The Dragonfly Effect

by Ichiro Sato

First published

When Spike went to bed, he was a 162 year old dragon, war veteran, twice widower, and living on the outskirts of Ponyville. This morning, he wakes up to a voice he hadn't heard in decades on the eve of the 1000th Summer Sun Celebration.

Warnings: Sporadic updates, long/plodding, backstory shipping

When Spike went to bed, he was a 162 year old dragon, war veteran, twice widower, and living on the outskirts of Ponyville. This morning, he wakes up to a voice he hadn't heard in decades on the eve of the 1000th Summer Sun Celebration.

Now, Spike must choose between the future he knows and a future he can make.

Prologue: 150 Years of Harmony

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“The way of Equestria has changed greatly since my time as a student of Princess Celestia, and as things change, the way we do things must be done differently, and so it is with great sorrow I, The Last Princess, leave you all and give up my crown, but with great pride I watch our nation be reborn as the United Republics of Equestria!”
-Former Princess Twilight Sparkle in a televised speech from Ponyville Castle

Over the lands of Equestria, the sun rose and with it a new day. As the light roused ponies, griffons, and dragons alike from their sleep, it at last would hit upon a house at the edge of a town: a large cottage made entirely from stone and glass, surrounded by lush green grasses, and belonging to a certain dragon known in the lands by many names and titles, but only a few mattered, one of those was the name ‘Spike’.

Every morning for nearly the past sixty years, Spike began his morning with a simple ritual. One that was passed to him from royalty itself: a checklist

“Dry mouth.” He began with a small thing that had been with him since he was born.

“Bad breath.” He continued with another familiar issue.

“Creaking joints.” A crime for a dragon as young as him to have, but still they were there as he stretched himself out over his bed of loose gold coins, gems, treasures, and precious knickknacks of no value.

“Blurred vision.” He finally opened his eyes, his home a greyish smear in his normally sharp gaze. Mornings did that for everything and everyone.

“Twilight’s spot cold.” This piece was noted ruefully as his hand swept across an empty spot on the massive bed.

And his last checklist item: “Radio” Spike muttered and slapped the device next to his bed, tuning into a station playing some Zebra rhythm and blues.

Delaying no longer, the dragon fully roused himself to the beat of the song, kicking treasure this way and that as his hips began to move.

As his vision came into view, so too did his home, something that would be considered extravagant by even draconic standards, but it was behind the polycarbonate protected cases, securely placed on out-of-reach (for non-unicorn ponies at least) shelves, on his dresser, and in a small shrine his true treasures were collected. A series of photographs from different places and different times, but all of them were of a younger Spike surrounded by six mares, a unicorn, an alicorn, a pair of pegasi, and a pair of earth ponies, and all of them were smiling.

Spike picked up a golden idol and began mouthing along with the song into it as he began dancing around the room, passing a case with a golden trident, an old uniform, medals, letters from four princesses, and an old service photo.

At the crescendo of the music, he leapt away from the bathroom door and back onto the bed where he grabbed an old and battered guitar with lightning bolts up and down the neck, in a now faded blue and strummed on the frayed and loose strings without a care before a photograph of his younger self in a blue gown and cap, diploma in hand and a brass plaque on the frame reading 'congratulations our first class of 36!'

The song ended, and Spike smiled sadly, putting away the ancient instruments as the radio droned: “We interrupt PON-3 Radio with this special news bulletin.”

Spike only half listened as he headed back towards the bathroom, tackling his bad breath with a morning ritual of oral hygiene as the breaking news story blared: “Citizens of the United Republic are advised to be alert for Tarnished Silver, suspect is a unicorn mare, white coat, brown mane, middle aged. Tarnished Silver is wanted on suspicion of murder, practice of forbidden magic, and multiple accounts of theft and breaking and entering various museums and libraries. Citizens are advised to keep their homes secure, report suspicious characters, and not to approach the suspect at all costs!”

“Someone’s continuing the fine, Blue Blood family traditions.” Spike muttered to himself after spitting out his mouthwash and then stepped into the the hot bath. As he relaxed in the almost boiling water, the news played at least five times in a seemingly perfect loop before music would finally return.

“Next, breakfast.” Spike thought to himself after stepping out clean from the bath, stepping past his horde to snatch some gemstones, and popped a few in his mouth. Then grabbed a few more (sapphires, he was always out of sapphires for some reason) and then headed to another chamber in the cave that he had turned into a kitchen.

On his short journey through the hall, more momentos, proof of a grand lifetime that had barely filled even a tenth of for his species, decorated every corner. A pair of wedding licenses signed by Princess Celestia and Luna, photographs of a younger self in Royal Guard armor, ladened down with various tools of the Engineering Corps, an old newspaper reading proudly “WE WON!” with him in the streets on parade, snatching a victory kiss from Twilight surrounded by dragon, griffon, pony, and even changelings, all cheering.

The kitchen was more of the same, some of the mementos would seem bittersweet at best, a picture of Rarity standing at an altar, himself presenting the ring to her and her groom. Shining Armor and Cadence, two pictures framed in black ribbons, but Spike had not bothered to glance at them, his heart remembered.

Instead, he focused on the present, and set to work cooking, years of living with ponies had given him a palette for something more than raw gems (though he was perfectly fine with those), and led him to his own culinary experimentations that later proved popular amongst his race and became known as Draco-Equestrian Fusion Cuisine. A pretentious title that made him chuckle decades later when all he was doing was adding diamond dust to his scrambled eggs.

As the heat in the kitchen grew with both the stove’s flames (he should really invest in one of those induction stovetops) and the summer weather, he cast open the windows to let in a breeze and smile on Ponyville’s distant skyline. He remembered when all of it was just humble homes of brick, lumber, and stone, and in the passing years, he watched it rise into a city of steel and glass, gleaming in the free sun, or shimmering by its own lights by beneath the wandering moon.

“Top of the morning, great grandpa!” A passing unicorn colt in officer’s wear greeted with a smile while tipping his hat. “Getting nostalgic in your old age?”

The dragon snorted back at his ‘step-descendant’, as he dubbed him, with a pair of smoky rings. “Git off mah darn lawn, ya stinkin’ youngin.” He replied in a flat, deadpanned monotone.

The officer laughed and faced the dragon properly with a look of greater concern. “Really, Grandpa, you okay, you seem a bit long in the face.”

Spike grinned and traced the line of his muzzle and made a silent rimshot gesture to dismiss the line of conversation and was met with a stern look. “C’mon, Spike, you can be honest with me, we are family.”

“The jig is up, I guess.” Spike tossed up his hands. “Tomorrow’s the eve of the Summer Sun Celebration. It was the day everything changed, when your great grandmother and I moved to Ponyville. Celestia used to raise the sun then, you know?”

The colt nodded. “Would you like me to come in? I’ve got an hour before I should start my patrol.”

Slowly smiling, the dragon nodded in kind. “I’d like that, Dawnguard.”

After breakfast and conversation with quasi-estranged family, Spike found himself roped into having dinner with the unicorn’s family, which lead to further encouragement to get out and enjoy the day.

When Spike stepped out from his home, it was with an energy he hadn’t felt in weeks. He spent much of the day outdoors, both to let the sun shine on his scales, and because being roughly twice the height of the average pony when on all fours limited which stores he could enter. He saw the decorations of the city, a holiday which once took only a day to prepare now had celebrations throughout the month leading up to it, mostly because the holiday now included The Rediscovery of Harmony and Princess Luna’s return, even if none of the element bearers or the Princess had been amongst them for at least thirty years.

A delightful surprise was that he was not forgotten either, there were fillies, colts, even fledglings and hatchlings who stopped and stared, looking up from their ‘Rainbow Powered Spike’ toys and try to ask him questions before parents pulled them away with apologies. He was invited to one of the rooftop gardens to sample some of the apple ciders, and among the times he purchased something, the people were eager and happy to help him (even if he could carry far more than most of them combined). All around him, he heard his names and titles sung, his deeds repeated in excited whispers, some even regarded him as though he was still Prince, or that the old monarchy mattered at all. But what mattered most to him was that the labors, the efforts, and sacrifices of his friends and loved ones remained as fresh in the hearts of Ponies, Griffons, and Dragons alike as the day the deeds were done.

Dinner with Dawnguard’s family was a more bittersweet affair for Spike, each glance he took around the unicorn’s home reminded him of missing pieces of the past, and his children, despite the generations removed, were the spitting image of their royal ancestor. It was enough that he had to politely excuse himself to run some evening errands, which was not a total lie. While he could have purchased them while ponies had helped him shop earlier or gone into his stocks at home and garden, he felt professionally grown flowers, high quality incense, and gourmet food would be better for this evening.

When Spike finally returned home, he set the flowers into vases before photographs, set down the plates of food, and lit two sticks of incense with a small puff of green flame.

“Well, you girls would be happy,” He greeted. “I finally got off my fat rear and went out today, I saw family, I lived. Not like I used to or as much as you would want me to, but I did.” He met the gazes of each mare in the photographs. “Don’t look at me like that, it’s not easy to live as I used to when everything’s gotten so peaceful. And I’m not going to waste the energy or money to head out to Appleloosa just to beat up some petty banditos.” After a silent pause, Spike hung his head and continued his one-sided conversation with the dead. “I know neither of you want me to. But I still miss you both everyday. I think to myself what I wouldn’t give for a chance to see you both again. I’m still trying to respect your wishes… And all of our friends’. I guess that’s it for tonight, tomorrow is the Summer Sun Celebration’s eve, and I’ll make my annual pilgrimage to Canterlot.” He then picked up one photograph, of a lavender Alicorn in finery and kissed it. “Good night, Twilight.” He then picked up the other photograph of a blue pegasus in military uniform. “Good night, Rainbow Dash.”

After setting it down, he ended the day as he had begun it, with a checklist. “Doors locked, stove’s off, lights out…” As he yawned and crawled on his hoard, his eyes drifting shut, he wondered if he ever did remember to close the kitchen windows.

Chapter 1: History Repeating

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“My mother would tell me my blood father was a good stallion who died in the war, who gave his life to defend my future. But to me, all my father was stories and old war trinkets, an empty idol I couldn’t relate to. I felt my father, my real father, was the dragon who actually came home. The dragon who taught me almost everything I knew from breaking to building, from winning a fight to winning the mare. He only called me ‘stepson’ but I knew his love was real.”
-The Memoirs of Professor Vanguard

Every morning for nearly the past sixty years, Spike began his morning with a simple ritual. One that was passed to him from royalty itself: a checklist

“Dry mouth.” He began with a small thing that had been with him since he was born, a chronic problem for dragons of any age and the price of breathing fire.

“Bad breath.” He continued, something else that had always been a problem, but only grew worse as his venom glands developed. “Actually, not so bad this morning.” Spike added as he sniffed his breath.

“Creaking joints.” A crime for a dragon as young as him to have, but that’s what a boy gets for fighting a grown up’s war when he could barely call himself a whelp. He stretched and noted once again “Also not so bad today.”

“Blurred vision.” He finally opened his eyes, his home a whitish and gold smear in his normally sharp gaze. Mornings did that for everything and everyone.

“Twilight’s spot cold.” The last piece was noted ruefully as his hand swept across an empty spot on the massive bed. And instead touched cold stone.

After several seconds of silence, Spike noticed other things wrong; he didn’t feel the metals or gems poking him lightly while shifting in that almost massaging way, his bed was also much to small not to mention made from wicker and blankets. His body felt off somehow, in a way he couldn’t explain, but weaker, he was certainly weaker.

Delaying no longer, the dragon fully roused himself from his bed of sheets, blankets, wicker, and asbestos. As his vision came into view, he was greeted not by the earthen walls of his home just outside of Ponyville, but instead a familiar alabaster marble with radiant gold trims.

“Canterlot…” Spike muttered aloud with another sweep he caught glimpse of the thousands of shelves he recalled too well. “The library it seems, and…” He blinked at the shelving system. “Someone’s been remodeling despite Twilight’s last will and testament.” He grumbled and began untangling himself from his small sheets. “When I get my claws on whoever did this, I am going to feed them my mercury pie.” Or at least that’s what Spike had intended to say, instead, his claws did not touch ground when he had expected them too, his center of gravity felt shifted, and the blankets were still caught on his hind talons, resulting on the dragon yelping and tumbling off a second story balcony, and landing splat onto ground floor with a heavy thud.

“Spike?” A new voice called that made the purple dragon’s heart stop and throat clench.

Or rather it was an old voice, a familiar voice, and a comforting one. “Spike?” She called again, the light tapping of her hooves resonating through the library. “If you’re finally awake, I need you to help me find an old copy of Predictions and Prophecies!”

As Spike struggled with his own bedding, his mind raced with possibilities while his eyes began to shimmer and vision blur. “Did I die in my sleep?” He thought. “Maybe I’m hallucinating again. Or dreaming. Dreaming’s pretty likely.” He began to speak to himself out loud.

“Was that you just now?” Twilight’s voice called to him.

Finally, he untangled himself from the wicker and linen prison while considering a new hypothesis. “Maybe, just maybe I’m trapped in some kind of illusion. Like with Sombra’s door? I don’t know who or what would do this but I have to be cautious…”

“Spike? I can hear you talking. Are you talking to yourself?” The hoof falls were coming closer now, ready to round a corner.

“Spike, whatever you do right now, you must resist this illusion and not say a thing back.” He harshly told himself just in time to see a dead unicorn turn to face him with a scowl.

“There you are, Spike! Come on, i’ve needed your help for three minutes and fifty one second-” Twilight was suddenly cut off by her assistant rushing at her, arms open and then wrapping her into a tight hug, sobbing.

“You had one job, Spike!” He mentally chided himself as he went to his knees.

It was a job Twilight seemed willing to do for him as she awkwardly pushed him away. “Uhhh… I’d love to help you through whatever dragon thing you’re going through right now…” Twilight said uneasily and backing away. “But I need to find that book. I’m sorry but I don’t have time for this sort of thing!” Twilight then turned and galloped away, as Spike watched her go, he noticed something about his no-longer-late-wife.

Her royal regalia (and other clothes for that matter) were gone, as were her wings.

A chance glimpse at a reflective surface, and Spike saw a version of himself he had not seen in over a century and a half.

On seeing this, Spike did the logical thing, and slap his palms to the sides his face, and scream at the top of his lungs.

“Spike, would you be quiet? I’m trying to find Predictions and Prophecies- Ah! I found it-! No, nevermind, it’s third edition.” The unicorn grumbled and tossed the book aside, accidentally beaning her panicked assistant in the face.

Which worked to the benefit of both as the mild concussion quieted Spike down, and curiously, allowed him to think clearer. After a moment dodging more books and working out his situation, Spike hesitantly asked: “Twilight, why do you need the first edition copy of Predictions and Prophecies?”

The lavender unicorn finally paused from her frantic search and looked to her draconic assistant. “I’m trying to research the Elements of Harmony. From the legend of the Two Princesses.” Followed by the return of her search with rapidly muttered ‘no’s.

Deciding to go along with this, Spike shrugged and walked over to the index drawer, mentally smiling at the feel of the old system at his fingertips compared to the cold touch of digital search catalogues. He also considered complimenting whoever arranged this illusion for their accuracy, assuming it wasn’t a dream or bout of insanity. “Does it occur to you to look through the catalogue first instead of tearing the place up?” He asked and quickly pulled out the correlating card.

Twilight paused once more, her look said everything, ‘Spike, you don’t talk like that’, but any vocalization of this died in her throat and she went back to searching. “Yeah, well, you do that. I’m going to use the algorithm metho-”

“Right here!” Spike said with a small smirk at his friend’s impatience while standing right beneath her on the ladder. “Catch!” He called and tossed it up a short distance where a magical aura enveloped it and pulled up to Twilight’s side where she checked to make sure it was the right edition.

She didn’t even wait to get off the ladder before opening the book and reading. “Elements… Elements…”

As Twilight Sparkle flipped through the pages, Spike considered his possible situation and decided if he was to narrow down if he was being tricked, he would have to resort to a, near literally, dirty trick from his and Twilight’s marriage. Exploiting a dark weakness in Twilight’s mental defenses which he remembered very well for unleashing the entirety of her libido.

Clearing his throat multiple times in succession, promptly Twilight to stop, look at him, and glare. “Spike, do you need a cough drop?”

Smiling and bracing for the potential outcomes, he replied: “Oh, no, I was just trying to get my head in working order to remember something.”

“And that would be?”

He swept forward, intimately close, leaned into her ear and whispered something at a perfect pitch as he had decades ago but knew could affect Twilight even now.

When he pulled back, Twilight’s face was beet red, her breath was short, ears perked, and many other familiar signs.

And then she smashed the dragon’s face in with a book. “Yo-You little pervert!” She shouted with breathless accusation. “If you’re not going to- If you’re not going help then you can get out of here!” She stuttered and swatted the dragon’s tail to rush him out of the library.

He could barely suppress his grin. “C’mon, Twilight!” He said without even trying to really placate her. “It’s just a little math brainteaser!”

“GET OUT!” Twilight screamed, nearly tore off the door of the library, and tossed him out into Canterlot.

When the doors slammed shut, Spike grumbled a bit at his lack of resilience or pain tolerance compared to his older self. Pulling himself off the smooth marble steps, he looked around and gawked. He had seen Canterlot before, he lived here, multiple times even. But he had forgotten how much the city had changed.

The towers were shorter, no highways spiralling between the buildings, no neon lights, no preserved wrecks of historical buildings, no special landing pads for airships (which was really strange). Just ivory towers of gold and purple and narrow, winding streets of cobblestone, and ponies, just ponies.

Ponies that stared at him with a leery look or wary glance as though he would turn into a killing machine at a moment’s notice. Spike then recalled that once birthday and realized that really was the case.

He then went back to his task at hand, namely understanding the situation. Twilight felt so real, everything did. But he had seen illusions that could fool even the most iron willed and clever individuals, while no one else knew about Twilight’s ‘on switch’, except for maybe the late Flash Sentry, or the details of Canterlot’s library and cataloguing system so clearly, whoever cast the illusion could be building off his memories, layered with historical data, and perhaps even tapping into the Akashic records.

“Which… Sounds a bit out there.” He commented to himself out loud, making the passing ponies even more leery. “I’m highly resistant to magic and drugging, but not wholly immune. Still, my head feels way too clear to be any of that, or for all this to be a dream or madness… The alternative is-” Before he could vocalize his thoughts, the door to the library flew open, followed by Spike feeling a tug on his tail that sharply pulled him to the feet, or hooves of his ‘caretaker’ who passed him a quill and parchment.

“Take a note, please.” The words were familiar, the reaction instant, a conditioned response in both body and mind even at this age. Spike was up and on his feet, the parchement unfurled and the quill inked before Twilight had even finished. “And please, be serious this time.” She chastied with a blush on her face.

Spike just nodded and listened intently. “Good, now, to the Princess.” An alarming case of Deja Vu was beginning to set into the dragon’s mind, memories over a hundred years old began to lose the fog of ages shrouding them. “My dearest teacher,” Twilight began to pace. “My continuing research of pony magic have led me to the revelation that we are on the threshold of disaster.”

Alarms went off and bells were rung in the dragon’s head that made him look up from his handwriting and gape. “Wait, what was that?” He asked stupefied.

“I said I have been led to discover that were are on the precipice of disaster. You know? Something really bad happening?” Twilight echoed with some frustration. She watched Spike nod slowly and continue before she resumed her own pacing. “For you see, the mythical Mare in the Moon is, in fact, Nightmare Moon-” She screeched to a halt and winced at the sound of tearing parchment. “Spike! Did you just ruin the letter? Time is of the essence, don’t you know?”

And Spike stood there, a thousand yard stare in his eyes as the memories came back full force. “Yes, Twilight…” He said flatly. “I know very well…” Shaking himself out of it, he pulled his pen from the hole in the paper. “Look, it’s a small tear, okay, just keep going.”

Sighing, the unicorn scholar resumed. “Where was I? Ah, yes. Nightmare Moon is on the eve of her return to Equestria to bring about eternal darkness. We must act to ensure this prophecy does not come to fruition! I await your quick response. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.” She finished staring out at the Canterlot skyline. “Got all that?” She asked just in time to see a wisp of green flame.

“Y-yeah.” Spike nodded. “And already sent.”

“Good, now I’m certain Princess Celestia will act swiftly and decisively. I want to know what the hay’s been going on with you.” Twilight asked.

Spike ‘umm’d and ‘uhhh’d for a good several moments as he attempted to figure out how to word an answer. In his mind he went over his memories of what each of his old friends would do. It didn’t help in the least.

“Well?” Twilight asked with a bit of growing impatience that made Spike wince briefly before staring right back. He had forgotten just what a pain Twilight had been in the early years, it was remarkable to imagine such an impatience, abrasive shut-in would become The Princess of Friendship one day.

Unless… He changed the future by telling her.

“Spike, I asked you a question, would you at least pretend you’re listening?”

Before Spike could retort, he felt a familiar welling of smoke and rotten eggs, followed by a small burp that produce a gout of flame which reconstructed the response from carbonized ashed into paper and midnight ink with a red ribbon and the royal seal.

“See? Swift and decisive.” Twilight smiled, forgotting their line of conversation and snatching the scroll away with her magic than letting her assistant read it to her this time.

Inwardly, Spike recalled Twilight, his Twilight (and hopefully this one) mentioning something she called The Butterfly Effect, a theoretical possibility, and potential reason for the impossibility of time travel (this was well before encountering her future self), that the world is made up of so many variables and so few constants (which can even shift into variables), of causes and effects that even something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings a different way could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. While no doubt an exaggeration, it filled the dragon with dread.

If he was in the past, if history was repeating, would it repeat as he recalled? He considered the thousands of variables that made up their time and history together, the dumb and contrived coincidences that saw them through or redefined a relationship, the close brushes with tragedy. As he thought back on it all, for laughter and tears, for loss and gain, he would never want to change history, nor rob his friends or the world of the history that made it as he remembered.

How much had changed just by his actions this morning alone? Would Celestia decide to genuinely not act? Would she delay the celebration? Would she deal with matters herself?

“ARGH!” A frustrated growl from Twilight said otherwise, and for now, Spike was filled with relief. “Why is she sending me to some backwater, bumpkin, boondock hole?!”

Very relieved.

Chapter 2: Seeing Ghosts

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“When war broke out, the races of the world were divided like never before. Some question why so many dragons chose to side with the Loyalist Coalition Armies. Some wondered if dragons learned the meaning of ‘friendship’ but the truth is a true dragon never bows.”
-First Lieutenant Fizzle of the 501st Legion

The flight over to Ponyville was a quiet one unlike last time. Both the chariot's occupants spent the trip brooding over very different subjects.

Twilight over her scorn pride and her pleas (to her knowledge) being dismissed. While Spike brooded over the potential ramifications of too many small changes to the timeline adding up into drastic ones, how to preserve the timeline, (his plan being trying to remember everything he did last time and follow through on that while praying Celestia's talks on destiny actually were not just the princess developing senility) and more importantly, how he got where (or when) he was.

He had not entirely ruled out some manner of enemy. "But it doesn't make sense? Why send me back if they wanted to manipulate history and not go back themselves? Never mind figuring out how they overcame The Starswirl Temporal Loop Trap time travel is supposed to suffer from..." Spike rambled in one corner of his brain while the other still tried to recall the hundred fifty year old memory of the flight conversation.

"Spike?" Twilight's voice broke her assistant from his thoughts. Spike turned and met her gaze filled with concern. It was a familiar expression he had seen her wear every time Flash (or anyone she loved) had gone off to battle, or the weight of the united nations seemed to grow heavier on her, or a million other burdens haunted her mind. It was a look that caused a dull pain in Spike's chest, wife or not, real or not it was enough for Spike to move over and give her a back rub. "Spike! What are doin-..." She began to protest but melted. "Oh, my... That's heavenly... Where did you learn that?" She asked all but kicking her leg like a happy dog.

"I read a book about it." Spike grinned as he threw back one of Twilight's stock answers into her face. "Now, why don't you tell me what's on your mind?"

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Do you think I’m crazy for worrying about this Mare In The Moon thing?” She asked.

Spike wanted to reassure her how right she was, that Celestia was taking swift and decisive action by sending her to Ponyville to make some friends, and tell her of the wondrous adventure she was (hopefully) destined to embark on.

Unfortunately, he had to keep in mind the practical aspect of it without his foresight. But to discourage her might cause worse in the future.

Then, brilliance struck him. “Oh, you’re definitely crazy, Twilight, but it’s not the Nightmare Moon thing that makes you insane.” He was rewarded with a wry smack to his face by Twilight’s tail, ending the back rub.

“Haha.” She said flatly.

“That said though, I believe you.” Spike answered earning a shocked look from Twilight. “And the way I see it, if we prepare for this and you’re wrong, we can laugh about it later. If you’re right and we are not prepared, we face the end of times.”

“Ugh, that’s not reassuring.” Twilight groaned. “We have to find a way to stop Nightmare Moon.”

“Well, my first advice: we look for help.” Spike said playing to his real objective. “We can use this whole errand Celestia sent us on to gather information on ponies around town and see if any are the reliable sort.”

“I’d rather have my brother and a contingent of guards. What honestly makes you think we’ll find any pony that could last a second against Nightmare Moon?” Twilight asked.

Spike grinned a little wider. “I read up on the demographics of Ponyville before we left and found out it had the highest concentration of ponies with psychoses, so we’ll either find help or have a fun and interesting time. Either way, your brother is stationed on border duty, we could contact him but it would take three days for him to reach us.”

“And about lasting a second against an ancient queen of darkness?”

“Hey, since Celestia won’t help, the guards won’t help, it’s us and whoever we find, or nothing.”

Twilight sighed and hung her head over the edge of the chariot again as they made their final descent towards the small town where everything would change. “I really don’t know if I like this new you or not, Spike. And I know for sure I’m not gonna like this whole inspection thing.”

“Look on the bright side, we’ll be staying at a library, once we check on the preparations for the celebrations and find some allies, we can go to the library and research more on the Nightmare Moon thing.”

Twilight smiled for the first time since they left with a glint in her eye. “Alright, I’ve decided, I like the new you, Spike.”

Spike just smiled and nodded as they touched ground and climbed out, all the while thinking “You had one job, Spike. One job that requires eidetic memory and muscle memory, and the ability to switch off giving a damn about Twilight’s less-than-healthy mental state.”

Aloud, he was saying “Besides, the people here should have something interesting to say. Like I said, this is the crazy capital of Equestria.” as a familiar face bounced towards them, each hop making a 'boing' she hooves hit earth, and Spike suddenly felt a cold chill.

If anyone would be able to ascertain his status as a time traveler, no doubt it was the approaching pink party mare. “Uh, How about we split up on meeting the preparation planners? Huh?” Spike said quickly and began to head towards Sweet Apple Acres only for Twilight to grab him.

“Oh, no you don’t! You’re the one who suggested we talk to people, so you talk to this one!” She said shoving him right into the face of Pinkie Pie.

There was a tense silence for what felt like an eternity, and in that eternity 's memories replayed the original version of this meeting, the party they came home to, her return with the other five having forged a world changing friendship. The parties for birthdays, holidays, victories, weddings, baby showers, even funerals for the fallen. Spike could not think of a single gathering he had been that lacked Pinkie's smile, whether bright and laughing or hopeful and consoling, she was at every one, quick with a joke or a story to celebrate a life passed on.

Until it had come her time, and from then onwards the world seemed a bit darker to Spike and his friends without the brightness of her smile.

Back in reality, Spike realized his ‘frozen eternity’ had simply been him staring bug eyed for ten long seconds at an equally bug eyed Pinkie Pie. Swallowing the lump in his throat and licking his lips, his voice cracked and he squeaked out a hesitant “Hi.” that would make Fluttershy proud.

And just like before, Pinkie leapt into the air, gasped like a free-diver breaking surface, and ran. All while still in the air.

“Wow!” Twilight said with a smirk. “You’re right, ponies in this town are crazy.”

“Y-Yeah…” Spike muttered, still shaking, both from his potential cover being blown and time being messed up further than it already had been, and the memories he had of the party pony from the old timeline.

“Well, time to get this over with.” Twilight moved on, noticing the discomfort of her assistant. “Where’s our first stop?”

Blindly, Spike produced the instructions left for him by Princess Celestia and read it off with a small rattle in his voice. “S-Summer Sun Celebration- Celebration Official Overseer’s Ch-Checklist.” These memories. Damn these memories, they were starting to overwhelm him.

Suddenly, a familiar pull of magic tugged on Spike, bringing him into the air and on Twilight’s back. “Spike, if you’re not feeling well, I can drop you off at home and finish this myself-”

“No!” The dragon accidentally shouted into her ear, making the unicorn wince. “I mean I’ll be fine. I must have had some bad Pikhanloy.” And the moment Twilight recovered, she gave him a stare.

“Spike, what on earth is a Pikhamkoi or whatever?”

A dish that would not exist for a hundred years when dragons began to develop their own cuisine. (Inspired mostly by Spike’s works, he would proudly note)

“It’s- Uhh…” Spike struggled, and then brilliance hit him. “Oh, what was it now? I read it in a book on… Saddle Arabian Cuisine! That’s it! I might have pronounced it all wrong though.”

Twilight’s inquisitive gaze turned piercing as her assistant nodded at his own duplicity. “And… When did you try making this?”

“You’re not the most terribly observant pony in the world Twilight. Not when you’re wrapped up in your studies or interrogating me instead of avoiding that fence post.”

Twilight stopped dead in her tracks and uncraned her neck from meeting Spike’s gaze to come face to face with a purple painted, pine, picket fence post. “Alright, I’ll capitulate this argument, but there’s something really really off with you today, and I intend to find out. Well, after dealing with this and Nightmare Moon.” the unicorn yielded. “So, that checklist?”

Nodding, Spike pointed them into the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, and journeyed in silence, Twilight mostly focusing on the road, but occasionally glancing back at her assistant at first seemed nervous, but gained a nostalgic look in his eyes as they came upon the first of the orchard trees.

How long had they been there and how long would they endure? It was a question Spike knew the answer to, and by his time, the last to know the answer. He smiled, amused as he thought of his own Applejack, the one was so stubborn she passed on only a year before the hundred thirty seven (at the time of her own death) Twilight. The mare who had not slowed down even a bit until the night of her passing.

And when he heard that familiar voice of vigor shouting “Yeehaw” followed by the resonating ‘thunk’ of hooves meeting tree bark, Spike smiled wider, seeing the orange farm pony, a familiar sight of hard work and constance no matter what came or went.

“Alright, let’s get this over with, because I’m not done with you.” Twilight said with a glance to her number one assistant. “Also, you’re crying.” She added with a superior ‘I got you’ smirk. She then approached the earth pony while Spike rubbed out his eyes, and with an air of official formality she had not grown into yet, she announced herself. “Good afternoon, my name is Twilight Sparkle.”

Then her whole body began to shake as Applejack vigorously greeted the student of Celestia with a casual hospitality. “Howdy do to you too, Twilight! A pleasure to meet’cha! Apples like myself are always happy an’ eager to meet new friends!”

“Do friends fight ancient mad princesses of myth on the precipice of their return?” Twilight deadpanned as her voice trembled and shook while Spike dropped an apple he had plucked from a basket and stared at Twilight.

Applejack stopped shaking Twilight’s hoof, smiled, and winked. “Wouldn’ be the first time I’ve made a friend by kickin’ flank along side ‘em beforehand.” And Spike’s jaw hit the floor. “Somethin’ wrong with your pet iguana?” She asked casting a concerned look.

“Firstly; he’s a dragon. Secondly; he’s an assistant, not a pet. And third; yes, but I can’t place what specifically or how.” Twilight dismissed. “Now, to get to business, we’re here to inspect the banquet being prepared for tomorrow’s Summer Sun Celebration. I take it there are no issues?”


“Great! Now we’ll just-”

“Ya wanna try a sample?” Applejack offered, giving Spike some level of relief.

Twilight mulled over this and finally relented. “Okay, just as long as it’s quick. I am kind of hungry.”

The triangle was rung, and the farm mare let out the famous Apple Family call, and in a flash, Spike and Twilight were seated at a table. “Now how ‘bout I introduce ya’ll to the Apple family?” She offered, appearing right beside them and gesturing to the dozens of ponies around them.

Twilight opened her mouth to argue, but Applejack was quicker and listed off her family as they dropped assorted plates and dishes. “This here’s Apple Fritter, Red Delicious, Apple Bumpkin, Apple Crisp, Golden Delicious, Apple Tart, Apple Strudel, Apple Brioche, Baked Apple (don’ eat his brownies), Caramel Apple, Apple Cinnamon Crisp,” She paused here to take a deep breath. “And Big Macintosh, Applebloom, and Granny Smith! Wake up, Granny, we got ourselves some guests!”

The old mare roused from her place on the rocking chair and babbled a bit as she approached to join the rest of the party at a leisurely pace.

“Seems like you’re already part o’ the family there, Twi!” Applejack commented, getting a spit take out of the mare in question. (who didn’t even have anything in her mouth this time, curiously).

“Well! As I was saying, seems the food situation is handled, and if you want to get back to me on fighting a mythological mad demi-god, you can meet me at Golden Oaks at six.” Twilight dismissed and seemed ready to go when Applebloom stood before her with the biggest puppy dog eyes ever that had broken the will of many before, and would break more in the future.

“Won’cha stay wit’ us for brunch, Miss Twiligh’?” She asked.

“I’m… Sorry.” Twilight began to stammer out, proving her willpower above many others to say that much before ultimately folding like a house of cards.

As Spike and Twilight settled in with the Apples, Applejack provided most of the energy to the conversation, it was quite amazing how Applejack’s casual talk could put on at such ease and pry so much information out of one like Twilight at this stage in her life. Not that Twilight was terribly ironclad in her desire to keep secrets either, but Spike took note to be especially onguard.

“So ‘bout that whole ‘Ancient Mad Princess’ thing-a-ma-jig.” Applejack suddenly brought up, making Spike blink.

“I said I’ll give you the details later.” Twilight explained between mouthfuls of food ‘forced’ on her.

Applejack took it in stride and chuckled. “A good meal really shouldn’ be ruined with doomsayin’. Enjoyin’ the meal so far?”

“Itsh goof!” The unicorn answered with a mouthful of applepie she was coerced into stuffing into her mouth by the whole slice.

“Chew, Twilight, chew your food!” Spike teased, earning a glare from Twilight and a friendly smile from Applejack that made Spike mentally go ‘eep’.

“So how ‘bout you, partner? Ain’ never seen a dragon ‘fore, what’s your name and story?”

The dragon realized if he wanted things to stay as much the same as before, he was going to have to learn to hold his overly long tongue. “Well, I’m Spike, and, as Twilight said, I’m just her assistant. I help her get books, organize her workspace, keep her room tidy-”

“Sounds more like you’re her maid. An’ you sounds pretty young too.” Applejack commented with concern and an almost accusing glance at Twilight who was now wolfing down apple fritters

“No!” Spike protested suddenly then softened his voice. “I mean Twilight’s my friend.” Or would be. “She does care for me a lot.” In the future. “We both look out for one another.” He said remembering how during these days Twilight would forget to eat or sleep properly.

Applejack didn’t seem convinced, but relented a bit. “Well, just know if you ever need friends, we’re always lookin’ for ‘em here.” She said with an unusually measured tone to avoid offending Spike.

She didn’t, just because when Spike reflected on this period in his life, Twilight could be called negligent at best. But of course, it would seem that only added meaning to her transcendence into the Princess of Friendship itself.

Assuming he did not screw things up enough to turn her to the darkside of magic inadvertently.

“Thanks, Applejack, and if you ever need help you can count on me.” Spike answered and forced himself not to say more, but as lunch went on, Spike’s yearning grew.

He wanted to ask Applejack about her family and improvements she could make to the farm to help ease their burdens. He wanted to share with Twilight some of his engineering knowledge from the future and debate with her for hours. He wanted to work shoulder to shoulder with Macintosh, to ask Granny Smith about ‘how it used to be’, he wanted to even play with Applebloom just to watch the incredible journey she would start from the beginning all over again. All around as he looked at the ponies he would remember watching grow up, have children, grow old, and pass away. And he wanted to be there from the beginning this time, to see it all.

“Spike?” Twilight’s voice broke him from his reprieve and he snapped to attention.

He looked around and saw those same ponies now looking at him. “You okay there, partner? You’re tearin’ up somethin’ fierce.”

The dragon in question just looked up at a cloud and wiped his eyes. “Just a pegasus playing pranks on me.” He replied, knowing their next inspection would only be harder.

Chapter 3: Some Things Always Change

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“I’ve watched Equestria grow and change around me, and I knew the biggest changes had yet to come. But who would have thought a dragon like me would have brought plenty of those big changes myself.”
-CEO of Orochi Inc. Spike on the personal computer.

This time around, Twilight’s eating had been much more moderate, even so, she was still groaning from having eaten too much.

“Should have eaten dinner last night and breakfast this morning then.” Spike commented with a smile, relatively sure he has said something along those lines.

“Ugh, just read the list, Spike…” Twilight moaned, whether from the food or dealing with her assistant’s odd behavior would remain to be seen.

Taking a breath, Spike read the list. “Weather, there should be a pegasus named Rainbow Dash who's in charge of it. Supposed to have cleared the clouds.”

“Well, given your little incident with the ‘rain’ earlier, she must not be very good at her job.”

A sudden blur of color flashed by them, followed by a rush of wind that almost bowled them over. Skidding to a halt closeby, a blue pegasus with a trademark rainbow mane, wild and fiery as the mare it grew from, turned to them and smirked. “Who’s not very good at her job?”

Spike’s mind began to resume its drive memory lane, he still remembered seeing that same pegasus in her Wonderbolts uniform for the first in a show, he could see her in her wedding dress, the heated arguments, the the even more heated evenings, and all the things that followed until that morning Spitfire flew into camp, carrying a charred uniform and a few burnt, blue feathers.

“Uh, hey, something wrong with your pet iguana?” The pegasus’ voice snapped the dragon to attention. “Oh! There he goes, man, he looked like the Cloud Ionizer last week.” Rainbow Dash laughed off. “I mean I’m used to people staring when they see something this awesome, but I was afraid I mighta broke him for a second there.” She struck a pose that made Twilight roll her eyes while Spike was reminded all too well of that sleek body he used to

“Mind out of the gutter, Spike.” The dragon mentally chided and shook his head, just in time to catch the tail end of his ex-wife. “Sorry about that, so how ‘bout this weather, huh?” Spike said aloud to deflect the conversation.

“Yes, how about this weather?” The unicorn echoed while her eyes narrowed. “You’re supposed to have cleared the sky of clouds for the Summer Sun Celebration.”

The accusations though washed off from the pegasus like the rain. “Pfft! I can clear the sky in like, eight seconds, eleven if I fall asleep halfway through the job. Besides, I’m still using these clouds to practice.”


“The Wonderbolts!” Rainbow Dash said proudly. “They’ll be at celebration, and I gotta show’em my best moves and for that, I need clouds to practice on.”

In his head, Spike was biting back the urge to comment on Dash’s form, her need for team formation practice, and other things. But he withheld, watching history repeat before him, giving him some small comfort that there were constants in the universe after all.

“Really? Well they’re not going to be very impressed if you just slack off on your duties.” Twilight goaded with a knowing smile as Spike could feel Twilight’s analytical mind now psychologically profiling Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash locked eyes with the Canterlot scholar and narrowed her gaze while flaring her nostrils. “Alright then.” Spike felt a delightful chill down his spine seeing an all-too-familiar grin on her lips. “Name your challenge, whoever you are.”

Twilight smiled in kind sending a another pleasant shiver down the dragon’s back. “Twilight Sparkle, and as overseer of the preparations for the festival, I want you to put your money where your mouth is: clear the sky in ten seconds.”

“Or else? Not a bet if nothing’s on the line.” Rainbow Dash lazily spun in the air.

Twilight tapped her hoof to her chin. “If you win, I have contacts in Canterlot to the Wonderbolts I can-”

“Time me.” Were Rainbow Dash’s only two words before pinballing between every cloud over and around Ponyville. To Twilight, it was a seemingly impossible feat of speed, to see Rainbow Dash zipping through the sky like that for the first time.

For her temporally displaced, draconic assistant, it was reliving the first moment he knew Ponyville really was a special place with special ponies, it was seeing his fallen friend moving with the full vigor he remembered.

But like all things only watched that involved Rainbow Dash, it was over all too soon, and she was back on the ground to face a stunned Twilight. But this time, she breathed heavily, having pushed herself harder than before.

“How’d… How’d I do?” She asked with sweat rolling down her muzzle and a wheeze in her breath.

Twilight just silently held up a stopwatch that was flashing six point seventy one second.

The pegasus seemed to regain all her energy and did a loop in the air. “Yes! I beat my old record!” Suddenly, she scooped up both Twilight and Spike into her forelegs for a hug. “Couldn’t have done it without the support a such a loving audience!”

“Ack! If you want to thank us!” Twilight choked. “Let us breath!”

“Oh, sorry.” Dash said and let them both go, dropping them into the mud.

“Heheh, sorry, lemme fix that.” Rainbow Dash apologized and then looked around. “Whoa, double sorry, no clouds to wring for a bath.”

“I’ll live somehow…” Twilight huffed bemused while Spike continued to savor the moment. “Say, you seem pretty skilled.”

“Well I am the fastest flyer in Equestria.” Rainbow Dash said proudly, puffing her chest.

“I could use an ally like you.” That caught both Spike and Rainbow Dash’s attentions, Dash was curious, but Spike seemed mortified.

Flailing his arms and spreading mud everywhere, the dragon stammered out: “Twi-Twilight! Maybe this isn’t the best time? There are other things to do, aren’t there?”

The unicorn scholar was less than amused. “Spike, it was your idea to begin with.” She turned her attention back to the still curious but thoroughly confused pegasus. “See, I have reason to believe that the old legend of Nightmare Moon is real, and not only real, but will return on the coming of this very Summer Sun Celebration. Without any help from the guard or Princess Celestia, I have taken it on myself to gather allies to find a means to combat this-”

“You had me at ‘combating an ancient evil’!” A starry eyed Rainbow Dash said shaking Twilight’s hoof. “So who else is coming? Should I bring my friend Fluttershy? No, wait, that’s a terrible idea. Well maybe we can talk to the Wonderbolts?”

“Wait, you actually believe her?” The dragon asked, somewhat incredulous with how nonchalant two ponies had been about the idea of going along with Twilight..

Twilight responded in kind. “Don’t you, Spike?” Her eyes narrowed. “Or have you just been patronizing me this whole time?” There was a very sharp tone of accusation, suspicion, and genuine hurt in her tone.

“Way more than I should…” The dragon thought but just shook his head. “No, it’s just… This is something you should probably approach delicately. I mean doesn’t ‘I read a book that prophesied the return of an ancient goddess of evil’ sound a little far fetched to you?”

“Actually, it sounds outright crazy if you ask me, but more because it’s coming from her than the story itself.” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug. “But I figure if we do it right, if Twilight’s just crazy we can laugh about it later. But if she’s right, then it’ll be totally awesome and I can say I beat up a god!”

“Strange minds think alike, it seems.” Twilight commented with a smile to Spike who was blinking in disbelief.

The dragon let out a bittersweet laugh, barely holding back tears as a thousand memories played through his mind once again. “Seems so.”

Surprisingly, the unicorn scholar displayed unusual empathy for this point in her life and nodded to Rainbow Dash. “Well, meet with me at the Golden Oaks Library at six, and we can discuss this further. In the meantime, Spike and I have to check in on others.”

“Gathering the whole party before you venture forth?” The pegasus asked with a cocky smirk.

“Something like that.” Twilight waved off and set Spike on her back. “Come on moodswinger.”

Moving at a brisk pace towards Town Hall, Spike reigned his emotions under control in a few quick breaths.

“Feeling better?” Twilight asked over her shoulder. “And are you ready to talk about what’s been up with you all day?”

The purple dragon took another breath, rolling his tongue ten times in his mouth before he chose his next words. “Honestly? I’ve been ready to talk to you about it all morning. But I can’t, that’s why I’ve been struggling so much.”

That gave the unicorn pause. “Does it have to do with Nightmare Moon? Princess Celestia? This trip to Ponyville?”

“Yes.” He replied and hopped off to continue their trek to meet Rarity. The lavender scholar suddenly jumped to keep up.

“Hey, wait, does Celestia believe me then afterall? Did she tell you something about Nightmare Moon?” She seemed to grow in excitement.

“Yes.” He answered honestly again, though remained vague.

“So what did she tell you?”

“‘Yes.’” He answered with his back still facing away from the unicorn to hide the small smile coming back on, only to hear Twilight stop again midstep with a stomp of her hooves and growled in frustration.

Suddenly, Twilight was in front of him, eyes narrowed. “Look, mister, if you want to gamble that’s your business, but with Equestria on the line, I need to know the truth. No more games, tell me, now, or I lock your tail in a geas so constricting you will need my permission to breathe!”

The dragon blinked, realizing he had pushed Twilight too far in his attempts to regain homeostasis, and now answers would only sate her, and she raised a valid point without knowing it.

How many times had she and her friends come out on top only through chance and whim, a proverbial roll of the dice. When he thought back on the countless brushes with death that were so easy to laugh off nearly a moment later and how, even if he followed his original actions (which he was having trouble remembering for the life of him) a narrow success or even an outstanding victory shift out of their favor. And that set his mind on the million, billions, decillion, centillion variables that altered reality. From the step of a behemoth through the forests, arbitrarily dictating the lives of those crushed underfoot… Or the sperm which would vie for the ova within Mrs. Cake, if they did at all. He thought of this and his scales visibly faded in vibrance and the internal fires within him went to embers.

“Oh, no! You’re not getting out of this that easily!” Twilight snapped. “Why are you being so damned difficult-”

“Alright, I’ll say this much: Celestia does know about Nightmare Moon’s return. She did not ignore you. But there is a reason you’re here, it’s in the letter.” He answered quickly after having been brought back to reality but still riding a pendulum which swung across a myriad of mental spectrums.

Twilight’s anger evaporated quickly. “Uh oh…” She looked over the checklist page. “Uh… The page with the actual letter… I threw it out on the way over here in frustration. I might have set it on fire too.” She smiled sheepishly.

That managed to pulled the pendulum over to the comfort of familiarity for the dragon. “Well, Celestia’s most faithful and best student will then have to apply her memory. In the meantime, we have decorations to check up on.” He said and lead her on to the town hall.

And amidst a delicate phantasmagoria of scintillating gosmer, elegant tides of velvet, and embracings of silk, all filigreed with embroidery there was a white unicorn mare, her mane immaculately coiffed as her coat was pure, and for all her earnest effort into her task, she was the centerpiece of it all. Her figure was perfectly smooth and curved fluidly, the perfect ratios of softness and firmness, leading tempted eyes from head to hooves to tail. But only Spike could see the beauty she would become that would be even greater.

The memory’s vision was blurred a bit by held back tears, but he still remembered standing at the far aisle, watching her be offered by her father at the altar. The rings on the pillow he carried feeling leaden while the groom spoke his vows.

But equal to the sorrow he had felt, he remembered how she smiled. How happy she was.

That was what got him through the wedding.

“See something beautiful?” Twilight teased him with an ignorant echo of what had once been his words as she drew the line between his verdant gaze to alabaster mare,

Pulling the corners of his scaly lips, he turned things around without Twilight knowing by taking her own words too. “Yes, the decorations are coming along nicely.” He said and checked it off the list.

The look in her eyes told him Twilight was wise to some double meaning even if she had no true grasp of the situation. Damn that beautiful, breakneck, and brilliant mind. “Well, this should be quick then. Then it’s to the library to prepare, speak with Rainbow Dash and Applejack, save the world, and prove I’m not crazy.”

“That vessel sailed along with your father’s gamete.” The time traveler muttered.

Before Twilight could admit to having heard that (and he could tell she had by the tale-tell twitch of her eyes), Rarity’s voice interrupted as she seized and discarded ribbon after ribbon as her fashionista’s obsessive compulsive order skimmed just beneath the surface. “No. No. No” She said in mantra, broken only when a particularly offensive piece of textile elicited a “Goodness, no!”

“Maybe you should talk to her?” The lavender bookworm suggested tentatively with a nudge. “This might even let me head to the library early and focus on preparing to face Nightmare Moon.”

Spike would have none of that. “I don’t know, Twilight, aren’t you still looking for ponies to recruit? And with how weird I’ve been acting all day, I might just tear this whole place apart, break the seamstresses heart, and-”

“What’s this I hear about someone tearing down my hard work?” The white unicorn suddenly interjected into their conversation.

Perhaps he had spoken too loudly?

Twilight took it in stride and rolled her eyes. “My number two assistant is just trying to get out or work by pleading insanity.” She sighed, stressing her title for him when Rarity loosed an all-too-familiar, shrill vox tribus that would memetically be known as ‘wahaha’.

“Sun, moon, and stars. Whatever happened to your… Everything?!” Rarity trailed briefly as Twilight and Spike remembered both of them were not simply still covered in mud from Rainbow Dash’s odd display of affection (though Spike did find it impressive she beat her original ‘10 seconds flat’), but it had caked on and in Twilight’s case made her look like she was petrifying into one of Prince Qilin’s terracotta warriors.

“That? Long story short, Spike and I were dropped in a mud puddle. We’re just here to check on the decorations, find ponies willing to face a banished princess,” and there was that quick sale that had stopped becoming alarming to Spike and became amusing. (If Rarity jumped on board, he was going to eat his next shedding) “And then we’ll be out of your hair!”

“My hair? What about your hair?” Rarity said and immediately pulled began pulling Twilight off to her boutique to the latter’s protests.

“She’s thirty kilograms soaking wet, Twilight!” Spike suggested taking plenty of amusement this time around.

“I don’t know what those are but I’m probably even less than that!” Twilight shouted as the dark legions of fabulous pulled the unicorn to her makeover while her assistant remembered the Centigrade Metric System wouldn’t exist for another ninety seven years.

In a time far shorter than Spike had expected, Twilight had been cleaned up, and strongarmed into no less than a dozen and a half dresses, each one failing to meet Rarity’s standards of ‘perfect’ for Twilight for reasons ranging from ‘too green’, to ‘too poofy’, to ‘not poofy enough’. It was somewhere around dress plus minor makeover number nineteen that Rarity finally found something on Twilight that gave her pause to admire.

The unicorn’s assistant just smiled how Rarity thought Twilight needed any of her trappings to be beautiful.

“Now, do go on. You had been saying something about…” Rarity trailed off and her eyebrows slipped asymmetric. “A fallen princess? Where did you hear about such a thing?” while she began to tug the bejeweled corset in earnest.

Spike now attempted to review his recipes for something that would go with his scales.

Twilight winced once then sucked in a breath to keep Rarity from crushing the wind from her. “The Canterlot Library, actually.”

“‘Canterlot’?! You’re from Canterlot!” The fashionista magi marveled with a gasp. “Oh, I am so envious! The splendor! The sophistication! I’ve always dreamed of living in Canterlot! I simply cannot wait to hear all about it! Oh, we are going to be the best of friends, you and I!” She finished nuzzling her neck to the increasingly uncomfortable introvert. “Emeralds!” Rarity suddenly gasped in shock and distaste. “No, no, no! That will not do, what was I thinking? Wait right here and I’ll get you some nice rubies for that!”

The second she was out of the room, Twilight pulled the saddle off her back, put Spike on in, and made a dash for the door. “Quick, before she decides ‘lavender is so last year’!”

Once a safe distance away, Twilight relaxed enough to remember her task at hand (or hoof as per-the-period). “Alright, what’s next on the list?” She wheezed, her lack of activity showing in this moment.

Pulling out the parchment and straightening a pair of glasses Spike would not own until a century later (and even then mostly for body language), his eyes fell down to the last item written by Celestia. “Music, and it’s the last item on the list.”

As if on cue the air chimed and shimmered with the beautiful music of an avian choire. Different breeds and species of bird, singing in concert a chirping song. A feat of cooperation only possible by the gentlest of beast mistresses.

Butter yellow and soft waving pink mane, wings and body so much dantier than the average, pegasus. But Spike knew there was a steel beneath the silk inside, a strength that didn’t yield to eight months of hard torture and parted from her captors with a backhanded insult in all her humble politeness.

He sighed fondly watching taking in the scene, watching and listening as the blue jay fell out of synch and Fluttershy delicately corrected him.

He had been so entranced in the moment and memories, he actually jumped with Fluttershy when Twilight suddenly greeted her, sending him tumbling to the dirt.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten you and your birds! I’m Twilight Sparkle, the overseer for the Celebration festivities and wanted to check on the music. I must say, it’s really beautiful and you are doing a fantastic job!” Twilight quickly prattled off, both to get out as much of her apology for the unintentionally faux pas as she could and to fill in the increasingly awkward silence.

While Fluttershy felt increasingly bashful, Twilight awkward, Spike, watching all this, was feeling very amused.

Seconds passed and even Twilight was starting to avoid eye contact. “Soo… What’s that name of our musical savant?”

And a voice too quiet to hear, Fluttershy answered.. Maybe. Even Spike wasn’t sure. He was sure her lips moved.

“Um, pardon?” The Canterlot Unicorn asked.

Fluttershy retreated further, now Spike wasn’t even sure her lips moved.

“Didn’t quite catch that.”

Feeling sorry for the pegasus mare (and for Twilight), Spike approached his future exwife and put a hand on her side. “Alright, Twilight, I think Fluttershy’s got it handled.”

Twilight’s eyes widened briefly and Spike realized he has made a slip. He was already preparing to explain ‘dragons have better hearing than ponies and he heard her the first time’ but the animal aficionado unknowingly saved the day with her timing.

“A baby dragon?!” She exclaimed in sudden wonder and rushed over, nearly bowling Twilight over and while past Spike adored this sudden attention, future Spike was feeling awkward with the mild invasion of personal space (though actually being future Spike certainly didn’t help) and wondering how Fluttershy held such an incredible phobia of dragons when she was initially so enamored by him. “I’ve never seen a baby dragon before! He’s sooo cute!”

And the baby talk.

For all of Twilight’s callousness, Spike was grateful it meant he didn’t have to put up with the baby talk. “Uhhh, I’m Spike. Nice to meet you.” He offered a clawed hand to shake.

Fluttershy, bless her, treated it like a pet doing a trick. “Oh! My, he talks, he shakes! What else can he do?” She said acknowledging Twilight who had been stunned into silence by all this.

“Um, well… ‘He’ would be happy to tell you all his responsibilities, but perhaps we can do it along the way back to the library.” Spike suggested, trying to remember if Fluttershy had been this patronizing previously or if something about his ‘grown up’ demeanor in this childish body made him look not unlike a diaper dependant monkey in a business suit.

The analogy made him reconsider what he used to think of as entertainment as he could now see himself as the monkey after the show and pressing a gonne to his temple from dealing with such treatment all day.

“That’s a wonderful suggestion!” Twilight perked up and pulled Spike back onto her back while Fluttershy followed behind with her gossmar-delicate wings holding her at eye level with Spike.

“Oh! Oh, and my name is Fluttershy! I’m so excited to meet a talking dragon! That’s just- I mean, normally, I’m very afraid of dragons but you’re just so approachable!”

Spike chuckled. “I heard you the first time” he lied but wanted Twilight to hear. “And, yes, I was taught to be a sociable sort of dragon. We’re not a terribly common breed though.” The dragon laughed, both thinking of his experiences from around this time and what dragons would later become. “The kind happy to listen to other’s problems, troubleshoot for them, be a general companion. Hint hint.” He said looking at Twilight who rolled her eyes.

“So what else can you tell me about yourself, Spike?” Fluttershy asked.

He remembered by this point he should have been telling her his life’s story. That didn’t feel like such a safe conversation topic though, so Spike opted to stay the course of a more professional conversation line.

“Well, my day usually starts a bit late…” He said dredging up his memories of his rather sloven work schedule at the time.

Perhaps it was his older mentality, but Spike enjoyed this conversation much more than the one-sided exposition on his life during the last time. This time, he had kept both Twilight and Fluttershy engaged at all points, whether it was Twilight correcting him (blessedly assuming he was trying to make himself sound better than he was) and adding her own commentary and refutations or, when his memory failed him, to instead ask Fluttershy about herself.

“Huh? Sun’s setting and we’re here.” Spike blinked, looking at the Golden Oaks library and nearly bursting into tears and wanting to get some fireproofing resin to coat the whole damn place with.

He loved his own room in the crystal tree castle thing, he liked the extra space it afforded him later as he grew up, and that the thing proved itself siege proof and self-defending when the forces of Grogar sieged Ponyville. But the Golden Oaks library had a beautiful heart to it.

“Um, is your dragon alright?” Spike heard Fluttershy asked. “Is it normal for him to nuzzle against tree roots?”

“Yeah, he’s been doing a lot of inexplicable behavior lately. I’ll tell you what, you’re good with animals, if he’s not better by morning, I’ll bring him down.” Offered the lavender unicorn diplomatically.

“Oh, would you consider bringing him anyway? I could watch him for you!” Fluttershy brightened.

“We’ll see, Twilight and I also have some preparations of our own to make for the Summer Sun Celebration. But I’ll definitely see you at the Celebration itself.” Spike grinned and winked at Twilight who brightened herself and winked in kind.

“Yep, and we better get to it! Good night!” She agreed, ushering them both quickly into the darkened library and shutting the door. “Alright, we were out a bit later than I thought, can you help me send a letter to Rainbow Dash and Applejack to get them over here? Oh, also, ask Celestia if she has a copy of her letter from earlier, I know she normally does these things in duplicate format. Oh, but first, find the darn light, you can see in the dark, can’t you?”

Once again, as if on cue, the lights came on, and Twilight and Spike found themselves in a room filled with confetti, streamers, and lots and lots of ponies shouting ‘surprise’.

“Well, if its any consolation, I’m sure most of these ponies are here for the food and drinks-” Spike tried to console when Pinkie rushed in and absently knocked him into the punch bowl, rattling off her greeting to Twilight while the dragon looked at the crowd of ponies staring. “What? My name’s Spike, of course she was going to put me in the punchbowl.” He played off and earned a laugh from several of the familiar faces.

When he blinked, he saw them decades later, the fillies now with fillies of their own, the parents now wrinkling grey, others already gone. Claimed by the war. He blinked again, and he was returned to the past, a reminder this jaunt into history was proving itself to be either a second chance to bear witness again. Or a permanent affliction of insanity.

“Spike, you and Twilight are here in Ponyville too?” The familiar voice of Lyra spoke up (just how fast did she move here?) while her golden corona of magic lifted Spike from the bowl. “What even brings you guys here?”

The questions then started to come in, more than Fluttershy recognizing the curious novelty of a dragon amongst ponies, and Spike looked around, taking in the intoxicating jubilee he had not felt since the very last Pinkie Pie party. His eyes fell on Twilight, trying to talk to Applejack and Rainbow Dash while Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie kept leaning in, stressed and frustrated about the omens of tomorrow.

He considered himself, all day since this morning, crying over what was, torn between getting closer or keeping his old distance, worn and weary from a long past.

He then looked up to Lyra and the new friends she made, moved himself behind the drinks table and decided to put those bartending classes he took after Twilight’s death to good use. “Well, pull up a stool, everyone, tell me what you want to drink, and I’ll tell you the long story.”

As the dragon embraced the night, he remembered a saying once from Celestia; yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.

Chapter 4: The Fading Light

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“Time’s are changin’, ain’ no denyin’ that an’ no stoppin’ it. It’s just a fact o’ life. Still don’ understand why in the hay we need any o’ these new gizmos an’ tall buildin’s just to git along.”
-Applejack on her return to Ponyville in 47RoH

“So, when Princess Celestia came to check in on all of us, the entire lab was destroyed, Moon Dancer and Twilight got their muzzles glued together, and Lyra’s spine was permanently altered changing the way she sits.” Spike had just finished recounting a little tale from Twilight’s school days, leaving out a few of the more amoral and horrific (in hindsight) details. And the crowd goes wild and a few eyes turn to Lyra for confirmation, sitting in a trademark, belly up slouch.

She took a sip of her drink and shrugged. “Hey, it’s not all bad. Check this!” She said, setting her drink aside and producing some balls and proceeding to juggle with her forelegs. While cheating with her telekinesis.

And she still fumbles and drops them.

It only got another round of laughter out of the crowd and her.

“Canterlot sounds like such an interesting place.” Shoeshine marveled.

Pinprick nodded, bouncing his wavy locks and smiling. “I know, I thought Canterlot only interested politicians and socialites like Rarity.”

Roseluck shivered and shook her head. “It sounds horrible if you ask me.”

“Damn straight.” Redheart took a drink from her punch. “Are you really saying our Princess let CHILDREN experiment in dangerous magic?”

The dragon and Lyra were quick to clarify. “Celestia didn’t approve of the experiment. Aaand we all got in big trouble for it afterwards.” The minty unicorn defended.

“And Twilight and Moon Dancer were trying to find a cure to muscle ossification. And even if the experiment was bust, they did make some new discoveries that brought a cure closer to reality.” Spike insisted.

“I just can’t approve of some things, among them include practicing medicine without a license and kids playing doctor.” The white mare shook her head and slugged back her drink. “But to Tartarus with it, any other crazy stories?”

Spike scratched his chin when Lyra jumped up. “Oh, who wants to hear what happened when Spike volunteered for dragon blood magic experiments!”

Even if the memories were more than a hundred fifty years old, Spike remembered them clear as day, namely “Lyra, we all swore to never talk about those again.”

The unicorn’s ears flattened in despair. “Come on, Spike. The mutations were temporary and not that horrible.”

Spike’s claw found his face while the crowd blinked.

“The wings were cool, I felt like an evil princess!” Lyra defended.

Before she could make the situation more awkward, Spike was captured in a lavendar aura of magic and pulled from the table to a rather tired looking Twilight.

“Hey, Twilight! It’s me! Lyra! Remember? From Canterlot?” The golden eyed mare began hopping up and down excitedly.

With a groan, Twilight reluctantly acknowledged her fellow alumni. “Hey, Lyra, look, we’ll catch up later, okay? We need to talk to Spike.” She explained and began to drag her dragon to a backroom.

“We?” Spike echoed curious (though he had a feeling who) and found it confirmed when he met Rainbow Dash and Applejack waiting. When he also saw Pinkie, Fluttershy, and particularly Rarity, Spike was forced to once more consider how his sheddings might taste with some crushed rubies after being boiled in a vegetable/emerald stock. “Ah, ‘we’.” He nodded numbly, wondering just how out of control things would be getting from here.

“Partner, Twiligh’s been talkin’ an’ says you know somethin’ ‘bout all this Nightmare Moon business, even that you got good authority - Celestia authority this is gonna happen.” Applejack tried to ease him gently into the inevitable accusations while preparing her lasso.

“What she mean is why the hey do you know so much?” Which Rainbow Dash quickly vetoed with her bluntness. “Are you a spy?”

Spike was about to take a seat but found Twilight still held him suspended in the air, and now was securing Applejack’s rope around him.

“And more importantly, I want to know: where is Spike, my Spike and who the heck are you?” Twilight’s eyes narrowed with menace, something screwed up since the dragon in question need only glance just behind Twilight to see Pinkie interpreting this as a party game and trussing herself up with a blithe smile.

Things were already out of hand by this point, Spike couldn’t help but feel whatever grand destiny game Celestia played last time was now coming to a massive six engine trainwreck that would end when the arcanodynamic accumulators went up in a massive explosion that would take out the entire station. So what was making more passengers board the wrecked cars, especially when they had already purchased their tickets.

Taking a breath, he decided to break it to them the same way they were breaking this to them; with an audacious bluntness. “My name is Spike Dracula ‘Dash’ Sparkle. I am a veteran of the Necromantic/Equestrian War. Former co-CEO of Orochi incorporated along with Professor Vanguard Sparkle. I am one hundred sixty two years old. Twice widowed. And when I went to bed last night, it was the eleven hundred and fiftieth Summer Sun Celebration.” He said to the increasing confusion of everyone in the room except for Twilight who put one whoo in front of him and one on her face.

“Stop, please, just stop. If you’re not going to take this seriously, then just shut up and let me brush up on Necromantic rituals and pry the truth out of your soul.” She said turning to the bookcases in frustration.

“Um, what did any of that mean?” Fluttershy asked Spike, the only one in the room who seemed to follow any what Spike said as more than just a stall tactic.

“It means I’m from the future-”

“Which is impossible!” Twilight shot back.

Spike shrugged in his binds. “Yes, I know. I’ve also been wondering if maybe all of you are the spies using the guises of people from the past to draw out information from me! Or maybe I’ve gone completely insane and begun hallucinating.”

Twilight seemed to have forgotten her search for the black arts in a rural public library (along with everyone else) and pressed her muzzle to Spike’s and narrowed her eyes. “Oh, no! Don’t try to turn this into some kind of existential introspection on the nature of reality! I know what’s real and what’s just an illusion. I scored top marks in illusion and conjuration. I wrote my entire thesis on ‘objective reality’! This is it!”

“Wasn’t that the one your professor say it was ‘well-researched and well-worded but lacked anything to give it actual backing’?” Spike quirked a brow and searched his memory.

“What does he know, his original subject was philosophy!”

“Twilight, dear. Breathe.” Rarity placated.

Applejack scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, we’re gettin’ off topic. Maybe we should try askin’ if he knows how to stop this than why.”

“Alright, but-” Spike was about to explain when the door burst open and smashed him against the wall.

“Twilight, come on!” He could hear Lyra’s muffled voice. “It’s time to watch the sunrise!”

In a less bound state and slightly dazed state, the dragon might have done something or at least opted to shout his answer through the thick oaken door. But instead, he was only able to let out a sort of bubbling noise from his throat while he could hear Twilight and her friends be urged off to the sunrise by Lyra and apparently Pinkie Pie.

Had this been this morning, he would have been grateful for the chance to avoid further explanation even with the pain that came with it. But right now, he just wanted to at the very least relive a bit of his past and not be in bondage to do so.

As the door gently swung shut, the nascent dragon fell to the nostalgic, season-ringed floors, and with a bit a struggle worked to free himself from the binds. It wasn't a monumental effort, owed both to Spike being a dragon and Twilight being lousy with knots, but it still took enough time that Spike found himself making a mad, exhausting dash (damn his literal infantile stamina) to town hall just as Mayor Mare was finishing her introductory speech to the crowd.

The energies were contrasting, the entirety of Ponyville and then some seemed electrically charged with excitement, Twilight, Spike, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Fluttershy wore their faces with growing apprehension and anxiety.

“And now, it is my great honor to introduce to you; the ruler of our land,”

Would it go alright this time too?

“The very pony who gives us the sun and the moon each and every day,”

Was destiny going to see the Element Bearers to victory again, or has his mere arrival in the past created ripples sufficient enough to be as much as hand in Night Eternal as Nightmare Moon herself?

“The good, the wise, the bringer of harmony to all of Equestria,”

The Princess’ wisdom was forgotten, and Spike rushed to Twilight, wading desperately through the crowd of Apple clansponies, desperate to finish the information she had tried to grill him for.


Scrambling up Apple Fritter’s backside, he called out, only two meters away from her, even catching her attention “Twilight! You’ll n-” but Apple Fritter took no appreciation of his sudden molestations and bucked him off to a far wall.

“-Celestia!” The mayor finished, like a count down reaching zero, Spike felt terribly confused.

Behind the current Rarity drew back was the princess of the dawn herself. Smiling as bright as her heavenly body, and her sleek, alabaster coat radiant as her wings flared and horn began to glow with magic.

The room filled with awe, even Twilight seemed to forget her troubles in this moment and remember the sight which had enkindled her love of sorcerery.

The expressions though turned to horror when the sun would not rise, and Celestia’s magic was snuffed out around her horn as the shadows which had framed her on the balcony began to engulf her. She made no fight despite the shadows consuming her, only a few tears rolled down her face as she vanished completely from view.

“Uh, party trick?” Pinkie Pie suggested when a familiar, thundering laugh filled the hall and the temperature dropped enough to see the breaths of each pony present. The shadows shifted, swirled, and coalesced on the balcony, sending the fashionista above into a panic and backing away as far as she could.

Collecting himself, Spike rushed over the crowds again, this time no one fought him, only yelps of surprise as his tiny claws made contact with them or buckling as he made his final leap when screamed and realized she had run out of solid ground only to be caught by the tiny dragon just as his dive began to decline allowing the two a rough, but safe landing.

The sense of victory was short lived when the Fallen Princess manifested in all her umbral glory. A coat as black as a void in the heavens made by dying stars, no light reflected off of it, giving her a surreal appearance. A miasmatic mane and tail like some distant nebula, dissipating into nothing than promising new life.

And her eyes and wings were like no pony, they reminded Spike of dragons in their darkest moments, of him in at his most primal.

Spike suddenly had a fairly good idea why he had fainted the first time he saw this.

“Oh, my beloved subjects.” Nightmare Moon spoke in that leaden, heavy voice filigreed with a silken smoothness. “It’s been it’s been so long since I’ve seen your precious, little, sunlight-loving faces.”

“Where’s Celestia!” Rainbow Dash shouted, her voice shaking but her will steady. Spike’s memory suddenly warned him, something was wrong with this set up.

Applejack was too far away to stop Rainbow Dash from charging Nightmare Moon. Dozens of voices screamed for her sanity but the being the fastest flyer in Equestria had it’s drawbacks. So fast even Nightmare Moon could not react to the hard kick to her face, sending her sprawling to the wooden deck.

The room fell silent, some in awe at Dash’s valor and strength others at her recklessness and stupidity. (Spike fell into that latter category)

“Piece of cake.” The rainbow haired pegasus boasted, crossing her forelegs, her confidence faltering as Nightmare Moon began to twitch and spasm erratically.

“No! No no no no no no no no!” A softer voice denied in mantra.

“Yes… She has laid hoof on us!” Hissed Nightmare Moon’s as she stood up so suddenly, no one could recall if she had actually moved her body to do so. Her helmet had cracked, face twisted, a blotch of midnight blue had formed on her coat from where Dash had kicked her, spreading around her eye, rounding the pupil.

“No! This isn’t right!” Spike could hear Luna’s voice protest before the ‘bruise’ vanished beneath the ebony and eye returned to narrow slit.

“She will suffer!” Nightmare Moon spoke, drowning out the traces of Luna and flooding the room with a blast of magic, freezing every pony in place.

This certainly did not happen last time.

Nor was Rainbow Dash’s halted form pulled level with Nightmare Moon and held spread-eagle and still while a void opened in the air near the dark mare’s head, swirling and concentrating into a black, oily spear aimed straight for the pegasus’ heart.

“Thou hath lain thine hoof in anger upon thy queen…”

Screams trumpeted from stopped mouths and Spike’s heart sank for a moment. Shutting his eyes and focusing his will until he could feel his arms and legs again and broke free from the aetheric binds. He wasted no time finding his path into the air.

“For this crime of treason, thou shalt be sentenced to immediate impalement, thus saith the queen!” Nightmare Moon hissed and launched the black lance for the bracing pegasus’ heart.

Putting all his power into his rebounding lunge, Spike saw it never came. Knocking the pagasus out of the air, he felt a bit of satisfaction he was two for two on rescues of former loves that morning. The feeling faded when he felt something pierce the back of his right arm and shoot through into his wrist. The force the blow sending him spinning as he fell to earth, catching glimpses of the horrified looks all around.

Even on Nightmare Moon.

“Well…” Spike thought to himself as he looked at the sizable piercings through his shoulder and arm, as well as the prickling and increasingly painful sensation radiating from the wounds in a visible infection of ichor. “That just figures.”

He landed hard on the ground with a thud, his vision continued to spin after his body had stopped, blurring slowly from the center of his sight, creeping towards the edges. Voices echoed and boomed distantly, heard only faintly over his heartbeat.

Free from the freezing curse, Spike felt himself be cradled in the magic of a crying Twilight. “This wasn’t supposed happen!” He blinked, and faintly saw a distraught Nightmare Moon. “They were supposed to rejoice! This wasn’t supposed to happen!” He blinked again, and she was gone with a smoky wisp of darkness while Twilight called his name.

“Twilight,” Spike struggled. “Find the Elements of Harmony in the Everfree Castle. Find the elements within your friends. Stop Nightmare Moon and save the Princesses.” He tried to tell her as his grip on her foreleg weakened, but the pain and poison clenched his throat and he barely got out a sixth of that, and which he couldn’t tell.

He tried to repeat it, but he was beginning to forget what he wanted to say, the haziness in his sight has become a darkening, the pain fading into a cold numbness.

And then; oblivion.

Interlude: 15 Years of Harmony

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“I’m scared, Spike. Terrified even. And not even for the noble reasons. I’m scared because I don’t know what will happen to me after I die. I don’t know how painful my death is going to be. It makes me want to just run away. But somepony’s got to stay behind, somepony’s got to make a stand. And that somepony is me. They’re not getting past me.”
-Flash Sentry’s last words to Spike

When Spike awoke in his hospital bed, he groaned in pain, a numbness in his injured arm that made him want to go back under and sleep it off. But when the dragon remembered the events that led to his unconscious state, he shot bolt upright, emeralds wildly rolling in his skull while he whipped his head around the darkened hospital room filled with injured ponies, groaning. His instinctive duty compelling him, he got ready to swing his legs over the edge of the bed when a familiar cyan hoof pressed against his chest with an uncharacteristic gentleness and urged him back down. “Easy, tiger.” Rainbow Dash greet and kissed him on his scaly lips. “You’ve practically been through Tartarus.”

“Dash?” Spike’s mind reeled. “Aren’t you supposed to be at The Crystal Empire-”

The rainbow maned pegasus gave a downcast look that said everything.

Spike now reached up, arm be damned and stroked her main, nuzzling against her neck. “I’m so sorry…” He whispered, the pegasus laughed.

“Sorry for what?” She asked. “Nopony got hurt… Mostly.” She said with a bit less enthusiasm. “And to add a lovely little bonus, all Equestria now has a big, wonderful window to peer into the forsaken horrors of tartarus. Had to take out a whole city to install it, but, the armies of darkness apparently aren’t unionized.”

Spike took in the black comedy of his wife with bemusement but played on it regardless. “Well, one thing can be said about the legions of darkness, they certainly do this whole ‘end all life as we know it’ with passion and devotion.”

“Wish we could keep up that morale.” Rainbow Dash’s wings drooped as she became more serious. “We were ordered to hold the line… The second somepony got hurt, I ordered a full evac. Spitfire said we had orders and I just bucked her lights out and dragged her unconscious body back.”

Spike nodded. “I wish I had made the same choice. I saw the objective… And pushed for it.”

“And you stopped The Necromancer from getting a new peephole into the mare’s room.” The fastest flyer pointed out.

Which the dragon dismissed. “And got nearly everypony killed. My first time leading an operation and…” Spike groaned, both from the pain and emotional stress. “What am I going to tell Applejack?”

“You followed the orders she gave you? I chickened out at the first sign of trouble.”

“Ponies are alive because of you, and when this war is life versus death, keeping people alive matters.” Spike pointed out, straining slightly in his words.

“Is there going to be any place for the living if we keep retreating? Even if there is is it really going count as living?” Rainbow Dash gained a bit of fire in her voice as she asked this.

“And who is going to be alive at all if ponies make the same damn choices I made?”

“The ones smart enough to know there’s worse things than death!”

“Shhh!” The two nearly jumped when a weary, withered nurse hushed them. “Patients are trying to rest and so should you, Sergeant!” She hissed and spat at the couple. After a few moments of silence, she moved on, leaving the two alone.

“All I’m trying to tell you, Dash, is that you didn’t make a wrong choice. To the ponies you saved, your choice meant the world to them.” Spike said reaching out and touching the ringed hoof.

The wearer of the hoof met his eyes with her own. “And I’m trying to say you did your best. Your team believed in your choices too, they gladly gave hundred and infinity percent to accomplish the mission.”

Spike chuckled. “‘One hundred and infinity percent’, huh?” He echoed. “So they gave one hundred and a third?” and chuckled again at his own joke.

“I swear, you should have married Twilight.” Dash rolled her eyes and bopped the dragon on the head and suddenly began remorseful when she saw him wince.

“Not you.” He tried to placate. “Just… They said I’ve got loose bone fragments knocked around pretty much everywhere in me.”

“You should get some rest. I’ll be here when you wake up.” The speedster urged him with a gentleness alien to her younger self.

“Dash, I’m going to be in pain regardless. Too much pain to actually rest.” The younger husband refuted. “And I’m sick of being surrounded by the dying… Too much of that already.” He said and began to climb out of bed.

His wife stopped him. Then shifted herself around. “Climb on.” She told him and soon felt his weight against her backside and grunted. “Geez, this was way easier ten years ago.”

“Ten years ago I actually fit onto a pony’s back.” He laughed while his feet and tail dragged behind his wife who tried to carry him out of the ward.

“Well your metal diet doesn’t do your waistline any favors. Lay off the diamonds, would ya?”

“Diamonds are a mineral, Rainbow Dash.” Spike corrected and shifted to stand at his full height, just a head taller than the mare and drape arm around her for support.

This helped her immensely and she added to the support with an extended wing. A somewhat painful trip later, Spike was catching his breath on the hospital roof while Rainbow Dash scowled. “I knew I should have left you in the bed.”

“The gravel grinding against my tail and ass is more comfortable than those beds, Dash.” The dragon deadpanned with a wheeze. “Not to mention that atmosphere in that ward was even more stifling than N.M.”

“Fine, I get your point.” Rainbow Dash dropped on her haunches next to him and relaxed, a rare thing for her these days. On distant horizons she could see the Necro-Miasma Spike had mentioned, a horrible, noxious haze which heralded the legions of the damned. And from deep within she could see flashes of magic, distant beats of thunder and lighting, the sounds of war of the thousands still desperately struggling and failing.

Casting her gaze upwards, she saw the stars and the moon, the sky - her home - seemingly unaffected by the horrors of war, twinkling distantly. “Hey, Spike? Have you ever once thought of just… Flying away from all this?”

“Never, because I can’t fly.”

“You know what I mean.”

Spike was silent and leaned against her. “Maybe I don’t, why don’t you paint the picture for me?”

“You and me, a cloud house far away from all this. No more fighting… Just… Us. Everyday we’d wake up, curled up close and all sickeningly sweet-like, and I’d love every second of it, eat breakfast, hang out, make out, read Daring Do, and eventually… Grow old together. None of this. None of any of this.” Rainbow Dash used a wing to gesture towards the horizon.

Spike’s gaze was hazy and unfocused. “Yeah, honestly, I have.” He admitted. “But you never really have until now, have you? You only asked me because I want to.”

The pegasus sighed and smiled. “I guess we really have gotten to know eachother too well in this marriage thing, huh?”

“Must have something to do with my wife’s title being ‘element of loyalty’.” Spike laughed.

“But, be serious… What if I took you away from everything?”

“It would kill you inside quicker than anything used in this war.”

The pegasus hugged him, her eyes getting moist. “Dammit, Spike, I’m asking how you felt. Stop thinking about other people for a few seconds and be the selfish, greedy, monster you’re supposed to be.”

The dragon returned the gesture, the pain, honestly not feeling so bad in her forelegs’ embrace. “I am being selfish and greedy, I WANT my wife to be happy, therefore I’m thinking of what she wants.”

“I really wonder what I did to deserve you?”

“This war has really taken it’s toll on us because otherwise you’d know the answer.”

“Well, how about you remind me?”

“Well for starters, you’re awesome.” Spike punctuated with a kiss on her muzzle. “Secondly; you give Twilight a run for her money in the adorable dork category when we talk about your fandoms-”

Rainbow Dash stopped him from a follow up kiss with a serious looking pout. “Hey, Daring Do is real. It’s not being a fan, it’s being supportive of a real life hero.”

“And there we go. And lastly… There’s that making out thing you mentioned that you’re so good at.” Spike finished with an irrepressible, fangy grin.

The pegasus laughed. “Are you serious? You probably have a punctured lung and stomach and you’re thinking about THAT?”

Spike shrugged. “Hey, the best pain drugs I’ll ever have are the ones my body produces. Nevermind how tense you’re looking.” He said slipping a strong claw behind her back and pressing the thick, blunt side of his talons into the muscles between her wings getting an instant reaction.

“A-Alright, I get it.” Rainbow Dash shifted to face him with a flushed face. “But after this, you get some rest. I’ll be right here when you wake up.” She said pulling down the front zipper of her flight suit.

Spike would remember she lied about that last part, and it would be the only part of his fantasy she didn’t grant him.

Chapter 5: Brother, Zebra, Moon Mare, and Mystery

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“Feeling under the weather? Took a bad spill in your last game? Just need a vital pick-me-up? Well when you’re in need of medical attention fast, just reach reach over the counter with a talon, hoof, or your magic, and grab Insta-Doc from Zecoracorp! For all your common ails, it’ll cure you up quick!
Insta-Doc; he’s there in a jiffy
Fixin’ you up all nice and spiffy!”
-Radio Ad circa 146 RoH

When Spike awoke in his hospital bed, he groaned in pain, a numbness in his injured arm that made him want to go back under and sleep it off. But when the dragon remembered the events that led to his unconscious state, he shot bolt upright, emeralds wildly rolling in his skull while he whipped his head around the duskglow hospital room.

The dragon felt lethargic, mildly lightheaded, and overall numb in a good way, a glance to his right arm revealed.


Not even his claw hanging at his side, just an empty space until a familiar, standardized prosthesis cap affixed to his shoulder.

“Oh.” Was all Spike could say, suddenly noticing the mild trouble he was having balancing himself even sitting down caused by his new asymmetry like a some cartoon comedy when the door suddenly ‘clicked’ and the familiar face of Nurse Redheart greeted him.

“Sparkly vamponies, you’re awake!” She marveled and galloped over the short, few meter distance between them and began going over Spike’s vitals. “How are you feeling kiddo? Any lingering sensations from the aural poisoning?”

The dragon blinked, one eye at a time and shook his head, provoking a mild headache through the pain medications but instinctively gave a full report. “Mild headache from rapid head movements. Lethargy, lightheadedness, numbness, slight blur in vision when I move my head, and slight vertigo and loss of balance. But I think most of those are from the loss of my arm and the medications.”

“Definitely the medications.” Redheart nodded. “We had to bring in a tranquilizer normally used on Buffalo and Yaks, and even then you’re dosage well into fatal ranges for them.” She explained while checking off the list of vitals, occasionally instructing Spike to do some action he was already prepared to do. “You’re pretty cooperative, wish I had more pediatrics like you.”

“I’m well acquainted with hospital procedure.” Spike explained.

“Really? Because according to Twilight and Princess Celestia, you’ve only been in the hospital three times in your whole life. Two of them you shouldn’t remember.” The nurse asked suspiciously.

“I live with Twilight, we’ve read on the subject.” Spike reflexively lied while trying to stop himself from rolling his eyes. “About Celestia, and Twilight…” He glanced out the window while changing the subject.

“They’re fine. Twilight and her friends apparently are ‘The Bearers of the Elements of Harmony’; or whatever and vanquished Nightmare Moon, rescued Princess Celestia from The Darkness, and her vanished sister Princess Luna. While they were at it they also cured baldness and managed to create a tax system that makes sense.”

“Depending on how long I’ve been out, I’d believe that.” Spike chuckled thinking of the thaumaturgic abilities Twilight seemed to have when united with her friends.

“Yeah, no. It’s only been about thirty three hours.” She said jotting down the last of Spike’s vitals onto the form. “Thus, the sincerity of my astonishment you’re even still alive, much less conscious.”

“So… Can I see everyone?” Spike asked and got a strange look for a moment.

“Alright, but first I’m bringing in Doctor Sawbones.” She said hitting a button near the wall. “Doctor Sawbones? Your new patient is awake.”

Not long after, a fairly new face Spike recalled only hearing faintly of in his old timeline entered. A fairly well known unicorn doctor from Germaney who was rumored to have written a compelling thesis on revivification of the dead which took a rather dark meaning during the war. Which meant Twilight went on about him for a solid week and the younger Spike had blocked most of it out.

Back in the present (past. Future? Whatever.) the good doctor and Spike conversed about his current state of health, the fact that he would be taking strong pain medication for at least the next year, get his system flushed of magic to try to keep him from relapsing, the work on his prosthesis, and lastly making regular checkups for the foreseeable future.

“You’re a dragon, this is ancient black magic, so we’re stumbling a bit to try to understand your situation. Frau Sparkle, Großfürstin Celestia, and her sister have been forthcoming with information, but our academics are still reading through ancient texts and working out treatments.” Sawbones explained at the end of twelve minutes where Spike was in a hurry to see his friend again and Sawbones seemed to be hurried purely out of habit.

“Alright, so, can I see Twilight and my friends now?” The dragon asked. The split second before Sawbones could finish saying ‘Ja’, the door to the private room practically exploded inward from the combined surge of Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie, Princess Celestia and Luna themselves, and even a worried an unusually excited looking Fluttershy.

Spike’s ears were suddenly filled with more than a half dozen voices at once. Twilight and Celestia asking about his health, Luna had thrown herself on the tile floor and sobbed thousands of apologies, her more Middle Equestrian decaying in more ancient mantra of ‘mea culpa, mea maxima culpa’, Rainbow Dash was telling Spike how incredible he had been saving her with Rarity in agreement, Pinkie proposing an immediate party to celebrate Spike’s recovery, and Applejack and Fluttershy immediately taking in the situation and trying to bring the energy in the room to a less chaotic mess.

“RUHE!!!” The unicorn doctor screamed loud enough to shake the windows and make even Spike jump.

“Uh, yeah, one at a time please.” Spike placated and watched Luna opt to go first by continuing her apologies in ancient tongue. “Princess Luna? Princess Luna.” He called to her putting his remaining hand on her muzzle. “It’s okay, breathe and focus. I don’t understand you right now.” He urged her.

Agreeing without actions or words, the blue alicorn closed her eyes and took several breaths, her sister laying a calming hoof on her back. Princess Luna then bowed low, her muzzle nearly kissing the tiles. “We-” She stopped herself. “I cannot begin to express ou-my regret for harming thee and thine companions.” She began, finding her words. “Mine actions cannot be redeemed. Cannot be forgiven and regardless mine sister's words I differ to you for my final judgement, you whom I have harmed the most with my selfishness and evil.”

There was a stunned moment on Celestia’s part as if she honestly feared Spike would command her death. This might have been more hurtful to the dragon without some of his foresight, but he instead focused on the matter at hand. His gaze swept across the room and it seemed to him that Twilight and friends had not survived their trials with such the ease they had last time. As he had lost an arm, Fluttershy was now harnessed with a prosthetic wing on her left side, he noticed Applejack’s right foreleg ended in a wooden hoof now, half of Rainbow Dash’s face was covered in bandages with signs of a deep cut having bled slightly through, and Rarity was now missing much of her horn, replaced with an admittedly stylish crystal tipped, silver extension. Along with these glaring injuries, he could see each of them had been pocketed with scars across their bodies their coats had not grown over. It made him wince, thinking his actions had changed things enough for this to happen.

He then considered how Princess Luna must have felt, how he knew she felt from the last time.

“Forgive yourself and let go.” Spike immediately said when the Tantabus incident jumped back into his thoughts.

“Pardon?” Luna asked, confused not just by the request but his tone while the rest of the room glowed with pride.

“That’s very big of you, Spike.” Celestia nigh-literally beamed.

“But what of all we have done to wrong you and your friends. You may be blighted-”

Spike cut the princess off. “No, I am serious, Princess Luna DO NOT hold onto this. I forgive you, it seems everyone else here forgives you, forgive yourself, and LET. IT. GO.” He punctuated each of the last words by leaning closer and closer.

There was a moment of silence, an awkward cough, and Luna bowed again, taking another moment to find her words. “We- I shalt take thine forgiveness to heart as a lesson learned. But if ye requires any of mineself, speak immediately, Sir Spike.”

“Then, let me add on don’t call me ‘Sir’.” The dragon asked as memories of his marriage to Twilight replaced the Tantabus incident.

“Ah, but she’s not wrong there.” Celestia smiled, surprisingly, Luna joined in too. “For your actions and those of your friends, I have decreed each of you receive the honorary rank of ‘Knight’ for your bravery, compassion, and ability.”

“Ah swear, anyone calls me ‘sir’ or ‘lady’ an’ Ah’m buckin’ ‘em in the face.” Applejack whispered to Spike who nodded in agreement, having had enough titles in his last lifetime and certainly having no want for more.

Despite this mutual feeling, Spike put on a smile and said; “Thank you, Princess Celestia, for the honor.”

“You know it’s technically illegal to lie to The Crown, right?” Celestia’s expression shifted to a mirror of Applejack’s bemusement while practically everyone else in the room jumped, waiting for the beheading. “But if I acted on that, there wouldn’t be a politician left in Equestria. That aside, how are you feeling?”

Spike wanted to say ‘young enough for painkillers to still have any effect on me. I don’t care I’m missing an arm!’, but the drugs were not strong enough to lower his inhibitions quite that much and instead answered: “Feeling a lot better, thank you.” Just as he noticed a familiar, cloaked zebra enter and blanch. “What are you doing here?” He asked in disbelief.

Everyone in the room blinked and followed spike’s gaze to the sage Zecora as she removed her burlap hood revealing a few scars and stitches on her. “I apologize for my suddenness causing such alarm, please know I mean no harm. I came to this hospital with the others though against my will, I know very well what to do when she is injured or ill.” She huffed.

“Spike, this is Zecora, she’s a zebra who was living in the Everfree forest.” Twilight introduced.

“I admit, I’ve been in the Everfree Forest but never so deep. Everypony was counting on me and I got us lost-” Fluttershy was cut off mid-admonishment by Pinkie.

“Don’t worry, Fluttershy, we all got turned around and around and around and around and around…” The pink earth pony rambled, physically demonstrating this by walking in circles in place.

Feeling it the burden of completing the story was on her, Rarity chimed in. “In any event, nopony blames you, Fluttershy. I’ll admit, we actually sort of just rushed in once Spike was on his way to Canterlot hospital, and we quickly got lost… And hurt. A lot.”

Luna hung her head and whispered an apology under Pinkie’s continued ‘and around’s.

“Almost thought we were all gonna buy the farm. Or in my case take out another mortgage on it.” Applejack chuckled at her own joke. “And just when things looked so bad even Pinkie here was startin’ to gloom, along comes Zecora who knew the way. Pretty big coinkydink, don’cha think?”

“In truth, to save your lives had not been my original plan. But I was looking for a thief who had stolen my adderwasp glands.” Zecora admitted. “It was a pleasure to help and make new friends. But to find the six of you where thief’s trail ends? It is in my head, that I had not chased them but was led.”

Everyone else seemed rather confused, but Spike couldn’t shake the gut instinct this was important, and judging by Zecora’s expression, she felt the same. “So, did you get a good look at your thief? Maybe the royal guard can find them?”

“Beneath cloak they seemed clad in steel and brass, a mask covered their face with lenses of glowing glass.”

“Well that sounds ominous…” Applejack commented as Spike noticed three new figures standing in the doorway.

One was the familiar features of the blue maned brother of Twilight Sparkle, Shining Armor. The other was his girlfriend and eventual fiancee (or maybe she was now?) and wife, the pink and conspicuous alicorn Princess Cadance.

“Twily! How’s Spike doing?” Shining Armor called into the increasingly crowded hospital room grabbing quite a bit of attention with Twilight’s sudden and affectionate reaction, but Spike was too focused on the third figure.

“Zecora, did she look like that?!” Spike shouted, standing up and pointing towards the third figure in the doorway.

Everyone followed his finger to the empty spot that had been occupied before he blinked, then looked back at him with a blank expression. “I’m pretty sure they don’t look like my niece.” Celestia said with a mild tone of confusion while Spike fell back on the bed.

“I think he’s had too many painkillers dripped into him.” Twilight laughed nervously and approached Spike’s IV bag only to be swatted away by a red corona of telekinetic magic and receive a glare from the Germane doctor who had been quiet until now.

“Disagree I may with frau Sparkle’s assessment, the patient does need his rest and there are over ten ponies in a room built for only seven. Raus! Everypony! Now!” Sawbones shouted and began to shoo a very annoyed group of ponies. “You too!” He grunted, picking up a still spinning Pinkie Pie with his magic and dropped her outside of the room door.

The displaced dragon now leaned against the raised end of his bed while Sawbones worked in silence, the individual differences are all sinking in to create a mess sum he increasingly had no idea how to turn back from.

All because he couldn’t play his part.

No, there was also that mysterious stranger, even if he didn’t actually see them in the hospital, Zecora’s story, and Spike felt certain this strange pony was yet responsible for his arrival in the past to begin with.

Before he could go too much deeper into these thoughts, Spike’s attention was drawn to a wrapping on a window in the door leading out of the room where he could see at least ten ponies trying to squeeze their faces into visibility, including Princess Celestia, and Pinkie, who breathed on the glass and wrote with her hoof ‘we’ll see you!’ only for them to be shooed away once more by Sawbones, followed by him pulling down a canvas curtain to block the scenic view of the hospital hallway.

Chapter 6: The Silent Scream

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"You put your right stump in, you put your right stump out, you put your right stump in, then you shake it all about! You do the pony pokey and you wheel yourself around - that's what it's all about!"
-Pinkie Pie’s poor attempt to include everyone at a Veteran's Party

“You know, Spike, you don’t have to come back to Ponyville with me,” Twilight suggested with more than a bit of concern as the two whiled away some visiting time with a checklist of things they’d both need to pack once the dragon was released from the hospital. “Shining Armor says you can live at his apartment, you know how often he’s out on duty so you’d even get to stay up late and eat junk food.”

“And you wouldn’t eat at all.” Spike teased writing down (he was so grateful for his ambidexterity) his wicker basket bed. “Besides, when Shining would be home, he’d bring Cadance, and as much as you love her and your brother and think they’re the coolest, you’ve never roomed with grown up lovers before.”

The scholar quirked a brow as she added the names of a few encyclopedia collections she’d want in the Golden Oaks Library shelves, having earlier mentioned some of the selections were ‘astonishing in some areas, dismal in others, and all around eclectic’. “And you have?” She asked.

“Those trips you couldn’t take me with you and had to leave me with your parents.” Spike responded half-truthfully, his actual recollections were explicitly living with Cadance and Shining Armor for a brief period after the war, and what he recalled of his times with Twilight’s parents had been nothing short of pleasant and sweet, Night Light’s own devotion to Velvet later inspiring his behavior towards Rarity (just a lot more one-sided).

But, Twilight seemed to accept this. She was less accepting of him crossing out one of her book lists from the move. “All right, Mister Martyr, just give me one good reason The Encyclopedia of Ancient Arcanum is getting crossed out and- Hey! We can’t leave Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them First Edition and why are you crossing out the compiled notes on Projection Magic and Innate Bounded Fields?!”

“First of all, Ancient Arcanum is filled with information on too many things that would be too tempting for impressionable ponies to try looking for.” And they didn’t bring it last time, he had to at least make a token effort to keep things recognizable to himself, selfish as that sounded. Plus, the idea of Applebloom and the other Crusaders (assuming they even formed this time) deciding to quest for the Eldritch Estorerica penned by All-Has-Been-Read made him shudder. Again. “As for Fantastic Beasts, the problem is that it’s a first edition, meaning it’s a collectable belonging to Canterlot’s Archives and is abhorrently out of date; it still classifies ‘dragons’ as reptiles.” And again, because they didn’t bring it last time. “And the notes are explicitly property of the university and still being reviewed by other scholars, Twilight.”

Twilight groaned in defeat, having no choice but to accept those reasons and planted her muzzle into the considerable, unoccupied area of bed. “I just wanted some of those for personal review.”

“We can make copies of the notes later, Twilight, and you can just take a train ride if you really need to see the others.” Spike reassured and immediately kicked himself.

“You mean the Friendship Express extension that won’t even be finished for a year and will still take the better part of a day to go up the mountain?” Twilight didn’t seem to notice though. If she did, it was immediately derailed by another group of familiar faces that made the dragon sweat nervously.

The first to (literally) bounce in, an excited grin on her lips and sparkle of anticipation in amber eyes was Lyra in all her minty green glory. She immediately saw the dragon’s condition and her mood swung to the more somber end of the bell curve and rushed up to hug him. “Ohmygosh! I feel like such a jerk! Ithought itwould becool toseeyour newartificialleg anddidn’tthinkhowbadthatmusthurt!” She said blurted out so quickly the dragon could barely follow.

“Arm, Lyra, dragons have arms.” Following her with less exuberance was a blue mare with a mane divided between a darker blue and white. Spike and Twilight knew her as Minuette, the mare’s sapphire gaze sweeping this way and that, marveling the medical equipment and taking in the hospital room. “Wow, get a whole room to yourself, huh? Someone’s moved up from Twilight’s assistant and gofer.” She looked at Spike and cracked a big grin. “Right, Sir Spike?”

Spike groaned, his face going into his remaining hand. “I got shot with a Curse of Lejare. That really doesn’t merit being knighted.”

Twilight smirked, seemingly enjoying this too much. “Oh, and how about saving two ponies who turned out to be the bearers of the Elements of Generosity and Loyalty? Which means you’re as responsible for defeating Nightmare Moon and saving two Princesses as the six of us.” While she finished her sentence, the lavender scholar’s expression made it clear another fact came to mind.

Stepping fully into the room and moving towards the opposite side of Spike’s bed next to Twilight was Lemon Hearts with her bright yellow coat and curling blue mane. “You’ve got to give us a complete blow-by-blow. Lyra was only able to tell us what happened at the Summer Sun Celebration.” She huffed. “I wish I could have been there.”

She was followed shortly by a cream white unicorn with a similar mane style but pink, practically throwing herself backwards onto the hospital bed. “I know, the excitement, the drama!” Twinkleshine now looked at Spike with a smile that unsettled him just a little. “The testosterone.”

“How about not asking her friends for help?” A much more bitter tone took away the friendly energy in the room and even Twilight’s ears folded against the side of her head from the lashing admonishment. “I can understand blowing off my party to save the world, but how come you couldn’t explain that us?” Moondancer asked in an accusing tone, her red and purple mane messy and falling in her face.

“I’m… Sorry, I wasn’t really thinking.” Twilight clenched her teeth and tried to avoid meeting the lighter purple eyes of her closest peer.

Moondancer rolled her eyes, clearly not believing it. “Yeah, well, I’m not here for you anyway.” She said moving closer to Spike and pulled him closer with her magic while putting on a pair of glasses. “Let’s see the damage and what’s been done for it…” She muttered and looked over the attachment point. “Hmmm, that’s interesting.”

Spike was tempted to try to stick up for Twilight, but Minuette spoke up sooner. “Come on, Moondancer, give Twilight a break. She didn’t exactly hang out with us for the companionship.” The blue unicorn immediately realized her mistake and joined in with a few of the others in slapping her hoof to her face. “Let me add to that: she wasn’t interested in it anymore than you were. The party was the first time you’ve ever shown any real social interest in u-”

“Minny? Minuette. Minutemare?” Lemonhearts interrupted (too late). “Just stop. Please. You’re making it worse.”

Moondancer seemed ready to let Twilight have it, Twilight seemed to be bracing for the worst, and the other four mares plus Spike were trying to figure out some way to defuse this situation when a doctor entered the room.

Not Sawbones, but a different doctor with a the outline of a hoof with a gear in the knee and ankles. His blond mane was swept back around his horn, and his pale coat shimmered under his scrubs while he carried a wooden box in a pale gold corona of magic. Even without anything like this having occurred in the previous timeline at any point, he had a strong idea where this was heading.

“Hello, ladies.” He greeted with a smile that seemed to get Minuette, Lemonhearts, and particularly Twinkleshine’s attention. “I’m doctor Gearshaft, artificer for the royal guard, normally, but Princess Celestia herself called me personally, to help The Elements of Harmony. And Sir Spike.” He introduced himself like a host on some televised ‘talkshows’ Spike could remember cluttering the airwaves in the future.

“If any of you ladies need a doctor, I’m also certified for general care. My card.” He smiled and passed each of the swooning mare’s his contact information. What they contacted him through when Spike knew the phone was yet to be invented mystified him even now.

Any further progress wooing the unicorns was halted when Twilight roughly cleared her throat. “Excuse me, doctor-”

“Ah, and you must be the newly knighted Dame Sparkle, the Element of Magic, and personal student of Princess Celestia and brother to Guard Captain Shining Armor.” He said pushing about to push Moondancer aside only to be halted by Twilight and Moondancer’s combined magic.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got a lot of titles, I’m starting a collection, now how about your patient?” Twilight demanded, and for the first time since he entered, he noticed Spike.

He laughed off the clear annoyance in his ward’s tone. “Ah, and Sir Spike, our little hero of the hour.”

Spike, while put off with the doctor’s lack of focus on his work, opted to remain civil at least and nodded in acknowledgement. “Thank you for your time, doctor.”

“Yes, well, it’s the least I can spare for someone the Princess speaks so highly of.” Gearshaft waved off. “Now, let’s get you set up with your new arm, see it works, and then call it a day. There’s still lots of patients in need of my love and care. Now, stand back, ladies! The patient and I need privacy!” He announced about to draw the curtains when Twilight stopped him.

“Um, Spike is in my care, I’d rather not leave him alone. With a strange doctor.” Twilight said with an edge of accusation in her voice. It seemed she had an idea where this was going to.

“Ah, family.” Gearshaft dismissed. “Look, Dame Sparkle, I respect your authority but there’s a reason family members are kept out of operating rooms. And this won’t be any different-”

“What she means to say, Doctor, is that we’d REALLY like to see you at work.” Lyra interrupted with a breathy voice and half-lidded bedroom eyes. The convincing tone seemed to have everyone give her a look of confusion though the Doctor seemed to enjoy it.

“Well, I suppose if I can sate your hunger for my impressive medical knowledge…” He said and gingerly unboxed the prosthesis and the room fell silent. Spike noted the fine craftsmanship of the artificial limb. Adamantine, mithril, and orichalcum made up the assorted parts, he recalled Applejack’s foreleg was of similar quality.

There was just one flaw in it all.

“Doctor…” Moondancer started.

And Twilight finished stating the reality: “That’s a hoof.”

“My best work!” Gearshaft puffed his chest with pride though was still stepping backwards.

“That’s a freaking hoof!” Minuette exclaimed, the charms of the doctor lost. “Look at his remaining other limb, does that look like a hoof?”

“The external chassis are made from an orichalcum plated adamantine to give it a non-tarnishing, golden luster that will last a lifetime.” The doctor kept stepping back, keeping his smile as if he heard none of the criticisms. “The internal frame is made from mithril for the best weight to strength ratios, and the knee and pastern possesses over more articulation than a natural hoof-”

“DID YOU EVEN READ HIS PATIENT FILE?” Twilight now bellowed, grabbing a nearby clipboard and trying to shove it into Gearshaft’s muzzle. “Right here! Read it! It says ‘dragon’! ‘DRA-GON’. ‘Pony’ is even scratched out with multiple lines of red ink! RED INK?! How did you miss this?!”

“And what in the world makes you think it’s a good idea to give a prosthesis, especially a first one for a patient, more range of motion than a natural limb?” Moondancer added. “It’s going to weaken the overall strength of the limb no matter what materials you use, first of all. Secondly, it’s going to complicate and slow down the physical therapy process. And lastly, the socket you’re using is going to need to be removed and replaced as Spike gets older and bigger.”

“And the primary ball and socket joint used is secured only through passive electro-magical magnetization, that’s not going to hold on a dragon, they don’t naturally exert magic like ponies!” Twilight added, though she was now looking over Spike’s limb with Moondancer.

The doctor, by this point, was taking the moment the six mares became focused on someone other than him to slip out the door.

“Hey, didn’t you and Moondancer build a golem based on dragon skeletons to demonstrate and study movements?” Lemonhearts asked and was given a shake of the head from both unicorn peers.

“A true golem is self-operating, all we did was basically hook it up to be a puppet to Spike.” Twilight explained.

Moondancer added: “We also expressly made it brittle so that if Spike moved in a way the skeleton couldn’t accurately capture Spike’s motions, the ‘bones’ would would break or crack.”

“And that design was all you, I mostly wrote up the puppetry spell.” The lavender unicorn noted to the bespectacled unicorn.

“Ah, but you did suggest I add in the ultra-low viscosity, fluorescent ink in the bones to check for microfractures.”

“Ah, but because you managed to accurately capture Spike’s bone structure, we didn’t need it.” Spike watched this exchange with a smile. “You know, if you still have your notes, I’m sure you could design a better prosthesis for Spike.”

“Yeah, you could even use the current one. That’s pretty much already junk.” Lemonhearts rolled her eyes.

Moondancer blushed and shook her head. “I couldn’t, really, I’m not a medical expert-”

“But I am!” Minuette smiled. “We can work together, it’ll be like old times!”

“You two could stay at my new place in Ponyville!” Lyra suggested. “It’ll be good for you to get away from Canterlot for awhile,” she said to Moondancer, who was starting to seem overwhelmed.

After this long silence, the dragon couldn’t help but ask: “Aren’t you renting space from Bon Bon?”

Lyra blinked, the excitement frozen. “Uh… Yeah. How did you know?”

Spike panicked, especially noticing Twilight’s suspicious look being cast over him but quickly deflected: “I overheard her talking to you at the Library party.”

Twilight looked to the minty unicorn for confirmation. “Ah, she was probably complaining about my sitting habits. I told her that was medical.”

She bought it and the dragon relaxed.

“So, guess we can’t room with Lyra while we fix up Spike’s arm.”

“You could room with me,” Twilight offered with a nervous smile. “I mean, you know, introduce new friends to old ones. Plus the Library has a large basement you could use.”

In the distance, the time-displaced dragon could swear he heard a train go off its rails and barrel through a forest, fearless of lumber obstacles.

“You know, this arm isn’t that bad…” Spike spoke up and moved the hoof part over to his mouth with his remaining hand. A quick bite and his fangs easily sliced through the ‘nigh-unbreakable’ metals to form a crude spoon out of it. “See? Just needed some adjustment. No worse than a hook. And I don’t want to bother Moondancer or Minuette. I mean you just got that internship at the hospital, didn’t you?”

The blue unicorn shrugged. “Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to the stress of interning at Canterlot General. And if Gearshaft’s any indication, the doctors here are careless jerks.”

“I think it’s a little unfair to judge all the doctors here by one doctor.” Twinkleshine pointed out.

The purple dragon nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and Doctor Sawbones was plenty good.”

“But Doctor Sawbones will be joining us in Ponyville.” Twilight brightened. “Minuette! You can even work as his personal student!”

“Well, that sells it for me.” Minuette nodded. “I’ll need to make my arrangements and pack my things so I’ll probably be moving in a bit later this month.”

Spike could feel time spinning out of control.

“Well, it also depends a bit on Moondancer, she’s gonna be the brains behind Spike’s new arm.” Twilight looked to her friend hopefully.

All because Rainbow Dash had to kick a fallen demi-goddess-queen in the face.

Moondancer was silent, but a smile slowly crept up on her face as her horn glowed, and she pulled up an unframed, familiar photograph to the dragon. “Of course.” She said suddenly pulling Spike into a hug.

The joyous reactions of the ponies around were lost on Spike who bade goodbye to what little he knew of a familiar future with his lips pressed into a flat continuous line, his eyes subtly bugging from their sockets, and a megaspell class scream going off entirely in his head.

Chapter 7: Ain't No Party Like a Pinkie Pie Party

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“Which says ‘Celebrating a Half Century of Harmony’ to you? The silver white blazer and grey turtleneck with silver accents? Or maybe bronzey evening gown with brass jewelry?”
“Why not the bronze dress with the silver accent jewelry?”
“Heavens, no! You don’t mix anniversary materials.”
“Since linens and textiles are earlier celebrations then, shouldn’t you go nude with gold jewelry?”
“An excellent suggestion!”
-An exchange between Rarity and her husband

Pinkie Pie was a party pony; this was simply an immutable aspect of not only herself, but reality in general, ranking right up there with the sky being blue and Luna’s butt waxing and waning with her heavenly body and many failed attempts at dieting. At least Spike had always assumed reality backed Pinkie’s habits since there was no possible way she could set up half of what she does in more than twice the time she’s afforded (which, often times, was only a minute’s notice).

So that meant that when the dragon had originally planned to return to the place he always considered home in his heart, he really should have expected Pinkie to be waiting behind the door with Twilight’s friends from both Ponyville and Canterlot, Twilight’s family, and all three Princesses. Oh, and Doctor Sawbones, who seemed to be analyzing the quality of the punch in the corner.

Questions of how everyone was fitting into this relatively small building aside, the dragon found it mildly heartwarming.

“This is tripe.” Sawbones slurred slightly, the doctor’s eyelids apparently heavy and covering half his eyes as he inspected the contents. “It is swil!” And yet he slammed it back anyway. “Who is responsible for this travesty of alcohol?”

“Uh, Doctor Sawbones?” Applejack interrupted his rant. “There ain’t no liquor in that to get drunk with. That’s just fruit punch.” She corrected. “And y’all only had that one glass.”

Sawbones suddenly looked much more sober and a bit more abashed. “Oh… Well, then it’s very lovely fruit punch.”

While this exchange went on, Spike made a beeline for Princess Luna somehow finding a corner in the rounded rooms of the library’s main room to brood in.

“How are you holding up, Princess of the Night?” Spike asked, offering her a fresh punch glass with a smile.

The night mare accepted the glass and turned away from the main gathering. “We- I am uncertain.”

“That makes two of us.” Spike allowed to slip through taking a sip of his own punch.

“Dost thou even know what I am uncertain of?” Luna seemed to take some mild offense to the idea that anyone could know what she was going through and seemed half ready to retreat to her room and blast angry music for an hour.

Of course, that was Spike’s take on the princess which lingered from a previous history. “How to reintegrate with a world that’s changed so much, making amends over something I told you was already water under the bridge, and uncertainty of the future in general?”

Luna blinked. “Uh, yes. Exactly.”

“Yeah, I can relate to that a bit more than you might think,” The time-displaced veteran said with a small, reassuring smile.

“How dost thou cope with these circumstances, then?” Luna asked this with some sincere desperation of seeking advice from someone who would not just hug her like her sister and tell her ‘it will all be all right’ in all Celestia’s usual vagueness.

Spike thought only a moment, and smiled a little more, amused how helping one with their own problems put his own into perspective.

He was also smiling because Pinkie had begun the party games which led to the familiar pissing contests between Applejack and Rainbow Dash, though the extra sugar coating was how Twinkleshine, Lyra, Celestia, and Pinkie goaded them on while others begged for sanity, but his focus and the reason for his smile remained largely on the troubled princess.

“You take things one day at a time. It’s hard right now because it’s only been, what? A day? Two? But if you just keep trying to move forward, then things become much more managable. This advice isn’t going to be easy to follow, but when are things in life ever easy? That’s one inextricable part of the world that doesn’t change.” Spike said and was met with a ‘hmph’ and a turn of the head from Luna. “Come on, Princess-”

She interrupted. “Our sister spoke of ‘modern conveniences’ that made trivialities of old chores entrusted to the servants. But mine first day in the blasted new castle, and I hath burned myself once operating a ‘gas oven’, froze myself working a ‘shower’, and couldn’t find the turning shaft on the lift nor the labor team to operate it, and so I had to use magic to force the damned contraption down.”

“You know there’s a panel with butto-”

“I know that now!” Luna huffed but smiled as she turned to him. “Truly I look like a fool, do I now? I throw my heart and soul to darkness for companionship and admiration and now I squirrel away to the shadows to avoid others.”

Spike shrugged with his flesh and mechanical arm. “No bigger a fool than the artificer who thought dragons had hooves,” He said while showing his improvised scoop.

“On that subject…” Luna eyed his arm with her lip corners turning down. “How doth ye feel?”

“I have some rare phantom pains Doctor Sawbones mentioned would be normal for a long time. The brain and body are wired to be whole, to constantly send and receive signals. So when the nerves aren’t receiving information, the brain assumes something’s wrong and uses the default alert system: pain. Nothing I can’t deal with. Moondancer, Minuette, and Twilight plan to work with Sawbones though to create a new and better arm that’s actually an arm for starters. Now get back out there and stop your sister from doing something stupid,” Spike urged, giving Luna a pat on her shoulder and receiving a sudden and chilling death glare.

“Thou didst not have permission to touch royalty! The penalty for such is death!” She said in a haughty tone, then giggled. “I jest. Thy draconic features make thine expressions a treasure, Sir Spike.” She said and slowly got to her hooves, trotting to join the rest of the party.

Opting to follow her lead, Spike spent a good hour mingling in the comparatively humble Pinkie Party. He found himself bouncing amongst the partygoers, familiarizing himself with old faces and hoping to learn something he hadn’t known about them before.

So far, what he had discovered led to a brief rise in his respect for Shining Armor when learned of his collection of Hyperspace Hyperwars minis. And then it was lost when he revealed his army was entirely Ultra Mareines.

“You’re playing an army with a toilet seat for a logo,” Spike accused.

“It’s an ‘omega’, Spike. And you don’t even have an army.” The guard captain pointed out.

“But true players use Royal Guardsmares,” The dragon insisted while the whole room watched the conversation in growing confusion with the sole exception of Candace and Twilight.

“Yeah, if you like to have no money left for paint because of all the minis you need on the field.” Shining Armor balked until Candace pulled him away and reminded Shining that he was not allowed to keep his army once they moved in together.

“He still plays that, huh?” Twilight asked without expecting a response.

“Well, the Royal Guard doesn’t see much combat, and with Shining as the captain he needs to develop his strategy skills somehow.”

“So that’s where he got his strategic acumen from?” Celestia seemed to whimper. “I am starting to question my judgement on his promotion.”

“He was still the best qualified candidate.” Spike quickly rushed to his surrogate brother’s defense. “And he also declined immediate promotion to Officer ranks despite being nobility and having a college degree so he could work with field troops. That gives him a lot more experience than the armchair generals currently in the military who have never even held a spear meant for combat. You could do with more officers like Shining Armor. Like, all of them.” He let slip with a bit of bitterness from his old life.

Celestia and the others blinked, though Twilight, her parents, and Applejack smiled on Spike for defending his family so staunchly.

Celestia slowly smiled and joined in. “Excellent points, Spike. I suppose an annual review is in order, and with my sister back, perhaps her fresher recollection of battle will help me more accurately assess the commands of my army.”

“Have the Praetorians truly fallen into such a state?” Luna asked with a voice tinted in earnest concern.

Well, this may well have sparked another change. Funny what off-handed comments and attempts to defend family can do. After a whole bunch of other things.

“The who an’ what now?” Applejack quirked a brow, and Luna had everyone’s attention.

“Hath none of ye heard of the Praetorians? They were our elite soldiers. The mightiest of the mighty!”

“They were largely disbanded, the pegasi rememants joined up with the Wonderbolts,” Celestia explained.

“So none of these ponies have heard of them?”

“Well, we have,” Twilight Velvet pointed out. “As a matter of fact, Night Light and I can both trace our family lines back to two of their founders.”

This cheered Luna up considerably. “Which ones? Tell me, please!” And Spike had to admit, this was certainly something he never knew about the House of Sparkle.

“Well, my mother is from Sun Spear’s line and Velvet’s father comes from Shining Blade’s family. We even named our son for him.”

Luna seemed to squeal, all her angst forgotten. “Please, tell us you found more of the line. What of Sky Hammer? Moonbow? Cataphract, Janissary, oh! And Sword Saint?”

Nightlight and Velvet proceeded to regale the returned Princess with a genealogical tale that had the once morose princess bouncing, one Spike would have been interested in listening to though in the same instance, he overheard Celestia asking Pinkie for ‘drinks of the ethanol persuasion’.

“Of course! I keep caches of booze all over Ponyville! In case of sobriety emergencies,” He heard Pinkie say, only Doctor Sawbones seemed to notice Pinkie leading Celestia over to a stash of wines, beers, whiskeys, rums, and even grogs. He quickly followed, no doubt to critique the quality of the lagers, ales, and stouts.

Meanwhile, Spike could see Candace, apparently having overheard Spike’s defense of Shining Armor, make some apologies for her intent to deprive him of his beloved hobbies.

The dragon had to admit, Pinkie’s parties were an excellent way to cheer oneself up. But when he was about to approach Fluttershy who seemed to be in a rather low-volume conversation with Moondancer over animal studies, he felt a hoof tap his shoulder and turned to see a pair of amber eyes.

“Hey, Spike, can we talk? In private?” Lyra asked.

Spike ignored any sense of trepidation and nodded, following the minty colored mare into the quiescence of the library basement as Twinkleshine tried to flirt with Rainbow Dash, apparently mistaking her for a stallion.

Spike sealed the door just as he noticed the pegasus’ body seemed to spasm either to unleash a scream or a laugh. The heavy wooden doors kept that a mystery.

After a few moments of silence and Lyra finding a chair to sit in, she looked at Spike meaningfully. “So, what did you want to talk about?” He asked as he found his own seat, maneuvering the floor plans he spent hardly a fraction of his life in, though the nostalgia had burned them into his mind forever.

“I get why you might not want to talk about it, but…” Lyra trailed off and scratched the back of her head through her mane. “Are you really from the future?”

Spike blinked.

And blinked again.

“How?” Was all he could ask. He knew he wasn’t terribly subtle, but he wanted to know.

“Well, it took a lot for me to figure out. You carry yourself a lot differently than I remembered at the last party. You also speak a bit different too, you keep saying and referring to ‘everyone’ and ‘anybody’. I thought I had overheard something between you and Twilight before I entered the room too, but I had figured I was just a bit drunk and mishearing things. And then there was at the hospital, you mentioned me living with Bon Bon. But she wasn’t at the party, she was working on a late batch of sweets for the celebrations, and we hadn’t agreed to move in together until before I left for Canterlot to see you at the hospital.” Lyra listed off. “So… Are you actually from one hundred fifty years in the future?”

He could only nod to confirm. Part of him was hitting himself for being so obvious but, after dealing with this for less than a few days, Spike was fully ready to tell someone, anyone anything.

“What can you tell me about it?” She asked and after a look into his eyes, and with a glance at his arm, she added, “Besides that this… Probably isn’t at all how things went. Did Nightmare Moon even release Princess Luna?”

“Oh, she did all right.” Spike nodded again, wondering if his head was going to fall off at this rate. “I don’t know how I came back to be honest, I think it had something to do with that strange person Zecora mentioned meeting in the Everfree who led her to Twilight and the others. I thought I saw them at the hospital, but she was gone the second I tried to point her out.”

Lyra nodded. “Sounds pretty crazy. Crazy like Twilight suspecting a corrupted alicorn would descend from the moon to destroy us all.”

“In other words: dead on the bits?”

“Yep.” The unicorn mare agreed. “All right, so, time to get the cliche out of the way; there’s a big war in the future where a bunch of us die, isn’t there?”

“Was it that obvious?” The dragon couldn’t help but laugh.

“Twilight’s not the only bibliophile in our group, I just spent more time in the fiction section looking for musical ideas. So, first things first; who dies?”

Spike couldn’t help but look at how nonplussed Lyra seemed about it all. But why would she? To her, this was only a distant possibility. The Lyra he knew in his timeline was somewhat of a mystery to him, the Lyra he knew from his timeline became a bit of a transbiological and looked to technology to overcome death before succumbing peacefully. Nevermind that the possibility seemed to grow more and more remote each passing hour.

“Well, geez, kind of a long list even if you’re only counting ponies.” Spike recalled and saw Lyra’s calm demeanor shatter as she read Spike’s face.

“How bad?”

“Uh, half the pony population bad. Two thirds of the Griffon… Minotaurs were almost extinct, dragons are down to maybe less than a thousand,” Spike explained and watched the last of the color in Lyra’s face drain away. Spike felt a bit of guilt effectively dumping half his burden, on the other hand, it helped put a lot into perspective about the situation of his future.

Even if they survived, the day was won, and those who lived flourished and thrived as unity and technology brought civilization to new heights, the future massively sucked like a ten thousand wing power tornado.

“Who at this party dies then? How can we prevent this?” Lyra opted to narrow down.

“Rainbow Dash, Moondancer, and Princesses Luna and Celestia,” Spike quickly listed.

Lyra nodded. “Well, I guess Rainbow Dash wouldn’t back down from a fight and Moondancer isn’t much a fighter- WAIT, WHAT?! How can Princess Celestia die? She’s been around forever! If she goes what happens to the moon and sun?” For as much as she seemed to be panicking, Spike thought she was taking this fairly well.

“Okay, first of all, Celestia and Luna both made magical scrolls before they sacrificed themselves to stop Grogar. Secondly, for decades after, Twilight and Cadance handled it-” Spike was snatched up in a mix of a telekinetic grasp and hooves.

“How. Do. We. Stop this?” Lyra asked slowly.

“It’s not hard.” The dragon reassured, seemingly calming Lyra. “Things may already be in motion that prevent this from happening. All we need to do is keep Prince Blueblood from travelling to Saddle Arabia, prevent him from stealing the Eldritch Esoterica, and breaking the seal that keeps Grogar comatose in Tartarus. And probably track down the Necromancer August Star and kill him.”

The minty unicorn sighed with relief. “Okay, and August Star can’t break the seal themselves then?”

“No, the seal was put into place by the royal family, so it can only be broken by members of the royal family. And it must be done so willingly,” Spike reassured.

“So Blueblood did this because… Reasons?” Lyra asked, clearly distressed to imagine anyone related to Celestia could honestly muster the malice to cause such destruction.

Once more, Spike placated her. “Not to my understanding. I’ll admit, no one knows for certain what happened, but when August Star first appeared, leading the armies of Grogar’s dead and damned, he boasted over how easily manipulated and tricked Blueblood was.”

Lyra dropped back onto her seat in her customary strangeness, her forelegs folded so one cradled the other, which held her head. “Well, then we probably don’t want to give him reason to resent us so no locking him-”

Suddenly, they heard a loud screeching from above, followed by Luna’s bellow: “WE HATH WON THE BEER PONG. WHERE IS OUR GOLDEN FISH?”

Lyra looked to Spike, her face paler than when Spike was recounting the death toll. “In your original timeline, did you ever deal with drunken Princesses?”

Spike tapped his chin and dredged his memories. “Will you count Twilight when she becomes a princess or Cadance?”

“No pony counts Cadance as a real princess, Spike.”

The two began the trek back to join the party, and despite being exposed to the potential horrors of the future, Lyra seemed to taking things well. Despite someone now knowing the greater scheme of the future, Spike felt better than he had since he arrived in the past. While he had no way to peer into the unicorn’s mind, the two felt collectively happier to share the burden of knowledge.

But at the top of the steps and using her magic to hold the door shut, Lyra looked at him, her expression dire. “One more thing before we go back,” She said, kneeling lower so they were eye to eye. “I promise not to tell any pony, but what you’ve told me is extremely vital information that others need to know. And I know you must be thinking about how many lives won’t even be born because of the changes already made, but you need to ask yourself if whatever the future brought is worth the lives we lost.” She sniffed, her eyes becoming shiny with tears. “Twilight and Moondancer are finally connecting to other ponies. I’d hate to imagine they’re only just beginning to enjoy life if it’s going to be their last years together.”

Lyra’s words sank into Spike’s mind like a stone, and somehow, he felt sure he would never quite feel as tall as he should be knowing he was willing to trade the lives of those he loved for a future which wasn’t even possible the moment he woke up in the Canterlot Library. “All right,” he agreed. “I’ll… Talk to someone else. One of the Princesses. It’s just going to take a bit of time to figure out how to break this to them.”

Lyra nodded and seemed ready to open the door. “Oh, and a few more things: one, that princess better not be Cadance. Two,” she smiled, her expression brightening. “If you need to talk to somepony, you should know where to find me.” The minty unicorn opened the door, flooding their vision with light, the sight of Celestia twerking to awful pop music, Rainbow Dash grinding against an uncomfortable Twinkleshine, and the obnoxious scent of a dozen different alcohols and their concoctions.

“IT’S JUNGLE JUICE TIME!” Pinkie shouted, suddenly appearing in the faces of the pair with huge pitchers filled with fruit and who knew what else. Before either could protest, they were violently pulled back into the party and forbidden from discussing anything serious for the remainder of the night.


Chapter: Interlude(?̷̢ ͜͟) 2151818152354209135 of Harmony

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“Sometimes I’ve theorized ‘time’ exists because our minds cannot comprehend everything at once. But I also have theorized all we do is the dream of a sleeping god and my aunt Pinkie’s mane and tail are candy floss. These theories usually occur while drunk and trying to pick up mares.”
-Professor Vanguard Sparkle when asked on time travel magic

Twilight Sparkle held nothing but respect for her mentor and kingdom’s monarch (though she supposed diarch now), and nothing could be said or done to change that, especially in the scope of all the great things Princess Celestia had done for her and her friends - both old and new.

Could it be denied she had her eccentricities? No, especially not after seeing her drunk off her flank just the night before and donning the clothing of some of the partygoers just to get up on the table and do a strip tease. (Twilight also wouldn’t deny that Celestia looked damn good doing it.)

But in this instant, with her head pounding, hot railroad spikes being driven through her eyes and into her brain, the slightest noise causing her agony, and her mouth tasting like she had been eating rotten fish and sawdust with a hint of fruit, and all this while the sun shining right into her face made her want to telekinetically (if magic probably wouldn’t hurt like getting hit by a train) rip the star out of the sky and force it up her teacher’s urinary tract. Followed shortly with copious amounts of crushed glass.

With a monumental effort, Twilight forced herself to her hooves, ignoring the powerful wave of nausea hitting her and the mild tilt in her balance that made it difficult to walk. Slowly, she labored herself over to the library curtains, careful to step over her friends who were still out cold on the floor, and finally, closed the blinds, sighing with relief.

“Hangover blues, young Twilight? Try this herbal tea and let go the consequences of last night.” An earthy but still painful voice spoke up from the new darkness. Twilight slowly turned and saw a serene looking Zecora with a tea set, casually sipping away.

“Zecora? When did you get to the party last night? I don’t remember seeing you when Spike and I got there.” The unicorn mare’s curiosity managed to override the pain.

“You would not, I arrived when every pony was already drunk. I joined in the revelry anyway, and for being a thousand years behind, Princess Luna has got funk.” Zecora explained while pushing the tea forward which Twilight accepted. “I apologize that I was late, I was still busy trying to investigate.”

The tea was a brown cup of miracles - while the scholar still felt hung over, the worst of the pain washed away the moment the hot tea rushed into her mouth and began to mingle in her bloodstream. She now could think clearly enough for Zecora’s statement to sink in without (much) pain. “Investigate what? The thief?”

Zecora nodded affirmatively while other ponies began to slowly groan and rouse themselves.

“Stop talking so loud…” Lemonhearts muttered, her voice muffled with her head stuck inside a large pitcher.

“Do not worry, I checked and she can still breath, but how she fit her head into the pith is a mystery to me.”

“She’s squeezed her head into tighter spaces.” Twilight chuckled then winced. “I’m gonna go wash up. By the way, have you seen Spike, Lyra, or any of the Princesses?”

“Your dragon friend went off this morn to get some headache cures so your friends would not feel so forlorn. Your bardic friend abstained from the drink, so she departed earlier with a smile and wink. The Princesses seemed immune to alcoholic consequences, so they left to attend to their royal matters with clear senses.” Zecora listed off, ‘counting’ on the same hoof multiple times over.

The sorceress pony nodded and gave a small smile. “Well, thanks for showing up when you did. I should go wash up before every pony takes over the bathroom to hurl,” She said and began trotting up the stairs.

After running some hot water over herself and drying off, Twilight Sparkle felt better than she had before she had accepted the princesses’ proposal that legal drinking age would be waived for the sake of the party.

She made a mental note to ask Zecora for the tea recipe the same moment a knock on the door alerted her. “Hang on, I’m almost done. This is my place anyway, isn’t it?” Twilight asked with a bit more crankiness than she had meant (maybe she wasn’t completely free from the hangover). A few more raps on the oak made her hurry, tossing the towel aside rather than bothering to hang it up and threw open the door. “All right, but you get a damp towel- Oh, I’m sorry, honey,” she said while looking down at the small unicorn colt with a blue mane and purple coat.

“It’s okay, mom. I know how cranky you get when you stay up too late reading,” Vanguard smiled, looking so much like his father.

“Did you need the bathroom, honey?” Twilight asked, not questioning why he didn’t use the one adjoined to his room.

“Twilight?” Spike’s voice suddenly snapped her attention to a far corner of the room outside the bathroom, standing there with three large bags of groceries. “Who are you talking to?”

She looked down, expecting to see somepony there.

But she couldn’t say why.

“I… I don’t think I was talking to anypony?” She slowly quirked a brow.

What had he been talking about?

“I thought I heard you talking to someon-pony,” Spike self corrected that odd quirk in his speech.

Twilight shuffled through her memory and ultimately shrugged. “I don’t know, I must have thought somepony else was at the door and needed to get in. I might still be a bit hungover from last night,” She also considered that something in Zecora’s tea may agree better with zebras than ponies. “So, take a note for the future: alcohol is not allowed within a hundred feet of this castle,” she ordered and turned back into the bathroom with a tall stride before shutting the door.

Chapter 8: Fancy Quantum Mathmatics

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“Alright, ya lil’ fetlock biters, it’s time fer bed! We got a whole lotta work tomorrow ‘cause it’s the start o’ Applebuck Season!”

“Mama, tell us a story before bed. Pleeeeeease?”

“Aw, shucks, startin’ wit’ tha darn eyes already? Whaddya wanna hear?”

“Tell us ‘bout the first applebuck season after ya met Auntie Twiligh’!”

“Well, shoot, ya’ll wanna hear that ol’ story? Alrigh’, so it all began when Ah made a bet wit’ yer uncle Big Mac that bit mah haunches pretty hard…”

One by one, the party guests who were not Princesses roused themselves from their ethanol comas and one by one received their bitter medicine with the greater halves of the group returning to a listless, if less pained fugue. Spike, for his part, opted to ease the troubles of the mares by using his grocery purchases to make a large breakfast for everyone, as well as take his mind off of the strange episode with Twilight.

“Not the first time she’s talked to herself, but she’s never talked to herself like that.” He muttered, wishing Lyra was there. A sentiment he waved away quickly. “I can’t dump things on to her just because I’m pussyfooting around telling everyone.” Spike nodded in agreement with himself. He wasn’t a twelve year old baby dragon (okay, he was, but not in mind), he was a one hundred sixty two year old young adult dragon. “Okay, one hundred sixty two isn’t exactly ‘adult’ by most dragon standards, but I am - was? No, still have been able to handle my own problems for more than a hundred years now. Which includes asking for help when I’m in over my head.” Spike monologued as a familiar, orange mare joined him in the kitchen, her green eyes slightly dark from the late night and uncomfortable bed that was the library flood, but she still seemed to shine like the gold in her mane.

“Sounds ‘bit more like yer outta yer head there, partner.” Applejack chuckled as Spike slipped the first batch of baked oats and apples into the oven.

“How do you mean-?” The dragon was ready to ask, but soon realized what the farmpony meant.

“First sign of insanity is talking to yourself.” They said in unison and found themselves laughing.

Applejack took a nearby knife and began to slice apples for the next batch. “Well, seems yer at least mindful you might be a few apples short of the bushel. Speakin’ of which, hope you don’ mind if I lend a hoof, hate just kind of sittin’ on ‘em in the mornin’s.” Spike’s gaze fell the the wooden prosthesis capping off her right foreleg.

“Um, sure you can spare it?” The time traveller couldn’t help but ask with some concern despite the black comedy.

The applemare though seemed to silently answer by deftly slicing each apple into thin, even twelefths and cored the thing by quickly jabbing the knife into the top and pulling it out, with core, in a fluid motion. “This ain’ the first time Ah’ve had to do things with a bit o’ deadweight. ‘Round the farm, ya gotta git things done, even when you ain’t always doin’ so good.”

“That was beautiful.” Spike’s inner culinary couldn’t help but applaud Applejack’s skill, and even with his century and a half of experience with those little ponies, the corners of his lips tugged to the higher edges of his features in a glowing smile as he remembered he could spend a thousand years with even humble Applejack and they would never fail to impress her eachday.

“Whoa nelly! Ah didn’ lose an eye out there an’ mistake an onion for an apple did I?” The orange mare exclaimed in shock, giving Spike a cognicence to his own, welling tears.

The wyrmling shook his head fiercely and rubbed his eyes on his arm. “No, I just cry easily. You can ask Twilight.” he managed to confess while lie at the same time. The naturalness in which his forked tongue came to him was beginning to bother him.

“Uh-huh…” Applejack’s own lips tugged into a frown. “Look, Ah know you’re used to doin’ this for Twilight, but there’s a lot more than Twilight here.” The ‘cowmare’ brightened. “‘Sides, don’t think in all the time this kooky buncha craziness has happened we’ve had much a chance to talk. Got to overhear plenty of your conversations with that Shinin’ brother o’ Twilight’s.”

The dragon recomposed himself and the wyrmling and mare began to prepare breakfast in earnest. “I give him grief, but honestly, Shining Armor’s a great brother, even to those who don’t share his blood.” Spike smiled fondly.

“Seems like you don’t do too bad yourself.” Applejack smiled. “Pretty darn tall o’ ya to stand up to him before the Princess-es.” She corrected herself. “Ain’ never gonna git used to there bein’ more than one.”

“What about Cadance?”

“She don’ count.” Applejack deadpanned.

The small dragon broke into a hissing laugh while phantom pains began to shoot through his missing arm, currently nothing more than a crude, pronged scoop originally meant to serve as a pony foreleg. “You’re the second per-ony to say that. What’s everyone got against her? I mean, she’s not as active as Celestia, but give her a bit of a break she does… Things.” Actually, even Spike wasn’t sure what Candace did before becoming the ‘empress’ of the Crystal Empire. At least besides creatively stress test the shock weight capacity of any pieces of furniture in the Canterlot Palace with her boyfriend.

“Uh-huh…” The Apple family face said with the same skepticism Twilight regarded theories of life on other worlds visiting. “And that means- Horse apples!” She segued rather appropriately when she accidentally attempted to grab a bowl of dough with her more simple prosthesis and dropped it on the floor with a splat and a shatter.

Spike was quick to start cleaning up the mess, frowning at the error caused by Applejack’s timeline exclusive injury. “I’m sorry.” He instinctively whispered.

“Why?” She blinked while passing him a wet towel. “You didn’ make me drop the darn thing.”

Remembering Lyra’s words, Spike decided to brooch his situation to one of the more levelheaded ponies he had known is his life before taking it to the princesses. “Not for the mess, rather what led to it.” He explained rather formally while Applejack lifted her prosthetic forehoof to her face and examined it quizzically.

“Spike, ya weren’t even there. Ah ain’ seein’ how you were responsible for me gettin’ mah hoof crushed by a couple o’ rocks we couldn’ see ‘cause o’ the whole ‘eternal night’ guff. ‘Sides, ain’ like I lost mah workin’ legs.” She said thrusting them out proudly as she roll called: “Bucky McGillycuddy an’ Kicks McGee.”

Spike fought off his grin of amusement after hearing the familiar, and ridiculous names for her powerful haunches. “No, I mean… Applejack…” He trailed off, trying to find some way to break the subject to her.

A gentle, orange hoof set on his shoulder. “Spike, if there’s somethin’ you feel ya need to confess to, it’s mighty big o’ ya, but I ain’ blind to whatever it is you been tryin’ to say is killin’ ya.” Her expression was comforting, but there was a trace of disappointment he could feel. “So, why don’t ya just sleep on it a little longer, sugarcube?”

“‘Sleep on it’?” Spike echoed with a slightly manic laugh he couldn’t guess the origin of. Manic enough to make the farmer take a step back with surprise and concern. “I’ve slept on it plenty enough, Applejack.” Saying it out somehow helped his resolve. Just a little. “What I told you I’m from the future? A future. And that last time… That didn’t happen.” He said pointing to the prosthetic hoof at the end of Applejack’s foreleg.

The orange mare looked at Spike and gave a slow blink. The silence seemed to become its own cacophony and the opening of the kitchen door to reveal a still staggering Lemonhearts enter the kitchen, her groans reverberating from within the confines of the pitcher her head was trapped in. A soft glow of magic could be made out through the frosted glass of the vessel, opening the ice box and pulling out another empty pitcher that had held some spirit the previous night and been replaced only due to drunken error.

The same error which let to the yellow pony ‘pouring’ the nonexistent contents of the other pitcher into a glass, set the empty pitcher back inside, then tilt back the cup, the rim tapping against the pitcher filled with unicorn head, and she let out a sigh of satisfaction. “I needed that…” She sighed. “No rush on breakfast since a lot of us are still taking turns with the bathroom, buuuuut… I like whipped cream on my apple pancakes.”

“Noted.” Spike and Applejack said in unison after a slightly confused glance to one another at this strange, non-sequitur of the universe.

“Thanks!” The yellow unicorn said gleefully, trotting out the kitchen with the pitcher still on her head and seemingly never noticing once, even as she sealed the kitchen door behind her.

After letting the tension settle back in, Applejack quizzically asked. “So, you ain’ budgin’ from that story?”

“What? When did I-” Spike stammered as he searched his memory then ‘ahh’d’. “That’s right, I mentioned this to all of you already at the housewarming party.”

“Yeeep. An’, honestly, Ah didn’ really believe it then an’ Ah find it just as hard to believe now.” Applejack admitted bluntly with a shake of her head.

“What if I was being honest?” Spike probed.

“Well, for one thing, it just wouldn’t make a lick o’ sense. I mean… I don’t understand how time travel works-”

“Honestly? Neither do I.” Spike cut in to admit. “As I mentioned during the Summer Sun Celebration, I went to bed a few nights ago one hundred fifty years from now, and woke up now. Or rather a few days ago.” He defended while Applejack just shook her head.

“Spike, please, this is somethin’ Ah don’t even want to try to wrap my head around. Ah mean if you’re here to prevent somethin’, an’ ya do, what would make ya go back an’ change it to begin with- Aaaahhh! Ah’m thinkin’ about it!” Applejack began to panic, something Spike felt horrible for finding just a bit adorable.

He wrapped a scaly arm around her and stroked her mane, tiny claws raking through her tangles, he thought better of using the cold, metal arm for any manner of comfort. “Hey! Hey, it’s okay!” The dragon reassured but trailed off, not sure what he could say other than: ‘Psyche! I’m not from the future afterall! It’s just a prank, pone.’

The very idea of such an empty lie being used to reassure the Element of Honesty made him cringe.

“An’ if you change things…” She was beginning to hyperventilate, the endearing charm of her earlier anxiety gone as Spike could see her fears trembling beneath veridian irises. “If you change things… Ah mean… What about? What about the babies?” She asked, the question hitting Spike as well like a lead weight dropped on him from the top of Canterlot’s highest spire. “I don’- Apples have families, Spike, it’s just the way of it.”

“Shhhh, please, Applejack, don’t think about it.” Spike hugged her tighter, his own eyes starting to well up with tears as he thought of the countless fillies and foals he knew from the future, reminded painfully how the sheer ripples of his careless actions may yet have erased even sweet Pumpkin and Pound Cake from existence.

The two broke down into a fearful silence, the only solace each took was each other, Applejack slowly reciprocating the one armed hug herself.

After another few minutes, their fears slowly abated, their focus shifting elsewhere.

Namely on the once more open kitchen door with a scandalized looking Rarity staring at the two. “Applejack, darling!”

“What?” The blonde mare asked flatly.

“I mean, I suppose it’s good you found a man who sees your beauty but shaping them from such a young age and a dragon-” Before Rarity could finish the rest of her sentence, she retreated behind the door with a provoking smile on her lips and a rather ‘high’ laughter from her throat as she defended herself from a furiously flushing Applejack who was throwing random things at the alabaster unicorn.

“Consarnit!” She huffed and threw down her hat.

“AJ, let’s calm down.” Spike placated and looked around. “Calm down and clean up… Then finish breakfast. I think everyo-pony has waited long enough.”

Applejack’s nostrils flared in a snort of ire. “Ah already know what Rarity’s gettin’ fed; her own teeth.”

“Hey, you wanna really shock her? We could even play up on the yarn she’s already spun in her mind.” Spike suggested and the mighty dragon immediately withered under a powerful death glare from the farm pony. “Rescinded.” He squeaked.

Applejack was still glaring.

“I mean withdrawn.” Spike clarified.

And finally, she withdrew herself in kind, her expression more sheepish than pony. “Oh.”