20-04

by MellowSoul

First published

Twilight and Spike move to a new city.

After moving the last box to their new home, Twilight and Spike go out to eat. A chance encounter leads to an interesting evening.

Sign of the Times

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Twilight placed the last box on the floor of her new living room. She and her younger brother, Spike, had just finished moving north of the continent for a fresh start. The city was a fairly lively one. It went under the name "Kirsebaer Grove", and was apparently known for its high-quality cherries. The pair had decided they would move close by, primarily for the sake of convenience. They could travel wherever they wanted with relative ease, and they were determined to take full advantage of that ability.

"Looks like that's everything." Spike stated.

"Yep. You know what that means."

"Fuckin' food!"

"If mom were here, she'd be chasing you around with a bottle of soap right about now. Lucky for you, I'm not her."

"Even that sounds good right about now."

"You're just a walking garbage disposal, aren't you?"

"I'm a growing boy."

"Yep. You're pudgy because of science. That's the reason."

"Meh. Bite me."

"Remind me again; which one of us is the blood-drinker here?"

"Hey, if it wasn't for me, that little following of yours wouldn't be nearly as huge."

"Can't argue there. Anyway, how does Pizza sound?"

"You know I'm not gonna turn that down."

"Let me grab a shower real quick."

"Cool."

Twilight disappeared from view. Spike took a moment to look around the place. Despite being close to the city, it had a distinctly homey feel. The carpet was a dull tan color. He could smell the air freshener Twilight had sprayed earlier in the day. It was a soft, soothing aroma without too much tang. He'd have to ask her what brand it was later.


To pass the time, Spike listened to music in he and Twilight's room. Their collection consisted almost entirely of metalcore with a few nu metal tracks thrown in. He chose his favorite of the bunch: a record released the previous year under the title "This is Love, This is Murderous". Over the years, Twilight's obsession with gothic and hardcore culture had rubbed off on him. For hours, they would sit around listening to music, pondering how surreal the world seemed. Time began to pass as he reminisced...


Twilight changed into a fresh set of dark clothes. She shaded her mouth with black lipstick, coating her eyes in a blend of mascara, liner, and shadow. Once she was ready, she retrieved Spike from their room.

"Let's go."

"Finally. I'm starving."

"Same here."

The siblings headed into the hall. They exited the front door.


Twilight locked the door and put her keys away. A cold chill caused her to retreat into her mind. Most of the time, she and Spike were joking around and having fun, but there were times when the world would pull them back to reality. They had a pretty good idea of what their lives held from this point on, but what then...?

Spike wrapped an arm around his sister, breaking her concentration.

"It's all right...I'm here..."

Twilight nuzzled her brother. The Alicorn realized long ago they were closer than the rest of their family. She could be vulnerable around him, and so could he around her. That was why he chose to live with her, after all. They released each other to continue on. Their breaths crystalized with each step...


It didn't take long to reach the restaurant. Despite the weather, Twilight remained in an optimistic frame of mind. It was a day of celebration. She was at a point where she could live comfortably for the remainder of her days, and Spike was here to help keep her spirits up. She was grateful for how things were going. So long as she held on to that gratitude, she knew everything would work itself out.

*smack*

Not realizing the door was open, Spike bumped into the glass, hitting his snout in the process.

"Are you okay?" Twilight asked out of concern for her brother's well-being.

"Yeah. Gonna feel that one in the morning, though."

"Sorry about that, little dude." A feminine voice apologized.

Twilight and Spike gazed up to see a blue Pegasus before them. Her mane displayed an amalgamation of colors. Twilight recognized them as the colors of the Rainbow. Not only that, but they were in the exact same order. Behind her were four other mares. Not wanting to cause a scene, Spike played the incident off.

"No worries. Not the first time I've slammed into something. Twilight always tells me I have a hard head."

The Pegasus suddenly yelled in excitement.

"HOLY SHIT!"

The siblings were startled by her sudden outburst.

"It's you! You're Terra-Freeze Twilight!"

"You're fans?" Twilight questioned curiously.

"Me and my friends worship you guys! You're fuckin' legends in the cyber world!"

"I wouldn't say 'legends'."

"Are you kidding!? A million followers over a decade speaks for itself!"

"I guess you could say I have some degree of recognition."

"I was one of your early followers back in '95 when you were starting out!"

"I didn't even realize I'd been doing it for so long."

"Back then, there weren't a lot of places dedicated to the alternative scene. I saw your music collection and went to check it out. It melted my face off! I'd never heard anything so heavy before!"

"Sorry I don't remember you. It's been a while."

"Hey, don't sweat it! I didn't really interact much with you back then. I was too intimidated! You were the voice of angsty suburban teens all over the country!"

Twilight gave a pleased smirk. In a weird way, it felt refreshing to hear praise from a stranger.

"Come to think of it, I was there when everyone jumped on the mystery wagon. I dunno if you remember, but when your dragon buddy showed up, people started saying he was your familiar. They thought you were a witch or vampire: somethin' from the old days."

"Spike's not just my friend. He's my brother."

"No way! That's badass!"

"My mother found him when he was still in his egg. We assumed he'd been abandoned."

"Guess there's something to all those theories then, huh?"

"What's your name?"

"Sorry. I probably sound like a total dweeb right now."

"Nothing wrong with that. Truth be told, I haven't spoken to many people outside the web."

"I'm Rainbow: Rainbow Dash! These are my friends: Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie, and Fluttershy."

"I kind of see the resemblance to my fashion catalog now."

"That was one of the things that set you apart back in the day. Your style was diverse with a common theme."

"Yeah. I suppose my popularity's dwindled a bit since then."

"Not even close! Everyone who copied your aesthetic mentions you in their bios!"

"They do?"

"Just last year, everybody went nuts when you picked up Bleeding Through's album on release day!"

"I didn't have much time to check. I was finishing up my senior year of college at the time."

"What did you major in?"

"Computer science with a minor in math."

"Makes sense."

"Hey, Twilight," Spike cut in, "We should let them sit with us for dinner."

"Good Idea, Spike. It's on us tonight."

"For real!?" Rainbow squealed in delight.

Twilight nodded. The newly-formed party headed inside. On their way in, Spike noticed the white Unicorn, Rarity, spare him a flirtatious glance. He concealed his claws, turning away to mask his embarrassment. A flattered smile crossed his features.

LLR

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Over dinner, Twilight and Spike grew acquainted with the rest of the group.

"So what brings you guys all the way up to nowhereville?" Rainbow inquired.

"We just moved here." Twilight replied.

"No shit. Where from?"

"Down south."

"You don't sound like a country bumpkin, especially compared to AJ here."

"You're from the south, Applejack?"

"Yes, ma'am," Applejack answered, "My family owned a farm, but things weren't going so well. We figured it was time to sell the old plot and try again elsewhere. We bought a place here and started a new one."

"Is it more livestock or produce-oriented?"

"Mostly produce, but we have a few cows. I come from a long line of Apples. You can guess what we grow."

"Are you in the cherry business as well?"

"Nah. Don't really like 'em that much."

"I see."

"If you don't mind my askin', I don't hear much of a twang in your accent."

"Our parents were originally from the west coast. They moved south when Shining was six months old."

"You have another brother?"

"He's a couple years older than me. To put it in native terms, he tends to think with his pecker."

Applejack's lips rolled into her mouth. Her cheeks expanded to almost comedic levels. Pinkie didn't bother trying to restrain her laughter. Rarity gave an amused smile. Fluttershy's face turned an explosive shade of red.

"You're way funnier in person than I thought you'd be!" Rainbow admitted.

"Not really," Twilight countered, "Spike's the mastermind. When he was six, he tried to open one of those big leaf bags and ended up crawling around for two hours. We thought he was an armadillo."

"Twi!" Spike groaned.

"Don't be too hard on her, darling," Rarity comforted, "It really is a cute story."

"O-oh...Ya think so?"

"Mhmmm!"

"What about you guys," Twilight questioned, "What are your stories?"

"Me, Pinkie, and Fluttershy were born here," Rainbow revealed, "We've been friends since second grade. Rarity moved here around the same time, but we didn't see her much until the year after."

"Where are you from, Rarity?" Twilight asked.

"I was born overseas, dear," the unicorn responded, "My parents were absolutely enthralled by high-class eastern society."

"So that's why you went with the Victorian look."

"Yes. It's quite lovely, wouldn't you agree?"

Twilight nodded.

"I'm just surprised all of you are metalheads," the Alicorn continued, "Outside of venues and online, I've never seen a group in one place: not even the record stores in my hometown. Everyone was always listening to country or classic rock."

"How'd you get into it, anyway?" Rainbow asked.

"I was a nosy kid."

"You found it in Shining's room."

"He was into punk rock in high school. I poked around his room and came across an album called Testimony of the Ancients by Pestilence. It was completely different from anything else I'd heard at that point. When I asked him about it, he said he didn't like it that much. You should've seen the look on his face when I asked him if I could have it."

"Probably thought you were on crack."

"From then on, you know the rest."

"Not really. Doesn't explain how you went edge."

"Not much to tell. I was never into the whole sex, drugs, and rock n' roll thing. Part of the appeal for me was the introspective lyrics. Most of the bands in the hardcore scene were exclusively political at the time. They didn't have that gloomy sound I was looking for. That changed around '97 when I came across a forum detailing a bunch of bands that took influence from metal. Two of the albums listed were Cave In's compilation 'Beyond Hypothermia' and Unbroken's CD 'Life. Love. Regret.'."

"I know Cave In, but I've never heard Unbroken."

"You know how every hardcore record these days is about the vocalist breaking up with their girlfriend?"

"They started that!?"

"Yep. They had a few political and edge songs, but LLR was where they came into their own. They started writing more about mortality and depression."

"Sounds like the kind of stuff that'd make people wanna take drugs. Kinda counterintuitive there."

"I thought so, too."

"I'll have to check 'em out when I get home."

"What about you guys? What kind of stuff are you into?"

"Pretty much everything: hardcore, gothic metal, symphonic metal, you name it."

"Sounds like you could introduce me to some neat stuff. My internet's not set up yet. It'll take another week or so to sort everything out."

"No problem. We'll send you the files so you can download 'em."

"Sounds good."


After dinner, Twilight continued talking with the others while Spike and Pinkie played a round of Donkey Kong. Rainbow informed the Alicorn of a rather...Interesting...Development.

"Don't look now, but I think Rarity's checkin' out your little bro."

"I got this." Twilight assured. Copying the unicorn's behavior, she stared toward Rarity's flank.

"Shouldn't have done that." Rainbow jested.

Rarity wiggled her hips back and forth in a subtle motion. She knew.

"Why do I even bother." Twilight thought to herself.

"Well, since that's out of the way, you play any MMOs?" Rainbow asked nonchalantly.

"I tinkered with EverQuest back in the day. I couldn't really get into it, though. I'm more of a console gamer."

"Well, there's supposed to be a new one coming out called World of Warcraft. I doubt it'll compete with PS2 or Xbox, but if you're bored, give it a whirl."

"Will do."

Twilight exchanged email addresses with the girls before they headed outside.


Twilight and Spike parted ways with the others. A goofy smirk was etched onto his face.

"You seem like you're in a good mood." Twilight pointed out.

"Did you hear what Applejack said? 'Sell the old plot'."

"...Really?"

"You mean to tell me you wouldn't pimp out your granny for a farm?"

"Is everyone around here an escaped asylum patient?"

"Yep. Guess you'll just have to deal."

Twilight closed her eyes. She smiled, and opened them again.

"You act like I'm displeased. You're forgetting who started this."

"That's more like it."

"Let's get some sleep. We'll unpack in the morning."

"Sounds like a plan."

PotG (Intermission Chapter)

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The next morning, Twilight and Spike began the process of organizing their new home. During that time, they had so much fun that they barely noticed they were working at all. At one point, while they were listening to Bleeding Through's album Portrait of the Goddess, Spike lifted the vacuum off the floor and started playing it like a guitar. Twilight stopped cleaning to join in, headbanging, moshing, and tapping the couch in time with the music. It was one of the few times their energy rivaled the band's.

"Hey, I just thought of a new sub-genre." Twilight suggested.

"What?"

"Break up-core."

"Yes! Haha! That's perfect!"

"So, tell me, what do you think about Rarity?"

"She's a heart-stopper. That's for sure."

"Yeah? You think she's cute?"

"Duh! Why bring it up all of a sudden?"

"No reason."

"Bull. Spill it."

"Well...Rainbow might have been generous enough to tell me she was getting an eyeful last night."

"I knew she was givin' me a weird look."

"Little Spikey's growing up so fast."

"You got the answer to your question wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"You asked if I was a garbage disposal. The correct answer was jailbait."

"You said it, not me."

"Think I'll have a shot with her down the road?"

"We'll see. Between you and me, though, the odds are definitely in your favor. I suspect her tastes lie on the more exotic end of the spectrum."

"Guess great minds do think alike."

"Play it cool and she'll be on you like marshmallows on s'mores."

"Damn it. Now I'm hungry again."

"Come on. Let's get you something to eat so we can finish up for the day."

Twilight extended her foreleg. Spike swiftly sank his fangs into the limb, suckling away until he was satiated.

"Dad was right. You really are a sweetheart."

"Weirdo."

Conjuring

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Just as Twilight predicted, her internet was installed the following week. She made it a priority to contact Rainbow as soon as possible. She could only think to send one word.

"Hey."

Rainbow responded almost immediately.

"'sup, princess?"

The Alicorn stared at her monitor in bewilderment.

"How did you find out?"

"Gossip is Rarity's thing. She's always keepin' up with the tabloids and magazines."

"She must've seen the news when Shining and Cadance got married."

"Your brother knocked up the babysitter."

"Are you mad I didn't tell you?"

"Nah. Figured you were hiding it for a reason."

"I dressed in normal clothes so no one would recognize me. I thought if people knew, they'd assume there was nepotism going on behind the scenes."

"Hey, don't worry. I totally get it."

"Did you tell the others?"

"No. Rarity was practically delirious when she told me. She mentioned it after a rather...Interesting...Conversation about chocolate milk."

"They'll probably figure it out sooner or later. I may as well come clean next time we see each other."

"There's something I still don't get. Why did you guys move so far from home? Why aren't you closer to your folks?"

"I guess you could say I had a bit of an existential crisis."

"I thought something weird was up. You didn't so much as crack a smile while the rest of were laughing our asses off."

"Shining and I were never particularly close. Most of the time, we were indifferent to each other's existences. When I realized how limited the world was, I made plans to end my life."

"Holy shit. What changed your mind?"

"Spike."

"I thought you guys seemed pretty tight."

"Having him around helped me find humor in the absurdity of it all. I realized laughing my way through was the only alternative."

"You've got some serious depth. I respect that."

"Thanks. I appreciate it."

"I'm kinda curious about something. You're pretty popular online. I'm sure you've gotten your share of hate mail."

"I've been called a murderer a couple times."

"Jesus."

"When deranged individuals bastardize our philosophy, it demolishes everything we've worked so hard to build."

"i know. It pisses me off, too."

"Nothing justifies the premeditated slaughter of innocent people. That's why it's called murder."

"Did you ever make a public statement about it?"

"No. I don't know the families. It's not my place. Besides, I'm probably the last person they'd want to hear from."

"I gotcha."

"I'm about to sign off soon. It's getting late."

"We'll make plans to meet up soon."

"Sounds good."

"I'll send you the files in the morning."

"I'll be waiting."

"You should take a couple shots of your game collection. I'd imagine you have some interesting stuff hiding in there."

"Sure. If you see anything that looks interesting, I'll let you borrow it next time."

"Awesome."

"Good night."

"Night."

Twilight closed her email window. She leaned back in her chair and stretched before getting up to check on Spike. The dragon had fallen asleep to a classic metal compilation some hours before.

"Mmm...Rarity..." he muttered as he shifted on his pillow.

Twilight giggled. Seeing her younger brother in such a state was arguably one of the more adorable things she'd witnessed during her lifetime.

"Yep. Just like Shining." she confirmed.


The next morning, Spike awoke to the smell of sausage from the kitchen. He licked his lips with his serpentine tongue. Had he been more alert, he might've daydreamed about its more...Entertaining...Uses. He slowly opened his emerald green eyes. He rubbed the sand away and traced the scent's origin.

"Morning." he greeted his sister.

"Heard you listening to W.A.S.P last night. I think I know what's on your mind."

"That easy to read, huh?"

"I think it's cute. You're like a walking contradiction to Eighteen Visions' No Time for Love."

"The song titles for that were so weird."

"Tell me about it."

"Did you talk to Cadance yet?"

"I called her earlier. Things seem to be going well."

"That's good."

"After breakfast, I'm gonna upload a couple pictures. Wanna join in?"

"Definitely."

"You might be able to see Rarity again this weekend."

"For real?"

"I'm still working out the details with Rainbow. Think you can keep yourself in check?"

"No promises."

"Good. It's more fun that way."

Orchid

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It was Saturday when Twilight and Rainbow decided to meet up for the second time. That morning, Twilight left the house early to run an errand in town, leaving Spike to lounge around until she returned. It took over two hours for her to arrive back home.

"You were gone for a while. What happened?"

Twilight levitated a plastic case in front of her brother. On the cover was a purple flower unknown to the dragon. In the top left corner rested a logo designed in the Ruritania font.

"It's called Orchid by Opeth. I'm sure I've mentioned them before."

"I'm guessing it was hard to find."

"Yes, but I have my ways."

"Did you wanna listen to it before we left?"

The Alicorn shook her head.

"No."

"Then why did you look so hard for it?"

"Because this isn't mine."

Twilight guided the case over to her brother.

"I want you to listen to this alone before we leave."

"I don't get it."

"Your mind and heart need to be under a specific influence. You'll understand what I mean when you listen."

Spike skimmed the back of the album. The song titles piqued his interest to say the least.

"If you want to win Rarity over, you have to search the depths of your soul."

"Twilight, I have a question."

"Yes?"

"...Are you high?"

The mare smiled.

"High on life, little bro. High on life."

Spike shrugged.

"Works for me."


Around two in the afternoon, Twilight and Spike left to meet up with the others. On the way, Spike plucked a purple coneflower native to the region. He wrapped himself inside his wings as a symbolic gesture. When the pair reached the restaurant from their first encounter, everyone was waiting for them.

"I was startin' to worry you might flake on us." Rainbow said.

Spike approached Rarity, flower firmly in hand. He held it out to her.

"For you, fair lady." he spoke.

The world went silent. Even Pinkie was at a loss for words. Rarity stared into the dragon's eyes with a look of surprise. She saw a kindness dormant during their previous meeting. A smile of her own began to form. She levitated the plant behind her ear.

"Thank you, Spike," she stated sweetly, "I'll treasure this."

Rainbow moved next to Twilight.

"Little dude's got balls of steel." the Pegasus uttered.

"I may have coached him a bit." Twilight replied smugly.

"I have to check on the animals at the shelter," Fluttershy interjected, "Would it be okay if we stopped by?"

"Of course." Twilight assured.

The party gathered and took their leave. Spike leaned against Rarity's shoulder. Her fur felt so warm and inviting. As they marched on, he became lost in his own world.


Fluttershy filled each of the animals' food dishes, taking her time to play with them. She petted and cuddled each of them before moving on to the next. Twilight could tell it brought the Pegasus great peace caring for them.

"Do you have any pets, Fluttershy?" the Alicorn questioned.

"Just one: a bunny named Angel."

"Boy or girl?"

"Boy."

"He was a little shit when she first got him." Rainbow cackled.

"In what way?" Twilight asked.

"He used to pull her mane and smack her with his tail."

"I take it his temper evened out after a while?"

"She had to fight him on it, but they eventually grew on each other."

"Do you have any, Twilight?" Fluttershy inquired.

"We had a dog when I was little. He passed away, unfortunately."

"I'm so sorry."

"It's okay. I know most smaller animals have short lifespans."

Rarity was the next to voice her thoughts.

"Forgive me for prying, darling, but why didn't you tell us about your connection to the royal family? It seems like the sort of thing most would wear proudly."

"I knew that would come up sooner or later," Twilight responded, "The truth of the matter is, I want nothing to do with politics. It's more headache than it's worth, and I didn't want people to feel like I had an unfair advantage. I built the life I have so I could help those in need. I despise greed and selfishness with every fiber of my being."

"What you're describing is true nobility. That's precisely what a leader does."

"Maybe, but I'm content in the shadows for now. There's too much scrutiny in being a public figure. I think most people would find our way of life odd, anyhow."

"How so?"

"Spike and I experimented with vampirism during my senior year of high school. It became a normal part of our routine. He feeds on my blood from time to time."

"I see. Perhaps that would raise some eyebrows among the common folk."

"Blood tastes sweet to him because of his genetic coding. It's a survival mechanism from the Paleozoic era."

"Well, fret not. It's of no consequence to us, provided you employ caution."

Twilight nodded.

"Come on," Rainbow urged, "Let's head to my place. I've got a ton of movies to choose from. We'll pick something out with lunch."

Of Bananas and Apples

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On the way to Rainbow's house, the girls discussed their professions. Twilight learned Rainbow originally wanted to be an acrobat, but lost interest after high school.

"You're still in pretty good shape."

"I mostly work out for health reasons these days. Looks like you're no couch potato either."

"I took an interest in martial arts when I was twelve. I trained in a dojo for a while, but it felt too impersonal. I started practicing on my own during my sophomore year."

"Which was it: Fei Lei Fong movies or Mortal Kombat?"

"Both."

"Damn. You're just ahead of the game, ain't ya?"

"What can I say? I'm a tried and true nerd."

"Fair enough."

"Since we're on the subject, Spike's designing a two-issue comic book series. It's about three humans trying to survive the holidays."

"Knowing you guys, there's more to it than meets the eye."

"You guessed it. They have spiritual powers resulting from the next phase of evolution."

"Now that sounds cool."

"I want to make it into a turn-based RPG."

"How?"

"I'd start with the comics and create an original story from there. Of course, I'd consult with Spike to uphold the source material."

"Please tell me it'd be rated M with horror shit in it."

"That's the idea. In the first issue, they fight a serial killer at a party."

"Ya know, if you show us how development works, we could probably help with stuff like level design, monsters, and music."

"You already know what we want for the soundtrack."

"It's like Doom and God of War. The monsters are scary as fuck, but you bleed power chords."

"Pretty much."

"It's pretty rare to see an RPG with gore flying everywhere. Even Shadow Hearts kept it limited to cutscenes."

"That's easily rectified with the right know-how. I've already done it in RPG Maker on the PlayStation."

"For real? How?"

"All you have to do is make a second sprite sheet and change the graphic during an event."

"That's sick. You'll have to show me sometime."

Twilight nodded. The party continued forward.


Near the edge of town, Spike noticed a banana peel on the ground. It was still fresh. He figured someone must have thrown it from their car on their way through. In the cogs of his mind, an idea began to form: an idea so ridiculous, it just might work.

"Hey, Rainbow," he questioned, "wanna race?"

"Kid, I was racing before you were a glimmer in your old man's eye."

"I might have a trick or two up my sleeve."

"Okay, but I warned ya."

Spike moved next to Twilight. He whispered in her ear.

"I have a plan..."

"I'm not gonna help you cheat..."

"Don't worry. I'm just messin' with her..."

The dragon told his sister the plan. Twilight's gaze of disapproval transformed into a mischievous grin. They both suppressed smothered giggles.


Spike and Rainbow got into position. Twilight began the countdown.

"Three...Two...One...Go!"

Rainbow zipped off, disappearing before the others could comprehend what happened. Spike pretended to start running, but as he soon revealed, it was all a façade. He stepped on the banana peel. Twilight ignited her horn. Her brother slid forward, striking a pose akin to a ballet dancer. Those remaining burst into a fit of collective laughter. Twilight led them forward, galloping ahead to prevent her spell from wearing off.


Rainbow had already reached her house before she realized Spike was nowhere to be seen or heard. She shrugged.

"I told him."

She flew back to meet up with him, no inkling as to what she was in for.


Mere minutes elapsed before Rainbow reconvened with the rest of the group.

"Where's Spike?" she asked Twilight curiously.

The Alicorn said nothing. She simply pointed up, a smug expression etched on her face. Spike was levitating upside down near the top of the streetlight. He held the nose of the peel like a skateboard.

"Check it out," the dragon exclaimed, "Hang time!"

"You're an asshole, ya know that?"

"You know you love it."

"Can't deny ya got spirit."

Spike jumped off the peel, planting himself on the sidewalk. Twilight lifted her incantation, allowing the fruit covering to fall to the ground.

"Come on," Rainbow said, "I know something good we can watch."

"Watch her make us sit through some teeny-bopper shit to get back at me." the dragon joked.

"Ew. No, thank you," the Pegasus responded. She mimicked the face one would make while gagging.


Rainbow led the party back to her home. It was a quaint little place two miles outside the city. Nary a soul resided in any direction. The front porch was covered with plant life. Three stone steps protruded from the foundation.

"Well, this is it." Rainbow confirmed.

"Homey." Twilight noted.

"I've only been here a couple years. It's secluded, so I don't have to worry too much about noise."

"Sure it's not the other way around?"

"That, too."

Rainbow unlocked the door. The others followed her inside. Spike closed the door behind them. He felt something brush against his tail. Rarity whispered in his ear.

"You know, darling, with the lack of sight, who knows what sort of scandalous things one could get up to here?"

The unicorn playfully nipped his cheek.

"PEDO ALERT!" Rainbow shouted.

"Oh, pipe down." Rarity retorted.

Pinkie snorted.

"You're such a tease, Rare-Rare!"

"I have no idea what you're implying." the unicorn replied sarcastically.

"You're full of it." Rainbow refuted.

Rarity stuck her tongue out at the Pegasus. Rainbow did the same in kind.

"What are we gonna watch?" Twilight inquired, ignoring the display before her.

"You guys heard of a flick called Frailty? It's a psychological thriller about a hyper-religious family supposedly tasked by God to kill demons."

"I've never seen it."

"It's got a famous southern actor in it. I think you'll like it."

Rainbow approached the refrigerator. She extracted a bottle of red wine from its confines.

"Want a sip, little man?" Rainbow questioned jokingly, holding out the bottle to Spike.

"Eghck," the dragon denied in revulsion, covering his snout with his coat, "Smells like fermented dog piss!"

"Ha! I knew you'd say that!"

"Liver benefits?" Twilight cut in.

"Good guess." Rainbow commended.

"Want me to help make lunch?"

"What'd you have in mind?"

"What's in the freezer?"

"I've got cube steak. There's a few cans of green beans in the cupboard. We can make some mashed potatoes to go with it."

"It's been a few days since I've had a good home-cooked meal. That sounds fantastic right about now."

"Cool."


Halfway through the film, Rainbow's phone rang.

"I'll get it." the Pegasus offered. She paused the movie and answered it, "Hello?"

"Howdy, Rainbow."

"Hey, Mac. What's up?"

"I'm lookin' for Aj. Is she there?"

"Yeah. She's in the other room. I'll get her."

Rainbow called out to her friend.

"Yo, Aj, it's Mac!"

The farm pony got up and strolled toward the kitchen. She retrieved the receiver from Rainbow.

"Hey, Mac. What's up?"

"Hey, sis. Apple Bloom ain't feelin' well right now; got a fever and been throwin' up since ya left."

"Y'all been keepin' her fed and hydrated?"

"Yeah, but Granny and I gotta run some errands here in a bit. You mind comin' home?"

"I'll be back after this movie."

"All right."

"Put Apple Bloom on the phone."

A few seconds passed before the voice of a young filly resonated from the other end.

"Applejack?"

"Hey, Sugarcube. How're you doin'?"

"I feel like crap."

"I hear it. Don't you worry about a thing. I'll be home soon to take care of ya."

"Thanks."

"What's family for, right?"

"Yeah."

"I have somebody I want you to meet. Mind sayin' hi real quick?"

"Sure."

Applejack put the phone down for a moment. She returned to the living room.

"Hey, Twi, would you mind sayin' hi to my sis? I've told her a lot about ya."

"Of course." Twilight obliged.

The pair went back to the kitchen. Twilight picked up the phone.

"Hello? Apple Bloom?"

"Yeah. Who's this?"

"This is Twilight."

"No way! You pullin' my leg here!?"

"From the sound of it, Applejack didn't tell you I moved here a little over a week ago."

"Is it really you?"

"In the flesh...Well, not quite, but you get the idea."

"Ya really changed her life, ya know?"

"Whose?"

"Applejack's. She started bein' nicer to me after Rainbow told her about ya."

"You guys didn't get along?"

"We did most of the time, but we didn't spend much time together 'til then."

"People can learn a lot if they're willing to listen. Spike and I were all each other had for a long time."

"Is he there, too?"

"Yeah. You wanna talk to him?"

"Not right now. I ain't feelin' too good."

"Applejack told me."

"Sorry."

"Hey, don't worry. Just concentrate on feeling better. We'll have plenty of time to talk in person later."

"Can I ask ya a favor?"

"Of course."

"Will you sing me to sleep?"

"Sure."

Twilight cleared her throat. In a voice gentle enough to calm Celestia's raging star, she began her lullaby. Applejack and Rainbow watched on in amazement.

"Another day goes by, but I'll keep climbing until I see the sun. I'll still savor these days, and I will never forget. I'll still savor these days when it rains..."

Bonkitis (Intermission Chapter)

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Spike thrashed around the bedroom as hard as he could, swinging his arms and jumping around to Eighteen Visions while images of Rarity flashed through his mind. He leapt on the bed. Failing to realized how close he was to the wall, he cracked his snout against its surface, falling flat on the mattress. He felt a familiar liquid gush from his nostrils. He wiped it with his claws, staring at it with a smile.

"Heh. Battle scars." he thought to himself. He jumped back up, ripping his coat and shirt off before resuming moshing like nothing happened.


Twilight entered her home with several bags of groceries in tow. She heard the aggressive rock emanate from the room she shared with her brother. She recognized the album immediately, and it meant only one thing could be on his mind. She placed the bags on the kitchen table and went to investigate the commotion.


Most would be horrified to see a family member's nose crooked and broken. Not Twilight. She'd come to expect this sort of rambunctious behavior over the years. She walked up to Spike and gave him a huge grin.

"So, which was it: your heart or your head?"

"Both." the dragon replied.

"I'll patch you up."

Twilight's horn began to glow. Using her magic, she snapped the fragments of bone back in place before binding them together. There wasn't even so much as a scratch left over.

"There. Good as new."

"Thanks. That shit hurt."

"Try to be a bit more careful from now on, huh?"

"Hey, it could've been worse. At least it wasn't Lifeless or something equally as heavy."

"Lucky for you I can afford medical bills."

"So...Wanna play golf?"

"I'll do you one better. Found this while I was out."

Twilight pulled a copy of Superman 64 from the pocket of her jeans.

"Yes!" Spike laughed.

"Maybe Applejack has a rotting pumpkin we can feed the pieces to."

"I call dibs on dropping it from the roof!"

"Aw! That's the best part! Oh, well. Guess I'll have to wait 'til next time."

Generations (Part 1)

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While Apple Bloom recovered, Twilight and Spike began collaborating with the others. Rarity and Rainbow brought two younger fillies along for the shoot. The first was Rarity's younger sister, Sweetie Belle. She was the cheerful and bubbly one of the bunch. The other was a Pegasus named Scootaloo. Twilight wondered where the child's name originated from. She would have to research it later.

"It's nice to meet you." Sweetie greeted.

"Likewise." the Alicorn replied with a smile.

"Are you really the Twilight Rainbow's always talking about?" Scootaloo inquired.

"Looks like it." Twilight responded.

"I promised her we'd play Final Fantasy later." Rainbow interjected.

"Which one?" Twilight questioned.

"X-2".

"That's one of my favorites."

"Took me a minute to get used to the quest system."

"Yeah. I wondered why I couldn't figure out where to go the first time I played it."

"Huh. I figured you of all people would get it right away."

"Shit happens."

"Now I see the resemblance between you and Spike."

"Yep."

"Since we're on the subject, did you come up with any ideas for the game?"

"We did, actually. After the prologue, we decided to set the rest of the game in the spirit realm."

"Nice."

"We're gonna skip ahead a few years from '97 to '01."

"Let me know when the comics are done so I can read 'em."

"We will. We're thinking about adding cheat codes, too."

"What kind?"

"Max level, max stats, 99 of each item: basically stuff to cut out the grind for people who just want to play through the story."

"What about alternate costumes?"

"The character designs are already horror-inspired. Can't really get much more metal than that."

"True, but you can try the same thing you did at Shining's wedding and give 'em normal clothes."

"That could work."

"Anyway, it's cold. Let's get this done so we can go inside."

Twilight nodded.


The first photo was taken in front of Fluttershy's house. She lied under a large oak tree, pretending to read while Angel sat next to her. Each girl had a shot taken at their location of choice. When all was said and done, Twilight led the others back to her place to upload their respective images.

"Hey, mind showin' us your CD collection?" Rainbow asked.

"Sure." the Alicorn agreed. She escorted the party to her and Spike's room. A black case filled with discs rested on her computer desk. She opened it for her new companions to see. Rainbow memorized the titles.

"You've got some pretty obscure shit in here. I haven't heard half this stuff."

"I scoured everywhere for the heaviest stuff I could find," Twilight explained, "For a while, all I did outside class was fall asleep to it."

"If I hadn't heard it from your mouth, I never would've believed you were depressed."

"Like I said earlier, shit happens. It wasn't anybody's fault. I just felt what I felt, and I had to learn to deal with it."

"I hear ya."

"Anyway, you guys can chill out here for a bit if you want. There's more music in that box over there. I've got movies and games in the living room. Help yourself to whatever's in the fridge."

"Thanks. We'll try not to go too crazy."

Twilight gave a weak smile. She left the group to their own devices, scanning the photographs while they made themselves comfortable.


A short while later, Twilight returned to the living room. Spike and Rainbow had begun a playthrough of Doom on her PlayStation. Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo watched intently as they breezed through each level. Pinkie finished stuffing her face full of whipped cream just as the Alicorn entered the chamber.

"Photos are uploaded," Twilight announced, "Now we just have to wait."

"Kick-fuckin'-ass," Rainbow responded, "Everyone's gonna be jealous as shit."

"You're welcome to stay the night. There's a guest room close to ours."

"Might take you up on that. I don't think I'll be putting this down anytime soon."

Twilight approached the pink earth pony in front of her refrigerator.

"Pinkie, you have a little something on your mouth."

"Where?" Pinkie inquired, straining to see the dollop stuck to her face.

"Right...Here..."

Twilight licked the corner of Pinkie's mouth. The action quickly escalated into a full-fledged kiss: tongue and all.

"Excuse me," Spike interjected, "There are children here!"

Twilight pulled away.

"Who are you bullshittin'?"

"Damn. Ya got me."

"And I thought I was straightforward." Rainbow cackled.

Applejack fanned herself with her hat.

"Is it gettin' hot in here, or is it just me?"

"If you can't casually make out with your friends, are you really living?" Twilight joked.

"Your friends are so weird." Sweetie said to her sister.

"Yes," Rarity acknowledged, "That's precisely why we're friends."

"Good thing for us Granny's progressive." Applejack stated bluntly.

"How's Apple Bloom doing?" Twilight asked.

"She's fine. Should be ready to see ya in a couple more days."

"I'm looking forward to meeting her. I could tell over the phone she loves you a lot."

"Strange thing is, I didn't realize how much she meant to me 'til you opened my eyes. Makes me wonder how I was blind for so long."

"It's not your fault. We came into this world not knowing what to expect. We had to learn as we went along."

"Amen to that."

"I'll make lunch soon."

"Mind if I help?"

"Not at all."

Generations (Part 2)

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As Twilight approached the Apple family farm, a feeling of intense emotional distress overwhelmed her. It wasn't her own.

"I can see them. They're struggling."

"That second sight of yours is somethin' else." Spike commented.

The Alicorn clung tightly to the copy of Portrait of the Goddess in her coat pocket. She had to find an excuse to show it to Apple Bloom.

"I'll think of something."

Twilight approached the door. She closed her eyes.

"This is it." she spoke.

Spike knocked on her behalf.


Applejack opened the door. Seeing Twilight brought a smile to her face. The Alicorn felt a deep discomfort settle in her chest. She peeled back the farm pony's façade with x-ray precision.

"Morning, Twi."

"Morning."

"Apple Bloom's gettin' ready for breakfast. Y'all eaten yet?"

Twilight shook her head.

"Come on in. We'll fix ya some plates."

The Alicorn and her brother stepped inside. They looked around. The house was modest, with just enough room to fit everyone: a quaint little place if ever one existed.

"Y'all must be Applejack's friends she's told us so much about." an elderly mare greeted. She had green fur, a white mane tied in a bun, and red-gold eyes.

"You must be Granny Smith. I'm Twilight. This is my younger brother, Spike. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Well ain't you just the sweetest little thing?"

"Would you like some help?"

"Now don't you fret. I might not be a spring chicken no more, but I ain't down for the count yet. Why don't ya take a seat over there? Breakfast'll be ready in a few minutes."

Granny pointed to a table just a few feet away.

"Thank you." Twilight said graciously.

"Not at all."

A muscular red stallion strolled down the staircase. Twilight felt her face flush at the mere sight of him.

"Howdy." he said in a thick southern drawl.

"H-hi..."

"Name's Big Mac."

"You're Aj's brother, right?" Spike inquired.

"Eeyup."

"Ya got more out of him just now than we do in six months." Applejack said in jest.

"When most of your day consists of workin', ya learn to be concise." Mac responded.

"Fair enough."

Spike waited until the Apples turned their backs before whispering to Twilight.

"Somebody's got butterflies." he uttered.

Twilight placed a hoof over her mouth in an attempt to silence her brother.

"Hey, I'd go gay for him." the dragon continued.

Twilight rolled her eyes.


A filly with a red mane and pink bow strolled down the stairs. Twilight gripped Spike's hand under the table. The unease she felt before was amplified multiple times over by the child's presence.

"Twilight?" the young girl questioned.

The Alicorn's expression remained unchanged. Twilight simply nodded. The experience was so much more surreal than either of them could've imagined. Apple Bloom took her seat at the end next to Twilight.


Twilight and Spike answered all the usual questions about their hometown and educational backgrounds. Truth be told, neither of them were really interested in the conversation. It was merely a formality until they could seize the flow. After breakfast, they got their chance.

"I have to help Granny and Big Mac around the farm today," Applejack stated, "Y'all mind keepin' A.B. some company?"

"I can help," Twilight offered, "I'm used to physical labor."

"Sure you don't mind?" Applejack asked.

"Not at all. Spike can stay here."

"That's mighty kind of ya."

"Don't mention it."

Twilight moved next to Spike. She slipped the CD into his coat and used a spell to communicate with him telepathically.

"Take care of her."

"I will."

Generations (Part 3)

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Apple Bloom led Spike to a treehouse near the entrance of the woods. Contrary to how most would expect it to look, it was engineered down to the finest detail.

"Looks like it was built by a pro." Spike noted.

"Applejack and I built it a few years back. We wanted to make sure it wouldn't rot from the rain, so we built it from teak wood. We just installed a generator the other day."

"You guys have electricity in there?"

"Yeah. Didn't want Scootaloo and Sweetie gettin' bored. We moved some of our stuff inside so we'd have somethin' to do."

"That's awesome."

"You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Apple Bloom opened the door, guiding Spike into the structure's depths.


Spike looked around. Whether it was the style, location, or some combination of the two, he couldn't be sure, but he felt at home, like he'd been waiting his entire life to be there.

"You weren't kidding. This place has everything."

"Told ya."

Apple Bloom opened a compact refrigerator by the far left wall.

"Want somethin' to drink?"

"Whatcha got?"

"Got water, Pepsi, Coke, some lemonade, and a couple Gatorades."

"Lemonade sounds good."

Apple Bloom tossed Spike a small plastic bottle. He caught it with little effort.

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

Spike took a swig of liquid. He didn't want to turn around...

"Remember, we're here to help her." Twilight's voice rang in his head.

"I know..."

"You all right," Apple Bloom asked, "Ya look kinda down."

"Yeah...I'm good."

Apple Bloom strolled over to the easels behind him. While she wasn't looking, he rubbed his face with his claw before spinning to see the painful sight. It was a painting of an open field. There were hills, grass, and flowers. The sun shined down over them. The dragon swallowed in fear.

"I painted this for ma and pa."

"It's really pretty." Spike complimented. He meant the words, but it was hard not to choke on them all the same.

"They died when I was a baby."

Spike felt a twinge of pain in his chest. Twilight's prediction had come true.

"I'm sorry..."

"I still don't know what happened. Lately, I've been wonderin' if anybody does."

"I know the feeling..."

"Whatcha mean?"

"I never knew my parents...They disappeared before I hatched..."

"No wonder ya sound so bummed out."

"It's like, you're grateful for the people around you, but you can't help but wonder how things would've turned out if your folks had been around."

"Yeah. Makes you think about a lotta stuff."

"Yeah..."

"I have an idea."

Apple Bloom retrieved a paintbrush. She held it out to Spike.

"Try paintin' somethin'. Might help ya work through the grief."

"What should I paint?"

"I dunno. Whatever you feel like, I guess."

"Mind if I turn on some music while we work? It helps me concentrate."

"Don't see why not."


Spike and Apple Bloom painted in silence for a while while Portrait of the Goddess played at low volume in the background. With the ice broken, Spike could get to the heart of the issue at hand.

"...Hey, can I ask you somethin' kinda personal?" Apple Bloom spoke.

"Sure."

"Do y'all believe in heaven?"

"There's a lot of ideas about what heaven's supposed to be."

"Ya think we'll get to see our friends and families again when we die?"

"I hope so. With the way the world is, I don't blame anyone for wanting to believe that."

"I noticed the cross around your neck earlier. Guess it made me wanna ask."

"For me, it's a symbol of devotion. To what, I'm not entirely sure."

"Devotion to the unseen's what religion's all about, ain't it?"

"Maybe. Guess that's why they call it faith."

"...I'm gettin' kinda tired."

"Take a load off. I'll probably be here a while. We can talk more later."

"Promise you won't try anything funny?"

"That's the last thing on my mind right now."

"I trust ya."

"I'll see you soon."

Apple Bloom curled up on the floor. Within minutes, her breaths became steady and rhythmic. Spike gazed back with sympathy.

"Sweet dreams..."


Sundown came. Twilight and Applejack opened the door to the treehouse. They found Spike resting by the canvases. Apple Bloom slept contently on the rug in the center.

"What do ya think tuckered 'em out so fast?" Applejack questioned.

"Angels..." was all Twilight could muster.

"Come again?"

Twilight shook her head.

"Nothing. Never mind."

The Alicorn placed a hoof on her brother's shoulder.

"Spike, it's time to go home."

The dragon groaned. He rose to his feet, stretching his limbs.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"A little after 5:30."

"Let me say goodbye."

Spike knelt at Apple Bloom's side. He nudged her awake.

"Hey...It's time for me to get goin'."

"Must've been out a while..." the filly replied.

"Listen, don't worry about the day-to-day stuff. I know it's hard, but you've got people looking out for you: more than you realize."

Apple Bloom nodded. Twilight retrieved her CD and walked toward the exit with Spike. The dragon stopped, veering back.

"Things'll turn around eventually. Once you reach your lowest point, there's nowhere left to go but up."

With that, the Sparkle siblings disappeared from view.

"Apple Bloom, what's goin' on?"

"Nothin', sis. I'll be at the house when supper's ready."

Next to the easel, a dark, barren version of Apple Bloom's original painting stood firm, it's destitution on full display for the world to see...

Shades

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Days passed without a word from Twilight or Spike. Applejack's concern grew rapidly after Apple Bloom opened up about her conversation with the dragon. Wednesday the following week, Applejack went to check up on her friends.

"Rarity? What are you doin' here?"

"Twilight called me the other day. Spike doesn't seem to be faring well. She mentioned something about a conversation with your sister."

"They were talkin' about our parents. Guess it got the little fella down."

"I see. I suppose it's difficult to think about under your circumstances."

"He was tryin' to comfort her, but I could tell somethin' wasn't right."

"Perhaps I can be of some assistance."

"Yeah?"

"I'm sure you've noticed the tension between Spike and I."

"That's puttin' it mildly. I was worried I'd have to beat ya back with a stick."

"Come, now. I have better self-control than that."

"What'd you have in mind?"

"I wish to motivate him with the promise of a date, provided he fulfills certain conditions."

"Conditions?"

"Yes. It just so happens I need help reorganizing the boutique this weekend."

"Well, that's one. What about the other?"

"Finishing his comics."

"I don't know if it'll work. Kinda hard to motivate somebody when they're this low."

"It will."

"How do ya know?"

"Just a feeling."

"No harm in tryin', I guess."

"Together?"

Appkejack nodded.


Rarity rang the doorbell. Twilight answered. The Alicorn's expression changed from concern to relief in the blink of an eye.

"It's good to see you guys."

"Mind if we come in?" Applejack inquired.

"We've been waiting for you."

Applejack and Rarity stared at each other. Neither of them had told Twilight they were coming.

"I'm explain everything." the elder Sparkled assured.

Rarity and Applejack stepped inside. The familiar sounds of aggressive rock music echoed through the walls. They followed Twilight to the bedroom.


Twilight opened the door to see Spike sitting on the bed. His features were stoic, but he was relieved to see Rarity and Applejack. He held out two thin books, each neatly binded together to form a cohesive story.

"I already finished them." he stated nonchalantly.

"I don't understand." Rarity replied.

"I was born with the power of precognition," Twilight interjected, "I can see the future."

"Well pull my tail and call me Sally..." Applejack uttered.

"You knew we were coming?" Rarity questioned.

Twilight nodded.

"Here," Spike offered, "You wanted to read them, right? I was gonna show them to Rainbow first, but I knew you were eager for me to get back to work."

Rarity levitated the sheets of paper. She opened the first issue and began reading.

"So...Does it work like The Shinin' or somethin'?" Applejack asked.

"Mine's a little more accurate," Twilight revealed, "Thankfully, I haven't seen any ghosts yet."

"I know what you're gonna ask. You're wonderin' if we wanna know our futures, right?"

"Do you?"

"Not really."

"Maybe this will put your mind at ease: the future's not set in stone. My visions change depending on our actions."

"That's somethin' at least."

"Come on. I'll make us something to drink while Spike and Rarity talk things out."


Rarity took her time reading through each issue. The overarching story followed three humans: Maria Drake, her brother Brandon, and their young friend, Emily Joseph. The general themes revolved around injustice, mortality, and idealism.

"I think I understand you better now." Rarity said.

"Do you like it?"

"I do."

"Makes ya wonder, doesn't it: why things feel so wrong sometimes."

"Applejack told me what happened. I'm sorry about your parents."

"Now you know why Twilight had me talk to Apple Bloom. She was more inclined to listen to someone else in her predicament."

"You're kind-hearted. I knew that the moment I first laid eyes on you."

"Like Twilight said, we came here to help people and live out the rest of our days in peace."

"I understand. I feel the same way. I try to be generous when the opportunity presents itself."

"You want me to help you clean up around the boutique, right?"

"Yes. It shouldn't take more than a few hours."

"I gotcha. Where do you wanna go when we're done?"

"There's an amusement park a few hours away. Perhaps we could make arrangements for a day out?"

"Sounds like a plan."

"If you're ever feeling downhearted, come and find me. I'll you however I can."

Rarity embraced Spike in a tight hug. He returned the gesture. From the depths of their cores, a new level of emotion welled up inside them...