Worth It

by Pascoite

Chapter 1: Worth It

Twilight Sparkle stopped by the small office she maintained, mostly for recreational reading or keeping up with her correspondences. And correspondence would seem to be the order of the day: a letter from Rarity, another from a low-level griffon attache—one whom she’d met on a diplomatic mission some time ago—and a rather fancy scroll.

Years later, Celestia still felt the need to use those archaic things, complete with the reed paper, charcoal ink, official wax seal, and ribbon tie. In what century had she finally decided to forgo smoke signals?

Twilight chuckled and waggled the rolled-up letter as if at a nonexistent guest, then sat in the worn chair behind her desk. Whoever had shown up for work first would have brought up the contents of the mailbox and left it in the sorting room. And then one of the staff would have distributed the mail throughout the castle. Not a personal assistant—she was no more special than anypony else, and she could get her mail at the same time everypony in the castle did. Not a minute sooner.

Of course, Celestia’s letters took a little longer to get here these days, what with Spike gone gallivanting off his own way. The mental picture brought a soft smile to Twilight’s face. Her number one assistant no more, but still the same Spike she’d always loved.

She tilted back in her seat, the aged springs protesting, and closed her eyes. More and more images washed over her mind, like Spike lighting the torch at a few more Equestria Games ceremonies, helping out with Winter Wrap Up—Applejack had decided that dragon fire didn’t count as magic. He could clear snow faster than—how had Applejack put it?—a jackrabbit on a date. He’d always kept the library in such good order after Twilight’s duties had limited it to a part-time job for her. And he’d always insisted on making Twilight’s tea every afternoon.

But by the time the next Great Dragon Migration had come around, he couldn’t resist the call. So she’d given him the same space as before, and he’d actually left, but he came back to visit every few weeks. On that first one, she’d hugged him so tight that she thought she’d never let him go, even though she could barely reach her hooves around him anymore. But he’d found his own life, which still included her, and she couldn’t be more proud of him.

With one last sigh, she cracked the scroll’s seal and unrolled it. Just as much as one of Spike’s visits, she enjoyed hearing from Princess Celestia, but… that business again.

Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle,

I thought I’d send another friendly reminder, on the usual day, of course. Forty-two years since your coronation. Happy anniversary, by the way. You’ve had an admirable reign, and not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice in choosing you as my student so long ago.

And to that end, I’m sorry to hear that your most recent student has left. I know you invested many years in him, and I hope you will not take it as a failure on your part that he chose this path. Make no mistake: he chose it. A general study of magic is not for everypony, and while the piano teacher may grieve the obvious talent who simply has no interest, they, like you, will learn to live with it.

As always, another will come along to whom your tutelage will make all the difference. Have faith in ponykind, Twilight, and it will have faith in you.

Of course, it is about choices that I also must speak. I wonder if you’ve expended any more thought on the matter this year? No, there is no reason to hurry at this point, and perhaps refusing to make a decision is your way of choosing. Inaction has its own consequences, however, beyond which option it gives you by default. You are not getting any younger, after all.

I don’t mean to pressure you. Please, consider it carefully, and I am always available to talk.

Princess Celestia

Twilight had to laugh. Apparently, “I don’t mean to pressure you” somehow meant bringing it up at least once a month for decades. She tossed the scroll back on her desk—she’d file it away with the rest later—and glanced at the letter from Rarity. More a postcard, really, from her vacation in Marezatlan. A nice, sun-soaked beach in the photo, and a brief message of friendship on the back.

She could attend to the third letter in the afternoon. Another friendly correspondence, but one that a few hours wouldn’t hinder. “Bronze Javelin,” she said to her Captain of the Guard. “I’m going out for my weekly picnic with the girls. Well, except for Rarity—she hasn’t returned yet. But I’ll be back after lunch.”

He saluted smartly and escorted her to the main gate. Really, she didn’t need that either, but try telling him that. Just as duty-bound as his father, Bronze Patina, who’d served Princess Celestia for so long now that she didn’t care to count back to when she’d first met him.

No, she needed only light thoughts as she headed off to her meeting. Just her and four friends, plus whatever pets any of them still kept. She’d bring along Rarity’s postcard, but they’d all gotten one, no doubt.

Out in the sunlight again, she trotted off to the park. For some reason, she always felt like she shouldn’t fly there, not in Ponyville. Tradition or something. Even though Rainbow Dash and Tank would certainly do so.

She really hated putting Celestia off so much, but it really wasn’t a pressing matter, so why—?

Light thoughts. Twilight glanced around the town she loved so much, smiled broadly, and continued on toward her picnic.

Bronze Javelin opened the door to Twilight’s study and opened his mouth to announce a guest, but he stopped at the glare she gave him. She’d told him time and again, no need to stand on ceremony where friends were concerned. And this was certainly a friend.

Spike squeezed through the doorway and took a seat on the rug instead of trying to set up a few chairs side by side. She wondered how much longer he’d even fit in here, but once he outgrew it, she’d have a section of the main hall walled off or just arrange to meet him outside somewhere.

But no way would she let him get away with plopping down on the floor before getting a hug.

She rushed around the desk and flung her hooves around him. Years ago, that would have tackled him, but now, even standing on her hind legs, she barely came up to his chest. He curled his long neck down to nuzzle her cheek.

“So, what news do you have?” She pulled up a chair close to him and sat in it, then leaned forward attentively. “How did your trip to the far north go? Find anything exciting?”

“No,” Spike answered with a shrug. “Not much that previous exploration teams hadn’t noted already. Just a few more roosting spots in the mountains that the Dragon Council can make available for the waiting list. Maybe a couple of good mining areas. Of course, we’d only want the gems and gold. It smelled like there’d be a lot of metals that ponies would find useful. You’re welcome to them.”

Twilight grinned. Always looking out for things that could help Equestria, which set him apart from other dragons. Though not so much anymore, again thanks to Spike. While not serving in an official capacity, he’d been the most effective ambassador between their governments. “What else?”

“Um…” He scratched his chin with a claw that would have easily scored the crystalline wall. “I met Twist for dinner out in Vanhoover. She was there for a trade show, and my flight took me over there anyway, so I figured I’d catch up. Hadn’t talked to her in ages.”

The way he wouldn’t look her in the eye… “You’re not telling me something.” She mustered up the best frown she could manage under the circumstances, which only made him shake his head. And he did blush a bit. “Out with it.”

Spike opened his mouth to speak but didn’t scrounge up any words until the second try. “Twilight, I… I’ve found someone.” He scuffed a foot over the rug, and his blush deepened. But that little tremor in his voice. The poor guy… why would he be scared?

“That’s wonderful!” Twilight gushed, and the usual warm smile returned. Good. He must have felt a bit self-conscious, but… still something there. She adjusted her bifocals and stepped back enough to see his face. “Who is she?”

Instead of scraping his chin, Spike’s claw started picking at the back of his neck. “You—you don’t know?”

Twilight’s mind raced for a moment, then her face brightened as she beamed up at him. “That… that one who went with you on your last three exploration flights north, right? Yes, I thought it was a little unusual to have the same wingmate assignment multiple times, but I never—”

“Her name is Blaze,” Spike said, clasping his claws behind his back. “Yeah, my… my wingmate. I asked for her, since the duty commander owed me a favor.”

“And how long were you going to keep this from me?” Again with the disapproving frown, and as usual, she couldn’t keep it up for more than a few seconds.

“I dunno,” he replied. His gaze stayed riveted to the floor. In some ways, he hadn’t changed from the child she knew so long ago.

He only stopped in every few weeks, so he could have easily kept it a secret for some time now. “When did you start dating, then?”

“Right about when those recon flights started. Year and a half, two years ago.” Somehow, his cheeks turned an even darker shade of red. “We… we want to share a hoard. Somewhere near here.”

Twilight stared back, open-mouthed. The longer she did, the more he fidgeted and wrinkled his brow. She needed to find some words quickly, before he got even more nervous. “I’m so happy for you, Spike!” Finally, he met her gaze, but still something… “In fact, just recently—”

“I thought—”

They let out matching embarrassed giggles in the sudden lull, and then Twilight took the initiative. “You first.”

“Well…” Spike began, but at least he didn’t look away. “You know I used to have a crush on Rarity—” He quickly craned his neck and peered out into the castle’s main hall.

“Don’t worry. She isn’t back from her vacation yet. Didn’t you get her postcard?”

Spike twiddled his thumbs. “No. I didn’t stop by home before coming here.”

“Ah.” Twilight gave him a little reassuring poke in the ribs. “Yes, I remember about Rarity. I also remember how mature you were with the whole thing when she finally had to put a stop to it.”

“Yeah…” He looked away again and rubbed one claw up the other arm. “You know how I get with gems, and she’s so good at finding them. Maybe it wasn’t any more than that.”

Twilight pursed her lips. “C’mon. Don’t sell yourself short. You saw something extraordinary in her, as well you should.”

“I guess. She is beautiful.” He coughed into his fist. “Still.”

She took his claw in her hoof and smiled up at him. “It’s okay. I understand.”

“Yeah, but…” Spike slumped to his haunches and muttered, “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.”

“Telling me what?” Twilight patted his claw and cocked her head.


“C’mon. You obviously want to.” Her eyes twinkling, Twilight released his claw and scooted her seat closer. “You had a reason to think it necessary. If I know you, it’ll bug you until you do.”

A rumbling sigh sounded from his throat. In fact, a little too much rumbling—she glanced toward her desk to make sure she wouldn’t need to put out a fire.

“I…” Spike quickly buried his face in his claws and looked away.

If she could, Twilight would have taken his chin and turned it back toward her, but she wasn’t tall enough. He’d never had trouble speaking to her before. Best to make as relaxed an atmosphere as possible. She leaned back in her chair. “Just like old times,” she said softly. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Twilight…” His face still hidden, Spike shook his head. “I once had a crush on you, too. Not serious, but… I don’t know. You were always like a big sister, a mom, a teacher.” He finally uncovered his face, but he didn’t look at her. “Seems odd to have a crush on someone like that. Maybe not a teacher, I guess, but the other two.”

Twilight gave him a very controlled nod. She had to appear neutral and supportive. No way she’d let on how cute she found it. “That’s normal, Spike.”

“I mean, it never got to what I’d call romantic thoughts—just sweet on you.” Spike had covered his head as if expecting a rockslide, but he quickly lifted it and stared back at her. “Wait, that’s normal?”

Twilight couldn’t hold in a chuckle, and Spike frowned a little at it. “Do you know how many colts say they’ll marry their mommies when they grow up? It happens all the time. Don’t worry—I don’t see it as any more than that.”

“R-really?” His shoulders relaxed, and a guilty smile spread across his face.

“Yes,” she said. “It’d be completely normal, even if we were really related.” At that word, he cast his eyes down. Twilight stood again and held a hoof against his arm. “I don’t mean that to say we aren’t family. Nothing of the sort. You know I love you.”

Twilight wrapped him in a hug as he let out a long breath. “I-I don’t even know why I wanted to tell you that,” he said through his sigh. “Seemed important somehow.”

“I know. So it’s important to me, too.” She strained upward to kiss him on the cheek, then straightened her glasses. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

Spike looked her in the eye once again and gave her a more genuine smile. “Thanks, Twilight.”

“And in a minute you’re going to tell me all about Blaze. But first—” She kept hold on both of his claws as she took half a pace backward. This moment, right now, would stay etched in her memory. Just like the first time she ever saw Princess Celestia in person, the day she got her cutie mark, when she met all of her closest friends… Yes, she’d count this day among the most treasured times in her life. “I thought I should talk to you about something I’ve discussed with Princess Celestia. Well, she’s wanted to bring it up for years now, but I’ve mostly avoided the topic. I think I’ve finally come to a decision.”

Twilight reclined in an overstuffed chair in Canterlot Castle and breathed in the scent from her cup of tea. Celestia had invited Twilight into her private study, of course. Not the one the public saw—the one only her closest associates knew about, where she could go when she needed a moment of peace or some time to give a dear friend her undivided attention.

She’d asked Celestia for the recipe to this particular blend of tea on many occasions, but Celestia had always declined to reveal it. Usually with some flowery language about how it was important for there to be some mysteries left in life. Of course, Twilight could easily analyze it on her own, given the right equipment, but Celestia had a point.

“So is that your final word on the matter?” Celestia said.

Twilight gave her the kind of grin that might pop up by reflex for a lifelong friend. “Yes. And you were right—I’d put off my decision for so long that I’d relegated myself to what would happen by not choosing. But I see what value it holds for me now.”

Nodding, Celestia levitated her teacup back onto its saucer. “Luna and I didn’t have a choice,” she answered. “But Cadence did, and so did a number of others whom you’ve never met. I bet you wouldn’t even recognize some of the names. A few preferred to live in anonymity. Still, they all made the same decision.”

“I know.” Twilight’s thoughts ranged back to Spike again, sitting near her and fiddling with his claws like he did as a hatchling. She hoped he’d never lose that habit. And she played his words back in her mind, every one committed to memory, and in his voice, or at least as close as she could approximate in her head. “I’ve had many discussions with Cadence over the years.”

“You’d see them all grow old. You’d see every one of them through disease, heartbreak, old age. And you’d see every one of them die.” Celestia’s eyes flicked toward the room’s one small window, but they never lost their gleam. “On the other hoof, you’d see what Equestria becomes, and you could have a direct influence on what shape it takes. You’d see the world’s constant renewal, and you’d find that it will never lose the capacity to surprise you. You’d see every new generation of children discover what you helped to create.”

Celestia’s tea gave off less and less steam as the minutes dragged on. There on its saucer, forgotten now. Twilight loved it when Celestia got like this. She always watched the sky, but what did she see?

Twilight could wait. She knew well the value of meditation, and whatever ran through Celestia’s head in these moments never failed to calm her. At long last, she took another sip, her eyes still fixed beyond the horizon, then wrinkled her nose. “Cold. Time makes some things worse,” Celestia said as she freshened her drink from the pot.

“You assume I think about it the same way everypony else does,” Twilight replied. “Did you hear Spike’s news?”

Celestia chuckled and shook her head, the way she might for a child’s antics. “This was his next stop after telling you. I wouldn’t have expected so, but I’m glad he’s maintained a close friendship with me. And I have to admit that I wondered if I’d hear from you after his visit, but not quite so soon.”

Twilight’s own tea had gone cold, but a short burst of magic fixed that. She’d long since learned to like reheated tea or coffee, a relic of her time spent doing research, often late into the night. But she certainly couldn’t begrudge anypony who hadn’t managed to develop a tolerance for it. “You know me that well, huh?”

Princess Celestia didn’t answer. She didn’t have to. “So you understand why, then?” Twilight asked.

“Dragons are long-lived,” Celestia said, gazing over the rim of her cup, “but even he will die.” Her mouth formed a tight line, but otherwise, it was a mere statement of fact. One Twilight knew well. The emotion behind it was hers and hers alone, and so Celestia had left it to her. Only that would inform her decision.

“I’d have to accept that inevitability anyway. Yes, I’ll have to watch everypony die, but the possibility already existed that I might have to watch any given individual die. It’s a bigger scale, but no different a concept.” Nopony else would have noticed the slight tic in Celestia’s cheek. Twilight had learned to spot it as a filly, whenever she gave an answer that Celestia particularly liked. Whether in class or in private, whether correct or wrong but with an interesting insight.

“This way,” Twilight continued, “I’ll get to tell his children all about him, and then their children, and…” She paused to wipe away a few tears off her face. She had no idea why this would make her cry, but she didn’t try to stop it. “Ponies get lost to history. Nowadays, most don’t have much of an idea who Starswirl the Bearded was, much less his personality, his passion, his dreams. Except in the minds of a few enthusiasts, he’s little more than a name in a textbook. But Princess Luna felt such an affinity for him that she made sure nopony forgot him or his contributions. And now, look how long the traveling museum she organized has operated, with fan clubs in most of the big cities.”

Celestia turned toward the window again, but she closed her eyes. No far-off gaze—she pricked her ears and listened.

“Nopony I loved will ever be forgotten. As long as I can tell the stories, my friends and the amazing things they do will be as alive as they were when they first happened.” Twilight tried to hide the tremor in her voice, and with Celestia not watching, she could sneak away one of the napkins and dab at her eyes. “More than just saying, ‘My friend did such-and-such grand feat,’ I can tell ponies how Applejack’s amazing strength wasn’t in her body, but in her sense of family; how Fluttershy, in her gentleness, was the fiercest friend; how Rarity would rather suffer herself than see somepony in need; how Pinkie Pie knew just when you needed to laugh, even when you didn’t realize it; and how Rainbow Dash would put her own dreams on hold if they meant compromising yours. That’s what will never die.”

Twilight sniffled. She didn’t care anymore if Celestia heard. “And then Spike,” Celestia said with a slight nod.

“Spike. Everypony will remember that he was the dragon no other dragon could be.” On a whim, Twilight set her tea down and went to Celestia’s side. She hugged her mentor tightly, and Celestia’s eyes opened slowly. “And that he was my dearest friend. You gave me that. I will never stop thanking you for it.”

Celestia ran a hoof through Twilight’s mane. “You could have realized all this before you started turning gray, you know. You’re stuck with that now.”

What? Twilight burst out laughing, even through her tears. “I guess so. But I think it fits. Don’t you?”

Breaking into a wide grin, Celestia nuzzled her and hugged her back. “Twilight Sparkle, I will enjoy spending eternity with you.”

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