Spike smiled gently at Twilight Sparkle as he pulled the covers up over her shoulders. “Sleep, Twi. The next few hours will show us the truth of things, and if I’m right, then I suspect you and the others are about to take that next step.”
Of course, Princess Celestia had already known that Twilight and the others were special indeed. They were special enough that she had made arrangements with certain other creatures to be their close friends and confidantes in order to keep them under observation. Spike, at least, had just seen and heard what he’d been informed to watch for. If the other Bearers had achieved a similar breakthrough…
Even so, Spike thought to himself, I need to inform the Princess. He waddled over to where Twilight kept the stationery, and withdrew a sheet of parchment. Dipping his quill in the inkwell, Spike took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he allowed the hopefulness of the situation enfold him. With an optimistic glint in his eye, he placed quill tip to parchment and began to write.
‘Dear Princess Celestia:
It seems like so short a time ago that we made our bargain. Then again, we both measure time in millennia, do we not? What is a decade or two to us when our lives span the ages?
I was an ancient wyrm when we met, and my flame was about to fade. You say you happened upon me by accident, however I cannot help but suspect that you sought me out. You offered me that which any creature, dragon or otherwise, would want in the position I was in; a second chance at life. In return, all you asked was that I watch over and protect the one who managed to hatch my egg.
That one turned out to be none other than Twilight Sparkle, and I have had the honor of being her friend for the past ten years. She was but eight summers when she hatched me for the second time, and has grown to a fine mare. She is, as you know, a true credit to your species.
My one ‘complaint’, if complaint you can call it you mischievous tyrant, is that you laid a geas on me without warning! Now that my mental faculties have been restored for a short time, I can admit that it has been rather amusing bumbling around as if I were inebriated this past decade. I can also admit that it was likely necessary as my acting abilities never were that great and it would be hard to explain why a dragon hatchling had the knowledge and power of an ancient. After all, I was to watch over and protect her… not steer her from her own path.
It is to that end that I write you now. As my writing style indicates, the conditions have been met for the release of the geas and the filing of a proper report. The ‘friendship reports’ were an excellent idea of yours that allowed us both to assess how far along she had come, but I will be quite grateful if you elected not to hold the babyish writing against me in the ages to come. Truthfully, I have little hope for that; you always did enjoy a good laugh. Fortunately, you have also taught me the value of it… and it isn’t as if I don’t have similar material on you, Princess. We shall, with our new companions, laugh together at this and a great deal more.
In any event, as I had previously mentioned, the conditions you had asked me to watch for have been met. Twilight has made that intellectual and emotional connection, and I believe that this indicates the next stage in her development is about to begin. Assuming I am right, then I would advise that Princess Cadance be nearby for Twilight and the others; she has gone through what they are about to and her experience might ease the transition.
Here then is what happened approximately two hours ago…’
Twilight woke up slowly, enjoying the process. As much as it had been interesting engaging in a discussion with Star Swirl the Bearded regarding the nature of magic as related to politics, reality must always come first.
She was in no rush to meet the day, however. Something felt… different. Not out of place really, but as if whatever it was had shifted just enough to be notable. If I’m to do some heavy thinking, Twilight thought, then I might as well be comfortable while doing it.
Such was not to be, however. As Twilight began to mull things over and try to discover what was on her mind, a riotous clatter of pots and pans impacting the floor of the library and one small dragon echoed up the staircase. She managed to stifle a snicker by covering her muzzle with both hooves as a plaintive ‘Ow! Rrrgh…’ came from downstairs.
“You alright, Spike?” Twilight called out, unable to keep the smile from reaching her voice. Spike tried so hard, and it was just adorable sometimes!
“Nothing bruised. Except for my pride, that is,” Spike replied. “Any chance of you casting an amnesia spell on yourself so you can forget this long enough for me to surprise you with breakfast in bed… as opposed to breakfast spattered on the ceiling, walls, and floor?”
“Afraid not, Spike. Don’t worry about the mess. We’ll clean it up together in a bit.” Twilight glanced out the window and watched as the day began and the clouds brightened from the darker purples on through the rose and pinks, to the white fluffy clouds in a clear blue sky she was familiar with.
“Sorry, Twilight,” Spike apologized. “I’ll at least get some tea and muffins for breakfast up there. Oh, and I’ve got your reading list organized and set out on the table. I really don’t think it’s a good idea for you to try and plow through Treatise on Magical Nexuses and Magical Tides: A Primer for the Aspiring Thaumaturge in the same day. Your brain is gonna implode or something!”
Twilight thought about that a minute as her gaze was drawn back to the window and the scene beyond. She watched as the lights came on at Sugarcube Corner; that wouldn’t be Pinkie Pie, not yet. More likely the Cakes were waking up as early as always to tend to the foals as well as get the day’s baking started. “I think I’ve changed my mind,” she said. “I really don’t feel like doing anything, right now.”
Spike climbed up the stairs and poked his head into Twilight’s bedroom, glancing at her with concern. “You’re not getting sick, are you? You’re not catching something like Cutie Pox, I hope! Jeeze. I mean, you’re bad enough with your current cutie mark. I don’t even want to think what would happen if you got a few more!”
Laughing, Twilight shook her head and brushed a lock of her mane from her eyes. “No, Spike. I’m fine, I promise. I… just don’t feel particularly motivated to go out and about today. I think I’ll just spend the day inside and watch the world go by.”
Spike narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Wait, what? You don’t want to even read? Now I know you’re catching something. I’m going to get that tea and muffins up here right away!” With that, Spike disappeared down the stairs with a clatter and few muffled yelps as he tripped in his haste.
Twilight simply chuckled, glanced back out the window. Deciding the view was insufficient from her bed despite how comfortable it was, she rose reluctantly and dragged a blanket with her to the observational platform just off her bedroom. It had the benefit of being fairly secluded, and yet had a magnificent view of Ponyville down below. She could observe without being observed, and it is that which she decided she wanted more than anything else.
Several minutes later, Twilight heard the tell-tale scrape of claws on wood and stone; Spike came into her bedroom. “I’m out on the veranda, Spike! I wanted a better view.”
“And didn’t want to give up on bed completely, I see,” Spike teased as he set the platter of tea and muffins on a convenient table. “Not that I blame you, of course. Glad to see you’re finally listening to me about the merits of taking a break now and then!”
“Heh. I suppose I am at that,” Twilight chuckled as she rubbed playfully at Spike’s head spines with a hoof before turning her gaze back out to Ponyville.
With a thump, Spike sat at Twilight’s side and poured them both cups of tea and set muffins out. “Lemon poppy seed… your favorite.” Getting no response, Spike waved a hand in front of Twilight’s eyes. “Ponyville to Twilight, come in Twilight!”
Twilight flinched and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Spike. Thanks for the tea and muffins.” She levitated her teacup over and sipped, looking down on the waking town.
“Okay, Twilight. What’s going on?” Spike started counting on his talons, identifying each point. “First you decide to take the day off. While that’s a good thing, you never take my advice on that!” He gestured with a claw and pointed down towards Ponyville. “Second, you’re indulging in pony-watching, something else you don’t ever do! If you don’t have your nose buried in one of your books, then you’ve got it buried in somepony else’s book. Third, I just waved a plate of muffins under your nose and you didn’t even notice! So, what gives?”
“I…” Twilight bought herself a bit of time by taking a bite of a muffin and a sip of tea. She sighed, then turned back to Spike. “It’s them.”
Spike blinked, a blank expression across his face. “Them…? Them who? Your friends? Ponyville? The Princesses? Canterlot? That river dragon that was whining about his moustache? There’s a lot of ‘them’ out there, you know.”
“Point, point,” Twilight sighed as she waved a hoof in resigned admission. “I was more referring to Ponyville and the ponies there. But… in a way I guess I mean all ponies everywhere.” She turned and looked at Spike, eyes intense. “They’re different.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Well, duh! Of course they are. A pegasus is different than an earth pony, which is different than a unicorn. Personality, coloration, cutie marks… Twilight, that was one of the first lessons we learned when we came to Ponyville. Ponies are different, and that’s a good thing.” Looking mildly disgusted but more than slightly amused at Twilight’s evident bemusement, “Come on, Twilight. You mean to tell me it took you this long to really see that?”
“No, that’s not what I mean at all!” Twilight sighed in frustration. “Rrrgh! Spike, I really mean it. They’re different.”
Tossing the remainder of his muffin into his muzzle, Spike chewed noisily then gulped it down. “Okay, I’ll bite. Exactly what do you mean by them being different?”
“They’re different not from each other, but from me!” Twilight declared, waving a hoof to encompass all of Ponyville and beyond. “Every last one of them, with the exception of my friends!”
Twilight’s words caused Spike to freeze a moment and nearly drop his teacup. Recovering at the last possible second, Spike turned eyes that glowed with a newfound intensity to his friend and surrogate mother. “What… do you mean?” he managed to ask in a small voice.
“Look at them, Spike,” Twilight whispered as she looked down from her veranda. “There. Over there. See Carrot Top?”
“Yeaaaaah,” Spike said, squinting in the morning light. “What about her?”
“What does she do, every single day?” Twilight demanded, own eyes as intense as Spike’s had been.
“Uh, I don’t know. Grow carrots?” Spike asked rhetorically.
“Yes, but….” Twilight watched as Carrot Top watered her garden and did some weeding.
“But?” Spike prompted.
“But that’s all she does. She’s content with that. She wakes up every morning, waters her garden. Then she weeds it before heading back inside to wake Derpy and Dinky up for the day. Every market day she gets up even earlier to pick some carrots and put them in her cart. When she’s done, she comes back home to Derpy and Dinky to talk and share stories about their day.”
“What’s the big deal?” Spike asked while shrugging dismissively. “You wake up every morning after spending the night either in bed or drooling on the pages of a book you’d fallen asleep reading. You have me clean the library before opening hour. Sometimes you go to market and buy the carrots that Carrot Top sells along with apples from Applejack, and so on. Then you come back home to the library, Rainbow Dash knocks all the books off the shelves with a failed trick, and we spend the evening re-shelving books. I don’t see the big deal.”
“Maybe, but that’s not all I do,” Twilight protested. “I’m not a one-trick pony.”
“No, you have what, twenty three? Twenty five tricks?” Spike grinned, rubbing his paws together. “Still kinda partial to the mustache spell, too.”
Sighing, Twilight collapsed in on herself a bit, resting her head on her hooves. “That’s not what I mean, Spike. It’s a lot… deeper? It’s a lot deeper than that. The difference, I mean.”
“I’m not sure I get it, Twi,” Spike said, resting a hand on Twilight’s shoulder. “You sure you’re just not catching something? Feeling down is a symptom of getting ill, isn’t it? At least, that’s what you said the last time I caught a cold.”
“I’m sure, Spike. I promise, I’m not catching a cold.” Twilight smiled gratefully to her little dragon friend; he always did look out for her. “You’re really remarkable for such a young dragon, you know. I’m really proud of you.”
“Awww, shucks, Twilight! You know I’m there for you. I’m your number one assistant!” His chest puffed out proudly, but then he arched an eyebrow and grinned. “And you still didn’t answer the question. Why not try explaining it to me?”
“I’ll try,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “Nice catch, by the way. Usually that’d get past you.”
“No, you just think it gets past me.” Spike grinned and pointed a finger at Twilight. “This time it seems important enough to call you out on it.”
“Fair enough, Spike.” Twilight let her gaze be drawn back towards the town she held so dear. After a few moments, a door opened, with Lyra and Bon-Bon stepping out. “Take them, for instance.”
“Okay, what about them? Cute couple, sure, but…” Spike watched as Lyra and Bon-Bon shared a gentle kiss and parted ways to report to their respective jobs.
“It’s how they feel about each other. They love each other so much. Every day, it’s the same. That same kiss, that same warm look in their eyes. Every night when they come home? No matter how hard their day was or how tired they are, they’ve got a spring in their step when they see one another.” Twilight watched a moment longer as Lyra and Bon-Bon shared one last longing glance before rounding different corners.
“Yeah, so?” Spike said, snorting. “The Cakes are the same way, and they were the same even before Pound and Pumpkin were born.
“It’s more than that, Spike. A lot more.” Twilight chewed her lower lip a moment. “Haven’t you noticed that there’s something different about my friends and I?”
“I don’t get it, Twilight,” Spike complained, scratching an itch on his shoulder. “What’re you getting at? That you like mares?”
“What?” Twilight yelped, shocked. “I do not like mares!”
“Don’t be so defensive, Twilight!” Spike smiled and shrugged. “It’s fine if you do. Though I can’t help but wonder who’d be a better pairing for you. I mean, I can’t really see you getting on that way with Rarity. Kinda glad of it, because I still like her a lot. If your egghead science and magic combine with Pinkie Pie’s randomness, I don’t know Equestria will live to see another dawn. Fluttershy would die of embarrassment if anypony kissed her, so that’s right out. Dash is in love with herself, as far as I can tell. Her ego is certainly large enough for it! Though I wonder… D’you suppose Rarity and Dash could get past their own egos enough to get along?” He rubbed his chin, and snapped his fingers. “Now, I CAN see you with Applejack. A strong mare like that, well grounded…”
By this time, Twilight’s cheeks were flushed with embarrassment. “Spike! Stop it this instant! I am not interested in my friends that way!”
Spike, having been bowled over by the force of Twilight’s protest, picked himself up off the floor and brushed imaginary dust from his arms, legs, and tail. “Sheesh! I think the lady doth protest too much. Seriously, Twi. You and Applejack would make a really cute couple.”
“Spike!” Twilight yelled, bowling the dragon over again. Her cheeks were as red as they could possibly get, by this point and it felt like she was overheating.
“Auugh!” This time, Spike was blown right out the door and into the hallway. “Okay, already! I’m sorry!” He crept hesitantly into the room. “Can you please stop yelling?”
“Sorry, Spike. But you were really embarrassing me!”
Sighing, Spike plopped back down on his rump in front of his friend. “Twilight, what else was I supposed to think? You point out Lyra and Bon-Bon. I point out the Cakes. Then you say you’re different. I mean, it sure sounded like you meant that you’re different than the Cakes. That points right back to Lyra and Bon-Bon.”
“That’s not what I was meaning at all, Spike.” Twilight sighed, and looked up at the clouds. “I’ve talked about it to Applejack, actually. Even mentioned it to Dash and Fluttershy. None of us feel any particular pull to find a special somepony. We don’t… need to. Because in a way, we already have one.”
“Wait, what?” Spike blurted out, eyes going wide in shock. “You have a special somepony and you’ve not even told me, your number one assistant?”
“Spike! I do not--” Twilight was interrupted a fraction of a second after trying to explain.
“I mean, really! You’re either going to marry a book or something! It’s the only explanation!” Spike proclaimed, gesticulating wildly with his hands to indicate that he was actually not entirely sure he was wrong.
The imagery was more than Twilight could stand; she burst into laughter strong enough to make her ribs ache. “S.. Spike! Can’t you… just see it? Me, in a wedding veil. You, holding the book on a pillow?”
“Pff-yeah.” Spike laughed too, snorting smoke rings in amusement. “Princess Celestia officiating. I can see it!” Spike waved his paws in front of him slowly to paint the scene. “ ‘If anypony knows of a reason these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace.’ Then the grumpy old librarian from Canterlot library protesting because you forgot to check the book out or something.”
“Hah! Or worse… hitting me with a two hundred bit fine for the book being overdue, and taking it away from me right there. Leaving me stranded at the altar!”
Giggles subsided a few minutes later, and Twilight resumed her perusal of the town down below. “As amusing as that was, no. No, I don’t have a special somepony and I don’t really feel the need for one.”
“Why not? Everypony needs somepony, don’t they?” Spike asked curiously.
“I don’t, Spike. Nor do the others.” Twilight pointed with a hoof. “We… already have a whole bunch of special someponies. Them. The ponies of Ponyville. They are our special someponies. Each and every one of them.”
“Okay, now I really don’t get it,” Spike said softly.
“Them, Spike,” Twilight said, a gentle smile crossing her muzzle. “Those, the ponies of Ponyville. Look at them. They live normal, happy, and safe lives. My friends and I don’t. We have day jobs, but the ponies come to us when there’s a problem. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Spike looked at her silently, expression slowly changing to one of understanding.
“Spike, my friends and I, we’re… different than other ponies. We really are and on so deep a level as to make it almost impossible to really fit in.” Twilight pondered that a moment longer, then nodded as she watched the denizens of Ponyville going about their daily tasks. “I guess that’s how I really feel. I don’t entirely fit in here with everypony, but I do with my friends. Because, at the heart of it all, we really are different than the others, you know?”
Voice a bit lower and more subdued than normal, Spike looked closely at Twilight. “Twi, what’re you saying?”
“I guess what I’m saying Spike is that we protect the town and it’s people. My friends and I protect Canterlot and yes, all of Equestria. We’ve seen things and done things that can’t really be adequately described, you know? Not out of a superiority complex, but because we are different than they are. We can do these things, so that they can have the safe, warm, and loving lives that they do. We can do it, so we do it.”
“Twilight,” Spike whispered.
She didn’t hear, and kept explaining. “The doing of it might set us apart, but maybe that’s the way it has to be. So be it. I have my friends, I have my number one assistant, and I have all my special someponies.” Twilight chuckled and shook her head.
“What’s so funny?” Spike asked quietly.
“Not funny, Spike. Not funny at all. I was just wondering if this isn’t how the Princesses feel when they think about us. They stand apart from everypony, but they do what they do because they can and have the sense of duty to look out for those that can’t.”
“It doesn’t bother you?” Spike asked softly. “Living apart, and all that?”
“No. It’s lonely now and then, sure. I have my friends, and we get to take care of all of Equestria.” Twilight shook her head resolutely. “No, I don’t mind it at all. I’m honored to be able to do it, and I take great satisfaction in keeping everypony safe.”
Spike’s eyes cleared completely, displaying a wisdom and experience that hadn’t been there a few moments before was clearly visible now. “Twi, you’re out of tea and the pot is cold. I’ll just step downstairs and get another for you.”
“Alright, Spike, and thank you.” Twilight watched down below as the Ponyville market got itself into full swing. Big Mac was over by the fountain selling apples with Applebloom. Applejack was nowhere in sight; surely she must be nearby. Carrot Top had her stand nearby, and everypony was were they wanted and needed to be. A warm feeling came over her as she realized that she was right where she needed to be as well.
Before Spike could leave the room completely, Twilight spoke again. “Spike? One thing,” she said softly, not taking her eyes off of the town below.
“What’s that, Twilight?” Spike asked, looking over his shoulder at his dear friend that had come so far in so very quickly a span of time.
“Don’t ever doubt your part in this for a moment, Spike,” Twilight said gently. “If not for you, I never would have made it this far. You made this possible. You were there when I needed a friend, there when I needed support, and there when I needed a shoulder to cry on.” She turned to smile warmly at Spike, but a warmth tinted with something else. Not sadness, not regret, but something unidentifiable and unquantifiable. “Forgive my egotism in this, but I don’t know how else to say it. If I play a role for Ponyville and its citizens that Princess Celestia plays for all of Equestria, then that means that you play the role for me that I play for the Princess. You’re always there when I need you, Spike. I can always count on you, and that means more to me than I really can say.”
Spike smiled, tears of joy welling up in his eyes. He turned from the door and waddled over to Twilight, hugging her as tightly as his pudgy arms could manage. “No matter what happens next, Twi… no matter what happens in the years to come, I’ll always be there for you. No matter what. I’ll always be there. I swear it.”
Twilight nuzzled Spike’s spines and rested her head atop his a long moment. “I know, Spike. I meant it when I said that I don’t doubt it for a moment. I can’t imagine things without you.”
Tears threatening to fall down his cheeks, Spike gave Twilight one last tight hug. “Let me go get that tea…” and walked downstairs as fast as he could. There, in a hidden compartment of the kitchen where only he would think to look, he withdrew a tin of tea emblazoned with the Royal Seal of Celestia. “I guess it’s time after all, Princess.” There was a brief flash of magic as the seal was broken… and a few moments later, the soothing scent of tea filled the room as he set it to steep.
“That smells good, Spike!” Twilight called from upstairs. “What is it?”
Spike put everything together on the tray, and headed upstairs carefully. “Just something I picked up the last time we were in Canterlot. I was saving it for a special occasion, and this certainly feels special to me!”
“Wonderful flavor!” Twilight said with enthusiasm. “Fruity, but light. Very relaxing…” She yawned, setting her teacup down. “Too relaxing, I think! I’m going to take a nap, Spike. All these introspections and observations have tired me out.”
“No problem, Twilight,” Spike said gently. “I’ll take care of everything. Sleep tight.”
By the time Spike had put away the tea set and cleaned the kitchen up, Twilight was sound asleep and even snoring a bit.
“Ah, Twilight. It’s time, isn’t it?” Spike said quietly. Muscles surging with strength that he’d not had access to in years, he picked Twilight up gently and carried her with ease to her bedroom and tucked her into bed.
‘… so as you can see, Princess, I think the time is upon us. As of yet, I have not heard anything from Angel, Tank, Gummy, Opal, or Winona, but I strongly suspect that you will be receiving messages from my fellow guardians as well.
You were right, Princess. You were right about everything. These six mares hold the same characteristics that transformed Cadance into an Alicorn so many years ago, and they have developed to the point where I believe them about ready to pick up the mantle of something even greater than what they are right now… and what they are right now is, if you’ll forgive the poor grammar, ‘plenty great enough’.
If I am right and the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony are about to undergo apotheosis and transform into Alicorns, then please grant an old dragon another boon. Help me keep my oath to Twilight. Even if I never assume my former physical stature, even if I needs must go back under the spell that denied me the full measure of my power and experience, let me stay by Twilight’s side. She has touched something in me that I never knew was there, and it is worth any price I might have to pay to remain where I belong.
With deepest love and affection,
Twilight Sparkle’s guardian,
PS: Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why you came to me when you did. Maybe you saw something in me that I did not yet know was there… and you gave me the chance to grow into it. If that’s the case, then I owe you even more than I thought.
With that, Spike rolled the scroll off and breathed his fire upon it. The ashes congregated and wafted out the window towards Canterlot and Princess Celestia.
Spike settled in to await the inevitable reply.