Chapter 9 - Home Again
It was already late when he'd left Fluttershy's cottage, the timid pegasus having waved him goodbye rather enthusiastically. His visit to her had given him a lot to think about, but as much as he wanted to continue such a pleasant stay, he knew that there was one more person he needed to be with right now. The last of the six mares his dragon side had chosen as his mates. And it just so happened to be the mare he'd known since the day he was born, Twilight. As difficult as some of these meetings might have been, he knew that none would be more awkward than the one with whom he considered his oldest and closest friend.
He walked down the path he'd walked so often since he first moved to Ponyville before he finally saw it. The Ponyville Library. Or, to be more precise, the second Ponyville Library, for this one was actually a recreation of the old tree that had once stood here. Spike remembered that day as though it were yesterday, when the tyrant known as Tirek had demolished his and Twilight's old home as if it were nothing, leaving it as a smouldering ruin. It had been a heartbreaking moment for both of them, but thankfully, their friends had managed to help them through it.
But, with Twilight being a Princess and all, that destruction had not been permanent. For it was mere days after it's obliteration that the young Princess had commissioned the construction of a new library on the same spot, crafted magically to be a perfect mirror image of the old tree, down to the tiniest branch. True, she might have been granted a shiny new palace on the outskirts of Ponyville to stay in, but Spike knew she was always going to be more at home here than in some castle, and so was he. So, the two of them had moved back here once it was rebuilt, and here they have stayed ever since.
Taking a deep breath, Spike approached the front door and turned the knob. Sure enough, it was unlocked. Twilight never locked it when she knew he was coming, and today was not going to be an exception. With the door open, Spike peered inside to see his friend, Twilight herself, reading one of her many books at a nearby desk. The creaking of the door had alerted her to his presence, and her head snapped in his direction. But, rather than looking awkward or uncomfortable about the encounter, she merely smiled at him. And it was a genuine smile, not one forced to try and put him at ease, which Spike appreciated.
So, closing the door behind him, he made his way towards her before sitting on the floor beside her desk. The two friends stared at each other for the longest time before Twilight broke the silence.
"So...how did your visits go?"
Spike smiled at that. In truth, his stays over at the other mares' homes had progresses better than he would have ever dared hope. The prospect of becoming mates with the five of them no longer gave him the same sense of dread it once had, and he was actually able to smile truly about the whole matter.
The young Princess returned his smile when she heard that. However, the drake's smile faded somewhat when he looked at her and spoke.
"And you? How are you coping with all this?"
Twilight's expression became one of discomfort, and she turned away from him. Spike didn't want to press the matter, so he patiently waited for her to say what she needed to. After taking in a deep breath, she spoke.
"I...got word...from home."
Spike own face became an uncomfortable one as he nodded at her words. He knew exactly what must have happened now. Twilight would have informed her parents, as well as Shining Armour and Cadence, about this whole mess. Looking at her now, she saw that her expression had softened somewhat, and he was ale to guess from that what must have transpired. There would have been shock certainly, and her mother especially probably would have feinted from hearing about it. But the look on Twilight's face made it clear that they must have largely accepted it, though he knew that his next meeting with Shining was going to be a hazardous one at best.
"Well...we all knew this wasn't going to be easy."
To his surprise, Twilight actually chucked at that, and he looked at her to see that she was now smiling once more. Seeing the confused look on his face, she explained herself.
"I've been doing some reading on what we know about dragons and, to be honest, I think we've ended up far better off than we could have been."
Spike raised an eyebrow at that.
"How do you figure?"
Twilight looked away from him and Spike saw that her horn had begun to glow. Looking in the direction she was staring at, he saw that she was using her magic to levitate a book down from one of the shelves. His eyes widened with surprise when he saw that it was none other than the book he had been given for his recent Birthday. That thought did cause a pang of guilt in him however, as that was the day this whole situation had begun. Nevertheless, he steeled himself for whatever Twilight was going to say to him. Opening up the book in front of her, she placed her hoof upon a particular passage before speaking.
"From what pony scholars have learned about dragons, it seems that their mating instincts are supposed to be far stronger than what we've seen of yours so far. It seems that Celestia might have been right, that being raised by ponies might have dulled those instincts a little, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to shake yourself out of that primal trance of yours back then."
At the very least, Spike was able to take solace in that. The knowledge that his upbringing by ponies had affected these instincts he'd been fighting against, even if it was only a small amount, was a good bit of news for him. He then looked on as Twilight carried.
"And even choosing only six mates is showing considerable restraint. Most dragons accumulate mates in the dozens. There were rumours that one male even managed to get a hundred females at one point."
Spike's eyes threatened to pop out of his head while his jaw was practically on the ground upon hearing that.
"A...a hun...a hundred?!"
Twilight nodded at that, clearly just as uncomfortable with the notion as he was. Spike meanwhile was admitting to himself that, as strange a statement as it might have been, that six mares were more than enough for him. Though that thought did lead to another, one that he chose to voice.
"Even if I was remotely interested in getting that many mates, which I'm not, where would I even get that many?"
He looked on as Twilight started to look rather embarrassed about something, though only when she spoke did he understand why.
"Well...I hear Pinkie sent letters to her three sisters asking if they'd like to...er...join in."
Spike's face suddenly lost all of it's colour as he buried his face in his hands out of sheer embarrassment.
"Oh Faust, she didn't!"
He'd have likely stayed this way for as long as possible if it wasn't for the sudden feeling of Twilight placing her hoof upon one of his claws. Peeking out from behind, he looked at her giving him a warm and affectionate smile.
"Don't worry. They wrote back soon after and declined the offer. I hear they're already taken after all."
The young dragon let out a massive sigh of relief upon hearing that, and Twilight couldn't help but giggle at the sight of him like that. Although somewhat irritated at her reaction, in truth he was just happy to be home again. He'd almost never been away from Twilight since the day he was hatched, and even then he was never away for as long as he had been recently. In the relief of the moment, he joined her in affording himself a brief chuckle, to which Twilight smiled. The two knew each other probably better than anypony. But, although neither would say so out loud, they knew that this presented an issue. The whole point of them arranging visits between Spike and his six chosen mates was to get them used to being around him. But Twilight was already used to being near him every day, so that presented the issue of what the two of them would do in each other's company.
A thought then occurred to Twilight and she looked at Spike.
"Spike...have you thought about what might happen once you...you know? Ponies and dragons have never been known to get together this way, so I was wondering if you'd given any thought to afterwards."
The dragon looked at her thoughtfully. Truth be told, not a single moment had gone by since this all happened when he hadn't been thinking about this matter. In his mind, the only major issue was how such a union would affect his friendships with the six of them. Thankfully, that matter had been laid to rest for the time being, as it seemed that none of his friends were going to feel any less towards him because of this. However, as he thought back to the visits he'd had with the other five mares, one issue in particular became ever more prevalent in his mind.
"Well...Fluttershy was wondering about the possibility of...foals."
Twilight's ears perked up at that and she looked at him with an expression of understanding. It had only taken that one statement for her to grasp what he was asking of her, though Spike nevertheless carried on.
"I told her I wasn't sure if it was possible for dragons and ponies to have children together."
As Spike looked at Twilight's face, at her increasingly thoughtful expression, at the way her eyes occasionally darted left and right, his own face became more stern.
"You've heard of such a thing, haven't you?"
Twilight looked somewhat ashamed that she hadn't addressed this matter with him sooner, but regardless, she nodded her head in confirmation of his question. Spike looked at her expectantly, a clear sign that he wanted her to tell him as much as she knew on the subject, though it was obvious to anypony with eyes that she wasn't going to enjoy saying what she was about to. So, turning back to the large book on dragons, she cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Tell me. What do you know about the Thestrals?"
Spike raised an eyebrow at that, clearly confused by her question. The Thestrals, more commonly known as "bat-ponies", were not a race that most talked about that often, and with good reason, given how reclusive they were. In the rare instances they were seen in public, they were mostly shown to be among the Night Guard, part of Princess Luna's personal entourage. Spike still remembered the moon Princess' first public appearance, when a pair of Thestrals had served as her chariot-pullers. They were an intimidating sight, to be sure, and had made quite an impression because of it. But regardless, he shrugged his shoulders at Twilight's question.
"Sorry, but I don't know much about them apart from them being in Luna's guard."
Twilight nodded at that, her expression showing that she had been expecting that answer, before looking to the book once more.
"There is a tale of a pony and dragon uniting, though it is one largely considered fictitious by most pony scholars. The legend tells of a dragon who was cast out from his tribe for being different from the rest, kind and noble."
Spike looked away from her for a moment upon hearing that. Legend it might have been, but he knew from his own experiences that there was truth to those words. In the rare instances where he had met others of his kind, they had all been aggressive and outright disrespectful towards others, even those of their own race. When he had been among them, the traits he'd gained from his upbringing among ponies made him stand out like a sore thumb. If this legendary dragon also had such un-drgon-like qualities, then there was no doubt in Spike's mind that he would have been just as much of an outcast among dragons as he was. Looking back to his friend, Spike listened as she carried on.
"Without a home of his own, the dragon wandered the world until he came upon Equestria, and on his first night in this land, he met a pegasus mare, and was awe-struck by her beauty."
The young dragon briefly chuckled at that. It reminded him of his own arrival in Ponyville, and how he'd fallen in love with Rarity the first time he saw her. More and more, Spike was beginning to identify with this story that Twilight kept on reading aloud.
"Though startled by the great beast, the mare soon befriended him, and in time, the two fell in love. They wedded in secret, and from that union was born a child. Neither pony, nor dragon, it was named a Thestral."
This was, to Spike at least, a fascinating story, if only because there had been so very few times in his life when he'd been made aware of the stories of his race. However, there was one part of the story that he couldn't help but feel curious about, and so he cleared his throat to gain Twilight's attention before speaking.
"This pegasus, the mare that wed the dragon. What does the book say about her?"
Twilight shrugged her shoulders.
"Very little, I'm afraid. The legend goes back many centuries, and like I said, most history experts consider it pure myth. All the legend tells about her was that her coat was a brilliant white, and that this led her to be described as "a child of moonlight" by those who told the legend over the years."
Spike raised his eyebrow at that, his curiosity piqued even further.
"Moonlight? As in...?"
He didn't finish his question, but he didn't need to. For it seemed that Twilight, now giving him a knowing nod, apparently had the same thought.
"I know what you're thinking, Spike. But Princess Luna has never confirmed or denied that the mare in the legend was of her blood or that she's related to the Thestrals. Then again, it's probably because most ponies have never heard this story to be able to ask her. The Thestrals however have long maintained that their people can trace their lineage back to Luna. Whether this story is true or false...I can't say."
True or not, it was something that gave Spike a great deal to think about. He knew that, in all likelihood, this was probably just a myth, a story conjured up by that race to explain their origins, like many societies have over the years. But even so, he knew that most myths had at least some basis in truth, and there was one truth in particular that he kept thinking of. That being that there was indeed a chance that ponies and dragons could have children. To say that he'd never wanted any kids would have been a lie, but even so, the reality of it was rather overwhelming for him. He'd have most likely become lost in that dark pit he'd dug for himself ever since this situation began, had it not been for the sudden appearance of a familiar purple hoof now being gently placed over his claw. Looking up, he saw Twilight giving him a warm smile.
"Spike...please listen to what I have to say."
As requested, the dragon sat up and gave his old friend his absolute attention.
"I don't know what dragons and ponies are or aren't capable of doing together, but regardless of what happens...I just want you to know that I'm here for you."
Spike tilted his head, showing that he was, at least, a little unsure of where this had come from all of a sudden. Twilight let out a sigh before explaining.
"I've...I've known you for a very long time. Since the day you hatched, you've been with me. You were the only person throughout most of my life, save for Princess Celestia and my brother, that I could honestly have called a friend. And even when we moved to Ponyville, you were by my side all the time, supporting me as best you could. When trouble came, there you were to help."
These were, needless to say words that brought forth many nostalgic memories for Spike. Memories of his upbringing, of how as a child he was taught how to read and write by Twilight, who herself was still just a young student under Celestia. Memories of his first day in Ponyville, and accepting it as his new home. Memories of all the fun and adventures they'd had since coming here. It was, despite it's up and down, a good life. And one that he knew deep down would not have been anywhere near as good had Twilight not been there with him. So, his expression now softening, he kept on listening to her.
"Though we are not of the same blood, I consider you part of my family, and have done for a very long time. Whatever comes our way because of this, whatever changes because of this new relationship, just know that, like any family, I love you, Spike..."
Every word she'd said to him was as if she had reached into his chest and tugged on his very heart. He could feel his eyes welling up with every passing moment. Had he spoken in response to this, his voice would have most likely been wobbling a great deal. In fact, he wanted to speak to her in return, to tell her that she meant just as much to him as he did to her. But, before he could do anything, he was stopped as Twilight moved forward and began nuzzling the side of his head affectionately. Although taken aback, it did not take long before he lost himself in that one comforting moment, and closed his eyes before returning the motion. With the two together like this, Twilight spoke her final words to him.
"...and I always will."