Written by The Descendant
Tiny pellets of frozen ice drove against the windows and walls of the homes and shops of Ponyville.
The wind drove them, beat them against the structures with a rattling rhythm that sent those within closer to the heat of their fires and deeper into the warming embraces of their loved ones.
For some, there was no such respite.
Out in the market square the sleeting drizzle was parted by something unseen, and as a pale blue filament of light wrapped around within itself it suddenly exploded outwards in an orb of illumination that revealed the outlines of two figures.
" and why do we need sleet anywho?" asked Spike, pulling the straps of his backpack tighter to him, already walking away as he winced against the sleet that drove against his face. "And why can't someponies bother to check the weather schedule before they plan big get-togethers?" he said, looking back across his shoulder with a sneer, completing a thought he'd been hiding since the miserable afternoon had begun.
His gaze fell across an older unicorn stallion. He too stood there, turning his face to shield it from the driving drizzle. He opened one eye and regarded Spike sorrowfully as he sighed.
Spike turned fully, looked at him with a falling expression.
"I, I understand Spike it didn't go well," he said, "We failed to adequately prepare ourselves for the situation and, the pegasi do need to practice every sort of weather, I suppose."
The older stallion straightened himself, looked to Spike as the white pellets began to collect in his graying beard and mane. "We we will see you at the next Summoner's Gathering, Spike? We will, won't we?"
"Yeah," said Spike, "sure."
The two stood there staring at one another, trembling as the frigid droplets began to melt upon them.
"You, you are happy being assigned to Miss Sparkle, Spike? You are happy, aren't you?" asked the stallion, getting to the very heart of the matter, fighting to keep his eyes open as the wind once more blew the shards of ice across his face.
Spike smiled up to him even as he pulled the backpack closer to himself, shaking against the cold.
"More than you can imagine," he said, his expression brightening even as he shivered. The stallion smiled back at him, the relief across the deeply lined face of the aged unicorn evident even as he blinked and the traces of white grew in his beard.
"You couldn't have flashed me right into the library?" said Spike with a trembling chuckle, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb towards the tree on the far edge of the square.
"A gentlecolt," said the unicorn, lifting himself up, becoming the imposing and gentile figure he had once been for one small flicker of a moment, "doesn't enter a mare's abode without being announced!"
He then let out his breath, deflating into the kind, old gentle figure Spike had always known.
With that they bowed to one another, trembling even more as the cold and wet crossed their backs.
"Good afternoon, Summoner Spike."
"Good afternoon, Lord Protector."
As the unicorn flashed away Spike ran across the market square, slipping where the sleet had begun to form into long lines and hid the wet leaves beneath.
Within moments he had burst through the door of the library, heading straight through the main space and directly into the warmth and reception he'd receive in the alcove he and Twilight shared.
"I'm back early!" he called, "The Gathering sucked!"
He looked up to see two cups on the table. Odd. He dropped the sopping wet backpack right next to the door in exactly the way he knew he wasn't supposed to. His mind though was set on the fireplace, and as the smells of his home wafted over him its heat flew up into his small frame.
"They held it outside and it started to sleet," he said, rolling his eyes, looking around to find Twilight, "so they can can cancelled "
His eyes found her, settled upon her as she stood on the stairs.
As she looked back at him in surprise he realized that another figure had entered their little home
that the somber tones of a stallion were juxtaposed there on the steps against her beautiful, familiar coat
that she was leading Caramel up those stairs
to the bedroom.
Silence reigned in the library, appropriately enough, for all of about four seconds. As it did a realization, one both powerful and terrible, fell across the little dragon whelp.
"I'm sorry!" called Spike, leaping backward, thudding against the table, making the two cups clatter on their saucers.
"I'm sorry!" he called again, falling across his own wet backpack, his feet fighting for traction as he skidded across the cold pool that had formed beneath it.
"I'm sorry!" he said, clattering on all fours, the whelp scampering out through the library proper. He leapt at the door, let out a long great huff of emotion, fought with the knob.
Her call did not reach him. With a single sob he had already pelted once more out into the cold, leaving the door wide open as he sped off into the sleet that howled up the market square.
Fifteen minutes earlier, a decidedly different atmosphere had held dominion over the interior of the library.
Twilight looked up to the window as she waited for the kettle to boil. The mare hummed softly as the sleet rattled the panes of her kitchen window. "Brrr!" she said aloud, looking out to where it gathered in long white strips across the square.
She hoped somepony had the sense to have moved the Summoner's Gathering someplace warm. She frowned at the thought of Spike once more sneezing and miserable, wrapped in a borrowed bathrobe and slippers as he fought another cold.
As the tea simmered she carried both cups out into the center of the living room in her magic out to where the stallion sat upon the floor.
"Thank ya' kindly," said Caramel, lifting the teabag from the cup, laying it upon the saucer.
She smiled in reply as she lowered herself to the floor
as he moved his toolbox to make room for her so that she could see what he had been working at for the last half of an hour.
"The edges were dovetailed, so, unless ya' could get a good fix on 'em it woulda' been hard to set 'em back in place," he said, motioning to where the new eaves of the table stood ready for service.
Twilight stood, put her hoof to her face. It had been so simple. "Well," she said, laughing at herself, "That was a bit of a goof on my part huh?"
"Well," he replied, laughing a polite laugh, "Maybe just a little one, I'd say, but I do appreciate the business, Miss Twilight."
"How is the hoofycolt business coming along Caramel? Is it working out?" she asked as he put his tools back into the box.
"Jack o' all trades," he answered with a smile, "master o' none it's nice tah' be savin' up a few extra bits though. I don't like livin' off of the Apple's, sleepin' in their barn should have enough saved up in a few weeks tah' get an apartment."
The sleet drove against the large window overhead, the cold sound sending chills through both of them even as they stood before the fire.
"I ain't lookin' forward towards goin' back out inta that!" he said, finishing his tea.
A thought flew through Twilight.
"Actually, I might have one more job for you."
He looked back up to her happily.
"Spike's bed I'd like to get him a new one, have one made for him. A 'big boy bed' rather than the old basket he's been sleeping in is that something you'd be able to do, or even willing?"
"I certainly reckon so!" he said, fishing through his toolbox once more, "Let me get some measurements and I'll write ya' up an estimate "
Together they made for the stairs, up to where the basket lay. As they went Twilight grinned at the though of what a nice surprise it would be for her Number One Assistant.
Quite the surprise
Together they stood there as the sound of the door opening reached them.
Together they stood there as Spike began to talk, seeming not to notice them.
Together they stood there as Spike's eyes had found them and then went wide, as the color dropped out of him, as she called to him as he fell across the room begging for forgiveness as he flew back out into the cold.
Twilight looked around, looked up and down, tried to figure out what could have scared him so what had upset him.
She saw nothing, there was nothing there in the little quiet house except for Caramel and herself
as she lead the colt up the stairs
to the bedroom!
Quite the surprise
Her eyes went even wider as she looked back to Caramel, the stallion himself seemingly alarmed by the dragon's response.
"What what's wrong with the Spikinator?" he said, looking up to her. As he did her expression filled him. She saw the dawning realization cross his face, saw him look down to the stairs up them to her bed beyond
"Oh Celestia! Oh Luna!" called the stallion, quickly backing down the stairs, his hooves clattering as he missed the last few. "You don't think he thought that I mean not that there's anything wrong but, I didn't mean tah' scare I mean I'd be honored if "
"Right! Right " he replied, quickly gathering up his tools and jacket. Twilight was already standing at the door by the time he was ready, already wrapping a long scarf around herself as she stared out into the brutal scene of the sleeting afternoon. As the wafts of purple magic enwrapped her she gathered a second scarf from the closet.
"I'm so sorry 'bout that do, do you want me tah' help ya' look for him?" he said, a pained look across his face.
"No no, I I need to be the one to find him," she said, sighing.
Caramel nodded, trotted out into the cold. As he did he turned to her. "If yer' still interested in that bed, please don't be afraid tah' let me know after things, settle a bit "
She nodded at him, watched until he had passed around the corner, and then she too plunged out into the drizzle to search for her summoner. The door thudded behind her, the sound of its bell being swallowed by the wet air.
He ran on all fours for as long as he could, until the splattering slush that leapt out of the puddles with each stride began to wash up his legs, reaching his chest and armpits, each new step bringing a fresh agony. He rose up onto his hind legs, tried his best to wipe away the water.
"Stupid!" he called out. "That was so stupid! Why did I do that!?" he called up to the clouds. He put his hands alongside his head, looked down, his eyes following the angle of the sleet as it fell from the sky.
He rubbed the back of his hands across his eyes, took a deep long breath. At once the vision leapt back at him, and a new one, and he went to the ground. He stood in the sleet on three limbs, his right hand across his stomach as pains like shots of acid staggered around within him.
He began shaking again the cold across his scales deadening him to all but the uncertainty that grew behind his eyes and the pain that shot through his guts.
He'd he'd need a place to stay that night. He had to get inside it was already so cold.
His eyes looked to distant Carousel Boutique, but the absence of flags and the darkened windows dashed that small hope.
He hopped, crossed his arms in front of him, as he looked up and down the empty square. He blinked his eyes against the sleet, and as he did the lights in the rooms above a familiar building caught his attention.
He took two steps forward but soon stopped. No. There was no refuge for him in Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie had always shown him so much concern, friendship. She'd be afraid for him, wish to know why he was out in the cold she would get it out of him, just as she had gotten him to lie to her for a few diamonds to snack upon.
He couldn't do that. He couldn't betray Twilight.
Plus, he realized, he'd probably have to sleep in the tub with Gummy. That thought alone was enough to send him hopping around, once more panning the streets as he forced his eyes open against the driving sleet.
It was so cold, so cold.
No no, there were none of her friends, their friends, he could go to. Even if he could make it down the long roads to Fluttershy's, or even Sweet Apple Acres, they too would worry about him. They would work at him, he feared, try to get him to talk about why he was so upset. They too would work it out of him. No matter how much he wanted to protect her, they would succeed. Then, no matter how good their intentions, the whispers would begin
Then would come the rumors, then the assumptions, the "common knowledge". And and from that, he feared, knew, would come the stallions on the street corners. They would call to her like she was some kind of animal an animal to be fetched, herded talking to her like that, using those words
This perfect nightmare flew through him, beat him across the head drove the pains through his stomach once more. As the sleet whipped about him he covered his eyes, the tears pouring now, dripping out of him as he imagined her walking through the streets with her head down. As she walked past them mares put their hooves over their mouths and spoke to each other in loud whispers and with malicious smiles. He imagined her walking further, her eyes wet, as a stallion called out, "Hey, Sparkle, if ya' spread 'em for Caramel how about "
Spike fell to his knees, shook his head against these horrors, these fears that bit at him with thousands of tiny teeth and as new needles of pain went through his guts. He rubbed his eyes, no longer able to tell the wetness of his own tears from the melting drizzle that pelted him.
It was so very cold, so cold.
His mind spun as his shaking got worse, as his arms naturally drawing tight to him, wrapping himself against the cold.
For one small second he imagined sneaking back into the library, huddling by the door to their little rooms or even opening it a crack so that the warmth would wash out over him. The familiar scents and sounds of home reached him in a happy vision as the sleet melted upon him, finding the traces of the lines of his scales.
At once though the thought that Caramel might still be there reared up at him. The idea of what he might then hear, see smell, these drove the thoughts of returning home far from him.
It was so cold so, cold. His shaking was evident now, causing his shoulders to lift. He had to find warmth.
But, if he couldn't go home, where could he go?
No who could come to him!
Spike tottered across the square to a garbage can. There he peered into it as best he could, gingerly grabbing out the least disgusting bit of paper he'd found. He held it close to himself, shielding it against the rain of ice as he went across to a familiar applecart.
As he dove beneath it he reached along the sill of the applecart, reaching up to where he had seen Applejack lay the pencil. The closed cover fought, just a touch too tight for even the arm of a baby dragon.
He forced it deeper, his numb fingers feeling for the pencil even as the cover scraped him. He felt it jump, grabbed for it, and pulled his arm out even as it scratched at his scales.
He lay beneath the cart, sucking softly on his cuts, as he trembled and shook. The bag of Mairzy Doats, ripped open and laid across the underside of the cart, became his stationery.
As the wind whistled past and the sleet continued to come down he lifted the pencil but stopped. Who who could he trust to come fetch him? Who wouldn't ask the questions?
No one in the nursery, he thought, as the fears of a child once more went through him. If he called out to one of those unicorns, to the Lord Protector, there would be questions, inquiries, committees, concerns for his well-being reassignment.
He flipped over, more pains going through his stomach in puncturing darts of acidic shock. He spun around, cried aloud. Reassignment. Taken from her. Ripped away from her! Oh Celestia, oh Luna, reassignment the sum of all his most tangible and powerful fears!
He was shaking all over now, even his tail twitching in reflexive want and wish for heat.
He sat up, wrapped himself into a ball in an attempt to fight the cold.
Ball playing with a ball.
Playing with Cadence! His mind's eye focused on Cadey, the younger whelp grasping his arms and leading him through the Summoner's Gathering before the sleet had begun, asking him to help her get the ball asking to play with him.
He remembered the familiar face of Starfall, her designate, flashing in to gather her up as the sleet began. The stallion's blindness could not hide the kind look that lived behind his eyes, his understanding. Yes yes!
"Dear Starfall " he scratched, his trembling hands fighting to make the words.
"Please come help me, please. Spike." That was all he needed to write. Then, then everything would be fine everything would be fine. Starfall and Cadey would flash in and they would go back to their rooms in Canterlot and everything would be fine just fine
Just just write the words. Please, hands, stop trembling just make the words
The wind whistled, rumbled, shook the market square as it seemingly blew the sleet sideways. As it did the sleet rippled across the paving stones of the square with a cascading sound
and tearing the snack food bag, Spike's plea for help, out of his grasp.
Spike looked to where it had been for a long moment, the pencil falling from his trembling claws.
He spun, reached for the bag but it was already gone, blown far out into the park and pond beyond.
He lay there, beneath the cart for a good long while, with his arm out in an appeal for it to return. But, it did not.
"Why," he asked the market square as his teeth chattered and he retracted his arm, as he wrapped himself into a smaller ball, "do we need sleet anywho?"
A deep noise reached him over the top of the wind and the crackling of the ice upon the stones. It was a resonant tone, yet familiar, and Spike's eyes went wide with alarm as he realized what it meant.
"No! Owlicious! Please " Spike said, rolling over himself, peeking his nose out from beneath the cart.
The owl sent his call out into the cold again as Spike looked for him, the hoot of the bird surprisingly deep and clarion, echoing across the cold stones.
"Owlicious, please, I've I've caused her enough trouble I, I don't want to " said a chattering, trembling Spike, his nose just barely visible to the owl who sat above him on the cart.
Once more the call of his avian counterpart sounded out, and to it came a reply the reply of the dearest and most familiar voice in the world.
The one he least wanted to hear at that moment.
"No, please be a bro, please " he asked the bird as the hoof falls came nearer. Spike closed his eyes and trembled as he heard the familiar hooves come to a stop.
He opened his eyes and found himself looking into hers as she peered beneath the cart, her vast purple eyes looking upon him with an expression of relief, concern and disappointment.
The afternoon had been a disaster.
As Twilight wafted her magic over him she both scooped the trembling, chattering form of her little baby dragon whelp from beneath the cart and wrapped him in the spare scarf.
She passed some more magic over him, using her own living essence to move the heat from her body to his. Yet, even as his trembling stopped and he unfolded himself to stand beside her he was silent, not looking at her.
She sighed to herself, lowered her body so that he could climb up. To her surprise he recoiled.
She extended her hoof so that he could grab it, she herself suddenly feeling a desperate need to be in contact with her summoner.
Instead he danced the tips of his fingers across her leg to her shoulder, keeping her at a distance. As they began to walk, Owliscious swooping back and forth slowly overhead, she wondered about this. Did he think she'd become someone else? Did he think she was somehow dirty?
She sighed to herself. A disaster, an utter disaster. She could start explaining now, as they walked, she could tell him that nothing had happened. But, she knew, it would sound like an excuse. He'd have to see the evidence for himself and right now the best thing might be for the three of them to walk and fly silently in the cold.
She would show him this, let him know that nothing had changed that nothing had happened. And then, calmly, patiently, and without emotion she would tell him that it was none of his damn business if it had.
There was fear in him, and Twilight strained to think of what to do next. There, there must be some way to take all of his confusion, the pain and fear she sensed in him, and turn this whole episode into something constructive useful.
Suddenly, as she slid across the paving stones that were slick with sleet and wet leaves, she realized that there was.
As she sensed his cold clawed hand still upon her, she realized that there might be a way to salvage this yet, to make something positive come from this whole unhappy incident to address the fears that she guessed, worried, were driving at him.
It was time for The Talk.