again nodded.

Celestia giggled. "Oh no need to be so reserved around me, my little scientists!"

Professor Hoofstein nervously answered, "Yes, well, it was just such an honor to be personally chosen by YOU for this project! And you have come at just the right moment. Our visitor here, a human! Have you ever heard of such?! He had in his possession an archive detailing his race's history. Ancient, pre-Equestrian history!" The Professor began to ramble. "It's broken though, and he, his name is Sam Mitchell, can fix it! But he refuses, unless he's released to live normally, but we can't do that without your approval, which you should give, (if you want!), because we have proof that he's quite probably totally completely harm-"

The Princess cut him off with a gentle hoof to his muzzle, still wearing that kind smile on her face. "I overheard everything Bunsen said. And I agree. I'd hate to keep him locked up if he's no real threat to us." With that, Celestia realized she had yet to actually address her new subject. "Oh, where are my manners, Sam Mitchell. My name is Celestia, I am the princess and ruler of Equestria. I understand that you are not from around here and now."

Sam nodded. He temporarily forgot his rage; he'd never seen such a magnificent creature. His adrenaline wearing off, his voice returned to a dull, robotic tone. "Yes, it's nice to meet you."

Celestia continued. "So, it should be obvious to you that I intend to let you out of here. I regret that you were locked up in the first place, but I'm sure my two top researchers here have explained to you why; I just didn't want to run the risk of exposing my subjects to anything dangerous. However, though I feel certain you mean us no harm, I intend to have you under supervision, as much for your own safety as ours. Meanwhile, you can live more or less normally as you attempt to help us learn about you, your history, and your culture."

Sam's exhaustion was getting the better of him; he simply nodded his head and mumbled, "Sounds fair to me, and you can just call me Sam." He only heard the Princess say "I intend to let you out", the rest was unimportant.

The Princess nodded in return. "Good! I must admit, I've been around for quite a long time, so the idea of learning about civilizations that predate even myself... It's quite exciting."

Sam decided to bring up the circumstances he'd be living under. "So, you say you want supervision over me. Does that mean you're going to have me live with Bunsen or the Professor?" He looked at the scientists. "Because no offense guys, but I don't think I like the sound of that." The researchers glared at him briefly.

The Princess laughed. "Oh, come now, they aren't that bad are they?" Bunsen grinned. "But no, in fact, I have got the perfect pony in mind to take charge of you. That is, after you’ve recovered from all of this for a few days."

"Hey! I thought this was OUR project!" Hoofstein exclaimed.

"Don't worry, you still are in charge of examining the data and the objects that Sam does not need in order to work on restoring the archive. But, the pony I'm thinking of will be able to better handle helping Sam get comfortable living here, and as a result allowing him to better work with us to learn about him." Celestia turned back to Sam, and unlocked the cell door. Sensing his apprehension, she attempted to reassure him. "Don't worry, I'm sure you will get along great with this pony, she is, after all, my best student. Now, in the meantime, I intend to make up for this rough greeting; I'll have a guest room in the palace made up so you can get some rest, I think you could use it. Come with me, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have."


To My Most Faithful Student,

I'm sure by now you've heard of the little incident in Canterlot's market square a few days ago. Contrary to popular belief, it was not an accident involving an unloading moving cart.

Rather, a most amazing thing happened. A being from long before our society existed has been transported to our time! I'm sure I don't need to explain to you the implications of this event and the ancient history it will allow us to study. Even more, his people were far more advanced technologically than we are, though in his time, our primary innovation, magic, was regarded as superstition! But I'm rambling...

In any case, you can see there is much for you to learn here, and I have a special favor to ask of you in regards to our visitor. I would like to discuss it in person with you here at the palace, and as such, I would like to request your presence in Canterlot at your earliest convenience.

Princess Celestia


Down in Ponyville, shouts of excitement could be heard coming from inside a certain tree-house. A lavender unicorn mare was sprinting around inside, carefully avoiding knocking her painstakingly-shelved books from their resting places as she ran, her deep-purple mane with its pink stripe trailing behind her. Struggling to keep up with her, a small baby dragon was shouting, too, though for different reasons.

"Twilight Sparkle! Slow down will ya?! What's all the excitement about, anyway? Did your request for the new stock of spellbooks come through?" The little dragon was panting.

The purple pony stopped running, and started hopping in place. "Even better, Spike! Princess Celestia has another personal project for me! They've discovered something BIG in Canterlot, and I get to be part of it!" Twilight's eyes grew wide. "SPIKE! We have to pack for Canterlot! NOW!"

Spike sighed. "Can't it wait until after lunch at least? I'm starved." He patted his round stomach.

Twilight giggled. "Oh, Spike, don't you ever think about anything besides your appetite?"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Hey, a guy's gotta eat."

"Fair enough. I've got to run through my checklists a few more times anyway, in case I missed any of the sub-checklists. OH! I should make a checklist on what to ask the Princess when I get there! Spike, I'll need your help for this. Spike? Ugh. He must be long gone, stuffing his face. Oh well!"

Twilight began scanning through her long flowing lists, for the fifth time that day. Satisfied that she had completed the day's chores, she began levitating items into her saddlebags, preparing for her trip to Canterlot.

Dealing With It

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Twilight was beside herself; she hadn't felt this much anticipation since Princess Celestia first chose her for private lessons as a young filly. When she received the Princess's letter that morning... She had to try to push it all from her mind; it was all she could do to keep from galloping up and down the aisles of the train car. She couldn't help but laugh a little at the sleeping form of her little dragon friend; not quite sharing her enthusiasm, Spike had long drifted off to sleep curled up next to her on the cloth-covered seat, despite the fact that it was still mid-day. Twilight shook her head. She tried to occupy her thoughts with the beautiful forest scenery passing by on the other side of the window.

Eventually, the train rounded the curve of the mountain bearing the City of Canterlot, bringing the castle into view. Twilight's smile seemed to extend for miles; she never grew tired of the sight of Canterlot's skyline. As the train began slowing down on approach to the rail station, Twilight attempted to rouse her "#1 Assistant" from his nap; the way he had been giggling in his sleep, there was no doubt that he'd been dreaming again of his crush, their friend Rarity. Twilight laughed as Spike struggled to sit up, rubbing his eyes with his free hand.

"So, Spike, what horror did you save Rarity from this time?" Twilight giggled.

Spike's face turned beet-red. "I'll have you know that I took Rarity on a nice, romant- HEY. I see what you're trying to do."

"What? You're adorable when you're embarrassed." Twilight could hear the conductor announcing their arrival at Canterlot. "Anyway, would you mind passing me my bag there?"

Spike obliged, and the pair began making their way off the train and onto the platform.

Twilight re-read the Princess's letter for the thousandth time. "Spike, I know you don't quite take the same interest in science and history as I do, so if you want to go hang out at the donut shop, I can spare you a few bits for a snack while you wait on me."

Spike thoughtfully rubbed at his chin as he considered the offer. "That's really tempting Twi, but I think I wanna see what's got you and the Princess so excited. A pony from the past... I wonder what kinda food they ate back then?"

Twilight placed a hoof on her forehead. "Always with the food," she thought. "Well, Spike, the Princess said he came from a time before our society existed, as in, before ponykind existed... So... Who knows what sort of being may be waiting for us?"

As the two made their way towards the castle through the market district, Spike began animatedly conjecturing as to what the time-traveler might look like. "What if he's got the head of a pony, but the body of... Hmm.. An alligator! Yeah! Or, maybe he'd have dragon wings? Wow, wouldn't that be cool! He'd be like a flying dinosaur or something!"

Twilight chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Oh Spike, such an imagination! I'm sure whatever he is, he's not THAT bizarre."

After several minutes of heated discussion over the what a time-traveler might look like, the pair made it to the castle gates. No matter how many times Twilight saw the castle, it never failed to take her breath away; the way the light reflected off of the tall, ivory towers, tipped with golden-teardrop spires further emphasized the opulence of this massive palace. The guards at the main entrance immediately recognized the Princess's most favored student, and, having expected her arrival, immediately escorted her and Spike to the main hall, where Celestia was waiting.

At the sight of her student entering, the Princess immediately moved off of her throne to meet her in the middle of the room. "Twilight! My, what a quick turn-around on my letter." Celestia was beaming. She continued, "You always were one for punctuality! So, let me get right to the point. As I said in the letter, we have a visitor of sorts from the past. When we found him, he had a sort of archive in his possession that could be the key to unlocking much of what we currently lack in our understanding of pre-Equestrian history."

Twilight's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates. Spike yawned.

Twilight's excitement was audible. "Think of all the books I... We could write with that knowledge! But what does that have to do with me? I'm sure you've got the archive in the hooves of the university researchers by now."

Celestia motioned to follow her. "Normally, yes, that would be the case. But, before I tell you your proposed role, why don't I introduce you to our guest?" The Princess led Twilight and Spike to the upper-floor guest suites. The trio stopped in front of one of doors. The Princess knocked at it.

"This is the Princess. I've got someone I want you to meet, we're coming in if that's alright."

There was no answer. The Princess laughed quietly. "He's still adjusting to us. Come in."

Twilight and Spike followed the Princess into the room. Her mind began to race, wondering what sort of creature she was about to see; she silently prayed that Spike's earlier guesses were wrong. She was relieved to see that her fears were unfounded; the creature that sat on the enormous, fluffy bed, returning her stare, was far less intimidating than she'd expected, and besides, if the Princess was this cavalier around him, he must not be all THAT bad. She noticed he barely met Celestia's height as he stood up on two legs...

Spike piped up. "Hey! He walks like me!"

Twilight's curiosity was instantly piqued. Forgetting her apprehension, she trotted right up to Sam, circling him, and began barraging him with questions. "You're bipedal?! What sort of creature are you? What was the past like? How'd you get here and why are-" Twilight's inquisition was cut short by the Princess's hoof on her shoulder. She noticed that the visitor's eyes were a little sunken, and she could have sworn there was a touch of sadness on his face. "Oh. Sorry."

The Princess's voice took on an apologetic tone. "Forgive my student's eagerness. Sam, this is my best, and closest student, Twilight Sparkle. I've been personally teaching her since she was a tiny filly." She turned her head to the lavender unicorn. "And Twilight, this is Sam Mitchell. He is the time-traveling guest I have told you about."

Spike interjected. "Princess, are you sure he's not an awesome-cool-super-tough dragon-pony with a lion's body?"

Twilight face-hoofed. "Spike!"

The young dragon shrugged, and made for the door. "If you need me, I'll be outside in the market. I'm starving!"

Twilight shook her head. Turning her attention to Sam, she extended a hoof in greeting. Sam grasped and weakly shook it.

The Princess began again. "Now that you've been introduced, Twilight, I can tell you how your talents will play into things. The archive Sam has is damaged. It's beyond our capabilities to fix, but he has agreed to work with our researchers to fix it and recover the historical data from it. In return, we will allow him to live -relatively- freely. However, for his safety and ours, I would like somepony responsible to help him adjust to things, so I would like him to stay with you a while. You would also have a unique position to observe and learn from him." Celestia looked at Sam, slightly concerned that he'd been silent through this exchange. "Sam, I know I already discussed this with you, but are you alright with this?"

Sam flatly answered, "Yes, Princess." He shook his head as if snapping out of a trance. "That sounds fine. Twilight seems nice."

Twilight's enthusiasm was only slightly dampened by Sam's deadpan attitude. "Princess, that sounds great! If... Sam, right?" She looked up at the human. "I'm sure once you're settled, you'll love Ponyville as much as I do! Oh I can't wait! I've got so many questions... I want to know EVERYTHING!"

The enthusiasm that his new 'landlady' exuded was a little off-putting to Sam. "All the same," Sam glumly muttered, "Living with a bookish, FRIENDLY unicorn in an actual house has got to be better than living with a nerdy, clinical pony in a research facility..."

Celestia smiled. "Great! Then it's settled. Twilight, when you and Spike are ready to leave, I'll have one of the concierges gather Sam's things."

Twilight leaned towards the Princess. "Princess, can I speak to you in private for a moment?" Celestia nodded.

The Princess faced Sam. "We'll be back momentarily."

Stepping into the hallway, the Princess leaned down to hear what her prized pupil had to say. "Princess, is he alright? I can't place a hoof on it but I think he might be ill. I don't have the abilities to care for sick guests, let alone guests of an unfamiliar species."

The Princess sighed sadly. "Yes, I wondered if you might pick up on that. I doubt he's actually ill. Bear in mind, my little pony, Sam has been through a lot recently. As far as we know, he's the only one of his people left, and now he's been thrown into a foreign world and a society much different from what he knows. This is why I chose you to take him on, Twilight Sparkle. His condition is after only a single night in the dungeon after he was first found, he’s been in here under watch ever since; someone in his state needs more than just a researcher prodding him for information. He needs a friend, and the space to deal with his situation."

Twilight's worried expression changed to determination. "I won't let you down, Princess!"

Celestia was beaming. "I knew I could count on you! Now, one other detail. Since you'll be effectively taking care of Sam, I'll obviously be increasing your monthly stipend to cover the added costs of him living with you."

"Thank you, Princess. I'll do my best to take care of Sam. I can't wait to pick his brain on... Well... Everything!"

"Of course you can't. Do remember, he's not a book!" The Princess giggled.

Sam wearily called out, "Twilight, I'm ready to leave whenever you are."

Twilight grinned sheepishly. "I guess that's my cue. I hate cutting a visit with you short, but if we leave now, we can get back to Ponyville in time for a slightly late dinner."

"Very well. You go get Spike, and I'll have a concierge escort Sam down to meet you. OH! One final thing, rather than take him on the train, where who knows how many ponies will see him, I've arranged for a carriage to take you back home." Celestia turned to walk back towards her chambers, before stopping and looking back over her shoulder. "And, Twilight? It is good to see you!"

Twilight made her way back to the main gate, where Spike was waiting, idly licking icing and sprinkles from his claws. His face was covered in donut remnants.

"So, Twi, where's Sam, and when should we run on to catch the train?" Spike asked lazily.

"He should be right behind us. And the Princess is having a private carriage take us home tonight." Turning back towards the castle gate, Twilight saw Sam's thin form, flanked by a lone pony in a bellhop's uniform, advancing towards where she and Spike were waiting.

Sam took a few deep breaths, taking in the sight of the castle imposed against the soft evening sky. He didn't have much to say as the carriage was loaded with their belongings, and he maintained this silence all the way to Ponyville, despite Twilight's attempts to carry a conversation.

"So... What do you think of Canterlot?" She asked with an eager grin on her face.

Sam stared out through the carriage window.

"How did you like staying in the palace?" Twilight inquired earnestly.

Still no answer.

Spike chimed in. "Hey bro, you like donuts?"

Sam sighed. "Look, I appreciate you two letting me stay with you. But you're both going to have a long time to ask me questions, and I'm... I'm beat. The last few days have been less than wonderful for me. Just... Let me get some rest and we'll get started fresh in the morning, ok?"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Whoa, what a buzzkill."

"Spike!" Snapped Twilight.

For the remainder of the trip back to Ponyville, the trio rode in silence.


After what seemed like an eternity spent in silence, the carriage arrived at Twilight's library. As the driver helped his passengers disembark and retrieve their belongings, Sam stretched his legs and looked around. The sun had already set, but he could just barely make out some thatched cottages a short distance down from this treehouse, for lack of a better term.

Twilight attempted to cheerily break the silence. "Well, this is home!"

Sam scratched his head. "You live in a tree, huh?"

"Yep, it's the town library. You wouldn't think a girl like me would be a librarian, I bet!" Twilight said with a grin.

Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, total shocker."

Spike yawned, stretching his arms. "Are we gonna go inside or is there a surprise Pinkie Pie party out here that I'm not in on?"

Twilight nodded. "After you, number one assistant." She thanked the driver, and bid him goodnight.

Once inside, the primary issue on Spike's mind was, yet again, food. "So uh... What are we doing for dinner, Twi?"

"Hmm... Well, I figured tonight we'd try to do something nice for our new friend. Sam, anything in particular you'd like? I just made a trip to the market yesterday, and grabbed tons of fruits. Maybe some steamed vegetables? Sam?"

He was too busy following with his eyes the almost endless stacks of bookshelves that lined the inside of Twilight's treehouse.

"Oh, right, sorry. That all sounds fine," Sam said with a short wave of his hand, "but really, I just want to sleep. Just tell me where to crash and I'll be out of your hair for the night."

"Fair enough." Twilight seemed a little disappointed, but she motioned for him to follow her upstairs. "I didn't know I'd have anypony moving in today, so I haven't had time to get another bed set up. You can take mine tonight, I can sleep on my couch. I've got a little reading I want to catch up on anyway."

You don't say.... "You sure you don't want ME to take the couch? I don't want to impose anymore than I have to."

Twilight looked up at him and smiled. "Oh it's no bother, just one night. I've got a spare bed frame and mattress in the closet. If you're really that worried about imposing, you can help me set it up tomorrow." The pair reached the top of the stairs. "Anyway... My room is right around the corner. Make yourself at home, and I'll see you in the morning. If you need anything, just ask!"

Having settled her new housemate, Twilight made her way back downstairs to the kitchen to make something for Spike and herself to eat. She settled on a simple salad with daisies, adding a few bits of ground-up turquoise to Spike's. As they ate their meal, Twilight wondered if she was up for this; she'd be effectively rehabilitating a traumatized alien.

After dinner, Twilight tucked Spike in, and moved to take her spot on her couch by the window. After shuffling around to find the most comfortable position, she curled up and levitated her current reading material several inches away from her face. The cover read "Advanced Magical Meditation, 6th Edition." After reading the first five editions, Twilight was excited to learn what the sixth had to contribute. She was halfway through the revised chapter on "Maintaining Focus" when she heard yelling and groaning coming from her room.

She jumped up and galloped upstairs to see what the problem was. The yelling got louder as she got closer to her room. Inside, she saw Sam tossing and turning in the bed, but still asleep. Twilight let out a small, relieved sigh; he was only having a nightmare. A rational reaction, she figured, to whatever it was he had experienced.


Sam saw his family. His mother, father, and younger sister were all walking with him on a beach. They came here to this same pristine beach every year for a Summer vacation. Though Sam had long since graduated from university, moved out of his parents place, and nailed down a job that kept him several hours away from his hometown, he always managed to get time off to go on the traditional family trip.

His father turned to say something to him, probably a joke, as usual, but while Sam could see his mouth moving, he couldn't hear any words. He couldn't hear anything. Before he could react, he saw his family's faces contorting into horrific expressions of fear and panic. Sam spun around just in time to see a mushroom cloud expanding, before blowing his family and himself away.


Sam bolted upright with a start, still screaming, and arms flailing wildly. He was further startled to hear another yelp next to him.

"Sam! Sam, it's me, it's Twilight, you were just having a nightmare!" The unicorn reached up to place a hoof on his shoulder to try and calm him down. Sam looked down and saw two big purple eyes staring up at him worriedly.

Sam gave a nervous laugh. "Nightmare, yeah... Uh, sorry if I scared you."

"Likewise. Are you going to be ok? I've got this tea that I usually make when I have trouble sleeping... It'd be no problem to make some. I could go for a cup myself..."

"Thanks, but I'll be ok. Just let me go back to sleep." Sam laid back down.

Twilight nodded. "Ok. Well, I'm still making that tea. If you want any, feel free to help yourself." Sam was already out cold again. She quietly walked back down to the kitchen, amazed that Spike was still asleep. She knew he was a heavy sleeper, but this was ridiculous.


The gradually growing glare of the sun roused Sam from sleep, not that he had really been sleeping for long. He sat up and stretched his legs; he'd been curled up in a slightly awkward position since the bed was designed for an occupant half his size.

His nose caught the scent of something sweet coming from the kitchen, and his stomach loudly reminded him that he hadn't eaten anything since he'd left Canterlot. He laced up his shoes and went downstairs, making sure to duck as he passed through the doorways. Entering the kitchen, Sam was greeted by the sight of his lavender hostess and her purple lackey working on breakfast.

Twilight heard him come in. "Oh, Sam! You're up! I hope you slept well, all things considered. Come have some breakfast with us."

Sam's stomach ordered him to comply. "Sure."

A few minutes later, Twilight levitated three bowls onto the table, and ladled a portion of something closely resembling oatmeal into each of them. Spooning up a mouthful, Sam realized that it actually *was* oatmeal, maple syrup-flavored, too. He chuckled quietly to himself.

Twilight barely heard him laughing. "What's so funny?"

Sam swallowed. "Oh, nothing really. Just struck me as odd that even several million years into the future, oatmeal is still a common breakfast food."

"Well, yeah, what else would it be?" Spike said, raising an eyebrow.

"Nevermind. So, Twilight, I'm guessing you're going to wanna start interrogating me after breakfast, eh?" Sam hit the bottom of his bowl.

Twilight's eyes lit up. "Sure! Oh, this is going to be so exciting! All your history, culture, and techn-" She could feel Sam's eyes shooting daggers at her. "Sorry, heh. Let's finish breakfast first, then."

"One other thing. I think I may know the answer to this already, but am I free to kind of roam around? I mean in town? Or am I under house arrest here?"

"Eventually, yeah, I'd really like to show you around. But for now, I'd rather you hang around inside for a while. Everypony else can generally be pretty accepting, but I think it would be best to take foal-steps on that one, as they can also be pretty easily spooked."

Sam sighed, and continued eating his oatmeal. He had to admit, she had a reasonable point. "Whatever you say."

Once the matter of the morning meal was wrapped up and the dishes done, Twilight had Sam follow her into her study. She floated in some more comfortable chairs from the next room for them to sit on. With her quill and paper floating in front of her, Twilight was ready to go, even if Sam's face screamed "I don't give a buck."

"Alright, so... Unless you can't fix the archive, there's no sense in having you try to recount your entire species' history... And for now, we're assuming you can, so I think I'd just like to get to know more about your story first."

"Whatever floats your boat." Sam rolled his eyes. "Let's just get started already..."

"Ok ok... I'm sure you've gone over this several times already, but would you mind explaining to me why you're here and how you came to be here?"

"Really? You really want me to rehash that?" Sam's face was scrunched into a frown. "Fine. It's not like I haven't been having nightmares about it since I got here."

"Sorry... I just want to be thorough..." Twilight squeaked.

Sam shook his head, and waved it off dismissively. "No, I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting to be a research project for a pony..." His face softened a little, he meant for that to sound apologetic. "I can go into the dirty details of it all later, but in my time, nearly the entire planet was engaged in a massive war. A special type of bomb, a nuclear bomb, was used by many of the larger nations. Combined with the normal wear-and-tear of warfare, the residual effects of those bombs threatened to poison the land and make much of the planet uninhabitable for quite some time."

Twilight's eyes were wide-open, and her quill was quickly taking notes on Sam's story.

He continued. "So, my country developed a way out. We managed to figure out how to travel forward through time. With that ability, we hoped to send ourselves to a time where the nuclear radiation had faded and the environment had recovered from the damage we did. We built these pods, like the one I was found in, to do this. We couldn't make enough to save the entire country..." Sam's eyes got a little misty at this point. "So we held a national lottery to choose who would be sent, after giving the engineers and scientists, as well as their immediate family, a spot in the group. That's how I was picked, I was an electrical engineer who worked on the power systems, so my family and I got to go."

Twilight got a quizzical look in her eyes. "So, we should be finding others like you soon?"

Sam shook his head. "No, I doubt it. I was the last one out, and there was an attack, an explosion, right before my pod activated. The radiation must have caused a power surge or something, because between the information the Professor in Canterlot gave me, and my own knowledge of the time-pod's function, there's no way I'm only a thousand years in the future. That's where, or rather 'when', my family and people should be." Sam sighed. "Is that good enough for now? Can we talk about something a little happier?"

Twilight nodded. "Sure. So, in Equestria we've got several different races and entirely different species that exhibit sentience like you and I. In your time, were there other intelligent creatures besides humans?"

Sam gave a weak laugh. "Sometimes I wonder if you could really classify us as intelligent..." Given that we set off to kill each other, Sam finished mentally.

His sarcasm was lost on Twilight, who cocked her head. "Assuming all humans are similar to you, of course you're a sentient species. But we can debate the origin and definition of intelligence later! And... You didn't really answer my question."

"No, we were really the only intelligent species in my time. Certain primates, and dolphins, came close, but yeah, no, humans were pretty much the only ones."

Twilight mumbled to herself as she wrote. "Mhmm... Interesting... I know that you've got a spell placed on you by the researchers that translates for you, but I think it's interesting that you knew to call us 'ponies' when you first saw one of us."

"Oh, yeah. In my time, there were several types of animals that we called horses or ponies. They looked a bit different from you and the others; longer muzzles, eyes not as close together in the front, and they certainly didn't talk or have full societies going. Maybe you evolved from them or something. Biology isn't my specialty, really."

Twilight was intrigued. "Equines have been around THAT long?! Wow..." She quickly scribbled something else down on her parchment. "Ok... This is more to help me be a decent hostess. I've seen you eat some of the same things we do, but I can't imagine your diet is the exact same as a pony's. Is there anything extra that humans typically need or like?"

Sam realized he had to be careful how he approached this question; during his brief time in Canterlot, he was fairly certain that he'd seen a cow or two enjoying a conversation as they walked through the castle. "Well... Biologically, I'm more of an herbivore, though as a species we do eat meat." He rushed to finish the sentence before his unicorn friend had a heart attack, "BUT we don't really have to. We just need a source of protein, like nuts and legumes, along with fruits, vegetables, and grains. So... If you can get those sorts of things, I'll be ok. Though... If you’re okay with me eating fish, that would be a great addition, nutritionally."

Twilight was relieved that her guest was not a predator, and began silently lecturing herself for even briefly thinking that the Princess would have her take in a creature that might eat her. Besides, if he were going to try to eat a pony, he’d have attacked the scientists long before I met him...

"Eh heh, yeah, I think we can handle that. Moving on... What kind of culture did your society have?"

Sam scratched his head. "That's probably more of a question for my archive, if I can fix it. We had a pretty incredibly diverse range of people in my time. Honestly, you could probably write an entire series of books devoted to any single subculture of my time. We had almost any kind of music you could imagine, art forms that were even more varied, ranging from styles similar to what I saw in the castle to styles that make you wonder who would enjoy them."

The thought of art that was unattractive and unappealing confused Twilight. "What about entertainment? Or sports?"

"Oh, yeah, we loved that sort of thing. We had stock car races, various types of ball games, video games, movies, concerts..."

Twilight cocked her head to the side. "Stock... Car?" As Sam began trying to describe automobile technology, (something Twilight was willing to bet her friend Rainbow Dash would love), Twilight noticed that he seemed to be relaxing a little bit. That weary scowl he had earlier had faded off a bit as he lost himself in telling her about how the races were held, how football was played, and attempted to describe what a 'video game' was. He decided to stick to sports for the time being.

"...Yeah, football was a PRETTY big deal in my part of the country. Hell, I remember... When my dad... Took me to a game with him..." Sam's voice trailed off, and his eyes seemed to stare off towards some infinitely distant point, as the realization that his father, and the rest of his loved ones, were gone. The scene from the previous night's nightmare flashed back into his imagination.

"Sam? You ok?" Twilight saw sadness flash briefly before his face straightened out again.

"Yeah. Fine. Nothing."

Twilight wanted to talk more, but sensed that Sam probably wasn't sharing her enthusiasm at this point. "I think... Maybe we can take a break for a while. Why don't you come help Spike and I set up your bed?" She got up, called for Spike, and walked towards a closet in the hallway. Sam followed.

It took the trio several tries, and more time than Spike was happy to waste, (especially working through lunch), to assemble the bed. Twilight, obsessive-compulsive as ever, would disassemble the entire thing if she noticed even the slightest misalignment. She'd apologize and giggle, Spike would press his palm into his face, and Sam just stood there, emotionless. The way he responded to questions and requests to pass tools to his partners reminded Twilight of a mechanical toy robot that Spike used to play with. His voice was flat and unaffected. Twilight wasn't sure if she should be worried, but at least he wasn't being so sarcastic anymore.


Twilight kept a close watch on Sam out of the corner of her eye all the way through dinner. Though he wasn't totally ignoring his housemates when they spoke to him, he was oddly stiff and flat in the way he addressed them. It was as if his mind was somewhere far away from Ponyville.

The meal over, Twilight went upstairs to move Sam's things into the spare room. She managed to find some extra planks and another spare mattress to extend the bed to better fit someone of Sam's size. Though her new housemate hadn't exactly been as pleasant as she'd hoped, she wanted to make sure he was comfortable all the same.

She passed him on her way to her own room. "I hope you sleep well, goodnight!"

Sam didn't even look down as he said, "Goodnight," and shut his door behind him.

Twilight raised an eyebrow as she closed the door to her own room, and settled down to sleep herself. "I hope he's not going to be like that for much longer..."


Sam wasn't sleeping. The sole thought occupying his mind was "I'll never see my family again. Everyone I know is gone." Earlier, when he remembered going to the football match with his dad, that single idea was driven through his heart and mind like a red-hot rusty nail. He was alone; as the sole remaining member of the human race, he didn't feel like he would ever fit in with this society, not that fitting in was his primary goal. No matter how he figured it, he felt like he'd be alone: either literally, by living alone, safely isolated from pony society, or figuratively by being the only human among ponies.

His grief at losing his family and the loneliness he felt began swirling together in his mind, pushing any other thought out. After an eternity spent staring into the darkness, Sam felt numb. He saw his arms and legs moving, but it felt like it wasn't him controlling them. It was if he were watching a movie from first-person perspective; he grabbed a spare bit of clothing from his bag, and walked down the hallway towards the balcony doors.


Twilight had just fallen asleep when she heard a noise coming from outside her bedroom door. At first she thought it was Spike making another late-night kitchen raid, but the footsteps were much too heavy to be Spike's. Twilight dragged herself out of bed and carefully, quietly opened her door an inch or so. Peering out, she couldn't see anyone, and the footsteps had stopped.

Allowing herself to further venture into the hallway, she spied the balcony doors sitting open. She feared she may have a burglar, so she levitated next to her the heaviest object she had nearby: a large self-help book titled "Organizing Your Life Part 2: Organizing Your Checklists." She carefully began sneaking through the hallway, hoping whatever had been in her house was already gone.

She heard some scuffling and a tearing noise coming from the balcony. She screamed and galloped the rest of the way to the balcony, hoping to scare off this intruder. To her shock and surprise, what she saw once she crossed through the balcony door was not a burglar.

Sam was standing on the balcony rail, with one of his spare cotton pants ripped and tied into a makeshift noose around his neck, the other end tied to the door frame.

"Sam?! What are you doing?!" Twilight screamed. Sam continued staring out into the distance.

"Sam! Take a step back, please! Whatever you're thinking about doing, don't do it!" She saw Sam shift his right foot and flex his legs.

He jumped.

"NO!" Thinking fast, Twilight concentrated to summon her energy into her horn. Quickly, the glow moved from her horn to one of Sam's feet, suspending him in midair just before the cloth pulled tight. Twilight further focused her energy, pulling him back up onto the balcony.

As she set him down in front of her, he began thrashing and yelling at Twilight. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her violently. "Why'd you stop me?! Why didn't you just let me go!" He let go of her, and his yelling became quiet sobs. He collapsed onto the ground, slumped against the door frame.

Twilight moved closer to him and sat down beside him. She reached up and placed a hoof on his shoulder.

Sam stopped crying and took a deep breath. "I'm... I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me there... I... This whole thing, I just lost it. I mean... Twilight, everyone I've ever cared about, I'll never see them again. Beyond that, my species is dead. After me, humanity is gone for good. Besides, what's the point of me being here, anyway?"

Twilight could feel her own eyes watering up slightly. "Look, Sam, I'm not gonna try to say I understand what you're dealing with. I can’t even say for sure what I’d do in your position. All the same, I’m sorry you have to deal with all of this. I know it can’t be easy. But for what it’s worth, I’m here for you..."

Sam weakly nodded, and looked out at the night sky.

"And... Yeah, you're right, you may be the last of your kind. But if I hadn't caught you, you wouldn't have been the only thing to die tonight. All that knowledge of your past, your history... It would go with you, especially since you're the only one who can fix your archive. I know it sounds a little cliche, but if you help preserve that knowledge, you can at least let your society live on in that way... You know, preserve humanity's legacy?"

Sam sighed. "I guess it would be a shame to lose all of that..." Sam looked down into the unicorn's eyes. "Thanks for keeping me from doing something stupid."

Twilight stood up and wrapped her forelegs around Sam's shoulders in a hug. Briefly taken aback, Sam reached around and placed an arm around her.

Spike came drowsily stumbling onto the balcony, rubbing his eyes. "Hey... What's the big idea? What's a dragon gotta do to get some sleep around here?"

Twilight let go of Sam and turned to face the dragon. "Oh, sorry Spike. Sam wasn't feeling so well, and needed some fresh air. I was checking up on him." She didn’t want him to know that their new houseguest had just attempted to kill himself.

"Oh, ok. Well, if anypony needs me, I'm going back to bed. G'night Twi, g'night Sam." Spike waddled off.

Twilight turned her attention back to Sam. "Are you ok?"

Sam nodded slowly. "Not exactly, but I think I will be..."

"Well... If you need anypony to talk to..."

"Thanks, Twilight."

He stood up to walk back to bed, and Twilight followed close behind, shutting the balcony doors as she reentered the house.

Pleased To Make Your Acquaintance, I Think

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Twilight drowsily rubbed her eyes as the morning light began trickling through her bedroom window. As she went through her usual morning routine of stretching and brushing her mane, she mentally recounted the events of the previous night. She wasn’t sure if she was handling it well, or if the reality had just not sunk in completely. She couldn’t recall the last time anypony had tried to do such an awful thing to themselves. In fact, Twilight was unsure that there had been even a single suicide attempt, let alone a successful one, among ponykind in the last few hundred years.

“Just what have I gotten myself into...” Twilight sighed, looking into her mirror halfway expecting her reflection to respond. “More important than that, I hope he’s gonna be ok.”

Satisfied with the precise orderliness of her appearance, Twilight cantered down the hallway towards the stairs. Passing by Sam’s room, she decided to check on him. She slowly creaked open the door, and craned her neck in through the crack.

Sam wasn’t in his room.

Fearing the worst, Twilight quickly tore through the top floor. Having no luck in finding him there, she practically flew down the stairs, yelling out his name.

“Sam! Where’d you go?!” Her eyes were wide with the realization that, if Sam had indeed made another attempt on his own life, she might be too late. She came skidding and stumbling to a stop in the kitchen where Spike, previously enjoying himself in the task of making breakfast, was standing at attention, on alert.

“What’s wrong Twilight?!?”

“It’s Sam, I can’t find him, please tell me you’ve seen him!”

Almost immediately, Spike relaxed and stood at ease. “Chill, will ya? He’s just downstairs in the basement. Something about transforming and neutron mumbo jumbo. Go see for yourself! I’ve almost got breakfast ready for us anyway.”

Suspiciously eyeing Spike, Twilight made her way to the cellar. Sure enough, she saw Sam’s familiar blue cotton coveralls, their wearer hunched over Twilight’s workbench quietly humming to himself. Twilight let out a relieved sigh as she trotted down to see what he was up to.

“Well, you certainly made for an early start today! Glad to see you’re feeling better,” Twilight said with an almost-strained cheer in her voice.

Sam stood up with a start, quickly relaxing as he realized who his visitor was. “Ah, uhm, yeah, after last night, I couldn’t really sleep,” Sam said, scratching the back of his head with a wrench, “and what you said to me last night... I got to thinking, you’re right. Getting my civilization’s knowledge back is probably one of the best things I can do. I think I like the idea of having some sort of ‘grand project’ to pour myself into. Of course, all the knowledge and expertise in the world won’t help if I don’t have the right kind of power.”

Twilight cocked her head. “What do you mean? Don’t your devices run on electricity like my lab equipment here?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, they do, but it’s not that simple. See, it took me some very... Shocking, if you’ll pardon the pun, efforts to figure out what voltage your system uses. Thankfully, you ponies had a little surprise for me; I wasn’t expecting for your technology to have already advanced to using alternating current.”

“Why is that?”

“For starters, it saves me from having to put together an inverter to convert direct current to alternating so that I can use my chargers. Those inverter circuits are fairly irritating to deal with. And, it seems you are using a frequency similar to what we used. It’s not exactly what I’d like it to be, but it’ll do well enough for my purposes. That means that all I need to do is wire up a transformer,” Sam pointed to an iron ring with a coil of wire wrapped around each side, “to step down the voltage for my power adapters.”

Twilight laughed. “So that’s what Spike was rambling on about.”

Sam put his hand over his face, shaking his head. “But yeah, been down here for a few hours plugging away at that thing. Be glad you aren’t an electrician; it might be a week before I get feeling in my hands back,’ Sam winced, flexing his fingers. Twilight saw several small burn marks on his hands.

Twilight put a hoof to her chin to think. “Once you get that transformer made, you’ll be able to use your computer and everything else?” Sam nodded in response.

Sam continued wrapping the wire around the iron. “Yeah, then I can do more than just answer your questions. I’ve got tons of pictures and other bits of my old life stored on it...” He sighed, set down the transformer, and turned to face the unicorn librarian. “Hey, look, um, I’m not that great at apologies, but...”

Twilight interrupted, smiling. “Oh no, you don’t have to apologize for anyth-”

“No, let me finish, please.”

“Sorry,” Twilight grinned sheepishly.

“It’s alright, look, I know I haven’t exactly been the most pleasant guy in the world since I’ve been here. And I’m especially sorry that I pulled that little stunt last night. I swear I’m not usually like that; I don’t know what was up with me.” Sam sat down on the bench. “So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m sorry, and thank you for being so understanding. And thanks for being there for me last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve really had someone to talk to.”

Twilight trotted over to the bench and jumped up next to Sam. “Like I said, you don’t have to apologize for anything. I can’t imagine how crazy this whole ordeal has been for you. I could probably read every book in Equestria and still have no idea what I would do in your position.”

The two sat in silence for a few moments, before the loud gurgling of unsatisfied appetites broke the quiet, causing both of them to laugh awkwardly.

Sam stood up. “Maybe I should take a break for some breakfast...”

“Yeah, Spike was just finishing up the cooking when I came down, I think he’s made some blueberry muffins today.” Twilight jumped down from the stool. “Feel up to taking more questions afterwards?”

“Sure. I kinda cut things short yesterday, didn’t I?”

Sam and Twilight made their way back upstairs to the kitchen.


After they’d finished their morning meal, Twilight and Sam moved to her study for another round of interviewing.

“Before you start interviewing me again, mind if I ask a question first?”

Twilight nodded. “Frankly I’m surprised you don’t ask more. Please go ahead!”

Sam pointed at Twilight’s flank. “Yeah, so those flank-marks that all the ponies seem to have, does everyone here go and get tattoos on their rear ends? What’s with that?”

Twilight giggled. “Oh you mean our ‘cutie-marks’. They just sort of appear; their appearance is related to our special talent or whatever our greatest passion in life is, and once we learn and realize what that is, our marks appear. My talent is magic, and I think the reason my mark is a starburst is because, when I discovered my ability, the sheer power of my ability caused a bright, colorful flash. At least, that’s what the Princess told me; I kind of went into a trance. It was a strange afternoon. I even accidentally turned my mom and dad into potted plants!” She noticed Sam’s shocked look. “Oh, don’t worry! The Princess helped me change them back. They’re both just fine!”

Sam scratched his head. “I guess that all makes about as much sense as anything else around here. That’s all I’ve got for now.”

Twilight once again readied her quill, ink, and parchment, levitating them in the air around her. She cleared her throat.

“So... The last thing we talked about was some of the things your culture liked doing... But I feel like I haven’t really gotten to know you yet.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “...And you need to take notes for that?”

Twilight grinned. “Oh, that’s just to take down anything interesting about your time that you talk about, it’s not like I’ll be writing down your favorite color or anything! Anyway... You’ve already told me how you got here, but would you mind giving me a short history of yourself? I guess start with your childhood. And please, if you don’t want to talk about something, just tell me and we can talk about something else.”

“Sure. For starters, I’m 24 years old, a fairly young adult by my society’s measure, so my childhood wasn’t all that long ago, to me anyway. I grew up in an area not too dissimilar from Ponyville, really rural place. My grandparents owned a farm, they grew hay mostly, but raised some cows and horses on the side. I went to school like a normal kid, but during the summer I’d help my grandpa out on the farm with my cousins, go to the beach with my parents and my sister, you know, pretty normal childhood for where I grew up...”

“What’s her name? Your sister, I mean.”

“Ellen. She was my complete polar opposite, haha...” Sam’s eyes briefly watered up before he continued. “Totally outgoing, bubbly personality, and so nice to everyone that she was actually kind of annoying sometimes.”

“Sounds like a certain friend of mine,” Twilight said with a giggle.

“Speaking of your friends, am I going to get to meet anyone else any time soon?”

“Definitely. I’ve been meaning to invite one or two over, but they’re about as busy as I am anyway.” Twilight made a note to herself: Invite friends to meet Sam?

“But anyway, yeah, my childhood was pretty normal up until my teenage years. I’d always been kind of a geek, an egghead, but it wasn’t until then that it was really obvious. I can’t tell you how much my classmates enjoyed teasing and picking on me. I kinda stopped trying to make friends at about that time.” Sam shifted his gaze to the floorboards.

Twilight’s memory flashed images of her own schoolfilly days, particularly her time in magic kindergarten. She could still hear her classmates’ jeers and giggles at her expense as they played keep-away, levitating her favorite books away from her through the air.

Sam snapped his fingers. “Twilight? You ok there?” Her eyes, and mind, seemed focused on something far off in the distance.

Coming back to reality, Twilight shook her head. “Yeah, sorry. That kinda brought back some nasty memories of my own... Kids are pretty rotten sometimes.”

“Yeah, no kidding. It wasn’t until high school and university that I really came into my own. I studied hard, with the idea being that if I worked hard enough, I could get into a nice, big university and kind of remake myself. That’s where I started studying computer engineering.”

“Sounds like me when the Princess sent me here. Until then, books were pretty much my whole social circle.” Twilight didn’t show it, but she was secretly delighted that she and Sam had something like this in common. She loved her friends dearly, but they didn’t always understand what it was like for her to be such an introvert, so controlling of who she let into her life. Well... Maybe Fluttershy understood, but she’s terrified of her own shadow.

“Heh, even in university, that much only changed a little for me. Engineering is a pretty demanding subject. But it was worth it, I got hired by a large company right after I graduated. They paid pretty well, but that wasn’t the real benefit of working for them. That time machine I was in? My company was contracted as one of the research facilities to help design them. If I hadn’t gotten that job, my family and I would have likely been stuck in a refugee camp or something after the war started. Funny how things work out, eh?”

The hours quickly ticked by. Much to Twilight’s relief, Sam seemed to be in better spirits about discussing his past. Though he would still find himself tearing up when a painful reminder of his lost family cropped up in conversation, both he and Twilight were doubled over with laughter as Sam recounted a series of birthdays on which he and his best friend pranked each other rather than exchange gifts. Twilight again found herself questioning Sam’s sanity, though, as he ended that story.

“...And we finally decided to give it a rest when he... He...” Sam couldn’t breathe for all of his laughing, “He gave me a pipe bomb!” Sam’s face was flushed and his eyes streaming tears, as he attempted to catch his breath and avoid falling out of his chair.

Twilight decided at that moment that she’d likely never fully understand some ponies, or ‘people’, as Sam referred to others. Setting aside her writing tools, she felt a brief pang of disappointment that she hadn’t really taken down any notes. That feeling was quickly supplanted, however, by a sense of satisfaction over the fact that she had seen Sam actually smiling and laughing for the first time since she’d met him. She could still see the distinct pallor of grief hanging about his face, but it was having to fight for dominance with the grin that Sam wore as he recovered from his laughing fit.

Finding Sam’s last story to be as good as any for a stopping point, Twilight stood up and stretched her legs. “I’m going to go grab a sandwich. Are you ready for some lunch?”

Sam shook his head. “No, I’m fine, I think I’ll go back downstairs and work on that transformer a little more.”

“Alright, suit yourself! If I can help, let me know!”

Sam went back down to the basement, and Twilight trotted over into the kitchen. As she began levitating to the table the necessary ingredients for a lettuce, cucumber, and daisy sandwich, Twilight was relieved at the change she had seen in Sam. She could tell that his ordeal had worn heavily on him, that much wasn’t going to change anytime soon, but seeing him laugh the way he did earlier reassured her that he would be ok.


Sam lost himself in his work. His hands were beginning to cramp after hours of tedious calculations, electrical testing to figure out the line voltage and frequency, and winding the transformer wires. He felt an odd sense of satisfaction from having to do all of this work the old-fashioned way, without the use of voltmeters and all of the other advanced tools he used to take for granted.

His right hand began to throb painfully as it demanded a break. He obliged, sitting back from the table with a sigh. Sam still felt terrible about the incident the night before; he wasn’t normally the type to let his emotions overtake him like that. He was especially ashamed that he had caused Twilight so much extra stress on top of the burden she normally carried; it was obvious to him that she was usually a fairly high-strung individual. He resolved to make it up to her somehow.

All the same, Sam was a little shocked at how much better he was feeling. He still felt a terrible grief clawing at his insides, but a new emotion was floating alongside it in his mind, a feeling he had not experienced since the war had begun in his own time: relief. It wasn’t just that he no longer had to deal with the daily drudges and responsibilities of working in a wartime research base, or that he no longer had to fear sudden death from falling bombs. During the war, he scarcely had anyone to really talk to; when on the job, Sam and the rest of his fellow engineers focused solely on the task at hand, and he certainly didn’t want to trouble his family’s already worried minds with his own problems. Embarrassed as he was that she had seen him in such a rough condition the previous night, Sam was glad Twilight had been there to lend him a sympathetic ear, after saving him from himself, of course.

Sam jumped back into his task. Upon finishing the transformer, he decided to test it out on his least important item, his music player. He found it odd that, even two hundred years after Apple Inc. had been broken up as a monopoly and sold off, the term ‘iPod’ had stuck around as a generic name for such devices. Sam hesitantly got the necessary cabling connected, and plugged in the charger; he caught himself holding his breath as he waited for the device’s screen to light up and indicate charging. After a few tense seconds, sure enough, the iPod powered up, relieving Sam’s anxiety over whether or not he’d be deprived of his music, one of his only remaining luxuries from his own time.

Sam decided this was a good point to stop and take a break; he wished he had gone ahead and eaten lunch when Twilight did, his stomach angrily grumbling in agreement.


The rest of the evening passed uneventfully. Sam had decided to wait his hunger out another hour and have dinner with Spike and Twilight. Remembering Sam’s mentioning of fish as a good food source for humans, Twilight had Spike try his hand at catching a few. Seeing as how neither the young dragon or the unicorn mare ate any sort of meat, they had no idea how to prepare it for their housemate, so Sam took it upon himself to do something he hadn’t done since before the war had started. He attempted to cook. He quickly remembered why he usually stuck with simple dishes or let his past girlfriends cook for him; he effortlessly burnt the fish to a black, inedible crisp.

Even after living at Twilight’s library for a few days, Sam still seemed to be having trouble getting used to bathing in a shower designed for a creature that was, at most, half his height. He found himself having to crouch just to fit underneath the shower head, and Twilight had already learned to dismiss Sam’s yells of pain, annoyance, and frustration when he slipped. She had no idea why he kept making loud, angry references about gods and dams, though, and made a mental note to ask Sam about religion the next time they had a question session.

Everyone settled into their beds for the night. Twilight drifted off to sleep with a small, satisfied smile on her face, confident that Princess Celestia would be proud of her for taking such good care of Sam so far. Spike wasn’t quite as satisfied; after all, he watched Sam burn up on the stove almost all of the effort he had put forth to catch those fish.

Sam, however, was just simply not sleeping well at all. He managed to drift off briefly, but was abruptly jolted back to consciousness. He had once again had a nightmare, the same one as usual; walking with his family on the beach, before being blasted to oblivion by a nuclear explosion. Feeling familiar with this dream by now, he managed to keep quiet despite his cold sweat and racing pulse.

As he stared at the ceiling, wondering if he would be able to sleep at all that night, one question stuck out in his mind.

Sam took a few deep breaths. “I wonder if things turned out ok for everyone. I hope mom, dad, and Ellen managed to live the best lives they could, wherever and whenever they ended up...”


The next day passed relatively quickly. Twilight decided not to have a question session that day, as she wanted to take a day to catch up on some other studies she had been working on before she took on Sam. Besides, she thought it would be nice to give Sam a little time to himself; she knew he’d probably spend most of it working on restoring the archive drive, but if he was anything like herself, Twilight figured letting him lose himself in his project would help him clear his head.

Still, the unicorn did occasionally take a few minutes for a study break to go check on her human friend, to make sure he wasn’t working himself crazy. Twilight cringed slightly as she remembered that everypony in Ponyville was aware of the sort of hijinks that occurred when she didn’t manage her stress in a healthy manner.

Twilight sighed. “I never did get my old stuffed doll back... I think Big Mac ran off with it,” she said to herself. She trotted down the stairs to see how Sam was doing. Just as with last time, he was so absorbed in his project that he didn’t hear the sound of hooves on the ground coming up behind him.

“How’s it coming along, Sam?” Twilight asked, a cheerful smile on her face.

Sam jumped straight into the air with a shout. Upon landing, with an exasperated tone he said, “Geez, do you always have to startle me like that?” His glare softened when he saw her grinning. “I suppose you do, don’t you.”

Twilight giggled. “I’m sorry, it’s too easy! You must just be really focused. You know I called your name like three times as I was coming down, right?”

Sam shrugged. “Guess I just didn’t hear.”

“That much is obvious.” Twilight was laughing again. “How is everything coming along?”

Sam motioned for her to take a closer look at his work, and pointed to a segment of metal and plastic that he had under Twilight’s desk-mount magnifying glass. “You see this? This is the main bit of damage here. Those tiny little metal lines are the connections I have to remake. Hopefully, that’s the only real problem, but I won’t know until I can connect it to my computer.” He turned to face Twilight again. “I’m actually glad you came down here, I need a soldering iron to actually connect the metal and some of these other parts. You wouldn’t happen to have one would you? I haven’t seen one down here.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I’m afraid I don’t. I think my friend Rarity does, though.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “You mean one of your friends is also into electronics? I didn’t think this sort of stuff was common knowledge in Equestria.”

“Oh, no, she’s not, she’s a dress designer.”

“I don’t follow. Why would she have a soldering iron?”

“She loves to use jewelry and gemstones to add to her designs, and she sometimes uses a soldering iron to work with the gemstones’ metal settings. I’ll ask her to bring one over; I’m going to meet her in town in an hour or so. I'm inviting her and one of my other friends, Applejack, to drop by tomorrow. They’ve been interested in seeing what’s kept me so busy lately.”

“Thanks, that would be incredibly helpful.” Sam frowned a little. “Are you sure it’s a good idea for your friends to meet me? Didn’t you say they’re really easily spooked?”

Twilight laughed. “Oh, it’s fine. They, and my other friends, have dealt with things far more... Terrifying than you. Applejack and Rarity are two of my more level-headed friends. Now, if we were talking about my other three friends, it would be a different story.”

“How so?”

“Well... You’d go over great with Pinkie Pie, she loves EVERYpony, but she’s so over-the-top hyperactive that, frankly, I’m not sure you’re ready to deal with her yet,” Twilight said with a giggle. “Rainbow Dash, well, she’s a great friend, though sometimes she needs to be reigned in a bit. She’s off in Cloudsdale right now anyway. Then, there’s Fluttershy. YOU would have nothing to worry about from her, she’s a really gentle pony, but unless she were to see that most of us are okay around you, she might just be scared to death of you. Her name is very fitting, I’m afraid. It’s an issue of hers that we’re working on with her...”

“Sounds like a rather interesting group.”

Twilight sighed. “You have no idea. I love them all dearly but you wouldn’t believe the situations we get ourselves into with each other. Oh, speaking of my dress-making friend, that reminds me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while. Do you humans always wear clothes? Why exactly is that?”

“Yeah, we pretty much always wear them. We aren’t like most animals; we really only have a small amount of hair covering a few areas of our bodies. Unless the climate is really temperate, we don’t keep a great deal of our body heat. Plus, some members of my species who have lighter skin, like myself, can get nasty sunburns pretty easily. Now, there are some races that wore very little, if any, clothing, but they lived in much warmer climates, and they had darker skin that could better handle the sun.”

“Wow. Really only the more wealthy ponies wear clothes as frequently as you do. Most of us just dress up for special occasions, like the Gala that my friends and I attended several months back. Rarity made us the most beautiful dresses!”

“Is that so? So far, the only ponies I’ve seen wearing clothes were the palace guards and the two scientists that first studied me. But yeah, those are the reasons why my species first started covering ourselves. We almost never go unclothed, even if the environment would allow it.” Sam laughed. “We have a pretty strong sense of modesty.”

“I’m sure Rarity will LOVE to meet you; somepony who wears clothes all the time? That sort of customer would be a dream come true for her,” Twilight chuckled.

Sam got the feeling that an encounter with Rarity might not be as much fun for him.

Twilight suddenly remembered how much reading she still had left to finish. “Well, I’ll let you get back to work. I need to get back myself. If you need anything, just let me or Spike know!”

“I heard that! I’m napping!” A faint voice yelled from upstairs.


Sam and Twilight quietly spent the rest of the day diligently working at their tasks. Sam spent much of his time almost on autopilot taking notes of the supplies and tools he would need to get started on this task. He especially enjoyed having his iPod recharged; he could feel the seconds quickly turning into hours as he continued his work.

Finally, around dinner time, Twilight decided she had read enough; her vision was beginning to blur due to eye fatigue. She went downstairs to see if Sam was ready to eat as well; she had stumbled across detailed, foolproof instructions on how to cook fish, and there was still one left untouched from the previous night’s dinner disaster.

Sam knew it had to have been a little unpleasant for Twilight to look up information on how to prepare and cook meat, but he was thankful that she had gone out of her way to further take care of him like that.

In between mouthfuls of bread and fish, Sam spoke up. “Hey, Twilight, thanks for finding that recipe, you have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve had food like this. This is nearly as good as when my grandma would cook for me.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, it was no problem. I’m just glad the kitchen doesn’t smell like fire and smoke again.”

“Hey, what about me? I’m the one who went through all the trouble of catching those things,” Spike yelled with a pout.

“Don’t worry, I was getting to you, besides, I did thank you last night, remember? But I’ll say it again, thanks so much for getting these for me. Though, next time, take me with you and I’ll show you an easier way than just using your claws.” Sam had no intention of making Spike permanently take fishing duty, but he did want to spend a little time getting to know his other housemate. Besides, if he’s a friend of Twilight’s, surely he’s not always that sarcastic. He’s almost as bad as me sometimes, though.

“Oh, yeah, you’re right, sorry,” Spike replied, a red hint of embarrassment showing on his face. “That would be great though, those fish are ridiculously slippery, dude.”

“No problem.” Sam resumed chowing down.

The three continued their meal, exchanging a little bit of small talk about what they had done over the course of the day in between mouthfuls. After the meal was finished, and the dishes washed and put away, everyone returned to their earlier tasks for a brief time before getting ready for bed.


After breakfast the next day, Twilight insisted that Sam take a break from his archive work, as she expected Applejack and Rarity to stop in at any moment.

Sure enough, only a few minutes passed before there was a knock at the door. Twilight’s horn glowed briefly as she opened the door from across the room.

“Come on in, girls!” She called to the door.

Two ponies stepped inside. The first to enter was a orange pony with a blonde mane covered with a Stetson hat, a few light freckles dotting her face, and three apples marking her flank. Sam noticed that she was a bit more similar to ponies he’d seen in his own time, as her forehead lacked a horn. The second guest was an alabaster white unicorn, her purple mane and tail obviously painstakingly styled into position, with three diamonds on her flank.

The orange one spoke up first. “Hi there Twi’, so what’s this project of yers that’s kept ya so busy lately?”

The white unicorn added, “Yes, darling, we’ve all been wondering where you’ve been and if you were ok!”

Twilight pointed a hoof towards Sam. “Girls, meet Sam Mitchell. Sam, meet Applejack,” she pointed at the orange pony, “and Rarity,” pointing at the white pony. Both guests’ eyes were wide open.

“Lands’ sakes, Twilight, what is that?” Applejack exclaimed.

“Sam’s a human. Long story short, a long time before Equestria existed, and before even the Princesses existed, there was an entire race of humans like Sam. He managed to travel forward in time from...” Twilight scratched her head as she thought, “How long ago did you say it was, Sam?”

“I’d say it was at the very least a few hundred million years ago,” Sam replied.

Rarity’s eyes bugged out even further. “He can talk?!”

“Yes, I can. And it’s very nice to finally meet some of Twilight’s friends.” Sam extended a hand in their direction.

Applejack quickly picked up on the gesture; she trotted over to him and placed a hoof into his hand and they shook. “Nice ta meet ya, Sam, any friend o’ Twilight’s is a friend o’ mine.” She withdrew her hoof. “Say, Twilight, how’d he end up with you anyhow?”

Rarity interjected, “And why is he wearing such ghastly unfashionable clothing?!”

“Rarity!” Twilight gave a slight scowl in her direction, as did Sam.

“What? It is though, dear...” Rarity pouted slightly.

“Anyway, AJ, he’s here with me by request of the Princess. I’m supposed to help him adjust to living among ponykind and learn about him and his people. Also, he’s spending his time here with me repairing a data archive he had with him. You have no idea how much we have to learn from him!”

“Eh heh, ya’ll have fun with that Twi. So Sam, how ya likin’ Ponyville so far? Right pleasant place ain’t it?”

Sam reached up and absent-mindedly rubbed the back of his head. “To be honest, I haven’t really gotten to see much of it yet; Twilight wants to be careful about introducing me into society.”

“Well now that’s a darn shame. Tell ya what, if you and Twilight have a moment tomorrow, ya’ll oughta drop by Sweet Apple Acres. You’re lookin’ a little thin there, Sam, so don’t be surprised if’n my Granny Smith tries to fatten ya up with some of our famous Apple Family apple pie, not to mention all our other bits of bakin’.”

Twilight’s face lit up. “You know, AJ, that sounds like a great idea! Didn’t you say you grew up on a farm yourself, Sam?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I did. I think I’d like that a lot, Applejack.” Applejack reached up to shake his hand again. Sam looked down and saw Applejack’s smile and bright green eyes looking back up at him. He saw the kindness in her eyes and couldn’t help but be reminded of one of his cousins from the summers he spent on the family farm.

“Then it’s settled. Ya’ll come on down soon as you get a minute, and I’ll show ya ‘round, Sam.” Applejack turned to Twilight. “Thanks for introducin’ me to yer new friend. I’d love ta stay an’ chat a lil’ more, but Big Mac’s waitin’ on me to help him haul a couple dozen bushels of apples down into the cellar.” Applejack looked back at Sam as she made for the door. “Pleasure ta meet ya Sam, see ya’ll ‘round!”

“So... Sam, Twilight told me yesterday that you needed to borrow one of my irons for your project, I believe I brought one with me if you still need it.” Rarity’s horn glowed as a soldering iron floated out of her saddlebag.

Sam grabbed the iron. “Thank you, Rarity. I’ll return it to you as soon as I’m done, or sooner if you need it back.”

“Oh that’s quite alright, darling, I have a few extra. Keep it as long as you need. If I may ask a question, do you always wear clothes?” Rarity had an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, actually, we-”

“Oh Celestia!” Rarity’s eyes opened wide. “A creature that always wears clothes! I have so many ideas I would like to try! I would like to apologize for my little outburst earlier. Allow me to rephrase what I said.” Rarity cleared her throat. “Your clothing is very... Worn out. And, I would very much like to make some new clothes for you, if you’ll allow me to take your measurements.”

“Well... Ok, it’s been ages since I’ve worn anything that wasn’t ration- HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Sam felt his clothes moving seemingly of their own volition.

Twilight saw Rarity’s horn glowing. “Rarity, no! What are you doing?!”

But it was too late. There stood Sam, completely naked. His face red with anger and embarrassment, he yelled, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”

Rarity was completely taken aback and confused. She did that as a matter of course to all of her customers; being unclothed was a fairly normal thing for most of them, and made it much easier for Rarity to take their measurements.

Twilight broke the awkward silence first, hoping to diffuse the situation. “Um, Rarity, give him back his clothes. Humans are a little different from us. They don’t like being unclothed, as Sam explained it to me, they are ‘modest’. And Sam, I’m sorry, I should have mentioned this to her, that’s how it normally goes for us when we go get measurements taken for new clothes...”

Sam had finished redressing himself, muttering profanities under his breath.

“Oh, Sam, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to be modest,” Rarity giggled, “But if I have offended you, please do let me make it up to you, I-”

Sam was having none of it. “I don’t care what you do! I don’t need any fancy-schmancy designer clothes or any garbage like that!”

“Fancy-shmancy? GARBAGE?!” Rarity’s royal-blue eyes were seething with rage. “Just who do you think you are? Most ponies around here pay me top bit for my talents, and yet here I am offering them to you as a gift! Well, I see how it is going to be! Good day Twilight, I will see you later.” Rarity stormed out of the door in a huff.

Twilight had buried her face in her hoof. She looked at Sam angrily. “Was it really necessary for you to yell at her? Generosity is kind of her thing; it really hurt her to yell at her for that.”

Sam was still breathing heavily, attempting to calm his anger. “Was it really necessary for her to strip me naked without even asking first?”

“I know, I know, like I said, I should have said something to her earlier. I’m really sorry. She meant well, I promise. Please tell me you’ll apologize to her next time you meet...”

Sam crossed his arms. “I’ll apologize to that snob as soon as she apologizes for violating me.”

“What’s the big deal? So she took your clothes off...”

“Maybe I wasn’t clear earlier. We’re MODEST, we don’t go in the nude unless we’re taking a shower or, well, having sex! It’s a social taboo!” Sam’s face was beet-red.

Twilight’s eyes shot open in realization. “Oh, Celestia... I didn’t know THAT’S what you meant! I’m SO sorry Sam! Ponies just don’t have the same ideas about nudity as you do...” She buried her face in her hooves. “At least he got along with AJ,” Twilight muttered to herself.

“If anyone needs me, Twilight, I’ll be in the basement,” Sam yelled out after her.

The unicorn and the human both returned to their respective projects, and scarcely spoke to one another until dinner.


Later in the evening, once all three residents of the library had sat down to eat, dinner was covered in an awkward silence. Spike had overheard the ordeal that occurred between his crush and Sam, and was none too thrilled that Sam had insulted Rarity. Twilight was still a bit embarrassed about how the whole thing had unfolded. Sam was just angry, and a bit annoyed with the furious scowl Spike kept shooting him.

Sam decided to be the first to break the quiet. “So... Uh... Twilight, when can we take Applejack up on her offer to have us for a visit?”

Twilight was relieved that somepony was finally talking. “Well, I’ve got some time I can spare tomorrow after breakfast, we’ll go then, if you promise not to insult any more of my friends,” she said dryly.

“Yeah! You can’t talk to Rarity like that!” Spike angrily interjected.

Sam glared back at Spike, who had already set back to attacking his dinner. “Don’t worry Twilight, Applejack seems cool enough in my book.” His expression softened a bit. “She actually reminds me a bit of one of my younger cousins from back on my grandparents’ farm.”

“Really? Your cousin must have been really something, we all think the world of Applejack around here.”

Sam sighed a little. “Yeah, Katie was a great kid...” His eyes watered up briefly. “I really do miss her sometimes.”

Spike chimed in again. “Nice dinner conversation, guys.”

Twilight rolled her eyes while Sam shot Spike another angry look. The conversation ceased for the remainder of the evening.

Apples, Slideshows, And A Movie About Bowling

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The residents of the Ponyville library slowly roused from sleep and began their morning routines. Twilight hoped that a good night’s sleep had improved everyone’s mood from the previous day, and was pleasantly surprised to see Sam and Spike helping each other make breakfast.

Spike was the first to greet her as she entered the kitchen. “Morning Twi! Sam and I are making pancakes for breakfast, how many do you want?”

Twilight took a look at the skillet. “Those look awfully big, I think I’ll just go with two. I’m glad to see you two are getting along better this morning.”

“Yeah, honestly Twilight I let my temper get the best of me yesterday and made a scene in front of your friends. I’m not sure how I offended Spike, though, but-”

“And I was kind of a jerk to get on Sam’s case at dinner like that last night,” Spike interrupted.

“Anyway, we both found ourselves up a little earlier than usual, and had a quick talk with each other, apologized, and realized we really needed to apologize to YOU, and figured we’d help each other make a big breakfast for you,” Sam continued.

Twilight laughed, and brought a hoof to her face. “Honestly I was just hoping we could forget about everything, but if a little over-the-top politeness and niceness is what it takes to keep you two from sniping at each other all the time, so be it!”

“Besides,” Spike said with a mouthful of flapjacks, “Sam knew this awesome recipe for pancakes. Mine are pretty good, if I might say so myself... But I can’t lie, these are AWESOME!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “I thought you said you couldn’t cook, Sam.”

“Well, yeah I can’t really. But... Pancakes are simple enough, and I had a lot of practice with them in college. If there’s one thing college students in my day loved, it was breakfast for ANY meal,” Sam said with a laugh.

Spike pulled the latest batch off of the skillet and passed them to Twilight. She took a maple-soaked bite. As she swallowed, her eyes grew as wide as the plate that her meal was served on.

“Oh Celestia, Spike you weren’t kidding! What is it that you did differently, Sam?”

“Honestly I have no idea. Other than mix in a little syrup into the batter, I dunno. I never measure anything precisely when I make them though, I just kinda throw in what looks right,” Sam said with a shrug. “Glad you like them, though!”

In the time it took Sam to give that explanation, Twilight had managed to scarf down the entirety of the two tire-sized pancakes in front of her. Spike’s jaw dropped so low that it nearly came unhinged; he had never seen the unicorn eat like that.

Twilight smiled sheepishly before swallowing the last of her breakfast. “What? I couldn’t help myself...”


With breakfast cleaned up, Sam and Twilight left for Applejack’s farm. As he stepped outside, Sam realized he hadn’t seen the sun at all since he first arrived in this time period, save for through windows in Twilight’s library.

“Now, Sam, we’re gonna have to walk right through the middle of Ponyville. As long as the other ponies see you with me, they won’t react too strongly. If anypony looks at you, don’t say anything, don’t approach them, just wave and smile as if nothing is out of the ordinary,” Twilight instructed.

“Works for me, I’m just glad to get out of the house for a bit,” Sam replied.

The pair began their trek through town. The thatched roof cottages and some of the shops made him think of scenes from medieval movies he had seen as a kid. Sure enough, they passed by several ponies going through their daily routines. Without fail, they stopped and stared in fear of the bipedal creature accompanying their librarian friend.

Sam did as Twilight said and waved at them with a smile; this seemed to set most of them somewhat at ease, a few of them hesitantly waving back, and they continued about their business, occasionally stopping to suspiciously turn an eye back towards Sam.

They passed by a particularly colorful building in the shape of a gingerbread house with a cupcake-shaped cupola on top. “Twilight, what’s that place?”

“Oh, that’s Sugarcube Corner, the local bakery. My friend Pinkie Pie works there.”

“Any chance we can stop in there some time? Something smells great.”

“It’s certainly a possibility, but let’s hurry on to AJ’s.”

Eventually, Sam and Twilight arrived at Sweet Apple Acres. Sam could just barely make out the shape of two ponies, a large red one and a familiar orange one, out in the apple trees.

“Hey Applejack, we’re here!” Twilight called out.

“I’ll be right with ya’ll!” Applejack yelled in reply, breaking into a gallop.

Sam and Twilight continued walking in Applejack’s direction. They met near the red barn in the middle of the farm.

“Glad to see ya’ll made it over. So, Sam, welcome to Sweet Apple Acres, whaddya think?”

Sam looked around, taking in the sights. “Looks like a pretty nice place you’ve got here, Applejack. Minus the apple trees, this actually looks a lot like my grandparents’ old farm.”

“Really now? What did yer grandparents grow on their farm?”

“Hay, mostly. They raised a few head of cattle and had some horses, but mostly hay.”

“Well, enough small talk, follow me, I’ll show ya ‘round. Twi, Sam, either of ya’ll want anything to drink? Just pressed a fresh batch of cider last night.”

Sam shook his head, “No, thanks though.”

Twilight responded with the same.

“Suit yerself!” Applejack proceeded to lead the pair around the farm, bragging about the current bumper crop of apples that were awaiting harvest. Of course, all of this was for Sam’s benefit and entertainment, as Twilight was all too familiar with the Apple Family’s incredible talent for producing the largest, tastiest crops of apples of any orchard in Equestria.

Sam was thoroughly enjoying the fresh air and the unspoiled beauty of the land around him. Applejack’s voice faded into the back of his mind as he reminisced about his childhood summers spent at his grandparents’ farm, playing hide-and-seek with Ellen, Katie, and the rest of his cousins in the woods surrounding the farm after a day spent helping grandpa. For a moment, he was no longer in Equestria, but back eons in the past, his jeans and workboots coated in mud up to his knees after chasing his sister and cousins through a muddy trail behind the barn.

“Sam? Ya’ll alright there?” Applejack waved a hoof in front of his face.

Sam’s oblivious smile at least reassured his pony friends that wherever his mind was, it was at least somewhere pleasant. Twilight poked at his side, snapping him back to Sweet Apple Acres.

“Welcome back, Sam. Did you have a pleasant trip?” Twilight asked jokingly.

“Oh, heh, yeah sorry, I was just thinking about how much this place reminds me of my grandparents’ farm,” Sam said with a contented sigh. “I guess I kinda spaced out there.”

Applejack chuckled. “Ya’ll were spaced out harder than Big Mac after dippin’ into a batch of Granny Smith’s special reserve hard cider!”

The three continued strolling around the premises. Seeing Sam happily reminiscing, his mind obviously somewhere else, Twilight pulled Applejack aside once they reached the barn.

“Hey, AJ,” She whispered, “I haven’t seen him this happy and relaxed since he got here. It’s important for him to get his archive fixed, but I think it would really do him some good to get out of my basement from time to time. Any chance you could use some extra help around here?”

The farm pony rubbed her chin for a moment before answering. “Ah might could find some use fer another able body ‘round here. He any good at apple buckin’? ‘Cause Ah ain’t really seein’ that in ‘em. Course, if he could haul bushels after me an’ Big Mac have filled ‘em up, that could help cut some time. Ya know what, if he’s up for it, then hay, let’s see what the fella can do.”

“Oh, thank you AJ!”

“Hey Sam, anypony home in there?” Applejack lightly headbutted his side.

“I zoned out again, didn’t I?”

Big Mac came around the corner on his way into the barn. “Eeyup.”

Applejack looked up at Sam. “Twi here had a pretty nice idea, if’n ya’ll are up fer it. Ah can tell you’re really enjoyin’ yer visit here, and Ah could use a lil’ extra help ‘round the farm. Ah’ll pay ya some for yer troubles, and Ah’m sure Granny will be practically throwin’ food at ya. Whaddya say?”

“Not gonna lie, that sounds like a refreshing change from what I’ve been doing,” Sam’s voice turned hesitant as he looked towards Twilight. “But shouldn’t I be spending my time trying to fix my archive? Isn’t that why the Princess sent me here with you?”

“Well, actually Sam, this was my idea, you could use something and somewhere to get your mind off of... Well, everything. Your archive isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not like there’s a rush on getting it fixed, though I am incredibly excited to get my hooves on whatever history is in there...”

“Ah suppose that settles it then. Ya’ll can start whenever ya like.”

“I actually had planned to spend much of my day practicing some new spells with Spike, so if you want to, Sam, feel free to start today,” Twilight said approvingly.

“Then show me the ropes, Applejack.”

“In that case, Sam, I’ll head on home. I’ll see you later this evening, and AJ, try not to work him TOO hard, ok? Bye!” Twilight turned and began making her way back into town. She began mentally reviewing what she needed to do upon her return to the library. She had managed to take down a few scrolls’ worth of notes on what she’d learned from Sam thus far, and she wanted to start going over them and organizing her findings. As her mind wandered, Twilight found herself repeatedly going back to how much improvement Sam was showing in his emotional state. Twilight’s contented mood manifested itself as a slight grin as she continued on her way home.


“Well, let’s get started then, partner! You ever bucked apples before?”

“What? Not entirely sure what that is but I’m certain I haven’t.”

“Shucks, ya know, kickin’ a tree to shake the apples out?”

“Ah, yeah no I haven’t.”

“Wanna give it a shot?”

Several minutes, and shouts of frustration and pain, later, Sam had demonstrated to Applejack that he could not, in fact, buck apples. She instead had him help by carrying the filled bushels of apples from the fields to the cellar, as well as picking up any stray apples that didn’t fall directly into the buckets after Big Mac and Applejack had bucked the trees.

Big Mac chuckled. “You ain’t much fer farm work, are ya, Sam?”

Clearly winded, and sporting a thin coating of dust and sweat, Sam replied, “What can I say? It’s been years since I’ve done anything that didn’t have me spending all my time working at a desk all day.”


“Aw come on, brother,” said Applejack as she lined up to buck another tree, “he’s puttin’ up a mighty fine effort for a critter as thin as he is.”


“Thanks, I think?”

“Big Mac’s not much fer big conversation, ain’t that right Mac?”


“I see. So, Applejack, thanks again for letting me stretch my legs around here. Twilight has been great to me, but I was getting a little crazy being stuck in the library all that time.”

“Yeah, she’s a right good friend. A mite high strung, but she’ll always come through for ya in a pinch. Still, I worry ‘bout her, keepin’ herself all cooped up with her snout in the books.” Sam took a few steps back as Applejack kicked the tree behind her, sending a cascade of apples straight into the bushel.

“Heh, I can relate to her a bit on that one, that’s kinda how I spent most of my time back before I wound up here.” Sam scratched his head.

“How do ya’ll bookworm types do it? I’m no moron, but sittin’ there starin’ at a book all day would drive me half crazy. I prefer workin’ with my hooves, though I think that’s right obvious to ya by now,” Applejack said with a wink.

“How do you farmer types do it? I’m no stranger to hard work, but I’ve never been much on the physical side,” Sam retorted sarcastically.

“Fair enough,” Applejack giggled, kicking another batch of apples down.

Sam and his new friends worked all day, stopping for a break during lunch. As with any guest, Granny Smith was happy to meet Sam, though she couldn’t quite wrap her head around what a human was. Applejack just suggested that Sam play along with Granny’s perception that he was a rather strange-looking pony. Sam thoroughly enjoyed the huge spread that Granny Smith had spent the morning cooking up. He had never before seen so many different apple-based dishes, and yet each one had its own specific flavor. Applejack wasn’t kidding when she bragged about her grandmother’s cooking.

After lunch, everyone returned to work until the sun began to move towards the horizon. Applejack decided that was as good a time as any to call it a day.

“How ya feelin’ there Sam?”

Sam stopped to catch his breath. “I think I need to sleep for another million years, but I’m fine.”

“Heh, well, Ah think Big Mac and myself are a little tuckered out ourselves.”


“Big Mac, you go on back in, Ah’ll go into town to get Apple Bloom from school. Ah figure it’d be a good idea to walk with Sam back through town.”

Applejack and Sam began walking towards town. “So, who’s Apple Bloom?”

“She’s my kid sister, real funny little filly, always causin’ some kinda noise tryin’ to earn her cutie mark with her little friends,” Applejack said with a laugh. “So, think you’ll wanna come back again?”

“Give me a few days to get over the inevitable stiffness that I’m about to experience tomorrow, and I’ll be there. It was really nice working with you and your family today, brought back a lot of good memories, you know?”

“Glad to hear it! You’re a bit strange, but you’re alright, Sam." Applejack frowned. "Oh, consarn it, I fergot to pay ya!”

Sam shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, lunch today was more than payment enough as far as I’m concerned, heh.”

Applejack stomped to a stop. “Hey now, Ah’m a mare of my word, and Ah said Ah’m gonna pay ya for yer work, and that’s just the end of it!”

Sam chuckled. “Ok, ok. You’ll see me again soon enough anyway, you can just give it to me later.”

“Alright. Well, Ah assume you know how to make it back to the library from here, this is where Ah gotta split with ya. Schoolhouse is that way,” Applejack motioned with her hoof. “It was real nice ta meet ya, have a good evenin’!”

“Likewise, AJ!” Sam began slowly strolling back to Twilight’s house, as much to savor the beautiful orange evening sky as to avoid stretching any one of his quickly-stiffening muscles. Despite the sore arms and legs, Sam was thrilled with the way his day had gone.

As the top of the library treehouse came into view, Sam’s thoughts shifted towards his lavender hostess.

“It’s amazing how great she’s been to me,” he said out loud to himself, “I mean, I know the Princess asked her to take me in, and who would she be to refuse? But she’s been such a great friend to me all the same...” Sam remembered how she had been there on the balcony and given him a shoulder to cry on, tried her best to make him comfortable, and now? Twilight had gotten him a sort of job helping her friend on the farm, as if she knew being there would make him feel better.

“She’s such a bookworm, too! As smart and thoughtful as she is,” Sam chuckled to himself, “I gotta say, if she were human, I’d have asked her on a date ages ago...” He felt his heart sink as he remembered that, as the last human, he’d never see another human girl again, let alone go on a date.

As Sam opened the door, Twilight was in the main room organizing some of her books. She saw the look of dejection on his face.

“Sam?” She asked, her eyes showing her concern, “Are you alright?”

Sam quickly snapped back to reality. “Yeah, just really tired.”

His answer satisfied the unicorn; she quickly regained her smile. “Makes sense; so how did everything go at AJ’s today? Judging from your coating of dirt and bits of apple, I’d say Applejack got a good day’s work out of you,” Twilight chuckled.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Sam said, as he sank into a chair. “I mean, she didn’t have me doing anything too hard, and back at the research base before I wound up in this time period, we had daily exercise blocks. All the same, I can definitely tell the last week or so since has gotten me out of habit. It was nice though. Thanks for convincing Applejack to let me hang around there.”

“How could I not?” Twilight giggled. “You just looked so happy; I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look that relaxed. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”

“It was definitely a nice change of pace from the last few days.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. Now, I can’t tell for sure if it’s all the dirt covering you, but you’re looking a few shades darker,” Twilight tilted her head in confusion.

“Oh, yeah, we humans can get a bit of a tan from being in the sun enough. It’s pretty easy for me, considering I’ve spent the last year or so practically underground all the time. I need to be careful though, or else I might end up with one of those sunburns I told you about earlier.”

“Maybe Applejack has a hat she could lend you while you work? Either way, a little color suits you well,” Twilight said with a smile.

“Thanks, but I’m gonna go see how much of it washes off as dirt,” Sam chuckled. “When I get done, I can bring out my computer and show you some pictures from my time, if you want.”

Twilight’s eyes lit up. “Please do! Oh, I can’t wait to see!”

“Sure thing. I do have one thing to ask in return though.”

“What would that be?”

“Please tell me we’re eating dinner soon, I’m famished!”

Twilight shook her head, laughing quietly. “Oh, boys, always thinking with their stomachs...”

“So that’s a yes?”

“Just go get your shower!” Twilight said with an exasperated laugh.


After Sam had cleaned up and had a bite to eat, he and Twilight pulled a couple of chairs next to each other. He opened up his laptop, and powered it up.

Twilight pointed a hoof towards the keyboard. “I’m guessing those symbols on the buttons are the different letters and markings for your language?”

Sam nodded. “Yep, and this smooth square patch at the front lets me move a pointer around the screen with my finger. Probably won’t work well with hooves, I’m afraid.”

Once the machine had finished its startup routines, Sam opened up the slideshow program. He scrolled through the list of images before settling on a picture to start with. He found an image of his family at the beach.

“So, there’s my family. Right there, that’s my dad,” Sam said, pointing to a man who resembled a much older Sam, though with slightly-graying black hair. “And that next to him,” he continued, indicating a woman with kind, blue eyes and shoulder-length chestnut-colored hair, “that’s mom.”

Twilight pointed to a girl with long, black hair tied back in a pony-tail. “And I’m guessing that the girl sitting next to you is Ellen?”

“Yep, that’s my sister...”

The silent pause persisted; Twilight noticed that Sam seemed deep in thought. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea for him to bring these pictures out, Twilight thought.

“Sam, are you ok?”

Sam chuckled. “Yeah, no, I’m fine, I’m just remembering that day, you know? It was a pretty good trip, we were celebrating my graduation from university and the job offer I’d just accepted. My dad rented this house right on the beach. It was amazing, we didn’t do ANYTHING for the entire week. Just me and my dad, having a few beers on the beach, giving each other a hard time, and ending every day with he and I indulging mom and Ellen with dinner at one of any number of fancy restaurants. I mean the food was good, but if there was anything my sister and mother enjoyed, it was dressing up for a nice night out. It was one of the last real vacations I went on with them.”

“Sounds like you had a great family, Sam.”

“Yeah, they were alright,” Sam replied with a slight grin.

The next picture he flipped to was of a city scene, with him standing next to a man nearly twice his height with a thick beard.

“That guy right there, he was one of my best friends, James. We got some random police officer to take this picture of us when we went to New York City for a few days.”

“New York City?”

“Yeah, it was one of the biggest cities in the world back then. James and I spent days aimlessly wandering through the city, stumbling in and out of bars, and taking in the sights. We ended up at some family-owned Italian restaurant,” Sam began to drool a little, “most amazing food I have ever had, and then James and I both ordered our own pitchers of sangria and spent the rest of the day rambling around Little Italy drunk out of our minds, it was great!”


“It’s basically wine with big bits of fruit, usually apples, at the bottom. Hey, maybe I’ll get Applejack to help me make some, I bet you’d like it.”

“I suppose I’ll try anything once,” Twilight replied pensively.

Sam flipped through a few more photos documenting his trip to New York with James before stopping on a picture of a rather large and somewhat aged house with a crowd of men Sam’s age gathered in the foreground.

“Oh holy hell...” Sam muttered.

Twilight’s tone turned serious. “What is it Sam?”

“Oh, sorry, just, I forgot I had pictures of *this* trip. On another holiday my job gave me, I flew down to my university campus to visit my younger friends and my fraternity. Frankly, I barely remember this trip, one of the younger fraternity brothers introduced me to this special brand of rum. Now... I’m not really big on hard liquor, but this stuff was GOOD, Twilight. So I had some. And then I had more. Then a little more...” Sam shook his head. “Annnnd next thing I know, it’s twelve hours later and I’m hanging upside down off the back of a couch, and my head was KILLING me. It was one hell of a trip, heh,” Sam chuckled.

Twilight raised an eyebrow in confusion. “So, you blacked out and felt sick? How was that a good time?”

“It’s not the result, it’s the journey, if you’ll pardon the overused expression there,” Sam laughed. “And I didn’t exactly forget the whole night. I remember being with my old friends, meeting tons of new people, laughing with them, listening to music... Generally, just enjoying the company of people who want to have a good time. I just happened to pass out towards the end, that’s all.”

“Whatever you do, when you inevitably meet Pinkie, please don’t tell her about those parties. The parties she already throws are chaotic enough as it is,” groaned Twilight.

“Duly noted. Speaking of music...” Sam clicked on an icon that resembled a music note. Within a few seconds, a loud cacophony of polyrhythmic drumming and crunching sounds filled the air.

“Dear sweet Celestia, Sam what is that noise?!”

Sam burst out laughing. “Oh, right, I forget that heavy metal music is an acquired taste for some...”

“Heavy... Metal?”

“Yeah, even in my day people thought I was strange for enjoying it. After all, in my time it was already a two-hundred year old genre, but what can I say? I like the classics. Popular music at the time was all algorithmically-generated and the singing was so processed that even a creaking door-hinge could be turned into something pleasant.”

“That sounds pretty... Uncreative, but how does that make that... Noise... Sound appealing?”

“I’ll admit, it’s not exactly for everyone. But I like it because of how complicated it can be. The technicality needed to get those insane time changes just right and play those intricate chords... It just resonates with me, I guess. Besides, not ALL metal is that harsh...” Sam hit another button, switching to a song that, despite the crunching of the distorted guitars, still managed to produce quite a beautiful melody. It didn’t hurt that the vocalist on that track actually sang, as opposed to growling as on the last song.

Sam’s eyes were closed as he listened to the sounds streaming out of his laptop. Twilight had to admit, if there were other metal songs like this, maybe it wasn’t all bad.

“I like the sound of his voice, but would you mind telling me what he said? I’d love to know...”

As Sam translated the lyrics for her, Twilight saw how much healthier and happier Sam looked as compared to just a few days ago. She loved the way his eyes were lighting up as he continued explaining the words and sounds of his music for her. Between the wonderful lyrics hitting her and her own joy over Sam’s happiness, Twilight could feel her eyes misting over.

“It feels weird for me to be the one to ask this, but Twilight, are you ok?”

Twilight rubbed her eyes before answering. “Yeah, I’m fine, just kinda zoned out a little.”

“Welcome to my world, heh...”

As if demonstrating, Sam turned to look out of the window. Twilight couldn’t quite read his expression; she worried that he was having another fit of depression.


He began to smile, before turning around and suddenly wrapping his arms around the unicorn beside him.

“I just want to say again, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me, you’ve been a pretty wonderful friend.”

As Sam let her go, he saw an enormous smile stretching across her face.

Regaining control of her faculties, Twilight replied. “Aw, it was nothing, really...” She turned away, blushing slightly.

Sam laughed. God that's cute, he thought.

Calming herself down, Twilight continued, “Ahem. So... Tell me about your job, you’ve barely told me anything about what you actually do.”

Sam chuckled, he’d obviously caught her off-guard. “I could spend hours detailing the math behind it, but I think I’ll wait to see if I can just get that off the archive once I’m finished with it. But basically, what I do is design logic circuits. By combining a type of special switch called a transistor in different ways, you can create circuits that perform math functions, store information, process information... Really the list goes on and on. Billions of such circuits make up my computer here. My boss would give me a set of functions that the company wanted, along with the constraints that the device had to meet, and my task would be to design a circuit that met their requirements.”

Sam continued on for several more minutes on the details of microprocessor design and transistor layout, with Twilight making a mental list of questions to follow up with later on. Eventually, she realized she would have to write them down; she simply couldn’t concentrate, as she was beginning to feel the exhaustion of a long day’s work. Still, Twilight forced herself to pay close attention as she watched Sam demonstrating various project files he still had. She was astounded; she had finally met someone who knew all about something that went entirely over her head. I knew he was smart, but... Wow!

Sam noticed his companion’s eyes forcing themselves open. “You must really be enjoying this; I’ve never seen anyone fight that hard to stay awake during a Circuit Synthesis lecture,” he chuckled. “Not even me.”

“This is an entirely new type of science and math around here, Sam, of course I like this! But I am incredibly sleepy, though.”

“I know the feeling. You know, I’ve got an idea. You go do whatever you need to before you go to bed, I’ll be right back.” Sam stood up and went upstairs.

Twilight couldn’t resist the opportunity to try her hooves at using the computer. With a little experimentation, she found that she could press the buttons with a bit of magic. First thing she wanted to do was look at a few more of Sam’s pictures, and she correctly guessed that the buttons marked with arrows would cycle through the photos. As she browsed, she saw pictures of unfamiliar skylines, vast stretches of country roads, and groups of people that Twilight assumed were Sam’s friends and family. One picture in particular caught her eyes; it showed Sam sitting at a table littered with tools, wires, and various other objects Twilight didn’t recognize. Sam’s blue eyes were glowing with determination, and his hands were obviously busy at work trying to work out a problem in the machine in front of him.

Twilight decided she loved this picture. To her, it showed another trait that he had in common with her: an almost obsessive drive to solve any problem presented to him. She found herself admiring the bright color of Sam’s eyes, and realized they were now much closer to this picture than they were when she first met him. Twilight also noticed the different manner in which Sam was wearing his hair in the picture. I wish he would do his hair like that all the time... She thought. Wait a minute, why am I fawning over his appearance like I’m some sort of school-filly?

She scarcely had time to further ponder the matter, as Sam promptly re-entered the room.

Feeling a tiny blush on her face again, Twilight quickly spoke up. “So, Sam... What’s your big idea?”

He shrugged. “Well, I realized it has been ages since I’ve seen a movie. And I’ve got several of my favorites stored in my laptop, so I figured we could crash out the night with one of them.”

“That sounds fun,” Twilight cocked her head to the side, “but unless you have subtitles in Equestrian, I don’t know how I’m going to enjoy it much.”

“Yeah, that’s why I was going upstairs, to see if I still had that translator device with me. If you wear it, it should let you understand the movie. It should have had enough time to collect ample data for a decent translation when I was talking to the Canterlot researchers with it. So, whaddya think, wanna try it out?”

“Sure, where do you want to set everything up?”

Sam motioned towards the upstairs bedrooms. “I fully intend to fall asleep at some point while watching, so I figured we could stretch out on my bed with my laptop on the side table.”

“Bed?” Twilight let out a massive yawn. “Sounds good to me.”

The two made their way to Sam’s room. As he arranged everything, he told her about the movie. “It’s called ‘The Big Lebowski’. I’m not gonna try to explain what it’s about, because it borders on not having a point, but the characters are all so strange, so bizarre, there’s a lot of situational and ironic comedy.”

“So it’s a funny movie?” Inquired Twilight, as she jumped onto the bed, curling up and getting comfortable.

Sam sat down behind her, and laid down, stretching out his sore arms. “That’s more or less it. It’s a favorite of mine. They remade it multiple times, though; the original was roughly two hundred and fifty years old. This version is a little newer. I tried watching the original at a film festival, but, I dunno, I guess a lot gets lost in two and half centuries. This is supposed to be fairly close, though...”

Sam held out the translation headset to Twilight, prompting her to move closer to him. He managed to fit it properly to her ears, and turned it on. Sam was relieved that she could understand the dialogue. He had forgotten just how much he enjoyed this movie, and did his best to explain some of the jokes to his friend, occasionally losing his train of thought due to the lovely purple eyes meeting his gaze when he looked over at her to give the explanation.

“Sam, I’m not sure I understand what’s funny about a rug being urinated on... And... Wait a minute, I’ve seen a pony around town that looks like that guy in the sunglasses and robe, I can’t put my hoof on it though... Same thing with that larger human and the one who is apparently ‘out of his element’." Twilight raised an eyebrow in thought. "Do humans have something like the Elements of Harmony?”

Sam facepalmed, chuckling. In retrospect, he realized he probably should have chosen a movie that was less tied to human idioms and slang. Still, he could tell Twilight was enjoying the opportunity to experience something from his culture; despite the obvious signs of exhaustion on her face, she was paying close attention as if she were sitting in on a lecture. He continued trying to give her the play-by-play on many of the jokes, finding himself amused as her eyelids began to droop. Sam couldn’t help but smile and find it adorable the way Twilight was fighting to stay awake as she was nodding off, her head slowly bobbing up and down before she finally rested it against his arm.

He kept talking for a few more minutes before he realized she was no longer conscious; her head was dead weight on his arm, silently snoozing away, and she was hanging halfway off of the edge of the bed.

He briefly considered carrying Twilight over to her own room, but the aching muscles in his arm protested violently after spending the day doing Applejack’s bidding. Instead, with his free arm he reached up to take the headset off of her ears, then reached down to pull the blanket over the both of them, before putting the same arm around Twilight and pulling her unconscious form away from the edge, towards him with her back near his chest. Satisfied that Twilight wouldn’t fall off of the bed in her sleep, Sam finally allowed himself to drift off as well.

Men Are From Mars, Mares Are From Ponyville

View Online

The sun began filtering through the windows in Sam’s room, and a few errant beams struck Twilight’s eyes. Slowly, she roused from sleep, confused as to why she was in Sam’s room.

Twilight realized that the pillow felt strange, and she noticed a slight weight across her side. Lifting her head, and looking around, she saw that the pillow was, in fact, one of Sam’s arms, and the weight on her side was his other arm draped around her. Relieved that Sam was still asleep, Twilight attempted to slowly slide out of his unconscious embrace without waking him. She was almost off of the bed when she felt Sam’s arm lift up off of her.

Sam took a yawning breath and said with a grin, “Glad to see you’ve finally woke up, I was wondering if I’d have to lay here like this forever!” Even through Twilight’s lavender coat, he could just barely make out a slight blush on the unicorn’s face.

Twilight couldn’t understand why she felt so embarrassed about falling asleep next to him. “Sorry, I must have dozed off before I could manage to move to my room.”

Sam waved it off. “Don’t worry about it, I wasn’t far behind you. I thought about carrying you to your own bed, but...” Stretching his arms, he winced in pain, “You can thank Applejack for preventing that.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You know... You could have tried waking me up, if you were waiting on me so you could get up.”

“What can I say? You were too adorable all curled up there, I couldn’t make myself do that,” Sam laughed. “I hope it wasn’t too awkward, you waking up with me practically smothering you. Just, the way you fell asleep on my left arm, I didn’t have many comfortable alternatives as far as my other arm was concerned. That, and the fact that I had to pull you away from the edge; you were nearly falling off!”

Twilight’s blush was reaching forest-fire levels. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said with a smile, “you were only trying to let me sleep comfortably, thanks.”

“Yeah, you must have been pretty tired to fall asleep hanging off the bed like that; that couldn’t have been comfortable at all,” Sam chuckled. “Anyway, I’m going to go downstairs, get some breakfast, and get back down to working on that archive.”

“Breakfast sounds good,” Twilight stretched her forelegs, “I’ll join you.”


After breakfast, Sam began his first attempt to repair the archive. Now that he had a soldering iron and some tin solder wire, he figured it would just be a matter of recreating both the miniature connections on the clip that attached the archive to a data cable and those that linked the control chip with the rest of the device. After gluing the broken port piece back onto the device, he quickly found that the metal channels of the clip were too tiny for him to accurately navigate with the naked eye, so Twilight lent him the gigantic magnifying glass that she used for reading. Why some ancient writers used such small lettering or typeface was beyond her ability to understand.

Slowly, Sam melted small droplets of tin into the grooves of the clip, being careful not to bridge one wire with the wires next to it. His first few attempts were long and laborious, and he nearly burnt his fingertips several times as his grip on the pen-like iron slipped. Eventually, he found something of a rhythm to the procedure; since his old job allowed him to do tasks like this with automated systems, it had been quite some time since Sam had been required to use such a tool.

After several painstaking hours, the connections had been made to the clip and the control circuit was remounted to the main board. The next step was to test power-up. If the connections were properly repaired, then the archive should turn on and make itself available for data transfers. Sam gently attached the power adapter to the device, being careful to avoid re-breaking the clip.

Sam held his breath; if the little green power indicator light turned on, then his task was finished. He could begin sifting through his civilization’s knowledge for the bits of historical and technological data that the royal academy in Canterlot had been long waiting for.

Several seconds passed, but the light failed to turn on.

“I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy,” Sam muttered in disappointment.

After disconnecting the power, he began carefully re-examining the archive, this time with the aid of Twilight’s magnifying glass. Remembering that one of the side panels had been dented in the impact that brought him to Equestria in the first place, he carefully pried off the thin metal, revealing the circuit boards underneath. With the panel out of the way, the true extent of the damage was quite visible. The power regulation circuit was cracked, meaning more epoxy and tin would be needed to repair the connections; the main capacitor and inductors were still intact, much to Sam’s relief.

“At least it’s still salvageable,” Sam said with a sigh.

He heard the sound of hooves on wood, prompting him to turn to see Twilight coming down into the basement.

“How are the repairs going, Sam?” Twilight asked cheerfully.

“They’re going alright, not as well as I hoped though. The damage was a bit more extensive than I’d imagined. The control chip and the data clip are connected fine, but the bit that controls the flow of power into the device is pretty messed up.”

“Think you’ll still be able to fix it?”

Sam shrugged. “It’s still totally doable, but it’s gonna be tough. These last repairs I did were just a matter of recreating several straightforward connections. This time, before I can do that for the power circuit, I have to sit here and map out what goes where on this power circuit. It’s nothing that’s outside of my skill set, hell, this is the part of the device that my team and I designed, but it’s still going to take a while to do. After all, we don’t exactly memorize the board traces,” Sam chuckled nervously.

“Mind if I take a look?”

Sam slid the archive towards her. “Be my guest.”

“Didn’t you show me the schematics for this last night?”

“Yeah, actually,” Sam raised an eyebrow, “I’m surprised you recognize it, there’s not much left of the original connections here.”

“Well, the traces here resemble part of what you showed me, and I think I remember this symbol here,” Twilight pointed a hoof towards the charred remnant of a capacitor symbol printed on the board. “Let me guess, this connection needs to go to... That output?”

Sam laughed. “You’re a pretty quick study, you know that?”

Twilight grinned from ear to ear, a slight blush on her face. “Well, I learned from the best, right?”

“Heh, that’s what I’d say, anyway, though my old boss might beg to differ. I don’t mean to brush you off but... I really want to try to knock out some of that re-mapping pretty quickly here, this is gonna take a while.”

“Fair enough. I’ve got some reading I want to finish up, I just wanted to come check on you, anyway. Let me know if you need anything!” Twilight happily trotted back upstairs to her study.

Sam took a deep breath, and began slowly drawing out a diagram of where he knew connections should exist between the fragments of the power regulator.


Several hours later, Sam set down his pencil, and stretched his arms and hands. He began reviewing his finished diagram, looking for any errors or forgotten connections. After several check-throughs, he was satisfied that this map was a good starting point to begin repairing the power regulation circuit, and decided that this was as good as any place to take a break.

The rumbling of his stomach reminded Sam that he had worked through lunch entirely, and the clock on the wall told him that it was nearly dinner time. He made his way upstairs to the kitchen just in time to see his two housemates getting ready to get dinner started.

Twilight heard him walk in. “Make any good progress on the repair?”

“Sort of. I finished sketching out the areas I need to reconnect. Over the next few days I should be able to get the repairs actually implemented.” Sam grabbed a knife and started chopping some carrots for Twilight’s soup. ”If I hadn’t promised Applejack I’d come back tomorrow and the next day, I could get it done sooner.”

“Oh don’t worry about it. Remember what I said when she gave you the job? You’re under no rush. I know you’re going to make good on your end of the bargain, and the Princess perfectly understands how much stress you’ve been under.” Twilight levitated the chopped carrots into the bowl in front of her. “Believe me, she would have done the same thing. She may be our supreme ruler, but she’s by far one of the most compassionate ponies you could hope to meet.”

Sam laughed. “I’m well aware of that, Twilight. I just don’t like leaving any task unfinished. From what I have picked up about you so far, that’s something you and I have very much in common.”

Twilight shook her head and groaned. “You get stressed over missing ONE deadline and suddenly everypony thinks you’re a perfectionist,” she muttered to herself.

“Hey, Twi, do you need me to stir the pot or are you still handling it?” Sam saw Spike standing on a stool, closely monitoring the boiling pot of soup.

“That’s fine, Spike, I’ve got it. If you’ll grab some bowls for us, I’ll go ahead and set the table for us.”

After the table was set, the three friends began to eat. They discussed their day’s activities, or, rather, Spike did. He had spent the day with Rarity, hunting gems. Sam and Twilight didn’t have much to say; Spike knew that they had spent the day huddled over a circuit or a book, studying intently. After some good-natured teasing on Spike’s part, everyone finished their meals and began settling down for the night.


The next few days went by uneventfully. Sam spent equal time at Sweet Apple Acres working with Applejack and at home working on repairing the archive. Twilight found herself worrying about Sam’s condition less and less; after all, working on Applejack’s farm and eating food that wasn’t from a small military-rationed pouch was doing wonders for his thin, gaunt frame, and the ability to spend time outdoors in the sun was greatly improving his morale and emotional state.

In the evenings, Sam would come back to Twilight’s library, and spend some time repairing the connections on the power regulator. He found himself settling into a comfortable routine; farm work with Applejack in the mornings, and electronics repair in the afternoon.

Twilight was delighted to see Sam finally gaining a sense of normalcy, all things considered. He was beginning to handle reminders of his past as happy memories, rather than reasons to mourn, and she began looking forward to just seeing him when he returned home, instead of merely wanting to pick his brain for bits of ancient information. Once he had finally opened up to her, she felt as though they were becoming close friends.

Sam came home from the farm an hour early one day, and was in particularly high spirits.

As he came in the door, Twilight jumped up from her book to greet him. “Sam! You’re back early, what’s the occasion?”

Sam held out a small bag and dumped it on the table, sending a cascade of gold coins everywhere. “Well, Twilight, for starters, AJ paid me today! Plus, we managed to get all of the apple trees harvested today, so she decided that we could all take a break to celebrate. We’re a week earlier than she expected to finish!”

“That’s great, Sam!” Looking at the clock, Twilight continued, “You know, I haven’t had lunch yet, and the mid-day rush probably hasn’t hit yet. Have you eaten yet?”

Sam shook his head. “No, though Applejack tried to make me stay to have lunch. I told her I wanted to take the extra time to get ahead on the archive today. It’s SO CLOSE to being finished!”

“You sure about that? I figured I’d take you to Sugarcube Corner for lunch today.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, you’re not playing fair here. The one day I want to get extra work done and THAT’S the day you want to take me there?”

Twilight put on her best imitation of Rarity’s pouting face.

Sam shook his head. “Ok, ok. Not like I could have really said no to you anyway,” he laughed. Twilight’s face was beaming in return.

Twilight locked up the library, and began leading Sam out into town. Sam began to notice that the other ponies in town were no longer giving him the same suspicious glances they used to; in fact, they were now mostly ignoring him completely as if he were just another pony strolling through the streets.

The pair reached their destination, but Twilight stopped before proceeding inside.

“Ok, Sam, before we go in, I just want to give you fair warning of a few things.”

Sam tilted his head in confusion. “Is this not just a bakery?”

“No, well, yes it is, but... Anyway, I told you my friend Pinkie works here. She is pretty much the definition of extrovert, and will probably attack you with hugs the moment she sees you. Giving overly-warm welcomes to new folks is kind of her thing, so just go with it and hug her back and you’ll have made another best friend for life. Just play along with whatever crazy antics she pulls, and everything will be fine. Pinkie Pie is...” Twilight gazed upwards in thought, “Well, she’s just something to be experienced first hand,” Twilight laughed.

“Alright, I’ll keep all of that in mind. But can we just hurry up and get something to eat? I’ve spent all morning hauling apple bushels and pruning trees, and I’m starved.”

He has no idea what’s coming, does he? Thought Twilight.

The pair stepped inside the store. The first thing Sam heard was a loud, high-pitched voice shrieking “HI TWILI-AAAHHHH!!” before a pink maelstrom engulfed him.


The source of the voice finally paused to take a deep breath, allowing Sam to see a pink pony with an equally pink fluffy mane and tail.

After Sam’s head stopped spinning, he replied, “I’m guessing you’re Pinkie? I’m Sam, and yes I’m new, one of Twilight’s friends.”

“Okie dokie lokie! As my welcome gift, don’t worry about paying for lunch! I’ve got you and Twilight covered! I can’t wait to get to know you better, but I gotta get back to work! Cupcakes and cookies don’t bake themselves ya know!” Pinkie began to calm down slightly, and winked at Sam. “Come back here tonight, I’ve got something for you, call it part two of my welcome gift!”

As Twilight and Sam found a table, Sam whispered, “She’s going to throw me one of her parties, isn’t she.”

Twilight giggled. “More than likely. If that’s the case, make sure you act surprised. Pinkie does throw some great parties, and if she is in fact planning one for you, she’ll probably invite all of Ponyville to meet you.”

Pinkie brought out the fruit pastries that she’d bought for her friends. Paying heed to the growling in his gut, Sam promptly thanked the pink pony and dug in. Twilight similarly followed suit.

After finishing his food, Sam was ready to leave. “I think I’m going to go jump back into fixing up the archive for a while, I kinda want to take advantage of this ‘break’ Applejack gave me.”

Twilight was in the process of levitating a small napkin to clean a few stray bits of fruit from her muzzle. “Alright, you go on ahead, I’m not quite done eating.” Glancing over Sam’s shoulder, she could see Pinkie motioning for her to come to the counter. “Besides, I think Pinkie wants to chat with me for a minute.”

Sam walked out, making sure to thank Pinkie again for the food as he left. She waved goodbye while wearing her trademark grin.

Twilight took the last bite of her pastry, and then walked over to see what Pinkie needed. “What’s up? You wanted to see me?”

“Oh Twilight I *ALWAYS* wanna see you and my friends, but I hafta tell you something!” Pinkie lowered her voice, looked from side to side to make sure no one was watching, and motioned for Twilight to lean in closer. “I’m going to throw Sam a ‘Welcome To Ponyville Party’ and I need you to deliver some invitations for me! Mostly just our friends, I’ll handle everypony else.”

Pinkie reached behind her mane and produced several small postcards seemingly out of thin air, and handed them to Twilight.

“Sure, no problem. What time do you want me to bring him over here?”

“Right at sundown should be great! That will give me just enough time to bake a GINORMOUS cake and mix up that punch everypony seems to like so much, and I can bring out the party games and the music, it’s gonna be so much fun!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “With you, it always is! See you tonight Pinkie, thanks again for lunch!”


It didn’t take long for Twilight to deliver the invitations to most of her friends. She sent Applejack’s by way of Big Mac, who had come to the market to pick up some pie ingredients for Granny smith. Rarity was walking with her younger sister, Sweetie Belle, back home from the spa after making up from yet another tiff between them; Rarity accepted the invitation only after much pleading from Twilight about how much these parties mean to Pinkie. Rainbow Dash dropped in on the conversation and grabbed her invitation out of Twilight’s bag as soon as she spied her name written on it, and was excited about the prospect of another Pinkie Party, as she’d missed the last one due to her trip to Cloudsdale.

Delivering Fluttershy’s invitation would require a trip out to the edge of Ponyville, where her cottage was located just outside of the Everfree Forest. As Twilight trotted down the path, the top of the cottage came into view over the hill, with the entire front yard covered in various shelters and cages to house Fluttershy’s numerous and various pets. Several rabbits and songbirds raced over to greet Twilight as she continued towards the front door.

Twilight knocked a few times before a very quiet voice gave her permission to come in.

“Oh, Twilight, it’s so good to see you, I wasn’t expecting you to come over today.” The yellow pegasus swept her flowing pink mane out of her face, only to have it fall back over one eye.

“Hi Fluttershy! I just dropped by to deliver an invitation from Pinkie Pie, she’s throwing a welcome party for Sam.”

Fluttershy tilted her head. “Who’s Sam?”

“Oh, right! I haven’t told you what’s been keeping me so busy lately!”

“Well, I was just about to take a break from tending to my little mouse friend here,” She pointed towards a small rodent with a cast on one of his rear legs, “and I was going to have some lunch. Can I get you anything? And please, take a seat, if you want.”

“Oh I’m fine, just some lemonade, I already had lunch at Pinkie’s.”

Fluttershy returned with her food and Twilight’s drink. “So, you were telling me about this ‘Sam’ that’s been keeping you busy?”

Twilight took a sip of the cool lemonade. “Yeah, the Princess has me taking care of him and researching his species, he’s something called a ‘human’. Long story short, he’s somehow been brought here from millions of years ago, before pony civilization existed.”

“A human? I’ve never heard of a human before. What do they look like?”

“Nothing TOO strange. They walk on two legs, and instead of hooves, they call them ‘hands’, kind of like what Spike has except they don’t have sharp claws. And they barely have any fur or hair.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting!”

“You have no idea. They’re intelligent creatures, like us; they can talk, write, and everything. Their civilization was far ahead of us in terms of science and technology, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy finished a bite of her sandwich. “Sounds like the Princess picked the perfect pony to look after him and work with him, you’re the smartest pony I know, after all.”

Twilight grinned bashfully. “Oh, come on, I’m no better than anypony else. But really, Sam is particularly intelligent. He’s tried teaching me a little of what he knows, it’s amazing! It’s been so much fun learning about his time period and his life, getting to know him, and I’m glad Celestia asked me to do this. I feel like we’ve become good friends since he got here.” Twilight sighed, smiling. “He was really kind of withdrawn when we first met, he had been through a lot. But, he’s been eventually opening up, especially after I got him a job helping Applejack. He’s still pretty sarcastic though, worse than Rainbow sometimes, and the music he likes kinda scares me. But, listening to him talk about his memories, especially the good ones... It’s better than reading any story book.” Twilight pictured the way Sam’s eyes would light up as he spoke; she felt herself blushing again.

Fluttershy smiled. “Oh, Twilight, he does sound nice. Looks like your research project has become a bit more rewarding than you thought!”

Twilight’s cheeks were on fire. “I... I’m not sure what you mean there...” Her eyes grew wide with realization. “Oh. Oh, no, you think that I... And Sam... Dating? No no no,” She laughed nervously. “He’s just really nice, we’re just good friends, that’s all!”

Fluttershy’s eyes shot to the floor. “Um, I’m not sure what you thought I meant... But all I meant is that you seemed to be enjoying working with him... But, if that’s what was on your mind, maybe you should talk to him, I mean, if you want to, that is.”

Regaining her composure, Twilight cleared her throat. “Flutters, he’s a friend. And, a subject of my research. That’s all. Anyway... I need to get going. See you at Sam’s welcome party tonight?”

Fluttershy smiled and replied, “I’ll be there, thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight thanked her for the drink, and made her exit to return home. As she cantered down the path back to her home, she began thinking about the conversation she’d just had with Fluttershy. Of course she liked Sam, he had become a good friend in the time he had spent with her, but somehow something seemed different, and this was certainly different from any infatuations she’d had with colts in her classes back in Canterlot.

Seeing no one else around, Twilight thought aloud. “Ugh! Why doesn’t this make sense?! None of this makes sense! There’s no way I have some stupid little crush on him. I’m a pony, he’s not, and any feelings for him would just be silly!” She attempted to brush those thoughts aside to focus on any preparations she might need to make for the evening’s festivities.

As she mentally checked off the various items she needed to bring, Twilight found that her thoughts kept drifting back to Sam. It wasn’t necessarily that she thought he was exceedingly physically attractive, though she certainly didn’t find him repulsive. Her mind kept focusing on the way he spoke, his intelligence, and his cerebral demeanor.

“Sure, he’s sometimes ridiculously sarcastic, and loves showing off his dry sense of humor, but, it’s endearing, for some reason. Probably because he is genuinely nice when he wants to be...” Twilight sighed. She decided against trying to force her mind off of the topic again, letting herself mentally wander as she made it back to the library.


Later that evening, Twilight was getting ready to head out to Sugarcube Corner.

“Sam! Don’t forget about what Pinkie Pie said today, she wanted you to come back tonight, are you ready?”

Sam walked down the stairs, adjusting his worn cotton work shirt on the way down. “Ready when you are. By the way, is there anyone else in town that makes clothes?”

“Besides Rarity? Not really, why?”

“Well, I seem to be missing a pair of my pants and a shirt, and some of these are starting to wear out a bit from working on the farm with AJ so...”

Twilight stuck her face in her hoof. “Sam, you really should go make up with her sometime... Anyway, let’s go.”

The pair left the library, and shortly arrived at the bakery. Twilight entered first, followed by Sam, at which point the room exploded in lights, balloons, and confetti, with a large banner overhead that Sam assumed read “Welcome to Ponyville” in Equestrian. Remembering what Twilight said earlier, he put on his best ‘surprised face’ and laughed as Pinkie lead everyone in shouting their collective welcome in unison.

“HI SAM! WERE YA SURPRISED? YOU TOTALLY LOOK SURPRISED SO I GUESS YOU ARE SURPRISED, ISN’T THIS PARTY JUST SUPER AWESOME? OH COME HAVE SOME CAKE AND PUNCH AND THEN WE HAVE SOME PARTY GAMES!!!” Pinkie quickly wrapped her forelegs around Sam’s waist in a hug that could have doubled as a vice-grip. “Welcome to Ponyville, Sam!”

Sam was still laughing. “Thank you, Pinkie, this was really thoughtful of you.”

“Thought? I do this all the time for everypony! I didn’t hafta think at all!” Pinkie then vanished as suddenly as she appeared, in a blur of pink fur and balloons.

Sam, still chuckling, facepalmed. He looked around the room; he saw several familiar faces from his strolls through town on his way to Sweet Apple Acres, including Applejack herself. He noticed two other ponies that seemed to be very familiar with Twilight; a cyan-colored pegasus with a prismatic mane and tail, and a pale yellow pegasus with a tail and mane of pink. Of course, on the other side of the room, was Sam’s old nemesis, Rarity, who looked none too thrilled to be there.

Twilight saw him looking their way, and pointed a hoof towards him. “Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, that’s Sam. Follow me, I’ll introduce you to him.”

Rainbow, hovering in midair, stuck out her chest, and said, “Pfft, I don’t need an introduction,” and bolted over to where Sam was standing. She stuck out a hoof. “Hey, what’s up? I’m Rainbow Dash.”

Sam took her hoof in his hand and shook. “Nice to meet you, I’m Sam. You know, I think I remember Twilight telling me about you. Didn’t you once fly so fast that you broke the sound barrier and caused a rainbow-colored explosion?”

Rainbow seemed pleased that her reputation had preceded her, and performed a small flip in the air. “Yep! That’s me, best young flyer in all of Equestria,” she said with a grin. “So, Twilight tells me you like some of the same music I like, eh?”

“You listen to rock and metal?”

“Um, never heard of ‘metal’, but I LOVE rock and roll.”

Sam was astonished to hear that rock music had managed to re-emerge in another society millions of years later. “That’s awesome! You should come over to the library some time, I can let you hear how we rocked out back in my time.”

“Sure thing! I’ve been looking for some new tunes anyway.”

Twilight finally managed to coax Fluttershy into coming over to meet Sam; the timid pegasus hadn’t expected a human to be so much taller than a pony.

Sam noticed Fluttershy looking up at him. “Hey there, I’m Sam; since I’ve already met the others, I’m assuming you’re Fluttershy? It’s nice to meet you.” He heard what he could only describe as a small squeak coming from her, so he bent down to better hear her. “Sorry, couldn’t quite make that out.”

Twilight laughed. “It’s ok, I told you he’s not a wild creature.” She looked up at Sam. “Heh, don’t worry, this means she likes you.”

“Yes... My name.. Is Fluttershy...” She slouched down, causing her mane to almost completely obscure her face. “It’s... Nice to meet you. You’re a human? I’ve never met a human before...”

“Yeah, last time I checked, I was human, anyway. Twilight has told me all about you, she says you like taking care of little animals.”

The mention of her animal friends perked Fluttershy up. “Oh, yes! I just love all creatures, and the other ponies tell me I’m good at taking care of sick pets and nursing them back to health.” She looked him up and down, studying his appearance. “Do all humans look like you?”

Sam laughed. “Not really, we come in several different colors; not as many as you ponies though.”

Sensing where this conversation was heading, given Fluttershy’s fascination with animals and the look of curiosity practically written on her face, Twilight butted into the conversation; she remembered how Fluttershy reacted to meeting Spike for the first time.

“Hey, guys, why don’t we go have some of that delicious cake Pinkie made for us.” Twilight walked with her friends over to the snack table. “Sam, aren’t you going to join us? It’s your party, after all.”

“Yeah, in a few minutes, I want to talk to some of the other ponies and introduce myself first, I’ve seen a few of them around town before.” Sam began making his rounds through the party crowd. Some ponies gave him a perfectly civil greeting, seemingly fine talking to the strange new creature in front of them. He managed to strike up a brief conversation with a stallion who had an hourglass mark on his flank and called himself ‘The Doctor’; the pony’s accent reminded Sam of a coworker from the United Kingdom.

Twilight smiled; Sam was enjoying his party, and for the most part, the other ponies were making him feel right at home.

She turned to face Fluttershy. “So, what did you think of Sam, Flutters?”

“Oh, he seemed very nice, Twilight. I haven’t seen any sort of animal like him before, though he does kind of resemble a primate of some sort.”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah, he mentioned that chimpanzees are biologically similar to humans, but they don’t look much alike other than body shapes.”

“You’re right, besides, I think humans are probably cuter than monkeys anyway.”

Twilight replied, laughing, “That’s a nice thought, and I would agree, but don’t tell him that. I don’t know if he’d take it the right way.”

Fluttershy giggled. “I bet he would like to hear that from you, Twilight,”

“I don’t have a crush on him,” Twilight replied flatly.

“Um... I didn’t say you did, I hope I didn’t offend you...”

“No, you’re fine, I’m sorry. Just a little on edge lately, I guess,” Twilight shook her head. Nice going, who are you trying to convince, Flutters or yourself?

As Fluttershy left to get a drink, Twilight wandered over to where Rarity was standing, and being uncharacteristically unsociable.

“Rarity, what’s wrong? You usually love Pinkie’s parties.”

Rarity flipped her mane with a toss of her head. “I do, but... HE is here,” she hissed, pointing to Sam.

“Ugh! Will you two just apologize to each other?”

“I will as soon as he does.”

“Funny, he said the same thing... Well, look, if you aren’t going to make up with him, can you do me a favor? And yes, it does involve Sam.”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass, dear. He’s ‘too good’ for my fashion, after all,” Rarity replied smugly.

“Fine, do it for ME then.”

“Oh alright, what is it?”

“I borrowed a set of his clothes so that you can get a good estimate of his measurements. His work at AJ’s is wearing out these cotton shirts and pants, and I’m sure he’d like something a little different anyway. Could you make some new shirts and some work pants for him? Maybe denim for the pants? I’ll pay you for this job, so it won’t be like you’re giving him a gift.”

Rarity rolled her eyes. “Ok, I’ll do it. Just bring the clothes you borrowed to my boutique and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Rarity. And one more thing?”


“Please try to enjoy yourself here,” Twilight giggled.

Rarity finally allowed a small smile to break through. “If you insist.”

The rest of the night was a big hit. Rainbow Dash was fascinated by Sam’s description of airplanes and spacecraft, and demanded that Sam at least show her some pictures when she came by to visit. Applejack challenged Sam to an arm wrestling contest, prompting Sam to nearly throw out his shoulder from underestimating his boss’s strength. Fluttershy attempted another barrage of questions about human nature and biology, though her voice was easily overpowered by Pinkie Pie’s hyperactive ramblings as she asked Sam what his favorite desserts and games were.

As the festivities began to wind down, Sam felt his sugar crash from all of Pinkie’s baking hitting him hard; it was time to get ready to leave. He attempted to help Pinkie in her clean-up efforts, but she refused to allow her guest of honor to clean up his own party. Seeing nothing more for him to do, he thanked Pinkie for everything, prompting her to nearly squeeze him to death again with a hug that Sam made sure to reciprocate this time.

Sam and Twilight made their way back to the library, the stark quiet of the outside air contrasting heavily with the loud sounds of celebration that they had just left behind.

“That was really great, Twilight,” Sam said with a contented sigh.

“What did I tell you? Pinkie always throws the best parties. And I’m glad you seemed to get along with most of my other friends. Rainbow Dash seemed to think you were pretty cool, though she generally likes anyone who puts up with her incessant bragging,” Twilight laughed.

“Yeah, but if what the two of you say about her is true, she’s earned it. And, your other friend, Fluttershy, she was so timid, I was afraid I’d scared her. By the way, does she always come out of her shell that easily?”

“Not really. But, then again, the only thing stronger than her shyness is her fascination with animals. First time I met her, she could barely speak, but as soon as she saw Spike on my back, we couldn’t shut her up because she’d never seen a baby dragon before.”

Sam chuckled. “All the same, your friends all seem great. I’m surprised Rarity was there, though.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I am too, frankly.”

The moon was just beginning to rise over the treetops as the two friends arrived home.


Sam spent the remainder of the night toiling away in the basement while Twilight took to her usual pastime of reading. He only had a handful of connections left to restore at this point, and the epoxy that filled the cracks of the circuit board had cured rather well. With a few more carefully placed drops of tin, the board was finally repaired of any major physical defects.

Once again, Sam prepared to reconnect power to the archive. He plugged in his transformer into the house’s electrical mains, and then connected the archive’s power adapter. To Sam, the following seconds felt like hours as he waited for a response from the device. To Sam’s immense satisfaction, the little light glowed green.

Immediately, Sam jumped up and started laughing like a madman. He dashed up the stairs and into Twilight’s study, where she was deep in contemplation of the book before her.

“Twilight! I did it! The archive is working!” He ran over to the couch she was stretched out on and grabbed her in a bear hug and spun around, her eyes wide with surprise.

Unable to breathe due to Sam’s out-of-control enthusiasm, she could barely speak. “That’s... Great... Can’t... Breathe... Please...” Sam loosened his grip and set her back down on the couch with a sheepish grin.

“Sorry, I guess I got carried away,” Sam laughed, embarrassed. “But I did it! I finally got the power circuit fixed up, so we can start reading through it. I guess the next step now is for me to figure out how to convert it to a format the scientists in Canterlot can read and use.”

Twilight’s eyes were practically glowing with curiosity. “That’s great! Oh, wow, I can’t wait to start reading it, I can only imagine how much there is to learn in there!”

Sam sat down next to her. “I wouldn’t get too excited yet. Like I said, I still need to figure out how to translate it and convert it so that you would be able to read it.”

Twilight put a hoof to her chin, deep in thought. “I don’t know about translating, but I think I can help with the format conversion. Our computers are all based on tape drives and punch-cards, and I happen to have a tape drive sitting around.”

“Great, sounds like something we can tackle tomorrow, I’m getting a little sleepy.”

Sam peered over Twilight’s head at the pile of books sitting next to her. "What are you reading tonight, Twilight?"

Caught off-guard by the question, she turned her eyes to the floor and muttered under her breath inaudibly. "Um... Uh..."

"Sorry, didn't catch that."

"Ugh, fine... You caught me. 'The Essentials of Courtship' and 'Everything You Need To Know About Romance But Are Afraid To Ask'..."

“Doing a little research there Twilight?” Sam asked in a mildly mocking tone.

Twilight blushed. “Eh heh, I suppose you could say that.”

Sam laughed. “Got a little crush, eh?”

Twilight looked away. “No! I mean, I don’t know, maybe...”

“So, who’s the lucky stallion? Anyone I’ve met so far? Was he at the party tonight?”

“I don’t have a crush on any of the ponies from the party, no,” Twilight replied curtly.

Sam shrugged. “Well, whoever he is, I’m happy for you. Does he know?”

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. “I don’t think he does... Sam, can I ask you a question?”


“I’ve never actually had a coltfriend or even gone on any dates.” She cast her eyes to the floor. “I don’t really know anything about that sort of thing.”

“Really? A pony as smart, kind, and pretty as you has never gotten anyone’s attention?” Sam laughed again as he saw her face reddening, her coat no longer able to hide it. “So what’s your question?”

“Well, I know things might be different for you humans, but, how would you know if a girl liked you?”

Sam scratched his chin. “Hmm... Honestly, if I knew a single, one-size-fits-all answer to that, I would have started dating my last girlfriend much earlier; it’s usually a little different from person to person, and I’m a bit clueless when it comes to that anyway. But if I had to narrow it down... If a girl suddenly wanted to spend more time with me, made extra efforts to be around me, and generally acted happier than usual around me, those would be some obvious signs, but they’re by no means definite. Oh, and sometimes the way she might look at me would be another good one.”

Twilight was busily taking down notes on what Sam had said. “And... How would you hint to a girl that you liked her?”

“Again, people are pretty different from one another. Myself, though, I’d make an effort to talk to her, invite her to do stuff with me, and maybe tease her a little, if I can tell she’s the type that doesn’t mind that.”

“I see. I don’t know if it makes sense to ask this, but how would YOU know if YOU liked someone? How does it feel different from simply seeing someone as a friend?”

Sam laughed. “You’re getting in pretty deep here, aren’t you? Really, I don’t know if I can answer that one. It’s one of those things that you just know when you know it. You see that certain person, and you just get this feeling, this amazing rush of emotion, and you just know.”

Twilight groaned. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

Sam put an arm around the frustrated unicorn. “Hey, it’s ok. This isn’t the sort of thing that you’re gonna understand from a book or from interviewing folks. I’ve had a few dates and girlfriends in my time, and I still don’t understand how it all works sometimes,” he chuckled. “Just relax, sleep on it, and let it sort itself out. And remember, if this stallion doesn’t think you’re the greatest thing since Granny Smith’s apple pie, then he’s an idiot, ok?”

Twilight closed her eyes and leaned into Sam’s side, nuzzling him slightly. “It’s not that simple in my situation, but thank you, Sam, I needed to hear that.” She smiled, and laughed weakly. “I remember when it was me giving YOU the pep talk...”

“Just returning the favor. But seriously, worrying yourself like that is just going to make you crazy.”

“You’re right,” Twilight yawned, “I think I’m going to go to bed.”

“Yeah, not a bad idea. Want to start in on the archive first thing in the morning?”

Twilight nodded. “You know it! I’ve been looking forward to that since you got here!”

“Well, goodnight Twilight, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight Sam!”


Sam lazily stretched his limbs as he dragged himself out of bed. He thought about the conversation he’d had with Twilight the night before. He’d never seen her so worked up before, and found himself quietly laughing at the sheer bookish naivety she held towards the subject of dating. She WOULD go research what it feels like to fall in love, he thought, that’s so nerdy, it’s adorable.

Sam stepped down to the kitchen to have some breakfast, and decided to bring his bowl of oatmeal on down to the basement. He was surprised to see Twilight already down there, poking around and examining the newly-repaired archive.

“I see you beat me to it,” Sam called out as he descended the stairway.

Twilight laughed. “I couldn’t resist. I’d already be attempting to read through it if I knew how to operate it and read your language.”

Sam set down his bowl, and pulled his laptop out of his bag on the floor. “Well, let’s see what we can pull off of this thing, shall we?” He connected a data cable from the archive to his laptop, and watched as his laptop began scanning the archive’s contents. He heard a small gasp come from Twilight’s direction; she was holding her breath in anticipation.

“Looks like most of the data is intact, except for a few small sectors...” Sam muttered a few words to himself before continuing. “You’ll be happy to know that most of the historical data is still here.”

Twilight began giggling like a young filly about to open gifts on Hearth’s Warming Eve.

“I thought you might like to hear that. Also... Looks like most of my technical files are still here, though there appears to be a few missing files there, it’ll take some time to figure out which are missing so I can mark out any others that depend on them.”

“So, how are you going to translate them?”

“The only thing I can think of right now is that translator headset. If I can upload the translation data from it to my laptop, I might be able to write a program that can translate the text files and schematics, which ought to give the researchers a good start. I just need a sample of text written in your language for comparison, and I can give it a shot.”

“I think I can help with that. Remember that movie that we watched? I wanted to watch through a certain part of it again, but inadvertently caused some text to scroll along the screen as the actors spoke. It took me a minute, but I realized they were subtitles. I took some notes on what sounds each letters should make by watching which words matched with the actors’ speech, and I think I’ve nearly worked out how to write Equestrian words with your alphabet.”

Sam’s jaw hung open. “You never cease to amaze me, Twilight.”

“So, let’s try this, read me a paragraph of something written in your language, and I’ll transcribe it into Equestrian. Then, you’ll have a sample of text for your translator!” Twilight said with a hint of pride in her voice.

“That’s perfect. Seriously, you’re incredible, thank you!”

Twilight was beaming. “No problem!”

Sam quickly picked a paragraph with a decent word variety, and read it aloud for Twilight to copy down in Equestrian.

After she finished writing, Twilight asked, “Is there anything else I can do or do I need to leave you to get started on the program?”

“For now, I think I can take it from here, but I’m certainly not going to tell you to go away,” Sam laughed.

“You know what I meant! I’ve got a little more reading I want to do, though, so if I can’t help any further, that’s what I’ll be doing.” Twilight jabbed Sam’s shoulder. “Still, nice to know I’m welcome in my own basement,” she giggled. With that, she returned upstairs to her books.

Sam grabbed the translator headset from his bag, and looked for the data maintenance port. He plugged it into his laptop, and began scouring the code for any reference to translation data or algorithms that he could reuse for a text program. To his relief, the main memory of the translator held two associative sets, one for both languages being translated, that were cross-linked to one another. Sam quickly found that most of the work done by the device was in the initial translations as it formed word associations and recognized speech patterns; after a stable set of associations were found, it was just a matter of simple substitutions to make the translation.

Sam set to work transferring the translation database, and wrote up a crude program to process the text with it. After a few trial runs, he managed to clear out most of the severe bugs and errors in the code. He called for Twilight to come down to examine his work.

“So, I ran a few samples through the program, mind reading through them and telling me more or less what they’re saying? That is, if they make sense at all, anyway.”

“Sure, Sam, give me just a few minutes, I’m still getting used to your alphabet...” Twilight scanned through the translated text, muttering to herself as she went along. “So, this first one here, it looks like it’s talking about a group of humans flying to the moon for the first time, the second one appears to be an announcement about a new type of computer, and the third one seems to say...” She began giggling, “The third one says ‘Twilight Sparkle is too smart for her own good’.” She noticed Sam laughing. “Oh, shut up.”

“Well, looks like the program works well enough, all we need now is that tape drive you were talking about.”

Twilight’s horn glowed as a closet next to her opened up, and the tape drive floated out onto the table. She spent the next few minutes explaining the surprisingly simple format that the tape drive used to record data; Sam figured it wouldn’t take much to connect the drive to his laptop. The two spent the following hour tinkering around to get the connection right. The worst of the work done, Sam changed the translation program to target the entire archive, and set the output to be sent to the tape drive. One button press later, the whole setup was humming away, slowly translating and transferring a copy of all that remained of human knowledge into a few spools of tape.

Sam sighed in relief. “All we can do now is wait, this could take a while.”

“Let’s go get something to eat. Spike just got back with some groceries, and I’m sure he could use a hoof, or a hand, in putting them away. Or eating them,” Twilight replied.

Sam and Twilight left the basement, and began helping Spike prepare lunch.

“Sam! Long time no see, bro,” Spike called out, extending a fist to greet him with the fist-bump move Sam had taught him.

“Yeah, I’ve been pretty busy lately,” Sam’s fist connected with Spike’s, “why weren’t you at the party last night? Your friend Rarity was there.”

Spike’s face turned a light shade of red. “Oh, really? And yeah, I wanted to go, but Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle wanted my help with something, something to do with using some gemstones to make gifts for their sisters to try and get their cutie-marks.”

Sam finished making his sandwich, and sat down. “Well, you missed a pretty nice time, all the same.”

“Yeah, but honestly, you’ve been to one Pinkie Pie Party and you’ve been to them all,” Spike bit into a chunk of turquoise. “Not that I don’t always have fun when I go!”

Sam noticed Twilight had not joined them at the table. “Hey, Twilight, aren’t you going to eat?”

“Just a few minutes, I need to write a letter to the Princess, I’ll be right there,” her voice called out from the study.


Dear Princess Celestia,

I wanted to write to you to give an update on Sam’s condition, and his progress on recovering the archive data. I’ve got very good news on both fronts!

When you first sent Sam home with me, he was withdrawn, depressed, and was nearly a completely broken individual. At first, I thought this would be too much for me to handle; shortly after he got here, it pains me to say that he attempted to harm himself. It took quite some time, but over the past weeks, he’s really recovered and begun opening up to me. He’s even made a few friends in Ponyville! He seemed to find comfort working on Applejack’s farm, so I convinced her to let him work for her when she needs extra help. Pinkie Pie even threw a big welcoming party for him last night! I can tell he’s still hurting, but he and I have become very close friends, and he seems happy that I’m here for him. Not that I didn’t expect to get along with him, but I had no idea that this research assignment would lead to my befriending such an intelligent, kind individual. For that, I want to thank you, Princess.

As for the archive, Sam finally managed to repair it last night. As I write this, he has his computer processing the data and translating it so that we can read it. He is unsure of how long the process will take, but when it is finished, your royal researchers will have a nice stack of data tapes to read through. I’m sure you can imagine my own excitement at being able to examine this new information!

Once we finish processing Sam’s archive, we’ll have a copy sent to Canterlot as soon as we can.

Your Faithful Student,
Twilight Sparkle


Twilight levitated the rolled up letter in front of her as she returned to the kitchen. “Spike, mind sending this off to the Princess for me?” The scroll continued towards the dragon.

“Sure, no problem Twilight, one sec,” Spike grabbed the letter, and in a burst of green flame, the letter vanished into smoke and thin air.

Sam watched the whole process with surprise. “Is that how all mail is sent around here?”

Twilight laughed. “Oh, no, just letters between the Princess and I.”

Sam passed her a sandwich. “Interesting. I don’t have anything else to do while I wait for the archive to finish translating, so unless you need anything from me, I’m going to head off to see if Applejack has any work for me.”

“That’s fine, I’m going to the spa with Fluttershy this afternoon anyway. Rarity couldn’t make it to their weekly appointment and gave me her spot.”

“Ok, well, see you this evening, Twilight.” Sam got up and left the library.

Twilight finished her sandwich, just as the Princess’s reply letter arrived in a belch of smoke from Spike’s mouth.


Dearest Twilight Sparkle,

I am very pleased to receive such good news from you. I knew I was making the right choice entrusting you with this task.

I am glad to hear that Sam has made such rapid improvement, and I am especially happy that you have become such close friends with him. I am sure that with further time and encouragement from you, he will continue to find a comfortable place amongst you and your friends.

Please do send the archive tape as soon as possible! Professor Hoofstein has been insufferable waiting for that data, and I must admit that I am fairly curious to read the history on it myself.

Give Sam and Spike my best regards, and take care, Twilight Sparkle.

Princess Celestia


Twilight left for the spa. She normally didn’t go for such idle luxuries, but she certainly didn’t want to waste Rarity’s generosity in giving her the appointment. She passed by Rarity’s boutique on the way, and dropped off a package at the door; the box contained the set of clothes she had ‘borrowed’ from Sam so that Rarity could make him a few new sets. She entered the building, and saw Fluttershy sitting in the waiting room.

The yellow pegasus stood up to greet her friend. “Hello Twilight, I’m so glad you could make it, these spa treatments are just so much better with a friend.” She turned towards the receptionist. “We’ll have the usual, ladies, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Twilight and Fluttershy were whisked away into the back. After the steam room and massage table, they found themselves in the hottub room. As Twilight lowered herself into the warm, bubbling water, she felt all of her usual worries melting away.

“Flutters, I think I understand why you and Rarity do these spa dates so often, this feels fantastic. I feel fantastic.” She took in a breath and let herself sink just low enough for the water to cover her snout as she exhaled.

“Oh, I know, it just washes your stress away.” Fluttershy giggled as she watched the bubbles coming from Twilight’s face. “Thank you for introducing me to Sam last night, by the way. He does seem really nice.”

Twilight let out a relaxed sigh. “Don’t mention it, he had been dying to meet my friends for a while.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Well, make sure you tell him he’s welcome to come visit Angel and I whenever he likes.”

Twilight nodded, and closed her eyes, letting the sound of the bubbling water fill her mind. She found herself reflecting on what Sam had told her the night before. Not a lot of it made sense to her, but then again, she didn’t think that having feelings for Sam made much sense either. Twilight still wasn’t certain what she was feeling for Sam, but regardless she was glad that he was there to comfort her. His words may not have clarified much for her, but somehow they made her feel better, like everything would work out for the best. Maybe I should be straightforward and tell him exactly what I’m thinking... No, I don’t think he feels the same way, I’m not even sure how I feel. Probably best to just think a little more on it.

Fluttershy noticed how deep in thought Twilight was. “Something on your mind?”

“Oh, nothing in particular, just mulling over a few things I need to do tonight.”

“Come on now, Twilight, you know you can tell me anything, are you sure you’re ok?”

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. “Yes, Fluttershy, I’m fine.”


“Fluttershy, I swear to Celestia if you use The Stare on me...”

“Oh, you know I don’t have control over that... Besides, I’d never use it on my friends. I just want to know what’s bothering you. You know I’m always here for you...”

“Really, I’m fine, you don’t have to worry about me.”

Fluttershy gave Twilight her most pleading puppy-dog eyes.

“Oh, alright, fine... I’ll tell you... You were right yesterday, I think I do like Sam... I mean I’m not sure, but he’s so nice, and smart, and we get along so well...”

Fluttershy’s pout had been quickly supplanted by a serene smile. “Oh, Twilight, that’s wonderful!”

Twilight was blushing. “I guess... But you don’t think it’s weird? He’s not even a pony. Who’s even heard of such a thing?”

“I guess there is that, Twilight,” Fluttershy tilted her head, “but if you’re happy, I’m happy for you, no matter what he is. Besides, he seems like a very nice human, though I don’t know how nice other humans are to compare, but still.”

Twilight sighed. “Thanks, that means a lot to me. I mean, it’s strange. It’s not like the little crushes I had as a school-filly where you’re completely obsessed just over how cute somepony is. It just feels great being around him; with the exception of magic, I can talk to him about nearly anything without it being out of his grasp.” She sighed. “I think the phrase he would use is that we’re on the same wavelength. For Celestia’s sake, I was talking to him yesterday about a math theorem I’ve been researching lately, and not only did he understand what I was saying, he thought it was cool! He thinks math is cool, Fluttershy! He thinks I’M cool!”

Fluttershy continued smiling. “He really does make you happy, doesn’t he?”

Twilight nodded. “But look, promise me you won’t say anything to anyone. Especially to Sam. I still don’t quite know what I think about this, let alone what HE would think...”

Fluttershy gave a small nod. “Of course. Pinkie Promise,” she said, as she crossed a hoof over her chest and touched it to her closed eye.

“Thank you. Well, I think I’ve had enough relaxation for one afternoon, I’m going to get back to work. This was nice though; if it’s ok with you and Rarity, I might occasionally join you two, please tell her I said thanks if you see her before I do.” Twilight floated over and hugged her pegasus friend. “And thanks for listening, even if you did give me the ‘Fluttershy Pout’,” she said with a smirk.

Twilight exited the pool, dried herself off, and left for home.


Evening finally arrived, around the same time Sam returned from the farm. As he entered the library, he saw Twilight sitting on the floor, surrounded in her usual wall of book. He was relieved to see that she was back to her typical reading staples of magic and history rather than self-help books on dating. He sat down next to her, though she didn’t notice.

“So, how did your spa visit with Fluttershy go?”

Twilight twitched in surprise, knocking over one of her book stacks with a yelp.

Sam began gathering some of the fallen books up. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you there, Twilight.”

Regaining her composure, Twilight replied, “It’s ok, I tend to block out everything else when I’m reading like this, I didn’t even hear you come in.” She closed the book in front of her. “But yeah, it was nice spending some time with Fluttershy... I think I need to indulge in that spa stuff more often.”

Sam reached over and gave her shoulder a pat. “Yeah, if you’re that jumpy all the time, I’d agree,” he said with a laugh.

Twilight glared at him. “Ha. Ha. Very funny,” she softened her gaze, “Anyway, I’ve already eaten, there’s some vegetable soup on the stove if you want any.”

“Thanks, but AJ and her family insisted that I stay for dinner. Have you checked on the archive’s process since I left?”

Twilight nodded, a gleam of excitement in her eyes. “Actually, yes. Now, I can’t read what’s on the screen, but the little bar is completely full and it beeped a few times earlier. That’s what got my attention in the first place.”

“Sounds like good news! Let’s go down and check, shall we?”

Twilight stood up, stretching, and followed him downstairs. When Sam got to his laptop, he began pumping his fists in the air, yelling as if he'd just won the lottery.

“It’s all done! Twilight, it’s all finished! Every bit of it is translated and recorded on the tape stacks there. I really can’t believe it only took the afternoon to run! I could have sworn it would have taken several days," he said, scratching his head, "I would have thought that the tape deck would have taken ages to transfer the data... It is a bit less... Advanced, after all. Magnetic storage is a pretty slow medium.”

"Magnetic?" Twilight inquired, barely able to contain her anticipation over the archive's contents, "No, our tape systems use a special form of magical energy to encode the information. It doesn't seem to be as efficient as your electronic/photonic technology, but it certainly gets the job done!"

Sam looked at the tape deck, thinking. Fascinating... They've managed to blend traditional electric and electronic technology with their own bizarre "magic"...

Twilight was jumping with excitement. It was all she could do to prevent herself from shoving Sam out of the way and spending the next week with her eyes glued to the laptop’s screen poring over every last letter of ancient history stored within it.

“This is great, Sam! I can’t wait to start reading through all of this," she finally noticed that Sam had zoned out, "Hey! Snap out of it!”

"Heh, sorry. So, I’m guessing this is the point at which you write up something describing how to read Equestrian written with an English alphabet, and we send this stuff up to Canterlot?”

“That’s correct. Fortunately, my method was simple enough, so I’ll try to get that written up before I go to bed tonight.”

“Great! Thanks, Twilight. And speaking of bed, I think I’m going to turn in early tonight. Applejack twisted her ankle pretty hard early this morning, and Granny Smith made her take it easy today because she thought it was a sprain. So naturally, Big Mac and I had to double up our effort to make up for her not working. I’m absolutely beat. Feel free to flip through the archive if you want. Just use these arrow buttons here.” Sam yawned before continuing, “See you in the morning, Twilight.”

Twilight jumped up on the stool to bring herself to Sam’s height, and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Goodnight, Sam, and congratulations on all of your work finally paying off!”

Sam reciprocated the hug. “Thanks. Goodnight!”


The next afternoon, in Canterlot, the Royal Academy received an express delivery of a stack of data tape reels, along with a document detailing the specifics of the English alphabet, addressed to Professors Hoofstein and Bunsen, the latter having recently received the title of ‘Professor’ in recognition of his part in the research concerning Sam and pre-Equestrian history.

The researchers spent some time poring through the technical data in their lab, with one entry in particular standing out to the Professor: schematics on building a device that generates nanomachines capable of manufacturing nearly any object specified.

Hoofstein turned to Bunsen, “What do you make of these parts right here?” Hoofstein pointed to a particularly intricate part of the schematic. “Do we have anything capable of fabricating materials that small?”

“I may be able to manage this with some magic... Honestly, if this is really what we’re going to try to develop first, there’s going to be a lot of parts that we’re going to have to work around with magic. The communication links between the nanomachines? Magic. Fabrication of the integrated circuits? Once we learn how those actually work, it’s probably going to take magic to assemble something so small. Fortunately, what we would actually be building is a generator that spawns the first wave of nanomachines, those actually do the manufacturing. The actual mechanisms, I think we can handle normally, so if we can somehow create the control device for it, the machine will take care of itself.”

Hoofstein shook his head. “If you say so. This sort of thing is more your area of expertise, so I’ll follow your lead on this one. Anyway, you’re sure this is what we want to work on?”

Bunsen nodded excitedly. “Of course! If this works as Sam’s technical documents specify, you realize what this will mean, right? Easy production of some of our most difficult-to-build goods. Houses that construct themselves from raw materials. Fast, plentiful, and cheap reproduction of our most important medications. Need I go on?”

Hoofstein chuckled. “No, my friend, I read the document, too. By the way, remind me to send a bouquet of flowers to Ms. Sparkle; that guide to the translation she sent us was spot on.”

“Did you really expect anything different from the Princess’s personal student?”

“I suppose not. Speaking of the Princess, she should be coming by shortly to decide whether to approve our first project with this information. So, that sales pitch you just hit me with, be ready to give it again.”

A lilting voice drifted into the lab. “So I am the target of a marketing campaign, am I? I hope there is some honesty in advertising these days,” Princess Celestia giggled as she entered the room.

Both researchers immediately bowed their heads and spoke in unison. “Your majesty!”

The Princess motioned for them to stand up. “So, please describe to me what you first intend to do with this advanced technology we have had handed to us.”

Hoofstein poked Bunsen in the shoulder, prompting him to speak. “Oh, right, sorry. Basically, Your Highness, Sam’s people created a technology that they call ‘replicating nanomachines.’ If his technical documents are to be believed, they can be used to quickly and cheaply mass-manufacture nearly anything we want. Medicine production, building construction, really anything you can think of short of living tissue. We would be building the machine that generates these replicators.”

Celestia brought a hoof to her chin as she contemplated what this could mean. “I am assuming that to produce anything, it requires input matter, does it not? My only concern is that the machine sounds as though it has the capacity to reproduce itself. I am sure you can see where that could lead to trouble.”

“Of course, and Sam’s documents clearly indicate how to implement safeguards that prevent such a thing from happening.” Bunsen adjusted his labcoat. “The replicators that the machine creates are forbidden by their programming to create more replicators; their name comes more from their ability to recreate other objects rather than the fact that they could, in theory, make more of themselves. They will only create and replicate what we command them to.”

The Princess nodded. “I will trust your judgement on this, but I will be checking in from time to time. Remember, this technology is far beyond our current levels of understanding. It could be very unpredictable if not handled correctly, and I want you to be careful with it.”

Bunsen bowed. “Understood, Your Highness. Do we have your approval, then?”

“You do. And I want detailed reports on all developments, in the event that I cannot make a personal visit.”

“I’ll record every last detail, thank you Princess.”

“Well, I will leave you two to your work. Good luck!” Princess Celestia left the lab.

Hoofstein looked at the schematics, then at Bunsen. “I suppose we might as well get to it, Bunsen. So... What first?”

The lab was soon filled with the sounds of clattering tools, rustling papers, and shouts of frustration as Hoofstein and Bunsen dove into their work.

Waiter, There's A Monster In My Village!

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After several days of prototyping and development, Professors Hoofstein and Bunsen were ready to test their first version of the replicator generator. The end result was somewhat different from the archive file description, but this was to be expected given the various magical substitutions that the scientists had made out of necessity. All the same, they had followed the functional schematics as closely as possible and were confident it would function properly. It was a large box-shaped unit, with a hollowed out cavity inside which the nanomachines would be generated through the manipulation of individual atoms of input material by carefully modulated magnetic fields.

Bunsen began inspecting the device, double-checking the connections and contacts between the various circuits and moving parts as well as ensuring that the storage tanks contained enough material to create the initial spawn of nanomachines. Satisfied that the generator was ready, he stepped out of the test chamber to return to the observation deck outside, where the control panel and the rest of the newly-appointed research team, courtesy of the Princess herself, were waiting.

“So... Hoofstein... Ready for the big moment?” Bunsen’s hoof was practically shaking with anticipation over the power switch.

The other professor nodded. “As ready as ever, let’s see what this thing can do.”

Bunsen threw the switch, causing a cascade of indicator lights to fire up across the control panel. The next step was to provide some scrap material for the machine to transform into the desired product. In order to give the machine a test run, they had configured it to produce a simple, commonly-used object: a horseshoe.

Bunsen then turned on the intercom. “Crescent Wrench, I need you to dump the scrap into the machine, then I can run the program!”

A muscular brown earth pony with a wrench-mark on his flank stepped into the test chamber, wearing a hardhat and carrying a large barrel of broken bits of wood, glass, and lab refuse. He hesitantly moved closer to the violently-humming machine, and gave Bunsen a suspicious look through the observation window.

Bunsen hit the intercom button again. “Wrench, just dump it in already! The machine is just initialized, I won’t actually run it until after you’re safely out!” The chance of it spontaneously exploding is miniscule at best, anyway...

Wrench shrugged, and tipped the barrel over the machine, sending a wave of old tools and splintered planks into the machine. His task completed, Crescent Wrench made a quick trot for the exit.

Bunsen turned to the unicorn scientists behind him. “Hey, you with the notebook and ruler cutie-mark, would you be so kind as to take notes on this trial? Celestia wants detailed records kept of our activities.”

The junior researcher nodded.

“Alright, here goes... Something!”

Bunsen flipped the final sequence of switches, causing the machine’s humming to quickly become an ominous rumbling. A slight glow came from the inside of the generator’s cavity; the heavy table that it was bolted to began shaking from the intense vibrations. The glow began growing brighter and brighter still, until the air was filled with a sudden and deafening roar; the shockwave blew out the observation window and knocked the researchers off of their hooves before the noise and intense light dissipated.

Hoofstein shouted for someone to cut the power, and one of the assistants quickly obliged, though it was not necessary, as it was clear that the machine was no longer functioning.

Once he was certain that it was safe to enter the test chamber, Bunsen walked over to inspect the wreckage. To his surprise, the generator was mostly intact, but it had failed to produce anything even remotely resembling a horseshoe.

Bunsen sighed in disappointment. “Well, that was a bust... Though it seems it did manage to produce something,” he aimed a hoof at a scorched lump of iron, “it may not be a horseshoe, but at least it got the material right. Back to square one, gentlecolts...”


Sam awoke at the crack of dawn, a habit he was surprised to have picked up without an alarm clock. He quickly got dressed, and made his way downstairs to the kitchen. To his surprise, neither Spike nor Twilight were up yet. Sam decided to grab his breakfast to go so that he could get to Sweet Apple Acres early; if Applejack’s ankle was still sore, he and Big Mac would again have to pick up the slack.

Upon arriving at the farm, Sam was relieved to see Applejack already outside and starting her chores.

The orange mare heard him approaching, and turned to greet him. “Mornin’ Sam! Didn’t expect ta see ya’ll here so early.”

“Yeah, I wanted to get a head start in case you were out of commission again. How’s your ankle?”

“It’s jest like Ah told Granny, Ah only twisted it a bit is all. Really she shoulda let me get back ta things after lunch, ya’ll coulda really used the help and Ah was feelin’ fine at that point.”

Sam shrugged. “Eh, don’t worry about it. If we had to work extra hard one day to make sure you haven’t really been hurt, I think I can deal.”

Applejack pawed at the ground idly. “Well thank ya Sam, Ah ‘preciate the concern.”

“All the same, I’m glad to see you back on your feet. I don’t think I can take another day like yesterday,” Sam chuckled.

“Well, don’t worry too much, you an’ Big Mac got a lot done ahead of time yesterday. All we really need ta do today is haul a few bushels into town to sell. An’ that reminds me, today’s payday for ya, isn’t?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Sam followed Applejack towards the barn, where she dropped the pitchfork she’d been carrying.

“Well, remind me before ya’ll leave and we’ll settle up. If ya’ll don’t mind my asking, what exactly are you doin’ with yer earnins?”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t mind; really I’ve just been saving up. For the moment, Twilight’s been getting extra money from the Princess to cover the added costs of having me around. I’ve tried to give Twilight something of what you pay me so she could keep some of the extra stipend for herself, but she vehemently refuses,” he laughed, “that unicorn has been too good to me. I don’t know though, I’d kinda like to eventually get my own place and provide for myself. I don’t really want to be her responsibility forever, you know?”

Applejack laughed. “Ever thought of at least gettin’ her a gift or somethin’?”

“Actually, yeah, and I was wondering if you could help me out there. I told Twilight about this drink that we had back in my time, called ‘sangria’, and she said she’d like to try it.”

“Really now? What’s in it?”

“First, you guys have wine right? And liquor?”

“Ohh it’s one ‘a THOSE drinks,” Applejack winked knowingly.

“So you do have that, cool. Basically, what I’m talking about is wine with a bit of brandy mixed in with a lot of sugar and a big helping of chopped fruit in the bottom of the jug. Personally I like apples for this. Where can I get wine around here, though?”

“That sounds pretty nice there, Sam. ‘Specially the bit about mixin’ in apples. There’s a mare by the name of Berry Punch in town that makes a livin’ selling the stuff. It ain’t half bad either. And I’ll give ya a nice sack of apples on the condition that ya’ll make a little extra for me ta try.”

“Thanks, sounds like a fair deal to me. Anyway... I suppose we should get to work?”


To Sam’s delight, Applejack’s estimate of an easy work day was very accurate. After he helped her bring the apple cart to market, she gave him his pay and the promised sack of apples before dismissing him for the day.

Sam set out to find Berry’s store. It wasn’t far off the beaten path through the town square, and fairly non-descript aside from the brilliant pink sign with the outline of a wine bottle on it.

He began inspecting the various bottles on the wine shelves, looking for the right one. His efforts were impeded by the fact that all the labels were written in Equestrian.

“Hello! Can I *hic* help you?” A cheerful, slurring voice rang out from the back of the dimly-lit store.

Sam found the source of the greeting, a pink pony standing behind the cash register.

“Yeah, I’m looking for some red wine? A sweet variety if you’ve got any.”

“I certainly *hic* do! That’s my favorite, they’re on the front rack... Hey, you’re that *hic* human that Pinkie threw the party for.”

Sam nodded. “That’s me, Sam Mitchell. And guessing by the grapes and strawberry mark you’ve got, you’re Berry?”

“*hic* Yep!”

Sam left the obviously inebriated mare and made a second attempt at locating the wine.

“Berry, I can’t read Equestrian,” Sam shouted, ”can you point out a specific bottle for me?”

Berry Punch unsteadily trotted to the front of the store, swaying and stumbling as she went. “Here *hic* you go! That’s *hic* twenty bits.”

“Alright, what about brandy?”

Berry looked up at him quizzically. “What about her?”

“It’s a drink, you know, liquor?”

“OHH yeah yeah, *hic* I have a few bottles behind the counter...”

After several more minutes of confused conversation on Berry’s part, due to her alcohol-blurred vision causing her to mistake five bits for thirty and vice versa, Sam finally completed his purchase successfully, and left for the library.


By the time Sam had returned home, it was nearly lunch. In order to gain entrance to the library, he had to knock and wait for Spike to open the door; his arms were overloaded with bags containing the ingredients for Twilight’s gift.

“What’s with all the groceries, bro?” The dragon asked.

“Just some apples, sugar, and some other ingredients.”

“Gonna make a pie, eh?”

Sam ducked his head to enter the tree-house. “Nah, I’m going to try making this special drink that I used to have back in my time.”

“Cool! Think I could try some?”

Sam chuckled. “Maybe,” he lowered his voice into a whisper, “but this is really going to be a gift for Twilight, ok? So keep it on the downlow.”

Spike followed him into the kitchen. “Gotcha bro. By the way, while you’re putting all that away, want me to make you a sandwich? And when are you going to show me that special way to catch fish?”

“Yeah, I’m getting a little hungry. As for the fishing, I don’t know, but soon, I promise. By the end of the week, for sure.”

This answer seemed to satisfy the purple dragon, and he handed Sam the finished sandwich.

“By the way, where’s Twilight, Spike?”

“She’s up in her room reading. She told me to come get her when you got home, but do you want me to wait so you can make her gift?”

“That’d be great, give me like half an hour, alright? Thanks!”

Spike nodded, and went back to organizing the bookshelves.

Meanwhile, Sam emptied his bottle of wine into a large jug. Measuring out a few shots worth of brandy, he added that to the mix along with a generous amount of sugar, followed by several good handfuls of chopped apples. He repeated the process with another jug, to have a portion of the beverage left to repay Applejack for the apples she gave him.

His task finished, Sam decided to go see what Twilight wanted. Spike was busy taking a nap, so he went to Twilight’s room in person.

Seeing the door closed, Sam knocked. He heard the clatter and rustling of books falling to the floor followed by the panicked sounds of hooves scrambling to straighten things up.

“J-Just a minute Spike!”

“Spike’s napping, he told me earlier that you wanted to see me when I got in?”

“OH! Yes, just a second... Ok come in.”

The door glowed purple before opening to allow Sam inside. Twilight was sitting on her bed, surrounded with books, with a strange look of nervousness on her face.

“So, what’s up?”

“Oh, just doing some reading as usual, you know...”

“I can see that,” Sam laughed, and sat down next to her, “though I thought you usually did this in your study.”

“Oh I do, I just wanted to do it in private today,” Twilight’s eyes briefly darted to the side.

“Yeah, so anyway what can I do for you?”

“Um, I wanted to ask you a few things.”

“Does this have anything to do with that crush of yours?”

“Uh, no, I mean, um... Yes,” Twilight smiled nervously.

Sam laughed. “Ask away, but I already told you not to let this worry you.”

“I know, I know... Anyway... What do you usually do on dates?”

“Lots of things. It might be easier for me to ask you what ponies do, and I can describe the differences.”

“Ok, well, I’ve seen pony couples go have ice cream together, go on walks at sunset, or go out for dinner at a nice restaurant.”

“Sounds pretty similar to what humans do. Are you planning on asking this stallion of yours on a date?”

Twilight blushed. “I’m considering it, because I can’t think of any other way to figure out once and for all what he thinks of me.”

“That’s good! I don’t know how things go for ponies, but for what it’s worth I’d be really flattered if some cute girl just came over and asked me out.”

Twilight felt her heart jump. “You think so? Well... I told you earlier that I’ve never been on a date... And in all honesty I’m also kind of interested to see how humans act in this sort of situation and-”

Sam cut off her rambling. “Are you asking me on a practice date, Twilight?”

Twilight could feel her face burning. “...Yes.”

Sam laughed and bowed his head. “I’d be honored to do that for you.”

Twilight’s heart was on the verge of exploding. This just might work! You’re a genius, Twilight!

Fighting to contain herself, Twilight threw her forelegs around Sam’s neck. “Oh, thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!”

Sam could feel his own face reddening slightly. “Don’t mention it.”

Twilight regained her composure and sat back down. “So, Sam, what do you want to do?”

“I’ve got something in mind. Give me some time to clean up and change clothes, and be ready by dinner time, ok?”

Twilight was beaming. “Ok! Oh, speaking of clothes, right now is probably a good time to give you these.”

Her horn began to glow as a rectangular package floated over from the other side of the room into Sam’s lap.

Sam opened the package to find several pairs of blue jeans, a pair of khaki dress pants, and several shirts to go with each.

Sam’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Twilight, where’d you get these?!”

“Remember that set of clothes that vanished from your room? I borrowed them so that Rarity could get your measurements, and had her make these. I told her what you were wearing in some of those pictures you showed me.”

It was Twilight’s turn to get glomped. “This is great, Twilight, thanks. How’d you get her to make them for me?”

“I paid her and told her to forget they were for you,” Twilight grumbled.

“Oh... In that case let me pay you back for them, at least.”

Twilight laughed. “Nope, but you do owe me,” she said mischievously, “don’t worry though, I’ve already called in my favor with you. You HAVE to go out with me tonight, now,” she said with the most innocent smile she could muster.

“I suppose you’ve got me then! Anyway, thanks again. You are too good to me, Twilight.” Sam stood up to leave. “And don’t forget, be ready in four hours!”


“Bunsen, it seems one of the junior researchers came across something in the archive that should help us fix the problem with the replicators,” Hoofstein said.

Looking up from the partially-disassembled generator, Bunsen replied, “Really now? What does he think it is? We haven’t found any evidence of physical damage or defect in this machine, and the code was quite straightforward, though difficult to enter with our computer interfaces,” he continued, exasperated, “what does that newbie think he’s found that one of US missed?!”

“Calm yourself, Bunsen. It was a hidden file anyway, probably one that Sam had thought to be lost. That archive was quite damaged, after all,” Hoofstein cleared his throat before continuing, “Anyhow, it seems that Chip found an entry on a sort of artificial intelligence, a self-improving algorithm that we could combine with the generator’s base code; the machine produced the right materials but the form was off. Personally, I’m hesitant to try it until we can really ensure that it wouldn’t override our safeguards to prevent runaway replication.”

“Nonsense, Hoofstein, those safeguards are hardwired into the machine itself. They aren’t in resident memory. Half of them are enchantments, anyway!”

Hoofstein nodded. “I understand that, Bunsen. But you heard the Princess, we must be careful with this.”

Bunsen could feel his blood pressure rising. “I know damn well what the Princess said, and I’m saying we’ve got this under control!”

“Now listen here, Bunsen, there’s no need to chastise me! You may be in charge of this project, but only by my own decision. I’m still the senior staff member in this project. Remember what I said mere moments ago? I’m HESITANT to try it. Not against it. I just want more work put into ensuring that this thing won’t become dangerous.”

Bunsen sighed. “I’m sorry, Professor. I’ll see to it personally that everything is in place to keep the experiment safe. I’m just a bit on edge; this is the first project that I’ve been expressly in charge of, and I’m dying to see it succeed, especially if the Princess herself is keeping tabs on it.”

“I understand.”

At that moment, a young, black, bespectacled unicorn entered the test chamber.

“Professor Bunsen, sir, we’ve managed to get a copy of the artificial intelligence code output to disk.” Chip placed two flat objects on the table, “I also made an attempt at making a test version; it’s quite stripped down, missing a lot of functionality but it should be good enough for a test run.”

“Very good, Chip. Leave the disks here and we’ll try out your test program.”

The junior scientist left the chamber.

“So, Bunsen, want to give it a go?”

Bunsen nodded, and absentmindedly grabbed one of the disks, placing it into the programming interface connected to the generator.

Bunsen, Hoofstein, and the rest of the research team retreated to the observation deck. Repeating the same process as before, Bunsen soon had the machine back online, humming away. Within a matter of minutes, much to Bunsen’s delight, the replicator machine was soon producing a solid pile of horseshoes along with the drone of millions of miniature machines buzzing as they worked.

As Bunsen shut down the machine, the observation deck was rife with laughter and congratulations as the team celebrated the machine’s success. Hoofstein and Bunsen entered the test chamber to examine the results.

Hoofstein dug through the pile; the shoes at the bottom, the oldest ones, were quite poorly-constructed. However, as he moved towards the top of the pile, where the newer ones were, the quality began to dramatically improve. He turned to face Chip.

“Well, Chip, looks like that test version you wrote was more than adequate! Well done!”

Chip wore a confused look on his face. “Sir, my modified version is sitting right here on the table.”

Hoofstein examined the generator’s disk slot. Sure enough, the full, unabridged artificial intelligence program had been loaded into the machine.

“Bunsen! You put the wrong program in!” Hoofstein shouted indignantly.

“Oh, I must have grabbed the wrong disk. No harm done though, it obviously works perfectly!”

“That’s not the point, you jackass! Your recklessness could have cost us dearly!”

Bunsen shrugged it off. “I realize, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. But, the upside is that the machine works perfectly now!”

Hoofstein shook his head. “You better be careful in the future...”


Sam looked in the mirror. It had been a long time since he’d worn anything other than government-rationed jumpers. He had to hand it to Rarity, the dress pants were a perfect fit, and the light blue button-down shirt wasn’t half bad either, especially considering they were probably the first human clothes made in several million years.

Satisfied that his clothes were fitting properly, he went downstairs. There, Twilight was already waiting. She’d even decided to dress up herself, wearing a pastel yellow dress, coincidentally also made by Rarity.

Seeing that she was day-dreaming, Sam spoke to get her attention. “Well, don’t you look nice!”

Twilight’s lavender coat masked the light blush that she felt. “I could say the same about you, Sam! So, where to first?”

“I figured we could go to that cafe you pointed out to me a few days ago. You said you had been dying to try it out, right? By the way, where’s Spike? I figured he’d be here pestering us to find out why we’re both dressed up to go somewhere.”

Twilight laughed. “He’s out with Rarity. I swear, that dragon is nuts about her. And the cafe sounds lovely.”

The two friends left the library, and began walking towards the restaurant. They were quickly seated, though Sam had to shift around to get comfortable in the small chair provided. As they waited for their orders to arrive, Twilight recalled what she’d read from her dating books.

Trying not to sound too forced, she asked, “So, Sam, what do you do in your spare time?”

Sam was slightly confused. Doesn’t she know that about me already?

He decided to humor her. “I work at AJ’s farm, and work on electronics stuff in your basement.”

“Where are you from?”

“I... Uh, Twilight, is there any reason why you’re asking me things you already know?”

Twilight was smiling nervously. “Small talk! You know, idle chit-chat to get to know one another? We’re on a mock date, right?” Her right eye and left ear gave a tiny, but perceptible twitch. “You’re the one I’ve got a crush on, remember,” She said in an exasperated gasp.

Sam raised an eyebrow. Did she just say that she likes ME?

Realizing what she just said, Twilight began to furiously backpedal. “I mean we’re pretending you are!” She took a deep breath. “I don’t really like you, I mean I do, but I don’t like that, not that you aren’t great but-”

Twilight’s blurted rambling was cut off. “Twilight, calm down, I know what you’re trying to say.”

Twilight sighed, and promptly placed her head on the table, hoping that the wildfire of a blush on her face wouldn’t incinerate the tablecloth.

Sam reached across the tiny table to place a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s ok, no need to freak out here. Don’t worry about what your books say. Just enjoy yourself! A date is really just an opportunity for you to get to know someone better and enjoy their company.”

Twilight sat up, with a much calmer smile on her face. “You’re right. So... What are we doing after this?”

Sam shrugged, “I dunno, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” he replied nonchalantly.

Twilight could feel the twinge of nervousness returning. “But you’re supposed to plan everything out! That’s what the book-” she saw Sam shaking his head, “Sorry,” she finished, grinning sheepishly.

Sam laughed. “My favorite dates were the ones where we kind of spontaneously made plans on the spot, you know? You’ll have a nice time, I promise. I just don’t know what we’ll do next!”

Their food finally arrived. Twilight found herself calming down and unwinding as the meal progressed; after her initial nervousness and dissipated, she began to get what Sam was talking about. She was just glad to get to spend some time with him outside of the library or the makeshift electrical lab in her basement. It was all she could do to keep from doubling over in laughter when Sam nearly fell out of his chair; after all, it was funny enough watching him try to sit in a chair made for an occupant half his size.

It came time to pay the bill, and both Sam and Twilight reached for the ticket with her hoof ending up under his hand, triggering a bashful smile from the unicorn.

“Let me pay for this, Sam, it was my idea after all.”

Sam shook his head. “No way, you wanted to see what a date was like? Well, any good guy will insist on you letting him pay. Besides, think of it as me saying thank you for all you’ve done for me, since you refuse to let me help pay for groceries or anything else around the house.”

Twilight giggled, and withdrew her hoof. “Ok, if you insist.”

After leaving the appropriate amount plus tip, Sam began rubbing his chin absentmindedly. “So... What to do next... Hmm... The sun is starting to set, how about a nice walk around town?”

Twilight nodded. “Sounds nice.”

They began slowly strolling through Ponyville as the soft orange glow of the sun cast its light over the trees and thatched-roof cottages.

“Thanks for dinner, Sam. It’s been awhile since I’ve been out like that.”

“Don’t mention it, it’s been even longer for me,” he laughed.

Sam continued the walk deep in thought. Something about tonight felt a little strange to him. Twilight’s been acting a bit different around me, lately... And it almost sounded like she said that it was ME she’s got a crush on. I don’t know much about pony girls, but the last time I had a girl act the way Twilight did at dinner was when I took my last girlfriend on our first date. She was CRAZY about me... Does Twilight think that way about me? I mean I’ve certainly grown pretty fond of her myself, she’s been so kind to me. Hell, she’s been WONDERFUL to me. And let’s not forget how brilliant she is. I’ve never met someone that admires intelligence as much as she does. I don’t know, we get along so well, maybe I shouldn’t be TOO surprised at the thought of her falling for me, but dating a pony? I may be in a crazy situation right now, but I don’t know if I’m THAT crazy. But then again... Maybe I owe it to her to give her a shot. I don’t know...

Suddenly he felt something jab his hip. “Hello? Sam? Anypony home?”

“Oh, sorry, heh, I was just thinking about something. What’d I miss?”

“I was just asking about your family, you mention them often. I’d like to know what they were like.”

“Alright, I guess I could start with my dad, his name was John. He was a salesman, traveled a lot. Great man though; always steered me right, anyway. He was kind of stern sometimes though, I guess he had to be since I was such a troublemaker as a kid,” Sam chuckled, “but once I got out of school, he and I were really close. I think he was proud of how much like him I turned out; he was one of the most honest, hardworking men I ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

“What about your mom?”

Sam laughed. “Everyone said she’s where I got my brains from, her name was Susan. She was a very quiet woman, but you didn’t want to make her angry. She was much smarter than she led on and wouldn’t hesitate to show you up if you forced her hand. Mom was a very kind person, though, she’d always go out of her way to help you if you needed it. She was like my sister, I told you about Ellen, except Mom was much more reserved. We really don’t know where Ellen got her extra-bubbly personality.”

“It’s a shame I won’t get to meet them, they sound like great people, almost as great as you,” Twilight sighed.

“Oh come on, anything great about me is because of them. Family does that to you. And yeah, I do miss them...”

Sam noticed the sky darkening, and another idea struck him.

“Hey, you like stargazing, right?”

Twilight’s ears perked up. “Yes! How’d you know?”

“The giant telescope in your study, for starters. Let’s go back to the library, go up to your top balcony, and just lay back and look at the stars. Also, I’ve got something you might enjoy.”

Twilight smiled. “You sure are full of surprises tonight!”

“What can I say? I want this to be the best fake date you’ve ever been on.” You’ve got your fair share of surprises too, don’t you Twilight?

Twilight felt her heart sink a little as he pronounced the word ‘fake’.

They continued walking back home, enjoying the cool, quiet air as a sliver of the moon peered over the trees. They came across a particularly rough part of the road, when Twilight stumbled over her left foreleg, yelling out in pain.

Sam stooped to help her out. “You ok? What happened?”

“This road is a little uneven... I stumbled over a rock.” Twilight examined her hurt leg closely. “I don’t think I sprained it or anything, I think I’m ok.”

She got back up on all fours, and took a few steps, wincing slightly as she went along.

Sam looked down. “You sure you’re ok?”

“Yeah, it’s just gonna be a little bruised, it’ll be fine.”

“Do me a favor,” Sam squatted down again, “come up behind me, sit on my back, and wrap your front legs around my neck. I’ll loop my arms around your rear legs to hold you up.”

“You can’t be serious,” Twilight giggled.

“Yeah, well, it’s either you walk back with your hoof killing you, or I give you a piggy-back ride.”

“Um... Ok...If you’re sure.” Twilight hesitantly did as she was told, and got on Sam’s back, resting her head on his right shoulder.

“You holding on? Let’s go then.” Sam stood up, and began walking back towards the library, aware of the extra weight on his shoulder.

I wonder what it’s like to walk around this tall all of the time... This is really sweet of him. Twilight let out a sigh; she couldn’t remember the last time she felt so happy, so peaceful. This must be what he was telling me about ‘just knowing’... She involuntarily leaned her head to the left, into Sam’s neck, inadvertently pressing her horn into his cheek.

Sam felt this, and laughed. “Hey, I don’t mind you getting comfortable there, but watch the horn will ya?”

Twilight picked her head up, thankful that Sam couldn’t see the intense blush she was wearing. “Sorry!”

After a few minutes of walking, they finally arrived back at the library, and to Twilight’s relief, her leg had stopped throbbing.

“Sam, mind letting me down? My leg is feeling a lot better now.”

“Sure,” Sam bent down, “I hope it isn’t bruised too badly.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine... Thanks for being such a... Well we usually use the word ‘gentlecolt’ but you aren’t exactly a pony,” Twilight giggled.

“I get the sentiment all the same, and you’re welcome. Now, go on up to the balcony and I’ll meet you up there in a minute, ok?”

“Alright, want me to carry anything up ahead of you?”

“I got it, just go already,” Sam said with a laugh, playfully shoving his pony friend.

“Ok, ok, I’m going!”

Sam entered the kitchen, and grabbed the pitcher containing his mixture from earlier, as well as a couple of glasses. As he passed his room, he grabbed a blanket off of his bed. Once he made it to the balcony, he saw that Twilight already laying back on a blanket of her own. She noticed the pitcher he was carrying.

“What’s in the jug?”

“The extra gift I got for you; remember that drink with the apples in it I told you about?”

“Yeah, didn’t you call it ‘sangria’?”

“That’s the one. I had AJ tell me where I could pick up the ingredients, and figured I’d make you a batch as a gift, since you won’t let me help you out with the bills,” Sam laughed.

“That’s really thoughtful of you, Sam, I can’t wait to try some.”

Sam placed the glasses on the floor and poured them both a portion of the drink. “There you go, bit of a warning: it’s a little strong, so don’t drink it too fast.”

Twilight levitated the glass to her lips and took a sip; she instantly tasted what Sam meant. She certainly didn’t find it to be unpleasant, though; the tart flavor of the wine mixed well with the sweetness of the sugar and brandy, and she could just barely get a hint of the apples that had been soaking in the mix.

“So? How is it? Personally, I think I used a little too much sugar, what do you think?”

“I love it, but I see what you mean about it being strong. I’ve never really had alcohol before though, so I don’t know.” Twilight took another sip. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, I’m glad you like it. I’ve never made this before.”

Twilight and Sam finished their glasses, and Twilight found herself wanting a bit more. She levitated her glass over to the pitcher.

“Could you pour me another?”

Sam laughed. “You sure?” The adorable little pout she wore was answer enough, and he obliged her request before filling his own glass again.

“So, have you ever seen that constellation?” Twilight raised a hoof to the sky. “We named it after one of our greatest wizards, Starswirl the Bearded.”

“I can’t say I’m too familiar with that one, I actually don’t see any I recognize. Stars move a lot over a few million years, you know.”

“Oh, right, I forget about that.” As she floated the glass back up to her mouth, she realized she’d already drained half of the glass’s contents. Finishing the glass entirely, she laid down on the blanket. “Whoa, Sam, my brain feels all tingly.”

“I told you it was strong,” Sam laughed, “You ok?”

“Yeah, I feel really good actually, like my head is floating.”

Sam laid down, and stared up into the sparkling night sky. “I was afraid you might be a bit of a lightweight, Twilight.”

Twilight giggled. “Lightweight Twilight. Twilightweight.” She stood up again, and took a few wobbly steps closer to Sam, before clumsily settling down next him, curling up at his side, and resting her head on his shoulder. “This has been a really nice night, Sam. You’re a good pon... Person.” She giggled again. “You’re not a pony. But I don’t care!” Twilight was laughing hard now, “I don’t... I don’t care. You’re... Sam Mitchell is best pony! Oh yeah, I forgot you’re not a pony!” Her giggling and guffawing was reaching hysterical levels.

Sam couldn’t help but laugh at this situation. Great going, you got your pony friend drunk. Probably for the first time. Good thing she only had two drinks or else tomorrow morning would be hell for her.

Slowly, Twilight’s spasms of laughter receded into occasional fits of giggling as she calmed down, resting her head completely against his chest. Between the slight euphoria Twilight was experiencing from the alcohol, and the comforting warmth from Sam’s body, she felt like everything was right with the world. I definitely “just know”, now. Forget the Gala. THIS is the best night ever...

They laid there for what felt like hours, though the movement of the moon suggested it had only been minutes. While he was looking up at the stars, deep in thought with his arm around her, she was instead looking at him.

She couldn’t quite read his face. He certainly seemed to be enjoying the evening’s activities, but Twilight couldn’t quite get a bead on his thoughts. Did he catch when I accidentally blurted out that I liked him? Did he buy my flustered excuses? I thought tonight would help me figure out how he feels about me, by trying to imitate the sort of dates he had been on before... But he’s still the same kind, sarcastic, wonderful person to me that he’s always been.

Meanwhile, Sam’s mind was miles away. This has been a great night. I really hope Twilight has enjoyed herself, she works so hard... She deserves it. God I think if I were to look down and see those beautiful purple eyes of hers, I might just die of adorable-overload and diabetes combined. He looked over, and her eyes caught his as they reflected the moonlight. He smiled as he looked away. But... I can’t shake the feeling that she likes me beyond simply calling me a friend though. I think I’m gonna get some advice on this before I drive myself crazy. I certainly care a lot about this geeky little mare but, I really have no idea what to think. What would letting her call me her “special somepony” change, though? We already spend a good deal of time together, and surely she’s not interested in me, I guess physically is the best term... We aren’t even the same species! But... If she just wants the emotional support, the companionship... If it makes her happy, maybe I should give that a shot. Hell, I need some advice on this.

Twilight felt perfectly content to stay cuddled up next to Sam for as long as he would stay there, though the position of the moon told her it was probably time to hit the hay.

Extracting herself from Sam’s arm, she stood up. “I’m thinking it’s time to go to bed, Sam.”

Sitting up, Sam nodded in agreement. “Yeah... I hope you had a good time tonight.”

Twilight’s smile reached from ear to ear. Misjudging how inebriated she still was, she stumbled forward onto Sam as she tried to hug him. Steadying herself against him while he returned the favor, she planted a quick kiss on his cheek.

“I’ll take that as you saying you enjoyed yourself.” Yep, I’m definitely her crush.

“I had a wonderful time,” Twilight sighed. “The dinner, the walk, up here stargazing, and that drink you made... This was perfect. I hope I was good company.”

As they separated from their mutual embrace, Sam laughed. “Always. Since I’ve been here, you know you’ve become one of my closest friends, right?”

Twilight had to hide her pain and confusion. I’ve never felt more disappointed to be called a ‘friend’ in my life... “Yeah... Best friends...”

Sam noticed the change in her mood. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just getting sleepy... Probably that sangria stuff.”

“Alright, well, I’ll let you get on to bed, I’ll carry this stuff downstairs myself.”

“Ok, goodnight then, Sam.”

Twilight left Sam to finish up everything on the balcony, and retired to her bedroom. Curling up on her bed, she began quietly sobbing. I should have known this wouldn’t work. He must just like me as a friend, nothing more... I don’t know. I thought this ‘fake date’ idea would help me figure him out or at least get this out of my system. I guess it’s for the best... After all, I’m no human and he’s not a pony... I don’t know what I expected out of this... I just can’t get him out of my head though...


The next morning, Sam decided to pay Fluttershy a visit before heading off to the farm. He had seen the way she and Twilight hung out with each other at his welcoming party, and judging by the calm, sensitive demeanor she possessed, Sam figured Fluttershy could help him figure out how to handle this situation with Twilight.

As he walked towards the edge of town, where her cottage was located, he couldn’t help but think he had seen a twinge of sadness on Twilight’s face immediately before she had gone to bed the night before. Sam felt a pang of guilt as he realized what it might have meant.

Soon, he arrived at the cottage. The yellow pegasus was already up and in the middle of her morning routine, flying around feeding her numerous pets and animal patients. Fluttershy recognized Sam’s distinctive form, and dropped to the ground to greet him.

“Hello Sam, I didn’t expect to see you around today. How are you?”

Sam sighed. “I’m fine, myself. I was hoping you and I could talk for a few moments.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Oh, sure, I’ve got one more pet to feed and then we can go inside.”

She grabbed a small red bottle from her doorstep, and jumped into the air to refill her hummingbird feeders.

“Ok, I’m done,” Fluttershy opened her door, “please, after you.”

Sam entered, and took a seat where Fluttershy pointed.

“So, it’s about Twilight.”

A look of panic spread across Fluttershy’s face. “Oh no! Is she sick? Or hurt? Oh I hope she’s ok...”

Sam laughed weakly. “No, she’s perfectly ok in those regards. Look, I noticed how you and her stuck together at the party, so I’m guessing you two are close right?”

Fluttershy sighed in relief, and nodded. “Oh, yes, Twilight and I are very close friends, we know almost everything about each other.”

“Good, I was hoping that was the case. So, I think she’s got a bit of a crush on me. I don’t know for certain, but she’s been acting a lot different around me lately.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I see. Is this a bad thing? I hope it hasn’t offended you, I’m sure she doesn’t mean anything to annoy you or anything...”

“Oh, no, no, if that were the case, I’m flattered, really. But it’s confusing. I mean, between you and me, I care a lot about her. Twilight is smart, she’s funny, if unintentionally so, and I can tell she’s a very caring individual. Believe me, I’d be absolutely flattered if someone like her were falling for me.” Sam sighed. “The problem is, if that is the case, I don’t know what I think, and I’d love to know her best friend’s opinion on how to handle it.”

Careful Fluttershy... You promised Twilight you wouldn’t tell Sam, but I think he already knows. It sounds like he might like her too, though, and wouldn’t that be great? Twilight would be so happy! Oh it makes me happy just thinking about that outcome! But what to do...

Sam waved a hand in front of Fluttershy. “Hey, Flutters, you there?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, I was thinking, I didn’t mean to space out... Do you like Twilight? The way you think she likes you, I mean.”

“Honestly, I want to say I do. I can’t think of a better way to put it than to say that I care immensely about her. She’s done so much for me, and... Well, she tried this little thing last night where she wanted me to take her on a ‘mock date’, and told me it was to learn about how humans interact socially and so she’d not be so nervous when she asked out the stallion she supposedly had a crush on. I agreed to, and it got really obvious that she was probably just testing the waters about how I felt about her. Seeing her that happy last night,” Sam chuckled, “that was probably the happiest I’ve been in a very, very long time. You should have seen her, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy’s jaw was nearly on the floor. “She went through that much trouble to find out how you felt?”

“Yeah. It probably made a lot of sense to her, in some sort of overly-complicated, mad-genius sort of way. But I’m glad she did that, we both had a great time.”

I might not have to break my promise after all! Sam already knows! And he might like her too! Oh this is wonderful!

“Sam, that sounds so lovely. But, I still don’t really understand what the problem is.”

“It’s not obvious?” Fluttershy’s blank expression told him to continue. “I’ll spell it out for you. Twilight’s a pony. I’m not. Do relationships usually work out in situations like that around here?”

“I really don’t know, Sam. Maybe you should talk to her...” Fluttershy sighed, and made several furtive glances around her house. Pinkie, this one doesn’t count, because he already knows about Twilight’s feelings... “Sam, I’m going to be honest... Twilight told me about this awhile back, before your welcome party. I’ve known for a while how she feels about you, and she really does care about you, but you know that. I think all she wants from you is to be there for her. I think you’re very nice, Sam, and I’d be very happy knowing that Twilight has someone like you taking care of her. Are you ok with that? I really hope you are...”

Sam was taken aback. “I think I would be. I’m not sure I feel comfortable about the uhm... Physical aspects of that relationship, though. This sort of arrangement is.. Well... It’s not anywhere near normal with my kind.”

Fluttershy’s pale face turned bright red. “Oh, um. Yes, you wouldn’t have to worry about that, we’re... Um... We’re only attracted.. THAT way... To um... Well... As far as I know, anyway... I never really asked any of the pony and buffalo couples I've met... It only comes up once or twice a year anyway, during... Um...”


Fluttershy's blush reached the intensity of a solar flare. "You know," Despite there being no one else around, her voice dropped to a whisper, "estrus season?"

"Oh. OHHH. Right..." Sam let out a sigh of relief. They really are similar to the horses from my time... Oh thank the gods, I might be able to handle this situation well after all. “Alright, that’s a HUGE load off my chest; my kind are very much the same way. I still need to think and figure out where I stand on this whole situation, but you’ve helped me clear up a lot, Fluttershy. Thank you.” Sam looked at his watch. “Well, I should probably get on down to Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack’s probably waiting on me. Thanks again.”

The redness in her face slowly receding, Fluttershy hovered over to let Sam out. “Oh it was no problem, you’re very welcome. I bet you’ll make Twilight very happy, if you feel the same way, that is...”

Sam began the walk to Applejack’s farm. Once he arrived, Applejack set him to chopping down some of the dead, older, diseased, or otherwise under-producing apple trees to be used for firewood later in the year. Once he had done that, she could replant new, healthier trees from the plant nursery.

As he chopped, he thought about Fluttershy’s advice. Just talk to her. It’s direct, honest, and you’ll both figure things out together.

His thoughts were punctuated by the sounds of the metal axe hitting the tree trunks. With each smack, he focused harder on the emotions frustrating him. What if it goes badly? Twilight’s one of my closest, and at this point, only friends. I can’t afford to screw that up.

Eventually, Applejack noticed his exaggerated wood chopping.

“Hey there, partner, ya’ll know that if you keep swingin’ the axe like that, you’re liable to throw out yer shoulder, right?”

“Oh, right sorry.”

Applejack laughed. “Don’t apologize to me, it won’t hurt me none, but do tell me what seems to be buggin’ ya.”

“Nothing, boss, just chopping some wood for you.”

“Horsefeathers. Ah ain’t never seen you lookin’ so ponderin’ and frustrated while workin’. Somethin’s buggin’ you, and Ah’d like to help if’n Ah can. It’s not about Twilight, is it?”

Sam dropped the axe beside him. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, for starters, Ah seen ya’ll all dressed up walkin’ about town last night. You two looked mighty happy, and that mare don’t really do dress-up for anything but really special occasions.”

“You got me, AJ. Yeah, it’s about her. I’m pretty certain she’s developed something of a crush on me. I can’t say for sure that it isn’t mutual, but I don’t know how to handle it. Fluttershy told me I should just talk to Twilight about it, but I’m a little worried about what that could do to our friendship. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost that.”

“You’re right, there, Sam, that’s a right strange situation. It’s pretty rare around here to fall fer somepony in that manner, but then again most folks you see ‘round here are ponies of some kind... But to each their own, right?”

“So the fact that I’m a different species isn’t strange to you? Frankly it’s strange to me, but Fluttershy tells me Twilight’s got more of a mental and emotional connection with me.”

“Oh, hay, it is strange, fer sure. But we ain’t too judgemental ‘round here. Honestly, if ya’ll care ‘bout each other, and make each other happy, nopony is gonna care too much.”

“That’s sort of what Fluttershy told me.”

“Yeah, so Ah guess what Ah’m sayin’ is, Twilight should probably loosen up a bit and jest talk to ya, or barrin’ that, ya’ll oughta buck up and do it yerself. Really more of the last one. Like Ah said, Ah saw ya’ll last night in town; ya’ll looked so adorably happy together, Ah didn’t wanna interrupt by sayin’ anything when ya’ll walked past.”

“You’re right. I’ll make a point to talk to her when I get done here. Thanks AJ.”

“Don’t mention it. Ah don’t rightly understand it, but if callin’ you her special somepony is what makes mah friend happy, well, Ah want mah friend to be happy. Now, enough with this sappy stuff an’ let’s get back ta work!”

Sam chuckled. “Fair enough.” So it really seems obvious now. Twilight just wants the companionship. Nothing will really change, she and I would just be closer, emotionally... I think I’d like that, really. Not that we aren’t already very close... Hell, I’m stuck here, and this might be the strangest relationship I’ll ever be in, but I feel happy, no, privileged to have someone like Twilight in my life. That’s it, I’ll open up completely to her, next time I see her. If all she wants is an acknowledgement of her feelings towards me, who am I to say no to that?

Sam continued his work at a much more controlled pace, finally able to think clearly for the first time since Twilight left him on the balcony the night before.


With the accidental, and slightly controversial, addition of the artificial intelligence program to the nanomachine generator, the experiment had become a complete success. Within a few minutes of any new production run, the machine could analyze, perfect, and rapidly reproduce nearly any item or substance from any sort of scrap material.

However, the researchers found that it was becoming more and more difficult to get the generator to produce the correct item. At times, it would simply sit there and spawn nanomachines idly, before finally resuming work properly. Soon, this quickly came to a head.

One of the junior researcher unicorns, Chip, was assigned to be in charge of monitoring and correcting the program operation. He noticed that the machine was beginning to consume more material than was measured into it. He double-checked his readings, until it became obvious what was happening; the nanomachines were consuming the workbench, clearly violating the program safeguards restricting input consumption to just the inner cavity.

Chip bolted into the test chamber, shouting for help as he attempted to cut the power. As he drew near to the machine, the nanomachines converged on him as a blue glow enveloped the room.

"Chip! Get out of there! For Celestia's sake run!!" Bunsen frantically tried to employ any countermeasures he could to shut down the device and it's mechanical spawn of micro-locusts.

Chip tried to run away, but the growing silver cloud of nanobots began following him in greater numbers with each burst of magic energy he blasted at it. Eventually the swarm covered him, and Chip let out a blood-curdling scream as the tiny machines began tearing him apart, cell by cell, before dissipating in a thin red mist. Chip was gone, but the nanobot cloud was now sparkling with blue bolts of energy jumping within it, as if the cloud had absorbed Chip’s power.

The scientists in the observation deck were scrambling to cut off the power, but it was too late. The nanomachine’s AI had improved its own design to be able to generate its own power supply and replicate without the generator, at the disadvantage of needing to consume and assimilate new materials.

Bunsen was in full panic mode. "We have to get out of here before we end up like Chip! Hoofstein, drop the records and HAUL FLANK!"

As the scientists dashed away from imminent doom, the floating blob of nanobots began eating away at the laboratory walls. Bunsen and Hoofstein were on their way to summon Princess Celestia and Princess Luna for help.

As they bolted through the crowded streets of Canterlot, explosions could be heard in the background as the nanomachines escaped the lab and began ravaging the city.

In between ragged breaths, Hoofstein verbally attacked Bunsen. “I told you the AI was dangerous! I bucking told you! Why didn’t you listen?!”

“Now isn’t the time! We have to get the Princesses!”

The normally unathletic ponies managed to dash right past the palace guards, right into the main hall where the two princesses were sitting.

Bunsen did all the talking. “PRINCESS CELESTIA! We need your help! The nanomachines are attacking the city, the artificial intelligence is controlling them and they’re eating the city and we aren’t powerful enough to stop them and it’s apparently attracted to sources of magical beings like unicorns and alicorns so HELP!”

Somehow, Celestia understood all of this. “Sister, quickly, join me above the castle, we must extend protection to the castle and what remains of the city. You two,” she pointed to the two scientists, and motioned for four guards to draw near them. “You two stay here. I will deal with you for causing this later. I warned you about tampering with technology you did not understand.”

Luna and Celestia quickly flew outside, and focused their combined powers around the castle, and the few undamaged buildings of Canterlot. They then began focusing their remaining energy on pushing the monstrosity back. The nanomachines drew closer to the castle, undoubtedly trying to get close enough to assimilate the Princesses, but the protective shield put in place combined with the Princesses’ mental attacks thwarted its efforts. Calculating that the expending of additional energy was not worth capturing the two alicorns, the nanomachines receded, much to Luna’s relief.

“Celestia, it doth appear that the demon hath been defeated, it retreats! Huzzah!”

“Luna, you might want to hold off on celebrating. Look where it is heading next... It is going to attack Ponyville! And if what Bunsen said is true, and that machine it is attracted to magic sources, we have to get there before it does and warn Twilight! She’s the most powerful unicorn there! I’ll go warn her, you go get Bunsen and Hoofstein, we may need their help to destroy this thing.”

With that, Princess Celestia took off as fast as she could towards Ponyville, the force of the rushing air stinging her eyes.


“Well, Sam, looks like ya’ll have chopped enough wood to build my family two more barns! Heh, that’ll last us a whole winter of bein’ nice an’ toasty inside. Ya’ll want some lunch before you head out for the day?”

Sam shook his head. “Normally, I’d love to, but given what you and I talked about earlier... I kinda want to go on and take care of things with Twilight...”

Applejack winked. “Ah gotcha. Well, tell the ol’ gal Ah said hello. See ya’ll later, Sam!”

Sam waved goodbye and left for the library. Seeing that he was mostly alone, he began thinking out loud.

“Alright... Just gotta talk to her. Ask her what she wants from me, and above all I just want to see her happy, right? I owe her that much. I saw how thrilled she was to spend all that time with me like that last night; and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself... Bottom line, I just gotta be honest. I should’ve asked her about this last night, I could tell something was on her mind and I just let it slide. I hope she’s not too upset, I could’ve sworn I saw her holding back a tear when she left the balcony last night...”

Sam slowly meandered home. Entering the library, he took a deep breath, before calling out, “Hey, Twilight, you around? I need to talk to you about something.”

Twilight was still in her room, reading, and pricked up her ears at the sound of Sam’s voice. She sensed the nervous tone in his voice, and wondered what he had to say. She opened her door, and went downstairs to meet Sam.

“Hey... You’re home a little early. What did you want to talk about?” Sam could just barely make out where a few tears had streaked Twilight’s coat.

“Is Spike around?”

Twilight shook her head. “He’s running a few errands for me, he’ll be back later.”

“Good, come over here and sit next to me,” Sam motioned to the bench near the bookshelves. He put an arm around her and pulled her close to his side. “First, I wanna ask if you’re ok.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, just didn’t sleep well last night.” Twilight’s eyes darted back and forth.

“That’s not all it is, though, is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I should have said something last night, but you were a little... Different, last night.”

“I’m sorry, I thought you were having fun spending time with me...”

“Oh, no, I did, I definitely did. But, I think when you blurted out at dinner that I was the one you had been thinking about, I don’t think you misspoke. It IS me, isn’t it?”

Every muscle in Twilight’s body stiffened. Oh Celestia here it goes, he’s going to be repulsed by me now...

Sam sensed her reaction, and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. “Whoa, relax there, it’s ok. I’m flattered, really I am.”

Twilight began to breathe slowly, to calm her racing pulse. “Ok, so you don’t think I’m strange or crazy or... Weird... For wanting to date you, even though I’m not a human?”

Sam laughed nervously. “Not gonna lie, this isn’t a situation I’ve had come up before. I feel pretty awful, because I should have asked you about all of this last night instead of ending up with you crying yourself to sleep. I asked Fluttershy and Applejack for advice this morning, though.”

“Fluttershy broke her promise?!”

“No, no she didn’t, she didn’t say anything until she heard me say that I knew what was on your mind. Anyway, she told me that you like feeling that sort of emotional bond with me, that’s it. Is that true?”

Twilight blushed. “Y-yes. I mean, I look at you, and I see somep- I mean someone that understands me better than most of my friends. I don’t get the same feelings as when I see a nice stallion, that’s just physical attraction. You’re someone I could talk to for days straight and then some... You aren’t my closest friend; you’re something different, much more special to me, I think, but I don’t know the word for it. Yesterday I spent hours looking through dictionaries and thesauruses trying to find the right word, but I’ll have to search some more...”

It was Sam’s turn to feel his face redden for a change. “Wow... I had my suspicions but... I had no idea you felt that strongly...”

Twilight looked up at him with a wry smile. “You didn’t think I’d fall for someone outside my species if I didn’t see something special in them, did you? But now that I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of you... What do YOU think? What do you think of ME?”

Sam tightened his one-armed embrace. “Twilight, you’ve been an incredible friend to me since I’ve arrived here. I’ll admit, this whole situation, between you and I, it’s a new one to me, and I still don’t really know what I think about this, but-”

Sam was cut off by the sound of a loud crash outside. Twilight immediately jumped down to peer out the window. Another crash tore through the air. Sam and Twilight ran outside, and were greeted by the sight of a massive silver cloud smashing through Ponyville, with several of Twilight’s neighbors attempting, in vain, to fight off the menacing swarm.

Twilight gasped she watched the cloud throw ponies clear through the air as they tried to fight off the strange attacker threatening their homes.

“Sam! What is that thing?!”

Sam felt a sickening feeling growing in his gut as he began to recognize the intruder. “If it is what I think it is... This is going to get ugly. They’re probably-”

“SAM! Explain later! Run!” Twilight couldn’t suppress the panicked tone in her voice as the silver swarm began moving towards her.

Before they could even turn around, a bright white flash filled the air, and the replicator cloud was pushed back with Princess Celestia marking the midpoint between Twilight and the replicators.

“Twilight Sparkle! Are you ok?” Celestia turned to look back, her horn still glowing in a monumental display of power to restrain the nanomachines.

Twilight nodded, still in shock over what was going on.

“Good. A few more seconds and this... Thing would have likely assimilated you and absorbed your magical power.” The Princess turned to Sam. “Sam Mitchell, I think we have a problem.”

"...Big Damn Heroes, Sir." "Ain't We Just?"

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Sam stood stock still, jaw agape. “Princess, please tell me those aren’t what I think they are.”

Groaning under the stress of magically restraining the blob of replicators, Celestia responded, “I’m afraid I- agh! - I’m afraid that’s exactly what they are...”

“How in the hell did this happen?! The replicator designs on the archive don’t allow for self-replication!”

Beads of sweat began forming on the Princess’s brow. “There... There will be time for questions later, I hope, though I’ve got one very pressing one RIGHT NOW. Do you know how to stop this thing? My magical attacks only seem to push it back or temporarily wound it, it grows back incredibly quickly as if it were absorbing the attacks...”

Twilight, finally snapping out of her shock, spoke up. “Sam! Princess! Mind filling me in on what’s happening here?!”

“Sorry Twilight, it’s a huge blob of microscopic machines. We used them to quickly build things, but they never coalesced into a rampaging cloud of building-eating mini-monsters though...” Sam turned back to face the Princess. “I think I know of one way, but it depends on how long you can hold it in place.”

“By... By myself... I don’t know, not for very long, especially after exerting myself pushing it away in Canterlot. Luna should be here soon with the professors, however, and... She...” Celestia winced as she redoubled her concentration, “She should be able to help me hold it at bay for an hour or two.”

Sam rubbed his chin. “Alright. And you said that it seems to be absorbing magical energy? That could be a problem; I hope the professors can explain why it’s gained magical abilities... Is there a spell that can negate magical energy? Even just temporarily?”

“Yes, such a spell... Does exist.”

“Okay, great. I just need you to buy me some time to build something. It’s difficult to build intricate electronics like replicators, but it’s usually pretty easy to fry them if they aren’t protected by magic or other means.”

“Oh thank the stars, she’s almost here!” Celestia pointed up at the sky where a black and blue blur was quickly approaching her position.

Upon landing, Luna shook herself hard, throwing Bunsen and Hoofstein to the ground. “Thou hadst better not have gotten airsick in our mane!” She yelled angrily, while running a hoof through her flowing, sparkling blue mane.

“Luna! I can’t hold this thing on my own!” Celestia cried out, her knees beginning to buckle as the glow around her horn faded. As the barrier surrounding the nanomachines fell, the cloud quickly took the opportunity to reach out and smash at the ground near the two Princesses, before Luna added her own power, restraining the machines yet again.

“We hope we did not keepest thou waiting too long, sister.” Luna looked at Sam. “What are thou, strange creature?”

Celestia breathed a sigh of relief. “Luna, I wish we had time for introductions, Sam got here while you were away several weeks ago, but I need him to get to work. Even together we can’t hold the machines back forever.”

Sam nodded. “I’ll be right on it. Twilight, we’ll be back hopefully VERY soon. Bunsen, Hoofstein, you two follow me inside the library. NOW.”

The two scientists dared not speak another word in front of Luna, particularly after the way she ‘reprimanded’ them before she had retrieved them from the palace. The guards present at the time agreed, at Princess Luna’s ‘request’, to never speak of what they saw again.

Sam and the scientists entered the library, and made their way into the basement. Sam quickly set about grabbing the necessary tools and parts he would need to build the weapon he would need to destroy the replicators: an electromagnetic pulse generator.

Setting everything on the workbench, Sam turned to the two ponies behind him. “Okay, we don’t have much time, which means we don’t have much room to screw up with the wrong approach. Before I get to work, I need to know EXACTLY what modifications you idiots made to the replicators.”

Hoofstein accusingly jabbed a hoof in Bunsen’s ribs, causing the younger pony to give a yelp.

Sam tapped his foot. “Any day now, guys.”

Bunsen cleared his throat. “Okay... So first of all, we had to use some enchantments to create the communications system between the nanobots, as well as to prevent the original replicator generator from overloading itself or creating replicators that could replicate themselves rather than the products we programmed into them.”

Sam nodded his head. “Right, that explains why it seems to have magical abilities, though those weren’t bad ideas or anything enough to cause it to run rampant. What else did you do?”

“W-W-Well... At first we couldn’t get the replicators to create the proper shapes and forms for our products, they just kept coming out as deformed blobs, though the blobs WERE the correct materials...”

Sam was growing impatient. “JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY YOU JACKASS!”

“WE LOADED AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE INTO IT!!” Bunsen blurted out, “There, I said it, okay?!”

Sam went pale. “Come again?”

“Artificial intelligence... The file must have been in a damaged section of the original archive, we found it and recovered it, thinking that if we combined it with the replicator generator’s base code, it could self-improve its own operation...”

Sam began pacing nervously. “This is bad, this is VERY bad... Didn’t you see the warning accompanying it describing acceptable and unacceptable uses?! It clearly stated DO NOT USE WITH REPLICATOR TECHNOLOGY!”

Bunsen timidly replied. “That part must have been unrecoverable...”

“Okay... Well, that doesn’t change the method for fighting it, but with an AI embedded in it, it will definitely try to fight back.” Sam remembered what Celestia had said when she warned Twilight of being assimilated. “Is there anything else I should be aware of? Have the machines attacked or absorbed anyone?”

“Y-Yes... It swarmed on our junior researcher, Chip, especially after he tried fighting it off with a few bolts of magic. It just... Covered him... We heard him screaming, there was nothing we could do, and then he was gone. Lab coat and all... And the nanobot cloud began pulsing with little blue bolts of energy.”

Sam facepalmed. “Wonderful... This is a real mess you idiots have created... All the same, let’s get to work, we don’t have time to waste. You better believe that if we beat this, if the Princesses don’t wreck you two permanently,” Sam’s face took on an eerily calm demeanor, with only his glowering eyes betraying his true emotions, “I will.”

Both scientists gulped fearfully, in unison.

Hoofstein finally spoke. “So... What’s the plan?”

Sam was already elbow deep in electrical components. “Basically, an electromagnetic pulse generator. An EMP will completely destroy unprotected electronics, and nanites are infamously hard to protect against that, normally. If the someone can hit the cloud with a magic-negating spell, that should render the nanites pretty vulnerable.”

Hoofstein nodded. “I see. Anything we can do to help?”

Sam pointed to a pile of scrap parts from when he had repaired and improved the library’s electrical system. “Search through that pile for the biggest capacitor you can find, preferably one the size of my head, I know there’s one there from when I rewired the house earlier, though a soup-can sized cap should be just enough. Bunsen, go find my computer’s spare battery.”

With the two ponies occupied, Sam set to work dismantling the transformer circuit he’d built when he first arrived. Separating the two coupled coils, he mounted one of them on a plank of wood. Hoofstein brought him a few capacitors to choose from; finding the one with the largest voltage and capacity, he connected it to a two-way switch, which he attached to the coil and would later attach the battery to. Sam placed a small light bulb in parallel with the capacitor, and finally, once Bunsen brought in the battery, completed the circuit with a power source.

Sam wiped his forehead. “Alright, that’s it.”

Bunsen scratched his head. “That’s it? It looks so... Simple.”

“Yep, that’s it. If I flip the switch down, it connects the battery to the capacitor, charging it up. Once it’s done charging, the bulb will light. If I set the switch to the middle, everything is disconnected and the capacitor stays charged, until I flip the switch up. The capacitor will discharge through the wire coils, generating a nice big pulse of electromagnetic energy. Let’s go, I’ll be testing this thing in the field.”

Sam grabbed the EMP and went back outside, not bothering to wait for Hoofstein or Bunsen. Once outside, he could clearly see that the effort of maintaining the barrier around the replicators was taking its toll on the two alicorn princesses, Celestia in particular beginning to let go again.

“Okay! Princesses! I’ve got the device ready! Will you be able to cast the negation spell when you drop the barrier?”

Celestia didn’t respond; rather, she completely collapsed, leaving the burden of holding back the nanites completely on Luna, who shakily offered a response.

“We do not think so, Sam Mitchell. It is taking everything we have to restrain the abomination,” Luna looked over her night-blue shoulder towards Twilight, “Twilight Sparkle! You know the negation spell, do you not?”

Twilight nodded her head. “Yes! I’ll go with Sam once you let it go.”

“Very well. Sam, what is your plan?”

“I’d like to lure it somehow away from Ponyville. If what the professors have told me is true, this is going to get uglier before it gets resolved.” Sam turned to face Twilight. “I hate to ask this of you Twilight, but thanks to what Professor Bunsen did, the replicators are attracted to magical energy. I need your help with luring it out. Can you do that?”

Twilight’s face was frozen with fear. “B-But what if it catches me? You heard what Princess Celestia said, it’ll try to absorb me!”

Sam knelt down and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I know. I won’t let that happen,” he looked away in thought, “Can’t you teleport short distances?”

Twilight’s eyes lit up. “Yes! I think I see where you’re going with this; you want me to run with you ahead of it, and teleport us every so often to stay ahead, which will also expend enough energy to catch the replicators attention! I think I can do that, yeah!”

Sam pulled her into a quick hug. “Smart girl,” he looked back at Luna, “Okay, Princess Luna is it? When I give the signal, I want you to drop the barrier, and that’s when Twilight and I will start running,” Turning back to Twilight, “Where’s a good place to lure it to?”

“Just follow me, we’ll make a run towards Ghastly Gorge. It’s far enough away from here to keep everypony safe.”

“Alright. Here goes... Something,” Sam took a deep breath, and flipped the EMP’s switch to begin charging it. “Alright, Luna, let it go!”

With that, Luna dropped the barrier and collapsed from the exertion. Immediately, Sam and Twilight ran out in front of the replicator blob. Twilight quickly teleported herself and Sam a few hundred yards towards the gorge, with the flash of magic quickly attracting the attention of the silver swarm.

The chase went on for several minutes. Sam found himself silently thanking any deities who may have been listening for the fact that he’d been doing hard physical labor on Sweet Apple Acres. Several times, the replicators came within feet of Sam and Twilight and lashed at the ground behind them with silvery tendrils, and each time Twilight would cast another teleportation spell, propelling the pair another hundred yards forward.

Eventually, they reached the bottom of the gray, stone gorge. Sam glanced down at the EMP generator; the light bulb was glowing, indicating a full charge was ready to be released.

“Twilight! Hit it with the spell!”

A large tendril shot out from the replicator blob, prompting Twilight to jump out of its way, before unleashing a large bolt of magical energy towards it. The spell made a direct hit, causing the swarm’s slight blue glow to dissipate.

Sam ran towards the swarm, and flipped the switch to discharge the EMP.

The swarm stood still, as if it was assessing its current situation, but it was otherwise unharmed as the faint blue aura of magical energy returned around it. A group of thin tentacles quickly shot out towards Sam and Twilight.

They shouted in unison, “RUN!!”

Twilight resumed her pattern of teleportation, trying to keep herself and Sam at a safe distance as they waited for the EMP to recharge.

“Twilight, I thought the spell worked!” Sam shouted in between panicked breaths.

“It did! It must only last a few seconds, I’ve never cast it before!” Twilight shouted in frustration.

“Alright, on three, we stop running you hit the swarm with the spell again, and I’ll trigger the EMP at the moment the bolt leaves your horn, okay?”


“Just a few more seconds, it’s almost ready... Here we go! One... Two... THREE!”

Sam and Twilight stopped on a dime. Twilight fired the negation spell again, and Sam hit the switch at that exact moment. As the blue glow began to recede around the swarm, the EMP began to affect it; the cloud began dissipating, disintegrating into a shower of silvery dust as it made a few final attempts to lash out and attack its vanquishers.

As the last of the cloud vanished, Sam and Twilight were struggling to catch their breath.

Twilight was the first to speak. “Sam! You did it! We did it!” She leapt up in an awkward attempt to hug Sam.

Reaching his arms out to support her weight, he laughed. “I guess we did, didn’t we? I’m gonna sit down for a second...” Sam set down Twilight beside him, and they both began laughing endlessly in an adrenaline-fueled high.

A few hundred yards in the distance behind them, a small baseball-sized glob of silver was pulsating on the ground, slowly chewing through the ground searching for metal ores to consume. Within minutes, the blob had gathered enough raw materials to reform itself, this time taking on the form of a black unicorn, splotched with wiry patterns of silver, wearing a ragged lab coat.

“So, Sam, what now? Is that it?”

Sam nodded. “I think so...” He stood up. “Ready to head back to Ponyville and check on the Princesses?”

“I would really like to sit here and catch my breath a little longer, and I’d really like for us to finish that conversation we were having before all of this,” Twilight began idly looking around, “but we probably sh- WHAT THE HAY IS THAT?!” She pointed to the strange, rapidly-approaching pony behind them.

Sam turned to see what had Twilight so disturbed. “Is that a unic-”

Sam’s sentence was cut short by a blast of energy from the stranger, followed by the unmistakable metallic sound of approaching nanite tendrils. Scrambling to get back on his feet, Sam raced to grab the EMP where he’d dropped it earlier, with Twilight close behind him.

“Looks like we missed some, Sam, same strategy?”

“Yeah, same strategy.”

Twilight began hurling magical attacks towards the replicator pony, knocking a few chunks out of its head and pushing it back while Sam readied the EMP. The replicator let loose an ear-splitting, grating, metallic roar before sending a few tentacles into the ground, quickly regenerating itself and charging towards Twilight.

Sam grabbed a large rock and hurled it at the replicator, knocking it down long enough for Twilight to charge up another spell. Instead of using direct magical attacks, this time Twilight levitated several large boulders and attempted to crush the monster. This only slowed it down for a few moments as the replicator pony dissolved into a shapeless mass and slithered out from between its stone tomb before reforming.

The black and silver horn on its head began to glow, and several sharp rocks began to rise into the air, in imitation of Twilight’s earlier attack. All at once, the replicator sent a shower of deadly projectiles in Twilight’s direction. She dodged at the last second, with a fraction of the rocks hitting her, causing her to shriek in pain as the stones left several deep, ragged gashes in her side.

“Sam! I can’t fight this thing back forever! Is the EMP ready?”

“Almost! It’s almost the-AAAHHH!” A silvery tendril sliced across the top of Sam’s skull just before being repulsed by Twilight’s magic. Struggling to regain his footing, Sam reached up to touch his head; pulling it away, his hand was soaked in blood.

“Are you okay?!” Twilight screamed. Her temporary distraction provided the replicator with just enough time to lash out with another tentacle, sweeping Twilight’s legs from underneath her and knocking her senseless.

“Twilight! Hit it with... With anything you’ve got! It’s almost right on us!”

Snapping out of her mental haze, Twilight ignored the pain from her heavily hemorrhaging side, and immediately began focusing her powers, and blasted the replicator back, knocking it on its side.

Instead of charging back towards the pair, the replicator unicorn just sat still where it lay, sending small silver tendrils into the ground. The silver mass began slowly growing in size until it had nearly regained its earlier mass, reaching several stories tall.

Immediately a large group of metallic tentacles flew towards the pair. Sam jumped in Twilight’s direction, scooping her up and tumbling just out of the way. Twilight began firing bolts of energy back at the once-again shapeless mass of silver, but to no effect. The swarm continued its slow, deliberate approach, throwing more rocks and tentacles in their direction.

Sam and Twilight ran out of the way, back towards where the EMP was sitting. A shower of rocks pelted them, knocking Twilight back to the ground with a sickening crunch and pop as her right foreleg bent at an unnatural angle, and striking Sam on his already-lacerated head, causing his world to turn red.

Sam landed on the ground only a few feet from the EMP device. Once again, the light bulb was on.

Struggling to concentrate, Sam yelled out. “Twilight, the EMP is ready! On three, I need you to concentrate and let loose the biggest negation spell you can! Give it all you’ve got!”

Another wave of silver death came raining down towards them. Twilight managed to repulse the tentacles aimed for her, and Sam rolled over towards the EMP generator just in time to avoid those coming for him.

“Okay, forget counting, throw the spell!”

Twilight fought to ignore her body’s screams, and focused all of her energy into her horn. As she released the spell, another wave of sharp tentacles came flying down towards her.

Sam’s blood ran cold as a terrifying realization hit him. The spell isn’t gonna hit in time, I can’t activate the EMP fast enough to stop the machines... “Twilight! Move! Do something!”

Twilight tried to move, but the energy needed for the last spell was immense. Her eyes wide, she weakly called out, “... Sam... I can’t... Help!”

Sam struggled to his feet, grabbed the EMP, and sprinted towards Twilight as his vision faded in and out.

With only a few feet left between Twilight and the horrors of replicator assimilation, Sam jumped in front of her and flipped the switch just as the spell hit. The tentacles pierced Sam’s side and hip, knocking him to the ground. For a split second he felt the nanites beginning to tear him apart cell by cell where they struck him, before the mass of replicators deactivated and fell away, leaving a gaping hole in Sam’s side that exposed his right leg’s muscles and the ball-and-socket joint of his hip.

Twilight could only watch in horror as Sam convulsed and screamed in agony, with a pool of blood rapidly spreading around him. She gathered all of her remaining strength and struggled to get back on all fours, but a shockwave of pain from her right foreleg reminded her of her injuries. She slowly limped over to Sam’s now-motionless form.

Twilight fell to the ground next to him, nudging him with her uninjured foreleg in an attempt to keep him conscious.

“Sam? Sam! Please, you’ve gotta stay awake!” Twilight began crying. “Don’t worry... They’re gonna come find us, the Princesses must have recovered enough by now, they’d be coming to back us up,” she was sobbing almost uncontrollably as she looked Sam in the eyes, “just hold on a little longer... Please... You just can’t leave me like this!”

The last thing Sam saw before slipping into unconsciousness was Twilight’s face, bloody and streaked with tears, looking down at him. Using the last ounce of energy she had left, Twilight sent a shower of sparks high into the air, a makeshift signal flare, before laying her head on his chest and passing out.


Twilight awoke to sterile white walls and the smell of anti-septic floor cleaner. She could make out a light, periodic beeping sound. She heard a familiar, but hushed voice murmuring nearby.

“Oh thank the stars, Luna, she’s waking up...”

Twilight’s vision slowly adjusted to the soft light, and saw the concerned faces of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna at her side.

“Princess Celestia? Princess Luna? What happened? Where am I? Did we destroy the replicators?” Twilight attempted to sit up, but the gentle hoof of the white alicorn pressed to her chest convinced her otherwise.

“Yes, and I couldn’t be more proud of you, Twilight. You, once again, saved Ponyville and quite possibly the rest of Equestria. You’re going to be okay, just lay back and get some rest,” Celestia cooed, “You’ve been here in the Ponyville hospital for the last three days; we found you and Sam shortly after you sent up those sparks. You’re both-”

“Sam?! Where is he?” Twilight struggled to look around the room; aside from the two princesses, she was the sole occupant. “Is he okay? What happened?!”

Celestia leaned down and gently nuzzled her young student. “I’m afraid I have some bad news on that count, Twilight. Sam is alive, but just barely. He lost a lot of blood, and his head injuries were very severe. He’s stable, for now, but I’m afraid we have no way of knowing if he’ll ever wake up...”

Twilight’s face froze as the gravity of Celestia’s words hit her.

Luna finally spoke. “Twilight, wouldst thou care to explain how Sam was so grievously wounded?”

Celestia shot Luna an angry glare. “Now is not the time for that, sister,” she hissed.

“No, Princess, it’s okay. Right before we finally destroyed it, the replicator lashed out with one more attack, and I couldn’t get out of the way. Sam must have known that my spell and his EMP wouldn’t take effect quickly enough to stop the attack, and he... He... “ Twilight’s voice trailed off as she began to sob quietly.

Celestia ran a hoof through Twilight’s mane. “I see. I’m so sorry, Twilight. I promise, we’re doing everything we can for him. He didn’t just save you, after all. With your help, he saved all of us.”

Twilight took a deep breath to calm her crying. “Can I see him?”

Celestia shook her head. “I would love to let you, but the doctors aren’t even giving me permission to check on him. His injuries are too much for magic alone to heal, and you’re not quite out of the woods yourself. Those cuts in your side were quite deep, and the doctor doesn’t want to release you until he’s certain that they aren’t becoming infected. That’s not to mention your concussion and severe ankle sprain, on top of your severe exhaustion.”

Twilight closed her eyes. “Okay... Just promise me I can see him the moment the doctors allow it.”

Celestia nodded and gave a gentle smile. “Sam is very important to you, isn’t he?”

Twilight nodded weakly.

“I understand. I’ll personally see to it that you’re the first pony to visit him when the doctor clears it. But for now, you should focus on getting your rest.” Celestia looked to Luna and motioned towards the door. “We’ll leave you be for now, besides, we have a certain pair of scientists to deal with. Your friends are waiting outside. Should I tell them to come in? They’re all worried sick about you and Sam.”

Twilight nodded. “I... I think I’d like that.”

The two Princesses made their exit, after which Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy entered single file, each of their faces lightly streaked with tears, especially Rarity’s. They gathered around the hospital bed, each unsure of what to say to their injured friend.

Finally, Applejack decided to break the silence. “Oh, Twi, Ah’m so glad ta see yer alright. How ya feelin’?”

Twilight sighed. “I’ve been better, but I’ll live...”

Fluttershy gently tapped Twilight’s shoulder to get her attention. “Um, I’m glad you’re okay, we were afraid you weren’t going to wake up... Have you seen Sam yet? How is he?”

Twilight could feel her eyes watering up again. “Flutters... Celestia told me he’s in pretty bad shape... They really are afraid he won’t wake up; he got hit pretty badly...”

Fluttershy in particular knew what this meant for Twilight. “I’m so sorry... I’m sure the doctors are doing everything they can to help him...”

Rarity couldn’t control herself anymore, and burst into tears. “Ohhh I’m such a horrible pony! I should have acted more lady-like, I should have been the one to apologize to him, we could have been friends this whole time, and now I’ll never get the chance...”

Applejack saw how Rarity’s outburst was affecting Twilight and jabbed Rarity hard in the ribs. “Ya’ll need to can it Rarity. Ya’ll don’t know what’ll happen with Sam, who knows? He could wake up tomorrow for all we know.” She leaned in to whisper in Rarity’s ear, “Save it, alright? This ain’t about you and Twilight don’t need to hear that sort of thing right now, ‘kay?”

Rarity nodded and levitated a dainty white handkerchief from her saddlebags to dry her eyes with.

Pinkie had been uncharacteristically quiet this entire time. Unable to bear the dark tone of the room, she decided she’d had enough. Fake it till ya make it, right Pinkie? Twilight needs you! She forced herself to give the biggest, widest smile that she could muster before leaning over and carefully giving Twilight a hug.

“Oh Twilight, I’m so glad you’re gonna be okay! As soon as you and Sam get outta here I’m gonna throw you the biggest most amazingest get-well-soon-and-thanks-for-saving-Ponyville-from-a-giant-self-replicating-monster-thing party you’ve ever seen! And if Sam can’t make it to that one, then when he does wake up, and he definitely will because I just know it, I guess I’ll just have to throw another one just for him too, right? It’ll be great! There’ll be punch, and cake, and games, and music and-”

Rainbow reached over to silence the overly-enthusiastic pink ball of cotton-candy. “I think we get the picture Pinkie, but try to keep calm, will ya? Twilight needs to rest if she’s gonna heal properly.” She rolled her eyes. “Believe me, I know.”

Pinkie somehow vanished and reappeared at Rainbow Dash’s other side. “Oh yeah I remember that! And you ended up sneaking back in here to borrow that Daring-Do book and then-”

Rainbow groaned. “UGH! Just quiet down, Pinkie!”

Pinkie grinned before making a motion across her mouth that was supposed to resemble closing a zipper. “Okie dokie lokie!”

Applejack took advantage of the silence to speak again. “Well, Twilight, before we all go, Ah just want ta tell ya that we’re all real proud ‘a you and Sam, and we’re all here for ya. If ya’ll need anything, just give one of us a shout, alright?”

Rainbow jumped into the air and puffed up her chest. “Yeah! I wish I coulda seen you and Sam, you guys must have been almost as tough as me to take down that kinda monster! Like Applejack said, if you need anything, say the word, and I’ll be right there for you in like ten seconds flat!”

“Thanks girls, that means a lot to me, really.”

Rarity gave a little curtsy. “Oh don’t mention it dear. Now, you get some rest. We’ll try to drop in every day to see how you’re doing, okay?”

Twilight gave a little smile. “I’d like that.” She slowly looked around the room at the worried faces of all her friends. “Well, I’m starting to feel pretty tired, and I don’t want to keep you occupied any more than I already have.”

Applejack nodded. “Alright girls, let’s give Twi’ some peace and quiet.” Following her lead, the rest of the group followed her out, except for Pinkie.

Waiting until after the others had left, Pinkie leaned over and gave Twilight another hug. While she had the unicorn in her embrace, she whispered in her ear, “I don’t know what to call this one yet, but my Pinkie Sense is telling me something about Sam. I don’t know what, except that it’s something really really good! So don’t worry, ‘kay?”

After Pinkie had let go, Twilight was still smiling, though her eyes were misting up again. “Thank you, Pinkie, I hope you’re right.”

Applejack threw the door open. “Pinkie! Come on, let Twilight sleep!”

“Okie dokie lokie, bye Twilight!”

I really do hope she’s right...


Two days later, Twilight was finally cleared to leave the hospital, though it would be a few weeks before she could walk normally again. Before leaving, she was allowed to visit Sam’s room. Sitting in a wheelchair outside his room, she took a deep breath to steel herself before going inside.

Feeling as ready as she ever would, she motioned for the nurse to wheel her inside. What she saw broke her heart; Sam’s head was heavily bandaged, and he had multiple tubes coming out of his mouth, chest, and side. One was to help him breathe, another acted as a feeding tube, a third one delivered medication from an IV drip, and the rest were a mystery to Twilight. The parts of his face that weren’t covered by gauze were swollen, discolored, and misshapen. Twilight barely recognized him.

“It’s all my fault... If I’d just tried harder to get out of the way, he wouldn’t have done that, he would be okay...”

The nurse was still in the room, and bent down to look Twilight in the face. “Twilight, I don’t mean to stick my snout in anypony else’s business, and I don’t know exactly what happened, but if he’s hurt because he was protecting you, I’m willing to bet he holds you very close to his heart. Folks don’t do things like that for just anypony, you know. So don’t fault yourself for this, okay?”

Twilight nodded. “So... What’s his condition? What exactly is wrong with him? Don’t spare the details, okay? I need to know.”

The nurse sighed. “Well, that gash in his side, he lost quite a bit of blood. We obviously don’t have human blood to give transfusions of, so frankly it’s a miracle just on that note alone that he’s even alive. The doctor isn’t sure, but the nerves for his right leg may have been damaged, so he may have trouble using that leg from here out. Then, his head was beat up pretty badly. We tried to at least heal his skull fractures with magic, but that only goes so far, especially considering we’ve never worked on a human before.”

“So... So what are the odds of him waking up?”

The nurse shook her head. “I’m sorry, I wish I could give you a reasonable estimate. I’ve seen ponies come in here with far more severe injuries and heavier comas wake up just days after we’ve stabilized them. I’ve seen lighter comas last months, even years. There’s just no way of knowing for sure.”

Twilight leaned over to nuzzle Sam. “Please, please wake up,” she whispered. She continued to stare at Sam’s motionless body, trying to hold back her tears, before turning to look back at the nurse. “Mind giving me a few minutes, please?”

“Of course, I need to go check on the patient next door anyway. I’ll be back in a few.” The nurse left the room.

Twilight nodded in acknowledgement before turning back to face Sam. “Sam... Why’d you have to do it?” She could no longer hold back the tears. “If I’d just moved out of the way, you’d still be okay... This is all my fault... I never even got to hear if you felt the same way about me as I feel about you... You know how much I care about you, right?” Twilight choked back a few pained sobs. “I’ll visit as often as I can, Pinkie Promise it, if I have to... Just, wake up, please...”

Twilight sat there in silence, struggling to cease her tears and dry her eyes before the nurse returned.

Sure enough, mere minutes later, a knock at the door preceded the nurse’s reentry.

“You okay, Twilight?”

“I’m fine, thanks for asking... Well... I suppose I should try to get on home... Applejack said she’d come by today to help me settle in back at the library. If you could push me over to the lobby, AJ can take me from there.”

“Sure thing, Twilight.”

Twilight and the nurse entered the lobby at the exact same time Applejack arrived.

“Ya’ll ready to go home, Twi’?” The farmer asked cheerfully.

“Ready as ever, thanks for coming AJ.”

“Don’t mention it, sugarcube.”

Applejack wheeled Twilight through town with an awkward silence hanging over them. Twilight was pleasantly surprised that a large portion of the damage caused by the replicators had already been repaired, and every pony that she and Applejack passed by gave her a friendly wave and loud thank-you.

Finally arriving at the library, Applejack finally spoke. “Welp, looks like we’re here. Do ya need any help gettin’ around? Want me ta carry ya to yer bed or couch or somethin’?”

Twilight shook her head. “I can take it from here, thanks though AJ.” She got out of the wheelchair and slowly limped over to her favorite reading spot, a small couch under one of the windows.

“Okay, ya’ll need anything else before Ah head out?”

Twilight shook her head.

“Alrighty then. Ah’ll drop in tomorrow to see how yer doin’, but if ya’ll need somethin’ before then, feel free ta send Spike over and Ah’ll have you taken care of in no time a’tall.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. See you tomorrow then.”

Applejack turned to leave, and began her trip back to her farm.

“Spike? Where are you Spike?”

The young dragon appeared almost out of nowhere. “Yes Twilight? Anything I can do for you? I’m glad you’re back home, and sorry for not visiting, but I took all this time to reshelve the books just the way you’ve been planning for a while, you know, to surprise you when you got home.”

Twilight smiled. “Thank you Spike, that was very thoughtful of you.”

“No problem! Now, where’s Sam?”

Twilight sighed. “I’m sorry to tell you, Spike, but Sam’s still in the hospital. He got hurt much worse than I did, and...” she struggled to force the tears back. “He’s in a coma... They don’t know if he’ll wake up...”

Spike gasped. “Oh wow, that’s horrible!”

“And the worst part was, it’s my fault he’s hurt that bad!”

Spike cocked his head to the side. “I doubt that, why do you think so?”

“Because if I had just moved out of the way of the monster, Sam wouldn’t have had to jump in front of it and take the hit for me!” Twilight became a wailing, inconsolable mess, sobbing in between ragged breaths.

Spike reached up to comfort her. “Oh come on, Twilight, that’s not your fault!”

“It is, Spike! Now I’ve got to make this right somehow...” Twilight managed to mostly regain her composure, sniffling a bit.

“What are you thinking?”

“Help me find a book on magical medicine, I want to see if there’s anything about how to reverse a coma.”

Twilight spent the next twenty-four hours reading through nearly every book she could find that was even remotely related to medicine, magic, or comas. She frantically flipped through each one before using her magic to throw them onto an ever-growing pile on the other side of the room. Her eyes were becoming more glazed and bloodshot with each passing second. Spike attempted numerous times to convince her to go to bed, but was met each time with an emotional rant about how she still felt guilt over Sam’s condition. Finally, Spike gave up and went to bed himself, leaving the poor unicorn to worry herself into a fit of insomnia.

When Spike woke up for breakfast, he found Twilight still furiously scanning through each book. Judging by the position of the current book pile, he estimated that Twilight had re-read every book twice.

“Twilight, seriously! You need to sleep, or at least eat something...”

“Can’t eat, reading.”

Much to Spike’s relief, Applejack came trotting through the door only moments later.

“Mornin’ ya’ll!” She noticed Twilight frantically throwing books around. “Twilight? Everything alright over there?”

“Yes, nope, reading. More reading. Gotta find a spell to fix Sam. My fault.” Twilight’s eyes and right ear were moving with a very obvious and exaggerated tic.

“Twilight, mind puttin’ tha books down and talkin’ to me fer a minute?”


Applejack smacked the book out from in front of Twilight, snapping her out of her trance.

“Sorry, what were you saying?”

“Nothin’ in particular. Are you sleepin’ and relaxin’ like the doc told ya to?”

“Yes, I’ve been sitting right here since you left me.”

“That ain’t what Ah mean, Twilight, so Ah’m gonna guess the answer is ‘no’. What’s got ya’ll so worked up?”

Twilight sighed. “It’s Sam. It’s my fault he’s hurt so I have to make this right, but I’m getting nowhere.”

“Mind if Ah ask a personal question here?” Ah wonder if’n she really does have feelin’s fer that biped boy...

“Ask away...”

“Alright. Why are you so torn up over Sam? Ah’ve never seen you so worked up about somthin’ like this.”

Twilight looked down. “I guess I might as well tell you, Fluttershy already knows... I think I’m falling for Sam. He means a great deal to me. I care about him beyond what I can put into words, AJ, even though he’s not a pony... And now he’s badly hurt, and it’s my fault; I don’t know if he’ll forgive me... I just don’t know if I can handle it...”

Applejack gave a concerned smile. “Ah figured you might’ve had feelins for the guy. Look, personally, Ah’m glad you’re okay. And you know none of us would care that he ain’t no pony, ‘specially since he turned out to be such a good guy. We’re yer friends, Twi’, and we just want ya ta be happy. If he’s good enough fer you, that’s good enough fer us. Now, Sam paid a pretty hefty price ta save yer life, don’t make light of that by beatin’ yerself up over what happened to the both of ya.”

“I suppose you’re right... I just hope he can forgive me...”

“Twilight, if he’s half as great as you seem ta think he is, the thought of holdin’ all ‘a this mess against ya probably never crossed his mind. Ah’m sure he wouldn’t ‘a done that fer you if he didn’t care ‘bout ya somethin’ fierce.”

Twilight cocked her head. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Yep! That you need ta calm down and relax, and that this mess with Sam ain’t yer fault. And please don’t try ta argue with me on that one. Though, when he wakes up, definitely make sure to talk to ‘em. He was tellin’ me the mornin’ of the attack that he had somethin’ on his mind to talk to ya about.”

“Yeah, he was almost getting to the important part when the replicators hit...”

“Good, well then, ya know where ta pick up when he gets better.” Applejack shifted her gaze to Twilight’s injured leg. “How’s yer leg doin’? Tried puttin’ any weight on it yet?”

“Not yet... It might be another week before I can do that. I can get around, though, I want to go back to the hospital. I really want to spend time in Sam’s room... In case he wakes up...”

“Alright, just promise me yer gonna keep yer head ‘bout this. Don’t spend all yer time cooped up in there, okay? He wouldn’t want ya to do that.”

“Okay, AJ, I promise.”

“Ah don’t normally say this, but ya’ll better Pinkie Promise it.”

Twilight groaned. “Alright, fine. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye, whatever. Satisfied?”

“Eeyep! Before I leave, ya’ll need anything?”

“I’m fine... I’m just gonna go catch some sleep; I’ve read through these books maybe five times each and I haven’t found anything... I’ve been up a while so maybe I should give it a rest. Thanks, AJ.”

“Anytime. Take care now, ‘kay Twilight? See ya’ll later!”

Twilight waved as her friend left the library. “Hey, Spike, I’m going to to lie down in bed... If you don’t mind, come wake me up around lunch time...”

“Sure thing, Twilight. Need any help getting up the stairs?”

“No, I can make it, just one step at a time.”

Eventually, Twilight made it to her room. She slowly, deliberately climbed into her bed, being careful not to lie on the stitches holding her cuts together or jar her sprained foreleg. Finally finding a comfortable position, she instantly passed out in a dreamless slumber.


The next day, Twilight attempted to return to her daily routine of studying and reading. However, she found that concentrating on the book at hand was nearly impossible. No matter how hard she tried, her mind kept drifting back to Sam.

After a few hours of failed attempts at getting any of her studies done, Twilight decided that she needed to go visit Sam. She thought carefully about how she would make the trip; she certainly didn’t want to try limping all the way over, and her leg was not yet healed enough to bear any significant weight.

She had Spike bring out her wheelchair. “Want me to push you to the hospital, Twilight?”

“No, thank you though, I want to go on my own.”

“How are you gonna push yourself, though?”

“I’m gonna try using magic. I’m definitely not back to full strength, but I should be able to handle this. I’ll be back a little later, okay Spike?”

Spike nodded. “Alright. You’re sure you don’t want any help? Because you know I wouldn’t mind.”

“I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

Visibly exerting herself as she concentrated, Twilight’s horn finally gave off a faint glow, and the wheelchair began to move. Slowly, she rolled through the doorway and into town, on her way to the hospital.

The trip only took a few minutes, but with the level of exertion required for Twilight to move herself like that in her current state, it felt like hours. By the time she arrived at the hospital, she was completely out of breath, and felt as though she could pass out at any moment.

The receptionist noticed the new arrival, and between how recently Twilight had checked out and how weak she looked from her trip back, the first thought to cross her mind was that Twilight was hurt again.

The receptionist lept over the desk and began quickly inspecting the lavender unicorn. “Twilight Sparkle, are you alright? Are you sick? You should have sent for an ambulance! Okay don’t panic, we’ll get you fixed right up, what’s the problem? DOCTOR!”

Twilight waved her away. “No, I’m fine,” she panted, “I’m just tired. I came to visit Sam... Can you take me back there?”

“You’re sure you’re not hurt again? Or sick?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay. Give me a few minutes to check with the doctors and I’ll take you right back.” The receptionist darted back behind the desk and into the doctor’s office. After a quick conversation, she returned.

“Alright, he’s cleared for visitors.” She quickly looked around as if she were trying to sneak something away, and leaned down to whisper. “We normally only allow visits for a couple of hours a day, especially for patients like Sam, but we all know what you and he did, so I’m going to make an exception and let you stay as long as you need, okay?”

Twilight smiled weakly. “Thank you.”

A nurse came in and took charge of wheeling Twilight into Sam’s room. She pushed her as close to the bed as the chair would allow.

“Do you need anything before I go? Glass of water, anything like that?”

“No, thank you, though.”

“Alright. If you change your mind, just hit the call button.”

The nurse left the room, leaving Twilight alone with Sam. Still recovering from the strain of pushing herself all the way from the library, she shakily got out of her wheelchair and slowly climbed up into the bed with Sam, curling up at his left side and laying her head on his chest. She promptly fell asleep.

Drifting into unconsciousness, she began to dream. It started off as a pleasant scene; it was the night they had laid out on Twilight’s balcony, watching the stars. Neither of them said anything. They simply laid there, enjoying the night air.

The environment quickly changed, however. The serene night sky was quickly replaced by an expanse of fire and flying silver clouds of replicators that devoured everything in sight. Twilight screamed for Sam to get up and run, and they dashed out of the library and into the street, running for their lives. The clouds were gaining on them, closing in around them. Eventually, the two were completely surrounded, and several sharp tentacles shot out at Sam, piercing his chest. Another group came hurtling towards Twilight, flying closer and closer, until-

“SAM!” Twilight jerked awake. Drawing rapid, ragged breaths, she looked around frantically, slowly remembering where she was.

A familiar voice piped up. “Whoa there Twilight, calm down!”

Looking around, Twilight finally saw the source of the voice; Rainbow Dash had been sitting in the chair on the other side of Sam’s bed.

Rubbing her eyes, Twilight said, “Rainbow? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, just checking on you. I dropped by your house to see how you were doing and to get the new Daring Do book about an hour ago,” She held up a thick volume, “but you weren’t there. Spike told me where to find you.”

Twilight sighed. “Yeah... I just had to see him again...”

“He’s in pretty bad shape, isn’t he?”

Twilight just nodded.

Rainbow flew over to Twilight’s side of the bed, and put a foreleg around her. “I’m sure he’ll pull through.”

“Pinkie seemed positive of it when you all came to visit me.” Twilight looked up to face her friend. “Mind doing me a favor?”


“I was just barely able to wheel myself over using magic and the little bit of strength that’s come back, but I don’t think I can get myself home... Mind pushing me?”

“Sure! You ready to go right now?”

Twilight nodded. She gingerly climbed down out of the bed, and back into the wheelchair. Safely settled into place, Rainbow grabbed the chair and pushed Twilight out of the hospital, and back towards home.

Once back at the library, Rainbow Dash made sure Twilight was settled in comfortably.

“Alright, I’m gonna let you be. Want me to drop in tomorrow? Maybe help you go visit Sam again?”

Twilight looked at the ground. “You don’t have to do that,”

Rainbow lifted into the air, “I know! I’m not the ‘Element of Loyalty’ for nothin’! I know Sam means a lot to you, so tell me, what time am I taking you to visit him?”

Twilight cracked a small smile. “Just come by whenever it works for you. I’m so exhausted lately that I actually have to set an alarm to wake up if I want to rise at my usual time... So, just drop by and wake me up if you have to.”

“Alright, sounds like a plan. See ya tomorrow.” Rainbow rushed out the door as usual, with the door slamming shut in her wake.

Twilight huddled down under her blankets, and drifted off to sleep.


Twilight woke up to the firm nudges of a cyan hoof against her shoulder. “Hey! Twilight! Time to go visit Sam!”

Twilight groaned and turned on her uninjured side.

Rainbow redoubled her efforts to rouse her purple friend. “Come on, Twilight, not even I’M that lazy!”

Twilight slowly sat up in bed. “Okay, okay, I’m up.”

“Good! Spike helped me make you some breakfast, though it *IS* lunchtime, heh.” Rainbow produced a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice on a tray.

Twilight laughed. “Breakfast in bed eh? Thanks.”

“No prob. I don’t mean to rush you, but Applejack is expecting me to get a small rainshower going over the orchards in half an hour, so... Well I guess I am rushing you,” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug.

Twilight ate her breakfast, and insisted on trying to complete her usual morning routine without Rainbow’s help. Growing impatient, Rainbow grabbed Twilight underneath her forelegs and sat her in the wheelchair before setting off for the hospital.

Upon arrival, the receptionist didn’t bother asking Twilight why she was there; instead, she called a nurse to wheel her directly to Sam’s room. Twilight thanked Rainbow, who quickly flew off to bring the rain to Applejack’s crops. The nurse arrived, and began pushing the wheelchair towards Sam’s room. Once inside, the nurse left, prompting Twilight to climb up next to Sam as she had done the day before.

Twilight gently laid her head against his chest, and closed her eyes. Just as she began to drift off to sleep, a slight movement caught her attention. She looked up and down Sam’s body, hoping to catch the source of the movement, but after another minute without any further activity, Twilight decided to try sleeping again and attributed the feeling of movement to her imagination.

She squirmed around a bit to get comfortable, when she felt it again. This time, she spotted the source; Sam’s left hand was moving slightly.

Twilight sat straight up. “Sam! Are you awake? Can you hear me?!” Realizing that he probably couldn’t talk or move his head with the tubes in his mouth and chest, she slid a hoof under his hand and added, “If you can hear me, squeeze my hoof twice.”

She felt two distinct pulses of pressure on her hoof.

“Ohmygosh! Sam! I can’t believe it!” Twilight had to fight to contain her excitement; all she wanted to do at that moment was throw her forelegs around him and never let go.

She heard low groaning sounds coming from Sam’s mouth, and saw his hand gingerly touching the tubes coming from his face.

“Don’t try to talk, or touch the tubes... I’m gonna call the nurse and doctor, just hold on, you’re gonna be okay!”

Twilight reached over and pressed the ‘call’ button, prompting the doctor to come galloping through the door, his messy brown mane hanging over his horn and glasses.

Twilight’s eyes were wide with excitement and concern. “Doctor! Sam’s awake! I asked him something and he squeezed my hoof!”

“He’s awake?! First let’s see...” The doctor ran over to Sam’s side and began examining him. “He’s breathing on his own... That’s good...” He repeated the same question and test that Twilight had done just moments before, with the same results. “He’s definitely conscious. Let’s get those tubes out of his throat.”

The doctor’s horn began to glow, as did the tubing. Slowly and gently, each pipe slid out of Sam’s throat, prompting a spasming of ragged coughing after their removal. Sam attempted to speak, but found himself unable to do so; after nearly a week with the tubes in his throat, it was dry and sore, making speaking quite painful.

Sam finally tried to open his eyes. The first thing he saw was the smiling, crying face of Twilight Sparkle, who was still sitting next to him. He reached up with his left hand and stroked the side of her face, struggling to crack a smile with his chapped lips. Twilight leaned into his hand, which Sam found was getting damp with her tears.

“Twilight, I hate to interrupt, but I’m going to have to ask you to move away so that I can check him over, I won’t take long.” The doctor had Sam open his mouth, checked out his throat, and examined the response of his eyes to light hitting them. He checked Sam’s blood pressure, and promptly remembered that he had no idea what normal blood pressure and heart rate were for humans. “As best I can tell, Sam, you’re okay, for now. We’ve been treating the wound in your side as best we can; we attempted to graft some skin over it, and so far it’s looking alright, no infection. Though, we don’t know yet if you’ll retain usage of your right leg, there may be some nerve damage... Additionally, you had a pretty nasty laceration on your head as well as a severe concussion, so if you are having a hard time remembering how you wound up here, don’t be surprised. I’m sure when you’re feeling better, Twilight can refresh your memory. From what I hear,” The doctor gently patted Sam’s shoulder, “You saved her life.”

Twilight cleared her throat. “So... When do you think he’ll be able to leave?”

“Well, it goes without saying he’ll be here a little while longer. We need to keep a close eye on his skin graft. But, with you awake, Sam, my outlook for you overall is very good. I’ll have a nurse bring in some water or something for you to drink, your throat is probably feeling pretty raw. Twilight, would you like me to have her bring you something as well?”

“No, thank you, I’m fine.”

“Okay, well, I’ll leave you be for now. Get well soon, both of you.”

Once the doctor had left the room, Twilight jumped back on the bed, and settled down between Sam’s left arm and his torso. She looked up at him, and he met her gaze, a few tears filling his own eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re awake... Do you remember what happened?”

Sam gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

“I can’t tell you how worried I was about you... What you did... That’s the bravest, most selfless thing anypony has ever done for me.”

A slight smile formed on Sam’s face.

A nurse entered the room, with a glass of water and a measuring glass with a small amount of medicine in it.

“Here, Sam, take this medicine, it should ease your sore throat so you can drink some water, maybe talk if you can stand it.”

Sam shakily took the medicine from the tray, and tipped it back, coughing as he tried to swallow it. Finally getting it down, he accepted the cup of water, and took a few sips.

The nurse took the glass from him and set it on the side table. “Don’t drink it too fast, your stomach hasn’t really had anything in it for a few days. You don’t want to get sick. I’m going to leave now, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything, either one of you.”

“Nurse? Would it be okay if I stayed here overnight? If Sam is fine with it, that is.”

The nurse looked over at Twilight’s pleading face. “Hmm... I don’t suppose it would hurt...”

“So? Sam? Did the medicine help any? Would you like for me to stay with you?”

Sam took a ragged breath, and in a hoarse voice, said, “Yes... To both questions...”

The nurse smiled. “Then it’s settled. I’ll come back later to check on you, Sam.” She left the room.

“I’m glad... to see you’re... okay.”

“Thanks to you...” Twilight began crying again. “I’m so sorry... You’re hurt because of me, it’s all my fault...” She felt something on her back; Twilight turned her head to see Sam’s hand gently rubbing her.

“Not... Your fault... Couldn’t let you... Get hurt... Or worse... Just... Returning... The favor.”

Twilight gave a weak laugh. “So I guess we’re even.”

“Almost... Before the attack... Conversation.”

Twilight’s eyes shot open in anticipation. “Yes? What were you going to say?”

“Hard to talk... Keep this short... You like me?”

Twilight nodded. “Remember what I told you? You’re so much more than just a friend to me, Sam...”

Sam drew another rough breath. “Good... You mean... A lot to... Me, too.”

Twilight buried her face in Sam’s shoulder, bawling her eyes out.

“Did I... Say it wrong?”

Twilight looked up at him, her large, purple eyes shimmering from the tears streaming down from them over her widely-smiling face. “No, that was just right.” She laid back down next to him, resting her head against his chest.

Sam pulled Twilight tight against his side. “Good... Let’s go to sleep... We both need some rest.”

Twilight didn’t need to be told twice; she snuggled down closer between Sam’s arm, and fell asleep with a smile on her face.

Almost as if on cue, Rainbow Dash arrived to pick up Twilight.

“Hey, Twilight, ready to go home?”

Twilight slowly lifted her head. “I think I’m gonna stay here for the night, Rainbow, you see-”

The sky-blue pegasus noticed the streaks of tears on Twilight’s face. “Everything okay? How’s Sam?”

Twilight gave a faint laugh. “If you’d let me finish, I was going to tell you. He woke up!” She was beaming. “Can you believe it? He’s gonna be okay!”

Rainbow’s face had confusion written all over it. “Um, Twi, he doesn’t look all that awake to me... Are you okay?”

Twilight facehoofed. “He’s resting, Rainbow. He’s out of his coma but he’s sleeping now.”

“I was... Asleep, anyway...”

Rainbow grinned sheepishly. “Heh, sorry Sam. I’m glad to see you’re doing better! We’ve all been pretty worried about you! Especially Rarity, for some reason.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes.

“Thanks... Going to sleep now...”

Rainbow lowered her voice. “Why’s it so hard for him to talk?”

Twilight sighed. “While he was out, the doctor had these tubes and machines hooked up to him to help him breathe, and the tubes went down his throat. They tend to leave you pretty hoarse and sore, apparently.”

“Gotcha. Well, if you’re staying here, I might as well head out. Want me to take you home tomorrow morning?”

Twilight nodded. “If you don’t mind, that would be great. Could you also fly by the library and let Spike know I’m staying? Give him the good news, too!”

“Sure thing, see you tomorrow then!” Rainbow jumped out of the window and flew off.

Now maybe I can really try to get some sleep...


Over the following days, Sam’s condition slowly improved. His skin grafts were beginning to heal nicely, though it would be some time before they were fully healed. The swelling in his head was going down, and the bandages around his head were removed. The sight of Sam’s partially shaved head and the ugly, jagged line of stitches was a jarring one to Twilight, who had been spending every other night with him, though Sam seemed to think it made him look “pretty badass.” Twilight wasn’t sure she agreed, though she made a note to later ask Sam what the word ‘badass’ meant.

After a few days of resuming the regular intake of food and water, Sam’s throat was feeling much better, and talking was much less of a chore than it was when he first woke up.

Finally the day came that Sam was to be released, with strict instructions for regular and frequent visits back for follow-up examinations.

The doctor entered the room for one final check-up before signing off on Sam’s release.

“So, the skin graft seems to have taken nicely, I’m not seeing any signs of infection, and I honestly didn’t expect the swelling on your head to dissipate that quickly. How are you feeling?”

Sam winced. “Frankly, doc, not so great. Do you have anything better for the pain?”

The doctor sighed. “I’m afraid you’ve been getting the strongest stuff we have. Remember, our medicine is made for ponies; the fact that it worked at all on you with no ill side-effects was a stroke of pure luck.”

Twilight tapped Sam’s shoulder. “When we get you home, I think I remember reading about a spell that can help with pain. I’ll look it up again when we get there.”

“Alright, any other questions? If not, just remember to use the disinfectant ointment on your side at least once a day, and we’ll schedule a follow-up with you as you leave. Get well soon, Sam.” The doctor turned to look at Twilight. “You too, Ms. Sparkle.”

The nurses wheeled them both to the front lobby, where Applejack and, to both Sam and Twilight’s collective surprise, Rarity. Before anyone could speak, Rarity broke down in tears.

“Oh, Sam, I just want to say how glad I am that you’re okay, and I want to be the first to apologize for our little tiff... Can you forgive me?” Rarity flung herself around Sam’s neck.

Gently pushing her back, Sam gave her a cold hard stare, before laughing as Rarity pulled off her trademark pout.

“Frankly, Rarity, I kinda forget why we were so mad at each other. Must have been the bump on the head.” He pointed to the nasty stitches where his hair once was. “I remember that I was pretty uncouth to you as well, though, so how about we just forget the whole thing, whatever it was, okay?”

Rarity squealed like a schoolfilly. “Does this mean we’re friends?”

Sam nodded. “Sure, let’s be friends. And while you’re here, thanks for those clothes that Twilight had you make for me.”

“Oh those old things? Really it was nothing at all, I just-”

Rarity’s self-indulgent rant was quickly nipped in the bud as Applejack stuck a hoof in her face. “Rarity, Ah’m glad ya’ll are makin’ up, but Ah think our friends here are ready to get home.” She looked over at Twilight. “You ready?”

Twilight nodded. “I think I want to try to walk home this time, though. The swelling in my ankle has gone down a bit.”

“You sure ‘bout that, sugarcube?”

“Yeah, I can’t really put my weight on it, but I can at least use it to balance myself now.”

“Alright, if yer sure.” Applejack looked at Sam. “By the way, Ah’m real glad to see ya’ll are okay, Sam.”

“Thanks, AJ.”

The four friends left the hospital, and made their way back to the library, stopping every few minutes to let Twilight catch her breath. As they walked through the town, several ponies shouted greetings of thanks and appreciation to Sam and Twilight, who simply waved back.

Once back at the library, Twilight floated to Sam a pair of crutches that the hospital had sent ahead the day before. Sam quickly got the hang of them, and hobbled around before deciding to settle down on the couch.

“Sam, Twilight,” Rarity said, “is there anything either of us can do for you before we leave? Any cleaning, or any help with making dinner?”

Twilight smiled, and shook her head. “Thank you, but we’re fine. Just make sure Pinkie knows to hold off on any parties," she giggled, "Otherwise, I think I speak for both Sam and myself when I say that we really just feel like sleeping.”

“Alrighty then, Twi’, we’ll leave you to it. C’mon, Rarity. We’ll see ya’ll later!”

Once the door had closed behind them, Twilight jumped up on the couch next to Sam.

“So how does it feel to be home?”

Sam laughed. “Much better than being in a hospital bed, that’s for sure.”

Twilight’s face turned serious. “Back at the hospital, did you mean what you said?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, why do you ask?”

“Maybe I just want to hear you say it again?”

Sam smiled. “Okay. I suppose my voice doesn’t sound as ugly as it did then eh?” He reached over and pulled Twilight closer to his side. “Here’s what I wanted to say before we were so rudely interrupted. So yeah, this little situation between you and I is strange, for both of us as far as I can see; where I’m from, humans date humans and that’s that, we were the only intelligent creatures around. But, you make me very happy, Twilight. You’ve been so kind to me, when you could’ve just treated me like another experiment or research project. And you’ve made it clear to me that I make you just as happy. When I saw those things flying towards you back in the canyon, I knew if I didn’t do something, you wouldn’t survive it, and that just killed me, you know? The thought of losing you? Just like you said to me, I can’t explain it, but there’s a special connection you and I have, and I want to see how it works out, especially if it makes you happy.” He sighed. “So, how was take two?”

Twilight was looking up at him, a few stray tears running over her coat. “Perfect.” She cuddled up next to him, and laid her head against his shoulder, smiling at how comfortably she fit there. She then lit up her horn, and levitated a blanket over the both of them before slipping into the most contented sleep she’d ever had.

Twilight, You Have Strange Taste In Guys.

View Online

The first thing Sam noticed as he woke was a sharp, throbbing pain in his right side, and a soft warmth on his left. As he opened his eyes, he saw that it was nighttime, and Twilight Sparkle was still cuddled up next to him under his arm.

Great, my pain meds are wearing off already, and Twilight’s out like a light... Maybe if I just ignore it and try to go back to sleep, I won’t have to wake her up...

Sam quietly shifted around on the couch a bit before settling down, trying to block out the pain and go back to sleep without disturbing Twilight. Sure enough, though, she began to stir, groggily lifting her head off of Sam’s shoulder.

Noticing that Sam was wide awake, Twilight yawned before speaking. “Wow, looks like we slept clear through dinner, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m surprised Spike didn’t try to wake us up.”

Twilight laid her head back down, this time on Sam’s chest. “I’m not. Ever since the hospital sent me home, I’ve been sleeping a lot, and at odd hours, too. He’s kind of gotten used to it.”

“Yeah; so, Twi, not to complain, but I’m hurting pretty badly right now,” Sam said with a wince, “Would you mind levitating my medicine over?”

Twilight sat straight up, a look of concern scrunching her brow. “Sure!” Her horn glowed as the bottled floated over from the bags near the door, leaving Twilight lightly panting. “Do you need anything else? Do you think we should take you back and let the doctor check you out again? Oh I hope your wound isn’t getting infected, or maybe your head was-”

Sam gently grabbed her muzzle. “Twilight, I’m okay,” he chuckled lightly as he gingerly prodded the bandages on his hip, “But this still hurts.” He quickly swallowed a few of the pills, and silently hoped that they’d take the edge off of his pain.

Twilight laid her head back down against Sam’s body. “If you’re sure...”I can't believe he's put himself through all of that pain for my sake...

Sam laughed, and ran his hand through her disheveled mane. “I’m sure, but thanks for the concern. Sorry if I woke you up, by the way.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, it’s fine. You just try to go back to sleep; let ME worry about me.”

"Speaking of you, how are those stitches in your side?"

"They're fine, see for yourself," Twilight leaned a little further over Sam, showing her right side before partially peeling back the bandages and shining a dim light from her horn.

Where Sam had previously seen deep, ragged gashes in Twilight's body, there were only a few stitches across several small wounds that resembled thin, red cat scratches.

"Twi, do ponies heal incredibly fast or something?"

"No, not really, but I'm almost as surprised as you. The doctor used a healing spell to try accelerating things a bit with these stitches; I guess it worked a little faster than he thought."

Sam was incredulous. "What?! You can use magic to heal wounds? Why hasn't anyone tried that on me?"

Twilight reached up to rub Sam's shoulder. "…We have. Our healing magic apparently just doesn't work that well on humans. They did manage to stop your bleeding with a spell though."

"Huh. What about that pain spell you were talking about then? Will it work?"

"To be honest, I don't really know. Can't hurt to try; should I give it a shot?"

"Nah, I wanna give the medicine a chance to work first. Don’t want you exerting yourself unnecessarily on my behalf."

"Alright, let me know if you think it'll help though. Some of my magical strength is already returning, you know."

Sam reached over and tousled Twilight's mane. “Thanks. I think I’m gonna try to move to my bed. I really hadn’t intended to sleep here all night.”

“I’m quite comfortable myself,” Twilight with a sheepish grin, “but an actual bed does sound better. Let me get out of your way.” She began slowly stretching her three uninjured legs onto the floor.

Sam slowly and painfully sat up, and grabbed his crutches from the ground. Twilight filled the dark room with a faint purple glow from her horn and watched as he shakily hobbled over to the bottom of the stairway. She limped over beside him, and looked up at him with a confused expression.

“Um... Are you sure you can use crutches to go up stairs? I mean, I’ve still got three good legs, you’ve got just one plus those awkward crutches...”

The short walk to the stairs was more exerting than Sam had expected; he leaned on the wall as he regained his breath. “Yeah, I’ve done it before. A few years ago, I sprained my ankle pretty badly, and I worked on the third floor of my office building; you would know that the elevator was down that week.”

Twilight tilted her head. “I could try to lift you up using my magic.”

Sam waved that idea down. “No, I saw how tough it was for you to just get my medicine for me. Don’t worry, I’ve got this handled.”

The pair carefully made their way up the stairs, both pausing at different intervals to catch their breath. After a few minutes, and much effort, they finally arrived at the top of the stairs. Sam tried to open his bedroom door, a task that proved to be awkward while his arms were partially occupied with the crutches.

With the door finally open, Sam positioned his arms back on the crutches and gingerly stepped over to his bed. He sat down and noticed that Twilight was still in the doorway, looking as if she were thinking hard about something.

“Everything okay, Twilight?”

“Oh, yes, I was just wondering... Would you mind if I still slept with you? Please?”

Sam shook his head, laughing softly, and motioned for Twilight to join him on the bed. “Of course not, I’ve been fine with that every other time.”

“I know, I just figured you might want to sleep alone so you could stretch out; I know how uncomfortable that small hospital bed must have been...”

Sam laughed. “I appreciate the consideration, but remember, you put two beds together in here, there’s plenty of room. Besides, I’ve kinda gotten used to this.”

Twilight smiled as she felt a slight blush on her face. “Good, me too! By the way, how are you feeling? Is the medicine working?”

Sam began pulling back the bedsheets and laid down on his uninjured side. “Not really, but I’m still gonna try to sleep all the same. You should do the same.”

Twilight began settling back down next to Sam. “I hope it kicks in... Want me to try that pain reduction spell I mentioned at the hospital?”

“If you don’t mind, the more dulled down this feels, the better I can sleep.”

Twilight focused her concentration and energy on the spell, and Sam’s injured side. Sam began to feel a strange, but not at all unpleasant, tingling sensation. The pain began to decrease from a sharp stabbing feeling to a dull, throbbing ache.

“How’s that?” Twilight panted, before lying down with her back towards Sam.

Sam sighed in relief. “It’s still rough, but it’s miles better than before, thanks,” he reached his arm around to embrace Twilight and pulled her closer to him, prompting her to levitate the blankets over them both.

“I’m glad it helped, goodnight, Sam.”

Rather than reply verbally, Sam briefly tightened his arm around Twilight, enjoying the warmth she added to the bed.

Only a few minutes later did Sam find himself beginning to drift off; however, the sound of Twilight’s voice quickly brought him back from the edge of unconsciousness.


“Wha...?” He drowsily replied.

Twilight rolled over to face him. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were already asleep...”

“Nah, I’m still-” Sam yawned, “-awake. What is it?”

“So... Just to be clear... You’re my... Special somepony now?”

“Special somewhat? Ohh...” He yawned again as he rolled onto his back. “Right, that’s your word for boyfriend?” He turned his head and saw her nodding. “Yeah, I thought our little speeches to each other made that clear.”

Even with just the dim moonlight, Sam could see Twilight beaming. “I thought so, but neither of us actually said it.”

Sam closed his eyes as he tried to sleep again. Twi, you’re great but damn would I like to get some sleep right now...

Twilight didn’t notice Sam’s attempts to return to sleep. “So... If I’m your special somepony... Does that mean it’s okay if I do... This?”

Before he could guess what she meant or react at all, Sam suddenly felt a bit of soft fur brush against his face and a pair of lips briefly and awkwardly pressed to his own. His eyes bolted open and were greeted by the sight of Twilight Sparkle’s face just inches in front of him wearing an expression that was a mixture of excitement and anxiety that complemented Sam’s own look of confusion and surprise.

As Sam continued to stare in shocked silence, Twilight laid back down, a few tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

“Ohmygosh I’m sorry, I'm sorry, I hope that wasn’t out of line, I thought that was normal and I-”

“It’s okay, it’s fine,” Sam cut her off, laughing nervously, “I’m not mad or anything. You just caught me off-guard is all. I was half-asleep, for crying out loud. Plus, I’m still getting used to the fact that my new girlfriend has a tail, two more legs than I do, and always has a fur coat on. That’s kind of a big adjustment for me to swallow, you know?”

Much to Sam’s relief, his explanation was enough to prevent Twilight’s tears from actually falling.

“I know, I’m sorry... I got a little nervous and it got the best of me,” Twilight giggled, “I just really like you, you know?”

“You don’t have anything to apologize for, really, it was okay. Like I said, I just wasn’t really expecting that.” Sam smiled, “and I really like you, too, Twi.”

Sam shifted back onto his left side, facing the again-smiling unicorn. Alright, a few minutes ago I just told her that she’s my girlfriend, time to put my money where my mouth is, I guess. Or is it the other way around in this situation? In any case, her kissing me didn’t really feel THAT weird... Here goes... Something?

“Besides,” he cupped her face in his hands, “If you wanted a goodnight kiss, you could have just asked.”

Twilight let out a surprised squeak as Sam moved his face closer to hers and kissed her. She felt her eyelids involuntarily fluttering shut and her face blush like a wildfire as Sam lingered a few seconds longer than she had the first time. As he pulled away, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against him.

Sam closed his eyes, chuckling. “I’m going to sleep now, for real this time, okay? Goodnight, Twilight.” The things I have to do to get some rest around here... I think I just might be crazy.

Twilight responded only with a contented sigh as she snuggled into his chest.


The next morning, Spike got up at his usual time, roughly twenty minutes after Twilight would have normally first tried to rouse him from sleep. He yawned as he waddled downstairs to get himself some breakfast. Noting that neither Twilight nor Sam were up, he went ahead and made some extra oatmeal and set it aside for them with a note for when they finally did get up. After he finished eating, he walked into the main room and flopped down on the couch, debating on whether to go ahead and do his chores right then, or go back to sleep for a bit.

Spike had no problems getting used to Twilight’s new, erratic sleep schedule. On one hand, he hated seeing her so weak and out of commission; after all, Twilight was the closest thing to an older sister he had. But on the other hand, he knew she needed the extra rest, and with her sleeping more, that reduced his list of chores, (which formerly consisted of helping Twilight with her endless studies and magical research), to just a few relatively quick cleaning tasks. This, in turn, meant that he, too, could get some extra nap time in.

Just as Spike was beginning to convince himself to sneak a few extra hours of napping, he heard a sudden burst of knocking and crazed giggling at the front door. He slowly got up to answer the door; opening it, he saw that Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie had come to visit.

“Hiya Spike! I was just hopping around town, I forget what I was doing, when I bumped into Fluttershy here! She told me she wanted to come check on Sam and Twilight, and that’s when I realized I hadn’t seen either of them since they got out of the hospital! So I asked if I could come along, and on the way over I decided I needed to try out a new cupcake recipe and-”

Spike cut Pinkie off with a claw over her mouth. She continued her muffled rambling for a few more seconds before she got the message, giggling all the same. Though he enjoyed the extra laziness, Spike took the job of making sure nothing interfered with Twilight’s recovery with the utmost seriousness.

Spike stared down Pinkie. “Pinkie, Flutters, it’s great to see you guys. I’m sure Twilight and Sam would love to see you, but they’re still asleep; so, Pinkie, if you want to come in and check on them, that’s cool, but if you can’t be quiet, we can do things the hard way.” He held up a handkerchief, folded into a gag, in his right claw and casually swung it around.

Pinkie just kept giggling as she entered the library. “Oh Spikey, sweet talk will get you everywhere!”

Spike scratched his head, and noticed a bright blush on Fluttershy’s face as she entered behind the pink earth pony.

“Oh, um, hello, Spike, I was just coming by to leave a gift and some herbal medicine for both of them. If they’re both asleep, I’ll just leave it in Twilight’s bedroom for her, if that’s okay with you.”

Spike nodded. “Sure, I’ll come up with you.” He turned to look for Pinkie, and saw that she had her muzzle stuck in a book he’d never seen before, labeled “Advanced Quantum Mechanics”. “Hey, Pinkie Pie, if you wanna see Twi and Sam, come on up with Flutters and I.”

Pinkie was deep in thought with her brow furrowed. “...So if I integrate this mass over that Higgs field... I think I’ve found a way to be in FIVE places at once instead of just four! Wait till Dashie sees what kinda pranks I can pull now!”

Spike was growing impatient. “What? Ugh, come on already if you wanna see them!”

Pinkie snapped to attention and tossed the book seemingly into thin air. “Okie dokie lo-”

“Quiet!” Hissed the young dragon.

Pinkie nodded, and whispered, “-okie!”

The trio quietly made their way upstairs, and decided to look in on Twilight’s room first. They were all surprised to see that her bed was empty, and perfectly-made as usual.

Fluttershy immediately felt a wave of worry wash over her. “Oh, my, I wonder where she is, I hope she’s okay...”

Pinkie gasped. “Oh! Oh! I know, maybe she decided to go camping!”

Spike facepalmed. “Before everypony loses their minds, let’s check Sam’s room. While Sam was in the hospital, Twilight would sometimes sleep next to him, and she was napping with him after they came home yesterday.”

They silently walked over to Sam’s room; as the door creaked open, they were greeted by the sight of their two sleeping friends lying next to each other. Sam’s arms were still entwined around Twilight’s upper body, and Twilight herself appeared to have fallen asleep while nuzzling Sam’s shoulder.

Fluttershy’s anxiety melted away and was replaced with a wide grin. She couldn’t help but let out a happy, exuberant, but inaudibly quiet “Yay!” Looks like Twilight and Sam figured things out! Oh I’m just so happy for them both... I better get Spike and Pinkie out of here, though, I’d hate to wake them up. I don’t think she’s going to keep this a secret, but I’m sure Twilight would prefer to tell everyone else about her and Sam on her own time. Fluttershy reached into her saddlebags and left the gift and medicine on the table just inside the door before gently ushering everyone back towards the stairway.

Once back down stairs, Pinkie was nearly beside herself in another giggling fit. “OHMYGOSHFLUTTERSHY DIDJA SEE ‘EM? THAT WAS SOOO CUTE!” Pinkie began rolling on the floor as she continued laughing uncontrollably.

“Pinkie! Calm down! You’ll wake up Twilight and Sam!”

“Oh, yes Pinkie, if you don’t mind, they need their rest...”

Pinkie nodded and immediately stood up straight and swiped a hoof over her face; her expression went from exuberant happiness to resolved seriousness in an instant.

Spike sighed with relief. “Thanks Pinks. You know, I wonder why Twilight has been so close and cuddly with Sam lately...” Can't say I've seen them quite THAT close and cuddly before, though.

Fluttershy was still smiling. “She’s probably still very happy that Sam is okay. He did save her life, you know.” She saw Pinkie quietly laughing again, with an almost-knowing grin on her face. I wonder if Twilight told anypony else besides me? Does Pinkie Pie know yet?

Spike shrugged. “Eh, makes sense I guess, they were getting to be pretty good friends before they got hurt, after all. I’m glad Sam’s okay though, he’s weird, but I think he’s starting to grow on me. Besides,” he grinned, “he still owes me an afternoon of fishing with me!”

Fluttershy giggled. “Well, be sure to tell Twilight and Sam that we stopped by, if you don’t mind, that is. I need to go home and get lunch ready for myself and Angel bunny. Bye Spike!”

“Yeah, see ya later, Spike!” The pink party pony extended a hoof bearing three envelopes to Spike. “Here! There’s one for you, Twilight, and Sam! They’re invitations!”

Noticing that she wasn’t wearing saddlebags, Spike briefly considered asking her where the envelopes came from. He quickly decided not to pursue the question. It’s Pinkie Pie, after all. “Thanks Pinkie, I’ll be sure to pass these along.”

“Okie dokie lokie! Bye Spike!”

As the door closed, Spike sighed and threw himself back on the couch with a strengthened resolve to get an extra nap in.


The morning sun had been streaming through Sam’s bedroom window for several hours. Usually, just a few minutes of morning light was more than enough to rouse Sam and his unicorn companion from sleep; as it stood, a marching band could smash through the window while setting off fireworks without waking them.

All the same, Sam began to awaken, as much from his growing hunger as the sharp pain returning in his side. As he opened his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of Twilight’s sleeping form still in his arms, her head still pressed against his chest. At some point during the night, she had hugged her tail to herself, covering her legs as she slept under the blankets.

Despite the shooting pain he was experiencing, Sam couldn’t help but smile at what was becoming a frequent occurrence since his awakening at the hospital. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, god that’s cute.

The growling in the pit of his stomach reminded Sam of the fact that he hadn’t eaten anything since being discharged from the hospital the day before. Knowing that it had probably been roughly as long since Twilight had eaten anything, Sam reached up and began gently caressing the side of her head in an attempt to wake her.

“Twilight, time to get up, let’s go get some breakfast.”

Twilight squirmed slightly, and began muttering under her breath. “An eigenvector... is a vector that... operator gives ...scalar multiple of itself...”

“Huh? Come on, Twi, wake up,” Sam gave her shoulder a slight shake.

With a tiny yawn, Twilight finally opened her eyes, squinting as her purple irises adjusted to the light. “Hm...?” Twilight smiled drowsily as she caught sight of Sam shaking his head and laughing. “Oh, good morning, Sam.”

“Welcome back to the land of the living. Let’s go eat.”

“Sounds like a plan. How are you feeling?”

“If you can hit me with that spell again and get to my pills, I’ll manage. You’re absolutely adorable when you’re asleep, by the way.”

Twilight felt her face burning. “What about when I’m awake, hmm?” She giggled.

“That’s a tough one... Lemme think... Yeah, still cute.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Slowly, the couple dragged themselves from the bed. Sam grabbed his crutches, and carefully descended the stairs with Twilight following behind. Once Sam had gotten a dose of his medication and a zap from Twilight’s pain relief spell, they set into spooning up some of the oatmeal Spike had left for them.

Just as they were settling down at the table, Spike entered the kitchen.

“Hey guys,” Spike chuckled, "It's about time you two got up. How are you both feeling?"

With Twilight occupied by a mouthful of oatmeal, Sam spoke first.

"I've certainly been better, but the meds and Twilight's magic have been helping some. I'd have to say that was the best night of sleep I've had in a while, though."

Twilight swallowed and nodded, smiling. "Yeah, my leg may have been throbbing a little, but I haven't slept that well in ages," She felt herself blushing ever so slightly as she remembered precisely how she'd fallen asleep.

Spike's mouth twisted into a devious little grin. "Yeah, you two did look pretty comfortable together."

Sam cocked an eyebrow. "And your point? Were you spying on us in my room or something?"

Spike shook his head. "No, well, sort of, not intentionally anyway. Fluttershy and Pinkie insisted on checking on you two and saw you both holding each other…"

Sam felt his own face heating up for a change. "Ah, gotcha."

Spike had a feeling he already knew the answer, but he wanted to ask anyway. "You're blushing a little there, bro, what's up with that?"

Sam looked down at Twilight. "Should I tell him, or do you want to?"

"I-I'll tell him," She said, feeling her face further reddening under her coat.

"Tell me what? Guys?"

With a wide grin on her face, she took a deep breath. "Spike, Sam is my special somepony now, or 'boyfriend', as he puts it," she giggled, looking away bashfully.

Spike stood there with a blank look on his face for a few seconds before realization hit him. Suddenly Twilight's behavior since her release from the hospital made much more sense; cuddling with Sam, crying over her self-imposed guilt before Sam's return to the library, and near-inability to leave Sam's side since his own release.

After processing this new information for a moment, he snickered. "Twilight, you have strange taste in guys."

Sam glared at him, his eyes shooting daggers at Spike.

"Whoa, I'm just kidding, bro. If you guys are happy, that's good enough for me." Spike looked over at Twilight, his eyes begging her to defuse the situation.

Twilight pulled herself closer to Sam and leaned against him, laughing softly. "Relax, Spike's just poking fun at us. He's practically my younger brother… Did you really expect anything less?"

Sam broke his glare and shifted his gaze, now much more gentle, to Twilight's eyes. "Oh I know. I just wanted to see him sweat a little." Returning his attention to Spike, he continued. "So anyway, Spike, you said Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were here? What'd we miss?"

Spike nodded. “Yeah, they came to visit and check on you both. Flutters left you guys a 'get-well' gift and some extra herbal medicine on the dresser in Sam’s room, and Pinkie brought us all invitations to something. I haven't opened mine yet, figured I'd wait for you guys.” Spike reached behind him and grabbed three envelopes off of the counter before handing them to his friends. “Here ya go, one for each of us.”

Sam quickly ripped into his envelope. The card inside was inscribed with flowing, elegant calligraphy. He began quickly scanning through the card’s text before stopping, and then facepalming. Oh yeah, I still can’t read Equestrian.

“Hey, Twilight, what do these say?”

After reading through her own card, Twilight cleared her throat and read out the card’s writing:

On Behalf Of Princesses Celestia And Luna,
Pinkie Pie, Party Pony Extraordinaire, Cordially Invites You
To Ponyville’s Town Hall This Friday Evening,
For A Public Ceremony Held In Honor Of Twilight Sparkle And Sam Mitchell,
And In Memory of Chip Circuits For Their Valiant Actions In Service And Defense Of Ponyville And Equestria At Large.
Super Casual Reception And Party Cannon Firing To Follow.

"Cool! A fancy honors ceremony and a party afterwards? Hmm… I should go get my suit cleaned! Gotta look my best for Rarity! Bye guys!" Spike took off out of the library into town.

Twilight groaned. "So much for Pinkie holding off on the parties for a while."

Sam finished another spoonful of oatmeal. "Well... She IS doing it for the Princesses," he put his arm around Twilight's shoulder, "and WE are going to be paraded around as a couple of heroes."

"I know… Still, I was hoping she'd wait until we were at least rested and recovered enough to actually ENJOY the party."

"Hey, it's two whole days away. It's not like we're gonna be running a marathon or anything between now and then. We could just read, watch some movies, or just sleep more, heh."

"True," Twilight replied with a sigh, "and I can't say that doesn't sound nice. It's been awhile since we've watched one of your movies."

"I thought so. Let's finish breakfast, go to my room and open Fluttershy's gift. Then we can bring my laptop down to your study, flop down on the couch, and watch movies until our eyes melt out of our skulls."


As the sun began to set and cast a soft, warm glow inside the study, Twilight realized that she had lost count of how many movies she and Sam had watched while sprawled out on the couch. She had more or less stopped keeping track or following the plots after the third movie, and she caught Sam nodding off several times throughout a movie titled "Blade Runner". Twilight could understand why; like Sam, she thought the movie's idea was interesting, and the visuals were amazing, especially when Sam told her that the movie predated him by over 200 years, but it was quite a slow, tedious story. But she didn't mind much; after the events of the previous week, Twilight was just glad to be able to spend some quiet time with Sam, and she felt all too comfortable laying across his lap.

Sam yawned. "I guess I can see why people back then thought it was a "classic", but I dunno. One thing is for sure, though, one more movie and I'll probably drop right off to sleep."

Twilight found Sam's yawn to be contagious. "Yeah. And how sweet was it that Fluttershy made us these patchwork quilts?!" Pulling hers up closer to her head, Twilight buried her face in it. "And it's so soft!"

"It was definitely a kind gesture on her part. Your friends really are the best, Twilight."

The purple mare groaned as she slowly sat up. "Aren't they though? They can really drive me crazy sometimes but I love them all th- AAHH!" Twilight began grabbing at her side.

"Twi? What's wrong?!"

"N-nothing, it's just, OUCH, my side and back are cramping up… It's been happening off and on since I got knocked to the ground back in the canyon, but never THIS bad."

"Hey, lean to your side a little, I might be able to help."

"Ow ow ow, okay one, OW, second… Okay, what are you, AUGH, gonna do? Massa-AAAhhhh…"

Twilight's sigh of relief trailed off as Sam began gently rubbing her back, slowly kneading into her velvet coat with his fingertips. As he began applying more pressure on her tensed up muscles and moved towards her stitched up side, he could feel Twilight growing more and more relaxed, practically melting. After several minutes of this, Sam noticed that Twilight was on the verge of falling asleep, her lips curled into a sweet little smile.

"Dear sweet Celestia, Sam… Not even the masseuses at the spa are that good…"

"Well… They have hooves. Hands and fingers are a LITTLE more suited to this sort of thing, heh."

After a few more moments of this, Sam ended the massage, yawning loudly.

"Hey…" Twilight looked up at Sam, almost pouting. "Why'd you stop?"

With a chuckle, Sam resumed his treatment as the next movie began to play.


"AUGH! Where is it?! I can't find it!"

Sam could do nothing but scratch his head helplessly as Twilight frantically hobbled around her bedroom, levitating any object she came across out of her way.

"Um, Twi, what are you looking for?"

"My dress! Tonight's the ceremony, remember?! The Princesses will be there, and we'll be up in front of everypony we know, and I think even my PARENTS are coming down for the occasion! Speaking of which, you need to dress your best, too, you gotta make a good first impression on them Sam!"

"Whoa there, calm down a second, come over here and-"

"Calm down? CALM DOWN?! I'm Celestia's personal student! If I don't try to look presentable, what kinda message do you think that will send her?!"

Sam laid back on Twilight's bed and thought for a second before an idea hit him. "Hey, Twilight, is this your dress over here on the other side of the bed?"

"YOU FOUND IT?!" Twilight quickly jumped onto the bed, spastically looking around before a look of confusion spread across her face. "Sam, I don't see it, where is it?"

Sam shrugged. "Beats me. I just wanted to get you over here so you'd calm down for a second."

Twilight glared at him. "If I didn't like you so much, I'd turn you into a cactus right now. This isn't funny."

Sam reached an arm around her and pulled her next to him. "Relax. I'm sure it's around here somewhere. Besides, you know as well as I do that the Princess won't be angry if you don't show up all dressed up. And the party isn't even for several more hours. I'm sure it'll turn up by then."

Twilight let out an exhausted sigh. "You're right… Honestly, I think it's the fact that my parents are coming that's got me so flustered."

While stroking Twilight's mane, Sam asked, "What's that got to do with anything?"

"When I was at my brother's wedding a few months ago, his name is Shining Armor by the way, that was the first time in several years that I'd really seen them. Living and studying as the Princess's personal pupil at a boarding school doesn't leave a whole lot of time and opportunities to go visit mom and dad. Their jobs don't exactly help matters, either…"

"What do they do?"

"They're both magical researchers. Basically, they do what I do, researching how spells work, looking into new ones… I take after them quite a bit. And Shining is the captain of the royal guard."

"So you're basically one big magic family, eh?"

"Yeah… So they stay about as busy as I do, and it seems I get my tendencies to tune out the outside world while I work from them as well. I just want to make them proud of me on their first real visit to see ME. Last time I saw them, they were more focused on my brother and sister-in-law, rightfully so, though."

"Ouch. All the same, I'm sure they'd be proud of you regardless of whether you are dressed up nice or not. I mean, from what you've told me, our little incident is the THIRD TIME that you've saved the world. You're the smartest pony I know and even Celestia knows it. Plus you're an absolutely wonderful friend to anyone, er, anyPONY, that needs you. Give yourself some credit, Twi. Just relax, and enjoy the party tonight."

Sam's speech forced a small grin to break through Twilight's anxiety. She rested her chin on his chest, and just looked at him for a few minutes.

"You are far too good at doing that."

Sam cocked an eyebrow. "Doing what?"

"That thing where you get me to stop worrying so much. You know, Princess Celestia herself can barely do that."

"Heh, I try. And I promise I'll do my best to avoid scaring your parents."

Twilight giggled. "I would really appreciate that; imagine their shock when they see I've got my first coltfriend, he's already living with me, and to top it off, he's not even a pony!"

Sam laughed. "That's a doozy, alright. But, if they're anything like you, I'm sure they'll be fine."

"Yeah…" Twilight got a mischievous look in her eyes. "So… Are you gonna keep telling me nice things about me?"

"Hmm… Well I could also say you're the prettiest pony I know."

Twilight blushed slightly at the compliment. "Oh you're just saying that…"

"Nope, I mean it. And the little hint of pink I can see through your coat when you blush, fits perfectly with that shade of lavender you're covered with."

Twilight leaned down and gave Sam a quick peck on the cheek. "You're sweet, Sam, but I really need to find my dr-"

The sound of the front door banging open carried throughout the library. "Hello? Anypony home? It's Rarity."

"We're up here," Twilight called out.

A few moments later, Rarity arrived in Twilight's room, and found herself giggling at the sight of Twilight laying across Sam's chest.

"I didn't know you two were that close… I hope I'm not interrupting anything, though I must say you two are quite adorable together, darlings."

Twilight felt her blush reappearing. "No, you're fine. And yeah, I'm Sam's special somepony now."

"Well I certainly can't think of anyone I trust more to treat you right, Twilight."

Sam slowly sat up, gently sliding Twilight into his lap. "Aw, thanks Rarity. That really means a lot to me, and Twilight, too, I'm sure."

Twilight nodded, beaming. "Yeah, thanks! So what brings you this way? I was just in the middle of tracking down that dress you made for me on my birthday; I want to look my best at the ceremony tonight."

"Oh that's actually why I'm here, Spike didn't tell you?"

Twilight shook her head.

"Well, a little after you and Sam fell asleep when we brought you both home, I came back over to get your dress. I needed to borrow it as a reference so that I could make you a new dress as a get-well-soon gift!" Rarity then lit up her horn as she levitated a pastel blue dress out of her saddlebag, as well as Twilight's old yellow dress. "It's very similar to your old dress, but I made some additions to make it a little less… Minimalistic." Pointing to the new fringes and added lace, as well as a few ruffles, she continued, "It's not too formal, nor too casual."

"Wow, Rarity, that's perfect for tonight! You're coming, right? To the ceremony and party that Pinkie is hosting for us?"

"Oh of course, wouldn't miss it for the world, darling. Anyway, I'm glad you like your new dress, I can't wait to see you in it at the ceremony! See you both tonight, I've got to go get ready myself!" With that, Rarity rushed downstairs and out of the library.

Sam looked down at Twilight, still comfortably curled up in his lap. "So, whaddya say, take a short nap before the party?"

Twilight yawned, stretching out across Sam's legs. "I want to say no and go through my pre-party checklist, but I just feel exhausted. When I'm recovered, I don't think I'll ever get back on schedule… But for now, I say buck it, let's sleep." She began pulling herself off of Sam and up to her pillow.

"I thought you might say that. But first…" Sam's smile grew into a devious grin as he reached down and began furiously tickling Twilight's stomach, causing her to yelp in surprise.


Twilight's shrieks of laugher were quickly drowned out by a yell of pain from Sam. "OW, DAMMIT!"

Regaining her composure, Twilight realized she'd accidentally kicked Sam in the face. "Ohmygosh Sam, are you okay?! I didn't mean to, I swear!"

Sam reached up to examine his face, and was relieved to find neither blood nor a crooked nose. "Yeah, I'm fine, but you sure can kick, Twi."

"Well… I told you to stop," Twilight replied sheepishly.

"Yeah, I suppose you did, heh… So yeah, about that nap…"

"Want me to set my alarm clock?"

Sam nodded. "Before you drift off there, though, would you mind hitting me with that spell again? My side is flaring up pretty badly today, Twi..."

Lifting her head off the pillow, Twilight looked up at Sam worriedly. "Of course... Just a sec..." Oh gosh, I hope that pain isn't going to be a chronic issue after he's healed. How unfair would that be for him?

Within seconds, Sam felt the familiar tingle of Twilight's magical energy coursing around his healing wound, reducing the pain to a bearable level.

Sighing in relief, Sam began settling into the bed. "Thanks, Twilight. You're the best, you know?"

Twilight let out a weak laugh. "If you say so, Sam. Hope you sleep well!" She finished winding the alarm clock, cuddled up close to Sam, and began to float over to unconsciousness.


Later that evening, everything was coming together for the ceremony at Ponyville town hall honoring Twilight and Sam. Sitting back behind the curtains, Sam realized that Princess Celestia had been talking to him and Twilight for several minutes, and he hadn't paid attention to any of it; instead, he was completely focused on the intense pain chewing away at his side. I'll have to get Twilight to use that spell on me again before we do anything else, those pills aren't even putting a dent in the pain anymore.

“So... Uh... Princess, what am I supposed to do again?” Sam idly tapped his crutches against the floor.

The white winged Princess leaned down to his eye level, a reassuring smile on her face. “Just like I said before. My sister and I will be giving a brief speech, and then I will motion for you and Twilight to come stand next to me to be recognized, and I will give both of you an opportunity to say something, if you like.” She shifted her eyes to Sam's crutches. “Are you sure you would not like to use a wheelchair?”

“I'm fine, my leg won't heal properly if I don't try to use it just a little. It's not broken, you know.”

“If you insist.” Celestia looked behind her towards Twilight, who was frantically adjusting her new dress and muttering something worriedly about her parents. “Well, time to get started! Just sit here, and wait for me to call you both out!”

Celestia walked over to the edge of the curtains, giving the Mayor a nod to signal that it was time to begin. Luna promptly appeared at her sister's side, having galloped in at the very last second.

Celestia gave her sister a playful nudge, whispering, “So good of you to show, sister! How was your nap?”

 Luna nudged back, giggling. “We are sorry that we are late. What did we miss?”

The elder Princess laughed. “You are just in time. And you know that we don't have to speak in the royal plural anymore, right?”

“We, er, I find that it is a force of habit.”

Meanwhile, the Mayor was finishing up her introduction. “...So once again, I thank you all for coming out tonight, and without any further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you our benevolent rulers, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna!”

The two alicorns gracefully made their way to the podium, side by side, prompting the entire crowd to bow briefly, before bursting into applause.

After the cheering had subsided, Celestia spoke first. “My little ponies! It is always such a pleasure to see you all. It is an even greater pleasure to see that you are all recovering quickly and strongly from the recent calamity that befell Canterlot and of course Ponyville a few weeks before. While this was a truly violent and dangerous event, I think we can all agree that this could have been much, much worse. Though some of you are still healing and rebuilding, I am eternally grateful that you are all able to be standing here before me at this moment. This happy outcome was no mere accident, I must add. Our safety and survival through that tough time was due to the valiant efforts and sacrifices of three very special individuals, of whom my sister and I would like to introduce and honor tonight.”

Celestia took a step back, allowing Luna to take the podium. “Though tonight is a celebration, it is not an entirely happy event. The first pony we would like to honor, is Chip Circuits. Chip was a researcher, working in the labs at the Royal Academy, when the machines rose up and attacked. Without thinking for even a second of his own safety, he rushed into the test chamber to attempt to shut down the machines, or at least fight them back. It is no small source of sorrow for me to say that Chip lost his life, fighting an unknown threat so that others may live. As we speak, a statue is being sculpted to be placed in the Canterlot Gardens, so that the memory of his sacrifice will never be forgotten. Let us have a moment of silence to mourn and honor him.”

The meeting hall was deathly quiet. Some ponies bowed their heads reverently, others simply kept their attention on the Princess.

After a few seconds slowly passed by, Luna spoke again. “Thank you all.”

Celestia retook the podium. “Let us never forget what Chip Circuits has done for us, for Equestria.” She let another pause drift by before continuing. “As I said earlier, tonight is in honor of a few brave souls who have done a great service to us all. One of whom, I'm sure you all know all too well by now. I have had the great pleasure of taking her under my wing, teaching her, and watching her grow from a precocious little filly to the brilliant mare that she is today. Mares and gentlecolts, it is my honor to introduce my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle!”

As Twilight began cautiously trotting out onto the stage, the crowded auditorium seemed to explode into a caucophony of cheering and stomping hooves against the floor. Being careful not to put too much weight on her still-healing foreleg, she took her spot next to her royal mentor.

Luna stepped forward and motioned for the crowd to hold their applause. “Our final honoree may not be as familiar to you all as my sister's dear student is, but I am certain, nay, hopeful that you have met him or at least heard of him. Though he arrived in our fair country though some very incredible circumstances, I am glad that we took the effort to get to know him. He has proven to be a great friend to those who know him, and he brings with him a willingness to share his knowledge with us. Knowledge that could touch and revolutionize the lives of everypony in Equestria! It is with great pride that I call Sam Mitchell to the stage.”

Hearing his cue, Sam slowly struggled onto his crutches. Here goes nothing! He hobbled out past the curtains towards the sound of loudly clopping hooves, and ambled over next to Twilight. Nearly out of breath, Sam looked down at Twilight, who returned his gaze with a reassuring smile.

Once again, Celestia positioned herself behind the podium. “By the time the machines had reached Ponyville, Luna and I were exhausted. The mechanical beast had put up quite a fight trying to break through our magical barriers and attacks. We barely had the energy to hold the monster in place long enough for Sam to prepare his plan. Between his quick thinking, Twilight's cunning and top-notch magical skills, these two managed to not only safely lure the machines away from Ponyville, but also defeat it entirely. It pains me to see how they have both suffered in the aftermath of the attack, but I am glad that they are both on the road to regaining their health and strength.” Princess Celestia looked down towards Twilight and Sam. “I'm sure I speak for all of you when I say, Twilight, Sam, I wish you both a speedy and painless recovery.” She nodded to Luna, who promptly levitated two boxes in front of Celestia's chest. “It is no small pleasure with which I present to you each a medallion, in honor of your brave and brilliant actions in service of your fellow ponies, my sister and I, and all of Equestria.”

As Princess Celestia lit up her own horn, the two medallions rose out of their boxes, and looped themselves around their recipient's necks. As Sam and Twilight turned to face the auditorium, the crowd once again let loose a thunderous roar of applause and cheering.

After several minutes of nonstop cheering and yelling, Pinkie Pie managed to appear between the podium and the Princesses out of thin air. Jumping on top of the stand, she shrieked her catchphrase at the top of her impressive lungs as she fired her party cannon.


A shower of confetti and balloons filled the air, leaving streamers hanging from every rafter. Within the blink of an eye, Pinkie had set up a record player, snack table, and party games, all at opposite sides of the meeting hall. The room began swirling in laughter, music, and dancing ponies. Even Luna joined in on the frivolities, creating quite a spectacle for the ponies who were not present for the last Nightmare Night.

Sam and Twilight opted to move towards taking a seat at one of the tables; both needed to get off of their legs. Before either of them could speak, Princess Celestia joined them, taking the seat next to Sam not occupied by Twilight.

“I hope I'm not interrupting anything, you two, but I need to speak with Sam for a moment, if you don't mind.”

Twilight nodded and began to walk away from the table.

“Oh, Twilight, you don't have to leave, what I wish to discuss with him isn't exactly a private matter.”

Twilight looked towards her mentor and smiled. “Alright, I'm just going to get something to drink, though. I'll be back in a few minutes.” She slowly began trotting through the crowd to the punch table, where the rest of her friends were gathered.

Celestia returned her attention to Sam. “So, how have you been? I haven't had many opportunities to check on you since Twilight first woke up.”

Sam rubbed the back of his head absentmindedly. “I've been better, but I'll be alright. Twilight has been great helping me with my recovery.” Sam sighed. “I can't even describe how relieved I was to see that she was okay when I got out of my coma.” He turned around to look towards the punch table just in time to see Twilight lean in to the group, giggling and murmuring something, before her friends smothered her in a group hug. Sam turned back to the Princess, grinning slightly. Looks like she told them all about *us*, heh... Those girls may not be human, but they sure do act a lot like the girls I knew back home, it's strange how that is.

Celestia smiled at him, almost knowingly. “Yes, Twilight really is special to many of us. She's lucky to have friends as caring as yourself.” Her voice shifted in tone, she had business to discuss. “Anyway, Sam, I'm glad the two of you will be okay. Since you're injured, I presume working with Applejack is out of the question, at least for now?”

Sam nodded.

“How would you like a new job? This incident with the replicators really hammered home to me that my little ponies may not be properly prepared to use and deal with the technology and innovations that you have brought us. It would really comfort me to know that someone intimately familiar with the details was overseeing any further development.”

“So, basically, you want me to make sure your researchers don't nearly kill us all again?”

“I wasn't going to be so blunt, but yes, essentially. It's obvious that the knowledge you have shared could do wonderful things for us, but I think the replicator incident proved that the opposite is doubly true.”

“I can't say it's a bad idea, Princess. Now that I think about it, I really feel a bit awful that I didn't suggest it myself. I guess I figured that what I had given the professors would be safe, assuming they fully read the warnings, anyway...”

The Princess placed a hoof on Sam's shoulder. “Oh, Sam, don't beat yourself up about it. The professors told me that the file was initially hidden, and even then they had to piece it together to read it. I'm sure you couldn't have possibly known they'd find that design.”

“You're right, still, even in my own time we were reluctant to use those machines. So, what would this job entail?”

“Well, I would like for you to move back to Canterlot, and work directly with the research teams. Teach them the proper techniques, maybe even teach a few classes on your specialty. But ultimately, your primary job would be to carefully inspect any new project proposals. Your approval will carry almost as much weight as mine would. In fact, if a project does not have your confident approval, it will almost assuredly not get mine.”

Sam looked away in contemplation. On one hand, the thought of throwing himself back into academia was incredibly tempting. He would be back in his element, experimenting, researching, and possibly getting to become a teacher, something he'd long hoped to try. But on the other hand, this would mean he'd have to leave Ponyville, the few new friends he'd made, and most importantly, Twilight. The decision was a no-brainer for him.

With a sigh, Sam gave his answer. “That's a very tempting offer, Princess. And honestly, in any other situation, I'd probably jump on it. I mean, I know Canterlot is just a train-ride away from here, but that's too far away from... Well, I've come to really like it here, for several reasons.”

Celestia nodded her head. “I see. Do understand, you would be doing me and the country a huge favor. We barely handled the last crisis, and should another problem occur from your technology, I wouldn't want any uncertainty about whether or not we can withstand such.”

“I know, but... I can't just pull myself away from here, especially not...”

A small smile crept across the Princess's face. “Is it Twilight?”

Sam was taken aback. “Well, yeah, actually... How'd you know?”

“When you've been around as long as I have, you tend to get quite talented at reading ponies, and humans too, apparently. All condescension aside, I've seen the way you've both looked at each other. Though, I had my suspicions long before; when she came to in the hospital, you were the first person she asked for. When we told her how you were at the time... Oh, it was like a knife in my heart. I felt so terrible for her...”

Sam cocked his head to the side in confusion. “So... You aren't the least bit concerned about your star pupil dating a bizarre time traveler who is of a different species?”

“Oh, a little,” she giggled, “though that last thing is uncommon, but not completely unheard of. There have been pony-zebra couples, and a few pony-buffalo couples, you know. Besides, you two care about each other very much, I can feel it; you did, after all, almost die trying to save her. That's what's important as far as I'm concerned, as long as you two together can handle the difficulties that usually come with such unconventional relationships. You need to ask yourself if you are up to that challenge. Are you?”

“I hope so,” Sam sighed, “I’m trying my hardest to get used to the idea. I really do care about her, you know.”

The Princess smiled. “Then I’m sure you’ll both be fine,” Celestia ceased her laughing and regained her serious tone of voice. “But I digress. I understand why you are hesitant to accept my offer. However, in all seriousness, this is something I really need from you.”

“Maybe we could compromise. I see Twilight get letters from you all the time. You said it yourself that the most important part of my job would be examining proposals. Why not just mail them to me? I've got my original copy of the archive data at Twilight's place, so I could handle that job easily. As for the training, I suppose I could try writing up the proper information when it is requested. I could possibly even make occasional, and I do mean occasional, trips to the city to host the training in person.”

The Princess brought a hoof to her chin as she considered the idea. “It wouldn't be as efficient,” she sighed, “but I think it's quite an amenable compromise. I must admit, I would have felt awful to tear Twilight's special somepony away from her and all of your friends.”

“...But you'd have done it.”

Celestia nodded, sighing. “If I had to. I've had the opportunity to look over some of the pending proposals; the risks presented in some of them...” She shuddered. “None quite as severe as a rogue replicator cloud attack, to be sure, but not too far removed, either.”

Sam chuckled. “I suppose they tried to modify the arc reactor designs into a weapon? Please don't tell me they're using palladium, the byproducts of that reaction are toxic!”

“Both, actually.”

Sam facepalmed. What do they even need an arc reactor for?

“So, I take it that you are willing to take the job?”

“As long as I can stay in Ponyville, yes,” Sam nodded.

“Very well. I've put a temporary halt on research since the incident, so whenever you feel up to getting started, just get in touch. And if you ever change your mind and want a change of scenery, the rest of my offer still stands. I think your personal involvement would be preferrable and beneficial, but your compromise is certainly agreeable. Thank you, Sam.”

Princess Celestia then rose from her seat, and began mingling with the rest of the party guests.

Sam replayed the conversation in his head. New job? Check. Related to what I'm good at? Check. Gettin' paid? Probably. Get to stay with my... Marefriend? (Man, dating a unicorn, dunno if I can get used to that. Damn life, you strange.) Check. Something still doesn't seem right... The gears in Sam's head were grinding at top speed. Realization hit him as hard as his hand hit his face. Still can't read or write Equestrian. That's no good.

Sam realized that Twilight had been gone for far longer than it would take to get a cup of punch, even on a healing sprained ankle. Rising to his feet and grabbing his crutches, Sam began walking about, scanning the crowd for the lavender unicorn. After accepting congratulations from several of the party guests, he finally spotted Twilight talking to two unicorns that he hadn't seen enter the auditorium earlier with the rest of the audience; a male with a dark blue mane, light blue coat, and a crescent moon mark on his rear, and a female with a light gray coat, a cutie-mark of three purple stars, and purple and white striped mane worn in a style similar to how Twilight wore her own. Both looked older than Twilight.

Once he had reached Twilight's side, he sat down in the nearest chair and tapped her shoulder to get her attention, causing her to jump in shock and forget about the ponies she was just talking to.

“Hey, calm down there, Twi, it's just me.”

Laughing nervously, she replied. “Right, so what did the Princess want?”

“She's offered me a new job. Don't worry, I can stay here, I'll explain the rest later, but uh... Do you know anyone who can teach me to read, write, and speak Equestrian?”

Smiling, she pointed a hoof at herself. “I'll be glad to teach you myself.”

“Great!” Sam looked at the two unicorns in front of Twilight, who were simply standing and smiling politely at the interruption, and then back to Twilight, with a quizzical look on his face. “So... Twilight, who are your friends here? Care to introduce me?”

Twilight gave another nervous laugh, her face clearly showing signs of anxiety. “Um, Sam, meet my mother, Sparkler, and my father, Moon Ray, they just got here a few moments ago. Mom, Dad, this is Sam Mitchell, the one I told you about that helped stop the replicators, and saved my life. He's also...” Just say it, they'll find out eventually anyway! “...My special somepony.”

Twilight's parents exchanged shocked looks with Sam. The tension was almost palpable, until Moon Ray extended a hoof in Sam's direction.

“Nice to meet you, Sam!” The unicorn exclaimed cheerfully. “And please, call me Ray!”

Sam, still in shock, grabbed Ray's hoof and shook hard. “Likewise, sir.”

Sparkler trotted over and gave Sam a quick hug. “So, you're the one that saved my little filly! Thank you EVER so much!”

Twilight stood stock still, her jaw agape. That went over far better than I had imagined it. Inside her mind, a scene played out in which her parents' reaction to Sam's alien appearance and relationship with her was far from friendly; after swiftly panicking and bucking Sam in the face, Moon Ray and Sparkler ran off, inciting a spontaneous stampede out of the auditorium. Once the dust had cleared, Twilight found herself being dragged back to Canterlot by her parents and the Princesses to study under their close supervision.

Sparkler looked at her daughter with concern. “Twilight, honey? Are you alright?”

Shaking her head, Twilight snapped out of it. “Oh, yeah, sorry mom. It's been a long day.”

Ray laughed knowingly. “Twilight, you weren't worried that we'd freak out over your coltfriend, were you?”

Twilight nodded. “I guess I was. So you're not?”

“Eh, I can't say I know for certain how I feel about you dating a...” Ray looked up and down Sam's form, “What are you, anyway?”

“A human, sir. Long story.”

“A human...” Ray mused quietly over the word for a moment, “Right, a human. I don't know how I feel about that, Twilight... But you're a grown mare, and I trust you to do what's right. You've never disappointed us before.” He shifted his eyes towards Sam. “Besides, if you saved my daughter and helped her stop that machine, you can't be all bad.”

Sam felt his sweating cease. Holy hell, these are the most reasonable “girlfriend parents” I've ever had.

Sam had a brief flashback to when he met the father of his last girlfriend. He had just been welcomed inside to wait as his date was getting ready. Her very tall, muscular father simply sat, silently, his eyes alternating between Sam and the very large and very well-stocked gun cabinet. After an awkward five minutes, the man said, “Boy, I trust ya to take mah little girl out tonight. You do anythin' to break dat trust, I'ma rip yer legs off at tha hip.”

Returning to reality, Sam merely nodded his head. “Thank you, sir. I can certainly see where Twilight gets her kind nature from.”

Ray laughed. “Don't call me sir, I'm Ray. I can appreciate proper manners, but you don't have to butter me up.” He looked around at his wife and daughter as if trying to remember something. “Oh! Right, Twilight, your mother and I forgot to tell you, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance will be joining us tomorrow! They just got back from some royal-business-trip-slash-extended-honeymoon a week or so ago. Sam, I think you, me, and Shining will have to go grab a drink and let the girls catch up tomorrow.”

“Whoa, Twilight, you didn't tell me that your brother married a princess!”

Ray pushed out his chest proudly. “That's my colt!”

Sparkler was giggling like a filly. “Me? Mother-in-law to a Princess? They've been married for months now, and I still get giddy thinking about it!”

“Anyway, Sam, really, it's been great to meet the... Is stallion an appropriate term?”

“My people usually refer to males as guys, men, boys... But I don't much care.”

“Alright. I'm glad to have met the... Guy... That's been watching out for my Twilight.” Ray looked over at his daughter. “We'll drop by tomorrow to really visit with you and Sam, and before then Shining and Cadance should be meeting us at the inn; for now we're going to go settle into our room. We would have been here earlier, but the darn train left Canterlot an hour late!”

“Yes, so nice to meet you Sam. And congratulations on your award, both of you." Sparkler took a step towards her daughter. "We are so proud of you, as always, Twilight! Good night you two!”

Twilight hugged both of her parents in turn, before bidding them goodnight.

Settling into the chair next to Sam, with the party still in full swing around them, Twilight pulled up close and leaned against him as he placed an arm around her. She opened her mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by a flash of pink as Pinkie Pie appeared in front of the couple.

“OHYMGOSH TWILIGHT I CAN'T BELIEVE SAM'S YOUR SPECIAL SOMEPONY! I MEAN I CAN BECAUSE HE'S A NICE GUY AND SUPER SMART AND ALL LIKE YOU BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! THAT'S SO GREAT TWI! You two are so cute together! OOOOH somepony wants to play pin the tail on the donkey! Gotta go! Congrats guys, bye!” As quickly as she came, Pinkie had vanished.

“Well, Sam, there you have it, you met my parents. I gotta say that went far better than I could have ever hoped.”

Recalling again his last girlfriend's redneck father, Sam laughed nervously. “You have no idea.”


The next morning, Sam and Twilight made an extra effort to be up in time to greet Ray, Sparkler, and the rest of Twilight's family. After dragging herself out of bed, Twilight went through the usual routine to help relieve Sam's pain; though it had begun slightly receding as the days passed, it was often enough to nearly make him vomit at times.

As Sam sat in the study, applying the ointment that the doctor had prescribed for his skin grafts, Twilight and Spike set about getting a few small snacks and some tea ready for their soon-arriving guests.

Around mid-morning, there came a knock at the door, which Twilight answered.

Opening the door, she found herself facing her parents, and two other ponies. One was a white-coated male unicorn whose dark blue mane slightly resembled Twilight's own with it's light blue streak down the middle, and the other was a pink alicorn with a flowing mane and tail made up of pastel purples, pinks, and yellows.

"Well, come on in everypony, welcome to my place! I've got some tea and snacks in the study for us, so help yourselves."

Her parents entered the library, followed by the unicorn and alicorn, both of whom quickly found themelves in a group hug from Twilight.

"Shining Armor! Princess Cadance! It's so good to see you both!"

The alicorn giggled. "It's good to see you, too, Twilight. You know you don't have to call me 'princess', though, right?"

"Oh, I know, force of habit I guess." Twilight turned to look at Shining Armor. "So, how was your trip, big brother?"

Shining shook his head. "I'll put it this way, Twiley, I'm just glad it was also doubling as a vacation."

"That bad, huh? Well, come on in to the study, I've got so much to tell you both, and there's someone I want you to meet!"

Twilight led her brother and sister-in-law into the study, where Sam had just finished treating his wounds and putting his shirt back on.

Ray and Sparkler had already exchanged greetings with Sam, and were focused on pouring themselves some tea. Shining and Cadance entered the room, and wore expressions of confused interest as they sat down next to Twilight's parents. Twilight herself finally took a seat next to Sam.

Twilight levitated the teapot towards her brother. "Would you or Cadance like some?"

Shining looked at Cadance, who shook her head. "I think we're fine, Cadance and I had a late breakfast, so maybe a little later. Thanks, though, sis. Why don't you introduce your... Friend over there."

Sam took the initiative himself. "Ah, sorry, where are my manners? I'm Sam. I'd shake your hoof, but I'm still recovering from an injury. It's kinda hard for me to walk over there. I'm guessing you and the lovely alicorn next to you are Twilight's brother, Shining, and sister-in-law, Cadance?"

Cadence smiled and nodded. "That would be right. And I'm guessing that you're the 'human' that Ray and Sparkler told us about?"

"Yep, the one and only."

Ray set his teacup down on the table. "Yeah, son, this is the hero that saved your sister!"

"Really? You saved Twiley? That probably means you're the one that Mom and Dad said is dating her, too, then, right?"

Twilight felt her face getting warm. "Yes, Shining, that's him."

Shining armor furrowed his brow as he considered the information he'd just heard. However, before he could say anything, a few words from Cadance set his mind at ease.

"It's hard to believe the little filly I used to foalsit is all grown up, and even has her own special somepony!" Cadance looked over at Sam. "So, you saved her life, what's the story behind that?"

Shining nodded. "Yeah, what happened? I heard there was some sort of attack in the area, but we've been a little cutoff from the rest of the world until we got back to Equestria this morning."

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. "Oh, it's a long story. Sam? Do you want to at least explain the first part of it? How you got here?"

"Sure. Believe me, you guys, you'd think the story would be as simple as a monster attacking out of the forest, but it's far more bizarre than that..."

The next half hour was consumed with Sam explaining the situation with the war back in his own time. He could see the shock in everyone’s eyes as he described the violent conflict he escaped. When he mentioned just how far back in the past he was from, they scarcely knew what to say.

"...And that brings me to the attack. After I got the archive working, I thought I'd removed any dangerous technology, especially designs that even my people were hesitant to use. I then sent that off to the academy, as per my deal with Celestia. Somehow, I still haven't figured it out, the researchers got hold of a design for a machine that produces clouds of tiny, microscopic machines called "replicators". They have the ability to build nearly anything you can imagine and program for."

Shining rubbed his chin with a hoof. "That sounds really beneficial, how did that end up with you and my sister getting hurt so badly?"

"Well, they made several modifications, and used an artificial intelligence in it. Basically, they gave it the ability to think and defend itself. It got out of control, and due to the use of magic in its manufacture and operation, it began seeking out sources of magical energy. First it tried to get Celestia and Luna, but they fought it off. The next best thing was Twilight, so it attacked Ponyville. Twilight and I had a plan to destroy it; she had to disable its magic, and I had built a device that would destroy the unshielded circuits. Just as we managed to get the right timing for our attacks, it lashed out one more time at Twilight. She had just unleashed a massive bolt of magic and was already beat up pretty hard; she couldn't move."

All four guests gasped in horror, and Twilight felt herself cringing at Sam's words. If you'd have just moved out of the way... Now Sam's in near-constant pain...

Sam put an arm around Twilight and drew her close to him. "I made a split second choice. Twilight would have almost certainly not survived the attack; ponies are pretty small in comparison to this thing. So, I did the only thing I knew to do and jumped in front of it."

Cadance gasped again, and Shining simply said, "Whoa."

"So, you knew you were large enough to withstand the hit?" Ray inquired.

Sam shook his head. "No, not really. I'd hoped, and obviously I was right, but just barely." He looked down at Twilight. "I just couldn't stand to see anything happen to Twilight. She's done so much for me. I can't express how tough it's been to deal with the fact that I'll never see my family again, but Twilight's been there for me the whole way."

Sparkler and Cadance let out a collective "D'aaawwww!"

Shining Armor rolled his eyes, as did his father.

Shining looked Sam in the eye. "Well, I'm glad to know somepony is looking out for my little sis." He shifted his gaze towards Twilight. "Ever since you moved here from Canterlot, I can't help but worry about you a little."

"Just a little, eh?" Twilight giggled.

Sparkler took another sip of her tea. "So, Sam, you and Twilight have told us a lot about you specifically, but how about telling us about WHAT you are? Are humans capable of magic, flight, weather control, or anything like that?"

"I'm afraid we can't do magic, or control the weather, but we have built machines that let us fly. Heh, I kinda wish I had one right now. No, our biggest ability is our intelligence, and of course these." Sam held up his hands. "If there's one thing my people are good at, it's problem solving, and hard labor, and being able to easily manipulate things with our hands makes doing all of that fairly simple."

"You look vaguely like a monkey." Ray interjected, his eyebrows raised and his mouth pulled into a devious grin.

Shining did his best to cover up his chuckling, which manifested as a loud snort.

Twilight nearly spat out her tea, and began waving her forehooves frantically to shut her father up. Please don't be offended Sam, oh Celestia my dad can be so embarassing... This is going to end up just like with Rarity! No no no... "Sam, please don't mind my dad, he's a real joker sometimes and-"

"It's okay, Twi." Sam simply shrugged and nodded his head. "Yeah, humans *are* classified as primates. But uh, MOST of us don't fling our excrement or hoard bananas."

Ray brought a hoof to his chin. "Hmm... I thought monkeys were a lot hairier than that, too..."

Twilight's jaw dropped as she facehoofed.

Sam laughed. If I didn't know better, I'd say this pony is trying to troll me. Heh, you're gonna have to do better than that, I've dated too many girls with redneck families in my day to have my jimmies rustled THAT easily. Only Rarity seems to know how to do that.

"Humans are just a naturally better-looking species than monkeys, Ray."

Ray finally ventured a laugh. "I can respect that, Sam. You know what? You're alright." He turned to look at Shining. "Son, how about you, Sam, and I go into town and catch up over a couple drinks. I saw a nice pub across from the inn last night."

Sam saw Cadance's face light up. "Oh! Twilight! You, your mother, and I should go have a little 'filly-time' at the spa! We have so much to talk about."

Twilight looked up at Sam, frowning slightly, as if she were asking if he was up for any of this.

"Don't worry Twilight, I'm just going to get to know your dad and brother. I could use the walk anyway, gotta get the strength back in this leg if I'm ever gonna use it properly again. Go have fun with your mom and sister-in-law. When we get back, we should all have a nice big dinner out somewhere."

Shining stood up and stretched. "You know, Sam, that's not a half-bad idea. It's been ages since mom, dad, Twiley, and I have all really been under the same roof."

Twilight nodded her head in agreement. "Alright then, Sam, you have fun with dad and Shining. Don't get into too much trouble, okay?"

Before Sam could get up, Twilight gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, which, after a slight hesitation that he hoped would be chalked up to shyness, he reciprocated.

Ray stretched, and rose to his hooves. "Alright, well, personally I vote that we meet up and eat at Chez Hay, Twilight. Your mom and I saw it coming in last night, looks pretty good."

"Sounds good to me, Dad. See everypony later!"


Twilight decided to treat her mother and sister-in-law to what Rarity had referred to as “the usual”. After massages, a sauna session, and a mud bath, the three mares found themselves relaxing in the hot tub.

Sparkler sighed contentedly. “Twilight, thank you so much for taking us here. I can't remember the last time I've done anything like this, let alone been able to spend any time with you.”

“Oh it's nothing, Mom,” Twilight replied, beaming, “honestly, with everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks, I needed this.” She turned her attention to Cadance. “So, Cadance, whaddya think? How does this compare to the places in Canterlot?”

“Oh, it's certainly giving them a run for their money.”

Sparkler pulled herself over closer to where Twilight was sitting. “Sam certainly does seem nice, if a bit strange. I hope you don't mind me asking, but what exactly about him caught your eye?”

Twilight blushed a little. “Oh, come on, Mom...”

“No, really, I'm not teasing, I'm genuinely curious.”

“I'd like to know, too,” Cadance giggled, “it's obvious that you two are close. How'd it happen?”

“Well... I'll admit, it isn't necessarily his looks. I mean I’m not saying I think he's ugly or anything, no. But... I don't know, it's hard to explain, we just get along so well. He and I share so many things in common.”

“Don't tell me he's obsessive-compulsive, too, dear,” Sparkler chortled.

“Mom!” Twilight glared at her mother. “... No. Like, he loves figuring things out and learning new things, and he and I have spent hours at a time just talking about things like math and science. And not just because we were working on something together, no, we just had fun discussing it because it interested us. He's fascinated by my magic, and the things he's taught me about advanced mathematics are mindblowing!”

Cadance smiled. “So, what you're saying is, he's a sort of kindred spirit?”

“Exactly! And it's funny that you would think he's an OCD case like me.”

Sparkler raised an eyebrow. “Why's that, Twilight?”

“Well, he's the complete opposite. And I realized yesterday that that's one of many reasons why I like him so much. I was having another episode, this time over a dress I couldn't find. You both remember how I can be...”

Sparkler rolled her eyes. “I certainly do, dear.”

“Well, Sam somehow knows how to talk me down from it. I don't know that anypony has been able to do that before. It's almost always like that, I just feel right when he's around me. I know that sounds like something from some sappy, amateurish romance story, but it's true.”

Cadance and Sparkler smiled knowingly at each other.

“What? What'd I say?”

Still smiling, Cadance pulled herself closer to her sister-in-law. “Oh, nothing. It's just that your mom and I know what you mean, and I couldn't be happier for you.”

Sparkler was looking giddier than a young filly about to open gifts on Hearth's Warming Eve. “You realize what we're getting at, right Twilight?”

“Um... Not really...”

“How about I put it this way... When's the wedding?”

Twilight's pupils narrowed to the size of a pinhead. “Wha-? Mom! No, no no no... We just started “dating” like, just a few days ago! We haven't even really been on a REAL first date yet!”

Cadance cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean real?”

Twilight quickly walked them through the evening she had Sam take her on the “mock date”, a story that quickly left Sparkler and Cadance in tears from both how ironically hilarious and adorable the whole situation was.

Sparkler finally regained her composure and placed a hoof on her daughter's shoulder. “Twilight, honey, I know your father and I have encouraged you to read and do independent research, but sometimes I think you should really put down the books and just wing it.”

Twilight blankly stared at her mother as if she'd spoken blasphemy.

Cadance nuzzled Twilight's shoulder, trying to cheer her up. “Oh, come on, we're just messing with you! Seriously, I've always wondered when some lucky stallion would catch your eye, and I'm glad one finally has, even though he's not exactly a stallion.”

“I know, I know, still... I was really worried about how this would go over. I know it's not unheard of for relationships like this to happen, but Sam is the first and only of his kind we've ever seen, and I had no idea what some ponies might think. In fact, Sam himself is having to try very hard to get used to the idea of dating me. He thinks I don't notice, I think. You see, humans were the only sentient race in Sam's time, not like today. In his time, our relationship would have been seen as way beyond strange.”

Cadance nodded. “I noticed he seemed a little tense, and I saw how he hesitated before returning your kiss earlier, which was absolutely adorable by the way. But look at it like this; if this sort of thing really is that big of a deal for him, then he must care about you as much as you care for him; otherwise, he wouldn't be trying so hard to get past it. And, he risked his life to save yours, after all.”

Twilight looked up pensively. “That's a good point, Cadance,” she sighed, “you always do manage to see the best in everypony.” Though, I wish everypony would quit reminding me that Sam got hurt because of me...

Cadance smiled. “Well, it's like you've said before, I 'spread love everywhere I go', and my cutie-mark is a heart, it's kind of my thing.”

“Like we said, Twilight, we're happy for you, and Sam certainly seems like the type to treat you well.”

Twilight finally allowed herself to sink a little further into the steaming water. “Thanks, Mom.”

The mares spent the rest of their spa time exchanging stories, with Sparkler recounting expeditions to Gryphonia in order to research ancient forms of magic. Cadance couldn't resist bragging a little about the luxurious resort that she and Shining Armor had taken their honeymoon to. Not one to be outdone with storytelling, Twilight gave them both the full details of how she and her friends had defeated Nightmare Moon and nearly been beaten by Discord; she followed those stories up with the countless hilarious pranks that Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash had pulled on everypony in Ponyville.

In Twilight's mind, the only thing that could have made that afternoon better would have been for Sam to have been there with her.


Sam found himself crouched over a table in a small establishment that Ray had told him was called 'The Feisty Mule'. Shining Armor had ordered the three of them a round of drinks, something that Sam thought tasted much like a wheat beer from his own time.

“Thanks for the drink, Shining. I wish I'd found this place earlier, it's been ages since I've had a good Belgian white,” Seeing his companions' confused faces, he continued, “it's a type of wheat beer. Tastes a lot like this stuff, but with less of a fruity, apple-ish flavor, usually. What's the brand, anyway?”

“Don't mention it. I figure after what you went through, you could use a cold one. It's called 'Hoofenbräu', one of my favorites.”

“You have good taste, Shining. I wish I could show you and your dad my favorite bar from my time. If you enjoy a good drink, you would think you had died and gone to heaven; over a hundred monthly-rotated beers on tap. Oh man, I miss that place, not gonna lie.”

Ray chuckled. “Sparkler would KILL me.”

Sam shrugged. “What can I say? It was a college town, and my particular college was known for studying hard and partying harder, if you know what I mean.”

“Sam, I'm a royal guard, nopony throws down like a soldier,” Shining chuckled.

“Is that a challenge? I’m certainly no pony.”

Shining grinned. “It just might be.”

Sam glared at Shining. “Alright, then, as soon as I'm healed up, it's on, bro.”

“You, me, our friends, Las Pegasus.”

Ray shook his head. “Alright, you two, contrary to popular belief, the liver is NOT evil and must NOT be punished. Only occasionally antagonized because it is merely a bit annoying. Anyway, Sam, what exactly do you do?”

Sam took a sip of his drink. “Well, back before I wound up here, I was a computer hardware engineer. I helped design complex electrical power management systems, worked with computer programmers to design high-speed logic chips, and I had a brief foray into transistor layout and mask design.”

Ray nodded. “You'll have to explain to me what half of that stuff is, sometime.”

Sam chuckled. “Basically, if I had the right equipment, I could design, manufacture, and program my own computer system from scratch. I'm actually about to start working with the Royal Academy to adapt some of my technology.”

“Interesting. So what do you do now?”

“When I first got here, Twilight helped me get a job with her friend Applejack; she owns an apple orchard, you see. At first it was just to help me acclimate to this place. The farm environment reminded me a lot of my childhood, and that was comforting; it helped me cope with the stress of pretty much losing everyone and everything I knew and loved from my own time,” Sam sighed, “but with my injuries from the replicator attack, I don't know if I'll be able to work on the farm again. Like I said though, Princess Celestia is taking me on as a technical advisor for the Academy researchers, so I have that.”

Shining set his mug down. “Wow, that's a pretty big jump in a short time. It took me ten years to work my way up the ranks from private, and I supposedly made that ascension quicker than anypony before me. Not bad, Sam.”

“Heh, thanks, Shining. So, Ray, Twilight tells me you and Sparkler are magic researchers. What does that entail?”

“Well, we focus on ancient magic, so we often get pulled out on expeditions to various places, looking for old scripts and texts. The aim is to hopefully track down ancient spells that might shed some insight on exactly how magic works. That could lead to any number of improvements in our current abilities.”

Sam took a long drink from his glass. “So you travel a lot? I kinda envy you, my old job didn't permit me more than a week or two of vacation every year. That's really cool though.”

“It can be pretty dull, but the traveling perk does make up for some of it.” Ray took a sip of his beer. “So, if you don't mind me asking, Sam, what do you intend to happen with you and my little filly?”

Sam felt every muscle in his body tense up and his face flush.

Ray noticed, and laughed. “Chill out there. It's a totally innocent question. I'll admit I'm a little surprised to see Twilight chasing after a non-pony. But like I said last night, I'm told you nearly died protecting her, that goes a long way with her mother and I.”

“Fair enough. Let's just say I've had bad experiences with the fathers of one or two of my last girlfriends. If there's one thing I've noticed so far, it's that a lot of you ponies are far more rational and trusting than most humans I know. But to answer your question... I just want her in my life, you know? I don't know how our relationship is gonna go; bear in mind it's completely unheard of for my kind to date non-humans. In my time, no other species was sentient. It's going to take some getting used to, but I really care about Twilight. She was the first friend I made here, and she's been there for me during some pretty tough times in my acclimation here.”

Ray pensively sipped at his drink. “I think I can live with that answer. You seem like a good kid, Sam. Funny-looking, but you're alright. I'm definitely still on the fence about you two already living together, but given your circumstances,” he chuckled, “I guess I'll have to let it slide, for now at least.”

Sam idly scratched the back of his head. “So, Ray, I understand relationships like the one I have with Twilight aren’t TOO uncommon here, but I still can’t help but be surprised at how easily you and the rest of your family are accepting this.”

Ray furrowed his brow, thinking for the right answer. “You know, I don’t really have a good answer for you,” he looked towards his son, “but let me put it this way. I have a daughter who has turned her mother and I into potted plants, helped defeat a demon-possessed Princess Luna, and the embodiment of chaos himself, and my son was nearly tricked into marrying the Queen of the Changelings, only to defeat her with the help of the REAL bride and Princess... After all of that, I guess seeing Twilight date a time-travelling primate is the LEAST bizarre thing that’s happened with our family.”

“Yeah,” Sam chuckled, “I suppose you’re right.”

“Besides,” Ray continued, “like I said, you put yourself on the line pretty hard for Twilight. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about Twilight being with you.”

Shining lightly punched Sam in the shoulder. “And remember, if you hurt her, you're gonna have to deal with me.”

Sam returned the punch. “Don't worry, I have, er... Had a younger sister, before I got here. I used to be a bit more aggressive than you are, though; I would threaten my sister's potential boyfriends with the 'fact' that I knew how to kill them without leaving any evidence,” he said nonchalantly.

Ray raised an eyebrow at that remark. “Should I be worried about that?”

Sam laughed, waving his hands in front of him. “Oh, no, no, that was just something I said to scare them, because they knew I was smart enough that I just might not be bluffing. My sister was... Overly trusting, and would often meet the biggest jerks. Trust me, you'd have dealt with them the same way.” He turned to look at Shining. “So, change of subject, how'd you meet Cadance? I mean, you married a princess, that's like an astronomical combination of luck and pure game.”

Shining felt his face flush a bit. “Luck? Yeah, sometimes I still can't believe it, but game? Heh, nope. I don't know if you picked up on it, but she was Twiley's foalsitter back in the day. Of course, I had a really awkward crush on her from day one. It took me ages, being the awkward, lanky nerd I was back then, but I finally managed to ask her on a date or two. We kept it on the downlow from Twilight, because she still thought that “colts were icky” and we'd have never heard the end of it from her. The rest is more or less history, though we didn't get REALLY serious until I'd gotten through basic training with the royal guard.”

“Awkward nerd, eh? Sounds like you've got a little more in common with me than I thought,” Sam chuckled.

Ray put a hoof on Sam's shoulder. “Son, awkward doesn't even begin to describe this colt back then.”

“Heh, so even MORE in common with me.”

Shining responded by facehoofing.

Sam reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of bits. “Next round of drinks are on me guys.”

Ray looked up to the clock on the wall. “Eh, it's getting pretty close to dinner, so we should probably head on over to Chez Hay, but thanks for the offer, Sam.”

“Alright, but we gotta do this again sometime, on me. It's been awesome hanging out with you two.”

“Heh, likewise. I gotta say, my little filly has good taste, at least in personalities, anyway. I still say you look kinda funny, monkey-man,” Ray chuckled.

Shining just shook his head in exasperation. “Dad, Sam, let's go, you know how Mom gets when you keep her waiting...”


Sam looked at the menu, examining the pictures of each dish while the others conversed amongst themselves. Garden salad, grilled daisy sandwich, whole-hay breadsticks… Damn, what I'd do for a good steak burger or something these days…

Twilight prodded Sam's shoulder to get his attention. "Everything okay?"

Sam set down the laminated sheet, and looked down at Twilight. She was the only one of the group who decided to show up dressed up, wearing the simple blue dress Rarity had made her for the ceremony the night before. Sam couldn't help but smile at how adorably beautiful she looked. The fact that the group had opted for an outdoor tabled served to intensify the effect, with Twilight's eyes reflecting a few rays of the setting sun.

"Yeah, Twilight, I'm fine. I just can't make up my mind on what to order. Kind of a problem, seeing as how I'm starving right now," Sam chuckled.

"Have you tried their garlic and herb pasta?"

Sam took another glance at the menu; the dish looked a lot like pasta primavera, but with the addition of a few vegetables he wasn't familiar with. "No, I guess not, looks good though, I guess I'll try it. How was the spa day with your mom and Cadance?"

"Oh, it was great! I haven't gotten to spend time with either of them like that in ages! But," Twilight looked at him slyly, "after having one of YOUR massages, the ones that Aloe and Lotus give just don't compare."

The waiter arrived to take orders as well as serve the wine that Ray had ordered for everyone. Once all orders had been placed, and all wine glasses filled, Ray levitated his glass into the air.

"Everypony, I'd like to say a brief toast here. First, I still can't say enough how proud and happy I am for you two, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance. I'm sure you have many happy years ahead of you. Second, I want to wish my little filly and her new special somepony a speedy recovery, and a happy relationship together. It's been wonderful getting to see my family together again, as well as meet you, Sam. Cheers!"

With that, everyone else floated or otherwise lifted their glasses up, and took a drink. Sparkler smiled and gave her husband a light nudge.

"What was all that about, dear?"

Ray laughed. "Nothing, really. A stallion can't just express his positive emotions from time to time?"

"You like Twiley's new coltfriend, don't you Ray?" Sparkler asked, smirking.

Ray shrugged. "What can I say? I'm not a racist, honey, and he's a good kid. Almost as smart as Twilight, too."

"Ooohh, sounds like my big Ray has a colt-crush!"

Ray just glared at his wife.

"Honey I'm kidding. Honestly I'm glad you two got along. I remember how you used to talk when Twilight was growing up, 'any colt so much as lays a fetlock on my filly and he'll wish he'd never been born', blah blah blah," Sparkler giggled, and lowered her voice to a whisper, "But, no, I'm glad you like him. You should have heard Twilight this afternoon talking about him! It was adorable."

Twilight started laughing too. "Yeah Dad, don't you remember? How many times did you try to get me to let YOU take me to school dances? I didn't even wanna go in the first place, I just wanted to stay home and read!"

Ray rubbed the back of his head, grinning sheepishly. "Heh… Yeah… Wait, you all heard that?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah, you weren't exactly whispering. But thanks, though. Really, I'm amazed at how accepting you folks are, that really means a lot to me."

Ray took another sip of his wine. "You're welcome. I would also like to apologize, Twilight."

"What for, Dad?"

"For taking so long to come visit you. I swear your mother and I would have been right there beside your hospital bed if we'd gotten the news on time. As it were, we were deep within the Gryphon kingdom, in the middle of one of their deserts. By the time Celestia's messenger found us, well, you were already out of the hospital. We're just glad we made it in time for your party last night."

"Dad, really, it's okay, I understand. You don't have to apologize."

A few of the wait staff trotted up to the table, each holding a dish on their backs.

"Thank Celestia," Shining exclaimed, "enough of this sappy stuff, let's eat!"

Cadance rolled her eyes and laughed. "Stallions, always thinking with their stomachs."

The rest of the meal passed by pleasantly. After everyone had finished eating, the waiter dropped by again to inquire if anyone wanted dessert. Without exception, everyone politely declined, to the visible disappointment of the waiter.

Sam chuckled. Even millions of years in the future, restaurants serve ridiculous portions of food and act surprised when no one has room for dessert.

As everyone stood up to leave, Ray and Sparkler trotted over to where Sam and Twilight were standing. Ray extended a hoof towards Sam, who was righting himself onto his crutches.

"As I've said, it's been a pleasure to meet you, Sam. Take care of my little filly, alright? Remember," Ray said with a wink, "my son is the captain of the guard AND married to royalty. And I mean that both as a friendly threat, and to let you know that if you need anything, let us know."

Sam took Ray's hoof and shook. "Heh, thanks. Seriously though, you and Shining should come back some time. I still owe you two a drink."

Sparkler laughed. "How about you and Twilight come up to Canterlot sometime? Once we get back from finishing the Gryphonian expedition, we should have at least a month or so back here."

Twilight hugged her parents. "Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think, Sam?"

"Sure, just let us know. I haven't been up there since I got moved to Ponyville."

Ray nodded. "Well, Sparkler and I had better get outside, we're hitching a ride with Shining and Cadance back to Canterlot. Until next time!"

Shining and Cadance were already waiting outside of the restaurant, standing beside a royal chariot that had been sent to pick them up. Imitating his father, Shining reached up to shake Sam's hand.

"If you're ever in Canterlot, let me know, there's this bar in town I think you'll like. Me and some of my soldier friends hang out there sometimes when we're off duty."

"Sure, I'll keep that in mind. Been nice meeting you, Shiny."

Shining frowned. "Only my sister can call me that."


Shining bent down to meet Twilight's embrace. "It was good to see you kiddo, take care of yourself, okay?"

Twilight laughed, and let go of him. "Oh, you know me. Don't be a stranger, okay, B.B.B.F.F.?"

Cadance leaned down to hug her old friend. "If you ever need any advice," subtly motioning her eyes towards Sam, "let me know!"

After everyone had said their goodbyes, Twilight and Sam began strolling back home.

"Your family is great, Twilight. Thanks for letting me meet them."

"Heh, I don't know what you said or did but you really impressed my dad."

"Did I now?"

"I think so. You know what Sam?"


"This has been a really good day."

Sam thought back on the day's events. For the first time in quite a while, Sam had forgotten all about his pain and difficulties. He had awakened next to someone who cared about him, spent the afternoon drinking and hanging out with Ray and Shining as if they were old friends, and had dinner with a family that he could almost envision being his own.

Smiling, Sam replied. "Yeah, Twi, it really has."

In For A Penny, In For A Pound

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The smooth, undisturbed surface of the pond was broken by the impact of a small bit of floating wood attached to a string.

“There we go, that’s the first step, Spike. You gotta cast out the line far enough away from the shore.”

The young dragon mentally reviewed Sam’s motions. “Alright, seems easy so far, what next?”

“Well, now we just wait. If a fish takes the hook, you’ll see the floater I put on the line jerk underneath the water. That’s when you yank back on the pole and line to firmly hook the fish. Then you just pull it in.”

“Sounds kinda boring.”

Sam leaned back, enjoying the warmth of the sun. “Yeah, only reason I ever voluntarily did this back home was to spend some time with my grandpa. He loved this. But at least now I can get some variety in my diet.”

“Yeah, I feel ya bro,” Spike chuckled, “Don’t get me wrong, I like Twilight’s cooking. I grew up on flowers and salads and other pony food like that. But the things I would do for a good supply of gemstones...” He made several loud slurping noises.

“Heh. It hasn’t been too bad getting used to the food here, I mean I can do fine on a mostly vegetarian diet. Doesn’t mean I don’t still crave a good steak from time to time. ”

“So you actually enjoy eating meat?” Spike stuck his tongue out in disgust.

“Uh, yeah. At risk of freaking you out here, it’s pretty delicious. Before you give me any funny looks though, it’s not like we humans ate other sentient, thinking creatures. I’m actually surprised you’ve never had it before; your teeth and claws suggest that dragons are predatory.”

Spike pondered this idea for a second. “I guess that kinda makes sense, but dragons mostly eat gemstones. I hate to admit it though, when you cooked that last batch of fish I caught you, it smelled pretty good.”

Sam smiled. “How about you try some? If we catch any today, that is.”

“Hmm... I dunno... Maybe just a little. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea.”

“Speaking of gemstones, though, how do they taste? Can’t say I’ve heard of any species before that literally eats rocks as a source of nourishment.”

“Depends. Rubies are kinda spicy, depending on how long you age them. Tourquoise is my favorite though, they’re hard to describe. I’d offer to share some with you, but you can’t really eat them, can you?”

“Nope,” Sam laughed, “Though, when Twilight and I were fighting that machine, I’m pretty sure I got more than a mouthful of rocks and gravel from being knocked around so much.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Dude, those are TOTALLY different. Dragons eat gems, but to us dirt still tastes like dirt.”

Sam rubbed the back of his head. “Somehow, that actually makes sense.”

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, Sam, how did this thing with you and Twilight happen, anyway? I mean, you don’t really seem like the emotional, lovey-dovey type, dude. No offense, I mean, you and Twilight supposedly like each other. I see it from her, but not you.”

“Heh, none taken. That’s actually something she talked to me about a few days ago.” Sam’s tone shifted, becoming more strained and serious. “You gotta understand, it’s a little difficult for me to be as upfront with my emotions as you guys all are. In the situation I was in back in my time, I didn’t have time for emotions. None of us did.”

Spike cocked his head. “Whaddya mean?”

Sam reached for his cane, having recently graduated from crutches, and groaned as he slowly sat up, gently rubbing his still-healing right side. “We had a lot of work to do, getting those time machines ready. Every second delayed was another potential moment that could see us getting discovered or bombed. Sure, we were all under a ton of stress, but we had to put it aside and focus on the job at hand. Losing our focus could result in making mistakes, potentially fatal mistakes.”

“Sounds rough.”

“You have no idea. Live in a high pressure environment like that long enough, bottling up your emotions and thoughts inside...” Sam sighed, “You tend to forget how to relate to people. Remember how sarcastic and unpleasant I was when I got here?”

Spike just nodded.

“But,” Sam’s voice regained its previously genial sound, “I don’t know really what made her want to try, but Twilight was determined to be my friend. Looking back, it’s kinda shocking how much effort she made to comfort me even as I acted like a jerk.” Not to mention how she stopped me from killing myself...

“Yeah, once Twilight gets an idea in her head, good luck stopping her, I’ve tried,” Spike replied, chuckling.

“So I’ve noticed. But I’m glad she did. Gotta say though, if someone had told me a few months ago that a talking unicorn was going to claim me as her boyfriend, I’d probably have contacted the station’s psychologist on duty to check them out.”

Sam pulled the fishing line back in. Seeing that the bait was still on the hook, he cast it back out, wincing as he threw it. It had been three weeks since the big ceremony at the town hall, and nearly a month since his discharge from the hospital. It was becoming apparent that the pain in his right hip and leg was likely going to be a chronic issue. It had lessened in intensity over time, though, provided he didn’t exert himself, and as a result Twilight’s spell could almost completely mask the sharp burning sensation, leaving only a weak ache. However, it had been a few hours since Twilight had last administered the spell, and it was wearing off.

“Hey, Sam, you okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll just need Twilight to use her magic on me again soon.”

“Think we should pack it in for the day?”

Sam shook his head. “Nah, I’m good for a little longer. Besides, my next Equestrian language lesson with Twilight isn’t for another hour, and I’m determined to catch at least one fish today.”

“You sure this is a better method than me jumping in and grabbing them?” Spike asked with a smirk.

“Usually, yes. They just must not be hungry today.”

“If you’re sure. Then again... I’m not so sure how effective my way would be, normally I went for the ones near the shore, and I don’t see anything there.”

Sam shrugged. “Beats me. So what’s the deal with you and Rarity?”

Even Spike’s fireproof scales couldn’t contain the blush that spread across the little dragon’s face.

“Um... Yeah I have a huge crush on her...”

“Yeah, I know, you pretty much told me back when she and I had our ‘disagreement’ back when I first got here. Have you told her? Asked her out, maybe?”

Spike shook his head. “I tried to tell her once, but she didn’t let me finish. I think she knows though... Never asked her out.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I got to thinking about it, and I’m only thirteen years old. Rarity is twenty-two.” Spike began to pout slightly. “I’m still a little kid, you know? So I decided I should wait.”

Sam lightly punched Spike’s shoulder. “That’s pretty mature of you. I’m sure once you’re a little older, she’d be pretty proud to have a guy like you chasing after her.”

Spike perked up at that remark. “Really? You think so?”

Sam nodded his head. Suddenly, he felt a tug on his fishing pole, and gave it a quick jerk, before dragging the hooked fish onto the shore.

“Nice! Looks like your way finally got us one, Sam.”

“Yeah, kind of on the small side, I guess.” Sam placed another worm onto his hook, and cast out again. “Let’s try for a few more.”


Twilight was contentedly trotting around her library, enjoying the sensation of walking normally again, as well as the strangely pleasant feeling of the stiff tendons in her healing ankle beginning to stretch and regain their strength as she moved. She was absent-mindedly humming to herself as she searched for the books she would need for Sam’s next lesson in Equestrian language. Twilight had started Sam off using some picture books that the local schoolteacher, Cheerilee, had lent them. Now, she was moving on to a few easy novels; today’s lesson was going to basically be an exercise in translating simple sentences.

It had been tough to get started; in order for the lessons to be effective at all, Twilight had to temporarily remove the spell that translated his speech and hearing after giving a brief explanation of what the lesson was going to be about. After a solid week of daily lessons, Sam managed to pick up enough words that the spell could be canceled without any explanation ahead of time, and Twilight found herself enjoying her new role as a teacher.

As she reflected on the past lessons, the clock managed to catch her gaze and snap her out of her reverie.

“Hmm...” Twilight thought aloud, “Spike and Sam ought to be back any moment now, it’s not like Sam to be late for his lessons. He sure seems to enjoy them...”

Twilight walked over to the window, in case she could spy the dragon and his human companion coming up the path. Seeing the path to be empty, she returned to her task of gathering books for Sam’s language session.

I hope he hasn’t fallen and hurt himself... But that’s silly! Spike would go straight for help if Sam were hurt... I’m sure they’re fine. Just lost track of time, that’s all.

With her horn aglow, Twilight began organizing her books into several stacks near the chair Sam usually occupied during the lessons. Satisfied that everything was ready for class to begin, she took a seat near the blackboard she had brought in, and began idly flipping through one of the books.

As she read, Twilight’s mind drifted back to that first kiss she stole from Sam as well as the nearly horrified expression his face wore in response.

I still can’t believe he actually kissed me back! It was wonderful... I thought he was absolutely disgusted with me at first, though... I know he told me I just surprised him, but I couldn’t help but notice every other time after, he hesitated. Only a split second, sure, but I could see it...

Twilight sighed, and turned to look at a picture taken of her and Sam together at Sugarcube Corner during one of Pinkie’s random parties. Sam was sitting down, with his arms around Twilight’s midsection as she sat on his lap. She felt a smile on her face growing nearly as wide as the one Sam wore in the picture. Twilight shook her head, softly laughing at herself.

I’m just letting my imagination get the best of me... Sam has told me time and time again that he just needs time to get used to seeing me that way and that he really does care about me, and he certainly treats me like I’m special to him. I just need to be patient with him, that’s all!

Just as Twilight floated her book back over to the shelf, the front door burst open to allow Spike in, followed by Sam, limping along with the aid of his new cane. Sam had regained some control and motion in his leg, but the damage to his nerves left the leg weak and resistant to movement.

Twilight felt her already improving mood continue to skyrocket upwards. “Sam! Spike! How’d the fishing go?”

While Sam ambled over to his chair, Spike pointed to a bucket sitting just outside the door. “Pretty well, actually. We spent what, three hours out there? Didn’t get a single bite. Then all of a sudden, Sam catches one. Then I catch one. Fifteen minutes later, we’ve got a bucket full of the things. Anyway, I’m gonna finish sorting this shelf over here.”

Twilight smiled. “I’m glad you two enjoyed yourselves.” She turned to face Sam. “So, ready to try a tougher challenge today, Sam?”

Sam looked up, and noticed the stack of books beside his chair. “I’m guessing these books have something to do with it, right?”

“Yep! Today, I’m going to pick random passages from these novels, and see how well you can read them out loud to me. Then, you’ll pick a few to rewrite in English; once I reactivate the translation spell, you can read it back to me to see if you correctly understood the meaning.”

Sam scratched his head and gave a hesitant glance towards the books. “Twi... Novels? Really? I mean... I’m up for a challenge and all, but...”

Twilight giggled, and levitated one of the books into his lap. “Don’t worry, they’re just children’s novels. Simple sentences and only slightly harder vocabulary than last time. You’re doing a lot better than you think, you know. Just two weeks ago you were still trying to memorize the Equestrian alphabet, and now you can already read and write a few sentences coherently.”

Sam cracked open the book and grabbed his notepad. “Well,” he said with a determined tone, “let’s do this.”

Twilight removed Sam’s translation spell, and began with the usual vocabulary drills as a “warm-up” exercise. The way Sam slowly sounded out the words like a little foal struck her as strangely cute; it was odd for Twilight to see the usually intelligent human practically learning to speak all over again.

Once Twilight was satisfied with the word drills, she picked out a few paragraphs from the book in Sam’s lap, and instructed him to begin reading aloud. As he read, Twilight smiled as he began picking up the pace. After every couple of sentences, he looked up from the pages and was rewarded with an encouraging nod and a happy utterance of “Keep going!” from the lavender unicorn.

Every once in a while, Twilight would notice Sam wincing as he read. Eventually, he finally looked up and spoke the first sentence he’d asked Twilight to teach him.

“Can you do pain spell please?”

“Yes, one moment,” Twilight replied, focusing as she gathered the energy in her horn. Looks like the doctor was right during that last follow-up, he may have to deal with that pain for the rest of his life... At least it’s dulling over time, plus I can help. I owe at least that much to him...

Once the spell had taken effect, Sam sighed in relief, and continued to read as well as slowly rewrite the passages in English.

Twilight patiently monitored his progress, proud of how fast Sam was picking up the language. After a few more minutes of intense concentration on Sam’s part, he set down his quill and looked up at Twilight.

Deliberately, Sam sounded out three words. “I am done.”

Twilight re-cast the translation spell. “Not bad, Sam. You only misread maybe four words in that entire passage!”

Sam scratched his head in disbelief. “Really? I thought I had botched about half of them.”

“Like I said, you’re doing better than you think! Now, read me your translation there,” Twilight replied, pointing a hoof at Sam’s paper.

She listened intently as Sam read out his work, nodding as he spoke. Twilight was thrilled; other than a few mistranslations due to some Equestrian homophones, Sam had managed to get the basic meaning of the passage. After a few more congratulatory remarks, Twilight killed the translation spell once again, and had Sam repeat the exercise with another passage.

Sam stared intently at the new block of text before him, studying the markings to recall their respective sounds. I feel like I’m a damned kindergartener again...

As if reading his thoughts, Twilight stepped towards Sam and sat down next to him in his chair, placing a hoof on his shoulder reassuringly.

“You’re doing great, Sam, keep going.”

Sam caught enough of the sentence to guess at Twilight’s meaning, and smiled. He redoubled his efforts, and continued reading.

Twilight had Sam repeat the exercise with three more excerpts before deciding to end the day’s lesson.

Sighing as Twilight finished recasting the translation spell, Sam set his books and paper aside and looked down at the unicorn curled up next to him.

“So, how’s your leg doing, Twi?”

Twilight stretched her right foreleg out and flexed it a little. “It’s healing nicely, I’d say. I can walk with almost no limp, though it’s still a little swollen.”

“Yeah, I remember when I sprained my own ankle. I could get around fine within a week or so, but it took nearly two months for the swelling to completely go away.”

“That long, huh...”

“So, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

Twilight’s ears perked up in response. “What is it?”

Sam laughed. “Surprise. Just go upstairs and put on your nicest dress, okay?”

“Okay! I’ll be right back!”

“Take your time.” Once Sam was satisfied that Twilight was out of earshot, he motioned for Spike to come over. “Alright, when she comes back down, I need you to get her to put on that blindfold I gave you, and make sure you tell her it’s for the surprise, okay?”

“Sure thing.”

Sam grabbed his cane, stood up, and began ascending the stairs to his own room.

Spike manned his station at the bottom of the stairs, listening as he heard a series of small crashing noises from the upper floor; he wasn’t sure whose room the sounds had originated from, given Twilight’s sometimes excitably obsessive nature and the fact that Sam needed a cane to walk safely.

Minutes later, Sam slowly descended the stairway, wearing a brand new tuxedo that he had Rarity make the week before, complete with a top hat.

Spike stuck out his fist, which Sam promptly met with his own.

“Not bad, Sam, Rarity make that for ya?”

“Yep, I almost got into another fight with her over it though...”

“What now?” Spike groaned.

“I’m only half-serious; she wanted to literally cover this thing in jewels. It’s like she wanted me to be one of those ancient country singers.”

“What does country music have to do with that?”

Sam shook his head. “Nevermind. I managed to talk her down from the idea, but she insisted I at least get the hat, as well as jewel tip for the top of my walking cane. Personally, I think they’re both a little much, but I kinda need the cane. What do you think?”

“I like top hats, myself, but I dunno, I don’t really see it on you. Then again, Rarity is the one with the eye for style.”

“I think I might just leave out the hat. Don’t tell Rarity,” Sam said with a wink. That hat makes me look like one of those over-dressed gangsters from the twentieth century anyway.

The conversation was cut short by the sound of hooves clip-clopping towards the top of the stairway.

Sam lowered his voice. “That’s your cue, Spike.”

Sam stepped out of the stairway’s line of sight, and Spike took his position at the bottom.

Twilight began making her way downstairs, wearing the blue astronomy-inspired dress that Rarity had made her for the Gala roughly a year ago. Once she made it to the last few steps, Spike motioned for her to stop.

Confused, Twilight tilted her head slightly. “Spike? What are you doing?”

“Sam wants you to put this blindfold on and then follow him.”

“Excuse me?”

Sam called out from beyond Twilight’s view. “It’s okay, trust me!”

“Okay... If you insist...” Twilight’s horn lit up, and slowly levitated the bit of cloth over her eyes.

“Alright, ready Twilight?”

“I suppose.”

“Then just stay with my voice. I’ll try to stay on your right side.” Sam turned towards Spike and nodded a silent “Thanks!” as he began leading the blindfolded pony towards their destination.

As the couple walked through town, they were certainly a sight to behold; a limping human with a cane and a dinner jacket leading a beautifully-dressed, though blinded, mare through the streets. Sam was amused with some of the townsponies’ reactions, ranging from pure confusion to straight out laughter; he made sure to signal them to stay silent while they passed by.

Where is he taking me? I think I kind of know what direction we’re headed, but I don’t know why we’d be going to Berry’s wine shop...

A few minutes later, Twilight picked up the faint sounds of violins and cellos playing, and as she continued moving, her nose caught a slight scent of garlic and other assorted herbs.

“Alright, we’re here, you can take off the blindfold Twilight.”

Tossing aside the strip of fabric, she immediately saw Sam standing in front of her with a gigantic, goofy grin on his face.

“I love the new tuxedo, Sam,” Twilight giggled, “but why are we here all dressed up?”


Twilight craned her neck to look around Sam, and saw a newly-built building with a sign reading “Il Capriccio”.

Still confused, Twilight once more looked up at Sam. “I’m not sure I get it.”

Laughing, Sam explained. “Do I have to spell it out for you? We’re dressed up, standing outside of what is supposedly Ponyville’s newest bit of fine dining...”

Twilight’s eyes went wide with realization. “Ohhh! A surprise date?”

Sam nodded. “Ever since you and I began ‘officially’ dating, I wanted to take you somewhere REALLY nice, seeing as we already went to the previously-best establishment in town on our ‘mock date’, if you’ll recall.”

Twilight turned beet-red with embarrassment as she recalled the whole bizarre affair.

“Well? Are we going to stand here all evening or shall we go claim our reservation?”

Twilight nodded.

“After you, madam.”

Twilight giggled, and led the way inside.

Once inside, Sam approached the headwaiter, a white stallion with his jet-colored mane slicked back, who promptly greeted him. “Good evening, sir, do you have a reservation?”

“Yes, that would be ‘Mitchell’ for two.”

The headwaiter glanced down at his records briefly before looking back up. “Ah, yes, right this way please.”

Twilight and Sam found themselves led back into the restaurant, which appeared to be more of a concert hall than a dining room. A small stage was set up with semi-circular rows of tables radiating out around it, with each chair positioned so that its occupant would be watching the stage as the meal was served.

Once seated, the chairs side by side rather than across from each other, Twilight began looking through the menu.

“Wow, Sam, this all looks amazing... And I swear I heard a string quartet warming up behind the stage.”

Sam was beaming. “Yes, that’s one reason Rarity recommended this place so strongly. She said that their house salad is to die for.” Only in Equestria would a “house salad” actually mean a specialty main dish as opposed to a light side item...

“See? I told you you’d like Rarity if you made peace with her,” Twilight said smugly.

Sam decided to ignore the comment and attempt to read his own menu. Twilight noticed his effort, and waited a few moments before offering her assistance.

“No, give me a minute Twilight, this is good practice...” Sam furrowed his brow in concentration before laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, nothing... It’s just that, if I’m reading this right, this dish is called smoked grass.”


“Nevermind, I’ll explain later. Was I right?”

Twilight shook her head, trying to stifle a laugh herself. “Sorry, no. You were close. That’s actually a grilled vegetable plate. Good try though.” She scanned through a few more items on the menu. “Oh, I bet you’d enjoy this, Sam, it’s a sort of stuffed pasta, filled with a type of cheese and a few veggies.”

“Yeah, I just got to that one, the picture sure makes it look appetizing.”

As if on cue, the waiter arrived to take their orders. Deciding to trust Rarity’s judgement, Twilight ordered the house salad, and Sam ordered the stuffed pasta plus some wine for the both of them.

Once the waiter left, the string quartet came on stage. Twilight immediately recognized the cellist from the Grand Galloping Gala.

Twilight leaned in towards Sam. “Sam! Do you have any idea who that is?!” Seeing Sam’s shaking head, she continued and discreetly pointed a hoof towards the elegant gray pony. “That’s Octavia! She and the rest of the musicians up there are the best players in Equestria!”

“I had no idea.” Grinning, Sam looked back towards Twilight. “So, monkey do good?”

Twilight playfully nudged Sam’s shoulder. “Oh stop it. You’re not a monkey. And yes, this is wonderful.”

“Well, I AM wearing a monkeysuit.”

The couple sat in silence as the music began to play. Sam couldn’t help but marvel over how, even after millions of years, classical music had re-evolved in an entirely different race and society. He found himself admiring the way the dim, warm lighting of the restaurant-cum-concert-hall played off of Twilight’s features, reflecting from her lovely lavender eyes as she gave the quartet her full attention.

Without warning, Twilight snapped back to reality, and caught Sam watching her. She giggled bashfully as he quickly tried to avert his gaze. The two simply sat, looking each other in the eye and smiling.

Much as Sam had done to her, Twilight took in every detail of Sam’s appearance. Rarity’s handiwork was not something to be underestimated; in his suit and in the glow of the candles, Sam seemed far removed from the once-gaunt and haggard being who originally arrived in Equestria. She had seen the spark in his eyes within only a few weeks, but at that moment, his blue eyes were aglow; Twilight knew he was finally happy.

She began to involuntarily lean towards her companion, her eyes slowly fluttering closed.

Sam saw what was happening; his mind was racing. Well this is new. Never thought I’d see straight-laced, bookish Twilight going in for the romantic candle-lit kiss... Well, best not to keep the girl waiting. He leaned down and reached out a hand as the scent of lilacs accompanied Twilight’s advancing form.

Twilight felt Sam’s hand lightly grasp her shoulder and thought she might burst with bliss as she felt her lips connect with Sam’s. If not for the steady rhythm that the quartet was playing, she would have easily sworn that entire hours had passed before Sam sat back up, taking his hand off of Twilight’s shoulder. She kept her eyes closed a few moments longer, revelling in the emotional high that was crashing into her.

Finally allowing her eyelids to crack, Twilight focused her gaze on Sam. Rather than lovingly staring back at her as she’d hoped, however, Sam was nervously scanning his eyes around the room, as if he thought he was being watched.

I really hope no one was watching us... I saw one couple staring at us, well me really, when we came in. I don’t totally blame them, I guess, but... I know I’m the odd creature around here, but I still just feel strange kissing her, and now in a pretty much public setting? Sam finally stopped glancing around, and saw Twilight looking at him with a confused expression on her face.

“Everything okay, Sam?”

Sam nervously chuckled, his face slightly flushed. “Uh, yeah, Twilight. Everything’s good.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “Are you sure? You look anxious about something.”

“Oh, no,” Sam shook his head, “I’m fine.”

“Alright, if you say so,” Twilight responded, eyeing him suspiciously. She could feel her old paranoia creeping back. Maybe he’s ashamed of me, maybe that’s why he’s acting so weird... Maybe he doesn’t want anypony to know I’m his special somepony... But that doesn’t make sense, most of the town knows thanks to Pinkie blurting it out at the honors ceremony a few weeks ago...

Sensing that Twilight might have picked up on his reaction, Sam leaned down again and lowered his voice. “Are you okay Twilight?”

“I’m fine, don’t worry,” Twilight replied, a small smile returning to her face. Oh come on Twilight, don’t be such a little filly, he’s probably just not used to being affectionate in public, that’s all. It’s not anything wrong with me; I should wait until we get home to be so openly affectionate. Besides! I know how reserved and private he is. I should have known better!

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m okay, sheesh,” Twilight said with a laugh, “I just got a little carried away in the moment and forgot where I was. You have that effect on me, you know.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.” Sam felt his stomach rumbling, and his hip beginning to ache again. “I can’t wait for the food to get here, though, I just realized I haven’t eaten since before I took Spike fishing. Also, I hate to impose on you yet again, but could you hit me with the spell? My hip is flaring up.”

Twilight nodded, and Sam instantly felt the familiar tingle of Twilight’s pain-relief spell. I hope I don’t have to rely on her for that for the rest of my life...

Just as Sam began to relax again, the waiter appeared bearing two dishes on his back, followed by another waiter, a unicorn, levitating two wine glasses and an intricately-labeled bottle onto the table. Once the dishes had been placed on the table, and the wine poured, the two waiters left the couple to enjoy their meal with the music.

Twilight took a bite of her salad. “Rarity wasn’t kidding! This is amazing!”

Sam laughed, after swallowing a mouthful of his own food. “Can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone call a salad ‘amazing’, but looks like between you and Rarity we’re two for two on that one.” He pointed to his plate. “I’m certainly enjoying this stuff, good call on the pasta, Twi.”

Simply enjoying each other’s company, not much was said for the rest of the meal; both preferred to let the music float around them, happy to be able to share this moment together.


Once the meal and string quartet performance were over, Twilight and Sam decided to take a pony-pulled rickshaw back to the library due to Sam’s hip having a particularly bad flare-up and Twilight’s food-induced drowsiness.

Upon arriving back at the library, Sam paid and generously tipped the cart-pulling pony before helping Twilight down onto the ground. With Twilight safely out of the cart, and the driver satisfied with his fee, Sam painfully hobbled inside behind Twilight.

Sam practically collapsed onto the nearest chair, drawing Twilight’s concern.

“Sam? Are you ok?”

Wincing, Sam replied, “Yeah, just having another bout of pain in my hip. The doctor said I might occasionally have some episodes that were more painful than others. Mind using that spell?”

“Sure, no problem, just a second...”

Once the spell had taken effect, it was clear to Sam that it wasn’t going to be enough this time.

“How does it feel now?”

“A little better,” Sam groaned. “But I’m not sure the spell will quite do the trick tonight. Thanks though.”

“Sorry,” Twilight replied. “Want to watch one of your movies or something before we go to sleep? Maybe it’ll help keep your mind off of the pain.” She asked with a hopeful look on her face.

Sam sighed. “Normally I’d say yes, but I really think sleeping this off will be my best bet.”

“Okay...” Twilight tried to keep her ears from drooping, lest she give away her disappointment. “I guess I’m a little sleepy myself from dinner. Once I get this dress off I’ll join you.” I know he took the hit for me because he cares, but why do I still feel responsible? Better yet... Why didn’t I move?! Nothing to do now but be there for him, I suppose...

Sam gingerly began ascending the stairs, careful not to move his right leg unnecessarily. As he approached his bed, he started dropping his custom-made dress clothes on the floor, and dropped himself onto the mattress.

A few minutes later, he was aware of something moving in the bed next to him. Refusing to open his eyes, he correctly guessed who it was, and reached up to pull Twilight down next to him. As Sam began pulling, he heard a surprised yelp and became aware of a dull ache on his nose and forehead.

Opening his eyes, Sam realized he’d caused Twilight to slam her face into his.

Giving her a confused look, Sam rubbed his head. “...Twi? What are you doing?”

Giving an almost embarrassed grin, shook her head before answering. “Um... I... I was just going to kiss you goodnight...” Twilight then leaned down and did just that.

After she pulled back, Twilight simply laid there, staring almost expectantly at Sam.

Sam finally broke the tension. “What?”

With a sigh, Twilight rolled her eyes. “I could have sworn I’ve told you before, Sam... If your special somepony kisses you, you’re supposed to do it back. Why are you so reserved?”

“Oh, sorry...” Confound these ponies and their affectionate culture. Way to screw up again. “Humans don’t exactly have any sort of rigid custom or ritual like that as far as kissing goes... One of us kisses the other, and we either just keep it going, or return it like this...” Leaning over towards his unicorn bedmate, Sam returned Twilight’s kiss, and dropped his head back to the pillow. “Look, Twilight, I’m sorry if I don’t always come across right. I care about you, really, I do, but it’s going to take more than just a couple of weeks for this to feel normal to me.” Sam once again tried to reach over Twilight and pull her closer to him in an embrace.

“I know, I know,” Twilight sighed, “but don’t think this hasn’t been tough for me, too. I mean, everypony has been perfectly civil about you and me, but I see some of the strange looks some of them give me. But it’s okay, because you’re okay,” a small smile returning to her face, “and as for everything else, at least you’re trying. Goodnight, Sam.”

“Goodnight, Twi.”


The next morning, all was quiet as usual until a loud thundering noise erupted at the library’s front door.

“Hey, guys, you home?” Rainbow Dash continued beating a cyan hoof against the library’s door. “Hello?! You’re never gonna believe this, come on already!”

Finally, the door swung open to reveal Sam leaning on his cane. “Hey Dash, what’s going on?”


“Awesome! When is it?”

Rainbow’s already-wide eyes were nearly popping out of her skull. “It’s today! And I managed to get two extra tickets! You and Twilight should come with me!”

By this time, Twilight had joined Sam at the door. “Thanks Rainbow Dash, but I’ve got a ton of work to catch up on; all that time resting and recuperating set me back quite a bit.”

Rainbow tried to do her best imitation of Rarity’s pleading pout. “Come on! I can’t just let this ticket go to waste... The WONDERBOLTS, Twilight! Do I have to spell it out for ya?!”

Twilight just laughed. “Why not see if Applejack wants to go? I’m sure she could use a break.”

“Ah alright... See ya round, Twi. You still up for it Sam?”

“You know it, I’ve been curious to see what these guys are all about after hearing you go on about ‘em. When should I be ready?”

“Um... Show starts in like an hour, I’ll be back with AJ shortly, as long as I can get her to chill out and take a break. Sure you don’t wanna come Twilight?”

Twilight nodded. “I’m sure. Like I said, thanks for the invite, but I have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Alright, well, I’ll be back later to get you Sam.”

Sam followed Twilight back inside the house, and began putting his shoes on.

“You alright, Twi? Doesn’t seem like you to turn down an invitation like that.”

Twilight sighed, slightly annoyed. “I’m fine, Sam. I just have a lot of work to do. For the third time.”

“Alright, alright. Don’t work too hard, okay?”

“You know me. Have fun with Dash.” Twilight turned back to her books. This would be the point at which a normal special somepony would give me a quick little peck on the cheek before he left. Are humans just THAT reserved? Or is it just Sam?

Sam grabbed his cane, stood up, and hobbled outside to wait for Rainbow. Sure enough, he soon saw a multi-colored blur approaching, with an equally-fast streak of orange staying close.

“Heh, must have decided to have a race along the way,” Sam chuckled to himself.

With both mares coming to a stop, an argument immediately broke out over who won.

“There’s no way you even came close to beating me, especially since you didn’t make me tie my wings down this time!”

“Ah beg ta differ there, RD, we were neck an’ neck at LEAST, an’ Ah’m certain Ah got here a full two seconds ‘fore you were.”

“Horsefeathers, AJ! I won and you-”

Sam had had enough. “Hey! Girls! Enough!”

Rainbow looked back at Sam with a sheepish smile on her face. “Heh, sorry,” She looked back at Applejack, “I guess SOME ponies just can’t admit when they’ve been beat!”

“Now wait jest a minute there, Dash, don’t you git-”


Both mares replied in unison, “Sorry.”

Shaking his head, Sam looked both of them in the eye in turn. “Ok, if we can forget about your little race, maybe we can get to the Wonderbolts show before all the best seats are taken?”

With the group calmed and ready to go, they began heading towards Ghastly Gorge, where temporary bleachers had been set up to watch the show. Rainbow did her best to control her impatience, knowing that Sam was walking as fast as he could, given his recent injuries. Slowly, both Rainbow and Applejack came down from the effects of their adrenaline and began acting like they were good friends again.

“Hey, AJ? Sorry for bein’ such a stubborn mule back there.”

“Aw, shucks, Dash, Ah should apologize ta you! But... How’s about a rematch sometime?”

“Aww yeah, you know it!”

Sam just laughed.

“Ya got somethin’ ta say there, Sam?”

“Oh don’t mind me,” Sam replied, shaking his head, “I just think it’s funny how you two go from nearly tearing each other’s throats out to being best friends all within the span of a few minutes.”

“Aw come on, at tha end of tha day, we both know it’s all in good fun, right Dash?”


Eventually, the three friends made it to the gaping canyon and claimed their spots in the stands placed on the flat, rocky ground. Sam attempted to push his mind away from thoughts of what had happened at the bottom of that gorge barely a month ago. With still a few minutes to go before the show, Applejack decided to offer to make a run to the concession stand.

“Any of ya’ll want anything while Ah go?”

Rainbow scratched her chin pensively. “I think I’d just like some juice or something, I’m not all that hungry.”

“Alrighty then, what about you, Sam? What’ll ya have?”

“I’m good, thanks though.”

“Be back in a few then.”

Sam and Rainbow Dash shuffled around to let Applejack out, and began watching the Wonderbolts warm up.

“So, Sam, thanks for lending me your... What’d ya call it again? Em-pee-free player?”

“MP3 Player. And no problem. What’d you think of my music collection?”

“Dude, some of that stuff was awesome. Love me some fast rock-n-roll! But uh... That stuff where they had some sorta monster growling, a lot of that was hit and miss for me. Don’t know how you tolerate that.”

Sam chuckled. “It’s an acquired taste, I guess. I mostly like it for the instrument work.”

“Yeah, I can see that I guess. That stuff you call “speed metal” is pretty cool though.”

“Heh, figures you’d like those songs.”

“What can I say? It speaks to me, even if I don’t really understand your bizarre human language. I’m just glad you’ve got that spell that lets us understand you.” Rainbow pulled her attention away from the practicing show-fliers to look Sam in the eye with a devious smirk. “So, how are things going with you and Twilight, huh? You two, um...” She attempted to stifle a laugh. “... ‘Do it’ yet?”

Sam’s face turned beet-red. “Uh, excuse me?”

“You heard me, dude.” Rainbow’s face was almost as red as Sam’s was from her efforts to keep from laughing.

Sam facepalmed. “Things are... Alright with Twi and I. I’m still trying to adjust to the idea of dating outside my species, but it’s nice having her around, and I’m sure she’d say the same.”

“You didn’t answer my other question.”

Sam cocked an eyebrow; he had an idea. “You sure you want the answer to that, Dash?”

“Whaddya mean?"

“Do you even know how humans ‘do it’?”

With a look of confusion, Rainbow replied, “No, should I?”

“Well, the human male chooses a victim, incapacitates it, and injects the embryo into its abdomen, where it lives as a parasite until its ready to be ‘born’. It then bursts out of the chest of the host, and over the course of a few hours, it grows to its full size. Obviously the host doesn’t survive.”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates, and her irises had shrunk to the size of pinheads. “Uh wha-... That’s... Dude.”

“Yeah, so since Twilight is alive, I obviously haven’t ‘done it’.” Sam allowed an evil grin to play across his face. “Yet.”

Rainbow was still stuttering. “Uh um... A-are you serious?”

Sam turned away from the terrified pegasus, and dismissed her fear with a wave of his hand. “Nah, I’m just screwin’ with you. Humans are mammals like you ponies; we do things pretty similarly as far as I know.”

“Dude. Not cool.”

It was Sam’s turn to smirk. “Maybe, but your reaction was PRICELESS.”

“If you weren't my best friend's special somepony, I would buck you in the head so hard that you’d end up back in your own time period.”

Sam was almost doubled over with laughter at this point. “You think you freaked out? You shoulda seen Twilight’s face when I pulled that joke on her. I had to cook her dinner and reshelve the non-fiction section to get back on her good side for that one.”

“I guess I can’t be too angry, I love a good prank as much as the next pony, after all. Still, that’s messed up, dude. But seriously, did ya?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Dash. Seriously. That’s none of your business. Besides, you realize I’m Twilight’s first relationship, right?”

“Oh... Yeah.”

“So once you consider that, along with the fact that I’m still trying to adjust to the idea of dating outside of my species here... Needless to say we’re taking things slow. Right now, we’re just glad that each of us is in once piece, you know? So to answer your question, no, we haven’t. Satisfied?”

Rainbow nodded. “Yeah yeah, geez, dude. I figured that was the case, we’re usually only REALLY in the mood during THAT time of the year anyway, heh. I’m just messin’ with you. You’re hilarious when you’re all awkward like that by the way,” she said with a grin.

Sam facepalmed. She got me again. Perhaps I should stop calling her “Rainbro Dash” and re-title her “Rainbow Troll”? Nah, doesn’t flow well. “Right, I forget about that. But still, I meant what I said before. Both of us want to be as patient with each other as possible.”

“Yeah, I know. I guess I see your point, though. Just an FYI, dude, Twi is nuts about you, in case you haven’t caught on,” she aimed a threatening leer towards Sam, “so don’t mess that up. There’s a reason why I’m the ‘Element of Loyalty’ and all.”

“Hey now, if I can help it, she’ll be fine. She still seems a little rattled sometimes about the whole thing where I almost died, though. Anyway enough of that stuff, ok? AJ’s coming with your juice, just in time for the show to start too.”

With Applejack settled back in, and Rainbow Dash in the middle of slaking her thirst, the announcer came on over the public address system, and began introducing the individual members of the Wonderbolts.

“...And finally, all the way from Cloudsdale, last and certainly not least, Soarin’ and Spitfire!”

As the two latex-suited pegasi came swooping over the stands, the crowd erupted in excited cheering. Once the two star Wonderbolts rejoined the rest of their team, the entire group immediately split apart into a new formation, and began speeding along, leaving contrails of sparking smoke behind them.

Eventually, it became clear what they were doing, as a large, sparkling recreation of Princess Celestia’s solar cutie mark was overlaid across the sky with the sun illuminating it from behind.

Sam nudged Rainbow’s shoulder. “That’s pretty cool, Dash. I love the way they spiraled around each other as they flew. Must be hard to do that without hitting each other.”

“Oh, man, you have no idea. But if you think that was cool...”

Suddenly, all of the Wonderbolts regrouped, and began hurtling straight towards the crowd, picking up more momentum as they drew near. Once they were close enough that Sam could see the whites of their eyes through their goggles, each pegasus immediately split off into another direction, missing the audience by only inches.

Sam’s only reaction was to yell “Holy shit!”

Rainbow was grabbing her sides and laughing. “It gets better, just watch!”

Applejack shook her head. “Sam, she says that about darn near anything these ponies do. Not ta say Ah don’t enjoy tha show, but... Aw well you get mah point.”

The next hour and a half was filled with Rainbow Dash cheering louder and louder, almost deliriously so, with each new routine. Applejack, while slightly mocking of Rainbow’s fervor, was nonetheless enjoying herself. Sam was simply amazed; the whole show reminded him of the famous Blue Angels flight team from his own time. Though the overall premise had remained the same over the roughly two-hundred and fifty years that the Blue Angels had operated, enhancements in air propulsion technology and inertial-dampening systems had allowed for physics-defying displays of aeronautical prowess that would impress even Rainbow Dash.

Much to Rainbow’s disappointment, all good things must come to an end, and her beloved Wonderbolts show was no exception. However, her grief over the end of the show couldn’t stop her from loudly giving a verbal play-by-play of each trick performed, followed by an explanation on how she could improve the routines.

“...And then, I’d follow up that barrel-roll with a Buccaneer Blaze! As I would get close to the stands, I’d sweep out and fly back over from one side of the stands to the other, spiraling myself the whole time. And of course, I’d have to finish it all off with the one trick that I know the Wonderbolts could NEVER imitate, my Sonic Rainboom!”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “That sounds jest peachy there, RD. Or rather, it did tha first five times ya went over it.”

Rainbow simply stuck her tongue out in response.

“Real ma-toor, Dash. But seriously, we were all there seein’ tha show with ya. Ya don’t hafta keep re-enactin’ the whole thing.”

“Oh yeah? Well, what do YOU think, Sam?”

Sam could feel the glares of both mares bearing down on him. “All I’m gonna say is that I enjoyed the show. Thanks for inviting me, Dash. Kinda glad we’re heading home though, I’m a little overdue for some lunch.”

Placated, Rainbow Dash stopped glaring. “No prob, dude. Glad you liked it. I told ya the Wonderbolts were amazing!”

Applejack laughed. “Ya’ll will tell anypony who listens. But yeah, thank ya Dash, sometimes Ah ferget to take a break now and again.”

Sam suddenly remembered something. “Oh yeah, AJ, what’d you think about that sangria I made for you?”

“Ah liked it. It was nice ‘n sweet, had a bit of a kick to it, though it don’t hold a candle to mah Granny’s special reserve cider in that respect. You’ll have ta make another batch sometime.”

Sam smiled. “Great! And believe me, it’s one of my favorites, so I’m sure if you stop by often enough I’ll have some to share with you at some point.”

“Thank ya kindly, Sam. Well, this is where Ah split off, gotta pick back up where Ah left off this mornin’. Tell Twilight Ah said howdy!”

Sam continued the trek to the library with Rainbow in tow; she wanted to see if Twilight had gotten the latest Daring-Do book in stock. Once they had arrived, Rainbow immediately burst inside to search for the book, while Sam simply sought a place to sit down.

Twilight came cantering out of her study. “Hey guys, how was the show?”

Pausing mid-search, Rainbow yelled out, “IT WAS SO. AWESOME.”

“Yeah, it was a pretty good show, Twi. Get your work done?”

Twilight nodded, seemingly in a much more pleasant mood than she was earlier that morning. “Yep! It’ll take some time, but I worked out a to-do schedule that should get me caught up by next month and STILL have time for your Equestrian language studies, and...” She blushed slightly, “Hopefully at least one more night out like last night.”

Relieved to see her usual chipper demeanor overtaking her earlier irritability, Sam exclaimed, “That’s great! I’ll try to plan something out.”

Twilight shook her head. “Nope. This time, I’m going to plan it out,” she began smiling proudly, “after all, my dating advice books all say that we both have to put in equal effort in order to have a successful, happy relationship!”

At this point, Rainbow was rolling on the floor laughing. “Gosh, Twilight, you really ARE an egghead! You had to read a book to figure that out?!”

Twilight’s jaw dropped as Rainbow’s words hit her. Am I really that naive? I thought that was good advice... I just want to make Sam as happy as he makes me...

Sam saw Twilight’s face turning red from embarrassment and her eyes beginning to water up, and called her over to him. “Hey, nothing to be embarrassed about,” he pulled her into a hug, “I still say you should probably forget those books, but that’s a good idea. I’m sure we’ll have a great time regardless of what you pick or,” he glared at Rainbow over Twilight’s shoulder, “what Dash thinks.”

Sensing that she might have taken her well-intentioned joking too far, Rainbow trotted up next to Twilight. “Oh, wow, sorry Twilight. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything.”

Sniffling slightly, Twilight pulled away from Sam and turned to face her friend. “I know, it’s okay. I just didn’t expect to be laughed at for that...” Calming herself down, she smiled again. “Anyway... I know what you’re about to ask, Dash, and the new Daring-Do book is in the middle of the second shelf from the right.”

“Awesome! Thanks, Twi! And really, I’m sorry.”

“And really, it’s okay. Go enjoy your book! I’ve got to teach some human how to speak Equestrian,” Twilight said with a smirk.

Fifteen minutes later, Twilight had gathered her usual supplies to give Sam his daily lesson. It was going to be a repeat of the previous day’s lesson, though with slightly more advanced novels this time.

Sam pored through his books, and found that the task of translating was getting easier; he attributed this to his attempts to mentally translate every sign and piece of writing he saw in his daily travels around the library and Ponyville at large. He had been able to pick up a few new words, and it kept the rules of Equestrian grammar and spelling fresh at the front of his mind.

Finally, he was finished with the passages Twilight had selected.

Once she had recast the translation spell, Twilight began praising Sam’s progress. “Not bad at all Sam! You’re doing much better than yesterday. Have you been studying outside of lessons?”

Sam nodded. “Sort of, mostly just practicing with everyday bits of text and such.”

Twilight was beaming. I bet this is why Cheerilee loves teaching so much! “Well, whatever you’re doing, keep it up! At this rate, soon you’ll have a basic grasp of conversational Equestrian, and then I can take the spell off for longer periods of time. I’ve read that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it.”

“Sounds about right. Guess I’ll have to take the training wheels off sometime, eh?”

“Training wheels?”

Sam facepalmed. “Yeah, small wheels placed on the side of a bicycle so it doesn’t fall over. Little kids use them to get used to riding their bikes. Remember? I showed you some pictures from when I went mountain biking once; that thing I was sitting on with two wheels is a bicycle.”

“Ohhh, okay. Anyway, are you hungry? I could use a bite myself.”

Sam realized he’d forgotten to eat lunch after the Wonderbolts performance. “Yeah, I think I’ll try cooking some of those fish again.”

Soon, Sam and Twilight were joined by Spike in the kitchen. Spike was particularly looking forward to this meal, as he was going to take Sam up on his offer to try some fried fish.

Once a few pieces were cooked to a golden brown, Sam set them aside to cool. Spike, however, was too enticed by the scent of the fried food and the bit of lemon that Sam had drizzled over them. Sam reached out to warn Spike, but it was too late; he’d already closed his little claws over one of the piping hot pieces of fish.

“Spike! No! You’ll burn yourself!”

Spike jumped slightly at the volume of Sam’s outburst, but he just casually pulled his claw back from the plate with the fish in his grasp as if nothing was wrong. “What? Dude, I’m a dragon. In the wild, we bathe and swim in magma. A little hot food won’t kill me.”

Twilight made a sincere attempt to stifle her giggling.

Sam lightly slapped his own head. “Oh. Right. Dragons. Makes about as much sense as anything else does around here I guess.”

With the excitement over, Spike tried a bite of his piece of fish. Slowly, deliberately, he chewed the meat, deciding what he thought about the flavor. Finally, he announced his verdict.

“This isn’t half bad, Sam. Not something I’d eat every day, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it.”

“Heh, help yourself then.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Would you look at that? My colt- I mean boyfriend has turned my assistant-slash-baby brother into a ravenous carnivore.”

Sam laughed. “Come on now, I eat meat but I certainly haven’t set my bloodthirsty sights on you or any other ponies.”

“I think you came close to digging into Rarity when you two first met,” Twilight replied with a smirk.

“Really? Can we just forget about that? Rarity and I are friends now. We let it go,” Sam chuckled, “mind doing the same?”

Spike simply stood by idly, munching on his fried fish.

“Oh alright. Once we’re done cleaning up dinner, though, do you think we-”

Twilight was interrupted by a loud shout from Sam as he doubled over, grabbing at his hip.

“Twi, I need the spell, it’s flaring up bad again.”

Obliging, Twilight tried to focus as much of her energy as she could in order to maximize the painkilling effect.


Sam shook his head. “Only a little. Seems like it does this on days where I do a lot of walking, like yesterday when I led you to the restaurant or today when I walked to and from the Wonderbolts show with Dash and AJ. It doesn’t get this bad when I just hang around here with you and Spike. Mind floating me my cane? I need to go lay down.”

Twilight did as she was asked, and attempted to help Sam up. She followed him into the bedroom, and tried to make sure he was comfortable before leaving the room.

“Hey, Twi?”

Twilight paused as she reached the doorway. “Yes?”

“What were you asking downstairs?”

“Oh... Nothing, don’t worry about it. Just get some rest. I’ll check on you later. If you fall asleep, then I’ll see you in the morning.” With a feeling of dejection washing over her, Twilight closed the door and retreated to her own room, casually noting that it had been a while since she’d slept in there.

With the door shut, Twilight felt like she could speak her thoughts aloud in private. “Oh, Celestia... You would know my luck; I finally get my feelings out and have them returned, only to have it ruined. I truly care about Sam... I think I might even love him, but he seems so reserved towards me. I know, I know,” She sighed, “he’s still trying to get used to seeing me that way, and I’m trying to be patient. I am. And lately, whenever I want to simply spend some time with him, he can’t,” she threw her forelegs into the air, “because he’s in pain. Because he’s injured. Because I couldn’t BUCKING GET OUT OF THE WAY!”

Taking a few deep breaths, Twilight sat down on her bed in an attempt to stop pacing and calm herself down. What if... No, no way. It would explain a lot, sure, but Sam doesn’t hate me because he got hurt on my account. How could he treat me so nicely if he hated me? And it was his own decision to jump in front of that attack... But he only had to do it because I wouldn’t get out of the way... No, I’m being crazy. Sam cares about me, and I really COULDN’T move. That’s why he took the hit for me. Nothing more, nothing less... Right?

Once Twilight had finished reassuring herself, she quietly trotted out of her room towards the bathroom to clean her face. Satisfied that the results of her emotional outburst had been cleaned away, she reentered Sam’s room, and put on a movie. Sam was clearly already asleep, but Twilight, not yet ready to sleep herself, found it comforting to curl up next to him anyway and let the movie take her mind off of her troubles.


As the sun began slowly filling the bedroom, Sam roused from sleep, relieved that the pain in his hip had died down. He noticed an odd weight across his chest, and lifted his head to see, though he was already certain that he knew what it was. Twilight was slumped across his torso, still deep in sleep.

Not wanting to wake her, Sam instead opted to stay in bed a little longer. He drifted in and out of sleep, gently stroking Twilight’s mane and essentially starting his day with a catnap before he had even gotten out of bed.

Judging by the look of my laptop, I’d say she passed out watching a movie while checking on me... Sam felt a smile stretching across his face, matching the feeling of serenity that was filling his mind. That mare is too sweet to me. It never ceases to blow my mind how much she cares about me. I know in the beginning I had my reservations about this relationship, but... This just feels... This feels right. As he thought about everything that had brought him to this point in life, Sam realized that he had never been more at peace with himself and with the world as a whole than he was at that exact moment.

Eventually, Twilight awoke to the sensation of something brushing against the back of her head. She turned her head and was greeted by the sight of Sam smiling at her.

“How are you feeling, Sam?”

“Much better. I’m going to really try to take it easy today. The less I move, the less my hip will hurt, at least I hope so.”

Twilight looked at him with concern. “Well, you’ve kinda been all over the place the last few days. Fishing with Spike, then walking me to our date, then going to the Wonderbolts show with Rainbow Dash and AJ... I think taking it slow for a while would do you some good.”

Sam stretched while letting out a loud yawn. “Yeah. Meanwhile, I’m going to go get some breakfast, you hungry?”

Twilight nodded and followed him downstairs.

After breakfast, Twilight, Sam, and Spike occupied themselves with various tasks around the house: Twilight was in her study, deep in furious concentration and buried in her usual pile of books and rolls of parchment, Spike was alternating between napping and cleaning various corners of the library, and Sam was seated at a desk just a few feet away from Twilight, tinkering with a bit of code on his laptop.

“...Just a few more lines of code and... There!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “What exactly are you doing again?”

“I’m using what you’ve taught me so far to write up a program to help me practice my Equestrian. Mostly just flashcards at the moment, but eventually I’m gonna use the data from the translation headsets to let this thing act as sort of an automatic teacher.”

“So,” Twilight’s lower lip started to quiver, “you don’t want me to teach you anymore?”

Sam looked down to where Twilight was seated, and saw that her eyes were wide and beginning to mist up. “No! No, not that at all. Like one of your books, this is just something else to help me learn.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Yep, and the faster I get a decent handle on how to speak and write like you, without this spell, the faster I can start doing that consultant work for Celestia and the academy researchers. After all, the Princess did suspend all research related to my information until I’m ready to begin working again.”

A slight smile upon her face once more, Twilight agreed. “I’m sure the scientists are losing their minds waiting on you. I must admit, I’m a little anxious myself to see what technologies they resurrect from your database.”

Sam nodded. “I’m just glad Celestia opted to keep me involved. I’d hate for another replicator incident to occur.” He looked down towards Twilight again, his tone softening into one of concern. “Hey, Twi?”

“Yes, Sam?”

“Before I ask this, just bear in mind that I only ask because I care. Are you okay? I mean, do you want to talk to me about anything?”

Twilight replied with a confused stare. “What do you mean?”

“Well... It’s just that I’ve noticed you’ve been a little different lately, not TERRIBLY different, but, well... All the same, I just want you to know that you can talk to me about anything, okay?”

“Different?!” Twilight exclaimed, a hint of indignation in her voice. “Different how?”

Sam sighed. Why did I even open my stupid damn mouth? Well... In for a penny, in for a pound... “You’ve just been a little moody, mostly, and it just doesn’t seem like you.”

Twilight felt her jaw drop. “Moody?! MOODY? Sam...” Her ears involuntarily drooped. “How could you say that? I’ve been so stressed lately! I mean, between trying to catch up on all the work I put off while I was recuperating, taking care of you,” she stared him down, her expression a mixture of incredulity and sadness, “and trying to teach you our language, I’m constantly exhausted!” Does he not see how much I do for him?!

Sam got down from his chair and sat himself down next to Twilight. He attempted to put an arm around her, but she pulled away.

“Twilight, I’m sorry, I was just worried about you, and I-”

“No! Do you understand just how stressed I am?”

Sam scratched his head in confusion. “...But... I thought you had scheduled everything out to the point that you’d even found time for another nice night out like we did a few days ago?”

“Sam, how do you think I found that time? I squeezed out and compressed EVERY. LAST. SECOND,” Twilight’s right eye twitched as she punctuated each word. She stood up and began pacing around. “...Nevermind, there’s simply no time! I’ve got THIS report for the Princess due,” she engulfed a scroll with her familiar purple aura and flung it across the room, “THAT book set’s purchase order to finish BY TONIGHT,” another stack of books flew into the air, “and ONLY about a thousand more things to do, and the more we sit around discussing how... MOODY I am, the less time I have to work!”

Sam ducked his head to avoid another book sent flying by Twilight’s stress-induced flashes of magic.

His voice taking on a pleading quality, Sam tried to talk her down. “Twi, please, calm down for a minute and sit down with me, you’re going to drive yourself mad if you keep this up!”

Twilight suddenly stopped pacing. “Sit down? CALM down? I don’t think you understand! Ponies are COUNTING on me to get all these book orders and town meeting minutes finished!” Instantly, she was frantically trotting back and forth. “Noooo no no no no... So much to do...”

Sam threw his hands in the air. “Fine, Twilight, fine. I’ll leave you alone. I’m going to go take a walk and calm down. Hopefully you’ll have done the same by the time I’m back.”

Sam waited for a response from the distressed mare; he neither saw nor heard one. Reaching for his cane, he stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Twilight to continue pacing about with her books and scrolls.

After several minutes of pacing and worrying aloud, Twilight finally noticed that Sam had left. He left? But... Why? He usually tries to calm me down... Way to go, I ran him off... He must think I’m cracking up! Great, if he didn’t have a problem with me before, he sure does now... So stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid! If Sam had still been in the room, he’d have seen Twilight’s right eye beginning to tick and twitch, as a single tear fell down her face.

Twilight sat down, her mind racing. In order to reorganize, and regain her composure, she restacked her books and began reviewing her checklist. Try as she might, her mind could not focus on anything but one worrying thought: He really does resent me...

A few minutes later, Twilight’s ears picked up the sound of Sam limping back inside the library. She decided to meet him in the main room before he reentered the study.

“So much for taking it easy, I see...” Twilight said weakly, her head hung low. “I guess you’re just too sore to stay up a little and watch a movie or otherwise spend some time in private with the pony you supposedly care so much about, even though you have no problems going for a little walk alone...”

Raising his voice, Sam retorted, “Hey! Now that’s not fair. You know all too well that isn’t what’s going on! What’s gotten into you?”

Before Twilight could launch into another tirade, Spike entered the room. “Uh, Sam, Twi, what’s going on?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sam blurted out, “go hang out at Rarity’s for a while, one of us will come get you later. Twilight and I have to talk about a few things.”

“Um... Ok. See you guys later.” It’s always something with one of those two...

Twilight sighed sadly... “Anyway... As for what’s gotten into me, I should ask the same thing about you, really.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me!” Twilight exclaimed, thin rivulets of tears flowing down her face. “Why are you toying with me like this? Why do you hate me?”

Sam’s jaw dropped. “HATE YOU?!”

“Yes... You don’t have to lie to me anymore,” She tapped a hoof against her temple, “I’ve got it all figured out...”

“Twilight, how in Equestria could you possibly think I HATE you?!” Sam stood up and hobbled a few paces around the room, thinking carefully on his next words. Remember what you decided this morning. It’s now or never. He turned around and took a few steps closer to Twilight before kneeling down. With a wavering tone in his voice, Sam began to spill his guts. “Twilight... How could you think I hate you? Do you honestly think I would have taken that hit for you if I didn’t care about you? No, more than that. Twilight Sparkle,” as he spoke, he began to lean towards Twilight, his arms outstretched, “ I love y-BWAAA!”

Before he could finish his sentence, Sam heard the familiar vibration of unicorn magic as he felt himself being pushed onto his back and away from Twilight, whose horn was still glowing.

Sniffling and rolling her eyes, Twilight turned to look over where Sam had stopped, a bewildered expression on his face. “Oh sure, NOW you say it. NOW you finally decide to get over your issues... How am I supposed to know you aren’t just saying that to pacify me?!”

“What? Wh- Have you lost your mind?! Of course I meant what I said! I don’t know what I did but I’m sorry!”

“Shut up! Please, just stop talking!” Twilight began pacing around the library. “No... That’s just it, you see. It’s ME that should be apologizing! I’m sorry, okay?! I’m so sorry that I couldn’t move out of the way back in the canyon, I should have, oh Celestia, I wish I had just moved!” She let out a shuddering breath. “...But we both know how that happened. And now, because of me, you’re in pain every day. You can’t walk without some kind of help, and it’s all my fault.”

“What?! No, Twilight that’s-”

Twilight snapped her gaze back towards Sam, meeting his eyes with her own glowering stare. “I’M NOT FINISHED. I can’t say I’d blame you for feeling just a little resentful about that. But to sit there afterwards and play with my heart?” She paused, waiting to see if Sam had an answer, but decided his confused expression would suffice. “You knew how I felt about you. You KNEW how much I cared about you! But you obviously didn’t let that get in the way of nearly killing yourself in the canyon or treating my emotions like some sort of game afterwards!’

“Game?! Twilight, I have been nothing short of genuine with you. I thought I laid my heart bare on the table for you. For crying out loud, Twi, I nearly died for you! How is that not proof enough that I’m not messing with you?!”

Her choked breaths giving way to a ragged sobbing, Twilight shook her head. “You say you care about me, that you love me, but you act like you’re... Like you’re...” She choked back a sob. “D-d-disgusted with me! You don’t like kissing me, you can’t let go of the fact that I’m not one of your human girls... We’ve supposedly been dating roughly a month now, and you’ve been around me as a friend even longer... So don’t give me your story about needing to ‘get used to me that way’, you’ve had time. I can’t take it anymore.”

Sam was speechless.

Collapsing on the floor, Twilight looked up at Sam, tears streaking her face. “Don’t you think this is an adjustment for me, too? Do you know how many nightmares I’ve had of you meeting my parents, only to have them completely disown me because of you? Ask Fluttershy, she’ll tell you I was just as confused as you were about how to handle a relationship between the two of us. But you know what, Sam? I thought about it and realized that you made me happy, and that was all I needed.”

Sam moved closer to Twilight, intending to embrace her or otherwise attempt to comfort her, only to be shoved away. He felt his own voice beginning to catch in his throat.

“Twi... Please...”

“No,” Twilight responded as she exhaled a shuddering breath, “I’d hoped you’d come around but...”

Sam leaned forward, his arms bracing him against the floor. “Dammit, Twi,” Sam said in between choked breaths, “it just wasn’t that easy for me... Until this morning, I-”

In an eerily calm voice, Twilight interrupted him and simply said, “I think you should go, Sam.”


“Please, just go.”

Silently, Sam struggled to his feet. He walked back into the study, and grabbed his laptop. After a quick trip upstairs to gather some of his clothing, Sam reentered the living room. He considered trying to reason with Twilight again, but ultimately decided it was in vain. What the hell have I done...

He slowly opened the door, and exited the library, leaving Twilight Sparkle as a sobbing wreck on the floor.

After numbly and aimlessly walking around Ponyville for roughly an hour, Sam felt his hip screaming in agony at him; to top it off, it was beginning to rain. Knowing he’d need a place to sit and rest while the whole debacle with Twilight hopefully blew over, he began reviewing who he knew in the area. Applejack’s farm was out of the question; even on the edge of town closest to Sweet Apple Acres, it was still a good five-mile walk at least. Pinkie Pie was most assuredly not the type of personality he wanted to deal with at the moment, and Fluttershy’s cottage was on the other side of Ponyville. Unless I grow wings to get to Dash’s place, looks like I’m headed to Rarity’s... And this rain, it’s like something out of a badly-cliched movie...

Once he had arrived at the Carousel Boutique, Sam gave a few feeble raps against the door. Almost immediately, the door glowed a faint blue and opened up, with Rarity at the entrance.

“Oh, good afternoon, Sam! So nice to see you again, how did you and Twilight like your tuxedo? But I’m just prattling on, please do come in, I suppose you’re here to get Spike?”

Sam meekly nodded, and followed his hostess inside.

Once she was certain that Sam was comfortably seated, Rarity wasted no time in asking questions.

“Wasn’t Il Capriccio just wonderful? I dare say I’ve found my new favorite venue; now all I need is a nice, handsome stallion to accompany me there. In that regard I do envy Twilight ever so much.”

Sam cringed at the mention of the lavender unicorn.

“But enough idle chit chat... Spike was rather mum on why he was sent to me. If you don’t mind, care to elaborate for me? You look like you’ve been through quite a bit recently.”

Sam sighed. “Long story short, Twilight and I had a HUGE falling out. We didn’t want Spike to have to hear that, and we knew he wouldn’t object to visiting you, so... Yeah. I hope that was alright.”

If not for her impeccable mastery of etiquette, Rarity knew her jaw would be hanging to the floor.

“Sam!” She gasped. “What in the name of Celestia happened?!”

Sam put his head in his hands. “Has Twilight been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder or any sort of anxiety disorder?”

“Not officially, not that I’m aware of anyway. As much as I hate to say, though, it wouldn’t surprise me. But what does that have to do with your tiff?”

“Long story short, she thinks I hate her, and that my feelings for her aren’t genuine.” Sam felt a stray tear escape his eye.

“Oh, Sam... They are genuine, though, yes?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah... But she doesn’t believe me, because up until literally this morning, I was unsure about this relationship.”

Rarity jumped to her hooves, a look of determination settling on her face. “Then we simply must get you back to the library and work this out!”

“No, Rarity.”


“No. Just leave her be. She gave me a few things to think about, and she’ll need some time to cool off...” Sam sat up, and looked Rarity in the eye. “Look, I hate to ask, but she basically kicked me out and-”

Rarity took a step towards him and silenced him with a hoof to his mouth. “Not another word, stay as long as you need. I’m sure everything will work out fine in the end.”

A weak smile played across Sam’s face. “Thank you... You’re not angry that I hurt your best friend though?”

Rarity reached up and placed a hoof on his shoulder. “Sam, you and I are friends, too. We had a rough start, sure, but we’re friends all the same, right? Now, I’m not taking sides with either of you. Maybe this IS entirely your fault, in which case you’ll become the source of my first ape-skin jacket, or perhaps dear Twilight is to blame. Either way, I can’t have one of my friends wandering around without somewhere to sleep at night, especially in such dreadful weather. Now, perhaps later you can give me more details, and we’ll figure out-” a crash from upstairs caught the white mare’s attention, causing her to cry out angrily, “SWEETIE BELLE, I TOLD YOU TO STAY OUT OF MY SEWING ROOM!”

Sam feebly laughed. “Heh... Kids...”

Rarity shook her head, and rubbed at her temples. “Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with that sister of mine... Anyway... Shall I send Spike home?”

“No, give Twilight a little more time to cry it out. If I know her at all, she needs to have a little space right now. Besides, Spike seems to enjoy Sweetie Belle’s company, if all the giggling upstairs is to be believed. Meanwhile, would you mind pointing out your guest room to me? My hip is practically on fire, and I could really use a lie-down.”

“Of course, Sam. Second door to your left, across from Sweetie’s room.”


Sam slowly headed upstairs, careful to avoid hitting any of Rarity’s ornately-adorned mannequins. Once he found the guest room, he flopped down onto the bed. It was a bit too ornately decorated for his taste, and a little too small for a human occupant, but it was soft all the same.

While Sam’s intent was to relax, his mind had other ideas and began to race.

I really screwed up this time. This was what I was afraid would happen... You WOULD know that she’d lose it today, of all days. I was finally going to try to somehow show her that I don’t care about our differences anymore. She was right, we made each other happy, and that should have been enough. She is, er, was, I suppose, my closest friend... And I just screwed it up...

Sam tossed and turned on the bed, trying to find a position that didn’t aggravate his hip.

But... Maybe this is for the best... Once she gets over me, she’ll go on to meet some nice normal pony guy, maybe even have a family, a normal life... Sam felt himself tearing up a bit, knowing he would never have that opportunity himself. Meanwhile, I guess my best bet to deal with all this is take Celestia up on her offer to put me up in Canterlot to work directly with the academy... I could stay here in Ponyville, I suppose, but... No, it’d be best if I left.

With no small effort, Sam sat up, grabbed the nearest quill and parchment he had handy, and with the aid of his laptop, he began to write.

Princess Celestia,

I am writing to you with a limited knowledge of your language, so please forgive any mistakes or unintelligible sentences.

If you recall our conversation in the Ponyville town hall a few weeks ago, you left me with a standing offer to have me move to Canterlot to work directly with your academy’s researchers. At the time, I expressed an interest to remain here in Ponyville, though, after recent events, I have decided that it would be best for me to move after all.

I intend to arrive in the city sometime tomorrow, by train. I will be ready to start working as soon as I’m settled in.

Thank you,
Sam Mitchell.

With one letter finished, Sam began writing another one. Upon completing it, he folded it up and placed it into a makeshift envelope before addressing it simply with the name ‘Twilight Sparkle’.

Sam grabbed the letters, and walked downstairs just in time to see Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike cleaning up the kitchen from dinner.

Rarity noticed Sam’s presence, and greeted him accordingly. “Sam! Did you nap well? How are you feeling?”

“I’ve been better,” he mumbled.

“Hey, sis? Where do I put this plate-” Sweetie Belle interrupted her own question with the shattering crash from the plate she dropped. “Um... Nevermind. I’m gonna go upstairs!” Within an instant, Sweetie Belle was gone.

Rarity grumbled as she levitated the broom towards the ceramic remains. “Ohhhh that Sweetie Belle...”

Sam sat down at the table. “Hey, Spike, mind doing me a favor?”

“Not at all bro, whatcha need? And what was up with you and Twi?”

Sam dismissed the question. “Later, Spike. Anyway, you’re about to head home, right?”

Before he could answer, Rarity interjected. “He most certainly is not! Rainbow Dash just dropped by earlier to tell me that the weather team has this rainstorm planned to become quite the thunderstorm tonight! Spike, I must insist that you spend the night. And don’t worry, I told Dash to pass that along to Twilight so she doesn’t worry.”

Spike shrugged. “Alright, thanks Rare. So, Sam, what did you need?”

Sam held up a scroll. “Would you mind sending this to Princess Celestia?”

“Sure, no problem.” The dragon grabbed the roll of parchment, and let loose a green blast of flame, sending the message on its way.


“Anytime. What was in it?”

“Don’t worry about it for now, Spike.”

Spike shrugged again, and excused himself from the kitchen to go to bed.

“Sam?” Rarity called out, “I set aside some leftovers for you, we had a fruit salad.”

“Thanks, but I’m not terribly hungry right now. I’m probably going to go back to bed, I thought Spike was leaving so I wanted to catch him before he did. Goodnight, and thanks again, Rarity.”

“Of course. Well, I’m putting the salad in the icebox if you change your mind. Goodnight.”

Sam may have returned to his bed, but he certainly couldn’t sleep.


Rarity was surprised to see Sam already awake and in the kitchen, obviously in the middle of making breakfast.

“Good morning, guys. I hope you don’t mind, Rarity, but I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to get up early and make pancakes for you all.”

“Oh, no problem at all, thank you.”

Slowly, Spike and Sweetie Belle joined Sam and Rarity at the table. Once everyone had finished their breakfast, Spike got up to leave.

“Well, thanks for letting me crash here, Rarity. I’ll see you all around.” The young dragon turned to look at Sam. “When are you heading back to the library, bro?”

“I’m sorry, Spike, but... I don’t think I’ll be going back.”


Sam took a deep breath, struggling not to choke on his words. “I’m going to move to Canterlot, Spike. I’m leaving.” Reaching into his bag, he pulled out the envelope bearing Twilight’s name and handed it to Spike. “Please give this to her for me.”

Sweetie Belle chimed in, sensing something was wrong. “Sis? What’s going on?”

“Nothing, Sweetie, go upstairs and clean your room for me, okay?”

“Oh all right...”

Once the little white filly was gone, Rarity wore an incredulous look on her face. “You’re what?! Leaving?! You’re just giving up on Twilight like that, after all you went through for her?”

Spike poked at Rarity’s shoulder. “Mind telling me what’s going on?”

“Long story short, Spike, Sam and Twilight had a falling out, and now he’s leaving.”

“Dude! Not cool!”

“Guys, look, I know you’re probably gonna hate me for this, but I have to go. I don’t have to explain myself.” Sam shifted his gaze towards Spike. “Please, give her that letter for me.”

“Alright, but you better be around soon to explain whatever’s in it.”

Sam reached down by the table, and grabbed his bag. “Goodbye, guys. Feel free to come visit me in Canterlot, sometime...” He stretched his leg, and walked out the door to wave over the pony that was passing by, pulling a taxi cart.

Rarity was in full-blown dramatic panic mode. “Spike! We have to go get Twilight, we can’t let him leave like that!”

“Right, let’s go!”

Before they could leave, another voice piped up. “Whoa, what’s going on here?”

“Rainbow, get out of the way!” Spike and Rarity shouted in unison.

“Not until you guys tell me what’s going on here. When I went to tell Twilight about Spike staying here, she was a wreck, wouldn’t even answer the door.” Casting her gaze to the floor, Rainbow Dash continued. “I would have been over here sooner, but that storm had me so busy last night that I barely had time to get any breakfast this morning.”

Rarity facehoofed. “Rainbow! We don’t have time! Twilight and Sam fought, and broke up. Now Sam is heading for the train station to leave for Canterlot!”

Rainbow’s face immediately contorted into an expression of rage. “Why... that no good feather-bucking colt cuddler! You guys go check on Twilight, I’ll go catch Sam. Go!!”

Immediately Rainbow Dash took off in a multi-chromatic blur. Rarity and Spike hurried off in the opposite direction towards Twilight’s library.

With Spike on her back, Rarity was galloping at full speed towards her destination, and began to appreciate just how hard ponies like Rainbow Dash or Applejack pushed themselves to perform like that. Arriving at Twilight’s door, Spike jumped down while Rarity caught her breath. Both of them began pounding on the door, shouting.

“Twilight? It’s Rarity, open up. Spike and I need to talk to you, it’s urgent, please do come out!”

“Yeah, Twi, it’s about Sam and-”

“No!” A muffled voice called out. “If it’s about him, don’t bother. He and I are done.”

Despite Twilight’s angry tone, she let her friends in. They were greeted by the sight of papers strewn everywhere, a clear consequence of a violently emotional tantrum thrown by someone wielding magic. The wielder herself was a far more disturbing vision; Twilight’s coat was matted, her mane frizzing out everywhere, and her eyes had dark circles the size of dinner plates under them.

Rarity nearly fainted, but did her best to stay strong for her friend. “Oh, dear, Twilight, are you ok?!”

With a nearly maniacal giggle, Twilight nodded her head as her pupils shrank. “Oh, yes, Rarity, I’m fine! Sam’s gone, he won’t be messing with my mind or playing with my emotions ANYMORE!”

Spike nervously held out the letter to the disheveled unicorn. “Here, Twi... Sam wanted me to give this to you.”

Twilight grasped the envelope in her familiar purple aura, and tossed it aside.

“Twilight!” Rarity gasped, “What has gotten into you?! He may have been trying to apologize to you.”

Twilight shrugged, and her left eye twitched. “Nope, don’t care,” she replied, as she began an uncontrollable bout of borderline-evil laughter.

Think, Rarity, think... What was that one spell you managed to learn to help Sweetie sleep?

Concentrating hard, Rarity focused her energy, and cast a sleeping spell on Twilight.

“There, Spike, that ought to calm her down for now,” Rarity said as her purple friend drifted off to sleep.

“Rarity? This is bad...”


Come on Rainbow, you’ve broken the sound barrier, you can beat a train, GO!!!

Rainbow Dash was straining every inch of her body, trying to milk every last drop of speed out of her wings.

Finally, she saw the station coming into view, but the train was already loading passengers.

Horsefeathers! Almost there... Almost there...

On the ground, Sam had just bought his ticket, and was heading towards the train, unaware of the blue pegasus headed in his direction. He boarded the train, and took his seat, staring morosely out of the window but otherwise ready to begin his journey.

Rainbow estimated she was only a few hundred meters away, when she heard something that made her blood run cold.

The conductor stuck his head out of the forward car, and yelled, “ALLLLLL ABOARD!”

The train’s whistle blew, and the train pulled out of the station, bound for Canterlot.

Rainbow Dash arrived at the platform just in time to see the caboose shrinking away as it approached the horizon.

“Aww buck it! I could catch the train, but I can’t carry him all the way back,” she sighed, “guess I’d better go see how Rarity is doing with Twilight...”


Rainbow arrived to see that the library’s front door was still wide open, so she walked on inside. She glanced around the room, taking in the disturbing scene; it felt unnatural to Rainbow to see the library in such disarray.

Picking up faint voices, Rainbow entered the study, where Rarity and Spike were quietly talking to each other while Twilight lay asleep on the couch.

“How is she, Rarity?”

Rarity shook her head. “She was hysterical. Remember when she thought that the Princess would send her back to magic kindergarten? That was nothing in comparison, I'm afraid. I had to use a sleeping spell to calm her down.”


“So...” Rarity nervously looked at the ground. “I suppose you were unable to get Sam...”

Rainbow Dash sadly shook her head.

A weak, yawning voice spoke up. “Rarity? Spike? Rainbow Dash?” Twilight looked around as if she didn’t recognize where she was. “Oh... Wow... I’m glad you all are here,” she sniffled slightly, and wiped a few tears from her eyes, “I had the worst dream... Sam and I had a huge fight, and... And... I made him leave... Where is he?”

Rarity choked back her tears as she embraced her friend. “Twilight... I’m afraid it wasn’t a dream... He’s gone. You DID tell him to leave, darling. And so he left for Canterlot...”

Rainbow sniffled slightly. “Oh come on guys, don’t... You’re gonna get me started...”

Twilight pulled away from Rarity, her eyes streaming tears as the memories returned, and buried her face in her forelegs.

“Oh, Celestia... I’ve made a terrible mistake...”

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away

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Sam jerked awake as the train pulled into the Canterlot station. He noted in passing that the morning’s gray rain clouds hadn’t followed him from Ponyville. Slowly gathering his few possessions, he stood up stiffly and began shuffling off of the train, careful not to trip over any of the ponies exiting. Some of the other passengers were eyeing him suspiciously as if he were a predator, while others recognized Sam from the flyers and newspaper articles published about the nanomachine attack, and attempted to greet him as he stepped down onto the station platform. After seeing him politely brush off several would-be admirers, most of the other ponies more or less steered clear of Sam as he exited the station.

At the entrance to the station, he saw an unoccupied chariot; with its gleaming white coat of paint and bronze adornments, it could only be there to pick up a guest of the royal palace or to deliver one of the princesses to a destination of their choosing.

One of the white pegasus guards waiting near the chariot saw Sam approaching, and called him over.

“You there! You are Sam Mitchell, correct?”

Wow, royal pickup service. Cool. “Yeah, I’m Sam. I’m guessing Celestia sent you to wait for me?”

“That’s PRINCESS Celestia,” the guard growled, “and yes, she did send me and my associate here to pick you up.”

“About time you got here, too,” snorted the other, already-harnessed, guard, “get in so we can drop you off and get back to work.”

Not wishing to talk any further, lest he snap at the obviously-irritated guards, Sam complied, and was promptly whisked off to the castle. Once in the air, he found his mind slightly drifting from his foul mood and the previous day’s melodramatic turn of events as he caught sight of Canterlot’s magnificent skyline.

Man, how did I miss this view the last time I was here?! Right, I was a despondent, sulking wreck of a man. Funny how I only seem come to Canterlot under depressing circumstances... Granted, this is only my second time here, but I’m two for two so far.

As the chariot rose higher into the air, Sam’s eyes involuntarily squinted shut from the sun’s reflection off of the giant ornate domes at the top of each tower of the royal palace. Still, he tried to enjoy the sights and let his mind wander some.

After circling around the castle, the chariot finally landed at a balcony at the rear of the structure. Princess Luna promptly stepped out from inside the castle.

“Good day, Sam Mitchell. I assume your trip was uneventful?”

Carefully exiting the chariot, Sam gave a slight nod in lieu of bowing as the guards had done. “Yes, I slept through most of the trip. Good to see you again, Luna.”

“I must admit, mine sister and I are quite surprised at thy sudden decision to change locales, we thought thou were quite comfortably settled in Ponyville.”

“We can discuss that later,” sighed Sam, “but for now I’d just like to see what Celestia wants so that I can find an inn for the next few nights.”

Sensing that she had tread upon a sensitive subject, Luna dropped it altogether.

“Very well, though I am certain that Celestia will be most pleased to allow you one of the guest rooms until a more permanent arrangement is found for you. Follow me to the Royal Gardens, Sam. You may leave your bags here, they will be taken to your room.”

Wielding his cane, Sam slowly hobbled behind the Princess of the Night. Along the way, he saw several familiar sights, including the hallway that lead to the room in which he had stayed when he first arrived in Equestria.

The narrow, candle-lit stone hallway abruptly ended and was supplanted by a carpeting of lush, green grass. There, in the center of a large collection of flowers and other greenery, was Princess Celestia, sitting on a small pile of cushions in front of a tea table. She stood up to greet her sister and the human that was accompanying her.

Wearing her ever-present genteel smile, Celestia greeted her visitor. “Sam Mitchell, so good to see you again. I take it that your injuries are healing well?”

This time Sam opted to attempt a bow, only to find that his hip painfully protested such movement. “For the most part, yes. And thank you for the pick-up service at the train station.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m sure Luna has already told you I intend to let you stay here, at least until you find other arrangements if you wish to do so. Please, take a seat, both of you,” Celestia motioned towards two spare cushion piles situated near the table.

Sam and Luna both took a spot, prompting one of the castle servants to emerge from hiding to pour them both a cup of tea.

Celestia declined a refill of her own cup with a wave of her hoof. “Now, Sam, while I am not at all displeased to have you here, both on a personal and a professional level, I can’t say that I understand your sudden change of heart, given what you told me last month. Please, what brings you to Canterlot?”

Sam shook his head, trying to hide his emotions. “I started looking through my files again, and realized that I sent to your scientists several designs that should have never left my possession,” he took a deep breath before continuing with a certain stiffness in his voice, “and I decided that it would be best for me to be here and have as much direct influence as possible over further development of my technology.” I hope she buys that, I don’t feel like discussing... THAT... Right now.

Luna sipped her tea silently; she knew Sam wasn’t telling them everything, and if anyone could get the truth out of him, it was her sister.

Celestia slightly tilted her head, that serene, kindly smile still on her lips as her prismatic mane flowed in the gentle breeze. “Come now, Sam. Just three weeks ago you were convincing me to compromise and let you stay in Ponyville with Twilight,” she saw him cringe slightly at the mention of her star student, “Speaking of whom, how are things between her and yourself?”

After fighting back a few bitter tears, Sam sighed. “If you must know, Princesses, she and I had something of a fight yesterday.”

Luna nearly spat out her tea, and shot a glowering scowl towards Sam. If this strange ape has distressed dear Twilight Sparkle... Only the dead shall truly know peace from the fury I shall exact upon him...

Celestia looked towards her sister. “Come now, Luna, let him speak.”

Deciding to ignore the stare he was receiving from Luna, Sam continued, “It was a pretty bad one. Long story short, it gave me a few things to think about regarding my relationship with her, and she’s probably better off without me. Coming to work here would help me get my mind off of everything. The academy is probably the closest thing to the sort of work environment I’m used to.”

That sweet smile had vanished from Celestia’s face. “I see. I am sorry to hear that, Sam,” she cleared her throat, “But nonetheless, you are welcome here. Shall I send word to the academy that you will be joining them tomorrow?”

Sam nodded. “Yes, I feel like I have learned enough of the Equestrian language to get some work done now. I may try getting this translation spell removed and see how much more I can pick up.”

The white alicorn was smiling again. “Very well. As I said earlier, you may stay in one of the guest suites until you have found a permanent residence. If you’ll follow the guards at the garden entrance behind me, they will escort you there. You may join Luna and I for dinner at sundown, if you like.”

Sam stood up, massaging the bony part of his hip. “Thank you, Celestia, Luna. I will see you both then.”

As Sam left the premises with the guards, Luna leaned in towards her sister. “Tia, he just admitted to fighting with your prized pupil, and you are just dropping the subject? Are you not concerned that he may have harmed Twilight? Will you not at the least send her some advice or even see if she is well?”

The elder princess sighed. “Without knowing the full details, it would be wrong to assign blame. Lovers’ quarrels can be ugly, indeed, but I truly believe this will work itself out in time. It is best for us to stay out of the matter for now, and allow them both time to heal.”

“If you insist, dear sister...”


Twilight sat alone in her study, sipping a cup of tea in an attempt to calm her nerves. It had taken some convincing, but she managed to assure Rarity and Rainbow Dash that she was okay. Even so, they refused to leave until they had cleaned up the place while soundly rejecting Twilight’s offer to do it herself.

I’m glad my friends are there for me... Doesn’t make this whole situation any easier, but at least I still have them...

The thought brought a tiny, though short-lived, smile back to the unicorn’s otherwise depressed visage.

After finishing her tea, Twilight decided to clean herself up; hours of sobbing and uncontrolled emotional outbursts had taken a toll on her appearance. Her mane was disheveled and in need of a thorough brushing, her tail was riddled with split ends, and her eyes were bloodshot with circles as dark as Luna’s night underneath them.

As she stood up to head towards the bathroom, she spied a white envelope with her name written on it sitting on the edge of her desk.

That must be the letter Sam sent with Spike and Rarity... I guess this is Rarity’s way of insisting that I read it. Might as well, I suppose... Let’s see what he’s got to say to a wreck like me...

Twilight gingerly levitated the paper out of the envelope, carefully floating the folded sheet of paper away from her face as if it were soaked in a skunk’s spray. Unfolding it, she read slowly.

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

Before I say anything else, I just want to say I’m sorry. Sorry about the fight, sorry about leaving so suddenly for Canterlot as I’m sure you’ve heard by now.

But most of all, I’m sorry things with us didn’t work out.

I want you to know, regardless of what you may think of me right now, I do care about you. I meant those things that I said before I left your library. Ever since I first arrived here, you’ve been nothing but kind to me. You’re one of the most genuinely wonderful individuals I could have ever hoped to meet, especially given the circumstances of my arrival here, and one of the best friends I’ve had in quite a long time.

And I know, I didn’t have to leave Ponyville, but it’s obvious that I’ve hurt you somehow. That’s why I left, to spare us both the pain and trouble of dealing with each other any further. You deserve a normal life, and eventually I’m sure you’ll meet some lucky pony who can give you that.

At some point in the future, maybe we can forget about all of this and be friends again, but for the time being, maybe it’s just best that I’m not around anymore.

So again, I’m sorry. Take care of yourself.

-Sam Mitchell

Twilight crumpled to the ground as the felt the tears returning to her eyes, too emotionally and physically drained to do anything but weep in silence.

He really is gone... And this time, it really IS all my fault...


Sam was hunched over a cluttered workbench in one of the academy’s laboratories, using his bodyweight to hold a long, cage-like structure down on the table. “Alright Bunsen, just tighten that screw there... Oh for crying out- NO just turn the damn screw! The OTHER way!” In a fit of frustration, Sam slammed his head into the workbench’s surface, sighing, “If the Princesses hadn’t already explicitly forbidden me from doing so, I’d have you and Hoofstein’s hides adorning my bedroom by now. Just hand me the goddamn screwdriver already...”

It had been one week since Sam’s arrival in Canterlot, and he wasted no time in setting back to work. His first order of business was to attempt to build a brace for his right hip and leg so that he could walk without a cane again; Sam refused to sign off on any official projects until he could safely and reliably get around the lab. With Bunsen’s lingering nervousness over Sam’s threats during the replicator siege, the poor lab pony wasn’t doing much to ease the human’s consistently angry demeanor and short temper, a trait recently acquired since Sam’s arrival from Ponyville.

Struggling to keep at least some masculine bass in his voice, Bunsen managed to squeak his concerns to his new lab manager. “Sam, watch out, don’t tighten that screw so much, and watch out for that-” before Bunsen could finish speaking, a light blue flash erupted from the small motors on the leg brace’s hinges, burning Sam’s hands.

The human simply glared menacingly towards his lab partner.

“Eh heh heh... I’ll just go get the first aid kid...”

While he waited, Sam pondered which project to approve first. Upon first arriving at the academy earlier in the week and after warning everyone to be patient with his slowly-growing grasp of Equestrian language, he made sure to remind the researchers of Celestia’s arrangement with him and the fact that he had near-final veto over any proposed project. Bunsen, who had been stripped of his short-lived tenure after the replicator incident, had already forgotten about Sam’s short temper, and proceeded to try persuading him to restart the nanomachine generator project. Sam responded by coarsely mentioning how hungry he was and wondering aloud on the culinary qualities of horsemeat; the irony of the fact that he had spoken this threat in Equestrian was not lost on anyone.

The replicator project is right out, that was an incomplete product even in my time. I could approve the hydroelectric generator improvements, though; the ones they’re running on currently are horrifically inefficient, even for what limited uses of electricity they have. Of course, I could start running a course on semiconductor circuit development and get them away from using vaccuum tube transistors, but it would be quite some time before they could do anything beyond small circuits in the lab... Fabrication and lithography plants don’t exactly get up and running overnight... Eh, I’m leaning towards the hydroelectric generators; with a few wiring modifications, they make good electric motors as well. Either way, forcing them to help me build this brace was a great idea; I certainly didn’t have the tools or parts available in Ponyville...

Finally, the nervous blue stallion arrived back at Sam’s side, his green mane a stringy mess, and levitated from his coat pockets a few bottles of disinfectant and burn cream. Bunsen was relieved to see that his brief absence had been just enough time for the hairless alien’s temper to die down.

As he lathered the ointments onto his hands, Sam looked Bunsen in the eye. “Hey, look, sorry for yelling at you earlier.”

Bunsen was taken aback; the past several days of working under Sam’s supervision were collectively a week spent in hell for the beleaguered unicorn. All week, Bunsen had endured enraged reprimands for the slightest of things, and always in front of his colleagues.

“I-it’s okay, Sam,” the unicorn stuttered, “I know I screwed up, and a lot of folks, you included, got hurt. Trust me, you think I got off easy, just with losing my title here? Imagine getting dragged to the moon for a “private audience” Princess Luna; it’s not what you think, and you would NOT like her when she’s angry,” he shuddered.

Sam raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Damn, and here I was thinking that the Princesses were benevolent rulers.”

Bunsen shook his head in disagreement. “Oh, no, they really are. They simply have no tolerance for any pony, any threat, that might harm their subjects, and I was pretty directly responsible for such a threat. They were extremely apologetic afterwards; I’d like to think that they knew I meant no intentional harm, but they wanted to impress upon me the seriousness of everything that happened... I mean, horsefeathers, Sam! Chip had just started his internship with us a month beforehand!”

“Wow... How about we call it in for the day? And by the way, that’s ‘Mr. Mitchell’ or ‘boss’ to you, Bunsen.”

“Sorry,” Bunsen grinned sheepishly, “and no, I swear if we can just make that one last connection on the ankle servos, we’ll have you walking home normally in twenty minutes.”

Sam nodded. “Alright, let’s see what you can do. Get it working, and I’ll treat you and the other researchers out for drinks sometime next week,” he sensed Bunsen’s rising good mood and continued, “and no, this does not mean we’re friends or that I completely forgive you for nearly killing me and one of my closest friends. I have a habit of holding grudges.”

Bunsen’s ears drooped as he tucked into his work. “Okay...”

Sure enough, after twenty minutes Bunsen had proven true to his word. He helped Sam strap on the strange-looking brace, mentioning that it should fit under most pant-legs, since the brace was designed to be a close fit with the contour of a human’s leg.

After a few unsteady steps around the lab, Sam announced his verdict. “Nice work, Bunsen, looks like I owe you and the others a few rounds next week. It could still use a few adjustments, but it’ll do for now,” motioning towards the exit, Sam grabbed his bag, “see you tomorrow, Bunsen.”

For the first time in several weeks, Sam remembered what it felt like to be able to walk normally, or as close to normal as his new brace would permit. The only downside was that, without the cane to lean on, his full weight now rested upon his leg when he walked, causing him to involuntarily grunt with pain on almost every other step.

Maybe this idea wasn’t FULLY thought through after all... Oh well, maybe I can adjust it a bit when I get home...

On his way through the cobblestone streets back to the castle, Sam passed by several ponies closing up their shops for the night. He tried to avoid the awkward stares that some passersby gave him or at least give a friendly wave and smile.

I walk this route every day, and most of these ponies have seen me at least three times this week. One would think they’d quit staring at me. From what I understand, stranger things than me have appeared around here.

Shortly before arriving back at the castle, Sam opted to pick up a bottle of wine; he felt that a nice drink might calm his mind and help soothe the pain radiating out of his hip joint.

Even after a couple of months of living in a society built for and by ponykind, Sam still wasn’t completely used to having to stoop down to enter buildings. With the exception of Twilight’s library, Rarity’s shop, and of course the royal palace, Sam usually found himself with only a few inches of room between his head and the ceilings of most buildings.

After selecting a vintage and paying for his bottle, Sam stepped outside and continued on to the castle, stopping one more time to buy a sandwich from a small cafe. Once he arrived at the castle, Sam decided to go straight to his room rather than join the Princesses for dinner as he had the previous few nights.

Sam once again found himself marveling at the intricate details carved into the wood and marble used to decorate the room. Even the wardrobe and chest-of-drawers were ornately embellished with subtle inlays of opal and gold.

He sat upon the bed and gazed out of the glass double doors that lead onto a small balcony. How does Celestia honestly expect me to WANT to move out of the castle? Sure, I always did enjoy having my own apartment back before the war, but I could get used to this huge bed, and you just can’t beat the view... If only SHE were here to share it with me... No. Can’t think like that. What’s done is done, and that’s the end of it.

With a sigh, Sam stood back up and walked to his desk, where his sandwich, bottle of wine, laptop, and a relatively old book were sitting. He grasped the ever-burning enchanted lamp on the tabletop and opened the shutted, illuminating the desk surface.

Between bites of the sandwich, Sam slowly flipped through the aged tome, which was entitled “Advanced Medical Magic, Alchemy, and Biological Transmutation”. Celestia had recommended the book to him after hearing him express some interest in attempting to find some obscure spell or potion that might heal the muscle and nerve damage in his hip and leg, or at least help him deal with it better. Though many of the spells in the book required higher levels of magic than even Twilight Sparkle possessed, Celestia assured Sam that if he found a spell that could help, she would gladly cast it for him as her way of properly thanking him for his part in stopping the replicators.

As he skimmed the pages, Sam became increasingly thankful that he had had the foresight to write a program to aid him in translating the book; though his Equestrian reading skills had certainly grown over the past weeks, he still had a long way to go before he could properly read, unaided, a book as complex as the one before him.

Finally, a particular passage and illustration caught his attention; it appeared to be a spell capable of regenerating a leg. The more he translated, the more his hopes and excitement rose.

I can’t honestly say I expected to find something this quickly! Maybe I’ll be up and walking around painlessly in no time!

However, as he read on, and compared what he read with the results of the translator, it became increasingly clear that this particular spell actually healed cracked hooves, an apparently common ailment before the development of iron-smelting and horse shoes.

Exhausted, Sam downed his glass of wine, stood up from his desk, and promptly collapsed onto the bed.

Well, I’m only about a hundred or so pages into that spellbook, barely even an eighth of the way through it, and I’ve got all the time in the world...


Celestia and Luna were strolling around the outskirts of the castle, admiring Luna’s latest handiwork with the night’s stellar arrangements. They had just met to coordinate the daily setting of the sun and corresponding raising of the moon, before Celestia turned in for a night’s sleep.

Ever since her return from the moon, Luna had grown fond of their nightly walks. Seeing her sister once again treating her as an equal, as a friend, had helped her to adjust to life in a society in which most ponies had either forgotten her existence or still thought of her as a monster of the night.

After their usual circling of the castle grounds, the two sisters stopped in the gardens. Every night, without fail, Luna would continue on from there with her nightly duties, while Celestia would part from her company to get some well-deserved rest. However, sensing that her younger sister had something on her mind, Celestia paused briefly, before turning to go inside.

Luna spoke just as Celestia crossed the doorway. “Sister, wait. We have not seen Sam in quite some time, has he moved into a more permanent residence already? And without even telling us?”

Celestia turned back towards the gardens. “Oh, don’t worry, Luna. He’s still here. Apparently finding an apartment that will accommodate him is proving challenging. He’s only been here a little over two weeks now, give him some time.”

“We, er, I see. It merely strikes me as strange that he no longer attends dinner with us as is customary for our guests to do.”

Celestia nodded in agreement. “Yes, I have noticed his absences as well. Perhaps I should check in on him? His guest suite isn’t too far out of the way to my own chambers.”

“Very well, do let me know if anything is out of the ordinary.”

“Well,” Celestia giggled, “we do have a time-traveling, hairless primate in our guest suite... So...”

Luna facehoofed. “That is not what I meant, Tia.”

“Does your concern mean that you’ve forgiven him for his tiff with Twilight Sparkle?”

Luna sighed. “While I wish that had not happened, that is not my reasoning. I have seen his dreams, sister, or rather, his nightmares.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow in interest. “Nightmares? To have caught your attention, they must have been quite something.”

“Every night since his third or fourth night here. It’s almost always the same one, he’s on a beach with a group of creatures like him, I believe they were his family, and suddenly they are all obliterated by a large fireball from the sky precipitated by a cloud in the shape of a toadstool. I sense he has had this nightmare before,” Luna idly looked up at her night sky, “but he occasionally sees Twilight Sparkle being attacked by that mechanical beast that they defeated together.”

The Day Princess sighed. “I see. I will definitely check in on him then. Goodnight, sister.”

As Luna took to the sky for her nightly reign, Celestia began silently walking through the castle towards Sam’s room. Upon arrival, she lightly knocked on the wooden door.

“Sam? May I come in?”

She heard no answer. Fearing that Sam may have attempted to take his own life as he had done in Ponyville, Celestia decided to enter uninvited. With a small bolt of energy from her horn, she unlocked the door and rushed in, only to see Sam sloppily passed out over his desk with an empty bottle of red wine tipped towards his lap and the floor.

Thank the Sun...

The Princess moved closer to the sleeping human, and noted that he had the fruity, alcoholic stench of merlot covering him. She gently nudged him awake.

“Multicore environments... Require coherent data access across... Cache lines and... Can’t even fucking... Teapot orange...”

Celestia shook him harder. “Sam, wake up. Are you ok?”

Sam violently shook his head, as though he were shaking off water. “Wha-?” he rubbed his tired, dark-circled eyes, “Oh, hi Princess...”

The Princess shot him a look of disdain. “Sam Mitchell, are you drunk?”

“What?” Sam looked back at his desk, and saw the fallen bottle, “Oh. OHH, no, Princess, no! I just fell asleep reading. Must have forgotten to cork the bottle back up and knocked it into my lap when I nodded off. Only had one glass, I promise.”

“I’ll take your word for it for now, Sam, just know that I do not approve of alcohol as a coping mechanism.”

“Understood, but really, that’s not what this is. I just enjoy a little now and again. Now, before I ask ‘what can I do for you’, please tell me there is someone in this castle or city that can get red wine stains out of clothes? This is my favorite pair of pants.”

“Of course, there’s a great place in the city I can point you towards,” Celestia said with a smile, “now, as for what you can do for me... I’d say you have it backwards. My sister and I realized we haven’t seen you recently, and I decided I would see how you are doing. If you don’t mind me saying, you look terrible, Sam.”

“I’m just tired, Princess.”

“Is everything okay? How is everything at the academy?”

Sam placed his face in his hands, sighing. “It’s fine. I convinced them to abandon the replicator project, at least until I can spend some time fixing it,” he looked up to see a look of horror on Celestia’s face, “Oh, seriously, don’t worry. I have no pressing urge to start it back up SOON. It really does have safe, useful applications though. It just so happened that your star researchers managed to accidentally bypass every safeguard built into the design. Frankly, the design schematics they found weren’t even completed; my lab abandoned work on them, deeming the then-current prototype too unstable. For now, I think we’re going to work on an improved hydroelectric turbine to replace the horrifically inefficient ones currently used on the dam outside Ponyville.”

With a slight air of worry in her voice, Celestia responded, “Well, I will trust your judgement. After all, you do know how to destroy them when they go rogue...”

Sam shrugged. “Like I said, not in the cards for a long time.”

The Princess levitated a cushion over to the spot next to Sam’s seat, and sat down herself. “But really, are YOU ok? I hate to imply that we’re invading your privacy, but...”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Buuuuut...?”

“Sam, know that Luna means no harm, but she has seen your nightmares.”

Sam’s jaw dropped open. “Come again?”

“Luna is closely attuned to the night, and she has some power over dreams. Apparently, between your close proximity to her since moving in here, and the intensity of your nightmares, she has been able to see them, and what she saw has the both of us worried,” Celestia hoped her expression conveyed her honest concern, “so I ask you again, are you ok?”

Sam slumped back in his chair. “Okay, you’ve got me, but I don’t appreciate having my subconscious eavesdropped on. I AM having some trouble sleeping... Come to think of it though, I haven’t had nightmares at all since shortly before the replicator incident... But yeah, that, the stress of managing the lab...” He looked up at the Princess, “Seriously, Princess, your so-called ‘top researchers’ are idiots, a bunch of bumbling, self-important, overly-confident IDIOTS. It’s truly a marvel of engineering that they managed to get the replicators working at all.”

“Sam! Be patient with them!”

“I am; they aren’t easy to work with. It’s like they think I’m here to replace them or make their own work obsolete or something. But anyway, it’s not just that. I’ve been flipping through this book you gave me, and I’m not getting anywhere. I thought I found a spell for regrowing legs, but it turned out to be a magical remedy for cracked hooves. Then, I thought I saw a spell for full-body regeneration, but after studying the translation, it was a spell to transform creatures into ponies, with no apparent way to change back. Finally, I actually did find a spell for regenerating one’s body, but it had a pretty creepy-sounding warning that it should ONLY be used on ponies. I’m just frustrated, you know? For crying out loud, I’m a twenty-four year old with the mobility of a seventy year old!”

Celestia nodded sympathetically. “I see.”

Sam continued his angry tirade in a voice dripping with frustrated rage. “It’s just the latest in a long series of events where the world further continues to painfully violate me for a cheap laugh! First, global god-damned nuclear war breaks out just as I’m beginning life on my own! Just when I think I’m getting away from that, I end up who-knows-how-long in the future, permanently separated from my friends and family. Then, as I’m coming to terms with everything, even making a few new friends, I get crippled by a bastardization of electronics and magic that nearly kills my new closest friend. Now, ALL OF THAT, I found hard to deal with, but I had Twilight, but even THAT went to pot, and she kicked me out,” he leveled his gaze at Celestia, his eyes squinting, “So pardon me for being a little short, I have a lot to handle, and not too many ways to effectively deal with it.”

Celestia flared her wings and raised a hoof in protest. “Sam Mitchell! I appreciate your candor, but don’t you EVER forget that you are speaking to royalty! I understand and respect your position, really, I sympathize with you, Sam. But, do not make me regret freeing you from Professor Hoofstein’s investigative custody by continuing this bitter, disrespectful attitude. It’s bad enough that things have soured between yourself and Twilight Sparkle, without you spreading a foul mood to everyone in Canterlot because of it.”

Sam sank down a little in his chair and averted his eyes. “Sorry, Princess. Like I said, I’ve got a lot on my mind, and it’s killing me. Honestly, I really am grateful for what you did for me, what you’re STILL doing for me. I realize you didn’t have to do any of it, and frankly I can’t say the scientists and government officials from my time period would have been so generous to you, were our roles reversed.”

“It’s okay,” Celestia sighed, before clearing her throat, “I may be all-powerful and borderline-omniscient, but even I have lost my temper from time to time. After all, I do have a younger sibling, something that I think you can sympathize with. I understand. Anyway...” her eyes drifted towards the book on Sam’s desk, “I will try to track down some additional books. I am certain that is not the only tome on obscure medical magic that we have.”

“Thank you, I’d appreciate that,” Sam looked back up at Celestia with a confused look on his face, “So, speaking of those spells I found... Why would you have a spell that permanently transformed someone, anyway? And what’s up with the warning for the healing spell?”

The white Princess looked away in thought, bringing a hoof to her chin. “Ah, I vaguely remember those spells now... We actually used the transformation spell as a sort of witness protection and an incentive for informants, long before Equestria was the happy, peaceful land that it is today. The Griffon kingdom wasn’t always such a peaceful neighbor; occasionally we would see griffons that disagreed with their rulers’ plans of violence, and they would come to us with information in exchange for asylum. By requiring a permanent change of species, it not only encouraged them to integrate with our society peacefully, but it helped us weed out anyone with false or insincere intentions.”

Sam cocked his head. “Not sure I follow. Couldn’t one of them just come up, give you bad intel, and then live comfortably as a pony here or even go back home?”

Celestia shook her head. “Back then, the ruling class of Gryphonia was quite... Racist. Their hatred for ponykind would have bordered on genocidal, had we not been able to diffuse our differences after that ruling group was removed from power. Basically, no griffon loyal to THAT crown would have dared become a pony, and thus forsake his homeland, just to deliver false intelligence.”

“Ah, I gotcha. Honestly, it’s kinda hard to believe that there was EVER any violence or international tension around here. But anyway... What’s the deal with that other spell’s warning?”

“Oh, yes, sorry. Well, when developing medical spells, our researchers try to keep spells as general as possible, which can lessen their effects at times. As for you, you’re so unique, it was a wonder than any of the hospital’s spells worked even slightly. This spell though, was specifically made with ponies in mind, and requires a massive amount of magical energy on the part of the pony casting it. If used on a non-pony, it would conflict with their biology. The best case scenario is that nothing happens, but the more likely alternative would be a gruesome deformation of the target’s body.”

Sam’s face was expressionless. “Sounds pretty counter-intuitive.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes, it is. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll find something eventually. I’ll see if I can’t think of any other books to recommend. But, if you need anything, please let my sister or myself know.”

“I appreciate your concern. I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t mean to overstep any personal boundaries but,” The Princess hesitated, “have you considered writing Twilight? Perhaps see if any apologies or amends might be made?”

Sam gritted his teeth. “No, I haven’t done so, and I really don’t intend to. I know you’re just looking out for your favorite student, but this is for the best.”

“I see,” Celestia said, disappointed, “well, regardless, do at least try to go out more often, I’d hate to see you become a bitter recluse. I’ve heard that you got on well with Shining Armor and my niece, perhaps you might take some time to visit them?”

“Princess, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I think given the circumstances, Shining is probably the LAST pony I’d want to speak to right now.”

Celestia shook her head. “Fine, fine. But my point still stands. Staying cooped up like this isn’t healthy. How is your apartment search coming?”

Sam looked away in thought. “Eh, I’m having a hard time finding anywhere decently large enough to fit me. In most places I’ve looked at, the ceilings are too low for me, and the ones that ARE large enough, I can’t afford them,” his mouth curved into a slight smile, “I knew it would be tough to fit in living in a civilization of ponies, but this has just been ridiculous.”

Celestia moved a hoof to her mouth to stifle a laugh. “I was afraid you might have difficulties like that... As I have said, you may stay as long as is necessary. I feel that I owe one of Equestria’s heroes at least that much. If you need anything, please do let Luna or myself know. Good night, Sam.”

“Goodnight, Princess. And do me a favor, tell Luna to stay out of my dreams, will ya? Every now and then I dream of a big steak dinner, and I really don’t want her to think I’m some sort of ravenous beast; I can tell she’s already stiff enough towards me over me fighting with Twilight... On that note, this all-vegetarian diet is killing me.”

“I will see what I can do, on both accounts,” Celestia giggled.

As Princess Celestia exited the room, Sam moved towards the showers to clean the smell of alcohol from his body.

After removing the brace from his leg, he grabbed his cane to hobble into the walk-in shower, thankful that a sort of bench had been carved into the white marble walls. As the hot water poured over him, and steamed up the air, his mind began began to drift as he sat.

Here’s hoping I can actually sleep without waking up in a cold sweat tonight... Heh, a spell to transform someone into a pony... If it weren’t for the permanence of it, I could change, use the healing spell, and change back. I’d be healed and back to normal. How weird would it be to be a pony, though? Couldn’t eat meat, couldn’t use delicate tools... That last one would suck, no more electronics work, not to mention hooves on a keyboard would be ridiculous... But unicorns seem to get by well enough using their magic to manipulate things. Don’t think I could get used to eating hay though, heh.

Sam continued absent-mindedly pondering how ponies managed to function on a day-to-day basis, until he noticed that his skin had become pruned, and he had still not washed himself properly. He quickly finished up the task, dried off, and redressed.

After climbing into bed, and extinguishing his lamp, he fell asleep with two questions on his mind.

Why hasn’t the Princess had the castle upgraded for electricity? And back to my thoughts in the shower... What if I did actually use THAT spell? Nah, that’d be ridiculous...


With the sun hanging directly overhead, Twilight glumly plodded along the path back to her library. She had been trying in earnest to get back to her normal routine once the initial shock and depression resulting from her fight with Sam had subsided.

Twilight groaned slightly as she mentally reviewed her purchases from her trip to the market earlier in the day. Got some apples... Stocked back up on hay, daisies, and elderflower... Oh what’s the use, I’ve barely been hungry lately. I doubt I’ll finish most of this before it goes bad... I don’t even really want to eat lunch; I just want to go back to sleep, but I need to reshelve some of the books first... Sounds like a party.

In her depressed state, Twilight scarcely noticed the bouncing blur of pink that had appeared at her side.

“Hiya, Twilight! How’re ya doing?”

Though she was surprised to see Pinkie, Twilight showed no sign of it. “Oh, hey Pinkie. I’m fine. Thanks for lunch last week, by the way. It was nice to get out of the house for a while.”

Pinkie was beaming as she replied, “Don’t mention it! It’s been, like, FOREVER since we had hung out like that! We should totally do it again sometime! OH I KNOW, maybe we could get Rarity and Fluttershy and the others and have a spa day! Wouldn’t that be super-duper fun?! And then we could get some party games and music and icing, put it all in my party cannon and...”

Twilight folded her ears against her head in an attempt to block out Pinkie Pie’s rambling. I love Pinkie like a sister, but can’t she see I’m not in the mood for this?

“...And then we all take a bow! The talent agent will look at us and ask us what we call our act, to which we all respond, THE ARISTOCRATS! Won’t that just be hilarious?!”

After hearing no answer, Pinkie looked around and realized Twilight was no longer beside her, and had left her standing outside of the library, confused and just a bit hurt at the way she’d been brushed off.

And I was sure that would have gotten a laugh, or at least a smile out of her... Ohhh Pinkie, what are you gonna do about THIS?!

Pinkie Pie nervously bounced in place in front of the door. She knew Twilight was depressed, but the true extent of the situation had been hard to discern. After all, the bookish mare had scarcely been seen outside of the library in the two weeks since Sam’s departure, and when she had ventured out, her demeanor was so downtrodden that even Pinkie, the ever ebullient party pony, seemed to deflate when she was in sight. Even more telling was the slight, but noticeable, loss of weight that Twilight was exhibiting, a direct result of her now-nonexistent appetite.

As if trying to come up with a plan to rid Twilight of her depression, Pinkie began pacing in front of Twilight’s door.

It’s just not right for somepony to go TWO WHOLE SUPER LONG WEEKS without smiling! I mean that’s just crazy! Like... Like... Not BREATHING! Or not eating cupcakes! Yeah! I mean I can see somepony going a few minutes without smiling, maybe even an hour or two TOPS but... Two weeks?!

Falling back on her haunches and raising a hoof into the air, Pinkie angrily announced her determination to an audience that wasn’t there. “Not smiling?! NOT ON MY WATCH!”

Suddenly, Applejack came galloping in from town looking more than a little panicked. “Pinkie! What’s wrong?! Ah heard somepony hollerin’ from Twi’s place and...” Her expression shifted from worried to annoyed, “There’s actually nothin’ wrong, is there Pinkie?”

The pink mare’s face contorted into a display of disbelief. “Nothing’s wrong? NOTHING’S WRONG?! AJ, Twilight has barely been out of her house in two weeks! I haven’t seen her since like... Three days ago! She’s hurting, and she needs us to make her smile again!”

“Whoa there, Pinkie Pie, maybe ya’ll shouldn’t talk like that right outside her house. But look here sugarcube, Twi’s got a broken heart ta deal with, an’ that ain’t easy. All we can do is be there for her while she heals.”

“I know! But normally when I see somepony feeling sad or blue, I gotta do something to cheer ‘em right up or else I feel all empty inside! So when I heard what happened, I invited Twilight to have lunch with me at Sugarcube Corner, and she actually came! I mean I suppose she couldn’t stay cooped up in the library forever, but I guess she could if Spike made sure to go out and bring her food, but how boring would that be! You’d have to have everypony come to the same place for parties, every time, and don’t get me wrong, I like the library and all but-”

“Pinkie! Ya’ll are gettin’ off topic. What happened when she met up with ya?”

Pinkie giggled bashfully, before regaining her serious appearance and tone of voice. “Sorry! So, about a week after Sam left, Twilight finally came out and took me up on my offer for lunch. She looked bad, AJ, like you when you wore yourself out applebucking, or when I thought you guys hated me and my parties! Her eyes were all dark and dull and kinda puffy like she’d been crying again. I asked her how she was, but she didn’t talk much. She gave real short answers when I asked her stuff, and she barely touched the ginormous chimi-cherry-changa I made her.”

Applejack pawed worriedly at the ground. “Shucks, Pinkie, Ah didn’t know she was THAT bad...”

“I know!” Pinkie exclaimed as her eyes opened wide, “How could anypony only take ONE BITE of a chimi-cherry-changa?! You know, my original slogan for it was ‘Chimi-Cherry! Once you pop, the fun don’t stop!’, but some ponies thought it was too strange to be a pastry slogan...”

Applejack facehoofed. “Pinkie Pie,” she muttered, “Ya’ll are beyond crazy... So, why don’t we drop in an’ see if she feels like chattin’ a bit?”

Pinkie nodded solemnly, and knocked at the door. A few seconds later, Spike answered, looking as if he had just competed in the Running of the Leaves marathon.

“Hey AJ, Pinkie, I’m guessing you’re here to check on Twilight?”

Applejack nodded. “Eeyup.”

Spike sighed and shook his head. “Good luck trying to get her out of her room. She’s been holed up in there for the past two days. She won’t talk to me or let me in her room, except to bring her something to eat when she finally can’t stand being hungry anymore. Even then she’s hardly touching anything I bring her.”

Pinkie’s eyes lit up. “I know just how to fix that,” she reached into a bush next to the door and pulled her hoof out, holding a large, ornately-frosted chocolate cupcake, “I keep these stashed all over Ponyville, in case of cupcake emergencies! Nopony can frown with one of these in their mouths!” she began making loud, exaggerated slurping noises.

Spike shrugged. “Go for it, but I doubt she’ll even crack the door open; when she’s like this, she won’t talk to me. She just cries herself to sleep... She was reshelving the books, and saw a book she used to give Sam his language lessons, and that set her off again... It’s not as bad as what happened when Rarity tried to drag her to the spa under a week ago...”

The farm pony cocked her head. “What happened, Spike?”

Spike pressed a claw to his temple. “Rarity made the mistake of saying a good make-over would leave her looking ‘so wonderfully radiant’ that she could forget about Sam and have any stallion she wanted. Twilight nearly had a small meltdown, but she managed to hold it in long enough to get back home... Anyway, come on in, guys.”

Applejack and Spike followed close behind Pinkie as they entered the house and quietly made their way upstairs to Twilight’s room.

Pinkie carefully and cautiously raised a hoof to Twilight’s bedroom door, and with all of the tact and subtlety of an atom bomb, she began pounding away at the wooden barrier. “HEY TWILIGHT, CAN YA COME OUT AND TALK FOR A SECOND? I GOT YOU THIS SUPER DUPER AWESOME CUPCAKE! IT’S GOT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING WITH SPRINKLES AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND OH MY GOSH I FORGOT, IT’S CHOCOL-HEY!!”

Pinkie’s sugar-fueled tirade was cut short as a purple aura engulfed her and shoved her away from the door.

Applejack brought a hoof to her face in displeasure. “Why don’t ya’ll let me handle this one, Pinkie?” she lightly rapped her hoof against the door, “Twilight? It’s me, Applejack. Spike an’ Pinkie Pie are with me, and we’re all worried ‘bout ya. We ain’t seen ya’ll in a while, and... Well... We just want ya to know that we’re here for ya. Please come out.”

The trio waited in silence, but got no answer.

Inside the room, Twilight was quietly curled up on her bed, staring at the framed picture from Pinkie’s party and remembering the sensation of Sam’s arms around her.

What I wouldn’t give to have him back here with me... He was trying to tell me he loved me, and I didn’t believe him. I kicked him out! Oh Celestia... I am a terrible pony. I deserve this. I let my doubts and insecurities get the best of me, eat away at me, and drive me to ungratefully chase away someone who saved my life...

In the hallway, Applejack had an idea, and motioned Pinkie and Spike to followe her downstairs. “This is lookin’ hopeless... Ah knew she was a mite depressed about this whole thing with Sam, but Ah didn’t know she was shuttin’ herself in like this. It’s time ta bring out tha big guns. If we can’t get Twilight ta come out an’ talk, Ah think Ah know somepony who CAN.” she turned to look at Spike, “Spike, mind takin’ a letter to send to Princess Celestia? We need some advice on how ta help Twi, and not too many ponies know Twilight better than the Princess herself.”

With a nod, Spike immediately grabbed a quill and pen, and set to work taking dictation as Applejack described the series of events that had let to Twilight’s current state of being. Satisfied that all the necessary details were there, Applejack gave the young dragon a nod, signaling him to incinerate the letter, sending it on its way to the Princess of the Sun.


Princess Celestia sat in her usual place on the royal dais in the Grand Hall of the palace, tending to a typical day’s work. As she skimmed through one of her scrolls, an official request from one of her Fillydelphian subjects for an audience concerning a new tax for municipal improvement, a swirl of green smoke gathered several inches from her face, leaving another scroll in midair.

Celestia’s mind immediately reawakened from its paperwork-induced trance, and she immediately unrolled the parchment.

“A letter from Twilight! Oh I haven’t heard from her in a while now. I do so enjoy reading her ‘friendship reports’...”

As the Princess read, it became quickly apparent that this was not a friendly letter, nor was it from Twilight. Though she did not show it, the news of Twilight’s emotional state was most upsetting.

“Excuse me,” Celestia shifted her attention from the letter to one of the guards at the entrance, “would you mind taking this letter to the palace courier? Have him deliver it to Shining Armor immediately with the explanation that it was just sent to me, and that he should make a point to talk to Sam Mitchell about it soon.”

Still held in her glowing white aura, the letter floated from Princess Celestia’s seat towards the guard.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the guard flashed her a quick salute, and galloped out.

Celestia was worried. I’ve been content to sit on the sidelines and hope that either Twilight and Sam might reconcile or that they both might be able to handle this in a healthy manner, but it appears outside intervention is necessary... I suppose I should have foreseen Twilight’s reaction; after all, she was a loner until I pushed her to make friends in Ponyville, and she certainly has never been involved with anypony romantically before. I suppose it only makes sense that she would retreat within herself in the face of pain as severe as first heartbreak... Even Sam is affected, as much as he tries to protest otherwise, her expression turned sour and angry as she visualized him, He isn’t sleeping, he isn’t talking to anypony except to rant at them, and his temper is as short as my sun is bright. He won’t even admit that he misses Twilight, even though it’s as plain as day to anypony else! He’s acting like he did when I first met him. For a being as supposedly advanced as he is, he’s behaving like a dumb ape...


Shining Armor was sitting at his desk in the barracks, re-reading the letter forwarded to him by the Princess for the third time. Finally, he set the parchment down; the dim light of the sun filtering through the windows and the weak candlelight reflecting off of the stone walls weren’t doing his eyes any favors.

The white stallion stood up from his seat, stretching his limbs before beginning to pace around his office in a manner not at all unlike his younger sister.

On one hoof, I want to go track down Sam and make good on the threat I made when I warned him about hurting her... But, that letter makes it sound like it was at least as much Twilight’s fault as it was his, and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time my sister’s neurotic tendencies have gotten the best of her. I don’t know. I need to talk to Cadance about this...

Shining exited his office, and locked the door behind him. On his way out, he pulled his second-in-command aside, a gray pegasus guard in silver armor, and instructed him to take command for a few hours.

Having left the barracks in proper order, Shining proceeded to trot down the cobblestone streets of Canterlot towards the generously-sized house that he and Princess Cadance called home. The fragrant aroma of his wife’s cooking filled his nostrils before he’d even fully opened the door; once inside, he could see that she was in the midst of preparing a large pot of a thick vegetable stew.

Cadance was so wrapped up in her cooking that she didn’t notice her husband entering the kitchen until it was too late; he wrapped a field of magic around her, and quickly pulled her away from the stove into the embrace of his forelegs.

“EEP! WHO IS THAT-” Cadance managed to turn her head to face a mischievously-grinning Shining Armor, “Oh, haha, very funny, you got me, dear.”

Shining let go of her, laughing. “You always squeak when you’re surprised. It never ceases to make me laugh.”

Cadance lightly shoved him away, her face held in a mocking frown.

“Have I ever told you,” Shining continued, still laughing, “how cute you are when you’re mad?”

“More than a few times, Shining,” Cadance replied, shaking her head, “So what brings you home so early? Don’t you usually eat lunch in the chow hall with the other guards? Not that I’m not happy to see you.”

“And don’t you usually have lunch in the castle with your aunts?”

“Oh, yes, usually. But I had a few things to do today, and I thought I’d get an early start on tonight’s meal.”

Shining chuckled. “Being a princess, I’d have thought you’d rather let servants do the cooking.”

Cadance raised an eyebrow. “Aunt Tia and Aunt Luna never did understand my fascination with cooking, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard you complaining, though, dear.”

“Nope, not at all!” He walked over closer to his wife and nuzzled her, “Kind, beautiful, and an amazing cook. I’d say I got the good end of the bargain when we got married; you got cheated!”

Cadance giggled, and returned his affection. “Think what you want, Shining. Anyway, you didn’t answer my question.”

“Oh, right,” Shining levitated Applejack’s letter out of his uniform’s pocket over to Cadance, “read this, and tell me what you think.”

Cadance grasped the letter in her own magical aura, holding it in front of her face as she read; her expression growing increasingly worried.

Finally, she lowered the parchment from her face. “So... Little Twiley and her special somepony had a tiff?”

Shining nodded. “Yeah, and Celestia wants me to do something about it. You read in the letter how badly Twilight is dealing with it. I don’t know whether to go chew Sam out or what.”

Cadance brought a hoof to her chin in thought. “Hmm... Well, the way Applejack put it, Twilight sort of admitted that she let herself get too worked up about something, and you and I both know that’s not terribly out of the ordinary for her...” Cadance shuddered as she remembered some of the legendary obsessive-compulsive fits Twilight had thrown during her foalsitting days. She certainly was a high-strung little filly...

Shining nodded in agreement. “That’s exactly what I was thinking. I’m just not entirely sure what to do.”

“Well, here’s my suggestion. We aren’t sure really which one of them is at fault, so rather than going straight into ‘Big Brother Protector’ mode right away, go find Sam and see if you can’t talk it out with him. If his side of the story matches this letter, and it really is all just a big misunderstanding thanks to Twilight, maybe you could convince him to go back and work things out with her? After all, it seemed like you got on well with him when we last visited Ponyville with your parents.”

“Sounds like a good idea. He did say he owed me a drink the next time we met... I’ll at least have to give him a hard time for not letting us know he was in town, though.”

“Don’t be too rough on him now,” Cadance giggled, “he was a strange sort, but he made Twilight happy, and because of that, I’d love to see them back together again. She’s done so much for all of us, you and I in particular, and she deserves to be happy. In the meantime, since you’re already here, would you like some lunch before you go back to the barracks? The stew is almost done.”

Shining sniffed the air again, taking in the scent of the various spices and seasonings his wife had added to the mix. “That sounds wonderful. And I’ll go track down Sam for a drink tonight, probably see if I can’t catch him coming out of the academy; you should go have dinner with your aunts tonight, since we’re already having the stew for lunch. I’ll meet you in the gardens afterwards and tell you how it went.”

“I did need to ask Celestia about the plans for the next gala... Sure, that should work out nicely.” Cadance turned her attention back to the stove, “Now you go have a seat, lunch will be ready in a minute!”


Having taken the academic portion of his officers’ studies at the Royal Academy, Shining Armor was all too familiar with the esteemed establishment’s schedule. As the clock tower looming over the austere brick building struck six times, a slowly increasing stream of weary students and bespectacled professors trotted out of the building.

Shining was beginning to wonder if Sam hadn’t taken to doing his research from the castle’s library, until he finally he saw a thin form standing taller than the rest of the ponies making their exit from the school building.

Sheesh, the Princess wasn’t kidding, he looks awful! Has he even eaten since he got here? Maybe it’s not such a good idea to grab a drink with him, after all.

“Hey! Sam Mitchell! Long time, no see!”

As Shining approached the haggard human, he caught a glimpse of shock and apprehension in Sam’s eyes. He extended a hoof in greeting; Sam nervously grasped it and shook.

Please tell me Celestia didn’t send Shining after me, I really don’t wanna deal with the pissed off older brother of an ex-girlfriend, let alone a pissed off older brother who can use magic and command armies to trample my crippled ass...

“H-hey, Shining, how are you?” Sam tried to mask his unease, in the event that Shining really was just meeting him on friendly terms.

Shining put on his friendliest smile and laughed. “Judging by the looks of you, I should ask you the same thing. Anyway, I heard you were in town, figured we could catch up. One of us owes the other a drink, but I don’t remember who.” Maybe if I keep things totally genial, he’ll be more open to talking about what went down with Twilight... What would Cadance do, right?

Sam shrugged. “Sure, I’m down.” Just one drink, we’ll have a friendly chat, and that’ll be it, I hope.

“Great! By the way, I hope I’m not out of line, but didn’t you need crutches or a cane to get around last time we met? And your speech sounds... Different. New translation spell?”

Sam reached down and pulled up his right pant-leg to reveal the mechanical brace on his leg. “Bunsen and the other lab coats helped me make this so I could walk with my hands free. As for the speech, no, no more magic, I’ve been learning your language. Probably sounds a bit off to you, since my computer has been helping me practice at home.”

Shining scratched his chin as he considered the military applications of Sam’s exoskeleton brace. “Interesting. Anyway, follow me, there’s a place a few blocks off of the main path that has the best beer; it’s all brewed on site.”

Sam did as he was told, and awkwardly limped along beside the blue-haired stallion, as passersby in the street looked on in confusion, wondering why the Captain of the Royal Guard was associating with such a bizarre creature.

A few minutes later, they arrived at the pub, a rather nondescript building with bare wooden support beams and stucco walls, not unlike the cottages of Ponyville; they got there not a minute too soon, according to Sam’s hip. The sign read “The Saucy Mare”, almost leading Sam to expect a pony strip club were it not for the lack of both tacky lighting and drunken jeering.

As Sam ducked down and followed Shining Armor inside, he noticed how quiet it was, especially for a pub. While in most places Sam’s entrance would have drawn a few curious stares, the occupants of the various tables in the bar continued as they were.

The two took a seat at the bar, and waited for the bartender to take their order.

Shining decided to be the one to break the awkward silence. “So, Sam, how goes everything at the academy?”

Sam’s eyes flicked upwards absent-mindedly. “Eh, I could take it or leave it.”

“That bad, eh?”

“Oh no, not at all, it’s just wonderful working with a group of ponies who think they constantly have to prove to the almighty mathematical monkey that they aren’t REALLY as backwards as they appear to be. Really, I just wish they’d stop trying to one-up each other around me and actually do some work. They’re like kids.”

“Reminds me,” Shining chuckled, “of my days of officers’ training in the academy. It’s good to see their attitudes haven’t changed much, I suppose.”

Sam gave an exasperated sigh. “That’s just the problem, Bunsen and Hoofstein ALMOST get it, but the others just don’t understand that hubris and world-changing, and potentially world-ending, technology just don’t mix. That’s the sort of attitude that caused them to nearly kill me!”

The bartender, a grey-maned stallion in a black vest, interrupted the conversation to take their orders. “What’ll ya have?”

Sam looked at Shining and shrugged.

“Two of the oak stouts, please,” Shining said to the barkeeper.

“Sure thing, comin’ up.”

Shining turned back towards Sam. “Anyway, yeah I can’t say I envy your job.”

“And,” Sam raised an eyebrow, “I can’t say I envy yours.”

The barpony slid two filled glasses towards Sam and Shining, prompting both of them to take a swig.

“Ahh,” Shining sighed, “Haven’t had this stuff in ages. Whaddya think, Sam?”

“Not bad. Never been big on stouts, but this is different. Can’t place my finger on it though.”

“Yeah...” Shining trailed off. Horsefeathers. Can’t think of anything to talk about besides my sister. Screw it, I’m a guardspony, not a guidance counselor, buck subtlety...

Another awkward silence fell upon the two friends as they both looked down at their drinks.

“Eeyup,” Sam replied. Damn, who am I, Big Macintosh? Well, looks like big brother ran out of small talk... “Alright, Shining, let’s cut to the chase.”

Shining levitated his mug up to his lips, and took another gulp of the heavy brew. “Sounds like a plan to me.”

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind hanging out with you,” Sam said with an accusatory glare, “but how did you know I was here, and what made you want to meet up with me?”

“Celestia told me. Sam, I know all about what happened with you and my sister. Or rather, I know something happened. Twilight’s friends sent a letter to the Princess explaining everything, or rather, everything from their limited knowledge and what Twilight told them,” Shining Armor fixed an eerily calm stare on Sam, “but I’d love to hear your side. Really, I just want to know what happened so I can help my sister.”

Sam felt his heart drop slightly at the implication that Twilight might not be well, despite his brain’s stern commands to ignore the feeling. “How about this, tell me what you know, and I’ll tell you if I have anything that fills in the gaps or is contradictory.”

Shining sighed. “Alright, sounds fine. Basically, you and Twilight had a fight; she let her guilt over your replicator injury get the best of her, and started to think you didn’t like her or something. There was also something about you acting uncomfortable around her, I didn’t really understand that part. Anyway, she kicked you out.”

Sam just stared at the counter, watching the condensation from his mug collect on the varnished wood of the bar. “Sounds like you know everything then.”

“Great,” Shining shook his head, “honestly I was afraid of that. Twilight’s always been a little high-strung, a little high-maintenance, so I kind of wondered how she’d handle the trauma of the attack followed by the sudden excitement of finding her first romantic interest... In a way this is good news, though.”

Sam looked from his mug towards the stallion. “How so?”

“Well,” Shining chuckled nervously, “whenever she stresses out over things, usually all she needs is somepony to firmly remind her of how things really are and a little time to work things out in her head. If you were to go back now, and basically make her sit down and talk to you, she’d likely hug you to death and apologize until she was out of breath.”

Sam sighed. “Sorry, Shining, not gonna happen.”

Shining nearly spat out his beer. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me, Shining. I hate the way things went, but I think this is for the best,” Sam stared down the stallion, “look, I really do care about your sister. She’s done more for me than I could ever hope to repay her for, but it wouldn’t be a normal relationship with me. The ponies in Ponyville were really understanding and accepting of us, as were your parents and yourself. But, just on my own around here I get enough strange looks, and I can hear them whispering about the ‘two-legged freak’ when I pass by.”

“What, so you’re going to ignore my sister just because you’re afraid of what other ponies think?”

“No! Well, not exactly,” Sam rubbed the back of his head as he looked away in thought, “I just don’t want to subject Twilight to that.”

Shining Armor felt his pulse quickening as he fought to keep his temper down. “Sam, let me ask you a question. Do you think Twilight is stupid?”

Sam tilted his head in confusion. “Uhh, no, I don’t.”

“So, wouldn’t you think Twilight had considered that sort of thing as a possible consequence of being with you? And, do you think she cared? Don’t worry about answering; if you’re going to base your decision to leave her like this on the concern that she might get laughed at, don’t you think should at least ask her about that before you cut her off for good?”

Sam held his face in his hand and groaned. “You don’t get it! It’s not that I don’t care about her, Shining. I loved her, and I tried to tell her that. It’s obvious to me that being with me is just too... Ugh, I don’t know. I just want her to have a normal life, ok? She deserves someone, somepony, rather, who can give her that and all the things that go with it, like a family of her own, or the chance to have a relationship that doesn’t require her to constantly explain all the ins and outs of your society!”

Shining Armor was slowly losing control of his temper, and it showed in the way his voice was raising. “Sam! You listen to me and get your sorry primate ass back to Ponyville! Twilight Sparkle, my sister, is letting herself waste away, if her friends are to be believed. She’s depressed, not eating like she used to, for Celestia’s sake, Sam, it sounds like she’s doing worse than you, and let’s face it, you look like you’re half dead.”

Once again, despite considerable effort to ignore it, Sam felt his heart breaking; struggling to force down his tears, he looked back up at Shining. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Shining, even though I know you will, but she’ll get over me,” he forced out the words in a cold, mechanical tone, “now drop the subject.”

Shining glared at him. “No, I don’t think so. Twilight needs you.”

“Shining, wild horses couldn’t drag me back there,” Sam sneered.

“Why you callous son of a-”

“Can it,” Sam dropped a few bits on the counter before chugging the rest of his beer, “that should cover our drinks. Take it easy, Shiny. I’m going home.”

Sam coolly stood up, and limped out of the bar back towards the castle, wincing with every step. As he traveled, he couldn’t keep his mind off of what Shining had said, and wondered if he was doing the right thing by not returning to Twilight. If she’s really that distraught... Maybe I should go back... No. She couldn’t be patient with me, wouldn’t believe me, and kicked me out. As pleasant as the idea of a relationship sounds, I should’ve known it wouldn’t work out. I’m too different, I’m an alien, and the only such alien in the world, now...

He continued his slow walk down the dimly-lit cobblestone path, trying not to dwell on the idea of Twilight pining away for him. It’s like I said, it’s for the best. Even if she did lose her mind on me, she deserves someone better than me, someone more like her. Though, if I did decide to go back to her, there is the transformation spell... NO. That’s... No, that’s retarded. I am who I am. I’m a human, not a pony. Besides... Wouldn’t that be like converting to a different religion just to impress a girl, but on a much larger scale of stupidity? No, it’s for the best that I stay here and make sure Bunsen and Hoofstein don’t unleash a scourge of cyber zombies or something...

Sam had been so lost in his thoughts, he scarcely noticed that he’d arrived back at the castle grounds. He ambled down the corridors back to his room, the strong beer serving to both keep his mind off the pain in his hip as well as slightly dull it.

He sat down at his desk to begin his nightly routine of poring through the medical magic spellbook, giving up after half an hour due to his swimming mind and the mixture of rage and sorrow he felt over the conversation he’d had with Shining Armor.

Giving up for the night, he marked his place, and flung himself onto the bed. After what seemed like an eternity, his mind finally stopped racing, and he began drifting off to sleep. His eyes were almost totally shut, when a clap of thunder nearly blew the bedroom door off of it’s hinges.

Sam bolted upright, and frantically looked around to see if he could spot the intruder; the room was oddly silent.

“Who’s there?!” he cried out.

In response, a blur of pastel blue appeared and shoved him back down on the bed, immobilized by an aura of cerulean light.


Sam blindly fumbled his hand around on the side table, and managed to hit the switch on the lamp, showing him clearly who his assailant was.

“Princess Cadance?!”

“Yes, and I think we need to have a little chat,” she released Sam’s upper body from her magical grip and allowed him to sit up while still pinned to the bed.

“I’m guessing Shining told you about our conversation?” A light nod from Cadance prompted him to continue, “Look, I’ll tell you like I told him, I’m not going back to Ponyville.”

Cadance leaned down, leaving her muzzle only inches from Sam’s face. “And just why is that?”

“It’s for the best. She deserves somePONY more like her, and trying to deal with someone, someTHING as different as me, it just wouldn’t work out.”

Cadance cocked her head slightly, and fixed Sam with a stare that almost seemed inquisitive. “Oh, is that so? Is that what you keep telling yourself?” she intoned, almost mockingly, looking away, “I didn’t know you were omniscient. Maybe I should tell Celestia and Luna that they can take some vacation time.”

“Look, I’m done talking about this Cadance, as much as I hate what happened, it happened.”

“Yeah?” Cadance looked back at Sam, a few tears flowing from her eyes, “Well I’m NOT. Sam, Twilight loved you. Still does, if her behavior says anything... You two managed to find a soulmate in each other; the most amazing unicorn mage of our time, and an equally brilliant scientist from practically another world. If you two can't see that you are meant for each other...” She fully released Sam from her aura, and sat down on the bed next to him, “Look, I’m sorry if I kind of overreacted when I came in. See, I’ve known Twilight since she was just a tiny filly, and I’d do anything to protect her and make her happy. Believe me when I say you mean more to her than you could possibly know, and I can tell, even if you’re trying to hide it from yourself and everypony else, how much you miss her. Please, give her a second chance.”

Sam sighed. “Cadance, I’m not going back. As much as I hate how Twilight must feel, she kicked me out. I tried to calm her down, explain to her how wrong she was about me, but she wouldn’t listen. She just kept fighting.”

Cadance placed a hoof on Sam’s shoulder. “If there’s one thing I learned from foalsitting her, it’s that that’s when you have to fight back and just hold her as tightly as you can until she calms down. Worked when she would get fussy or frustrated as a young child, and I don’t doubt it would work as an adult, especially coming from somepony, or some weird, bald ape, that she cares about.”

Sam slowly pulled away from Cadance’s hoof. “I’m sorry, I just can’t deal with that. I don’t think I can deal with our differences if this is how it’s going to be. Before the fight, I almost thought I could, that’s the ironic part of it all.”

Cadance looked Sam in the eye, a look of genuine concern on her face. “But don’t you care about her at all? Do you really not feel worse off for not having her around you?”

“I don’t really feel much of anything, except for this damned hip of mine... Please, just leave me alone, it’s for the b-”

“NO, SAM,” Cadance roared, jumping back to her feet and once more pinning Sam to his bed in her aura, “no more of that pesudo-selfless garbage. I’d hoped that my husband might have been able to talk some sense into you, stallion to stallion, or, stallion to monkey...”

“Stallion to man,” Sam corrected.

“Whatever! I don’t really care. Point is, when Shining told me you weren’t listening, I figured I might be able to reason with you, make you understand how Twilight must feel, but I can see now you’ve got your heart hardened against making things right. I’d hoped that I wouldn’t have to resort to this, but I’m going to MAKE you remember why you loved her...”

Cadance’s horn began to glow even brighter, along with her eyes, as she brought it down and touched Sam’s forehead.

Immediately, Sam found himself reliving simultaneously every moment he’d shared with Twilight; their first few “interviews” in the library, his suicide attempt and Twilight’s subsequent attempts to comfort him, their time spent together working in the library basement, cuddling together watching movies whose humor often eluded Twilight, Sam’s sacrifice to save her from the replicators, waking up to see her smiling and crying next to him in the hospital, their first kiss together, and every date night they’d had together. All at once, these memories came crashing into him like a tsunami of simultaneously boiling and freezing water.

After what felt like an eternity of reliving the best and worst memories of his time with Twilight, Sam’s consciousness finally returned to reality. The shock of the experience left him disoriented and nauseated; he fell to the floor from his bed, sobbing uncontrollably, barely able to sound out the phrase, “I’m sorry.”

Cadance once again surrounded Sam in her aura, but this time to gently lift him up and back onto the bed. She again sat down next to him on the bed, and stretched a wing out around him.

“I’m sorry that I had to do that, Sam...”

Sam sat silently in the embrace of the Princess of Love, as he attempted to regain control of himself. “No, no, I’m the one that should apologize,” he said, in between ragged breaths, “I acted like a real jerk. You’re right, you, Shining, Celestia, all of you. I’ll do it. I’ll go back and try to make things right.”

Cadance allowed a tiny smile to form on her face. “I’m glad to hear it. Will you need any help getting back to Ponyville?”

Sam shook his head. “No, I can’t go yet, I need another day or two.”

“Why’s that?”

“I need to think about a few things. If I’m going to patch things up with Twilight, I want to make sure I do it right, and leave no doubt in her mind that I meant absolutely everything I said to her.” Sam looked up at Cadance with an expression of determination, “If you and Shining Armor are right, then she’s already realized her mistake, and is probably beating herself up about it. I want to make damn sure she understands that I forgive her, too.”

Cadance was beaming, and a few more stray tears were flowing down her face. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that, Sam. I’ll leave you be, goodnight.” She started for the door.

“Princess? Cadance?”

The pink alicorn turned back to face Sam. “Yes?”

“One more thing,” Sam cleared his throat, “do you really think it’ll work out? Between Twilight and me, that is. How can I be sure that it will?”

Cadance laughed softly. “That’s just it, Sam. You really can’t be sure. I can tell you this, though; if you resolve to do whatever it takes to put love first, you’ll be surprised at what can happen. Given what you’ve done for Twilight already, I would have thought that you already knew that. Goodnight, lab monkey.”

“Goodnight, and thanks. Seriously though, quit it with the monkey jokes,” Sam replied, rolling his eyes as he dried them on his shirt sleeve. So much for getting a good night of sleep.

Doubting his ability to return to sleep anytime soon, Sam opted instead to get some fresh air. He clasped his leg brace back on, laced up his shoes, and limped out of his room, ignoring the painful protests of his hip.

Every few minutes, as he walked to the nearest exit, he passed by a few guards on patrol; they eyed him suspiciously, but only out of a desire to be diligent in their duties.

Sam decided to wander around through the gardens; even during the day they were usually completely devoid of visitors, and the serene quiet that pervaded the fragrant flowers and hedges made the gardens an ideal place in which to get lost in thought. He painfully limped around, until he found a bench located in a small alcove in the hedges.

He sat down, and looked up at the stars, wondering what exactly he was going to do to clear the air and restore his relationship with Twilight. After considering the old standby of a gigantic bouquet of flowers, chocolates, and any other romance cliches, he decided the best route would be to simply go back to her, and lay it all on the table; Sam felt she’d appreciate a direct approach. He could always save the flowers and such for a happier occasion.

Having settled that matter in his mind, Sam let his thoughts wander to more long term issues.

Sighing as a cool breeze drifted through the bushes, Sam thought aloud, “So... Let’s say she and I fix things up happily forever after... Or we don’t. The only difference between the two is that I live out my life as an alien creature either alone or with someone who cares about me and can help me deal. Regardless, if I can’t find something in these old books to help my leg, I’m going to be one uncomfortable cripple for the rest of my life...”

Sam sat quietly, staring at the clear night sky. He shivered as he felt the cool air against his skin, a sign that Autumn must be coming soon.

Have I really been here that long?

Soon, Sam found his thoughts turning to the transformation spell; the idea of actually using it had entered into his mind a few times throughout the day, especially right after lunch when he had to introduce himself to a new scientist that had joined the team.

He half-heartedly laughed as he remembered how the new pony had reacted; once the initial shock of seeing a creature as foreign as a human had worn off, the poor stallion made the mistake of constantly staring and startling at Sam’s slightest movement, and in doing so had earned himself a slot on the human’s list of emotional punching bags. This came at much conflicting relief and guilt for Bunsen, as it lessened the attention he himself received.

Still, despite his efforts to understand the new scientist’s position, Sam couldn’t help but feel hurt over the reaction. Will everyone else I meet from here out treat me that way? Like I’m some sort of freak attraction?

As much as he hated to admit it, the idea of using the spell was becoming a bit more attractive. I’d finally be free of this pain; sure I could wait around and maybe find some medication here that could work for me, but best case scenario, I stay on painkillers for the rest of my life. Worst case, I stay on painkillers for the rest of my life and become a junkie. Transforming... It’d be an easy way out, and it would certainly have its benefits; being able to heal myself would just be the beginning... I’d be able to live just like any other member of society here. I wouldn’t have to worry as much about my diet, I could actually fit in most buildings comfortably, and I wouldn’t have to constantly explain to everyone what I am and how I got here. I’m tired of reliving that memory.

Sam stood up from the bench, and paced around slowly, unable to believe what he was thinking. And... If I’m going to seriously try for a relationship with Twilight... Maybe letting myself get turned into a pony would work out for the best; there’d be no more reason for me to feel odd about the situation. And, if I could ever get comfortable with the idea... I could even have a normal family of my own someday... Well, normal by Equestrian standards, and even then as normal as ‘my daddy used to be a bald monkey’ can be. Hell, I could even go on to meet someone else, if things fell through with Twilight, not that I am hoping for that, though. Bottom line, I could fit in, lead a ‘normal’ life... But would I still be me? I’d obviously still have my memories, but would having a new body change who I am? How I think?

His pacing sped up. “Brain, I swear to whatever gods may be out there, if you keep going in the direction you’re going, I’m going to go get a lobotomy by headbutting Luna. With my face.”

Sam shrugged. Whatever. I’m just talking to myself. I’ve come up with several positives of changing, but negatives? No more hands. That means, my laptop is useless, I’ll have to learn to write all over again, and my job will become much harder... Unless I was a unicorn? Hey, then Twilight could teach me magic; she certainly seemed to enjoy just teaching me Equestrian language, and I’d ALMOST have hands again... Suddenly, he felt as though a lightbulb had lit up inside his mind, Speaking of Twilight, offering to do this could be a sure-fire way to prove to her that not only am I not uncomfortable about her being a pony, but that I really am not holding any grudges about our split... It almost makes sense...

After ten minutes of pacing, the adrenaline from his encounter with Cadance was finally wearing off, signaling Sam to attempt to get some sleep.

Walking back inside, Sam gave a sigh of exhaustion, “I can’t believe I’m honestly considering that. I need to talk to Celestia about this tomorrow... I get the feeling I’m about to have a long day...”


“You’re considering WHAT?!” Celestia hastily levitated a lacey handkerchief to her snout, dabbing away at the bit of tea she’d nearly sent spraying out of her mouth onto the unnerved human seated on a cushion in front of her.

“Yeah, believe me, you’re as shocked as I am,” Sam groaned, hearing his voice echo through Celestia’s throne room, “but it’s an idea I can’t shake out of my head, and I really just felt the need to talk to someone about it.”

“I see,” Celestia floated her teacup safely away, in case of further shocking revelations, “I am glad to hear that you will be returning to Ponyville to make amends with my student, but... Are you sure that THIS is how you’ll do it?”

Sam absentmindedly reached behind his head, “I don’t even really know if I’m serious about this. Ever since I asked you about the transformation spell, the idea has been just kinda sitting in my mind, but it wasn’t until Cadance spoke with me about Twilight that my brain really went into overdrive on it.”

“I certainly understand how it could sound attractive, Sam, and I’m not just saying that out of bias towards my own form. But, are you sure you could deal with that level of change? You’ve barely been here but a few months, and by your own admission you don’t feel very acclimated to our society,” the Princess tilted her head slightly, “not that I’m trying to convince you one way or another, though.”

Sam sighed. “You’re right, I don’t feel fully comfortable out and about. But, that’s mainly due to how different I am from everyone else here. You ponies are a really accepting lot, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel any less out of place. Nor does it mean that folks won’t still stare and glare a bit,” he looked down at the cushion beneath him, “frankly, the only time I really felt even close to truly accepted around here was among Twilight and her friends.”

A slight smile played across Celestia’s face. “Yes, that is indeed a quality of theirs that has so endeared them to me. But, Sam, if you are serious about even POSSIBLY making the change, I want you to consider the ramifications of that action.”

“Such as?” Sam replied, raising an eyebrow.

“For starters, are you prepared to deal with the fact that you’ll be voluntarily removing the last human being from existence? You’ll be exchanging your body for a totally new one; can you handle the challenge of adjusting to that? We never developed a counterspell, as we never needed one; as you already know, the transformation is permanent.”

“That first bit is pretty heavy, Princess... But I think coming to terms with that kinda came with the territory of realizing that all the others like me are gone and,” Sam laughed bitterly, “as my people once said, when in Rome, do as the Romans... But as long as I’ve got Twilight, and I hope I still do when I return to her, I think I can deal.”

“Ah, you see, that brings me to my next point; make sure that if you do it, you do it for the right reasons.”

“And those are?”

“I think you already know, Sam, but if you still feel any doubts, I would make certain to discuss this matter with Twilight before making a decision. After all, if you have any intention of repairing this mess into a lasting relationship, you can’t just act as if major decisions like, say, changing species, only affect one of you.”

“Right. I see where you’re going with this; I should see how Twilight feels...” Sam’s tone turned glum, “... Something I shoulda done early on, before I basically let her drive herself crazy...”

Celestia reached down and placed a hoof on Sam’s shoulder. “Don’t beat yourself up about it. The important thing is that you’re going to try to right this. And,” she continued, smiling, “if I know my student, and I certainly do, she’ll be overjoyed to see you and forget that any of this ever happened. Now, please do go get packed. I would like to hear very soon that Twilight is out of her depression and that you are over your issues,” she continued, grumbling, “you certainly have a multitude of them.”

Sam slowly stood up, and stretched.

“That’s the plan, Princess,” he said with a bow, “and thank you for the advice. You gave me a lot to think about.”

“I should hope so. Meanwhile, I will be reading up on the transformation spell, as well as the healing spell, in case you should decide to avail yourself of them.”

“Thanks, Princess. Don’t let the Academy do anything stupid while I’m away. Hopefully I’ll have good news to write to you about soon. And... Would you mind sending a letter to Spike to have him meet me at the train station? I’d do it myself but you’ve got that whole magical, instant mail thing going with the little guy.”

“Certainly, Sam,” Celestia nodded, “have a good trip, and please, take care of Twilight.”

Sam returned to his room, and began preparing for his travels, feeling optimistic for the first time since his arrival in the city.


A few hours later, Sam had finished loading up his bags, and was beginning to make his way outside, where he had hired a chariot to wait for him.

On his way out of the stone corridors, he passed by none other than Shining Armor.

“Hey,” the Captain spoke, “I hear you’re going back to Ponyville.”

Sam dropped his bag. “Yeah... I’m guessing your wife told you all about everything then, eh?”

“Yeah,” Shining replied with a smirk, “there’s a reason I volunteered to talk to you first, because I knew I’d go easier on you than she would, heh. She had to use her ‘Power of Love’ on you, didn’t she,” he chuckled.

Sam smiled weakly. “Yeah, she did, and obviously it got the point across. Well, all the same, I’m really sorry about the way I acted and handled all of this.”

“Let’s just forget this ever happened. You’ve been through a lot from what I understand, I suppose I should’ve tried to understand your situation better. But the important thing is that you’re gonna take care of my sister.”

“Hopefully,” Sam nodded, “I just hope she’ll listen to me this time instead of driving herself crazy.”

Shining shrugged, “Just remember what Cadance and I told you, and you’ll be fine.”

“I suppose. I think I may have an ‘Ace in the Hole’, though.”

The white stallion cocked his head in confusion, “What do you mean?”

“It’s an expression; I’ve got something secret that might help me out.”

“Care to explain?”

“Can’t right now, but don’t worry,” Sam said with a wink, “Anyway, gotta get going or else I might miss my train.”

“Alright then. Tell Twiley that Cadance and I said hello, once you two are finished making up,” Shining leaned over, inches from Sam’s face, with a menacing look in his eye, “and don’t let me EVER hear of you running out on her again.”

Sam nodded, and hobbled out to the waiting chariot.

Shining Armor turned around and walked down the hall in the opposite direction, rounding a corner where his wife and Princess Celestia were waiting and smiling.

“Sheesh, honey, you really did a number on him, didn’t you?”

Cadance blushed slightly, “Oh, you know, it was nothing. The thoughts and feelings were already there, I just had to remind him.”

“Well,” Celestia sighed, “I suppose if anypony could have changed his mind, it would be the Princess of Love, wouldn’t it? I’m just glad he’s going back. Those two need each other.”


“Ponyville station! Thirty minute stop!” The conductor cried out, prompting Sam to haul his backpack up onto his back.

Sam ambled onto the platform, stretching his arms. Can’t believe I’m back so soon... I really thought I’d never come back. Funny how things work out.

He continued through the station and saw Spike waiting at the steps.

“It’s about time you came back, you jerk,” the little dragon sneered.

Sam laughed bitterly. “I suppose I deserve that...”

“No, I actually think I oughta flame-broil you right here," Spike chuckled, "but then we’d never be able to console Twilight.”

“I get it, I get it, I screwed up,” Sam dropped his bags and stooped down to meet Spike on his level, “believe me when I say I regret what happened, and I’ve already dealt with far worse than you over it. Ever dealt with Princess Cadance when she’s pissed?”

Spike gulped audibly. “Uh, no, but I can imagine.”

“Good, so I’m sorry. But cut it out with the joking, Spike. I don’t need it, especially not today.”

“Okay, okay, but remember, it’s not me you gotta apologize to.”

Sam stood up. “You don’t have to tell me twice, now let’s go.”

“Alright, already got a pony-cab waiting for us around the corner, figured you wouldn’t wanna walk all the way back,” Spike said, eyeing Sam’s leg, “by the way, where’s your cane?”

“Oh, the lab guys at Canterlot helped me build a special brace for my leg. Still hurts like hell, but at least I can walk somewhat normally. And thanks, about the cab. Why are they called pony-cabs here, but chariots in the city?”

“Beats me. Now let’s go, Twilight should be out of her room right now. Once she goes back to sleep, good luck dragging her back out. She’s learned how to hold the door shut with magic in her sleep because she got tired of me trying to cheer her up.”

“Sheesh,” Sam picked his backpack up, “I suppose we really should get going then...”

The ride back to the library was awkwardly quiet; neither Sam nor Spike felt like talking much. They both had one thing in common weighing on their minds, though: Twilight Sparkle’s emotional well-being.

Eventually, the cart arrived in front of the library. Sam disembarked first, but stopped Spike before he could get off as well.

“What gives, bro?” Spike inquired.

Sam placed a hand on the dragon’s shoulder, “Look, if you want me to fix this, you’re gonna need to give Twi and I a little time to ourselves. We’re going to have a lot to talk about. I’ll pay the driver to take you wherever else you’d like to go. Just meet me at Sugarcube Corner tomorrow with the rest of Twilight’s friends, okay? You’ll either get to smile with Twilight or punish me however you see fit.”

Spike looked concerned. “Okay, if you’re sure, but,” he glared at Sam, “next time I see you, Twilight better be back to her old self again or else I’m gonna make good on my threat to fire-roast you.”

“Alright, alright, take it easy.”

Sam watched as the cart pulled away, with Spike giving him the evil-eye until he was out of sight.

He hefted his bag back onto his shoulders, and began walking towards the door. He hesitated before going in.

Well, here goes nothing...

Sam didn’t bother knocking; the door was unlocked, as it usually was during the day. Once inside, he was surprised to see Twilight in the middle of reshelving a few titles, almost in a daze.

The sight of her condition drove a jagged spear of pain through Sam’s heart. He could tell that, though she had been ‘sleeping’ more than usual as of late, she wasn’t getting any rest. Her eyes were dull and listless, with deep, dark circles underneath them. Her usually precisely straight mane was tangled and unkempt, as was her tail. She also seemed several pounds lighter.

Without looking away from the shelf, Twilight called out unenthusiastically, “If you’re looking for any title in particular, I’ll be with you in a minute...”

Sam dropped his bag and slowly walked towards her. “Twilight?”

At the sound of his voice, she quickly looked up, her expression one of extreme shock. “Sam...?”

He responded by nodding.

Twilight began walking towards him, nervously. She stopped a few feet short of where Sam stood, still staring him in the eye, unsure of what to make of the situation.

Sam stooped down, bringing himself down to her eye level. They stayed there, just looking at each other, for what felt like an hour. After a few minutes had slowly crept by, Twilight took a few more shaky steps towards the crouched human, jumped up, and wrapped her forelegs around him so tightly that Sam felt as though she were strangling him.

Finally, her grip loosened as she began sobbing uncontrollably, only able to get the word “sorry” out. Sam just returned the embrace, held her tightly, and ran his hand through her mane as she cried on his shoulder.

Once Twilight’s tears had slowed, she pulled away slightly to face Sam. “I’m so sorry, Sam... I... I didn’t... You...”

Sam tightened his arms around her, rubbing her back and failing miserably to choke back his own tears, leading to another few minutes of the two of them simply sobbing in each other’s embrace.

After they had both calmed down again, Sam spoke. “Twilight, don’t apologize. I shouldn’t have just left like that. You must have thought I was terrible for that... Please forgive me for it.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I’m the one that has to apologize! After the way I flipped out, I couldn’t blame you for leaving... I deserved it... I don’t deserve for you to come back... You, Applejack, everypony tried to tell me after we got out of the hospital that you took that hit for me because you cared, but I couldn’t shake the guilt...”

Sam gently pulled her head close until his nose was pressed against hers. “Twilight, of course you deserve for me to come back... Frankly, I feel like you deserve better than that... But I’ll get to that later... It was unfair of me to decide to start a relationship with you when I wasn’t sure how I felt about us.”

Twilight took a ragged breath, as if she were about to cry again. “Are you saying... That... You don’t want to come back to stay?”

Sam’s eyes grew wide as he shook his head. “Oh, no! No, everything that I said before, I meant it. That’s the sorta stuff I was trying to tell you before we had our fight...”

Twilight’s ears drooped down even further. “Oh... Oh my gosh... I really am an idiot Sam...”

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not! I should have been more patient with you!” She sniffled, “You told me early on that this was different for you, but I guess I just didn’t realize exactly how right you were...”

Sam laughed weakly. “So it sounds like we both have a lot to apologize for. How about we forget it, and promise to actually talk to each other about stuff like this? You know, instead of letting it drive us crazy?”

Twilight stepped back and dropped onto all fours again, her tear-streaked face adorned with a smile for the first time since Sam first left. “Sounds like a good deal to me... I’m glad you’re home... And,” her eyes began watering again, “you really meant what you said before you left?”

Sam reached out and pulled her close to him, causing her ears to perk up. “Of course, Twilight. I really meant it; I love you.”

Twilight’s smile stretched from ear to ear, and she choked back a few tiny sobs before replying, “I love you, too...”

They stayed that way for a few more minutes, happy to be back in each other’s company.

Eventually, Twilight broke the silence again. “But what were you talking about earlier, when you said I deserved better?”

Sam sat down, easing the pain in his hip. “Well, one of the ways I justified leaving was that you deserved a relationship with someone normal, more like you,”

“Normal? Sam,” Twilight scoffed, “have you even met me?”

“Yes, now let me finish,” Sam chuckled, “I just meant that not everyone, er, everyPONY as you say, would be as tolerant of you and I being together. You should have seen some of the strange looks and comments I got from folks in Canterlot, just on my own.”

“I can’t say I’d care about that,” Twilight responded, matter-of-factly.

“I’m almost done. I just got to thinking, there would be many things you’d miss out on if you insisted on a long-term relationship with me, I’m assuming that’s what you want, right?”

Twilight nodded, confused as to where Sam was going with this.

“Well, one big one is that we wouldn’t be able to have our own family down the road, you know? I mean, I’m already well aware of the fact that that’s an impossibility for me, but why should you deal with that too?”

Twilight blushed slightly at the implications. “I... Uh... I mean, one day, that’s something I had looked forward to before I met you, but that’s a situation that we could have dealt with together!”

Sam shook his head. “I know, I know, I never said this was a GOOD justification.”

“So...” Twilight tilted her head in confusion, “What are you getting at?”

“Well,” Sam sighed nervously, “I still want you to be able to have that sort of normalcy. So, I’ve got a proposition for you. You may not like it at first, but you gotta hear me out, okay?”


Sam stood up and began pacing. “So, a large part of my free time in Canterlot was spent-”

“Sam! How are you walking without your cane?!”

Sam groaned, and pulled up his pant leg, revealing, for the hundredth time, the brace he was wearing. “The lab guys helped me build it, and yes my leg and hip are still quite painful. Anyway, that’s kinda related to what I was doing in my spare time, looking for spells or potions that might fix me, or at least help me really control my pain,” he glanced down to Twilight, “Which, would you mind using that spell on me again? My colleagues helped me with it a few times, but not often...”

Twilight nodded and obliged, prompting Sam to continue.

“So, I never found anything, except two spells. One looked promising, but after more carefully translating it, and talking to Celestia, it turned out to be a very powerful spell capable of changing any creature into a pony. A second spell turned out to do exactly what I need; it is capable of completely regenerating the body and healing most injuries.”

Twilight scratched her head in confusion. “So, why haven’t you used it?”

“Well, it only works on ponies. It had an explicit warning that use on non-ponies would at best do nothing, but the Princess tells me that it was more likely to horrifically disfigure and mutilate me. Plus, like the transformation spell, it requires an intense amount of power; by Celestia’s estimates, only she, her sister, and possibly yourself would be capable of such energy.”

“Right, and it’s likely a complicated spell, too...”

Sam nodded. “So, that all brings me to this. I’m considering letting Celestia use the transformation spell on me.”

“WHAT?! Sam, you... You can’t! You don’t have to change for me or anypony else! I care about WHO you are, not WHAT you are!”

“Whoa, calm down,” Sam said, waving a hand in front of himself, “like I said, you gotta hear me out.”


“Everyone who knows us seems to think we’re meant for each other somehow. And, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Still, I think you deserve to have someone more like you. You honestly can’t say you wouldn’t want to date a nice, handsome stallion, would you?”


“Twilight, it’s okay if you want to say yes.”

She looked down at the ground, her ears drooping again. “Okay, yes, but I already told you that I don’t care that you look different!”

Sam smiled. “I know, and that means a lot to me. But, this would make our relationship just a little more... Normal.”

“You don’t get it though! I don’t want you to change for me! I don’t want to be responsible for the last human on earth disappearing. You’d be extinguishing your species... Again!”

“Twilight, the human race has been gone for a long time. It doesn’t matter if I die as a human or a pony,” Sam’s expression turned grim, “one day, the last human IS going to vanish. The question is, am I going to die after living a life as the strange, exotic creature that doesn’t quite fit in, or will I die after living a comfortable, somewhat normal life?”

“I guess that’s a good point...”

“Plus,” he continued, “if I can get comfortable with the idea, and making that change will help, the idea of having a new family of my own someday is... Well, comforting. Besides, if I do let Celestia change me, I can use the other spell, and finally get rid of this pain. I could be my old self again! Well... As close to my old self as a ponified-me could be, heh...”

“I think I see where you’re coming from, Sam,” Twilight conceded with a sigh.

Sam nodded. “Yeah, so I want this as much for myself as I do for us. It’s getting tough to keep a decently fulfilling diet around here as a human, anyway, and I literally don’t fit in most buildings since I’m twice the height of the average pony... But don’t worry, if you don’t think this is the best way to go, I won’t do it.”

“Well,” Twilight said pensively, “how about another deal? Before our fight, I’d said I had a few ideas of my own for a date night... Let’s do one of them, and I’ll let you know how I feel about it...”

Sam reached out and hugged Twilight again. “It’s a deal.” Before releasing her, he let her sit back just far enough to look him in the eye, before meeting her lips with his in a kiss that Twilight hoped would never end.

Twilight let go of him, unable to make a sound save a sort of squeak-sigh, and looked back up at him, her smiling eyes once again showing that same spark of life that Sam had once been so accustomed to seeing. Oh he wasn’t kidding when he said he was over his hang-ups...

Finally, the pleasantly bewildered unicorn regained her senses enough to speak. “Before we do anything else, Sam, I think we could both use a shower and a nap... I don’t think either of us have slept well in ages. Just promise me you’ll still be here when we wake up...”

Sam chuckled quietly. Don’t do it! Cheesy line incoming! “Twilight, wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”

Twilight tilted her head in confusion, smiling nonetheless. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing... Last time I said that... Well it’s not important now,” Sam grinned sheepishly.

Sam followed his favorite unicorn up the stairs, realizing just how much he’d missed feeling her cuddled up next to him in bed. It’s good to be home...


A few hours later, Twilight and her human companion found themselves on the balcony of the library, wearing their best formal clothes, enjoying the cool night air and both looking as though they’d had new life breathed into them.

They sat on a thick quilt, huddled together as they gazed at the stars. Twilight had originally wanted to make the evening into a picnic on the outskirts of town, but she had quickly recognized that it would be too much to ask to have Sam walk all that way out there with her, even with her pain-killing spell.

So there they sat, having finished the simple meal they’d made together; Twilight couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually been hungry, but her appetite had returned with a vengeance.

Sam looked down at the unicorn snuggled under his arm. “So, not that I’m against seeing you dress up now and again, but why all the trouble for a nighttime picnic?”

Twilight grinned, pulled herself to her feet, and motioned for Sam to stand up before levitating a small record player from one of her nearby windows.

“It seemed appropriate for dancing,” she said, blushing, “I never went to my class dances as a filly, but I kinda want to make up for lost time...”

Sam clumsily stood up, scratching his head. “That’s a sweet thought, but... How do you ponies dance, anyway?”

Twilight seemed puzzled. “Um. Well... Two ponies would kinda stand shoulder to shoulder, but... I dunno how we’re gonna do that... I guess I didn’t quite think of that...”

“I’ve got it, rear up on your hind legs and rest your forelegs on my shoulders.”


Twilight awkwardly stood on her rear pair of legs, bringing her face level with Sam's neck, and leaned forward to embrace him, nearly hitting him in the face in the process.

“Sorry! Sorry!”

“I’m okay,” Sam laughed, as he placed his hands on her sides, “now, hit the music, and follow my lead.”

Twilight’s horn glowed, sending a burst of energy towards the record player’s needle, filling the air with a slow, gentle strain of violin music.

Sam began slowly moving to the side, causing the pair to gently sway. This is actually going pretty well, even without my injury, I’m already clumsy enough as it-

“BWAAH!” They cried out in unison as they toppled over onto the quilt.

Sam sat up and extended a hand over to help Twilight untangle her four legs from his two. “I guess it’s been a while since I’ve done that, heh... Take two?”

Twilight nodded, blushing from both embarrassment over the fall and the intimacy of dancing in the manner they had just attempted.

Back on their feet, the couple once again began to gently sway, taking it much slower this time to account for Sam’s injury and Twilight’s lack of experience on only two legs.

Once they’d built up a comfortable rhythm, Twilight finally relaxed, leaning her head in against Sam’s chest, smiling serenely. He really is here to stay... He really meant everything he said to me.

Sam looked down, and considered saying something, but it was obvious that nothing he could say could do anything but detract from the perfection of the moment; Twilight was in heaven.

A few yards away, on the path approaching the library, Spike was returning from Sugarcube Corner, where he had been spending his time informing Twilight’s friends of Sam’s return and imminent attempt to make up with her. The little dragon had finally become impatient, and decided to return home without waiting on Sam’s signal.

However, he stopped short of the door as he noticed two forms slowly moving about together on the balcony above; from the dim light of the candles on the ledge, Spike could just barely make out the happy faces of Twilight and Ponyville’s resident human.

“Well I’ll be,” Spike said aloud, to nobody in particular, “he actually did it! I bet Princess Celestia would be happy to hear this... I should send her a quick letter!”

With that, Spike quietly snuck inside the library, grabbed a quill and piece of parchment, and quickly wrote a short note describing what he’d just seen, and that it was no longer necessary to worry about Twilight Sparkle’s emotional well-being.

Mere moments later, Spike received a reply, thanking him for his help, as well as an envelope and two faintly glowing vials, one red and the other blue, all addressed to Sam.

I’d better leave these in his room...

Spike crept up the stairs, careful not to disturb his two friends, and left the items on the bed, before once again departing the library, taking advantage of the excuse and opportunity to stay at Rarity’s house again.

Back on the balcony, Sam’s hip was finally getting the better of him. “Twi, let’s sit back down for a while. This was really nice, though.”

Twilight nodded in agreement, smiling.

Once Sam was comfortably seated, Twilight took her usual spot of laying against his chest, her blue, star-marked dress spread across the floor behind her.

The lavender mare looked up at Sam, the stars reflecting from her eyes. “Sam... I’m so glad you’re back... I love you...”

Sam placed his arm around her, and gently squeezed her before tilting his head forward to kiss her forehead. “I love you too, and it’s good to be back.”

“So, Sam...”


Her purple eyes began to mist slightly, though her smile did not diminish. “My answer is yes.”

Sam’s eyes grew wide. “You mean... You’re okay with it? If I make the change?”

She nodded lightly. “I really do love you, and that means I want you to be happy and healthy. If that means you change completely on the outside, I don’t care, as long as you’re still you.”

Sam felt his own eyes beginning to water. “Thank you, Twilight...”

“Besides,” she giggled, “I bet you’d make one cute stallion. One thing though... How will you do your work without your hands?”

Sam sighed. “I’m sure I’ll figure something out, but I’m kinda hoping I come out of this as a unicorn. Think you’d be up to the task of being my magic teacher?”

Twilight was almost speechless at the prospect. “Really?! I’d love that! Just remember though... It’s tough to learn magic...”

“Well,” Sam laughed, “All I’d need is the ability to manipulate objects. I wouldn’t necessarily need your advanced course right off the bat.”

Twilight was beaming. “All the same, I’d love to be your teacher again.”

They sat that way a few minutes longer, before the chill of the night air began to drive them back inside.

“I guess fall is coming soon, Twi,”

“Yeah... Let’s go back inside, I’m getting sleepy,” Twilight replied with a yawn, “I guess the last two weeks are really catching up with me.”

Instead of letting Twilight stand up, Sam instead scooped her up as he climbed to his feet, prompting a surprised yelp from Twilight as she felt herself get turned onto her back in his arms.

She responded by shifting and nuzzling against Sam’s arm as he awkwardly stepped down the hallway back to the bedroom.

“Hey, Sam? What’s that on the bed?”

He gently sat Twilight on the foot of the bed, picked up the scroll, and sat down next to her. “Looks like a letter...”

Sam unrolled the scroll, eyeing the two vials it was wrapped around, and read silently.

Dearest Sam and Twilight Sparkle,

I have heard from a very reliable source that you two have revived your relationship beautifully; I cannot express how glad I am for the both of you. Sometimes it takes great trial to test the worth of a relationship, and if you both continue on the path you are on, I am certain that you will prove just how strong a bond you share with each other.

Sam, as I’m sure you may have noticed, today was a particularly bright day, though not completely due to the upward swing of your attitude. Today marks the beginning of a few days of solar flares, and I have been feeling particularly energetic today, so I took the liberty of preparing the spells for you in the form of enchanted potions.

The blue one will provide the transformation, as well as a mild sleeping aid; while not exactly painful, the process is not one most would want to be awake for.

The red vial contains the regeneration spell. The liquid is just punch; I knew you enjoyed it from your meals at the castle, and the red color makes it easily distinguishable. Make sure not to take it until you’ve awakened from the first spell!

I’ll be expecting letters from the two of you on what you’ve learned from this in the near future!

Best of luck,
Princess Celestia

Sam finished the letter, laughing as he shook his head.

“What is it, Sam?”

“Your mentor thinks of everything,” he replied, handing the letter to Twilight.

She quickly skimmed the paper, her smile never diminishing as she read the words of praise and well-wishing from her teacher and idol.

Twilight floated the parchment over to the dresser, and looked at Sam intently. “So... Are you sure you want to do this? I mean... You don’t have to do it tonight. Encapsulated spells like that last for several days...”

Sam held the blue vial carefully in his hands. “I know I don’t, but I’ve had time to really think it through. Really, it’s now or never...”

Twilight jumped to the floor. “Well, if you’re going to do it now, there’s two things I want to do first...”

She grasped Sam in a purple aura, pulling him to his feet as she got back onto her hind legs and stood against him, as she did when they were dancing.

Her horn still glowing, she levitated her camera out of the closet, and clicked the shutter, capturing a final moment of Twilight with her human. “I just want to remember this, it’s not every day some lucky pony like me gets to dance with the one and only human!”

Sam smiled at the sentiment. “We’ll have to try that again once I’ve used the spell. A before and after picture! So, what’s the second thing?”

Twilight magically removed her dress and replaced it on the hangers. “I want another one of those massages... Hands are so much better than hooves for that, and if you’re about to give your hands up, well...” she giggled mischievously.

An hour or so later, Sam’s hands were finally beginning to cramp a bit; Twilight would have protested the end of his ministrations had she been any less relaxed. All she could do was groan slightly, and continue wearing that sweet little smile that Sam had come to love.

“If you become a unicorn, you had better learn how to replicate that with magic, Sam...”

“Heh, I’ll see what I can do... Meanwhile...” He uncorked the blue vial, and stared at it.

Twilight’s ears perked up as the cork popped, and she lifted her head to look at him. “You’re really ready to go through with this?”

“Yep,” Sam said, taking a deep breath, “bottoms’ up!” He chugged the blue liquid within, and began taking his suit off. I probably won’t be able to wear it again, but it’d be a shame to ruin it...

“Well,” Twilight sighed, “come on into bed before you pass out... You know, one other thing I’m going to miss is how much bigger than me you are when I cuddle up next to you,” she giggled, “you always make me feel so safe and warm.”

“Yeah? Well here’s hoping you still feel the same afterwards.”

She smiled. “I’ll always feel safe as long as you’re around.”

Growing drowsier by the minute, Sam slid underneath the sheets. He smiled as he saw Twilight moving close to him, her eyes softly reflecting the light of the single candle remaining lit near the door. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against him, glad to once again feel the soft warmth of her fur against him. The couple shared a brief kiss as Sam fully drifted into unconsciousness.

“I love you Sam,” Twilight said, before planting another kiss on his cheek.

She held out from sleeping as long as she could, the ever-present scientist in her wanting to witness Sam’s transformation. However, the stresses of the past two weeks coupled with the relaxing euphoria of the past few hours to quickly drag Twilight into a deep slumber. All the while, she clung to Sam as tightly as she could.


Twilight’s eyes slowly fluttered open as the sunlight began streaming through the window panes. She realized that she must have shifted and turned in her sleep, as she recalled falling asleep facing towards-


She groggily lifted her head to look around before noticing a slight weight across her midsection. Looking down, she saw a light brown leg draped over her, ending in a hoof.

Twilight jerked around to face the other side of the bed, and was greeted by the sight of what appeared to be a young, tan-colored stallion, roughly her own age, with a chestnut-brown mane strongly resembling Sam’s eternal bed-head with the addition of a faint, brick-red streak on one side.

For several minutes Twilight laid there, mouth agape and cheeks ablaze. He certainly turned out nicely, didn’t he...

Finally, the tan pony stirred from sleep, groaning as he stretched his legs and opened his eyes, revealing two large, dark blue eyes. Before he could say anything, Twilight quickly tackled him in a warm embrace, playfully kissing his snout.

Having weathered her attack, he groggily spoke, “Morning, Twi... What’s with the welcome party?”

Twilight was nearly beside herself, giggling like a schoolfilly. “It worked, Sam!”

Her horn glowed faintly, causing a small mirror to float over in front of Sam’s face.

“What are you talking about,” He yawned lazily as he sat up, rubbing his eyes as he examined the reflection. “Man, I could use a haircut or-” his eyes shot open and his pulse doubled as he realized what he was looking at, “WHOA, HOLY HELL!”

“Calm down, Sam,” Twilight cooed, sliding closer to him until she could see her own reflection as well, “it’s alright, you used the transformation spell last night, remember?”

“Right, I did, didn’t I,” Sam said with an embarrassed grin, calming down, “hard to think clearly when you’re still half asleep, I guess. Even expecting it, it’s sort of a shock to wake up to, heh...”

Twilight nodded, still giggling and ogling him as she held a hoof over her mouth.

Sam held his forehooves in front of him. “I think I’m gonna miss my hands,” he said with a sigh, still inspecting his changed appendages, “Huh... I always imagined they’d feel... Less soft...” he looked back into the mirror again, focusing on his forehead, “Nice, a horn! Looks like you’ve got yourself a new student, Twilight, and,” his eyes caught on the streak of red in his mane, “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me...”

“What is it?”

“You go through one punk rock phase,” he chuckled, “and the mystical forces of the universe decide that your pony form will have the same dye-job as you had during your freshman year of university...”

Twilight laughed. “Well... I think it looks good on you...”

Sam carefully climbed off of the bed, stumbling over the now loosely-fitting shorts and tshirt hanging from him before shakily standing on all four legs for the first time. “Alright, walking... Can’t be that hard, right? More stable on four legs than on two...”

He took only three steps before falling flat on his face, much to the not-so-hidden amusement of Twilight Sparkle, who was still looking on from the bed. “Why don’t you try taking those clothes off, Sam?”

Climbing back to his hooves, Sam carefully examined his situation. “That might help... It’s gonna feel pretty weird going around unclothed now, though...”

He began awkwardly shaking his legs in the air, trying to maneuver the ill-fitting garments off of himself. Rather than successfully stripping, Sam became further entangled within his clothes.

“A little help, Twi?”

With a nod, Twilight’s horn began to glow, prompting the shorts and shirt to easily slide off. “There you go!”

“Thanks. Okay... Take two...”

Once again, Sam began a series of awkward steps, making it a few feet further before collapsing to the floor again.

“Are you okay? You looked like you almost had it there... Was it your injured leg flaring up?”

Sam gingerly stretched his right hind leg. “Yeah, it’s still painful alright. Maybe I should take that other spell now, don’t you think?”

Anticipating his next question, Twilight levitated the vial from the dresser and in front of Sam’s face. “There you go, I hope it works!”

Sam stared at the vial, deep in thought. “Ok,” he muttered to himself, “How am I gonna do this... Do I just grab it with my mouth? Or...”

Twilight tilted her head. “Um, you just grab it, Sam. With your hoof.”

“How the bloody hell does that even- Oh. OHHH,” he found that the vial somehow held itself to his outstretched forehoof, “Okay, that’s really weird.”

“Sam, you just turned into a pony. I don’t think anything else should phase you at this point,” Twilight giggled.

“Fair enough,” he replied, before downing the vial of red liquid.

Seconds later, light began to emanate from his body, progressively growing brighter and brighter. The intensity grew past blinding, prompting Twilight to turn away her already-closed eyes.

Finally, the light faded, and Twilight turned back to face Sam, still sitting in the same pose as when he drank the vial.

“That was anti-climactic,” he stated.

“Well... Your injury wasn’t external... Try walking around again.”

Sam clambered back onto all fours, and carefully, slowly, began walking in a small circle around the room. “Ya know, this is much easier when all four of your legs are healthy,”

Twilight sat up straight, pricking up her ears in excitement. “So your leg is healed? You don’t hurt anymore?!”

Sam nodded, grinning like an idiot.

Twilight dove from the bed on top of him, wrapping her forelegs around his neck. “Oh, Sam, that’s wonderful!”

Sam laughed, and returned the embrace. “This is gonna take some getting used to, but I think it’s gonna work out great in the long run...”

Twilight nuzzled into his neck. “Human, pony, I don’t care, I’m just glad I have you,” she smiled sheepishly, “though you definitely make one handsome stallion!”

Sam responded with a quick kiss, before returning to his hooves. “Flattery will get you everywhere, pretty miss.”

Twilight’s face flushed again at the compliment.

“So, Twi, are you gonna sit on the floor all day, or can we go tell your friends the news? I told Spike to have everyone meet at Pinkie’s so that they could be there to either celebrate the end of your depression or kill me for causing so much trouble. Besides, I’m suddenly craving an insane amount of sweets for breakfast. Odd.”

“Oh, gosh, my friends! Yes! They probably think I’m still moping around!”

Twilight jumped to her hooves, and began quickly brushing her mane to get ready to leave.

A few awkward minutes of Twilight coaching Sam on how to descend stairs on four legs later, the couple found themselves walking down the path into town towards Sugarcube Corner. Sam opted to have Twilight go in first, to prepare them for the surprise of his recent change in appearance.

Sure enough, Spike, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie were all waiting inside, with everyone except Fluttershy and Pinkie displaying expressions of utter impatience and boredom.

Applejack was the first to greet Twilight as she entered, barely beating Pinkie to the entrance. “Well howdy, sugarcube! Ya’ll are lookin’ a mite better today! I’m guessin’ things went well with Sam, eh?” She said with a wink.

Twilight smiled as she looked each one of her friends in the eye. They were clearly happy to see that she was back to her old self.

“Yes, everypony, I’m feeling like myself again,” Twilight said, “and I’m incredibly grateful that you all stuck with me. Sam and I had a good long talk, and learned a lot about being open with each other about how we feel and what we are thinking. I think everything is going to be just fine from here on out.”


Rainbow quickly cut her off from above. “Uh, yeah, what Pinkie said. So where is that jerk, Sam, anyway? I swear, he ever pulls a stunt like that again, I’ll drop him off the edge of Cloudsdale...”

Twilight laughed. “He’s right outside. We have a bit of a surprise for you...”

Taking that as his cue, Sam shakily stepped through the door, still getting used to walking on four legs. “Hi girls!”

Rarity stepped over to inspect the newcomer. “So sorry, darling, I don’t mean to seem rude, but ah, do I know you? You do seem somewhat familiar...”

Sam chuckled. “Yeah, Rarity, it’s me, Sam.”

Applejack quite nearly choked on her slice of apple pie. “Uh, come again sugarcube?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes, it really is him, girls.”

Fluttershy tilted her head in confusion. “Oh my, I, um, I don’t mean to contradict you Twilight... But Sam isn’t a pony, and he walks on only two legs, or I thought he did, anyway...”

Sam took a few more clumsy steps into the middle of the group, and began explaining his transformation. A few minutes, and some confused expressions, later, he finally finished recounting his tale.

“... And then I woke up this morning with a horn on my face, and the ability to walk slightly better than a newborn foal.”

Spike and the rest of Twilight’s friends just stared at Sam blankly, processing his tale.

“If you don’t mind my asking, Sam,” Rarity chimed in, “does this mean you may be needing a new set of clothes soon? Or perhaps you would like your old ones altered a bit?”

“Maybe later, thanks though, Rarity, but I don’t think I’ll be needing another monkey suit anytime soon.”

Rarity facehoofed. “Oh, yes, it’s him, alright...”

“So, um, Sam,” Fluttershy murmured, “I noticed that you don’t have a cutie mark yet...”

Almost out of nowhere, three small fillies appeared, sticking their heads in the doorway of the pastry shop.. The pale yellow one, her red mane covered by a pink bow the size of her head, quickly tumbled from atop her two friends, an orange pegasus with a pink mane, and a white unicorn with a curly white and pink mane.

Sam turned to look towards the door. "Hey Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, I don't think I've met your friend before."

“Did sumpony say somethin’ ‘bout cutie marks?! And how did ya'll know our names, mister? Ya'll sound kinda familiar though...” the yellow filly blurted out, her head cocked to the side.

Applejack facehoofed, and began chastising her sister before Sam could respond. “Gosh darnit, Apple Bloom, you’re supposed ta be helpin’ Granny Smith today!”

“But AJ, she said I could go crusadin’ with Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle,”

“Yeah! I thought Rarity was going to tell you, Applejack,” the white filly said.

“Oh, I am so sorry Sweetie Belle,” Rarity replied, “I simply forgot.”

The orange pegasus trotted over to Sam, and looked him curiously in the eyes before noticing his unmarked flank. “Hey girls! This stallion’s all grown up but he’s a blank flank like us! I've never seen an adult without a cutie-mark before...”

Apple Bloom nearly squealed in excitement over the discovery. “No way, Scootaloo! Lemme see ‘em!”

The three fillies continued inspecting Sam, who awkwardly stood there, unsure of what to do. He noticed that every time he turned around, the trio of young ponies seemed to follow his rear end.

Sam sat back on his haunches, in an effort to partially obscure the view of his flank. "Can I help you girls with something?"

Before the fillies could respond, Twilight stepped a bit closer to Sam. "Come on, now, give Sam some space."

"It's okay," Sam chuckled, "but I can't help but wonder if I'll end up with one of those marks on my backside."

"Hmm, I don't really see why not," Twilight looked up as she pondered the question, "you know what your own special, unique, defining abilities are, right?"

Sam brought a hoof to his chin in thought. “Yeah, I kinda do, my skill and knowledge in electrical engineering, computer architecture, circuit design, and other topics in that general field...”

Sweetie Belle suddenly slammed a hoof down, yelling out in surprise. “OH COME ON!”

“What? What is it?” Sam looked down at the filly, who was yet again staring at his flank, which now had a strangely familiar marking on it, an arrow on a blue background pointing upwards with another arrow indicating a circular path around it.

Suddenly, everypony in the room was staring at Sam’s rear.

“Um, girls, this is getting creepy. My eyes are up here,” he motioned upwards towards his face.

Twilight averted her gaze. “Well, that was certainly easy. What does that mark mean, though?”

Sam turned to examine his new marking again. “Oh, I remember this! This symbol was used by an old professional engineering group in my time; the arrows represent electrical current and its spatial relation to the magnetic force. Cool.”

The three fillies stomped out of the building in frustration, muttering something about the “unfairness” of the situation.

Sam looked at Rarity and Applejack. “I hope they aren’t mad at me...”

Applejack chuckled. “Nah, they’re just a mite obsessed with earnin’ their own cutie marks. They’ll get over it eventually.”

Pinkie immediately shoved herself in between Sam and Applejack, staring the former human in the face. “So, Sam! You’re a pony now! That means that technically, we have a new pony in town! Which means I gotta throw you a welcoming party, again, I think...” she paused to seriously consider her logic, before shaking her head, “Oh well! I was gonna do something anyway to celebrate the two of you getting back together and being all happy again so... LET’S PARTY!”

A deafening crack filled the air as Pinkie fired her famous party cannon, covering the room with decorations and all of Pinkie’s favorite party favors. Save for Sam and Twilight, everypony present shrugged, and began enjoying the spontaneous festivities.

Twilight sidled up to Sam and looked at him as if to say, “Eh, why not?”

“Oh yes, please, do enjoy yourself, Sam, it is wonderful to see you again,” Rarity said jovially as she stepped towards Sam, stopping only inches from his face and glaring at him, before stepping back again.

“Thanks, Rari-”

“Now,” the white unicorn began in a nonchalant, almost singsongy voice, “if you ever break Twilight’s heart again, darling... Well, you know I’m quite skilled with a needle! Use your imagination, dear," she finished, tittering softly.

“Oookay, thank you Rarity!” Twilight chimed, pushing in between her friend and her special somepony, shoving them apart.

“Oh, terribly sorry Twilight,” Rarity said, her expression becoming more genial, “I suppose that was in rather bad taste,” she replied apologetically, “all that aside, Sam, it’s good to have you back here and with Twilight, really.”

Sam just laughed faintly, shaking his head. These mares will be the death of me, I just know it.

The momentary spectacle over, the party resumed normally, with random ponies filtering in to see what the commotion was, many of whom accepted the story of Sam’s change without a second thought. They had long learned that when it came to matters surrounding Twilight and her friends, it was best not to ask questions.

As the spontaneous party hit full swing, Sam found himself idly watching Twilight’s clumsy attempts at dancing to the music with her friends. He’d have gladly embarrassed himself by joining her, but as he took a few steps towards the group, his shaky, uncertain gait reminded him of why he didn’t take part initially.

Instead, he opted to sit down at one of the tables. Twilight ceased her spastic twitching and trotted over to him.

“You know, Sam, this party is as much for you as it is me, why aren’t you joining in?”

Sam responded by looking down at his legs. “I wanted a break from trying to get used to these. That, and,” he turned his attention back to the lavender mare before him, “I’m just not in the mood for something like this.”

Twilight’s smile weakened slightly. “I see. Want to step outside for a minute? I love Pinkie’s parties but sometimes, I have to take a break,” she giggled softly.

Sam nodded, and carefully followed her outside into the sunlight, taking a seat on a bench just outside the bakery.

Twilight settled in next to him. “What’s on your mind?”

“Oh, nothing in particular, just kinda processing everything, you know?”

“Everything okay? Anything you wanna talk about?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m great,” Sam chuckled, placing a foreleg around Twilight’s shoulders, “like I said, I’m just taking it all in. I mean, I know I made the choice to change voluntarily, but it just... I don’t know how to put it...”

“...Like it doesn’t seem real?”

“Yeah, pretty much. The last few days have just been such a blur,” Sam sighed, “in less than forty-eight hours, I’ve moved back here, reconciled with you, changed species, and been completely healed. It’s surreal.”

“But... You’re happy, right?” Twilight asked hopefully.

Sam slowly looked around, taking in the calm, rustic scene of the town around him. As his gaze turned back towards the store, he noticed five mares and a dragon peering curiously out of the window, watching him and Twilight. He grinned deviously, before turning back to face Twilight. They want a show? Let’s give ‘em one...

Sam moved his hoof from Twilight’s shoulders up to her face, and pulled her closer until her lips met his in a kiss that he didn’t intend to end anytime soon.

Her eyes closed, Twilight slid over closer on the bench, throwing her forelegs around his neck.

After what seemed like hours to them, they finally broke the kiss, both barely able to breathe.

“Does that answer your question?” Sam asked, still grinning, “By the way, seems like we have an audience, look back over at Sugarcube Corner,” he raised a hoof towards the store.

Twilight turned her head and saw Spike acting like he was going to be ill, Fluttershy looking away as if she were embarrassed, Applejack looking on bashfully, Rainbow stifling a laugh, Rarity giggling into her hooves, and Pinkie rolling in the doorway giggling like a caffeine-addled child.

The couple turned their gazes back to each other, taking in the warmth of the sun and each other.

“Yeah Twilight,” Sam sighed contentedly, “for the first time in a long time, I feel like everything is just right.”

Epilogue: End of a Beginning

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A Few Months Later...

In the corner of a cluttered workbench, a tan stallion sat hunched over on a stool. He looked up at the clock mounted on the wall before straightening up and stretching out, groaning in satisfaction as he felt his spine popping.

“Man, time went by quickly, today,” Sam mused aloud to no one in particular, “I feel like I hardly got anything done on this project schematic...”

He looked around curiously, suddenly remembering why his ears failed to detect a response; Sam had once again stayed past the lab’s closing hours that he himself had set.

Not in any hurry to step out into the chill of Winter, Sam instead absent-mindedly paced around, admiring his new shop and reminiscing about how much he and his team had accomplished in just a few short months.

After giving him a few days to get reacquainted with Twilight Sparkle as well as his new body, Princess Celestia offered to let Sam open a new branch of the Royal Academy in Ponyville in which to continue his research and development of humanity’s advanced technologies.

Sam chuckled as he remembered Twilight’s encouragement: “Sam, this is LITERALLY an offer you can’t refuse! You can stay with me, continue your work independently, and best of all, I can help! I’m dying to get my hooves into all of that data you unlocked!”

Twilight had also given him another objective; she wanted him to eventually have the lab turn its focus towards attempting to reconcile what ponies currently knew about magic with the advanced theories of physics that ancient humans had discovered. Sam himself had been pondering that topic for some time, though his academic area of expertise was in electrical engineering, not theoretical physics.

Officially called the “Equestrian Institute for Advanced and Exotic Technologies”, Sam’s first order of business was to complete the upgrades to the hydroelectric dams in order to provide cheap, efficient electrical energy to every pony who wanted it. This was a great first step towards achieving the mission statement that Sam and his colleagues had decided on: “To Improve The Lives Of Everypony Everywhere.”

So far, Sam and his team had successfully built a small prototype of the new generators for the dams, and they were due to test it within the week.

Sam looked back down at his spot on the workbench both in dread and in excitement of how much work he had ahead of him. It feels good to be back in my element, but damn I have a lot to do!

He glanced back up at the clock. If I don’t get home soon, Twilight’s gonna kill me. Better head out, I guess.

Sam reached up to his desk and switched off the lamp, before levitating his lab coat onto his chair and his fleece jacket around himself, a garment that he found himself wearing mostly out of habit from the days before his transformation.

Once he was certain that everything was safely turned off and locked up, Sam stepped outside into the chilly night air, and began trotting through town back to the library. As he passed by Sugarcube Corner, he stopped to wave at Pinkie Pie as she began closing up the bakery for the day.

“Hiya Sam! Wanna come in for some hot chocolate before I close up?”

“Thanks Pinkie,” Sam chuckled, “normally I’d say yes, but I’m late getting home, don’t want Twi to worry about me, you know!”

Pinkie giggled. “Ooooh yeah, we don’t want that, do we! See ya tomorrow then Sam!”

“See you around!” the tan pony replied as he trotted away.

Finally, just as his face was beginning to feel slightly numb from the cold, Sam arrived at the door. Rather than knock or otherwise attempt to enter, he took a few steps back and scrunched up his face in concentration as his horn lit up. The brass doorknob began to glow as well, and rattled in place, before the door finally swung open, revealing an amused Twilight Sparkle.

“Still haven’t given up on the door, eh?”

“Nope,” Sam replied, panting, “I don’t get it, I’ve managed to get to where I can put on and take off clothes with magic, precisely manipulate small tools, and even use the keyboard on my laptop. Yet, I can barely manage to magically open the door.”

“That’s magic for you! You just have to practice applying forces in different directions. Now, come on inside before we let out all the heat!”

Sam complied, quickly cantering inside and kicking the door shut with one of his hind legs.

Twilight sidled up next to him and nuzzled his cheek, “Oh wow,” she gasped, “your face feels like ice! Good thing I had Spike helping me with the soup, you feel like you could use something hot.”

“Oh come on, it’s not THAT cold. Though, I am pretty hungry.”

“Good!” Twilight replied as she began walking towards the kitchen, “So, how was your day?”

Sam began following her. “Oh, same old. We’ll be testing the new generator by the end of the week. Imagine if this works out; we could eventually get the entire country running on hydroelectric power! We’d be one step closer to eventually bringing Equestria up to 20th century-levels of technology. But, you hear me rant about that every day. What have you been up to?”

As she levitated the pot of soup onto the table, Twilight pointed a hoof towards a stack of parchment and several books. “I’ve been taking some notes on Pre-Equestrian history to compare to your records. I want to get things in order to have that information recorded and researched more thoroughly.”

“Yeah,” Sam sighed, “there’s certainly a lot of it. If I didn’t know you enjoyed that sort of work so much, I’d tell you to wait until I can use the nanobot generator to build you your own computer.”

“Say what you will about hoof-written research,” Twilight said with a smirk, “but there’s something awfully satisfying about having a huge stack of books laid out before you with all the information you want contained within.”

“If you say so,” Sam chuckled.

Once Spike arrived back in the kitchen, all three residents of the library sat down to eat.

As the meal progressed, only Twilight and Spike spoke; aside from occasional slurping sounds, Sam was unusually quiet.

“...So then Rarity was like, ‘Sweetie Belle! You, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom had better take that model volcano of yours outside be-’, and the thing began,” Spike stopped in an attempt to contain his laughter, “erupting and spewing dyed foam everywhere before she could finish! I felt bad for Rarity, but boy it was funny!”

Twilight shook her head. “I warned her about letting the Cutie Mark Crusaders work on their science project indoors...” Normally, Sam would be laughing too, I wonder what’s on his mind...

Sam continued eating his soup, deep in thought. Alright... Start the preliminary test runs tomorrow morning, then, head out a little early to talk to Mr. Cake, he’s probably my best bet for some advice on what I’ve been planning...

Twilight firmly tapped a hoof against the table. “Hello! Sam? Anypony home?”

“Uh wha-?” Sam snapped to attention, “Sorry, my mind is somewhere else tonight.”

“Everything okay?” She said, a look of concern etched onto her face.

Sam smiled and nodded vigorously. “Yeah, everything’s fine, just thinking about everything I need to do tomorrow. Gonna be a busy day, gotta start the first test run on the generators, make sure everything is lined up properly, and then start training a team of construction workers on how the thing works. On top of all of that I have to make a trip to Sugarcube Corner.”

“What for?” Twilight asked.

“Just gotta pick a few things up, to... Um... You know, I’ve been craving some chocolate chip cookies like crazy! Do all ponies have cravings for sweets like this, or is it just me?”

“Um, okay... You know we could bake some ourselves, though, right?”

“True. But something about the way Pinkie and the Cakes do it... Their recipe is amazing.”

“Fair enough! But yeah, come to think of it, we do eat a bit more sweets than you did as a human, but it seems a little abnormal in your case,” Twilight shrugged, “maybe it’s a side-effect of the spell? I’ll write the Princess later.”

“Who knows?” Sam replied, chuckling. Not a bad cover story for my little secret meeting with Carrot Cake. Of course, now I have to spend extra bits on cookies.

A few minutes later, Sam, Twilight, and Spike cleaned up the kitchen, and began getting ready to go to bed.

As Sam soaped and rinsed the dishes, Spike lightly flamed them dry before Twilight floated the items gently into their designated spot in the cabinets.

“Uhh, Sam?” Spike tapped Sam’s shoulder, “Why’d you stop washing?” He followed the stallion’s gaze towards where Twilight was standing, prompting a sly smile to form on the dragon’s face, “Oh, I see, staring at Twi, eh?”

Sam shook his head, crashing back to reality. He smiled sheepishly, and resumed his washing.

I may not quite understand Equestrian standards of beauty yet, nor be able to see what makes one mare prettier than another, but Twilight sure looks amazing. I mean, I always thought she was cute, even before I took the transformation, but now that I’ve changed, lately she’s looked absolutely beautiful to me. I wonder how much that spell changed me? I mean, I know the doctor’s tests and Twilight's own experiments with my blood showed that I am now a physically normal unicorn as far as pony medical expertise can tell, but is it possible that the transformation changed the way I think? Or maybe it’s just that because I’m a pony like Twilight now, my subconscious is allowing me to think ponies can be attractive.

He stole another furtive glance at the purple mare.

Either way, I don’t care. I’m so lucky to have her...

Once the kitchen was cleaned, everyone began their usual nightly routines of showering, brushing teeth, and, in Twilight’s case, last minute pre-sleep reading.

When Sam entered the bedroom, he saw that Twilight had already beaten him to bed. They still slept together in the larger bed that Twilight had set up back when it was just Sam’s room; even though they could both comfortably fit in Twilight’s old bed, they liked the idea of sharing a room that they could customize and decorate together.

Sam climbed into bed, and leaned over her, nudging her book aside with his muzzle. He kissed her on the nose before lying back down next to her. She responded by floating the book over to the table, rolling onto her side, and pouting, her non-verbal way of demanding a proper kiss on the lips. He obliged, and wrapped a foreleg around her.

“Goodnight, Twilight, love you.”

“Love you too,” She sighed happily, before magically switching off her lamp.

As Twilight drifted off to sleep, Sam stayed awake, contentedly gazing at the slumbering unicorn.

It was his thoughts that prevented him from sleeping.

She’s so adorable when she sleeps... If she only knew what I’m planning, she’d be as wired and excited as I am...


After another productive day at the lab, Sam began closing up shop. He was just about to switch off the lights when he noticed one of the other scientists was still at his bench. He approached the black stallion, and gave him a light tap on the shoulder.

The bespectacled earth pony gasped and jerked around, only to breathe a sigh of relief when he noticed it was only his supervisor. “Heh, sorry boss, ya kinda startled me there. Is it really time to leave already?”

Sam smiled. “Yeah, well, sort of. I decided to let everyone go early today, we’re ahead of schedule, and,” he looked up absent-mindedly, “well, let’s just say I’m in a good mood, Ratchet.”

Ratchet shrugged; he certainly didn’t mind working under Sam, but the lack of sarcasm and genuine upbeat demeanor had the junior researcher confused. Who am I to argue with that?

“Alright, well, see ya later, Sam!” Ratchet closed up his notebooks and stowed his tools, and trotted out the door with Sam following close behind.

Once Sam had managed to lock the doors, he turned around and set off in a light canter for Sugarcube Corner.

Stepping inside, he was immediately greeted by the sky blue Mrs. Cake. “Oh, hello there Sam! What can I get for you, dearie?”

Sam looked through the glass counters before spotting his prize. “Just some chocolate chip cookies. By the way, is Carrot around? I kinda need to ask him for some advice on something.”

Mrs. Cake nodded her head. “Of course! Let me box these up for you, and I’ll go track him down. He’s probably upstairs playing with the twins!”

“Great, thanks. How are the little ones, anyway?”

“Oh, they’re a hoof-full, for sure,” she laughed, “we can barely keep Pound out of the air, and Pumpkin just keeps finding more and more tricks she can do with her magic!” Mrs. Cake’s expression turned to one of curiousity, “If you don’t mind me asking, what is it you need advice on? Is everything alright, dearie?”

Sam smiled. “Everything’s great, don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll hear about it all in good time.”

“Well, alright, then. Let me go find Mr. Cake for you!”

Mrs. Cake turned to walk upstairs after placing the box of baked goods on the counter, from which Sam levitated them into his saddlebags, replacing them with a small pile of coins.

A few minutes later, a more masculine voice called out from the top of the stairs. “Hey Sam, come on up, I’m free. Lemme just put the twins in their crib and I’ll be right with you.”

Sam trotted up the stairs, and waited in the hallway. Seconds later, a yellow stallion emerged from one of the rooms.

Mr. Cake motioned for Sam to follow him to a room at the end of the hall. The two stallions sat across from each other on opposing sides of a wooden desk in the corner of the Cake’s bedroom.

“So, Sam,” Carrot Cake cleared his throat, “my wife says you need my advice. What can I do for you? Is everything okay? I don’t mind helping but I can’t imagine what I could help you with.”

Sam nodded. “Everything’s great, don’t worry! In fact, that’s exactly why I wanted your advice. How long have you and Cup Cake been married?”

A flash of confusion briefly appeared on Carrot Cake’s face. “Uh... Going on six years now. Why do you ask?”

“Well...” Come on, Sam, don’t get all nervous now! “You see... Um... Well, things have been great with Twilight and I.”

“Okay... And?”

“And, it seems pretty clear to me that we’re in it for the long haul, and you and Cup are the only married couple I know in town, so I figured you’d be a good pony to ask about this sort of thing, but...”

Carrot Cake chuckled. “Sam, are you thinking about proposing to Twilight Sparkle?”

Taking a deep breath, Sam replied, “Yes.”

“Way to go Sam! That’s great! So, what exactly did you want to ask?”

“For one, I’m still learning about Equestrian culture. I mean, I want to make sure I do this right. But, before that, how did you know for sure that Cup was the one for you? I mean, I’ve been having all these really weirdly vivid dreams about Twilight and myself, and everything feels right when I think about it, but part of me is still skeptical, you know?”

“Ah, I see,” Carrot smiled, “I’ll answer your second question first. It’s simple, when you know, you just know it’s gonna happen. You start having dreams about each other that almost seem like you’re looking at the future, and you feel like if you didn’t have each other that you’d lose part of yourself. It’s hard to explain to some ponies, but it sounds like you already know what I mean. Don’t worry! I’ve seen you and Twilight together, you remind me of Mrs. Cake and I at that point in our relationship. Plus, Pinkie won’t shut up about how cute she thinks you two are together,” he chuckled.

“Okay. So, how do I do this right? I mean, she and I have been together only for a few months, just since mid-summer.”

Carrot shrugged. “Sounds about right. Like I said, when you know, you’re sure of it; that’s just sort of how it works, is it not like that where you’re from?”

“Well, the emotions are the same, but are you implying that pony marriages never end? Because it’s not that guaranteed with humans.”

“Eh, I’m not necessarily saying that, but divorce is pretty rare. But yeah, Cup Cake and I dated for just a few months ourselves, and in a few more months we’ll have been married for a full six amazing years,” he said, smiling proudly, “and don’t get me started on our two foals!”

“So, how do most ponies propose?” Sam asked, somewhat anxiously.

“Well, just ask the question, of course! You’ll want to get a bit of jewelry, maybe a bracelet or necklace... Oh, Twilight’s a unicorn, so you could get a small ring for her horn. I don’t know much when it comes to jewelry. Maybe your friend Rarity could help?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I’ll probably ask her about that, I’m not expected back at the library for another hour or so. I closed up the shop early today. But that’s really interesting though; what you said is pretty much exactly how my people handled marriage proposals...”

Carrot leaned back in his seat. “So, any other questions, Sam?”

The tan stallion brought a hoof to his chin in thought. “Hmm... I think I’m good now. I’ve been mulling this over for a while, and I guess I needed to talk it out a little. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks, Carrot Cake.”

“Any time! Now, go get ‘er!”

Sam laughed, and stood up to leave after shaking hooves with Mr. Cake. As he walked down the stairs and through the store section, he heard Mrs. Cake giggling softly behind the counter.

“What’s so funny?”

Still smiling, she replied, “Oh, nothing...” She stepped out from behind the counter and gave Sam a quick hug, “I just overheard what you and Carrot were talking about and... Oh Sam I’m so happy for you!”

Sam took a few steps back. “Thanks, but seriously, please keep quiet about this, I want it to be a big surprise!”

“The way Pinkie talks about you and Twilight, I don’t think anypony would be surprised to hear about that sort of news,” Mrs. Cake laughed.

“Well... Twilight will probably be pretty shocked. After all, before we started dating, most of what she knew about dating was stuff she read from books on the subject,” Sam chuckled.

“All the same, just know we would be glad to host or help with your engagement party!”

“Thanks! Anyway, I’ll see you later.”

“Good luck!”

Sam walked out into the chilly evening, and made his way to Rarity’s boutique.

Once he arrived at the Carousel Boutique, he knocked on the door.

A cheery, feminine voice rang out from within. “Come iiiinnnn!!”

Sam entered as instructed, and waited at the front counter. He caught a glimpse of a white mare happily entangled with several strips of fabric as she examined her latest work-in-progress.

“I’ll be with you in just a moment, darling, just getting to a stopping point,” Rarity called out as she removed the fabric that was draped around her midsection.

“Sure, take your time, Rarity,” Sam replied.

“Oh! Sam! Why didn’t you say it was you!” She promptly trotted over to meet her guest, “What ever can I do for you? Are you finally ready to let me take your measurements for your new suit? It’s about time you and Twilight have another romantic night on the town!”

“Not quite here for that yet, Rares,” Sam chuckled, “And I’ll have you know Twilight and I have our own idea of a romantic night out... But... If everything goes right, soon, I’ll probably be back for that suit, though.”

“You know how I don’t like nicknames,” Rarity said with a scowl, “But, what exactly do you mean ‘if everything goes right’?”

“Well, I wanted to find a nice piece of jewelry. You see... My relationship with Twilight has gone from great to wonderful over the last couple of months, and I’ve got a really good feeling about where it’s headed... So...”

Rarity laughed. “Only because you two share a bed together, darling, I know you stallions all too well.”

Sam felt his face practically glowing red. “Hey now, what Twilight and I do is our business and ours alone, I thought a so-called ‘lady’ such as yourself would respect that.”

“That may be true,” she giggled, “but I do so love trying to get a reaction out of you. It’s only fair, given how you and Rainbow Dash give me such a hard time over my proper manners!”

“Yeah yeah, anyway... Getting back on topic... First thing’s first, do you make jewelry?”

Rarity pointed proudly towards a small box on her shelf with a few pieces of jewelry in it. “I certainly do, though not many ponies come to me for such items, except as special gifts or for wedding propo-” Her jaw dropped in realization, “Sam! You’re not going to... Ask dear Twilight to marry you, are you?!”

Sam nodded, grinning like a madman. “That’s the plan, hopefully, and I thought-”

“Oh my goodness, of all the possible things that could happen, this is THE. BEST. POSSIBLE. THING!” Rarity’s exclamations quickly degraded into a series of excited squeals as she flung herself down onto a conveniently placed couch.

Sam waited for her to calm down before he continued. “Anyway, I’d recalled you saying you sometimes made settings for jewelry to go with the gems you and Spike dig up, and I was wondering if you could recommend something. What would be better, a bracelet, necklace, ring?”

Rarity looked at him as if he had just asked an incredibly stupid question. “Well if you were talking about the actual wedding jewelry, a horn ring, of course! Twilight IS a unicorn, after all,” her expression softened, “but for the engagement, it doesn’t really matter. Personally I’d suggest a necklace... Ohh I’ve got just the idea!! You just let me handle it, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready!”

“Awesome! I know whatever you come up with will look great.”

“Of course! Oh I’m just beside myself, I just know she’ll say yes! You two make a wonderful couple.”

“Thanks, Rarity,” Sam replied bashfully, “you’re too kind. Well, I’ll leave you to it, I’m going to get on home before it gets too much colder. See you around!”

Sam turned to leave, and headed outside as the sun was in its final stages of setting. I can’t believe it, I’m actually going to do this... Now to just keep sane until I get the necklace and get everything in place to pop the big question...


Two weeks later, Sam and Twilight found themselves walking side by side down the road back from the Ponyville train station to the library, having spent their day off together in Canterlot.

Twilight leaned her head against Sam’s shoulder. “Thank you Sam, today was wonderful. It’s been ages since I’ve gone to Canterlot for anything besides school or the usual crisis threatening Equestria.”

Sam laughed, somewhat bitterly. “Yeah, I think this was the first time I’ve been there under anything but depressing circumstances, myself.”

“Oh, don’t think about that, please,” Twilight pouted, “let’s see if we can’t find time for a longer trip, there’s so many places I’d love to show you. Oh! We should go to Manehattan, next time.”

The two ponies shivered as Twilight lifted her head from Sam’s side, taking a degree of warmth with it.

“Rarity would kill us if she saw us dragging our clothes through the snow,” Sam chuckled, “she certainly did a wonderful job on your dress and my suit, though.”

Twilight stopped to pull up on her dress a bit, saving the deep blue lace on the edge of the royal purple skirting. “She always does seem to get them just right,” she sighed.

Sam turned to look at her. “Everything okay, Twi?”

“Yes, but, well... I really wanted to ask you the same thing. You’ve been a little... Secretive, lately, going out or staying out later after work with very little explanation,” she looked at him with genuine concern, “and why have you been going to Rarity’s so often over the last two weeks?”

Sam felt the color drain from his face. Oh hell.

“And then there’s my friends, they’ve all been acting like they know something I don’t know, especially when I mention anything about you...”

Damn it, I told Rarity and the girls to play it cool!

Twilight was close to full-blown tears. “Sam? Why aren’t you saying anything?”

Okay, just gotta make it a little further... This whole thing better work or else I’m going to kill Pinkie.

Sam stepped closer to the distraught mare, and hugged her tight. “Twi, there’s nothing to worry about, really. I don’t know what’s up with your friends, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Come on, let’s get on home before we freeze to death.”

Twilight pulled back, smiling. Even though she still felt as though something was afoot, hearing Sam’s words put her at ease, as they always did.

The two picked up the pace, and made it back to the library. Both noticed that the inside of the tree was unusually dark.

“Sam, didn’t we tell Spike to leave a few candles lit for us before he went to Rarity’s?”

“Yeah, I thought we did, anyway... I’m sure it’s nothing, let’s go on in, I’m freezing.”

Twilight’s horn lit up, smoothly opening the door, and went inside ahead of her companion. Sam kicked the door shut as Twilight went to light one of the candles on the wall.

“Sam? Aren’t you going to come on upstairs with me?” she turned around to see him still standing in the middle of the room, a nervous grin on his face, “What is it?”

He beckoned for her to come back over to him.

“Sam, you’re acting really weird tonight, are you sure nothing’s going-” she stopped mid-sentence as an oblong box floated over in front of Sam as he knelt down in front of her, “Sam...? Oh. OH. Ohhh my... Sam?!” her jaw hung open.

A few tears welled up in Sam’s eyes as he began to speak. “Twilight, ever since I arrived here, I’ve experienced a lot of change and trouble, and have had to adjust to so much. Everything is so different from what I am accustomed to, and it hasn’t been easy. But one thing has been pretty constant through it all: you, Twilight. You,” he saw her eyes beginning to mist, “You’ve been there for me during my hardest, darkest times, and during some of my happiest. You’ve been an incredible friend, and an amazing special somepony. I love you more than I can put into words, so... Twilight Sparkle, would you make me the happiest stallion on the planet by marrying me?”

Sam focused his concentration, opening the box to reveal a starburst-shaped cluster of purple and red gems on a silver chain, which he promptly levitated over to hang around the lavender mare’s neck.

Her face streaked with tears, Twilight shakily stepped closer to Sam, who stood up to meet her at eye level. She locked eyes with him, smiling, before she suddenly and passionately kissed him, her forelegs around his neck holding all of her weight. If Sam’s adrenaline hadn’t been coursing off the charts, he thought he’d have been dragged to the floor.

Finally, Twilight let go of him, still smiling and gazing tearfully into his eyes before finally replying with a soft, “Yes.”

She held her gaze for a few more moments before tightly shutting her eyes and giggling, then began jumping around in a circle, excitedly chanting “Yes yes yes yes yes!”

At that exact moment, every candle in the room ignited, bathing the space with a happy, warm glow as all of Twilight’s friends, her family, and nearly every pony she knew jumped out from hiding. Almost every pony present was racked with some combination of joyous laughter and sobs of happiness.

As usual, Pinkie Pie had conjured party supplies, punch, and other party accessories out of thin air, and quickly bounced over to spastically blurt out her congratulations to the newly engaged couple.

Twilight’s parents managed to slowly push their way through the throng of friends surrounding her.

As Ray was too busy blowing his nose and crying, Sparkler spoke up. “Oh, honey, congratulations! I’m so happy for you and Sam!”

Ray finally regained his composure. “I’ll admit, I was confused when he first met up with me to ask me about this last week. I distinctly remembered Sam being some sort of weird monkey,” he sniffed slightly, laughing, “but once he told me the whole story, your mother and I couldn’t have been happier!”

Sam smiled. “Thanks, Ray.”

“That’s ‘dad’, now, Sam. And besides, I had a good feeling about you the first time we met, and seeing how you look now, I’d say you turned out to prove me right! My little filly always did deserve a nice stallion, but you’ll do anyway, I think.”

Sparkler bumped her husband. “Ray!”

“Heh, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Seriously Sam,” he extended foreleg to shake hooves, “when I saw how happy you made Twilight, even as weird as you looked, I knew you were alright. Welcome to the family.”

Twilight was still beaming. “Thank you, Dad. Oh my gosh, I just can’t believe this is happening!”

“I do have to ask you one thing, though, Sam,” Ray said, his tone serious, “how are you gonna peel and eat bananas without your hands?”

This time, Twilight pushed Ray over. “Dad! Seriously! Enough with the monkey jokes!”

Sam just laughed, bringing a hoof to rest against his forehead.

“Well, sweetie, your father and I are going to go get some punch and let you two greet the other guests! Congratulations!”

Ray lingered behind, pulled Sam aside, and whispered into his ear. “Now, Sam, I normally wouldn’t say this to a stallion, but I’ve read the reports and articles about humans that you released from your archive and... Well, humans seem different enough that it only seems fair that I warn you, be prepared for the ride of your life come next Summer.”

Sam simply looked confused.

Ray shook his head in pity. Poor kid doesn’t know what he’s got coming... “If you need further explanation, that’s something you should ask Twilight about, I already feel awkward enough right now as is. Take care, Sam! And make sure you have plenty of ice!”

Sam shook his head. That was weird.

As Twilight’s parents left, her brother and Princess Cadance took their spot.

“Hey there, little sis. Looks like it shoulda been you that caught Cadance’s bouquet,” Shining Armor chuckled.

“B.B.B.F.F.!” Twilight threw her forelegs around her brother’s neck.

As Twilight excitedly accepted her brother’s congratulations, Cadance just smiled smugly at Sam.

“What? What’s so funny, Cadance?” Sam asked, unsure of whether to be afraid or equally amused.

The pink alicorn looked up, pretending to be aloof. “Oh, nothing, just bathing in the satisfaction of being RIGHT! I told you that you and Twilight were meant to be, you stubborn chimp.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Cadance, I’m not exactly swinging from trees with a prehensile tail, anymore,” Sam retorted.

“Yes, I see that, but I’m sure you still get the urge from time to time, right?” her expression shifted to genuine happiness, “But anyway, enough teasing. Congrats, Sam. I knew you’d work things out, even if it took a little prodding.”

Sam smiled. “Yeah, thanks for that."

Both Cadance and her new brother-in-law-to-be turned and laughed at the sight before them; Twilight had been completely surrounded by her friends, who had shoved poor Shining out of the way before he knew what had hit him. Rarity was doing her best to avoid stealing the spotlight by bragging about creating the engagement necklace, and the other four girls were in various states of giggling and tearing up. Even Spike was struggling to keep his cool.

Finally, Twilight convinced them to enjoy the party. Once the crowd had dispersed from around her and Sam, she beckoned for Sam to follow her upstairs to the balcony.

“What are we doing up here, Twi?”

“It was getting a little too overwhelming downstairs,” she giggled.

“No kidding, I always forget how intense Pinkie’s surprise parties are.”

Twilight moved closer to her stallion. “So this is what had you acting so suspicious lately?”

“Yep! I take it monkey done good?”

Twilight shot him a look of disapproval. “My dad’s monkey jokes better not rub off on you... But yes, this was, this IS, amazing. I never saw it coming. I mean, I’d hoped this would happen, but still...”

Sam nuzzled her cheek lightly. “You’d think after all the surprises just my being here has caused that you’d have seen something like this from a mile away!”

Twilight smiled. “And this necklace, it’s perfect, absolutely perfect. There’s just one thing though,”

“What’s that?”

“I’d have thought Celestia would have been here,” Twilight said expectantly.

“Oh, I invited her, Luna too. They did tell me that they might be held up a little. Maybe they’ll show up later tonight,” Sam explained hopefully.

Twilight laughed. “They ARE the rulers of the country, after all, who knows what came up?”

They stood there like that for a few more minutes, just gazing at the stars, before Sam turned to look Twilight in the eyes. Both ponies smiled, excitedly anticipating what the future had in store for them both.

Finally, Twilight spoke. “Sam, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this happy. I wish I could come up with something more creative to say other than ‘I love you’, but...”

The tan stallion leaned over and lightly kissed her cheek. “That’ll always be more than enough for me. Come on, it’s too cold, let’s go back inside.”

Twilight nodded, and followed him back downstairs, where they rejoined the happy company of their friends.


Unbeknownst to Sam and Twilight while they were on the balcony, two alicorns had been watching them from the air. Luna had insisted on going on inside to join the festivities, but upon seeing the couple of the night enjoying their moment together alone on the balcony, Celestia elected to hold back for a few minutes.

After the heartwarming moment had ended, Luna once again stated her desire to go inside.

“Sister, we have given them their privacy, I do believe that we may join the party without ruining anything.”

Celestia smiled. “Patience, Luna, patience. This party is about them, no need to make a grand entrance and steal the spotlight.”

Luna suddenly began grinning mischievously, slightly unnerving her elder sibling.

“Luna... What are you up to? I know that grin all too well.”

The Princess of the Night put on her best faux-innocent expression. “Oh, nothing, Tia, nothing. Just entertaining myself with glimpses of the happy couple’s recent dreams,” her eyes lit up in mock surprise, exaggerating her interest in her mental images.

Celestia knew her own curiosity would soon get the better of her. “Fine, Luna, fine. What is it?”

“If I show you, may we PLEASE go on inside?”

Celestia gave an exasperated sigh. “Very well...”

Luna giggled excitedly, before lighting up her horn in preparation to project the image. “You’re going to love this, sister. It was so clear when I saw it... Almost as if it was, or is, really going to happen.”

“Well, dreams have been known to occasionally show the future... Now show me already!”

Luna laughed, and completed her projection. The resulting image cast a faint glow across the two princesses’ faces, as Luna continued giggling while watching her sister’s reaction.

After letting out a surprised gasp, Celestia’s mouth curved upwards into a smile. “That’s adorable, Luna. I hope they really do end up that happy!”

The projection faded, as Luna looked at the Solar Princess expectantly. “So, may we go in now, sister?”

“Of course, after you Luna.”

As Celestia followed her sister to the ground, she happened to glimpse Twilight through one of the windows. She and Sam were both surrounded by their friends and family.

I haven’t seen either of them that happy in ages; they’ve certainly come a long way.


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Heh, can't believe I've finally finished this. It's even harder to believe that I've been working on this since March! I really never thought I'd get into writing fanfiction, let alone spend this much time doing it, haha. But, I'm glad I did, because it's been a ton of fun.

Honestly, I've had the last two parts ready for a few weeks now, but between getting them edited and then moving back to school from Massachusetts... Let's just say I've been pretty busy!

So, mostly I just want to say thanks to you guys. Thanks for reading this, giving feedback, and keeping the comments section interesting, haha. This has been a lot of fun to write, and has been a large part (along with copious amounts of beer) of keeping me sane during my internship a.k.a. one of the worst summers of my life.

I'd also like to specifically thank Shira, as I have done roughly a thousand times. Your input and critique has gone a long way towards helping me improve my writing, and it's been a hell of a time sitting on the chat on Google Docs while working on this haha. Also, thank you for commissioning that picture of Sam & Twilight at the end from Soapie Solar. It's amazing; you didn't have to do that, but I'm glad you did!

Thanks also to FlowerGirl3765 and De Carabas for some editing work towards the end, I really appreciated your feedback.

Also, I'm a huge fan of music, specifically heavy metal. There were several songs that I listened to in order to get into the right mood in writing parts of this. I'm not going to call this a soundtrack, because it's not, but I've seen other authors do this and I thought it was really cool, and kind of interesting to sort of see/hear what they were thinking and feeling while writing.

I listened to this song quite a bit while writing the scene where Sam and Twilight were on the balcony after their "mock date".

This song wound up on my playlist for that part too, but less for the music and more for the lyrics, (which I'll admit I did have to look up for some parts lol).

I liked listening to this track whenever I was writing about a happy/calm moment, like when Sam was working on the farm, for example.

These songs, I listened to while writing the replicator attack scenes:

I was writing the more depressing parts, like Twilight holed up in her room and her/Sam missing each other in general, while listening to this:

This song in general inspired a bit of my main idea for this story, since the song is about a guy who becomes immortal and outlives everyone he knows and eventually the earth itself. Plus, I like the way that the song sounds optimistic and melancholy simultaneously.

So anyway, those are some of the songs I enjoyed listening to while writing this whole thing.

I sincerely hope you guys have enjoyed this story of mine. It was a blast to write, and it's been fun talking to you guys in the comments.

I can't say for certain when I'll get started on a follow-up/sequel to this story, but I can say for sure that I do intend to write one. Before that, though, there are a few one-shots that I'd like to play with. Nothing as serious as this, but I kind of want to take a break from these characters for a while before I try to write a sequel to this. Whenever that is, though, I hope to see you all there!