Seemed like just yesterday...
“Open up! Here comes the choo-choo!”
The tiny dragon wiggled and opened its mouth wide with a happy little cry as the unicorn moved the spoonful of crushed gems toward the dragon’s mouth as she made little train noises. Laughing and clapping its tiny hands the dragon bit down on the spoon, there was a brief shriek of metal and the baby dragon leaned back in the highchair, chewing noisily.
“You’re not supposed to eat the spoon, silly,” the unicorn admonished playfully, setting the now useless instrument down next to a small pile of similarly destroyed silverware before picking up a fresh spoon and scooping up another load of crushed gems.
It could only have been what? Ten, maybe twelve years at most since he hatched.
...Has it really been that long?
Laughing the baby dragon dove under the bed, heedless of the fact that he’d left his butt sticking up in the air. The door burst open and a purple unicorn charged in. She took one look at the scaly little behind sticking out from underneath the bed and had to suppress a laugh.
“Oh no,” she called, her voice dripping with fake despair, as she trotted into the room. “Wherever could Spike have gone?
The little dragon giggled and then tried to quiet himself.
“He couldn’t have gone far, maybe he’s... in the closet!” the unicorn threw the closet door open and then let out a theatrical sigh. “Or maybe not... where could he have gotten to? Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to find myself a new assistant...”
“No!” Spike cried, scrambling out from under the bed. “I’m here Twilight! I’mma ‘ssistant!”
“That’s right,” she said, picking up the dragon and giving him a hug before setting him down on her back. “You’re my little assistant.”
I was so young back then, I had no idea how to raise a child, much less a dragon. But I wanted to do it myself. He was my little baby...
“Spike! I borrowed that from Princess Celestia! I promised her I’d take good care of it!”
The young dragon refused to meet her eyes, wringing his tail. When he spoke, he sounded on the verge of tears.
“I’m sorry! I- I didn’t mean to! I just wanted to look at it and then...”
“I told you that you weren’t supposed to handle any books until you got your flame under control,” the unicorn scolded, holding up the charred ruin of the book. Ash cascaded to the ground with a dry hiss. “What I am going to tell Celestia?”
Both unicorn and dragon spun around as Princess Celestia came into her young pupil’s room.
“There you are, you’re late for your lesson!”
“Oh, uh, I’ll be there in a minute, Princess,” Twilight said, surreptitiously trying to hide the ruined book behind her.
But the Princess didn’t miss much. “What happened?” she demanded, taking the book from her pupil and staring sadly at the charred leather cover.
The unicorn looked at her young assistant who was literally quaking with fear, and then up at the stern face of her teacher. She gulped and then met Celestia’s eyes. “I was trying a new spell and I lost control of it,” she lied. “I’m really sorry, Princess.”
“I expected more from you, Twilight Sparkle. I’m very disappointed. We’ll talk after your lesson and try to decide on a suitable punishment for destroying such a rare and valuable book.”
“C’mon, Spike,” Twilight said once Celestia was gone. “After my lesson we’ll go to the library and see if we can find a book that’ll help you control your flame. After all, an assistant that can’t handle books isn’t much of an assistant at all. Just try not to get to close to the shelves.”
The little dragon gave her a grateful smile and climbed up onto her back.
He was my baby, my assistant. Thick or thin we were in it together, we were a family.
He was my little assistant...
In the darkness of the quiet library, Twilight stared out, unseeing, at the shelves that still echoed with the angry shouts of earlier.
My little assistant...
With a shudder the unicorn bowed her head as tears slid down her face.
The door to the library swung open and Applejack trotted in, peering vainly around the darkened building. “Fluttershy said Spike came by her house earlier in a bit of a huff. ‘Pparently he asked if he could stay the night there, said he din’t wanna go back home. What’s goin’ on?” When there was no answer the earth pony flicked on the light and started searching for her friend.
She found Twilight sitting on the floor, back against her desk. The unicorn’s eyes were red and puffy from crying, and tears slid down her face. Her breathing came in ragged gasps punctuated by the occasional sob.
Applejack knelt down and pulled her friend into a tight hug.
“What happened, Twilight?” she asked gently.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Spike. Spike! Have you seen my notes on ancient Equestrian culture?” Twilight called, shuffling through the pile of papers that spilled across her desk.
“Second drawer, orange binder. You know, the one labeled ‘Ancient Equestria’,” the dragon replied as he walked past the desk.
“Oh.” She dug around and pulled out said binder. “Thank you. Can you go grab my copy of Equilibrium: A Brief Treatise on the Era of the Pony Sisters and the Effects of Nightmare Moon’s Banishment on Early Equestrian Society?”
Spike paused, hand halfway to the door. “Alright,” he sighed, disappearing back into the depths of the library. He reappeared a few moments later, staggering under the weight of a book that was nearly bigger then he was.
“Thank you,” Twilight said once he’d heaved the massive tome onto the desk with a deafening boom. He’d made it halfway to the door when she stopped him again.
“Have you seen my ink bottle?”
“It’s in the bathroom,” Spike replied, his voice tight with frustration. “Remember, you finally figured out that spell you’ve been working on when you were in the shower and couldn’t wait to write it down?”
“Oh, right. Could you go grab it for me?”
“Can’t you grab it yourself,” Spike asked, exasperated. “If I don’t leave now I’m going to be late!”
“Late?” Twilight echoed, confused. “Late to what? We don’t have any plans for tonight.”
“You don’t, but I do. There’s a showing of Stable Wars: Nightmare Moon Strikes Back down at the cinema tonight. I asked you about it almost a week ago. You said I could go.”
“Is that tonight?” she asked, smiling hesitantly to try and cover her confusion. “I thought that was next week...”
“No,” Spike said, nearly grinding his teeth. “It’s tonight.”
“Oh... I-I’m sorry, but I can’t let you go. It’s too late, you need to be in bed in an hour and, besides, I need your help. Celestia asked me to-”
“I don’t care!” the dragon shouted, causing Twilight to nearly fall out of her seat in surprise. “I’m tired of always of you always putting your needs before mine! I’m sick of you never caring enough to keep track of what’s important to me. It’s like I don’t even matter to you!”
“T-that’s not true,” Twilight stammered, stunned by Spike’s outburst. “You’re my little assistant. You’re the most important pony in the world to me.”
“I’m not a pony!” Spike snapped. “I’m a dragon!”
“But just a baby dragon,” Twilight said, on the verge of tears. She’d never seen Spike like this before. “You’re still growing, you need your sleep.”
“So me getting enough sleep only matters when it’s something I want to do? If you need help with your research then you have no problem keeping me awake all night? Is that it?”
He turned and stormed toward the door, throwing it open hard enough that the door knob cracked part of the wall.
“No, that’s not it at all. Spike, stop. Come back here!” Twilight called, rising from her desk and hurrying after the dragon.
“Leave me alone! You’re not my mom!”
The scream stopped Twilight dead in her tracks and Spike stalked off into the city. Crying in earnest now, Twilight fell against her desk and slid to the floor.
My little assistant...
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Spike stomped down the path, kicking a small rock along in front of him. He’d been planning this night for weeks! It was probably the only chance he’d ever have to see Stable Wars on the big screen and Twilight had to ruin it for him. He’d been so mad, he hadn’t even been able to enjoy the movie and had just left halfway through.
She was always doing things like this, forgetting about the things that were important to him, though she had never forgotten a single spell or obscure fact.
Though, come to think of it, she’d never forgotten about anything really important...
In fact, hadn’t she always been there for him? She’d helped him come into this world in the first place. Raised him from when he’d been just a little lizard, let him help her with her studies, even though, looking back, he was sure he’d been more of a hindrance then a help. But despite that she’d always let him help her, called him her little assistant, and he was never happier then when he was helping grab a book or riddle out a complex spell...
“No,” he muttered, kicking the rock angrily. “I’m mad at her! She always forgets there are things that I want to do too!”
Like that time she gave up an opportunity to meet with the Doctor, the authoritative figure on magic, just so she could take you to that Stable Wars convention over in Philadelphia last year? Celestia was furious with her about that, she’d arranged for the Doctor to visit just for Twilight’s benefit, a treacherous little voice whispered.
“Well it’s not like she’s done anything for me lately,” he sulked. But the words sounded petty and whiny even to him.
The truth was Twilight was always there for him, muddling her way through raising a young dragon. So she occasionally made a mistake or forgot about something, she did her best...
With a sigh Spike turned around and trudged back toward the library. Twilight wasn’t perfect, far from it, but she was the closest thing he had to a family.
No... she was his family.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Ah’ll go grab Fluttershy and we’ll find Spike for ya, alright?”
“Thank you, AJ,” Twilight sniffed before chuckling mirthlessly. “I don’t know why I’m such a mess right now.”
“It’s ‘cause ya love Spike, and anypony with half a brain can see that. Don’t you worry, Twi. We’ll get this worked out between the two of you.”
The earth pony gave her friend a final reassuring hug before leaving. The library seemed so empty in her absence, normally there were a few night-owls browsing the shelves or, at the very least, the sound of Spike’s snores. But not tonight, and the silence was so loud that Twilight couldn’t bear it.
“I’m sorry, Spike” she whispered.
“No, I’m sorry.”
Twilight started and then looked up to see Spike edge hesitantly into the library, one foot scuffing at the floor. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, I just...”
He faltered and Twilight rushed over, pulling her assistant into a hug. “It’s all right,” she whispered. “I understand.”
“No, you don’t,” he said, gently shrugging out of her hug. “I grew up as a freak, the only dragon in all of Equestria. I don’t have a family, and the only dragon’s I’ve ever met were either flooding Equestria with smoke or actively trying to kill me.”
“Spike, it’s okay.”
“No, it’s not. You’ve always been there for me. Do you remember when I was little and I accidentally burnt that book Celestia had given you?”
Twilight couldn’t help but laugh at the memory. “Of course I do, Celestia had me repairing old books for Mr. Codger in the library for weeks. I thought I’d never get that book glue out of my mane.”
“I was scared out of my mind when Celestia came in, I thought she was going to throw me in the dungeon. Or banish me. Or banish me and then throw me in a dungeon in the place that she banished me to. And then all of a sudden you stepped in and took responsibility, even though you’d warned me not to touch it.”
“Of course I did,” Twilight said, her voice gentle. “You’re my little assistant, I have to watch out for you.”
Spike shook his head. “You didn’t though, you could’ve given me back to Celestia or had someone else raise me for you, but you insisted on doing it yourself. You’re the closest thing I’ve had to a mom and, well, I love you, Twilight.”
“I love you too, Spike. You’re my little assistant.”
The two embraced, Twilight holding the little dragon close. They weren’t a family, not a real family anyway, not like Applejack had. But they’d always been there for each other, ready to catch each other should they fall.
And maybe that was a family was.
“It’s late,” Twilight said eventually. “And you need to get your sleep, you have a big day tomorrow.”
“I do?” Spike asked, puzzled.
“That research Celestia asked me to do was about how, back in ancient Equestria, the dragons used to entrust their eggs to ponies for safekeeping. Apparently the last time it happened was several hundred years ago when a dragon named Smaug entrusted a single green and purple egg to Celestia herself.”
“Is she still alive?” he asked hesitantly once he’d worked out what Twilight was getting at
“It wouldn’t surprise me, dragons do live for quite a long time. Do you want to meet her?” Twilight asked. “I’m sure Celestia knows where to find her.”
There was a subtle undertone to her voice that anypony but Spike, who had known the unicorn for all of his life, would have missed. A quiet sadness lurking just underneath the seemingly innocent question.
Smiling, Spike shook his head and gave Twilight another hug before turning and heading for the back room the two shared. “Nah,” he said. “It might be kind of cool, but I already have a mom.”
It wasn’t long before the library was quiet again but for Spike’s snores and the quiet scratch of a pen over parchment as Twilight scribbled away into a thick, leather bound journal.