A New Dragon in Ponyville (2024)

Twilight looked back and forth between the two dragons, worry slowly darkening her expression. “Spike, what are you talking about?”

“Cliff told me last night that there's a spell to turn me into an adult,” Spike said, his face set in determination. “I want him to use it.”

“He- you-” Twilight rounded on the older dragon. “Are you crazy?!”

Cliff met her glare steadily. “Remember the Stillness.”

After a few moments of sputtering, the alicorn closed her eyes. Emotions slowly faded until she opened her eyes and calmly asked, “Why do you want to make Spike an adult?”

“I don't,” Cliff replied. “I just told him that the spell exists, and let him make his own decision.” He turned to the younger dragon. “Why do you want this, brother?”

Spike looked down. “It isn't because of Rarity, like I know you're both thinking. I... I want to be an adult because I'm sick of being too scared or too weak to help when bad things happen. That, and...” The little dragon looked guiltily up at Twilight before he swallowed and said, “I'm sick of being overlooked and ignored.”

Twilight's eyes widened. “You think that we...” she breathed, “that I... overlook you?”

Spike wouldn't make eye contact, but he nodded. “I know that you have important duties now that you're a princess, but... maybe if I become an adult, I won't get left behind all the time.”

The Stillness collapsed and Twilight rushed to her brother, wrapping him in a tight hug. “Oh Spike, I'm so sorry that I made you feel that way!”

He hugged her back, but his eyes went to Cliff. “So will you, please?”

Cliff nodded solemnly. He didn't agree with most of his brother's reasons but that didn't matter. The important thing was that Spike had come to a conclusion and was asking for his support in it. “Eat up.” He held out a sandwich. “Your body is going to need all the energy it can get.”

Twilight caught the younger dragon's claws before he could accept the sandwich. “Spike, you don't have to do this. I'll talk to everypony. We'll treat you better, I promise!”

Cliff didn't really see what the big deal was. Spike would only be losing a couple of years. Compared to the lifespan of a dragon, that was nothing.

Spike gently disentangled his hand and placed it on the alicorn's shoulder. “Twilight, I made my decision. Please... accept it.”

She stared down at him with tear-filled eyes. “You don't have to,” she repeated.

A few tears gathered in his own eyes as he said, “I want to.”

Twilight hugged him again, even more tightly. “Spike... are you sure?” Her voice was a soft whimper.

He nodded into the fur of her neck.

She took a deep, ragged breath. “Cliff, you'll cast it even if I say no, won't you?”

“It is his decision to make, not yours or mine.”

She wrapped both her forehooves and wings around Spike. Her voice broke as she said, “I'm his sister. What I say should matter at least a little.”

“Doesn't what I want count for anything?” Spike almost growled as he pulled himself out of Twilight's embrace. He took a few steps away and then turned to face her defiantly. “Here I am begging you to accept my decision, and you still won't because you think you know what I want better than I do!”

Twilight shrank back from the verbal onslaught. She even raised a wing defensively across her face as tears continued to fall.

“Stillness,” Cliff barked suddenly, “both of you!”

Once Spike had calmed down and Twilight had stopped crying, Cliff stepped in between them. “Spike, regardless of the circ*mstances, you shouldn't be shouting at your sister. Twilight, would you please explain why you're so against this?”

She was still struggling to keep her breathing steady as she answered, “I-I don't want to lose my little brother, and I don't want him to give up his childhood because I've been a bad sister.”

“You've been a great sister,” Spike insisted. “You're there for me all the time, but I can't ever be there for you, because I'm so small.” He gestured at his little body in frustration. “Nightmare Moon, Discord, Tirek, both times you fought the changelings, I couldn't help you with any of them. What if you don't come back from fighting the next one? I can't get left behind again, not when I know there's a way I could be fighting next to you as an equal!”

“He's still going to be Spike,” Cliff added. “The spell will give him an adult mind and body, but it isn't going to change who he is.”

Twilight looked at them both, and then slowly hung her head. “This is wrong, Spike,” she whispered. “You shouldn't do this because you want to throw yourself in front of a monster for me, or Rarity, or anypony.”

Spike stared at her until she met his gaze. “Twilight, please?”

The alicorn blinked away a fresh set of tears. “Okay... I... I'll help you.” She seemed to collapse a little as the words left her.

“Really?” Spike asked in disbelief.

“I can't talk you out of it.” She closed her eyes and looked away. “Will you at least wait for a few days? Just so you can be sure?”

Spike shook his head. “No. I spent all day thinking about it, and I'm sure.”

Twilight nodded listlessly. “Cliff, what do you need me to do?”

He gave the sandwich to Spike. As his brother ate, Cliff faced Twilight. He still didn't understand why she was so upset, not really, but he felt horrible about making her cry. Should I hug her, or would that just make her snap at me? “We can combine our willpower to cast the spell,” he said at last.

“I read about that today,” Twilight whispered. “I take it you'll lead?”

Cliff nodded.

They remained nearly motionless while Spike finished eating. Then Twilight gave her younger brother one last hug and moved next to Cliff. “I'm ready.”

Cliff reached out with his magic and snapped a link into place between them.

Sadness, confusion, and loss were at the edges of Twilight's heart. Cliff was surprised at how strong the emotions were, and even more surprised that she could maintain the Stillness in the midst of it all.

He knew that his own heart was a little sad, but it was also a little relieved. Childhood was a dangerous time for dragons. Emotions were at their most intense and control was at its weakest. This spell had actually been developed to help young dragons who were in danger of succumbing to greed by granting them the more calm emotional landscape of an adult.

Twilight must have felt his relief through their link, because a small amount of understanding and sympathy blossomed within her.

She wasn't the only one coming to a realization. Ponies think of childhood as some sort of precious thing, Cliff thought. How could I be so stupid? Of course their shorter lives would make them value each and every phase of life!

Spike sat in front of them. “Thank you both. You really are the best brother and sister I could ask for.”

Those words nearly broke Twilight's resolve, but she found the strength to persevere.

The older dragon's claws settled on top of Spike's head. Cliff directed a combination of excitement, nervousness, longing, and impatience into his heart. He was grateful that Twilight couldn't see this spell's focus; a burial mound. She could, however, feel the wall spring into existence. “Help me push through it,” Cliff whispered.

To say that the Princess had a lot of willpower would be an understatement. Even his grandmother would have been hard pressed to defeat her in a battle of raw will. Her strength, directed by Cliff's experience, ripped through the wall easily.

Warmth radiated out of Cliff's outstretched claws, pouring into Spike. His eyes were closed and so he didn't see the change happening, but Cliff felt his arm rise as the younger dragon grew.

Moments later, the spell was finished. Cliff and Twilight broke their connection, and looked at the adult dragon before them.

He was similar to Cliff in most respects, if slightly taller and stronger of build. The spikes along his head and back were more rounded than his brother's as well, but they had the same spacing and tilt. His face still held a bit of childlike roundness. However, it was clearly the face of an adult.

“Wow,” Spike chuckled. His voice was deeper now, but still recognizable. “Everything is suddenly smaller.” He tried to rise and nearly fell over.

Both Cliff and Twilight caught him immediately.

“Your body must be exhausted.” Cliff gave him the plate of sandwiches. “Eat as much as you can, and then you need to rest.”

Spike took the plate and began devouring the meal with surprising enthusiasm. “Why am I so hungry?” He asked between the second and third sandwich.

“You just grew five years in a matter of seconds,” Cliff explained, still supporting him. “That burns a lot of calories, and magic can't make up for all of them.”

After finished off the plate and giving a mighty yawn, Spike turned to the alicorn at his other side. “Thank you, Twilight.” He hugged her. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Spike.” Tears coursed down her cheeks as she hugged him back. “You'll always be my little brother.”

“You'll always be... my big sister...” A few seconds later, gentle snores escaped Spike's lips.

She nuzzled him gently before turning to Cliff. “Are you sure he's going to be the same Spike after this?”

“Of course he is,” the older dragon assured her.

“I don't know what I'd do if he isn't.” A purple aura enveloped Spike, lifting him off the ground. “I'll put him to bed.” Twilight said quietly.

Cliff looked at the plate his brother had emptied. “I'll make more sandwiches.”

-_-_-_-_-_-

The two ate dinner in near silence. Twilight was struggling with conflicting thoughts and emotions if her eyes were any indication. Cliff, on the other claw, was struggling with the exhaustion that came from using too much magic in one day. The alicorn's voice reached him but it took his brain a moment to decipher the sounds.

“Did I do the right thing?”

Shaking his head to clear it, Cliff looked across the table at her. “I don't know. I think so.” He stared down at his sandwich for a moment before speaking again. “I'm so sorry, Twilight. This sort of thing is normal to dragons. Childhood is just time to prepare for being an adult, and if a dragon feels ready and wants to jump right to adulthood,” he shrugged, “we let them. I didn't realize that ponies would feel differently.”

“I understand, dragon culture is different, but,” a tear slid down her cheek and landed on the table, “I just can't stop thinking, I'll never carry him around on my back again. I don't know why I'm fixated on that, but...” she slumped forward onto the table. “I've been a horrible sister to him, haven't I?”

“No,” Cliff said. “You've been a wonderful sister.”

“Then why did he feel like that?” She looked up at him with tearful eyes. “Is it true? Have I been overlooking him? Does he really think that he'd only be important if he can help me in a fight?”

“I don't know.” Cliff forced down a yawn. “I knew Spike wanted to be a warrior when he grew up, but I never suspected he would feel compelled to it, not when he loves being your assistant so much.”

“Compelled?” Twilight asked softly.

“Driven. Like he's failing his coven if he isn't fulfilling that role.” As he said those words, everything clicked into place for Cliff. “I am such an idiot,” he groaned. “Spike isn't compelled to be a warrior, he's compelled to help you, Twilight. He must have realized that he can't do much for you in battle, and his conscience wouldn't let him say no to a chance to fix that.”

“I'm not worth it,” Twilight mumbled. “I've been failing him all this time, and I never even realized it.”

“That isn't true.” Cliff approached the forlorn Princess and gave her a gentle hug. “I doubt even he understood what he was feeling. Anyway, we should both get to bed. Things will be better in the morning.”

Twilight buried her face in his scales. “I hope so.”

-_-_-_-_-_-

“Ugh,” Cliff groaned. Using so much magic so many days in a row had left him with a throbbing migraine. The young dragon pulled himself up groggily and healed it.

Twilight was reading on the couch when he stumbled into the living room. “Morning,” she whispered, passing him a cup of coffee. “Here. You look like you could use this.”

He downed the steaming liquid in one gulp, all the better to ignore its taste. “How's Spike?”

“Still asleep.” She glanced at the hall. “We'll need to get some things for him if he's going to have a room of his own from now on.”

Cliff couldn't help but agree. Spike would definitely appreciate such a gesture. “I'll go buy whatever we need later.” He paused. “Assuming I have enough, of course. How much do bedroom things cost?”

“Just charge it to the royal budget. I barely use it anyway.”

“Understood, I think.” Cliff didn't really understand how gift giving and economics factored into each other, but it seemed like Twilight wanted to pay for everything herself, possibly as a way of making up for her perceived failure as an older sister. He didn't agree with her about that, but he wasn't going to stand in her way if it would make her feel better.

After stretching his sore muscles, Cliff focused his willpower just long enough to cast Scale Armor. “How are you holding up?”

Twilight looked at the bedroom again. “I'm okay," she whispered. "I think. For now, I just want to support Spike and be the best big sister I can.”

He patted her shoulder sympathetically. “I can answer more of your questions while I make breakfast, if you want.”

Twilight rose and walked with him, a bit of a smile appearing on her lips. “That sounds good.”

-_-_-_-_-_-

They heard Spike coming long before they saw him. He stumbled into the kitchen with an embarrassed look on his face. “I guess I'm not used to being this tall yet.”

Cliff and Twilight were polite enough not to laugh as they helped him into a seat.

“You'll get used to it soon enough. Just remember to stay on all fours around other ponies.” Cliff gestured at the meal spread across the table. “Now eat up.”

In spite of his limited motor control, Spike was more than happy to comply.

Twilight had to admit that the young dragon's appetite was impressive. Even with a few spilled pancakes, he was still wolfing down an amount that she had only seen rivaled by Pinkie Pie. “By the way, Spike, what should we tell everypony when they see you?”

“Growth spurt?” Spike suggested between mouthfuls.

“What about our friends?”

“The same thing.” He met the alicorn's eyes with a smile. “Don't worry. I'll tell them the truth once I come up with a better way of saying it. It's just, I made you feel so bad last night, and I don't want to force anypony else to go through that. I'm really sorry, Twilight.”

“You know you don't need to apologize. I'm the one who was failing you for so-” She stopped when a scaled hand gently squeezed her shoulder.

“Quit beating yourself up about it, Twilight. I should have said something.”

The maturity in his voice caught Twilight's attention. She pondered on it for a moment before speaking again. “Spike, how would you say you feel now, as opposed to yesterday?” A quill and empty scroll levitated to her.

Spike laughed as he shoved another pancake in his mouth. “I should have known you'd want me for research.” He sat back and reflected for a moment. “I can tell that I'm smarter,” he said, almost to himself. “Answers to problems seem a lot more obvious. My magic has gotten easier to use. Emotions are much easier to control.” He frowned. “My feelings for Rarity are... different.”

“Different?” Twilight repeated. “In what way?”

Cliff was wondering the same thing.

“I don't know.” Spike's frown deepened. “I still care about her, but... I suddenly realized that there were a lot of things we should have talked about long before last night.” The frown disappeared with a soft laugh. “I wonder what she'll think of me as an adult.”

“Cool down there.” Cliff ruffled his brother's head spikes. “You can't expect all of your dreams to come true just because you're a few feet taller.”

“I know,” Spike went back to his meal, “but you can't blame me for dreaming anyway.”

Both dragons laughed.

“Anyway,” Spike continued as he ate, “I feel more in control of both my heart and mind, but my body is doing strange things, like this burning sensation in my chest and, uh... lower down, whenever I think about Rarity.” He frowned again. “Is this what having a crush feels like as an adult?”

Cliff and Twilight exchanged a long look.

“Would you excuse us for a moment, Spike?” Twilight forced a smile and all but dragged Cliff with her into the living room.

Spike watched the two of them leave. “Sure?” He shrugged and continued eating.

“Please tell me you've given him The Talk.” Cliff said once they were away from the younger dragon.

She shook her head. “He was still years from puberty just yesterday. Why would I have needed to?”

“...Claw wrestle you for it?” the dragon asked sheepishly.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Not helping.”

“Sorry, but what are we supposed to do?”

“Well,” she blushed, “you're both male dragons. You should talk to him about it.”

“But he has feelings for a pony and we're living in a pony town,” Cliff pointed out. “You should talk to him.”

“I wouldn't know what to say,” Twilight admitted. “I've never had a special somepony, let alone...” She trailed off amidst a fierce blush.

“Neither have I.” Cliff sighed. “I guess we aren't really qualified to talk about this.”

“At least, not from personal experience.” She tapped a hoof against her chin thoughtfully. “That's it!” A book flew off one of the shelves nearby and floated up to her.

“'Physical Intimacy: The Complete Guide.'” Cliff read. He co*cked an eyebrow. “Really, Twilight?”

“It's tasteful,” she said a little defensively. “Besides, it can answer his questions better than either of us could.”

“Fine.” Cliff covered his face. “Let's just get this over with.”

Twilight led them back to the other room. “Spike... we found a book that can tell you all about these new sensations you're experiencing.” A fake grin was plastered across her face as she levitated the book over to him.

Spike read the title and gave the purple mare a deadpan look. “I know what sex is, Twilight.”

“What?!” Both she and Cliff shouted in unison.

Pointing down at the book, Spike said, “I helped you take notes on this one over a year ago.”

Twilight coughed uncomfortably. “Oh, really?” She gave Cliff a guilty look. “I must have forgotten.”

The younger dragon nodded while the older facepalmed.

“It was one of your weekend study sessions.” Spike reminded her. “We went through five different books, comparing data. There was this one, Physical Relationships For Dummies, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About...”

Enough was enough, Cliff embraced the Stillness.

“Okay,” Twilight cut off her assistant. “You know how it works, so is there... uh, anything you... want to... ask us?” Her expression made it clear that she hoped the answer was 'no.'

“Yes,” Spike said mercilessly. “You still haven't told me what this feeling is.”

Safely wrapped in Stillness, Cliff was comfortable fielding that one. “That sensation is your body's desire to mate.”

Spike finally had the decency to look a little embarrassed. “Oh... so when I think about Rarity...?”

“Your body reacts,” Cliff finished.

The younger dragon's face turned red. “Um, how do I make it stop? It's kind of uncomfortable.”

Cliff nodded sympathetically. “Just try not to think about Rarity, or anypony else, that way. It can be difficult, so you might have to use the Stillness.”

Spike nodded, and within a few seconds his face had taken on the peaceful look of one whose heart was clear. “Thank you, that helps.” He rubbed his chest. “Although that burning sensation is still there. Is that normal?”

“Yes, unfortunately. Sometimes your body just acts separately of your mind or heart.”

“Weird.” Spike finished his third bowl of cereal. “I'll clean up, since you made everything.”

“I can help,” Twilight said.

“We may as well work together.” Cliff grabbed a couple of Spike's empty dishes and carried them to the sink.

“You can already walk without problems,” Twilight noted as the younger dragon moved around. “That's amazing.”

“I still feel really clumsy,” Spike told her as he put things back in the fridge. “I hope I don't mess up any of my chores.”

“Don't worry about that.” Cliff began to fill the sink. “I'll do them today.”

Twilight tapped a hoof against her chin thoughtfully. “Good idea. I can spend the morning bringing our friends over so they can see Spike and tell the rest of Ponyville. That way nopony will think he's going berserk again and freak out. Oh, I can stop by the furniture shop while I'm out too.”

“But Twilight,” Spike objected, “you had this whole day scheduled for reading.”

The alicorn princess gave him a hurt look. “Do you really think that my studies are more important to me than you are?”

“Well, no but-” He was cut off when Twilight's hooves wrapped firmly around him.

“No objections, Spike. I'm going to spend the day with you and that's final.”

A grateful smile broke across Spike's face. “Thanks, Twilight.”

“Speaking of friends,” Cliff said, “Rainbow Dash will be getting here soon. Should we let her see you, Spike?”

The younger dragon shrugged. “We have to start somewhere.”

Twilight was getting one of those, 'I have a brilliant idea,' looks “In that case,” she smiled, “maybe we can buck two apples with one kick...”

-_-_-_-_-_-

Cliff was outside stretching when Rainbow Dash dropped out of the sky. “Heya, Cliff!” she called. “Ready to get your tail kicked again?”

Cliff had to laugh. “As appealing as that sounds, there's something you need to see first.”

Rainbow laughed too. “Okay, what is it? Did you build a statue out of eggshells or something?”

Cliff led her inside. “Not quite. It's downstairs.”

“Ugh, the nerd base?” The pegasus stepped lightly as she followed, as though just being in Twilight's lab could infect her with 'uncoolness.' When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Rainbow noticed that most of the equipment had been pushed aside, leaving the center of the room empty. Sitting in the middle of that space was... she jumped. “Whoa, Cliff! You didn't say that another dragon followed us from your home!”

Spike grinned. “I'm not from the coven, Rainbow Dash.”

The mare's eyes widened and then narrowed. The gears turning in her head were practically visible as she tried to work who this dragon was and how he knew her name. “...Spike?”

He nodded.

It was impossible for Cliff to decide which emotion Rainbow Dash felt most strongly. Surprise was pretty clear on her face, but it was quickly followed by confusion, excitement, and several others that weren't even there long enough to be recognized.

“No way!” Rainbow shot over to the newly adult dragon. “Holy ponies, Spike, what happened!” She held up one of his arms and was shocked to find that it was slightly longer than her own. “How'd you get so big all of the sudden!”

“I kind of hit a dragon growth spurt.” Spike chuckled at her expression. “Apparently I'm a full grown adult now.”

The pegasus turned back to Cliff for confirmation.

“It's true.”

“That... is... awesome!” She beamed. “Now you can hang out with me and Cliff! Can we take him out clubbing? I know, he can come running with us!”

“I'm not quite ready for running.” Spike blushed a little. “In fact, I still have trouble walking.”

“Really, why?” Rainbow continued to inspect the younger dragon. “You look fine to me.”

“He isn't used to his new body yet,” Twilight explained, emerging from her place in the shadows. “We were actually hoping you could help him with that.”

“Oh hey, Twilight. What did you have in mind?”

Twilight levitated a hat and whistle to the blue pegasus. “He could use a coach.”

Apparently Rainbow Dash had helped train most of Ponyville's best athletes. Cliff would never have suspected it, but she made for an excellent teacher. After running Spike through basic stretching and warm-ups, she had him do a series of exercises to assess his strength, flexibility, reaction times, etc.

While she and Twilight went over data and put together a personalized exercise schedule for the young dragon, Cliff finally got a chance to perform his own assessment. “I want to see how you handle yourself in a fight,” he explained as he cast Scale Armor on his younger brother. “That way I'll know where to begin your training.”

“Uh...” Spike looked from the older dragon down his own claws. “Isn't that dangerous?”

“Not really. This spell will protect us both from anything the other could do.” Cliff slashed at his bother's arm to demonstrate. His claws slid harmlessly across the younger dragon's scales. “See?”

Spike rubbed the spot. “Wow, I barely felt that.” He looked from his claws back to Cliff.

“Go ahead. Try it.” Cliff spread his arms to show that he wouldn't resist.

After a moment of thought, Spike took his brother up on the offer. As before, the claws didn't seem to do anything.

“Part of the spell weakens impacts,” Cliff told him as he stepped back and took a fighting crouch. “So don't worry about holding back. Just attack me with everything you have.”

Rainbow's exercises had given Spike a better feel for his body, which made the first few attacks rather confusing. He missed with nearly half of them, and most the the remainder barely grazed Cliff or had no strength behind them at all. Not terribly impressive, given that the older dragon had remained motionless for most of it.

Cliff sighed. “Quit worrying about hurting me.”

“Sorry, I can't help it.”

A blur of movement flashed against the younger dragon's throat. “That might have killed you without this spell.” Cliff informed him as he returned to a crouch. “There's no need to worry. The spell is keeping us both safe. Now embrace the Stillness, if you have to, and attack me.”

Spike hesitated for another moment before he did so. The first slash came down hard across the right side of the older dragon's face. As promised, it caused no damage whatsoever.

“Much better,” Cliff said approvingly. “Keep going.” He waited for a few minutes while Spike tried out different things, even kicking at him like a pony once. “I'm going to start fighting back now,” he announced. “Try to deflect my claws with your arms or hands.”

The young dragon did much better at this part than Cliff had expected. That wasn't to say he was perfect, but Spike did manage to defend himself against the majority of his brother's attacks.

“Good,” Cliff started attacking a little harder and faster. The attacks were as obvious as could be, mostly overhead and horizontal slashes, but he was still impressed that Spike managed to block most of them. “Now try to fight back.”

“I can't.” Spike narrowly avoided his brother's next slash. “No time.”

Cliff stepped back so they could talk. “If all you do is defend, it just lets me attack even harder. Find some opening to throw me on the defensive, even just for a second, and it will change the entire flow of the fight.” He recreated his last attack in slow motion. “Right here.” He tapped the wrist on his arm. “Hit there hard enough and it will throw me off balance.” Cliff demonstrated an appropriate counterattack. “Try it on me.”

Spike recreated the maneuver a few times until Cliff was happy with it. Then he had to use it while the older dragon was slashing at him. His first three attempts were complete failures, either missing the arm or forgetting to counterattack, but the fourth one landed a solid blow across his brother's torso. “Wow.” He laughed a little giddily. “It actually worked.”

Even Cliff was a bit surprised. “That was perfect.” He returned to his stance. “Let's try it again.”

By the time Rainbow left for work, Spike was able to keep up with his brother at full speed and power, albeit with only the simplest of techniques. It was all the more impressive considering that the young dragon hadn't been able to walk straight only hours before.

Twilight had surprised them all by putting together a workout routine for not just Spike, but for herself, Cliff, and Rainbow Dash as well. It was a rotating schedule where they would take turns having each of the others as a workout partner. Cliff would go running with Rainbow Dash one day, spar with Spike the next, and then do strength and flexibility training with Twilight the third.

“I've been trying to start an exercise routine for months,” Twilight explained. “I think it will be much easier if I know I have a couple of partners relying on me.”

Spike couldn't have been happier with this turn of events. “You know,” he admitted while Twilight was out collecting Pinkie Pie, “It feels like she's finally going to start treating me like an equal.”

Cliff shrugged. “Physical age seems to mean a lot among ponies,” he said as tactfully as he could. “Try not to fault her for her society.”

“...I guess you're right.” Spike sighed. “Why do you have to be so reasonable all the time?”

The older dragon smiled. “Don't fault me for my society either.”

-_-_-_-_-_-

As the day wore on, Twilight brought her friends down to the basem*nt one-by-one to meet the newly adult Spike. Pinkie immediately decided to include, “... and congratulations to Spike on becoming an adult,” to the theme for her party that evening. Apparently she even had cupcakes prepared for just such an occasion, though Cliff couldn't imagine why. She also asked a few embarrassing questions about his plans with Rarity, but let it drop when she realized that Spike didn't want to talk about it.

Applejack came next. Ever the practical one, she asked if this meant Spike was a real adult now or a child in an adult's body. When Cliff assured her that it was the former, the earth pony gave them both a hearty clap on the back and promised Spike an apple pie to celebrate. Maybe it was Cliff's imagination, but the farm mare seemed like she wanted to ask about Rarity as well. Luckily, she chose not to, sparing them all more awkwardness.

They were all a little worried that Fluttershy would panic when she saw Spike, but she just stiffened a little and asked if one of Cliff's friends had come to visit. Once they told her their story and assured her that Spike was happy with the change, she surprised the young dragon by giving him a hug and telling him that he could always come talk to her if he was worried or confused about anything.

With the others taken care of and sent on their way to spread the news, Twilight went to collect Rarity.

Spike paced nervously around the basem*nt while they waited. “I know she's going to misunderstand,” he lamented. “Rarity will think this was some desperate gamble to win her affection.”

“Just tell her the truth,” Cliff suggested.

The younger dragon shook his head. “I don't think that will help. She'll think that wanting to help when things get dangerous means I want to be her valiant knight, and that being sick of getting looked down on means I was tired of her taking my feelings lightly.”

“I could try talking to her first.” Unlike the others, his brother had asked to speak with Rarity alone.

“No.” Spike took a deep breath. “I need to start acting like an adult.”

“Adult or not, you're still my brother.” Cliff patted the other dragon on the back. “I'll be right upstairs if you need me.”

“Thanks, Cliff.”

It wasn't much longer before they heard the front door open and close. With one last nod to Spike, Cliff made his way upstairs.

-_-_-_-_-_-

An adult mind was both a blessing and a curse, Spike was discovering. In the few seconds it took for Cliff to leave the basem*nt he was able to review his conversation with Rarity the day before.

“So... uh, do you think it would change anything if I were an adult?”

“Whatever do you mean?” The discerning mare must have heard something in his voice, because she looked up from her work, her beautiful eyes full of concern.

As always, her gaze left him nearly incoherent. “Oh, uh, it was nothing. I just...”

“Yes?” She leaned a little closer.

“I just wondered what you'd think if I suddenly... grew up.” His casual tone sounded forced, even to his own ears.

A frown appeared on her face. “Spike, I hope you aren't thinking of doing anything... drastic.”

“No no, of course not.” He chuckled lamely.

“I should hope not.” She knelt down to look him in the eyes. “You are very dear to me, Spikey, but even if something like that were to happen... I cannot say it would turn out the way you are hoping.”

Her words were like a blow to his stomach. “I-I understand...”

The beautiful mare gave him a sad and sympathetic smile before rising and going back to the outfit she had been working on. “Come now, let us speak of happier things...”

In a strange way, Spike's decision had been easier to make after that. Rarity didn't want him to grow, but he had wanted it anyway. Over the next few hours of working in the boutique, Spike had reviewed his feelings like Cliff taught him to, and came to the decision that led him to this basem*nt.

The door opened again and a pair of tentative hoof-steps descended.

Spike embraced the Stillness. He knew his emotions would just make things worse.

Rarity came into view. She was still beautiful to his adult eyes, even with her face contorted in worry. “Oh no.” She pressed a hoof against her mouth when she saw him. “Spikey-wikey?”

“Hey Rarity... long time, no see.” He smiled sheepishly.

She was less than amused. “Spike, what have you done!” It was like she couldn't decide between tears and anger.

“Grew a few feet.”

“This is no joking matter,” Rarity chastised. “What in Equestria happened to you?”

Spike considered telling her it was just a growth spurt but the concern in her eyes was too real for that. He couldn't betray her feelings with a lie. “Cliff told me about a spell that would accelerate my growth to physical maturity.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Spike realized how much they made him sound like Twilight. Maybe that vocabulary of hers is starting to rub off on me. “I asked him to cast it last night.”

“Spike!” Rarity looked hurt and betrayed. “I thought it was clear that I didn't want you to do something like this.”

“I didn't do it for you.” Spike pointed to the ceiling. “I did it for them.”

Rarity followed his gaze up though all she could see was the underside of the main floor. “Twilight and Cliff?” She looked back to him. “Why would they encourage you to leave your childhood behind?” The very idea seemed insulting to her.

“It wasn't like that.” Spike sighed. “I had other reasons, but once I became an adult I realized that I just wanted to be like the two of them.”

“I'm all for appropriate role models, but isn't this a little extreme?”

“Do you know where I was during the hydra attack?”

The question caught her off guard. “Why yes, you were down here protecting Sweetie Belle and the others.”

“No.” Spike pointed to a space under the stairs. “I was huddled under there with Sweetie Belle and the others, while my brother and sister were out protecting Ponyville. If the hydra had gotten past them, I wouldn't have been able to protect anypony. I would have just been another bite of food.” Anger and frustration echoed around the edge of his heart. “If it hadn't been for Twilight, Cliff would have died while I was cowering there.” With a deep sigh he turned to face Rarity once more. “I just wanted to be able to help them next time.”

The unicorn mare studied him in silence for a moment, tears in her eyes. “You still didn't have to do this, Spikey-wikey,” she whispered.

At any other time, seeing Rarity like this would have reduced Spike to a mess of tearful apologies as he begged her to forgive him. Right then, however, the young dragon was confronting a surprising revelation. He knew his decision had hurt the mare he loved, and yet he still felt that it was the right thing to do. Spike moved forward and gave her a quick hug before stepping back. “I'm sorry that I hurt you. I hope we can still be friends.”

Rarity froze when he hugged her, but when she met his gaze, her weak smile managed to say everything. She would always be his friend and would respect his decision, even if she didn't agree with it.

“Thanks,” Spike breathed a response to her unspoken message.

-_-_-_-_-_-

Cliff looked up from where he had been teaching Twilight healing magic. Spike and Rarity were coming into the living quarters together, and he was relieved to see that they both looked okay. That is, until the white unicorn saw him.

“You!” She stomped towards him with an angry glare. “Just what were you thinking using magic like that on your own brother?”

Twilight and Spike both tried to speak but Cliff motioned for them to remain silent. “Spike,” he said without looking away from Rarity, “come here for a moment.” When the younger dragon reached his side, Cliff put a claw over Spike's chest and then cast Heart's Mirror. “Focus on your reasons for wanting me to cast that spell.”

Determination filled the area filled the area so strongly that both Twilight and Rarity subconsciously took more solid stances. Under the determination, propping it up in some ways, was a mixture of shame, humiliation, and frustration both at one's own weakness and at the treatment received by others. Finally, there was a sense of awe and longing, like staring through the window at a personal hero.

“Thank you, Spike,” Cliff said as he let both spells fade and leveled his gaze at the still shocked unicorn. “Now can you see why I did it?”

Rarity didn't respond. Instead, she turned to Spike as though she was seeing him for the first time. “Spikey, did you... really feel that way?”

“Yeah.” He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. “I'm sorry, Rarity.”

“No need to apologize, dear... Actually, I suppose there is a need.” She turned back to Cliff. “I am sorry for misjudging you.” She managed to look both regal and regretful at the same time. “And Spike, I need to apologize to you as well. I will endeavor to treat your feelings with more respect in the future.” Rarity bowed slightly.

Spike bowed in return, somehow looking just as regal as the unicorn. “Thank you, Rarity.” The formal attitude cracked a little when he chuckled and said, “So, uh, will I see you at the party tonight?”

Rarity didn't seem surprised by the younger dragon's bow. If Cliff had to guess, she was the one who had taught him how to do it. “Of course you will, dear.”

-_-_-_-_-_-

After Rarity left, the three of them settled down to practice dragon magic. It was Twilight's idea, of course, but Cliff was happy to oblige and Spike seemed just as eager. There were few better ways to bond than to literally share your emotions with each other.

“Excellent.” Cliff grinned after a few minutes. Both Spike and Twilight had successfully demonstrated all of the tier one spells that he had asked them to learn. “You've completed the basics. Now its time to start on tier two spells.”

Dragon spells were separated into tiers based on how many emotions were required to cast them. Tier two spells would be far more powerful than anything from tier one, but they were also much more difficult to pull off. “What branch of magic should we start with?”

“Healing,” Twilight said immediately.

Spike took longer to respond. “Whatever it is that lets you run so fast.”

Luckily those both came from the same branch. “Bio-augmentative magic it is.”

Spike frowned in confusion. “I actually know what that means.”

“Really?” Twilight asked. “Did that spell affect his vocabulary somehow, Cliff?”

“Maybe.” Cliff shrugged. “His adult mind is probably just helping him access knowledge he already has more easily.”

Twilight made a note to research that later, and they continued with their lesson.

Since the purple alicorn already knew part of a healing spell, Cliff decided to start there. “With how often you two seem to get into trouble, this might be a good idea.”

Hope was the key emotion for most healing magic, but it needed to be mixed with a little excitement for this spell to work. Spike and Twilight were both able to get the correct emotions relatively quickly, but discovering the perfect ratio was the difficult part. Every heart was different, and so the requirements for a spell were different with each user. All Spike and Twilight could do was try to cast the spell over and over again with different amounts of hope and excitement until they found the ratio that worked for them. It was draining and discouraging to push through the wall so many times with nothing to show for it, but Cliff helped by adding his willpower to theirs.

It took about an hour before they saw the first hints of success. Spike's palm started to glow. It was weak and flickered erratically, but it was definitely there.

“You're close,” Cliff said. “Start making very small adjustments to what you just did.”

Spike nodded and tried it again. This time the glow was bright and solid.

“Great job, Spike.” Twilight wrapped her hooves around him.

“Thanks Twilight.” Spike hugged her in return before flopping back onto the couch. “I don't even want to think about how long it must take to learn tier three spells.”

“Just cast this spell one more time,” Cliff ordered. “Unless you want to forget the ratio and go through it all over again.”

Spike shuddered and cast the spell. Once he got his brother's approval, he gladly let it drop. “You two keep working. I'm going to start on lunch.” He slowly rose and made his way to the kitchen.

Twilight watched him go with a sad smile. “This may sound strange, but I'm actually proud of him for getting it to work before I did.”

“I don't think it sounds strange at all.” Cliff smiled as well.

It only took another few minutes before Twilight successfully cast the healing spell.

They spent most of lunch talking about the ratios they had each needed to make it work. Twilight had needed very little excitement, where Spike used a modest amount of it. Cliff knew he was something of a rare case. He required almost an even mix of the two emotions.

Spike and Twilight wanted to continue learning after lunch, and since they both had enough willpower to manage another spell, Cliff decided to teach them Scale Armor.

“When will we get to running?” Spike asked.

“That's more a group of spells maintained all at once,” Cliff said apologetically. “You'll need more practice with spells like this before you're ready to try it.”

The younger dragon accepted that with a sigh and a nod. “At least you won't have to maintain both our protection spells when we spar.”

“Exactly.”

Scale Armor worked both by hardening the scales of the dragon it was used on and by cushioning the body against impacts. The second function seemed rather universal, but none of them were quite sure how Twilight's skin would react to the first. Cliff really hoped that she wouldn't lose her coat as a side effect somehow.

Luckily, the spell seemed to interpret her coat as scales, and hardened that instead.

“This is... strange,” Twilight commented as she walked around the living room with the spell active. “I feel like I shouldn't be able to move, but for some reason I still can.”

“The scales, well, the fur around your joints only becomes soft when you want to move them.” Cliff tapped on one of her knees to demonstrate. It sounded like he was tapping on bone or rock, certainly not something that would allow free movement.

“How protective do you think it is?” She bent the knee without any difficulty.

“That depends on how much willpower you're putting into it, but I'm honestly not sure what to expect in your case.” Cliff ran his claws down her side with enough force that it should have hurt. “How does that feel?”

“I feel a little bit of pressure but not very much.” Twilight was getting one of those excited grins. “We need to determine exactly how much pressure this spell can withstand and compare it to the average for dragons. If the spell just adds a certain amount to the resiliency of its user's coat or scales, then the results should be relatively close. However it might multiply the existing hardness instead, which would lead to a rather drastic difference in the amount of protection granted.”

Spike, who was still working on finding the correct ratio, sighed. “I'll go get the graph paper.”

What followed was a series of experiments that honestly left Cliff feeling a little guilty. Twilight had him attack her with a disturbingly large number of implements; everything from a hammer to a kitchen knife, to a spear that she had for some reason, and used a unicorn spell to measure the amount of force it took with each item before she began to feel genuine pain. It also gave her and Spike a chance to practice their newly learned healing spell on the small cuts and bruises she was collecting.

“Hmm...” Twilight nodded as she went over data, comparing it to a chart in one of the dragon books. “I'd say that settles it. Scale Armor adds to, rather than multiplies upon, the natural resilience of its target's scales or coat.”

“I'm so glad we found that out.” Spike rolled his eyes. “Here I was thinking we hit you with everything but the kitchen sink for no good reason.” After getting the spell to work for himself, he had been pressed into service for his sister's bizarre experiment.

“Be polite, Spike,” Twilight said without looking up. “I might be the first alicorn to ever learn dragon magic and so we have a responsibility to understand as much about it as possible.”

“Where did you even get some of these things?” Cliff asked, holding up a pickaxe.

“Well I got that while I was studying archeology.” Twilight pointed at the spear. “That was a gift from my brother. Pinkie Pie gave me the bowling ball last Hearth's Warming. The chainsaw was left here by Discord...”

“Remind me not to teach her the spell that protects against energy-based attacks,” Cliff whispered to his brother.

Spike winced. “Good idea.”

Knowing Twilight, she would go out in the next storm with a lightning rod strapped to her head.

The relationship between Twilight, Spike, and Cliff is an interesting one to write. In some ways, they're like three siblings, but in others, they're like two parents and a child. Things get especially odd when it comes to cultural misunderstandings, like making Spike into an adult.

Speaking of which, I hope Cliff's reasons are at least understandable.

Now that everyone has had some time with adult Spike, I'm curious what your thoughts are about him. No, I don't really agree with his choice, but I honestly thought that was the decision Spike would make.

Next Chapter: Chapter 12Estimated time remaining: 9 Hours, 60 Minutes Return to Story Description

A New Dragon in Ponyville (2024)
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