Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

by David Silver

First published

After deciding to stay in Equestria and learn its ways as a unicorn colt, Silver Lining now faces Canterlot and learning how to be a unicorn with his former-OC and Trixie to watch over him. Will he master magic, or discover the cruel side of foals.

He was once a human, and still remains so in his much smaller head. After making use of Luna's sizable magical talent, he has rewound from a middle-aged human to a unicorn colt just old enough to start learning how to use their horn.

Of course, it wouldn't do to have an orphaned foal, and Luna is far too busy with royal duties to take upon this strange unicorn, so she allows him to pick a guardian. He chooses his pony self, Rough Draft, who was once his original character before his arrival, and proved to be a real pony, with his own aspirations and quirks.

Rough Draft and Trixie, who had the (mis)fortune of being present during all of this, are now acting as David's parents as he learns everything there is to know about being a unicorn.

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1 - Welcome to Canterlot

As the train ascended the mountain towards the capital of the kingdom, Silver Lining peered out of the window to watch as the impressive monument of equine engineering drew ever closer. A hoof landed on his shoulder along with a familiar presence. Rough Draft spoke softly, "We're almost there."

Silver Lining twitched an ear towards Rough, "Yeah... Sorry about all this. I mean... not warning you ahead of time. I didn't get much warning myself."

Rough Draft snorted softly, "It was my idea that brought us to Manehattan in the first place. It was my idea to look for adventure." He wrapped a foreleg around Silver and gently hugged the colt, "I didn't expect my human friend to become my colt, but it's definitely still an adventure."

Silver leaned into the embrace, enjoying the closeness a moment before he bobbled his head, "I'm really glad you were with me, and still are. Look, I have it mostly down!" A look of concentration came over Silver's features as he let the magic build within him and flexed the internal muscle that released it. Magic flowed freely in the curved spire of his horn and a soft silvery light spilled free. The light was steady and would have been a good light, if it wasn't bright enough in the cart as-is.

Rough Draft nodded his head, "You picked up on that fast, but you've been practicing it constantly. Is it that interesting?" He placed a hoof alongside the horn. The contact made the muscle contract, and the magic stopped flowing quickly.

Silver made note to practice holding open even while touched or otherwise distracted. He nodded at Rough, "Yeah. Trixie won't teach me anything else until I have the light spell down pat. These gangly limbs are cute, but not so good at holding things. I'm not going to be satisfied until I'm moving things around."

"And with good reason," came the voice of Trixie. "We arrive in a few minutes. Trixie suggests you gather your things and be ready. That goes for you too, Rough Draft."

"Yes Ma'am," replied Rough Draft, setting Silver on the ground and moving over to his saddlebag.

Silver didn't have much to pack, "Do you think Luna will return my things?"

Trixie snorted softly, "Trixie doubts this. They are alien artifacts, and you have surrendered to the Equestrian government."

Silver shook his head, "You say it like I was under arrest or at war or something."

"You were," argued Trixie, "in your own way, and you gave up. Equestria is a good winner, and only demands you be a good pony as her terms." She poked Silver gently, "Today we stay with a friend, tomorrow, Trixie will have us a place of our own. Don't expect a house, they are frightfully expensive."

Rough Draft rose up, his blue bag secured into place, "It's no trouble, Trixie. An apartment won't kill me. I've lived in one before." He looked towards Silver, "You?"

Silver nodded quickly, "For most of my childhood. Houses became something of an adult experience for me, oddly enough."

Trixie smiled, "Then it is fitting that you are returned to an apartment for your new foalhood."

The train soon pulled into the bustling station. Many ponies waited outside to board the line, but were forced to wait for those on the train to get off, including the young colt that was once David. Silver's eyes swept over the city with curious eyes. Unlike the cartoon, there were a lot of little details to be seen. Though the city was still magnificent, Silver could already pick out where it was a tiny bit less than the perfection shown in the cartoon.

The trio pushed through the crowd and emerged onto the streets. Silver wondered if they would hail a taxi like in Manehattan, but Trixie kept walking. This was the first time in over a day Silver got to practice with his young limbs. His gait was uneven, but he wasn't flopping over every two steps, which he considered a victory. He paid attention to his walking, at first trying to actively manage his still-alien body, then letting go and trying to not think about it. He certainly didn't micromanage his human walking, he decided trying to do so as a pony wasn't going to help.

They arrived at a large manor on the right hand side of the city. The castle stood imposingly in clear view, but that was not their goal. Trixie did not knock, simply brushing the gate open with her magic and striding past. She was soon at the door and her magic wrapped around the knocker there, striking it against the wood. Silver watched the magic at work, quite glad he could still perceive the auras of pony magic even before they built up enough to produce 'light'.

A well-dressed stallion opened the door, dressed as a butler, if Silver had to guess. He regarded Trixie a moment, then looked beyond her to Silver and Rough seated behind her. "Are you expected?" he asked with a high-class and somewhat snooty tone.

Trixie waved it off, "Of course Trixie is expected! Get Fleur."

The butler raised a fine brow and turned away. The door glowed with a dark blue magic as it shut behind him. Silver glanced at Trixie, who looked confident as ever. Soon enough her patience was rewarded as the door opened with a pale magenta aura and revealed Fleur Dis Lee. When her eyes found Trixie, a bright smile overtook her refined features, "Trixie Lulamoon! Are you here to perform for us this evening?" Her voice was smooth as butter, and her physique, if his new pony perspective was to be trusted, was enchanting. Silver did little but watch her, while Rough shuffled a bit nervously in place.

Trixie returned Fleur's smile, "Trixie is glad to see you as well. She may be convinced to bedazzle you and yours with amazing feats, but she is here because she needs a place to stay the evening for herself and her friends." She gestured back at Rough and Silver. "Trixie will be moving to Canterlot and it is too late in the day to secure lodgings."

Fleur stepped out on her slender legs, moving around Trixie to inspect her friends. "What an adorable little colt you have," she gushed as she brushed his silvery mane with a hoof, "And who is this?" She looked at Rough directly, then back at Trixie, "Trixie, if you have become married without inviting me to the ceremony, I will be most upset."

Trixie shook her head quickly, "It is not like that. Trixie is not married. This colt is Trixie's responsibility, but not her own." She gave a soft hmph, "Besides, any foal of Trixie's would have far more dazzling a coat color than earth brown."

Fleur seemed mollified by this as she nodded, "This is true. Come, we will get you settled in." She trotted gracefully into the house, and they all followed along. Clean, spacious, and tastefully decorated were the three descriptors that fit the interior of the manor. Silver didn't get a chance to take much of it in as he moved to keep up with the retreating flank of the rich pink mare. They arrived at a huge bedroom with a queen sized round bed. "I hope this will suffice. Our guest bedroom is a bit small."

Silver Lining rose a brow as he looked around, wondering just how large Fleur and Fancy Pant's own room was if this was the small model.

"It will do," said Trixie. "When is Fancy going to return? I will give you both a treat for putting us up for the evening."

Fleur looked pleased at the idea, giving Trixie a specific time in the evening before she trotted off, lost to sight quickly.

Rough had sat himself beside the bed, "This is a lot fancier than my old place."

Trixie waved, "Don't get used to it. We're only here for the evening. Ah, Trixie knows. You should go sign up Silver for school. Take him with you."

Rough tilted his head a little, "Which one?"

Trixie withdrew a map of the city from a pocket and unfurled it. She directed a hoof, "We will get a place around here, so..." She trailed her hoof along the paper, "That school looks acceptable. It is just for general education. Trixie does not think a special school is required, any will do."

Rough Draft quickly nodded, "Alright. Come on, Silver." He rose up and began walking right back out. Silver was not as eager. Those long colt legs kept him upright, but he was feeling a bit tired. He didn't say as much, but a pout was on his face as he walked a bit slowly. Rough Draft picked up on the tells and took Silver by the scruff. Soon Silver was riding Rough and looking far happier about life.

As they trotted through the streets, Rough asked Silver, "Do you want me to tell them about your 'special needs'?"

"Special needs?" asked Silver, "I don't have any of those, unless Luna gave me some allergies or something?"

Rough's ears twitched a bit as he replied, "I meant that you're, you know, not a pony inside."

Silver shrugged, "Would any of them know how to handle that? We don't even know how to handle that. I vote we keep that to ourselves. It would just confuse them, and if the other foals found out, it would just be ammo to target me. Bad enough I'll be showing most of them up in a lot of classes."

"And looking woefully inept in others," finished Rough Draft, "I won't tell if you don't want me to." He looked up, "There it is."

A fairly plain looking building. It barely looked big enough for one classroom. How could such a large city not have larger schools? It had a nice lawn in front, where some foals were currently gathered and playing various games. Silver saw some enjoying a swing or using a see-saw, while a bunch of the others were playing a game that looked like soccer.

They were soon past the playing fillies and colts. The interior looked well played-in. The walls were covered with eager, if crude, art, and some toys were scattered along the hallway. The first open archway they came across led into a mostly empty classroom, except the mare that sat behind the desk, eating lunch. She was a bright neon yellow in shade, with reddish hints at the tips of her ears. She had cyan eyes that regarded Silver and Rough curiously, "Hello," she said in a pleasant enough tone, "How can I help you?"

Rough trotted up to the desk with a smile, "Good day. I wanted to sign up Silver Lining here for class." He picked up Silver by the scruff and set the colt down in front of the desk, where he couldn't see the teacher very well. He reared up and leaned against the desk, able to see her over the edge.

"Hello," said Silver.

The teacher gave a light smile, "Hello. We're mid-session, but there's not much we can do about that. Are you his father?"

"Legal guardian," replied Rough Draft.

The teacher tilted her head a little, then looked down at Silver, "You poor thing. Don't you worry, we'll take good care of you."

Silver's ears pinned back as he wondered at her words. What did... "Oh! I'm not an orphan!" he protested.

The teacher gently ruffled the top of Silver's head, "Of course not. You have a nice-looking guardian right there. Now you run along and play in the yard while we do some boring paperwork." She nudged Silver and directed towards the archway they entered from, "It will be just a minute."

Silver didn't want to go and his traitorous body broadcast this fact loudly with a trembling of a lip, the lay of his ears, and even the way his tail flicked uncertainty. Rough drew him in suddenly, squeezing him and whispering gently, "Go on. You have to meet your classmates anyway." Silver had no good arguments against this. He nodded and slunk off towards the outside, leaving Rough with the teacher.

Rough worked with the teacher, as promised, it was only a few minutes before Silver Lining was an official student in the school. The other fillies and colts would take longer to convince.

Author's Notes:

Welcome to the next chapter in the story!

Sita Duncan, one of our lovely Ponyfinder artists, came through with a nice picture for Silver Lining, which you can see as the story picture.

New schools and cities are intimidating, so Silver may have made a few mistakes in his report of the events, be gentle on the new colt, but don't spare the corrections. How else can we learn?

2 - Sister Dearest

Luna sat on a plush cushion as Celestia circled her. Celestia looked displeased in that subtle way that Celestia had. Luna loathed to have it turned on her, that motherly scorn meant to be directed at naughty foals. "Do you know why you are here?" asked Celestia.

Luna shook her head. "I am afraid I do not, sister. I was only performing my duties."

Celestia sighed softly. "Let us begin with the new pony that now lives in Equestria."

"Of his own volition," spoke Luna. "There are witnesses. By the treaty of--"

"Luna," spoke Celestia, cutting her off. "That treaty was rescinded six hundred years ago. The other tribes of the world feared that Equestria would consume them, not in war, but with magical conversion, be it through kindness or subversion."

Luna's ears twitched. "I did not know. Why is the spell still legal?"

Celestia gestured towards a wide window. "For the average pony, a species changing spell would hardly last a week at best. It is only with alicorn might that it can be made to endure. Even Twilight Sparkle could not manage a permanent change until she better controlled her new princess status, but she knows better."

"Untruth!" spoke Luna, striking the ground with a hoof. "The lady Sparkle had her hooves on him first, and left him as a hybrid."

"Then tell me," bade Celestia. "I am still your sister. I want to hear your side."

Luna nodded. "Very well. The human David was victim of a species spell cast by an under-graded unicorn, one Lyra Heartstrings. She used his friend, Rough Draft, as a template. This was the second poorly woven enchantment put on the human since his arrival in Equestria. He happened upon Twilight Sparkle and she attempted to undo the mistake. For reasons I know not, she did not undo the damage to his aetheric net, and simply applied overwhelming force to the situation. Human David was left in a hybrid status, half pony, half human."

Celestia nodded slowly. "That was... regrettable thinking, though his body would have eventually healed on its own. That did not require your intervention."

Luna waved a hoof. "That is only the start, not the end, dear sister. Lyra was emotionally uncentered when she laid her spell, and it affected Human David strongly, increasing his attraction to ponies, Lyra in particular."

Celestia's reaction was strong as her serene visage gave way to worry. "Was he?"

Luna shook her head. "They did nothing untoward, though they had plans to become a herd. Fortunately, her earth pony friend, Sweetie Drops, was a voice of reason and kept either of them from acting on their base urges. A group of concerned ponies took note of Human David's enchanted state and brought him in for help. That is when I arrived to find him being examined by one Trixie Lulamoon."

Celestia perked an ear. "Lulamoon. She has had an interesting background. Was she behaving?"

Luna nodded then. "She was quite professional. She made an accurate assessment of the situation. I then offered to turn the human David back to normal, with his attraction removed, but he denied it. He claimed he'd rather be able to see ponies as people and possible lovers than to live on in isolation." She shrank a little. "I asked him why he did not simply become a pony entirely then."

Celestia gave a soft sigh, moving up and wrapping a wing around Luna. "Your heart was in the right place, my sister. According to law, you should return him to his former state, but this is impossible."

Luna looked surprised a moment, but then nodded. "Ah, of course. There is no human template to use."

Celestia pointed at Luna with a hoof. "Exactly so. There are no humans left, and there will likely never be. Let us move on. Why a foal?"

"That was his idea," said Luna defensively. "He wanted to start again. I saw little harm in it, if he truly wished to learn the ways of Equestria from the start, the body of a foal would serve the purpose."

Celestia moved around to sit in front of Luna. "Luna. Do you know how many great and wonderful ponies I have watched die over these last thousand years?"

Luna trembled in place, but did not reply to this question. There was no good answer that came to mind.

"Too many," said Celestia. "I dare not use that magic. If I spare one pony the cruel lash of age, then by what right do I deny the next? It is too great a responsibility. We are not gods."

Luna flicked her ears back. "He was not a pony."

Celestia nodded. "No. No he was not. Since the law does not cover humans, which no longer exist, we can forgive this." Her wings gently drew around, pulling Luna's snout upwards to look Celestia in the eye. "I love you, Luna. Please don't do that again."

Luna smiled, then drew a curious device from a pocket. Changing the topic quickly, she held it up for Celestia. "Look at this. The human David had it."

Celestia raised an ear. "He gave his things willingly?"

Luna shook her head a little. "He has given himself to us entirely for thirty years. He belongs to the crown, as the unicorn colt Silver Lining. I claimed his things and he did not object."

Celestia looked at the strange artifact. "What does it do? It is shiny on one side, and dark on the other. I see no obvious function for it." She depressed the buttons she could see on it, but the phone made no response, its batteries long dead.

Luna set it down gently. "I have no idea, but there is more." She drew out the several cards, and the rubber ball. "This in particular. Human David--"

"You should call him Silver Lining," interrupted Celestia. "Silver Lining is our squire for now, and lives on."

"Yes, Silver Lining said this." She pointed at the rubber ball. "Has many of his possessions from his home world. I was thinking to summon him and have him explain each thing's use."

Celestia peered into the ball, and the desk contained within. "I see some books, and many things I do not recognize. Are those dolls? What strange world did Silver Lining come from?"

Luna extended a wing. "I visited his dreams several times. They offered glimpses of it. They used frightful magic with a casual indifference, but his dreams were so scattered and disjointed, I could not say for certain where the dream ends and truth begins. Asking him seems the expedient route."

"I would like to know as well. When will he be here?" asked Celestia.

Luna looked towards the window. "He was in the care of Trixie Lulamoon and Rough Draft and they were told to enroll him in school here, in Canterlot."

Celestia smiled gently. "We'll let them settle. Extend an invitation for a brunch over the week's end and maybe we can get some answers, and properly meet our squire. Tell me, is he cute?"

Luna snorted out a half chuckle. "Sister, he is adorable. For being a former adult, he has taken his new youth well. He was laughing with joy when he couldn't stand properly. You don't intend to make him an active member of the court, do you?"

Celestia shook her head. "A colt? Of course not. But if he did swear to be property of the crown for so long, he will be of proper age soon enough. We will show him the kindness of Equestria, but he will work for his keep as well."

Luna seemed to agree with this. "A new perspective to look at things could be helpful. I hope that he adapts to his new life well."

Author's Notes:

The royal sisters talk about Silver Lining behind his back. Surely there will no consequences of this for Silver to worry about!

Luna has a habit of occasionally slipping into old Equestrian, so watch out for typos.

3 - Uh, Hi?

Silver cautiously crept from the building into the bright light of Celestia's sun. Some of the foals spotted him right away and came bounding over to greet him. "Hi!" squeaked a little filly with a frilly bow in her curly red hair. "Are you gonna go to school here?"

A colt that was even more leg heavy than Silver bobbed his pink-furred head. "'Course he is, or he wouldn't be here, right?"

A unicorn filly gave the colt a shove. "You're the stupid one," proclaimed the peach-colored filly. "He could be visiting, or maybe his father is picking a school."

The bow wielder leaned in closer to the quiet Silver. "What's your name? I'm Lily Jump." She bobbled her head, then looked at Silver expectantly.

Silver decided playing it silent would draw the wrong kind of attention. "Uh, hi. Nice to meet you, Lily Jump. I'm really bad at names, so if I get that wrong, it's not meant to be mean." He offered a hoof. "I'm Silver Lining."

The unicorn filly accepted the hoof first. "Charmed," she said in a cultured tone. "I'm Soft Blush. Is that your butler speaking to misses Butter Scotch?"

"No way," proclaimed the colt. "That's his dad. It's so obvious!" The colt offered a hoof next. "I'm Meadow Leaper! Do you play hoofball?"

These were his classmates. Silver decided he could have had worse and tried to be friendly. With a soft smile he shook his head. "I never played it before, but I could try?"

He began to explain, but was interrupted as Rough Draft and Butter Scotch stepped out of the building. "Children," called out Butter Scotch. "Come inside. Let's resume class." The students rushed to fill the building with foalish squeals of excitement and a few moans at the end of play time.

Silver moved for Rough Draft, but the larger brown pony held up a hoof. "Not so fast, Silver. You're starting school now."

Silver's ears perked up. "What, now? Shouldn't I come in the morning?"

Butter Scotch smiled down at Silver. "Don't worry. Just try your best and we'll have you up to speed in no time at all. Do you know how to get home, Silver Lining?"

Silver looked up at Rough again before allowing his gaze to fall to Butter and shaking his head slowly. "I... wasn't paying close attention when we came today."

Butter reached and patted the top of Silver's head. "I'll walk you home today. Now let's get moving." All too quickly, Butter was nudging him along into the class.

Silver Lining was faced with rows of desks, most of which were occupied by eager looking colts and fillies. He moved for an empty one and hesitated. Glancing at the other students, he wriggled up onto the seat as best he could, imitating their posture. It felt kind of interesting to be sitting upright like this, almost human.

"Now class..." began Butter Scotch, leaping right into the lesson. She was explaining what a cutie mark was, but Silver already knew what one was, even if he didn't have one yet, a fact that didn't seem to go unnoticed. Several fillies seemed to point him out in guarded whispers between giggles. Silver rolled his eyes. He made a casual oath to himself silently to not become this school's Cutie Mark Crusaders. He'd get his butt mark when he was good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

"Misses Butter Scotch," came the cultured tone of Peach Blush. "What does it mean if a pony doesn't get a cutie mark?"

Butter Scotch tilted her head. "Though rare, some ponies don't find their special talent well into adulthood. This is why we try to give all you fillies and colts plenty of chances to experience things and discover what really motivates you. A grown pony without a cutie mark is lost." She flashed a bright smile. "Not that I expect anypony in here to have that problem, but don't worry, none of you are old enough yet for there to be any issue with still looking for that special talent that calls you." Her eyes wandered, picking out the ponies in the class without marks, which included looking at her newest student.

The lesson went on, talking about certain famous cutie marks, such as the ones adorning the flanks of Celestia and Luna. "There are others, which are recognized from the moment of appearance for their powerful destinies. For instance, our newest princess, Twilight Sparkle, was recognized and became the personal student of Princess Celestia after her mark was revealed. While others, such as Princess Cadance, wasn't fully realized until far later in her life, but now she's princess of the Crystal Empire." She tapped the chalkboard with a pointer stick she held in her snout. "Not that a grand destiny is needed to be a good pony."

"I wanna be a princess," came a coltish voice from behind Silver before a soft thud made his ears curl backwards towards it.

A filly's voice whispered harshly, "You can't be a princess, dummy. Colts don't get to be princesses."

The lesson finished without much else drawing Silver's attention, and they went on into some math problems. Silver's eyes grew heavy. He tried to shake himself awake, but it was no use. He couldn't stay awake in class as a human, being a pony wasn't making it any easier. Ugh, multiplication? Soon he was out like a light.

His nap was interrupted as the teacher's pointing stick struck his desk with a loud crack. "Silver Lining." He jerked away and looked around frantically before he remembered where he was and looked up at Butter, smiling nervously. She gently pat him on the head. "Show us how to do this problem. Your father said you were good at math."

Silver slid to his hooves and approached the front. On the chalkboard was written 5 + (10 * 4) . Silver smiled a little as he looked around for the chalk. He found it, but he had no fingers to grab it with. Not wanting to look stupid, he grabbed it in his mouth and got to drawing. His handwriting with fingers was... questionable. With a mouth, only worse. Still, write it he did. He drew out:

5 + 40

He put the chalk down, licking his lips to clear them of the chalky flavor. Butter seemed pleased and resumed the lesson as Silver returned to his seat. Some of the other foals were less impressed, making remarks on his poor 'mouthponyship'. Ugh, was that even a word? Silver thrust the insults aside, looking forward to the day when he'd mastered levitation and wouldn't have to mouth things anymore.

A bell rung, making Silver swing his head sharply to see the bright red device ringing eagerly. The other colts and fillies were on their hooves, moving to depart.

"Class," came Butter's voice. "Don't forget your reading assignment is due tomorrow." Soft groans were her reply, and the room was soon emptied save Silver and Butter.

Butter approached Silver's desk. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Silver shook his head. "Not all bad," he agreed, though he still didn't like school all that much. No reason to annoy the teacher with whining though, or so he figured. "Should I have some books?"

Butter shook her head. "Your father forgot to get you a saddlebag. He'll make sure you have one for tomorrow and I'll give you your books then. Don't worry about that assignment. Where did you go to school before?"

Silver tensed. "Uh, far away. A place called Coram."

Butter looked perplexed. "I never heard of a town called that before. I'm glad they taught you well. Your father said you were behind in social studies, so I'm going to give you a few special assignments tomorrow." When Silver's face fell, she just smiled gently. "Don't worry, it's just some reading. Do you like reading, Silver Lining?"

He nodded. "As long as it's interesting. I used to read all the time."

Butter beamed. "That's great. Then you should have no trouble at all. Come along, I'll take you home now."

True to her word, Butter Scotch led the way through the city. Silver paid attention, even if they would have a new home soon. It was never a bad idea to learn the lay of the land. He waved at her as she departed, leaving him at the manor. He trotted up to the door and softly knocked. The butler arrived shortly and looked down at Silver. "You are expected." He stepped out of the way and allowed Silver in. In the living room stood Trixie with a captivated Fancy Pants and Fleur Dis Lee. The two rich ponies were clapping their forehooves appreciatively as Trixie kept them captivated with displays of magic and chicanery.

Fleur Dis Lee looked over when Silver was walking past. "There, look." She pointed directly at him.

Fancy Pants looked where she pointed. "I say, you were quite right, my dear. He really does have a resemblance."

Trixie looked confused, her show petering to a halt. "What does he resemble?"

Fancy Pants directed a hoof at Trixie. "You, my dear. He has your mane and tail color, and that bright glint in his eyes."

Fleur Dis Lee nodded with a smile. "And he has the fur color of the stallion she is with."

Fancy Pants adopted a shocked expression. "Miss Lulamoon! If you... have had a colt, you should tell us. We are your friends."

Trixie waved her hooves wildly. "No no no no no! Trixie has not had any colts!"

Fleur Dis Lee half-lidded her eyes, then waved Silver closer. "Come here you adorable little thing."

Silver hesitated, but decided to come over. He smiled at Fleur Dis Lee gently. "Yes ma'am?"

Her hooves moved to his cheeks and she turned his head left, then right. A shimmer of her magic had his lips open as she inspected his teeth and turned him around. "We can keep a secret, dear. Your colt is spotless, you should be proud."

Silver flushed softly through his fur, unsure how to feel being casually handled. Colt in body, but grown in mind, his thoughts wandered towards what else the pretty unicorn could do without complaints from him. Fancy Pants nodded in support of his wife. "There's nothing to be ashamed of around us, Miss Lulamoon. We want to help, as friends. I know the lower-born sometimes have... issues, but you're our friend."

Trixie was as red as Silver, looking quite unsure what to say. "Trixie is very glad to have such good friends, but she has found a plac--"

"Where?" asked Fleur Dis Lee.

Trixie said an address and Fancy Pants frowned. "That won't do! Not for our favorite entertainer. You can have our spring home. We rarely use it anyway."

Fleur Dis Lee bobbed her head. "Oh that would be lovely. I'd love to see it seeing some use. Please say yes, Trixie. It would be a delight to know a young family was there."

A card floated over to the stunned Trixie and tucked into the brim of her pointy hat. "I won't take no for an answer," insisted Fancy Pants.

Trixie gave a stiff nod. "Then Trixie will graciously accept. You are too kind."

Fleur smiled. "Our friends tell us that all the time. But what is the purpose of money if you can't make a few ponies happy with it?"

Fancy Pants agreed as he leaned in closer to Fleur. "Precisely. I can think of no better use for that quaint little house than the raising of such a fine colt."

Soon Trixie and Silver had managed to excuse themselves and entered the bedroom to find Rough Draft writing busily in a book. He looked up at them and perked an ear. "Did something happen?"

"I was felt up by Fleur," said Silver, drawing a loud snort from Rough Draft.

Trixie drew the card from her hat with her magic. "We've been given a new place to live. Trixie admits... it is much larger than what Trixie had put together. We should go there now, so we are ready for tomorrow."

Rough Draft closed the book he was working on and began packing his few things. "Alright, but you have to tell me all about it on the way."

Author's Notes:

First day of school! New digs! Things are looking up and nothing could go wrong!

Except typos.

Three chapters in one day? Why not?!

4 - Welcome Home

Silver Lining trotted alongside Rough Draft and Trixie, thinking on the day. Despite feeling that it was relatively short, a creeping drowsiness was filling his steps and his thoughts. Without any vocal prompting, Rough Draft snatched up Silver and he was soon riding the larger earth pony. He murmured a faint complaint, but sleep descended fast and completely atop the safe warmth of Rough Draft.

Trixie glanced up at the colt before looking sidelong at Rough. "This has gotten more complicated than Trixie had first predicted, she admits."

Rough nodded softly as he trotted along the evening roads. "I'll second that. I thought today would be the last day of the convention, but here I am, moving into a whole new city instead."

Trixie gave a wan smile. "Does it upset you?"

Rough quickly shook his head. "No! I mean... He's still my friend, even if he isn't exactly how I imagined him. He needs me..."

Trixie's smiled deepened a little as she taunted, "Somepony sounds more like a father than a friend."

Rough snorted, "I would protect him even if he was still a human. Don't forget the bandages I got trying to do just that."

"Speaking of which," said Trixie as she looked Rough from head to tail. "You healed quickly."

"Earth pony durability," said Rough with a bit of pride. "It goes well with our stubborn streak. I'm not letting him down, even if he did decide to change species. Especially now."

"Especially?" asked Trixie. They had arrived at the new house. It was a single story house made of well chiseled stone on the outside. Lights led the way up its driveway towards the door. There was a garage for a carriage or similar vehicle. For a non-elite, it was luxury for Canterlot. Trixie whistled softly as she looked it over. "They were too kind. There is plenty room here for all of us." She trotted up towards the door, producing the key along the way.

Rough followed after Trixie. "Yes especially. He's so small now... Somepony could just snatch him away, like in Manehattan..."

Trixie turned to see Rough was fighting tears and frustration. "You did your best, Rough. Trixie thinks you have been a fine friend, and more, to Silver."

Rough gestured to the door. "Go on and open it."

Trixie lifted the key into position with her magic, but her eyes remained on Rough. "Trixie means it. We will keep him safe. For now, put him to bed."

The door was pushed open to reveal a well-furnished living room. Trixie saw a light switch and, with a flick, light was summoned. "Electrical lighting, how luxurious," Trixie said with a smile, thinking back to her many nights in her old carriage with a gas lantern or even her humble apartment in Manhattan. "Trixie is rewarded for her service!"

Rough Draft walked in, kicking the door shut lightly behind himself before moving through the clean hallways to peek through the doors on either side. The first door proved to be a bathroom, but the tub within was large enough for two full grown ponies to use at once easily. He moved to the next door and found a den with what appeared to be a stereo system of some kind. At the third door he found what appeared to be a master bedroom. Making mental note of it, he pressed on. Luck was with him, the next door was a guest bedroom. It was a little smaller, but still very nice.

Deciding it was a better fit for a colt, Rough Draft trotted in and gently set Silver on the plush bed there. He pulled out a small set of saddlebags from his own bag and set it on the dresser where Silver Lining could see it when he woke up. When he exited the room, Trixie was standing there. The door closed behind him, likely with Trixie's magic. She gestured towards the room with her horn. "Is he still asleep?"

Rough nodded and trotted around her, moving for the kitchen. She followed along without prompting. Rough asked, "So, you asked me. Now I'll ask, does it bother you?"

Trixie closed her eyes and shook her head with confidence, "Trixie is fine being the Helpful and Maternal Trixie for now. He is eager to learn from Trixie, and he listens when Trixie says to do something." She went quiet a moment before adding, "He also understands Trixie."

Rough perked an ear as he pulled open the fridge. A peek inside revealed there was a jug of some kind of juice within. He sniffed it, still fresh. He pulled the jug free in his mouth and set it on the counter. "How do you mean?"

"Trixie is not comfortable talking about it," said Trixie right before she went right on talking about it anyway, "But since you ask, Trixie will be magnanimous and tell you. He saw Trixie somehow, knew of her hard times. He looked at her with sad eyes and said he liked Trixie just the way she is, and said she was not treated well." Trixie hefted up the jug with her magic and poured two cups quickly, nudging one towards Rough Draft. "Every time Trixie thinks about his strange human face, she feels sad and happy together. Trixie thinks he really likes Trixie, as a pony."

Rough smiled a little. "You have a... unique way of handling the world, and other ponies." Trixie raised a brow and looked guarded. Rough reached across the countertop and gently booped her on the nose. "But I agree with David. The David that said that, and the Silver now. You are a good pony."

Trixie gave a light smile before she sipped from her juice. "Of course Trixie is a good pony! She is the best pony!" Her tone was defiant and defensive, but her posture showed her relief. Rough moved around to her and simply stood beside her. He made no attempt to touch her, he didn't have the courage, but standing close and sharing the drink with her seemed good enough. She apparently agreed, and they drained their glasses in companionable silence.

Rough nodded towards the master bedroom. "I should get some sleep. You're going to be OK?"

"Trixie will be fine," said Trixie with a toss of her mane. "Go and sleep."

Rough moved to put the jug away, but Trixie lifted it away from him. "Trixie is still thirsty. She will put it back." Rough nodded and moved to the bedroom. They exchanged soft good nights and the door closed behind him. Trixie sat alone in the dark, looking thoughtful until a soft sound caught her attention. There was Silver, emerging from the bathroom and approaching her with a sleepy smile.

"Hello Silver," she said as he sat down beside her.

"Hey Trixie," he replied, "Do we have time for another magic lesson?"

Trixie perked an ear at him. "You looked tired. Are you certain?"

Silver bobbed his head. "I have the light magic down. I don't want to taste chalk again."

Trixie smirked at that. "Trixie can remember the taste of chalk and does not favor it either. Very well, since you have come before the Educational and Inspiring Trixie, she will teach you."

Silver leaned forward and nuzzled her side gently. "You're the best."

Trixie smiled brightly. "Trixie knows this. Follow Trixie."

Trixie led Silver into the den and set out five marbles on the table. "Trixie will teach you what you want to know most. Tonight we cover the holding and manipulating of things with your horn."

Silver sat across from her at the table, clapping his forehooves excitedly. "Yes, please! What do I have to do?"

Trixie's magic wrapped around a marble and lifted it. "We will start small. Success is one marble lifted. Eventually, under Trixie's tutelage, you will lift all five and more. You know how to fill your body with your magic, yes?"

Silver Lining let the internal channels open, feeling his body temperature begin to rise. "Yes."

"Good, now, instead of letting it all out, which makes sparks or light," explained Trixie. "You must channel it through the outer portion of your horn. From there, you can direct it. You cannot get the magic to flow properly to the outer layer without firm control of the flow. Now you see why Trixie had you practice your light first?"

Silver nodded slowly. "That... makes perfect sense. If you let the magic out through the middle, you get light. Keep it towards the outside, and you get fine control?"

Trixie clapped her hooves together. "Precisely. There are some spells that require central channeling, for power, and even more that need some magic to flow in both places. Learning how to control channeling is the first and most important skill for a unicorn. Show Trixie your light. Make it as bright as you can without sparking or sputtering."

Silver took a slow breath as he relaxed the muscle that allowed magic to flow. The warmth flowed up into his horn and it began to glow soft silvery light, illuminating the dim room all around himself. As he focused on increasing the flow within himself, controlling the light became steadily more difficult. It kept wanting to dance or spark and he stuck out his tongue as he concentrated, but soon had the room well lit.

Trixie nodded. "Just as Trixie expects from any pupil of Trixie. Now, hold that, no matter how odd this may feel." He saw her magic go for his horn and the light cut off as the magic was forced away from that central channel into a new place. He gasped loudly as tingling erupted all along his horn with magic flooding new portions of his horn. It was all he could do to keep the magic flowing strongly despite how strange it all felt. "Do you feel that?" He nodded quickly. "Good. Trixie wants you to learn this feeling." She withdrew her magic and the magic snapped back to the center. His horn began to spark and fizz wildly for a moment before Silver could get it back under control.

With Trixie watching him, he tried to push the magic back into that other place on his own. He reached for that strange feeling, but struggling with all his might only got some magic to flow to both. Trixie stepped in, with her magic, showing him what it felt like over and over. Even when Silver got frustrated, she pressed him on. By the time the clock in the room struck midnight, he had the magic flowing through his outer horn and was smiling broadly at his accomplishment.

"Very good," said Trixie. "Trixie will want you to practice this. When you are in boring parts of class, practice channeling. That is a better use of time than napping."

Silver's magic cut off as he jerked. "What? You heard about that?"

Trixie nodded. "Trixie knows many things." She booped Silver on the nose with her hoof. The fleshy interior of her hoof felt funny and comforting on his nose. "Or Trixie guessed and you confirmed for Trixie. Don't fall asleep in class."

Silver blushed softly. "Yes Trixie." He took a slow breath and began channeling the force. At first it was light, but he pushed it outwards. "Now what?"

Trixie tilted her head. "Trixie would say practice first, but Trixie is no fool. If Trixie does not tell you, you will try on your own." Silver said nothing, but knew she was right. "So Trixie will tell you, so she can be here. Take the magic on the outside of your horn. You have more control over this magic. Reach with it. As you said when you first wanted to learn, this is done with thought."

Was it that easy? Silver grinned a little and looked towards the marbles. He envisioned his old fingers and grabbed a marble right off the table. He was so surprised and delighted that his control lapsed. His horn turned to sparks as the marble dropped to the floor.

Trixie tilted her head. "Trixie expected that to take longer. Trixie has a test. Pick up two marbles."

Silver regained control over the forces within himself and soon was back in the right state, magic humming through his horn. He imagined two hands, reaching and grabbing two marbles and lifting them up.

"Very good, now make them circle," ordered Trixie.

Silver imagined the two hands spinning around with the marbles and they did so. Trixie took off her pointed hat and set it on the table. "Put Trixie's hat back on her head properly, do not forget Trixie's ears."

Silver set the marbles down and picked up the hat with his mind, imagining those ghost hands setting it on Trixie's head and guiding her ears through the slits. He then gave her a soft pet along the mane.

Trixie snorted at the pet. "Don't get too bold, student." Trixie tapped her chin thoughtfully, then asked, "What are you imagining?"

"My fingers," replied Silver. "They do whatever I want them to."

Trixie smiled. "Of course. You had hands, and fingers. It is easy for you to imagine such manipulation. For unicorn foals, they are moving from their mouths and hooves to this. Many unicorns never get past that level of dexterity."

Silver looked back to the marbles, grabbing two, then considering a moment before deciding, why not, and envisioning three more hands, each holding a marble. It wasn't as easy to keep the clear mental image of five whole hands and they wobbled dangerously. All the focus required to keep the hands made his concentration on his horn falter. The marbles fell as he began to spark wildly and muttered a most un-child-like swear.

Trixie shook her head. "You have done very well, as Trixie would expect from a student of hers. Practice channeling. Even if you are good at imagining, without complete mastery of channeling, you will never be good at magic."

Silver slumped in place, fatigue suddenly pulling heavily. Trixie frowned. "You have expended too much energy." Her magic wrapped around Silver, lifting him into the air as she trotted to the kitchen. She quickly poured him a glass of juice and offered it to him. He sipped from the glass. Mmm. It tasted like raspberries and cherries. Silver quickly gulped down the rest as Trixie tilted the glass in her magical grip. Energy began to perk up in him, but he was still tired.

"Did you eat dinner?" asked Trixie. Silver shook his head. "Tsk," said Trixie with a displeased expression. She held him there, floating in the air as she began to assemble a salad. Silver made a bit of a swimming motion, pedaling his hooves in the air, but there was no friction to be found in Trixie's magic.

"So," said Silver. "Am I bothering you?"

Trixie perked an ear. "What makes you ask Trixie this?"

Silver shrugged. "You were a single mare with your own, you know, plans." His ears fell a little. "And then I showed up? I didn't intend for Luna to make me your responsibility."

Trixie trotted along, holding the bowl of greens, tomatoes, and nuts along with the still hovering Silver. "Did you wish for another teacher?"

Silver shook his head quickly. "It is... an honor to learn magic from Trixie, uh, you."

Trixie smiled up at Silver before setting him down and the bowl just before him. "It is an honor to be your teacher," replied Trixie. "Trixie has foalsat before, but she never taught an adult like this."

Silver raised a brow at her and she shook her head. "Trixie is serious. You may have a young body, but you are an adult. You think like one. But then..." She rolled a hoof while Silver began devouring his meal. "You are also so new. Trixie thinks you will go in directions Trixie would not think to go." Trixie leaned in with a grin. "Trixie thinks you will make many big messes that Trixie will have to clean up."

Silver focused on his horn, but Trixie put a hoof on it, fizzling it before he could do anything. "You are not yet skilled enough to surprise Trixie. Eat." Silver nodded and put his attention on his food. The collection of fruits, veggies, and nuts were simply divine to his tongue and he made short work of the entire bowl. He still didn't feel full, but he didn't feel hungry either.

"Why aren't I full?" he asked of Trixie, looking up at her.

Trixie snorted. "You tell Trixie. Trixie has told you enough to figure it out."

Silver frowned a little. "Was channeling the magic that draining?"

Trixie nodded. "Of course. You are still untrained. You waste so much just getting the magic in the right place before you even begin to do anything with it. You will be hungry often. Trixie will prepare some snacks for you to take to school. It is not unexpected for unicorns to nibble on something, especially if they are learning magic." She tapped her chin. "Trixie will give you a note to give to your teacher, so she knows you are learning from Trixie."

Silver gave a warm smile. "Are you sure you were never a mother? You're so good at it."

Trixie flushed hotly. "No Trixie has not! But Trixie is good at anything Trixie decides to do."

Silver nodded. "Yes Trixie is." Trixie raised a brow when he used her method of speaking.

"Are you mocking Trixie?"

Silver was quick to shake his head. "I wouldn't dream of mocking my favorite unicorn. Thank you, Trixie. I mean it." He rose to his hooves and focused his magic again. That time, Trixie did not stop him. He pushed the magic into the right place, then reached with his ghostly fingers, gently petting Trixie along her mane. Her hoof snapped out and bopped him on the horn, cutting off the magic with a squeak of surprise from Silver.

"Stop doing that," ordered Trixie. "Trixie is not some dog that needs petting."

Silver rubbed his own horn, which felt a little sore. Maybe it was from being interrupted in the middle of movement? Silver wasn't sure, but he turned his attention back to Trixie. "Sorry. I'm not that good at being affectionate, but I want to be. You and Rough make me feel so... wanted, and safe."

Trixie looked unsure of what to say. She took the easy way out and pointed to his room. "You need your sleep. School is tomorrow, and Trixie will not have you being late."

Silver trotted past her with a happy smile on his face, and was soon in his room. Trixie gathered the abandoned bowl and set it in the sink before she considered her own sleeping arrangements. Peeking in each room she found there were only two bedrooms. One had Rough Draft curled up on the large bed in the master bedroom, and the smaller had Silver Lining sprawled out on the other. Trixie sighed before entering the master bedroom and curling up opposite of Rough Draft. Soon everyone in the house was asleep, recharging for the next day in Canterlot.

Author's Notes:

End of the first full day in canterlot, as typed while I should be cooling down for sleep, but the words! They couldn't be stopped!

Writing with Chalk is not easy, especially in your mouth, so expect typos and report them for proper termination.

5 - Big Issues

Silver trotted through the streets of Canterlot. It was bright and early. His saddlebags were comfortable and matched his brown fur nicely. The sun was warm and the ponies just as interesting to watch as ever they had been. Canterlot ponies were well-dressed as a whole, making him feel a little underdressed in comparison. Maybe he should ask Rough Draft and Trixie about clothes shopping? He put the thought aside as he approached the school.

He arrived with plenty of time. A glance at a clock hanging on the side of a building showed there was twenty minutes before class began. He trotted onto the playground area and sat on his haunches, unsure what to do with the twenty minutes until a shadow fell over him. He glanced over to see a large earth pony colt frowning at him. "Hi," he offered, smiling. Say hello and smile, it could never hurt, or so was his philosophy.

The big colt snorted and gave Silver a shove, sending him to the ground easily on his less-than-perfect balance. "Don't get smart with me. Think you're so clever? This is my turf!"

Silver went through a few emotions, feeling surprised at first at the taste of grass (not bad) and dirt (less good). He pulled himself up to his hooves only to be shoved over again. The other colts and fillies stayed away, not willing to get involved. "Look, I'm not trying to make trouble," said Silver as surprise started to fade to a small mote of building ire.

The bigger colt shoved him again, grinding his face along the dirt without even letting him stand. "My name's Rough Tumble, and I live up to that name. Now who's the boss of this playground? Say it."

Silver trembled. He flashed back to equally terrible human bullies he had met when he was in school. He didn't have magic then. He let the magic build within him and quickly released it into his outer horn as Trixie had showed him. Too much must have spilled into the central channel, because Tumble roared and leaped upon him. Silver's breath was knocked free under the crushing weight as the magic fizzled away.

"You think you can fight me?" asked Rough Tumble, standing up over Silver Lining and driving a hoof down into Silver's back painfully. "You're nothing! I bet you can't even use that horn, you blank flank runt!"

Silver seethed even as tears stung his eyes. This was somehow worse than being punched in the face over a candy bar. That was just as senseless, but it had been over right away. This bully was trying to break him. Silver released the magic again, his anger giving focus. He imagined his hands grabbing the bully around the midsection and hauling him up and off of Silver. When the weight suddenly vanished, Silver sprung up and dashed away a few steps before turning. The moment of distraction was enough to release Tumble, who fell to the ground with a grunt.

"I'm going to rearrange your face so hard, your father won't recognize you," roared Tumble. He pawed at the ground once, kicking up a tuft of grass before he charged at Silver. Silver never felt the focus snap back in so quickly.

He put up a firm imagined palm, "Talk to the hand!" None of the ponies present could see his hand, but Tumble felt it as he ran face first into his silvery construct. Silver made its fingers curl around him. His horn began to spark, not with a lack of control, as the hand did begin to squeeze Tumble. "You fucking jerk!" shouted Silver, trembling, "Just had... to pick on the new kid?" He shook Tumble around in his grip, "Did that make you feel better? Do you feel less like a little bastard?" Tears began to flow hotly from Silver's eyes as he rattled the shocked Tumble vigorously, "Just leave me alone! Leave me alone!" The silvery hand faded away, letting Tumble sail away from its last motion and roll over in the grass.

Silver's horn hurt terribly, as did his back. His chest ached as soft sobs forced their way free and he collapsed to the ground. A hoof gently rested on his shoulder. Silver looked up through his tears to see Meadow Leaper smiling down at him. "It's OK," said Meadow Leaper. The friendly colt helped Silver up to his hooves, then suddenly hugged him. "It's OK."

Silver's tears only intensified as he was hugged. He really wanted a hug, and he got one. The simple satisfaction was almost too much. He wrapped his forelegs back around Meadow Leaper, hugging him back and sobbing against him.

Rough Tumble had got himself back to his hooves on his own, snorting at Silver's display. "Little cryfoal. You got lucky." He turned away from them and stomped off onto the playground, the other colts and fillies moving away from him.

A female voice called out, "Are you OK Silver Lining?"

"He'll be fine," said Meadow Leaper. He patted Silver on the withers, "Don't let Rough Tumble get you down. You took care of him good!"

Silver smiled and sat on his haunches, looking around. It was Lily Jump that had spoke up about him. He smiled at her, "Thanks for checking, Lily. I'm OK." He wiped away tears with a fetlock.

Soft Blush trotted over to join the group, "I say, that was awfully brutish, but your skill is hard to not notice. You were mouthing the chalk just yesterday, how did you advance so quickly?"

Silver felt a bit of pride fill the ache in his chest, "I had the best teacher. Trixie wouldn't let me quit even when I wanted to a few times."

Soft Blush raised a brow, "Trixie Lulamoon? The performer? I didn't know she was a teacher."

Silver shook his head, "She is, for me."

The bell went off suddenly, summoning the colts and fillies in to class. As they went, Meadow Leaper whispered, "Where'd you learn those words? You have a potty mouth." He sounded more admiring than admonishing, but Silver blushed gently with shame at having cursed so vehemently in front of all those foals.

School went by without any further explosions. As Trixie had commanded, he spent the boring times working on his channeling. The note he'd given to Butter Scotch explained that he would be nibbling on snacks and glowing occasionally, which he did. The little granola bars Trixie had made were delicious! By the time school was over, the horn-ache from the morning had faded away to an unpleasant memory. When the other fillies and colts trotted out, Butter approached Silver with a set of books held in her mouth, bound by a strap. She set it on his desk, "Here you are." She pointed with a hoof at one with a yellow cover, "I want you to start reading this. See if you can't get through the first chapter by the weekend."

Silver nodded quickly. Eager to practice, he sent out his silver hands and picked up the books. He giggled with a simple joy as he lifted them up and set them in his saddlebags. Butter raised a brow, "It's very good to see you're getting better, but we shouldn't use magic on other ponies." She leaned in, "Especially not to attack them."

Silver's ears fell, "He was beating me up! I was defending myself."

Butter nodded, "Mister Tumble has been spoken to." She put a hoof on his shoulder, "But you be a good pony. It doesn't feel good to hurt other ponies, right?"

Silver shook his head quickly and Butter smiled, "I know it doesn't. Just be mindful."

Silver trotted out of the school, laden with new books. He quickly made his way home, eager to drop them off. Trixie was nowhere to be seen, but Rough Draft was writing something in the den. After dropping off his books, Silver trotted into the den, "Hey Rough! What are you up to?"

Rough looked up from his book, "Writing the book you inspired. How was school?"

Silver wobbled a hoof, "Rough start, but it was alright. What book did I inspire?"

Rough smiled, "Colors of Terra, remember? I'm striking while the iron's hot." He was soon back to writing busily. Silver pondered how much easier it would be for Rough Draft if he had a computer to work on.

Silver focused his magic and gently squeezed Rough Draft around the middle, "Gonna make a snack, want some?"

Rough startled sightly at the embrace, but smiled and nodded. Silver trotted quickly back to the kitchen and set about making some food. That was when he noticed there was no lettuce or tomatoes and even those tasty nuts Trixie had used seemed to be almost out. "We're out of food!"

"Take some money and get some more," advised Rough Draft distractedly from the den, "My bit bag's in the bedroom."

Silver quickly recovered the bag and placed it in his saddlebag, "I'll be back." He was soon out the door and trotting eagerly to the grocery store. Canterlot was too large a city to have the idyllic little markets of Ponyville. This was just as well. Silver knew how to shop in a grocery store, but not so much a marketplace. He quickly began to gather supplies. Some romaine hearts, more of those nuts, milk... He wandered the aisles, filling his saddlebags with food.

"Are you finding everything alright?" asked a mare looking down on Silver. "Your bags are getting a little full."

Silver jumped back in surprise before shaking his head, "Almost done." He pointed, "Check out is over there right?"

The mare nodded, "That it is, young colt."

He returned to shopping, but the mare followed not that far away. He sighed internally. Was she worried he was going to steal the food? Nothing for it but to pretend she wasn't there. The jar of spaghetti sauce he wanted was high up, but magic was the clear answer. He floated the jar down to himself, or so was the idea. The hand wavered at the wrong moment, and the jar fell to the ground with a crash, splattering tomato sauce everywhere. The doting mare hurried up with a frown, shooing Silver away from the mess, "You shouldn't make a mess," she said as if it was his idea to break the jar, "Are you going to pay for that?"

Silver felt a little anger build, but let it go, shoving it aside with a slow breath, "I will, but can you get me another one? I still need a jar." Deciding not to press his luck, he added, "That's the last thing I need." She fetched a jar for him, but didn't give the jar to him. Instead she walked him right up to the check out and placed the jar in front of the checker there. She flashed an insincere smile and trotted off.

Silver frowned a bit but tried to press past the uncomfortable situation. He started placing the rest of his food up in front of the clerk to be tallied and paid quickly before moving to return home with what could become dinner that night and perhaps the next.

Author's Notes:

Pony Land isn't all fun and games. Silver isn't regretting his decisions though.

We let the foals write this chapter. They were adorable with their pencils in their mouths, but they probably left some typos.

6 - Just a Little Lunch

The morning was busy. Rough Draft was in the shower while Trixie was putting on makeup, which Silver Lining had never seen her do before. "What's going on?" he asked, watching her intently.

Trixie perked an ear, then turned to him. "We have been summoned, go get dressed in something nice."

Silver shook his head, "I don't really have anything, nice or not. I kept meaning to ask about that, but no one seemed to care."

Trixie snorted softly, "Hop in the shower after Rough and get clean at least. You are to be on your best behavior, or it will reflect poorly on Trixie."

Silver gave a slow nod and left Trixie to her prettying efforts. Rough soon emerged from the bathroom, looking as groomed as ever he would be. He had a black shirt and pants that Silver thought looked ridiculous on him. "Looking good, Rough," he lied outright as he walked past him into the shower.

Unlike showers back home, the water never seemed to go cold, no matter how long a shower or bath went. He hopped into the tub carefully and got to cleaning. An irresistible urge bubbled up and he began to whistle as his magic hand grabbed a bar of soap and began lathering himself up. As the soap wandered over his anatomy, he began to think of his former human self and how it compared and contrasted with his new equine shell. He still approved of his new appearance. Adorable, fat free, mostly, and did he mention adorable? He wiped the steam away from the mirror with a silver hand and smiled at equine face that smiled back with its wet silver mane. Soon enough he hopped out. His hooves hit the tile and slipped and he found himself face first on the cool bathroom floor, "Ow."

Silver emerged from the bathroom, dry and clean, looking around. Trixie and Rough were by the door, looking to him. "Ready?" asked Rough Draft.

"For?" asked Silver as he stepped towards them, "Should I bring my saddlebags?"

Trixie nodded, "It will do better than nothing, go fetch them."

Silver tried to send his silver hand into his room blindly. The sound of something being knocked over made him laugh nervously and trot in instead. He set the saddlebags in place while making a note to pick up the picture he had knocked off the wall. "Ready!"

They walked together through the city, moving directly for the castle. "So," said Silver, "Are we visiting royalty, or the princesses?"

Rough perked an ear, "The princesses are royalty."

"Is that a yes?" asked Silver. "Stop being so secretive already. I can handle it."

Trixie snorted softly, "Maybe you can 'handle it', but it makes Trixie very nervous. The date is for lunch with not one, but both princesses. Trixie has never been so nervous."

Silver tilted his head, "You've both met Luna before. What's the big deal?"

Rough Draft suddenly plucked Silver up and set him on Rough's back. "We weren't in Canterlot Castle, and it wasn't both of them. See it from our point of view."

Silver did just that, considering Celestia and Luna not as cartoon monarchs, but the true leaders of the land. He rolled his ears back, "I belong to them, don't I?"

Trixie nodded, "That you do, for thirty years. That is a long time, are you ready for it?"

Rough quickly added, "We're definitely not here for that. They wouldn't force a colt to start serving."

"But I'm not a colt," said Silver with some trepidation, "Not where it really counts."

Trixie patted Silver with her magic, "Now you understand the nervousness. Be good, smile, and speak truthfully. Celestia is a kind princess."

The guards allowed them to pass with little formality, "The Princesses await you in the eastern wing, in the garden. Would you like an escort?"

Trixie nodded her head, "T... I would appreciate that." She swallowed back her odd manner of speech before the guard, giving a bright smile before they continued on. Before them walked a gold-armored imperial guard. They walked through the castle and its stained glass windows, its many pieces of art and high ceilings, but then they were outside again. The air was thick with the perfume of flowers. Seated within a gazebo were the royal sisters. Both were perched on cushions that matched their fur colors. Silver could hear them quietly speaking with each other.

Both princesses settled their eyes on their approaching visitors. "You may go," said Luna, dismissing the guard who saluted and marched off.

Celestia locked eyes on the colt riding on Rough Draft's back, "Hello there little one." She sounded like a mother, a kindly mother. "I'm glad you could all make it. Please, be seated." Each pony found a spot, with Silver sliding down to the ground and moving for a cushion of his own.

When he was settled he looked up at Celestia, "Hello Celestia, Luna." He nodded at each as he said their name. "Nice to see you today."

Celestia's smile widened, "It is nice to see you too. Tell me, what do you call yourself? You know our names."

Silver looked between Celestia and Luna. Neither appeared upset with him, or anything in general at the moment. "I was David Silver. Now I am Silver Lining." He perked an ear at them, "Thank you for welcoming me to your kingdom."

Luna nodded, "We have heard little to believe this was a poor decision, but we must impress on you the... delicate nature of things."

Trixie looked interested, and nervous, "Delicate? Will he return to his old self?"

Celestia shook her head, "Luna's magic is too powerful for that. Silver Lining is as he always will be, barring age or misfortune." She looked to him directly, "Do you regret what you have become?"

Silver shook his head, "It's not perfect, but nothing else. I... am alright with it, and my new family."

Luna pointed a wing at Rough Draft, "Your guardian serves well then?"

"He does," said Silver enthusiastically, "And Trixie. They are great."

Celestia nodded lightly. Silver was relaxed, but his two caretakers looked much less so. "What are they to you?" asked Celestia.

Silver frowned a little, "That's a tricky question. When I look at Rough I see my best friend, and my guardian. I know he'd do anything to keep me safe, but I am his friend too, and I want him, you know, to be happy?"

Rough reached over with a hoof and Silver found himself in Rough's lap, being hugged lightly. Silver found little to complain about in Rough's safe presence. He looked on to Trixie, "When I see Trixie, I see myself."

Celestia and Trixie both looked confused at that. "Please, go on," urged Celestia.

"She is like me, and Rough Draft to a degree. We want to be liked, adored, and appreciated. We want to make other people happy, but we often don't know how. We can come off as odd or rude, but we don't mean it. We just want someone who will love us no matter how weird we are and hold us even when we're really sad or angry. She is my teacher, and my friend, and I hope she feels the same way."

Trixie was red and darkening by the moment, but silent. She peered at Silver Lining with equal measures wonder and apprehension.

Luna lifted Silver's old phone into sight in her magic and set it on the table, "What is this?"

Silver Lining reached with a silver hand to grab it, and found Celestia's magic grabbed the hand firmly, holding it in place. "What curious magic you have," spoke Celestia.

Silver tilted his head, "You can see it too?" His surprise made the hand vanish. "I thought I was the only one."

Celestia shook her head, "There are spells that allow a pony to see small amounts of magic, and anypony can see large amounts. I have had many years of practice. Tell me, what was that shape you fashioned? It looked something like a paw, or a minotaur hand."

Silver raised a hoof, "The second one. It was a hand. I used to have two of them before I became a unicorn." He waved the hoof at Celestia, "These hooves are not as good at holding things, but the magic works pretty well."

Rough Draft spoke hesitantly, "What are you two talking about? I didn't see anything."

Celestia's horn glowed with magic that settled over Rough and Trixie's eyes, "Please make another hand, Silver."

Silver did as he was asked, making a hand to wave at Rough and Trixie. Feeling playful, he moved the hand in under Rough's startled chin, scritching him gently and working up over his ears as he used to do as a human. It had the desired effect, with Rough relaxing against Silver's back.

Luna tapped the phone gently, bringing attention back to it. Celestia nodded towards her, "Luna is correct. You have not explained what this device is. Is it broken?"

Silver reached with his magic and pulled the phone closer. "It doesn't look broken, but it's out of power."

Celestia tilted her head, "Does it run on magic? I could recharge it."

Silver shook his head, "Electricity, lightning, but it has to be a very specific strength to a very specific place, or you'll just break it. Before you ask, I don't even know exactly what those are."

Celestia frowned lightly, perplexed, "How did you charge the device if you didn't know?"

Silver shrugged, "It came with a device designed to charge it, which I didn't bring with me to Equestria. I wasn't planning on coming here when I stepped out of my house that morning. You have electricity though, right? What voltage and amperage?"

Luna shook her head, "That was after my time. Sister, do you know?"

Trixie suddenly spoke up, "One hundred and fifteen volts."

Silver's expression brightened, "Now that's lucky! What's the hertz?"

Trixie frowned a little, "T...I don't remember. I don't work with electrical things that often."

Celestia smiled her gentle smile, "We will find out. If it is compatible, does that mean you can activate the device?"

Luna quickly added, "You have not said what its function is."

Silver frowned a little, "It's... a combination of things. It lets you talk at a distance, with other similar devices, or read books, or view pictures, or a lot of things... most of which won't work."

Celestia tilted her head, "Whyever not? If you are afraid we will abuse it, I promise it will be handled with the greatest of care."

Silver waved a hoof, "It's not that! I know you're a nice person, Celestia, but it, like most human toys, relies on other human devices. The phone won't work without radio towers, which won't work without a working internet, which won't work without a dozen other terms you have no concept of. I mean no insult when I say this, but just getting that to work." He put the phone back on the table, "Would be centuries of work in supporting technology. If you can turn it on, it would serve as an amusing trinket, but there's nothing it can do that is really that amazing alone."

Trixie picked up the phone in her magic, "If you do not mind? Since it is not important, Trixie would like a try." She didn't notice her slip even as she focused on the phone. Silver could see little feelers of her magic as she inspected the phone quite thoroughly, maybe searching for something.

Rough Draft could see it as well, and pulled Silver closer, "That's so odd."

Celestia gave Rough a gentle smile, "It can be disconcerting at first. Let her attempt." She lifted the ball from under the table with her magic, "Perhaps you could tell us about this?" She floated the ball over to Silver and he took it in his hooves clumsily.

"This is what remains of my things, besides the phone," explained Silver. "I was told to put it where I wanted it and my things would unpack, but I never did that, since it would never repack, and I didn't know where I'd be living."

Luna tilted her head, "We are told you have a home now."

Silver perked his ears, "Are you giving this back to me?"

Celestia nodded, "Consider it a gift. But we would like to know how the things inside work. Do they also require electricity?" Silver nodded quickly. "It will be interesting to see if they can be plugged in. I trust none of the things inside are weapons?" Silver shook his head violently. "Good. Now, I have asked you many questions, do you have any for Luna or I?"

Silver leaned forward a little, "Um, yes... Do you mind that I wasn't always a pony?"

Celestia raised an ear at him, "It was... an indiscretion. I would ask that you not speak of it to ponies that don't already know of your previous state. You are now a pony. Are you enjoying it?"

Silver nodded quickly, "Yes, a lot... It's still funny sometimes, not standing upright."

"You could," pointed out Celestia.

Silver stuck out his tongue, "And I could stand on all fours as a human. It's not the same." He clapped his hooves together, "I get to do everything over again. That is an amazing gift."

"It is..." said Celestia as she stole a glance at a suddenly guilty-looking Luna.

Rough spoke, "He has been doing well in school. and has made some friends."

Trixie added with a smile, "He has been practicing his magic diligently. He looks so happy every time he gets better at it."

Celestia nodded slowly before she looked Silver in the eyes, "Do you miss your family?"

Silver jerked back, "Huh?"

"Your original family," expanded Celestia. "You surely had parents before you came to Equestria."

Silver went stiff and squirmed a little. Rough held him closer as he spoke, "He doesn't like to speak of them."

Celestia gave a slight nod, "When you feel comfortable then. Did you choose to leave?"

Silver shook his head, "I was just taking a walk and then a very dark place, just like that.. I was asked where I wanted to go, and I picked here."

"Why here?" asked Luna with a raised brow. "Why not your home?"

Silver frowned. He hadn't even considered home as an option he could select! "Uh, well, I knew about Equestria and really wanted to visit."

His answers only brought more questions. Celestia asked, "How did you hear of Equestria from another world entirely?"

Silver let out a slow breath, "We have... plays. They are considered fiction, but I asked anyway, and I was brought here, so not so fictional, was it? The play provided moral lessons and entertainment to our foals, and starred Twilight Sparkle and her friends."

Celestia's interest visibly piqued, "You know of Twilight beyond your meeting of her in Manehattan? Can you name some of her friends?"

Silver began to look a little nervous, "Uh, OK. She lives in Ponyville in a tree library with her baby dragon friend Spike. Her best friends consist of Rarity, a seamstress, Fluttershy, an animal caretaker, Rainbow Dash, an athlete and weather pegasus, Applejack, an honest and hard-working apple farmer, and Pinkie Pie, a pink earth pony that loves to party."

Celestia snorted, visibly shaken before she composed herself, "You will forgive my saying, but rumors of the Element bearers have spread through the kingdom, you could have heard of them. Tell me something else."

Silver looked up at Rough, then over at Trixie before returning his gaze at the somewhat agitated Celestia. "Alright. One time Applejack sent a friendship reported that consisted of 'I didn't learn anything.'" Celestia reared back, eyes wide. "I thought she was foolish not to give Flim and Flam a fair chance. They had a good product. I saw--"

Celestia's hoof was over his muzzle, cutting off his words. All he could think was that she smelled kind of nice. "That's enough, Silver Lining. I believe you."

"Found him, have you?" asked a cultured but jovial voice. All head turned to see Discord walking towards the gazebo, "I wondered how long it would take for him to end up here."

"Hi Discord," said Silver, raising a hoof to wave at him.

Discord looked shocked, "A pony that doesn't immediately look like I ruined their day?" He vanished, appearing beside Celestia, "Can I keep him? I'll water him and feed him every day!"

"That's not funny," said Luna. "He is a citizen of the kingdom, not a pet."

Discord huffed, "Yes yes, of course. Only royalty is allowed to take pets." He was suddenly beside Rough and Silver, "What's it like being a royal lap dog?"

Rough was tense, frowning at Discord and trying to protect Silver with his forelegs. Silver didn't share his fear, "I've been worse things. My new family is really great, and the sisters haven't asked anything of me."

"Yet," finished Discord.

Author's Notes:

Lunch is interrupted.

Discord never travels alone! He has a posse of typos with him to help spread chaos!

7 - Chaos Theory

Trixie raised her nose at Discord and said nothing to him. Rough Draft held Silver protectively, and the royal sisters both looked at him with guarded expressions. The only relaxed ones present were Discord himself, and Silver.

Discord suddenly pinched Silver's cheek. "Big ole scary human's an adorable little colt. How's that working out?"

Silver jerked away from the touch, instinctively shying away from it before he could control himself and calm down, "It's working out alright. It's nice." He perked his ears at Discord, "Was it what you expected?"

Discord seemed to consider that with a stroking of his beard, "It wasn't outside the realm of possibilities, though my money was on an accident, or some kind of magic overdose. That's usually how it works. I wasn't expecting you to just up and ask Luna for it."

"I didn't," said Silver, "She brought up the idea, but when she said she could throw in youth with it..." he shrugged softly. "Does that make me a bad person?"

"Yes," said Discord bluntly, "But it makes you an alright pony." He looked to the sisters, "So what do you have planned with the boy?"

Celestia shook her head, "No concern of yours. He's too young to be involved in much."

Discord stuck out his tongue, "Don't give me that. That colt's over thirty years old! He's old enough to drink, serve in the guard, and still have time left over to pay taxes."

Luna spoke then, "He requested a chance to start over. His colt years will not be taken from him, no matter how old he may be." She gestured at Silver across the table, "He is living as a colt well."

"Is he?" asked Discord. "Not from what I saw." An image appeared, showing a bawling Silver shaking around Rough Tumble in the air back and forth.

Silver shrunk at the image, ears pinning to his head. He muttered something but not much escaped his suddenly constricted voice.

Trixie tilted her head, "Is that image true? Why did you not tell Trixie of a fight?"

Rough squeezed Silver gently, "You should have. We're here to help. Tell us what happened now."

Celestia nodded, "I would also like to hear of this."

Silver squirmed a moment before he nodded, "Well, alright... This big pony came up and started shoving me around and into the dirt. I tried to push him away but he took it as a cue to start beating me up." Silver waved his hooves around in a loose approximation of boxing. "I finally got enough control of my magic to get him off of me and I did what I could to keep him away."

Luna gestured at the picture, "You appear to be shaking him, not keeping him away."

Silver shrunk in place, "I was scared and hurt... I just wanted him to leave me alone."

Rough Draft lifted Silver up with his fetlocks and nuzzled the lightly crying colt, "It's OK."

Silver suddenly smiled, "That's what a friend said, right afterwards."

Trixie wrapped her magic around Silver, giving him a light squeeze, "Because it is true."

Celestia waved a wing through the image, banishing it, "I trust the colt was not harmed?"

Discord snorted, "Oh no. The little brat's probably planning revenge."

Celestia nodded, "Then I see nothing wrong with how our new colt handled himself." She looked to Silver, "Be mindful. A little magic thrown out of fear can cause harm that isn't easily undone. Silver, I was told you had... an unusual experience with a mare before you became a colt?"

Silver perked his ears at Celestia, "Do you mean Lyra?" Celestia nodded. "She was nice, but didn't think through her magic very well."

Celestia raised a brow lightly, "Is that all you have to say about her? From what I've been told, she is the main source of your troubles."

Silver shook his head, "She was nice, if a bit silly. I still like her."

Celestia gave a warm smile, "That is very forgiving of you. Do you also forgive the colt that bullied you?"

"No," said Silver with a frown. "I'm not, you know... after him... but I don't trust him to not be mean again. I'll take silly any day, but mean jerks can take a hike off a short pier." He looked over at Discord, "She just gave me some chaos I really needed."

Discord laughed, a deep and resounding noise as he slapped a knee, "Are you sure I can't keep him? I'll be good."

Luna nodded softly, "We understand. The lady Heartstrings acted out of misguided friendship, but she was, and is? still a friend."

"Exactly," said Silver. "I hope she visits sometime." He looked to Rough Draft, "Does she know where we live?"

Rough Draft perked his ears, "Uh, no... I didn't think, I mean. I can send a letter?"

"Please," said Silver with a smile, "I'd like to see her and Bon Bon sometime."

Trixie snorted, "You're not after them for some other reason are you?"

Silver looked confused a moment, then started rapidly going red, "No! I mean... I don't think Lyra would want that anyway... I don't have fingers anymore, and she's older than me now." Not that the idea was an unpleasant one for Silver to consider as he daydreamed of the hyperactive Lyra and maybe getting a hug, or kiss... or more?

Celestia waved at Discord, "I think it's time for you to be off, and we have planning of our own to do. Twilight must be informed she will be hosting the next Trader's Exchange."

Silver perked his ears, "Look out for Discord lamps."

Celestia paused, fixing her eyes on Silver. "Do you know... of it?"

Silver realized he had spoken poorly, "Uh..."

Luna asked, "How far into our history did your educational plays go? Have you seen only what was, or have you seen what will be?"

Silver shrank back, "A little? I really don't want to mess up time."

Discord gave a final guffaw before fading away, looking more amused than ever before.

Celestia shook her head, "How far into the future have you seen? How accurate has it been so far?"

Silver shook his own head back at her, trembling a little against the protective bulk of Rough Draft, "I've only seen little bits and pieces, but everything I've seen has been accurate so far."

Celestia extended a wing towards Silver, raising his snout, "Tell me, without revealing anything important, something."

Silver considered through his knowledge of the season. "There's going to be a tryout? A qualifying round? It's for the Equestria Games. It'll be in Rainbow Falls."

Luna frowned, "You had only just mentioned considering that place this morning."

Celestia nodded, "It's true. I was about to announce it. It seems you have a very valuable gift."

Silver pinned his ears back, "It doesn't go on forever! Only until..." He cut himself off and looked all the more uncomfortable.

Celestia tilted her head at him, "What has you so fearful? We're not forcing you to speak."

Silver shook his head, "If I say too much, then time will change. I don't want to mess it all up. Everything works out in the end."

Celestia frowned softly, "Does something happen that needs to work out, in the end?"

"Maybe?" squeaked Silver.

Trixie spoke up, "Pardon the interruption, but unless you plan to force Silver, he is clearly uncomfortable."

Celestia glanced at Trixie, then smiled gently. "You have very protective guardians."

Luna corrected with an upraised hoof, "Only Rough Draft is his guardian."

Celestia glanced at Luna, then across the table, "I beg to differ. Trixie Lulamoon."

Trixie sat up at attention at her name's calling, "Yes?"

"Do you plan to protect the colt, Silver Lining?" she asked, "Against all that would do him harm, even himself?"

Trixie nodded, "Of course. T... I will not abandon my student."

"Then it is settled," spoke Celestia in her calm way, "He has two guardians. A mare and a stallion. Quite fitting." She looked to Silver with a penetratingly appraising stare, "What do you see when you look at us?"

"I see aliens," spoke Silver truthfully, "But I also see people, and I see myself. You're all a little odd to me, but I want to be a part of that." He focused his magic and squeezed Celestia lightly, "I might be a new colt, but I hope I'm not a bad pony."

Celestia didn't flinch at the magic embrace, accepting it with a slow nod, "You are not a bad pony. If you do not want to speak of the future, I won't force you, but I would hope you would warn us of something terrible?"

Silver considered everything, then nodded, "When things look at their absolute worst, trust in Twilight Sparkle. She'll get through it."

A warm smile spread over Celestia's face, "She does have a habit of finding the answer to the most vexing questions. I'm afraid I interrupted your questions with more of my own."

Silver tilted his head, "Oh right, uh..." He looked at Luna, "If I decide one day to make a family, will I have normal colts and fillies?"

Luna nodded, "You are a perfectly normal unicorn, knowledge aside. Why would you not?"

Silver shook his head, "Not exactly? I can still see magic. I couldn't the first time I became a pony, but this time I can."

Celestia raised an ear, "Is that why my spell didn't affect you? How curious. Could you always see magic?"

Silver quickly nodded, "Yes, at least, since I came to Equestria. There wasn't magic where I came from, at least none that I ever saw."

Luna spoke, "You did interrupt us, sister. I wasn't finished with Silver Lining."

Silver tilted his head, "I don't mind seeing magic. It's kind of useful. There's no other parts missing though?"

Luna shook her head, "Nay, you appear to be in fine health for a colt of your new age."

Celestia stood up, "We should return to our duties. Have a pleasant day, Rough Draft, Trixie Lulamoon, and our newest citizen, Silver Lining. If you have need of me, or have a warning to deliver, come to the castle. It is part of your duties as a squire."

Silver jerked upright along with his guardians, "Huh, Squire?"

Celestia gave a 'hmm', "Did we not mention that? Since you have sworn the whole of yourself to our use, you are a squire of the court. Please send me regular updates when there is something to report, and keep us apprised of changes. You should otherwise focus on your schooling." That gentle smile returned, "And making some friends. We will not be pressing you to service just yet."

The new colt and his family rose and departed with stiff bows, looking a bit frazzled at the news dropped at the end. Luna softly nudged Celestia, "You did that on purpose."

Celestia smiled, "It will keep them honest and true. That colt is a curious one. I have never seen a colt stand up to Discord before, and so nonchalantly, only to look ready to go to tears when faced with a schoolyard bully."

Luna shook her head, "He is no colt, not truly, but we should keep an eye on him. He learned unicorn magic quickly." She raised a hoof to point at Celestia, "And you let him touch you with it! Have you no sense of propriety?"

Celestia moved back towards the indoors, where day court awaited her, "When propriety demands I turn away a foal's hug, I ignore propriety."

Author's Notes:

Information swaps hands, hooves, and talons as royalty gabs with Silver and his new family.

What does being a squire mean exactly, besides having the royal duty to report all typos on sight?

8 - Let's Explore a Little

With the meeting concluded, Rough and Trixie both looked eager to return home. "I'm going to look around," said Silver. Because of the meeting, he had missed school. Exploring sounded more fun than laying around the house. "See you later."

Trixie nodded at him, "Be home in time for dinner. Do you have snacks?" Silver quickly plucked out one of his granola bars and Trixie smiled, "Good. Trixie will see you later." She turned and departed with Rough Draft, leaving Silver to his own devices.

He took off at an idle trot at first. As energetic as his new form could be, his confidence had not yet built to the level that he would brave a full gallop, especially on the cobbled streets. He happened by a few stores and poked his small snout in one. Interesting scents reached him as he looked around the incense store a moment before departing as quickly. His roaming eyes did much to calm the tension he felt, at least until he was barreled into, knocked into an alleyway and sent tumbling over in a disheveled pile. "Ow, what the?" He looked up to see a familiar large presence sneering down at him. Rough Tumble clicked his tongue and another pony stepped out of the shadow, a unicorn mare. She had a dull red coat with lighter pink and cyan mane and tail. Her cutie mark looked like a plate of carrots. What did that mean?

"Meet my main mare," said Rough Tumble, "She's going to make sure you fight fair this time." Silver quickly scrambled to get to his hooves only for a sudden lash from Rough to strike him across the snout and send him back to the ground, dizzied and sore. "Not so tough when you're not the only unicorn around huh? Where's your fancy magic now?"

Silver's eyes darted around. He wanted to be anywhere but here, in an alleyway with a pony that looked like he wanted to murder him. "I don't want to fight."

Tumble skipped up and brought down a hoof into Silver's belly, making him curl up in pain, "Wrong answer. You coulda gave up yesterday, but you had to show off to everypony that you were a big bad unicorn."

The mare strolled towards the two, "I thought you said he had strong magic? He hasn't done anything, yet. Do you need me here, hon?"

Tumble nodded at her, "Hey, just chill out. If he doesn't do anything, you get to watch your stallion rough him up." He nudged Silver with a hoof, "Well? Not even gonna try to fight?"

Silver rolled away from the hoof and staggered up all too slowly for his liking. Tumble must have allowed it, since he saw no way the bully couldn't have knocked him over again if he wanted to. "Come on," goaded Tumble, "I'll even give you a free shot." Silver trembled in place, not wanting a free shot. He silently bemoaned the fact that he hadn't learned any other magics, like teleporting! That would be useful!

He focused on his magic, conjuring his silver hand and reaching to grab Tumble, but it ran into a previously invisible field around him. "He did something," said the mare, "You're right, he does have some talent."

"Hope you enjoyed your shot," said Rough Tumble with a low snarl, turning around all too quickly and presenting his back end to Silver. Silver blinked in pained confusion. Why was-- His thoughts were interrupted as the earth pony bucked his hind legs out and sent Silver crashing further into the alleyway. The pavement ground painfully through his fur, rubbing some of it off as he slid to a stop, wheezing for breath.

"Please... I don't want to fight," cried Silver as Rough Tumble approached him at a leisurely pace. His mare strode a few steps behind him, watching through her half-lidded eyes.

Rough Tumble grabbed him by the scruff where he dangled, feeling violated instead of the safe and secure feelings he had the other times he was held in such a fashion. Tumble dropped him on his haunches, "Who is the boss?"

Silver looked confused, "Wha?"

Pain exploded over his left eye, throbbing and almost strobing. It took a moment for him to realize Tumble had punched him across the face. "Wrong answer. Who is the boss?"

Silver tried to marshal his power. If he couldn't affect Tumble, maybe... He conjured the silver hand under himself and tried to lift himself away from the bully. His focus was terrible, and he just fell out of the hand in a heap after the second inch. Rough Tumble exploded in laughter before an intense ringing filled Silver's ears with a new pain. He'd been cuffed across his ears, he realized.

"I'll make this easy for you," said Tumble. "I'm the boss." He lashed out a hoof, kicking Silver. "The boss of you. The boss of the school. The boss of everything." Each statement was punctuated with a harsh kick, tenderizing Silver's abused insides. "Don't you ever forget that! Come on, let's go." He turned away from the downed Silver, trotting away with his marefriend, "Did you see the way he cried like a little foal? Ha."

Silver tried to stand, but nothing wanted to obey. His muscles replied only with pain and agony, and he remained where he started, broken on the alley floor.

He heard something stepping closer and tried to focus on it, but saw little more than blurs. "My my my," came a familiar voice, "You really let them work you over." Discord.

"Are... you here to laugh?" asked Silver in a weak voice.

Discord shrugged his shoulders, "I do that a lot, but not specifically."

"Are you here to help?" asked Silver hopefully.

Discord crouched in front of Silver, "Once an apex predator, now being beaten up by a schoolyard bully. A prey schoolyard bully. My, how the mighty have fallen."

Silver closed his eyes, fresh tears flowing as the pain burned through his form.

Discord waggled a finger, "Did you think running away from your past would make everything just get better?"

Silver gave a soft grunt, and tried to rise again, barely moving a hoof.

"No no, don't get up on my account," said Discord with a mocking politeness. "I'm not all bad, I suppose I could help a little. Celestia would be ever so disappointed if I left you here."

With a snap of his fingers, Silver found himself somewhere dark. He was laying on a bed. Everything still hurt. "Where?"

Discord was suddenly leaning over the bed, "I was obligated to get you somewhere safe. Nowhere safer than here!"

"Where?" asked Silver again, trying impotently to sit up.

Discord shrugged softly, "Somewhere safe, and quiet."

"Discord... Please. I don't hate you. I don't... even dislike you, just, please, a straight answer," begged Silver. "Come on."

Discord reached over and mussed Silver's mane. the touches made his injuries howl in muted agony, but Silver endured it without comment. "Oh alright. You're in my home."

Silver blinked slowly, "I expected more... everything."

Discord shrugged, "Even I need a place to get some peace and quiet sometimes. Don't like it?"

Silver shook his head a little, "It's perfect... thank you." He reached out a hoof, "Thank you."

Discord took the hoof in a lion's paw, "Well, you're welcome." He didn't seem entirely sure how to react to being thanked without conditions or snide undertones. "I have to go," he said suddenly and vanished.

Silver surrendered to sleep, feeling safe once again in the curious void that surrounded Discord's bed.

Author's Notes:

Not all bullies are put in their place after a single victory.

But typos are! Stand up to Typos!

9 - Old Friends

Silver opened his eyes to an enticing scent. Rolling over stiffly, he saw a bright mint green pony smiling at him. "Hey," said Lyra, "I'm so glad I found you."

Silver recoiled in shock, almost falling from the bed, "Huh, how'd you get here?"

Lyra approached him in a slow manner, eyes half-lidded, focused on him. Was she being sultry? He wasn't sure, but he felt all the right responses to it building quickly. Silver gave a nervous smile, "How's it going, Lyra?" His excitement was muted by the dull agony still echoing through his abused form, but he couldn't just ignore this sudden appearance of Lyra.

Lyra stepped over him as the scent got thicker. Oh god, was it her? Silver shuddered, "Lyra, look, uh, I'm more than a bit sore right now?"

"I'll be gentle," she whispered. Her horn glowed as she pulled away the sheets from Silver, "Just lay back and enjoy the trip."

A thought clicked in his head, "... Are you a changeling and/or Discord?"

Lyra rolled her eyes, and vanished. Everything vanished. He floated in inky void and must have fallen asleep again as the next thing he remembered was being nudged softly. He opened an eye and cringed in pain. Most of his body had a formal complaint to issue. Looking up, he saw Trixie's worried face. He was sprawled out on the little path leading up to their door.

Seeing his eyes open, Trixie seemed to relax a little, "Are you alright? You look... awful. What happened?" Her magic wrapped around him and lifted him up as she trotted into the house. "Rough! Come here!"

Rough Draft quickly trotted out until his eyes landed on the abused form being held in the air, then he broke into a full gallop, "What happened?"

"Trixie does not know," she said defensively, "Let's get him to his bed." Rough snatched him out of the magic field, not seeing it or caring it was there. He dangled by his scruff. Silver was dimly aware of this, shuddering softly in remembrance of Tumble holding him the same way, but this was Rough Draft. Silver could smell the scent of his guardian, and of his home, and he slowly relaxed.

Rough gently tucked Silver into his bed as Trixie sat beside it. "What happened?" she asked, looking at the pained face of her ward. Silver looked down and away, quiet.

Rough snorted loudly, "Tell us. Whatever it was, we're not angry." But still Silver was silent. Eventually the two adults left the room, closing the door behind them.

"I don't understand," sighed out Rough Draft.

Trixie raised a blue-furred hoof, "Trixie thinks she knows." She took a slow breath, "Those bruises... They come from a hoof. Silver Lining was attacked."

Rough Draft snorted angrily, pawing at the ground with a rising fury before it all collapsed and he sank to the ground, "I did it again."

"Did what again?" asked Trixie with a raised ear.

"I wasn't there. I let him get hurt again," lamented Rough Draft, "Some guardian I'm turning out to be."

Trixie pointed a hoof at herself, "You were not alone, but you do not see Trixie crying. We should find out who did this and show them a lesson they will never forget. Nopony picks on my student and gets away with it."

Rough perked an ear, "My?"

Trixie frowned at Rough, "You heard the Wrathful and Protective Trixie correctly. We could tell the princesses? He is their property, they might send the guilty party to the moon, or banish them!"

Rough Draft rose up to poke Trixie in the side, "You're being silly. I doubt they'd do either of those things. We don't know who did this. Let's take care of Silver until he feels like talking some more?"

Trixie nodded as she moved towards the kitchen, "Nothing says get well soon like a thick radish soup."

Rough abandoned his writing for the moment, frustrated and on edge. Instead he returned to Silver's bedroom and sat beside the bed, watching Silver sleep. He snapped back into awareness as the door opened and Trixie trotted in with a bowl of hot soup floating beside her. He stepped aside and let her take his place as she gently roused Silver. Rough offered a hoof and helped Silver sit up, and soon the colt was timidly eating the soup.

Trixie glanced at Rough Draft with some unspoken intent, but then turned and departed, closing the door behind herself. Rough sat like a sentinel, watching Silver slurp the soup. "If you want to talk about it," Rough said softly, "We're here. We're not angry."

Silver drew his radish stained snout away from his soup, "I've heard that before." His tongue flicked out, cleaning the tasty reddish broth.

Rough tilted his head, "Have I lied to you before?"

"No," confessed Silver with a little squirm.

Rough smiled gently, "I don't plan to start now. Even if you did do something stupid, please tell me. I just want to help."

Silver looked up at Rough with his face pointed down at the soup. He could see the worry and concern written all over the equine features of his guardian and took a little breath even if it did kind of hurt to do that. "Alright... The kid, uh, foal, I got into a fight with before came back."

Rough went tense, barely restraining the fury that boiled up when he was given a target for the anger, "And?"

Silver shrunk a little, feeling less safe around Rough when he was angry. Some part of him took the anger as directed at himself and he shut down. Rough noticed the lack of reply after a moment, and leaned in towards Silver only to have Silver flinch back as if he was afraid of being hit. Rough's anger evaporated into worry, "Silver! You're safe. Please." Suddenly Silver was wrapped up in the strong fetlocks of Rough Draft, being held and rocked. Though he trembled with pain and fear, the tension began to flow away and he soon returned the hug, dampening Rough's fur with quiet tears.

"Trixie will be back, she has business!" came a familiar voice from the front, followed by a bang of a slamming door.

Rough glanced towards the front door before he looked back at Silver and nuzzled him gently, "So, where's it hurt?"

Silver conjured his silver hand and carefully set his bowl aside off the bed. He then gently pulled the cover off himself, "He kicked me, a lot. My ribs hurt. Is my eye swollen?"

Rough nodded, "Yes, a little. I'll get some ice."

Silver tried to distract himself while Rough trotted off. He let his magic flow, but pain flared with blinding intensity and a strangled yelp from him. Rough hurried back in, "What? What happened?"

Silver gave a crooked smile, "Channeling much magic is a bad idea when you're already hurt. I guess it's not just a horn thing."

"No magic," ordered Rough Draft as he moved up and pulled the blanket back up, covering Silver to his head, "You can rely on me for a while."

They sat together. The soup was soon finished, and Rough began talking about the book he was writing. Silver gave his input, even as the very idea of the book amused him. Silver had inspired what will be the most racist book about the colors of humanity, and almost all of it would be wrong even to the racists. He wished he had a copy of Ponyfinder so he could get a laugh out of Rough with his own wild inaccuracies.

The sound of the door opening drew their attentions. Trixie trotted in with another mare behind her. That one had a quintet of red crosses on her flank and a little nurse's cap on. The nurse moved up to Silver and grabbed his blanket in her teeth, drawing it down and off, "What have we here? Our little colt's getting into trouble?" Her words grated a little, but her tone was warm and friendly. She poked at his bruises gently, then rolled him over to inspect the other half with soft hmms.

"Nothing broken," announced the nurse. She drew out a bottle of pills and set it on his bed, "Make sure he takes one an hour with plenty of water and he should be right as rain in no time at all."

Silver smiled up at the nurse, "Thanks." It sure felt like something was broken! But maybe he was just being a crybaby? He'd never broken a bone before in his life, what would he know?

She patted him once on the snout, "You don't need to thank me, but it's nice to see a colt with manners. You just rest up." Without asking for payment or any other details, the nurse trotted out past the adults and Silver could hear the front door open and close again. Silver looked up at Trixie.

Trixie was looking back at him, "Feeling more talkative? Let's get you your first pill." Without so much as looking at it, the sound of flowing water came from the kitchen for a moment, followed by a glass floating into the room. Trixie held it up to Silver as a pill was pulled from the vial with the same magic and offered alongside. Silver opened his mouth and was soon swallowing it along with several deep gulps of water. Already he felt a little better.

"Is it magic?" he asked, "Do you have healing magic?"

Trixie shook her head, "Not exactly. We can encourage a body to heal, but not make it healed. Does that make sense?"

Silver nodded, "Yeah, ok. That's not bad."

Trixie raised a brow and changed the topic a little, "Can your people heal, with magic or otherwise?"

Silver shook his head, "We can do amazing work to let a body heal, through drugs, incisions, or even artificial replacements, but no medicine outright heals a body."

Rough nodded, "Sounds like the same end result then. How do you feel?"

Silver took assessment of his form. He didn't feel like he wanted to curl up and die anymore, that was a step up. He shimmied slowly to the edge of the bed and tried to roll to his hooves, but was stopped in Trixie's magic. "Are you sure?"

Silver nodded at her, "You can pick me up if I fall." The glow of her force waned and he tested his legs. Soon he was standing. It hurt, but he was doing it. He smiled at the little victory and moved to take a step. One hoof ran into another in a clumsy display, and he ended up face first on the ground. "Ow." Rough moved quickly to grab him, but Silver held up a hoof, "I'm OK! That was me being derpy."

Trixie looked confused a moment, "You are not Derpy. She does not have the privilege of being Trixie's student."

Silver regained his upright stance as he nodded at Trixie, "Not that Derpy. Just clumsy, you know?" Trixie rolled her eyes as her joke had been missed.

Trixie looked Silver over, then waved for him to follow. All three retreated to the softly-carpeted den, where Trixie settled down and started some light music. "Now then. You will say what happened with that ruffian, the first time, and this time. You will leave out no details, or Trixie will be agitated and think of creative punishments for naughty colts."

Silver was about to ask what she meant when he felt a tickle. He glanced to see Trixie's magic just barely teasing him, and already giggles and laughs were escaping him, "Please, I give up! I'm ticklish!"

Trixie gave him one last bout of intense tickling before her magic withdrew, "It hurts Trixie as much as it hurts you. Go on."

Silver stuck out his tongue, "I doubt that, but OK." He began to describe the first fight he had with him. "I shook him around until my horn hurt too much to use magic. My friends said it was only a few seconds. The teacher told me it was bad to use magic on other ponies."

Rough snorted loudly, "What does she want, for you to wrestle with him? How big is he again?"

Silver held up his hooves wide, "He's like a little dump truck."

Trixie rolled a hoof, "And the second time?"

Silver nodded and thought back, "I was walking, wandering really, then he tackled me into an alley where his marefriend was waiting. She was a unicorn, and protected him from my magic while he trashed me. She didn't seem to care much either way. I didn't get her name."

Trixie clopped her hooves together thoughtfully, "We can do this the 'correct' way, or the Trixie way. Which will it be?"

Author's Notes:

Silver has friends that are twice his size! This isn't as hard as one might think when you're a foal.

That medicine really fixes you up, but it leaves you a little dizzy and prone to typos.

10 - Trixie's Way

Trixie drew out a small wooden box. Rough and Silver looked at it curiously as she set it between them all. She flipped it open and a lavender-colored crystal sphere was revealed. "Do you remember this?" she asked, looking up at Rough and Silver in turn.

"Of course," said Silver as he grabbed it with a silver hand, hovering up the heart crystal with its silver wire, admiring the lavender orb, "I forgot all about it."

Trixie made a soft dismissive motion, "You had no need for it. Princess Luna removed all your enchantments. It is still tied to you. It always will be, unless it is smashed to pieces."

Rough perked an ear, "Even with his new body?"

Trixie nodded, "It is tied to something deeper. His soul, you could say? What makes him, him." She took control of the floating sphere, gently removing it from Silver's grip. His hand vanished as the orb was brought closer and its chain was draped around his neck, soon fastened. "You are still you, pony or human. Luna did not remove that."

Silver gave a nervous smile. The sphere shone gently in contact with him, and he felt a little better for having it back. "It's odd, but that's really comforting. I feel very different at times." He raised a hoof, brushing against the orb, "Starting with the lack of hands and this snout that's always in my vision." He suddenly felt a wave of self-consciousness, "Am I at least, you know, not an ugly pony?"

Rough blinked in surprise at the question, "I'm not the best qualified to answer that, being your friend, a stallion, and I'm not attracted to other stallions, but you're cute for a colt."

Trixie snorted gently, "You are perfectly fine. If you were older, Trixie would likely consent to your clumsy attempts at romance." She smiled in a wily way, "She would gladly accept your chocolates and let you take her to expensive shows. If you played your cards just right, you may even get a kiss."

Silver burst into a cheerful laughter, "You heartbreaker! You would string me along."

"Without mercy," said Trixie, "But you are not a romantic partner. You are a student, and it is time for you to learn." She raised a hoof to point at his heart crystal, "That can hold magic, and prevents spells from tangling. Trixie will use it to give you a few... edges. The next time you see that terrible brute, you will tell him that you are unimpressed with his oafish behavior. Do not engage him directly in battle." She waggled a hoof, "He'll do that for you. When he lunges at you, you spring the trap. Be careful. You want him to attack you away from the school and that simple-minded teacher. She will undoubtedly chastise you if she sees you using magic against him again."

Silver did not look entirely confident. With half-flagged ears he shook his head, "I'm not good at fighting. I don't want to... you know, swing at him?"

Trixie shook her head, "The spells your great and clever teacher has in mind will not require anything as uncouth as you brawling with that foal." She leaned forward and gently rubbed her muzzle against Silver's. He went tense and began blushing brightly. Why did all the mares he came close to smell so nice? "You keep that gentle, peaceful, soul. It suits you well."

Trixie's horn glowed softly as she focused on the heart crystal. Silver watched as the magic moved in extremely subtle ways. This close, without a television in the way, or the limits of flash animation, he could see that serious magic was... amazing to just watch. He was captivated as the patterns of Trixie's raw will rippled back and forth in delicate swirls and eddies. His sphere echoed the patterns precisely and perfectly, and the magic of Trixie flowed into him through the sphere, filling him with a familiar and comforting warmth.

Rough softly nudged Silver, "Are you OK with this plan?"

Silver considered the question, "I wouldn't trust many to do it, but I trust Trixie. She will do her best."

Rough nodded with a smile, "I will too."

Silver tilted his head, "If I thought it was cool for my adoptive father to just go, you know, smash the jerk... But it's really not."

Rough shook his head then with a sigh, "No it isn't." He leaned in, nudging his nose into Silver's cheek. He didn't have an appealing scent like the mares, but his was a comforting presence.

Silver returned the nuzzle, "You're great."

Rough seemed placated, relaxing when Silver said it.

Silver caught the reaction and perked his ears, "Rough, you know I... am really happy with you, right?"

"Why?" asked Rough plainly.

Silver blinked slowly, "Why? You're my friend. You're my father, even if you hate hearing that."

"It's growing on me..." murmured Rough.

Silver moved forward and nuzzled Rough's chest, "You are a safe place I can always return to. You care about me." He sat back, "I can't even say how much that means. You really care about me."

Trixie suddenly cleared her throat, "The first spell is complete, but creating spells of this magnitude is draining."

Silver thrust up a hoof excitedly, "I got some oat shake mix when I went to the store. It should be in the fridge."

Trixie blinked, "When did you go to the store?" She rose to her hooves, "One moment." She trotted out of sight and her voice trailed musically, "You lovely colt! Trixie's favorite brand."

Silver made a quick mental note of which brand he had selected for the future, but his eyes settled on Rough, "I did mean what I said. No matter how strange and hostile this wondrous world has gotten, you were there, ready to help. You drank poison for me, even if you didn't know it at the time."

Rough blushed softly as he thought back to the changeling's knock-out knob. "I wonder how she's doing?"

Silver shrugged, "A movie shoot, wasn't it?" Rough had relaxed, and Silver felt himself relaxing with him. He liked seeing Rough happy. "So tell me more about the book you're working on?"

Rough began going over the little statistical details of his creation, geeking out joyfully about his creation. Silver tried to be constructive, but had little intention of going over the statistical differences between a 'peach human' and an 'earth human', to say nothing of all the other colors he had planned. He just couldn't think of any stat to offer that wouldn't be amazingly racist. Trixie came back in, wielding a thick cup of nutrient and calorie-thick oatmeal slurry that she sipped with a thick straw.

Trixie began the second spell even as she drained the glass. Silver glanced between the hypnotic horn and Rough, "Can you see it?"

Rough nodded a little, "It's a dim reddish glow."

It looked quite bright to Silver, easily visible with all its little nuances. He asked, "So... I'm going to turn the question around. Are you, you know, annoyed? I mean... I can't imagine I'm the easiest colt ever, and I'm not even your colt, by blood."

Rough softly struck Silver on the head. Silver shrank back and looked hurt a moment before he could fight back the reaction. Rough's ears spun back, "I am not mad at you. I'm mad at what's happening around you. I'm a little upset I ended up with a colt instead of a human, but that was your choice." He reached forward, gently drew Silver closer. "You're still my David. And you're pretty awesome for a colt." Silver's apprehension slowly faded as he relaxed into the warm hug. He felt safe, and little else mattered. The room was quiet save for the quiet slurps of Trixie's straw.

Trixie licked her lips clean before she announced, "It is done. One spell to teach a lesson, and another to keep our colt safe. If that awful pony gets his hooves on you, he will be in for a surprise, and you will be fine. The trap will deploy itself, all you have to do is believe in Trixie. And go to bed, now." She raised a hoof to point at Silver's bedroom.

Silver trotted for the door. "Yes, mom," he said in a tauntingly cute tone.

Trixie blushed red and sent a pillow sailing, striking Silver's flank with a yelp from him. Soon he was in bed. Rough looked to Trixie, "Will he be alright?"

Trixie nodded, "He will be fine. Just wait to hear his tale. It will be worth listening to." She clopped her hooves together before moving off with her empty glass, "We should get some sleep too."

Rough pointed at one of the plush cushions in the den, "I'll sleep in here tonight. You can take the bed."

Trixie nodded and moved for the master bedroom without another word. She claimed her large cushy bed as was her privileged right and was out shortly. Rough gathered some of the cushions in the room together before fetching his book. He settled down heavily and resumed writing.

Silver felt significantly better with the coming morning, and was off to school without delay. Meadow Leaper met him in the yard, "Hey Silver! Where were you yesterday?"

Silver kicked back a ball Meadow had sent his way, "Nothing big. My parents thought I should visit the castle."

Meadow tilted his head, "Huh really? I never been there before! What's it like?"

Silver left off bits about the princesses, instead describing the windows and some of the art he saw. As he described the things he saw, a crowd began to gather to hear it.

"Wow," said Lily Jump, "Did you really see all that?"

A deep, irritated grunt caught their attentions as Rough Tumble shoved through the crowd, "Course he didn't. He's a big fat liar." He flashed his flat, yet menacing, teeth, "How you doing, liar. Still sore?"

Silver trembled unwillingly at Tumble's presence, but fought back the flattening of his ears, putting on a brave face, "I feel just fine, thanks for asking. That was a lovely little wrestle we had. I hope next time you get serious about it. I could use a real workout."

Tumble frowned deeply, "I can arrange that. I guess some ponies learn real slow." The bell rang, and school began. It passed well enough, with an interesting lesson on how the seasons were originally formed and decided upon. Silver's attention was on the clock and the coming end of the day. He hoped it would all end well, but feared despite it. The weight of his heart crystal gave him some measure of comfort.

When Silver trotted home, he could feel the presence of the bully trailing along after him. He ducked out of sight of the road, scooting a few steps quickly before the light from the entrance of the alley dimmed with Tumble's form. "Looking for a way out?" he asked. "It's not too late to beg. Get on your belly and tell me who the boss is."

Silver's tail fell between his legs against his will even as he raised his words in defiance, "Is that how you like colts, on their bellies? I didn't think you swung that way. You should take me out first."

Tumble looked perplexed at the words, snorting in frustration, "What? I ain't no colt cuddler." He approached on heavy hooves, "You sick little pony, I'll mash you until they aren't sure which you are." Silver stood stock still, praying to whatever forces looked on that Trixie's spell would do... what was it supposed to do? He wished he had asked. There was no time for second thoughts. Tumble's hoof came in a dangerous streak. He winced back and shut his eyes tightly.

"What the!?" exclaimed a new voice. Silver cracked an eye to see Tumble hovering in the air. He thrashed and flailed, but could find no purchase in the blanket of Trixie's pinkish magic. "What's... going on? Help! He--" His voice vanished as the magic around him began to grow more complicated and folded in on the large colt, performing whatever nefarious spell Trixie had decided on. The colt's thick features softened by the moment, almost becoming like that of a filly before he fell from the air to hit the ground with a soft squeak. "You pointy-headed bastard!" he screamed in a new high-pitched voice. He was still a he, Silver could see that between his legs.

Tumble threw himself at Silver, still standing largely still, and dragged him to the ground. He punched and kicked, but there was no force behind it. The bully had been neutered, and swung with an infant's strength. Silver recovered from his surprise with a blink, "Uh... are you OK?"

"I'm not OK!" screamed Tumble, "What did you do? Turn it back! This isn't funny..." Tumble fell against Silver, breaking into loud wails, "My parents are gonna kill me..."

Silver gently patted his back with a hoof, "It's not that bad."

Tumble jerked back, "Not bad? Not bad!" He peered at Silver a moment, "You're a colt cuddler, aren't you? You're going to pin me down and do terrible things to me!" He suddenly flopped over and flipped his tail aside, "Well fine, just get it over with."

Silver's eyes went wide, "Woah! No! Geeze, put your tail down." He scrambled to his hooves, "I'm not... about to rape someone, god."

Tumble looked up over his shoulders, "I just want to be normal again... please. Don't make me go home like this. I'm sorry!"

Silver felt conflicting emotions. "You're kind of a jerk."

Tumble trembled where he laid, "Please..."

Silver closed his eyes and sighed gently, "Will you stop being a jerk?" He moved around Tumble and offered a hoof, "Will you be a good pony? That's all I want."

Tumble snorted softly, "I... what?" He rose back to his hooves, "What are you, an Element? You're not angry at me?"

"Yes, yes I am," said Silver, "But I don't want to be. I hate being angry." He glanced away, then back at Tumble, "Come with me. We can get you fixed."

Tumble hesitantly trotted after Silver, trying to hide his effeminate appearance as he darted from cover to cover on his way with Silver to his home. Silver nudged open the door with his magic and trotted inside.

Trixie was there and smiled brightly, "Silver Lining! How did it..." she trailed off, looking past him to the fillified Tumble and a hoof covered her mouth. "Why is he here?"

Silver closed the door behind Tumble, "Tumble realizes his mistake." He looked to Tumble, "What was that mistake?"

Tumble looked quite nervous, "Uh, don't mess with unicorns?"

Silver shook his head, "A good idea, but that's not the mistake."

Tumble frowned, "You know really mean spells?"

"Wasn't my spell," corrected Silver, "Come on. Do you really want to spend the whole school year fighting?"

Tumble shouted in shrill fury, "If that's what it takes! Respect me!" He sank to his belly, tears flowing anew, "Why doesn't anypony respect me?"

Trixie moved beside Silver and leaned in to whisper, "Trixie does not understand what you are doing, but she will stay here in case it goes poorly."

Silver nodded at Trixie before advancing towards Tumble, "Tell me what you're good at, Tumble, besides beating up ponies or scaring them."

Tumble looked up from the ground, then glanced back at his cutie mark, which showed a picture of a big wheel. "I like... driving."

Silver blinked softly, "There are cars?"

Trixie snorted softly, "Not many."

Silver ventured a hesitant smile, "Nothing wrong with that. Sit up, Tumble. Want to tell me about your car?"

Tumble did sit up, but scowled at Silver, "I don't have any car! Mom and Dad said it was stupid. They beat me black and blue when they saw my mark."

Silver's ears flipped back. It was starting to make more sense. "That's not right. If you want to drive, if that's your special talent, you should do that."

Tumble thrust a thin hoof at Silver, "What would you know! You don't even have a mark."

Silver shook his head, "True, but I don't need one to know that." He threw caution to the wind and advanced on Tumble. He reached for the colt, who drew back. Silver kept advancing, and Tumble only moved back so far, and then he was hugged gently. "I'm sorry."

Tumble scowled through the sting of fresh tears, "What are you sorry for!" he squealed in his high-pitched voice. "Stop feeling sorry for me and just turn me back."

Silver squeezed him, "I'll do what I can to get you a car. I don't know what I can do, but you have my support. You should be behind a wheel, not hurting ponies."

Tumble wriggled free of the hug and retreated into the living room. He settled his eyes on the watching Trixie. "You, can you turn me back?"

Trixie shook her head, "Only if Silver says so. You should finish your talk with him. He can be very stubborn."

Silver shrugged softly, "Turn him back if he wants. I'm not trying to blackmail him."

Trixie snorted, "You should be!" She frowned down at Tumble, "Trixie's student is far too kind. Do you want to be turned back now?"

Tumble bobbed his head quickly, "Please, now!"

Undoing the spell proved a simpler act than setting the enchantment trap. With a flash of bright light, Tumble was returned to his heavy set and muscular self. Tumble pranced in place, delighted to no longer be emasculated, "Thanks." He moved to the door, shoving Silver out of the way. "I'll see you in school."

With a slam, he was gone.

Trixie huffed softly, "Are you certain that was wise? A few days as a shrill little filly-colt would have been very educational."

Silver raised an ear, "Why didn't you just turn him all the way into a filly?"

Trixie made a dismissive gesture, "Even a princess would have a great deal of trouble performing that. Gender swapping spells are near the pinnacle of magic."

Silver blinked slowly, "So turning me into a pony colt is easier than giving me an innie instead of an outtie?"

Trixie tilted her head, "Trixie reminds you that a princess performed that as well. Why, do you want to try being a mare on top of trying being a pony?"

Silver shook his head, "Becoming a mare while still a virgin as a stallion? What a waste. I'll pass for now."

"Just as well," said Trixie, "There is little chance the princesses would agree to grant that wish, even if you have their ear. Dinner will be ready in half an hour."

Silver retreated to his room to do some reading, wondering if he had handled Tumble well, or just invited further violence later.

Author's Notes:

What, more words? Someone send help!

Will Tumble be reformed, or does he have more trouble to cause? Only time will tell.

You know what will definately cause trouble? Typos.

11 - Unpacking

Two days off in a row, who knew Equestrians had a weekend too? It was entirely logical, looking back on it. When else would they have put the convention? Smiling, Silver pranced through the living room, searching for... there it was. His eyes locked on the socket and he leaned in. It looked about the same. Maybe it'd work. He reached into his saddlebag with his magic and drew out the rubber ball. "How does this work?" he asked himself out loud as he gave it a light shake. He placed the ball on the ground and nudged it a bit as he tried focusing on exactly where the desk should appear.

The ball shuddered, then popped like a balloon. With the sound of sucking air and a harsh flash of light that left Silver seeing spots, his desk had appeared, along with his precious possessions. Silver tilted his head in surprise. The uncomfortable computer chair had come along for the ride. He hadn't even seen that in the ball! He trotted up to the chair and looked it over a moment before he rose up on his hind legs.

He swung around and dropped himself in the chair. Alright, just as uncomfortable as ever, with the added bonus of having no real place for his tail to go. Somehow feeling nostalgia for the blasted thing, he pulled himself closer to the desk, still seated in it. He began to rummage through the things on and in the desk. Bag of dice, some plastic miniatures, two things of cologne? Why? Deodorant, vitamin and fish oil pills also laid on the desk, waiting for use. Silver ignored them and continued rummaging. Ah, roleplaying books! His expression brightened as he thought of showing these to Rough Draft.

He turned his attention to the drawers. He pulled out a charging cable for his phone with a nod, and some watch batteries he couldn't think of any use for. There were also some XBox 360 controllers secured away, right underneath a copy of Ponyfinder, score. He'd definitely have to share Ponyfinder with Rough Draft. Reminded, he slipped out of the chair and circled around the desk. There were a mess of cords, but Silver had nothing but time to pick through them and slowly untangle the mess. To his relief, the power strip had come along for the ride. He set it beside the power plug and moved the plug into position. "Dang it!" he exclaimed as his plug proved to be just a tiny bit too big. "I'm too close to be stopped now." He dropped the strip to the floor with a thump and went trotting out the door to the street.

It was a lovely day, and it should be. The newspaper said they didn't schedule rain for three more days, but that would be a torrential downpour. What did a mountain city with so few farms need with rain? The idea came to Silver just as he pondered it, gardens. Celestia's fancy gardens wouldn't water themselves, to say nothing of other nobles and elite ponies with their own gardens. Silver looked around for a hardware store of some kind, trotting down the street as his head swept back and forth.

"Hey," called a familiar female voice. Silver looked over to see that red-colored mare that hung around Tumble. She was approaching at an idle trot that Silver knew on some level was an attractive gait, even if his conscious mind only got confused at the idea of any pony saunter being specifically seductive. She put a hoof on his shoulder, "I heard what you did to Tumble."

Silver's ears pinned down, "Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?"

The mare laughed, "A little of both? He was crying like a foal when he told me about it." She rolled her eyes, "I was kind of surprised he admitted to it at all." Suddenly she shoved him, making him stumble back a few paces into the street. "Let's walk."

She turned and did that saunter away. Maybe he was thinking with the wrong anatomy, but he did follow her. She led him to a small warehouse. She had the key to the door and swung it open before gesturing him inside. Silver grew hesitant, peering into the darkness of the building. With a growing expression of impatience, her horn began to glow an instant before Silver was bodily hefted up and tossed in. The door closed, bringing in darkness, though he could hear her walking around.

"So," said Silver as he regained his footing, "I never caught your name."

"You can't catch what isn't thrown," said the mare, sounding amused. "Sit." The magic was back, pulling him back towards the ground. Why was she so strong? Or was his body that weak? "Good boy." He could tell she was close by. That strange appealing scent that all mares had was there. He couldn't get a direction off just the smell. He needed to practice making use of this big nose he had. He felt something go over one of his legs and jerked away. "Sit," came her voice, close, to the left. The magic held him down as ropes quickly fastened to his legs in the darkness.

"Ok, this stopped being cool," complained Silver, struggling against the press of the magic.

Click, the lights came on, revealing the mare standing in front of a worryingly extensive set of power tools, whips, and other exotic implements that Silver couldn't even begin to guess, nor did he want to. He went into a blind panic, trying to lunge for the door only to fall over onto his face. That was becoming a habit... A glance showed all of his legs were secured with taught rope to pillars in the room. But he was a unicorn! He could get out of this. He got back up quickly and focused on the magic, only for soft lips to find his. Magic sputtered and died as he blinked at the mare tilting her head to the side to achieve a full lip-lock with him. Did she want to kill him or love him? Something cool settled down over his horn before she stepped back with a smile.

Silver looked up at the horn as best he could, "What'd you do?" He tried to focus his magic, but a sensation of congestion built quickly. "This isn't cool, please, come on."

The mare shook her head, "You damaged my property."

Silver blinked at the words, "What?"

The mare gestured vaguely, "Tumble. He's mine. He gets things done, but you damaged him. He's deathly afraid another unicorn will show him up."

Silver began to pale. This wasn't some air-headed hanger-on. She was part of the problem.

The mare lowered her head, showing off her red horn, "I don't need him being scared of unicorns. I need him being fat and happy." She did that saunter over to him, but Silver saw only looming threat, not attraction. Her magic wrapped around a riding crop that quickly lifted from its resting place and floated beside her. "I see two possible answers."

Silver shivered like a leaf, eyes locked on her, "And... those would be?"

She smiled, "I show him unicorns aren't so tough." She brought down the crop with a smart slap on Silver's flank, making him jump in place. "Or, I replace him with a more useful stallion. So which is it going to be?" She waggled her back end, though it faced away from him. "You have the look of untouched vegetables. We could change that."

Silver gave a mighty pull against the ropes, but his hoof was firmly attached. Neither the rope nor the cement column it was attached to was going anywhere. He weighed his options. Wait, why struggle? He could always get away later, right? He smiled at her nervously, "You are a pretty mare." True enough, so far he could tell. She was pretty, and terrifying. Pretty terrifying described her perfectly.

She smiled brightly, "You don't even know my name."

Silver shook his head, "Will you tell me?"

"No." The crop came down on his other flank. It stung a little, but wasn't really hurting him, but Silver had no doubt she could swing it harder, or on a more sensitive area. "Tell me why I'm pretty. Be specific."

Oh god, he didn't even know what made a mare more or less pretty than another mare. He looked her over with darting eyes, looking for those poorly defined things that made a woman hot, in this case a horse woman. "You look sexily dangerous with that crop?" he tried with a nervous smile.

She laughed, and switched the crop against his ribs, "I do, don't I? Go on."

He frowned a little. "You have a sexy walk," he said without too much conviction. It seemed hesitant speech was a thing that ponies often failed to notice, as she just smiled and sauntered around him in a slow circle. He was certain she was trying to be attractive, and it was working on the parts of him that didn't think.

She flicked her tail across his nose, giving him a peek at things he shouldn't be looking at. "I'm going to break you. Then you'll beg for it."

Silver felt panic rise in his chest. His heartbeat went into overdrive, pounding in his ears. "Oh god, did you do this to Tumble?"

She tilted her head, "Huh? No. That big oaf is too stupid to play with." She flashed her flat white teeth, "You're going to be much more fun. Maybe I'll forgive you for breaking my toy. Kneel."

Silver hesitated a moment and the crop swatted him on the neck in a painful stinging. He reared back slightly before he began to slowly settle to the ground at the hooves of the domineering mare. "That's right," she said, "This is a stallion's place, at the hooves of his mare. A happy mare is a happy stallion." She brought the crop down near the base of his tail. Was that called a dock? Whatever it was, it twitched at the painful crop's presence. "We will be so happy together."

The door of the warehouse suddenly exploded inwards. Silver wrenched his head over to see Rough Draft just turning back around. He stomped into the building, fury clear in his eyes. The mare went wide-eyed at the full grown earth pony and her crop fell to the ground. She dashed off into the warehouse at a full gallop, soon lost to sight as she ducked around an aisle of tools. Rough trotted up to Silver and leaned down. He bit through the ropes quickly, then... suddenly kissed his horn. Why did that feel so good?! He licked it!

Rough pulled off the horn and spat the ring that was on it off. With a soft snort he looked around, then back at Silver with a smile, "You're safe."

Silver believed him, and a smile spread over his snout, "Good timing. I think she was getting really close to the next step. That's not really the way I wanted to stop being a virgin."

Rough softly nudged Silver, "How do you get in half these situations? You're an impossible colt." He threw a foreleg over Silver and began walking him out to the street, "You can tell me all about it later."

With Rough at his side, Silver found a hardware store quickly, and returned home feeling ready. "You won't believe what I found! My old book, the one I wrote before I came here!" Already the experience with the mare was fading away to a confusing jumble in favor of sharing with Rough Draft.

When they arrived at the house, Silver quickly trotted over to where he left the stack of roleplaying books and grabbed them in a silver hand before bringing them over to Rough Draft. "Look, real human books, on roleplaying."

Rough Draft gave a soft whistle at the treasure trove. "It's going to take me a while to read them. Which ones did you write?"

Silver quickly pulled out the Ponyfinder book and pointed with a hoof at it. Rough Draft snorted softly. He took the book by the spine in his mouth and trotted off with it. Silver looked after his departing form, then returned to the desk. With the tools he purchased, he went to work on the plug. He was no electrician by any means, but it was so close! He filed the metal down and squeezed them together until he could force the plug into the outlet. The light on the strip turned on, and his computer began booting immediately. He forgot he set it to do that. He clapped his hooves together even as a silver hand pressed the tiny button that would turn on the monitor.

This was a good day.

Author's Notes:

Overly-Attached Marefriend strikes again! Come on, Silver, she'd show you a good time. Stop squirming so much.

The words were tortured, so look for strained sentences, twisted verb-noun agreements, and spanked spelling.

12 - Offline Mode

Silver sat in his uncomfortable computer chair, nudging himself into place with his magic. A huge grin was painted on his features as he reached for the mouse... Oh. He frowned, realizing that clicking the buttons on a mouse were far beyond the ability of a hoof. He withdrew his hoof and focused on his horn magic alone. He imagined his hands over the keyboard like they normally would, and moved a hand over the mouse with a smile. This would work well enough.

He called up Steam and opened up his library. Ha! He thought he was being silly when he installed all those games he had no intention of playing at the moment. Now he had a huge collection of games he could play without the internet. He clopped his hooves with joy before he slid out of the chair. Knowing the option was there was good enough. He left the computer on as he wandered into the house. A peek revealed Rough Draft in the den, reading Ponyfinder.

Silver trotted up to him with a cautious expression, "So... like it?"

"Why don't earth ponies get a strength bonus?" asked Rough Draft, "And where are the harmony stats? Do none of the ponies get any modifiers to them?"

Silver snorted softly, "Welcome to my world. Looking at Humanway is that, right there. It's close, but so far off from reality." Rough began to pout and Silver moved in quickly, nuzzling his cheek, "We tried our best."

Rough smiled back, relaxing. "That's all we can ask, I suppose. You did a great job. Did you draw all these pictures too?" He tilted his head at the question, "I didn't know you were an artist."

Silver shook his head, "I had two artists, uh, three artists help with this book. And another person to do the layout, and another to do the editing!"

Rough gave a soft whistle, "I usually have to do it all myself. How do you get a bunch of people together?"

Silver pointed out back towards the living room, "The computer I just plugged in. I can send messages, and even money, through it. They can see what I see, and the editor can edit, and the artists can art, and the layout person takes all we did and puts it together in a book, like that."

Rough frowned a little, "I'm still not sure how you can say your world didn't have magic. You were using it long before you became a unicorn."

"Huh..." said Silver, looking thoughtful, "I guess I was. Do you want to see it working! It's on!"

Rough held up a hoof, "First thing first." He set the book aside, then turned to look at Silver directly, "Are you alright?"

Silver looked confused, "Huh? I'm fine. Why?"

Rough reached a hoof out and gently brushed Silver's cheek, "You didn't look fine."

Silver shrank back a little, "She didn't get to do anything that bad."

"She was holding a crop!" said Rough in a loud, almost frantic tone. "Your... tail was up... and... How long did she have you?"

Silver began to darken in color as he sank to the floor, "A few minutes? She was crazy, but you got me out of there. It's OK."

Rough perked an ear up, then stomped a hoof down, making Silver leap back in surprise, "It's not OK. It's really not OK."

Silver looked around nervously, "What do you mean? I'm not hurt."

Rough advanced on the shaking Silver, "Stop doing that. You... run away from everything that's wrong. As soon as it's out of sight, you just... pretend it's not there anymore."

Silver's head lowered as his ears pinned back, "I don't want to cause trouble. I'm fine. She didn't hurt me."

The sound of the door closing preceded the soft clip-clop of Trixie. She arrived at the den door and reared back slightly at the sight of Silver cowering before the angry Rough Draft, "What is going on here?"

Rough pointed a hoof at Silver, "He was foalnapped by some crazy barely-mare. She had a horn blocker and tied him up." His voice only grew higher in pitch as he spoke, tinged with anger and panic, "She had a switch, uh, a crop!"

Trixie's face darkened into a scowl as she looked to Silver, "Is this true? Why are you cowering there? You're safe here, we're here. Trixie would not allow anything to happen. Now tell us all about this wicked mare so Trixie can do terrible things to her."

Silver shook his head quickly, "Rough rescued me, nothing happened. I'm fine! Can we move on to another subject, please?"

Rough snorted softly, "I can show you where they were. Maybe there's a clue about her?"

Trixie nodded, "Lead the way."

All too soon, they were both gone, and Silver was left behind with instructions to not leave the house for any reason. Silver let out a slow sigh. He wanted to show Rough Draft his human games, or talk about books. Instead they were off putting themselves in danger for him. He sulked his way to the kitchen and fetched a carrot, chewing on it as he moved to his room.

He glanced at the computer on his way by, but didn't feel in the mood for anything it could offer. Instead he crashed on his bed and surrendered to sleep.

Silver was back on that bed. Lyra was there. She shimmied up to him across the soft sheets, "No more words. Let's show everypony how much we love each other?"

Silver's sour attitude had followed him. He put a hoof on her muzzle, "Not in the mood. Why can't I have a normal dream?"

Lyra drew back with a blink, "I thought this was a normal dream for a young colt with lingering attraction to an older mare."

Silver squinted, that voice... "Luna?"

And she was Luna, just like that. "You have found me."

Silver blinked softly, "Is there a good reason you're dream-seducing me? Seriously. I was a human, and you know that, and you come after me? You could have anypony you want."

Luna frowned softly, "I have no interest in you that way. I wanted to see how you behave. Your dreams have changed much. They are no longer wild and chaotic, and I wonder why." She raised a jeweled hoof to point at Silver, "You are mine, so it behooves me to know."

"Was that pun on purpose?" asked Silver.

"Pun?" asked Luna, baffled.

Silver shook a hoof, "Nevermind. So... if I had gone along with the dream and, you know, rolled you over and went at it, what would you do?"

Luna raised a brow, "That would tell me several things, though the fashion in which you began your debaucherous act would be most telling of all."

"Would you be offended if I said that's kind of... sick?" asked Silver.

Luna shook her head, "I fail to see why. I have watched the dreams of my people for a long time, be they virtuous or depraved. There is much that can be learned from either."

Silver kept further comment to himself. It was a different world. So their princess and co-god snoops on their dirty dreams? "So... Since we know we're in a dream, I can do... this?" Suddenly Silver was David again. "Huh."

Luna adjusted her sight upwards to David's taller human form. "You could think of females of your kind." It was a trap. The moment David did, she changed, becoming a buxom human female with dark skin and dreaded hair. "Is this attractive to you?"

David barely restrained a chuckle. Luna-human looked confused, "Is this not the female you imagined?"

"Oh, it is," agreed David. "It is also my mother. I'm afraid that won't turn me on, even in my dreams."

Luna was suddenly a pony again, wings unfurled wide, "I did not mean... Forgive us. The human mind is not the pony one."

David shook his head, "There is way too much focus recently on my libido. Crazy mares want to rape me, and then I go to sleep and there are alicorns waiting to finish the job."

Luna reared her head back, "I have no intention on raping you. Do you wish me to leave?"

She began to turn to go when David put a hand on her lower back, which became a hoof as he became Silver again, "No, stay."

Luna turned back to Silver and smiled, "You are far cuter as a colt."

Silver smiled back, "Yes... I am."

Luna poked him then, "What was that about a mare?"

Silver shook his head violently, "I don't want to talk about that."

But it was too late. The warehouse appeared around himself and Luna. The red-furred mare stood beside Silver, who was tied up again with the magic-blocking ring on. She brought down the crop on him and it hurt in that odd way that dream things can hurt. He knew it should sting, so it stung, but there was no real pain.

Luna's eyes narrowed darkly, looking much like Trixie's reaction. "What foulness is this? That filly is old enough to be a mare." She gestured at Silver uncertainly, "This is... Is this true? Do you exaggerate?"

The crop came down again, making Silver yelp and squirm, but also blush hotly at how much he was showing off for Luna. He kind-of liked Luna, even if she was quite frightening.

Luna had seen enough. With a wave of her wings, the dream was dispelled, and they were seated on Discord's bed in the dark void. "I will punish her. It has been some time since I have been able to dispense true Lunar judgment on a pony." She stomped a hoof, cracks running out across the bed as if it were glass.

Silver shrunk a little, "What if--"

"No," said Luna. "You have excused every pony that has slighted you. You have raised your hoof in offer of friendship to those that would slap you across the face. You are... broken. It is a nice broken. It is a friendly broken." She circled around Silver, "But you are broken."

The dream ended abruptly with Silver sitting up in his bed in a cold sweat, Luna's last words echoing in his ears. He was broken. New tears began to build quickly in his eyes as he beat upon his bed with his hooves. Why was avoiding trouble bad? Why couldn't they just let him live? He envisioned Luna already rushing to inform her sister. They would talk.

Then they would send the dangerous human away from their perfect pony land. Who needs a broken citizen?

Author's Notes:

Serious business is discussed among many ponies. Also Steam works! Oh boy, ponies will react so well to random games.

Tears make a shoddy ink, no matter who tells you otherwise. Watch out for smudged spelling and grammar.

13 - Order in the Court

It had all happened so quickly. Silver sat, glancing around with worry at all the stone-faced ponies around him. Trixie and Rough were to either side of him, and wore no friendlier a face. Silver took a soft breath and channeled his inner stoic, his face becoming passive as he hid deep inside. This would all pass, one way or the other. There was no purpose to making a big fuss about it, or being a baby.

The royal sisters stood side-by-side, and the red-furred mare stood before them in heavy chains. She looked miserable. Celestia looked out over the witnesses. There were about two dozen ponies in attendance, and five golden-armored guards. "Mares and gentlecolts. We are gathered to find the truth, and determine just punishment." She lifted a hoof just high enough to indicate the red-furred unicorn, "Carrot Plate stands before the court accused of a crime most heinous."

Carrot struggled against her bindings with low rattling sound, "I didn't do anything wrong! Father! Mother!" She glared over her shoulder into the crowd. Silver followed her gaze to two well-to-do unicorns that looked quite nervous, but also angry. "Help me..."

Luna spread her wings, "The accused will be silent until it is her turn to speak."

Celestia looked directly at Silver, "The court calls the victim forward."

Silver took another light breath before he hopped down to his legs and trotted up slowly to the podium that seemed to be in the right spot. He remained standing, fearing his head would sink below the level of the wood. "I'm here."

Celestia nodded at Silver, "If you would speak of your experience with the accused?"

Silver pinned his ears back a moment before he restored control over his form, forcing it into a neutral position, "She... invited me to her place... She..." He glanced towards Carrot and saw she was glaring at him with burning venom. "It was dark. She held me down, with magic."

"It wasn't me!" cried Carrot, thrashing against the chains again, "Anypony could have held him!"

Luna brought her hoof down as she boomed in the royal voice, "The accused will be silent!"

Celestia never stopped looking Silver in the eyes, "Go on."

Silver took another little breath, "When the lights were turned on, I was tied up. Each of my legs to a pillar. She was talking... about her boyfriend being damaged, uh, coltfriend, sorry. She sounded like she wanted me to be her new boyfr--coltfriend. She used a short flexible stick to sting me."

Luna lifted one of the riding crops Silver remembered seeing. It wasn't the one that had struck him, but was similar enough, "Was it this?"

Silver shook his head, "Like that, but not that exact one. She had a more blue one at the tip. She hit me a few times while she was speaking to me, then Rough Draft showed up, and I went home."

Celestia nodded softly, "Very well. Please return to your seat." Silver was glad to get off the stand and return to the bench. The stares of the ponies were not entirely friendly from the crowd, and he had no desire to suffer it longer.

The court proceeded, with each pony getting a turn. Rough Draft spoke his part, and then it was Carrot's turn. "Will you tell us what happened, in your words?" asked Celestia.

Carrot scowled before she nodded, "I took pity on that colt. He looked lonely, and he was being picked on in school. I invited him over to play pretend, and that's what we did. We were playing guards and vandals. I was the guard." She gave a bright smile, "We barely got started when a big earth pony smashed in the door and scared the muffins out of me."

Luna asked, "And what did you do then?"

Carrot shook her head, "What else do you do when an angry pony just bursts in? I ran! I was never so afraid in all my life." She turned her head to look at Celestia, "I didn't hurt him. He's just a little colt. I don't need a coltfriend that tiny."

Carrots parents stepped up next. The two unicorns pleaded that she was a fine young mare of upstanding moral fibre, who had never been arrested for anything else in her young life.

Celestia looked to Luna next, "Do you have evidence against the accused?"

Luna shook her head, "Nay. The scene of the crime was quite clean. The various tools were missing." She levitated the crop she had held before, "I had to secure this elsewhere, as the original was missing."

Rough Draft raised a hoof into the air. Celestia nodded towards him and he stood, "When I first arrived, Silver was wearing a horn blocking ring."

Celestia nodded at this, "Do you have the ring?"

Rough shuffled a little, "I spat it onto the ground. It wasn't there when we returned..."

The gallery seemed to be growing hostile to the offense, murmuring about the lack of any physical evidence. "He was just playing a game and got caught being naughty with a crop," came one whisper.

"Little low-born colt thinks he can run the Plate family name through the mud! Who does he think he is?" came another harsh whisper.

Celestia raised an ear before she spoke, "There is little concrete proof in this matter, but the treatment of a foal is a very serious affair." She extended a wing to point at Carrot, "Are you saying Silver Lining was never tied up, or hit?"

Carrot shook her head, "I did both of those things. It was just part of the game. He was going to break out afterwards and get revenge on the guard." she shrugged, "Just a foal's game, no harm."

Luna flared her wings violently, "You said that anypony could have done those things to the victim. What did you mean?"

Carrot shook her head, "I didn't hold him with magic. I asked him to sit, and he did. If he felt magic, he was just scared of the dark. I know better than to hold ponies down with my magic." She turned her nose up at Luna.

Celestia glanced towards Luna, who was scowling most deeply. Celestia cleared her throat, "The court finds that insufficient evidence is presented, but would ask, Miss Carrot Plate, that you stay away from Silver Lining."

Carrot snorted, "Gladly." Her chains were removed and she trotted primly to her parents' side, sitting down beside them.

Justice was served.

Silver stood in a hallway in the castle, beside a fuming Rough and Trixie. Trixie threw her hat to the ground with her magic, "The injustice of it! That little harlot got away, with nothing!"

"We agree," spoke Luna's voice as she stepped closer to the family gathering. "Times have changed, and we do not like it. Before our departure, we would have seen her to the stockade without wasting time and energy on such a charade."

Silver looked from one displeased face to the next, "Uh, did I mess up? I told the truth."

Rough shook his head at Silver, "I know you did..."

Silver frowned then, "Different world, same thing."

Luna raised a brow, "We do not understand."

Silver perked up his ears, "You heard that? Sorry."

"Do not be sorry, explain," beckoned Luna.

Silver shrugged, "The justice system is pretty skewed where I came from too. A lot of innocent people in jail, a lot of guilty people unpunished. You can send an entire neighborhood to homelessness illegally and face a few years of jail, but get caught with a drug they don't like and you may go away forever."

Luna shook her head, "Tis a strange world you lived in." She smiled, "We are not that bad, are we?"

Silver shook his head quickly, then shuddered, "You're not going to banish me, right?"

Luna, Trixie, and Rough all looked confused all at once.

Trixie leaned forward, "Why would she do that? What did you do wrong? Did you lie? Was this all a ruse?"

Silver shook his head faintly, "No! God no... It's, you know..." He looked up at Luna from his hung muzzle, "I'm broken."

Warm feathers settled on Silver and he was pulled into Luna. "You are a good pony," she assured, "Too good, perhaps, but good. Trust in your guardians." She nudged him away, towards Trixie and Rough. "You have broken none of Equestria's laws. There is no reason to banish you, Silver Lining." She rose to her hooves, "I must speak with my sister." She turned away and strode off, making quick distance on those long legs.

Trixie picked up her hat in her magic, paused, then set it down on Silver's head. It was comically oversized and hung down across his eyes partially. He smiled though. He could smell Trixie from the hat, and, "Thank you. I didn't think you'd let anyone wear this."

Trixie held up a hoof, "For a star pupil, exceptions can be made. Now..." She rose up, looking ready to move, "Let us salvage the day."

The trio walked together through the city. Trixie's hat was not the most practical thing for Silver's smaller form, but he still liked it, and even liked the way it bounced around on his head. His simple amusement was catchy, and soon all three were walking with less sadness. When they arrived at home, Silver dashed forward. He hopped over to the computer and pointed at it, "I forgot all about it. It works! Come, look." He hopped up into his chair and looked over the choice of games a moment with a frown before he decided on... oh this was hard.

"So what does it do?" asked Trixie.

"Show us," beckoned Rough.

He didn't want to pick a game that put an immediate bad view of humanity. Ah ha! He loaded The Stanley Parable. The image showed poor Stanley working at his own computer, and the ponies were immediately captivated. Trixie shook her head, "Such a detailed drawing. Trixie's never seen a videogame of that quality. How does it work?"

Silver ran them through the office space walking simulator, as the game's narrator droned on and on. Rough tilted his head, "It's like a story book, that you play?"

"It gets better," said Silver with a smile as they arrived at the first intersection. The announcer said clearly to go left. Silver flashed them a grin, then went right.

Trixie blinked, "You're going the wrong way! You'll lose the game!"

But the game went on, with the narrator grumpily complaining about Silver's decision.

Rough suddenly burst into laughter, "That's amazing! Are there any wrong ways? Can you lose?"

Silver piloted poor Stanley to the room with a sharp drop, and ran off the edge, dying on the floor below even as the announcer warned him not to do that. The game casually restarted back in Stanley's office as if nothing had happened and the narrator started over again. Silver released the mouse and keyboard, then reached into the drawer and pulled out a joystick, which was still plugged into the machine, "You can also play with this."

Rough took the controller up in his mouth at first, then set it down and began pressing it carefully with his hooves. It took some experimenting, but he soon had Stanley running around the office in a drunken haze.

Silver smiled at him, "There is a mini-game to this game. There are many ways you can reach an 'ending'. Can you find them all?"

Rough directed his virtual human forward, "I can try!"

Trixie shook her head and reached with her magic to reclaim her hat, soon gracing her own head. "Trixie will make dinner while you play with this. Tell her if you win." She trotted off towards the kitchen. Silver glanced between her and Rough, then settled a bit more comfily into the chair. Showing Rough this game was infinitely more satisfying than dealing with Carrot Plate.

Author's Notes:


There are still typos. I find all Typos in contempt of court! Bailiff, escort them away...

14 - Back to School

Silver trotted up to Trixie after they had finished their celery casserole. He hadn't expected it to be very good, but it proved tasty enough on his herbivorous tongue and his belly was pleasantly full. "Trixie?"

Trixie looked down at him, "Yes? Is Rough still playing that game?"

Silver glanced over to see Rough playing at the computer, looking quite engrossed. "Yes. But that's not why I'm here."

Trixie tilted her head, "What brings you before Trixie?"

Silver gave a smile, "Can I learn some more magic from you? Real magic."

Trixie poked him in the chest, "You are already learning 'real' magic."

Silver shook his head, "I mean spells. Lifting and glowing, those aren't spells. I know it's different."

Trixie tapped her chin, "Before you can learn spells, you have to learn how to read spells, and how to think spells. But before we even consider that, show Trixie your channeling."

Silver gave a soft huff of impatience, but sat himself on his haunches and began to focus. He made his horn glow first, then pulled the magic out, then back in, and out again. He flip-flopped between the two states until Trixie nudged him on the shoulder. "Good. Not perfect, but you are improving. How is your precision?"

Silver reached with a silver hand and gently plucked off Trixie's hat before bringing it over and placing it on his own head. Trixie huffed and snatched it back quickly. "Funny." She raised a hoof to point at the dirty dishes, "Clean those and maybe Trixie will be convinced. Break even one dish and you have to wait a week to try again."

No pressure... Silver approached the sink and reared up on his hind legs. With his forehooves resting on the counter, he could easily see the matter at hand, or hoof. He began slowly working each dish one at a time. No hurry. Hurry leads to broken dishes. Broken dishes would lead to no learning magic for a week. He didn't want that, and decided a few extra minutes cleaning the dishes was well worth avoiding it. Using these mental hands was becoming a second nature. So long as he kept himself to two hands at most, he could just use them as he would have his missing hands, and everything seemed to work. His forearms even twitched a little, moving as if the hands were attached.

"Finished!" he announced, looking around for Trixie, but not seeing her. He went back to all fours and trotted through the house, to find her laying on her side in the den. Silver approached her slowly, unsure what the expression she wore meant. "All done. Everything OK?"

Trixie nodded, "Trixie didn't hear any falling dishes, so she will begin the lesson. Sit." She pointed to a cushion, and Silver hurried to place himself on it. "Magic is complicated from here out. Many unicorns never move past lifting and glowing. If you don't understand, Trixie will forgive you. Not everyone can be as amazing as she is." She pulled over a book bound in light cyan. It read 'A Foal's Introduction to Practical Spell Reading'. Trixie flipped it open and skimmed through the pages quickly, seeming to skip through the first few chapters. She turned the book around and slid it before Silver. "Read."

Silver looked down at the book curiously. The book was covered with diagrams showing different amounts of internal and external channeling, durations, and meanings. There appeared to be about twenty-five in total. "What are they?"

Trixie pointed at the book, "Think of them like the magic version of the alphabet. Most spells are made of combinations of those. Most also require you channel both ways in a very precise fashion. You can see magic, can you not? Behold!" She held up the book as her horn shone in demonstration. She went through the magical alphabet slowly but precisely. Each specific concentration seemed to create a different pattern around her horn. "If you do it too slowly, it does nothing of consequence. When you do them close together, magic. Will is also important." She performed a faster pattern, and fireworks exploded around herself in a dazzling display.

Silver immediately tried to copy the pattern, imagining his own fireworks. A single jet of light popped into the air, then fell to the carpet, not even exploding. It soon vanished.

Trixie looked all-too-amused. She shook her head, "An excellent attempt for your first spell." She leaned in, "Trixie will tell you a secret if you promise secrecy." When Silver nodded, she continued, "Trixie's first spell almost set her house on fire. Compared to that, you are doing well."

Silver blinked, "Should we be doing this somewhere less flammable?"

Trixie scoffed, "You are practicing in the presence of a magnificent and skilled wizard. If your spell goes awry, she will fix it before anything can be harmed. Now study." She tapped the book.

There was nothing for it. He started reading and copying, trying to learn the feel of each pattern in the book. Trixie suddenly interrupted him, "Quickly, show me the first pattern."

With a rising panic, Silver produced a pattern. Trixie shook her head, "Trixie is not sure which pattern that is, but it is not the first, certainly. You must memorize them."

Ugh. Silver frowned at the book and started from the first pattern all over again. He loved learning... mechanics, systems. This wasn't a system, it was a language, and he hated languages. He didn't want to give up yet though. He wanted magic, real magic. He studied until his eyelids grew heavy. Soft clip-clops came from the living room before Rough Draft poked his head in, "Almost done in here?"

Trixie nodded, "Studying while half-asleep will not help anything." With a snap of her power, the book was closed. Silver rose to his feet and staggered towards bed, trying to remember the patterns desperately. As he walked past Rough, he was grabbed up and hugged. At first he wriggled in complaint, but the warmth of his guardian soon won him over and he relaxed against Rough.

Rough kissed the top of his head, "Good night."

Released, Silver trotted to his bed, "Night!"

The next day, at school, Silver's mind was filled with the patterns. He kept going over them, but felt frustration building. Was he even remembering any of them right? He wished Trixie had let him bring the book to school. The teacher was trying to teach... something, but Silver's mind was far away in a land of confusing horn diagrams.

When school was let out, Silver wandered home, still trying to get it all right. He stopped when he bumped face first into something. He looked up, then scampered backwards in fear. Tumble stood before him. "Hey," he said casually.

"Uh, hi." Smile and say hello. It didn't work the first time, but it didn't hurt either.

Tumble approached him. Silver's body felt like a tightly-coiled spring, it almost hurt to breath. "She dump you too?"

Silver let out an explosive exhale, "What?"

"Carrot," explained Tumble, "She dumped you too?"

Silver was baffled, "Sort of."

Tumble nodded, "Mares... right? We stallions should stick together."

Silver's confusion only grew. He thought back. Equestria seemed to follow certain rules. If you paid attention, everything made sense... "Yeah... So... no hard feelings?" He offered a hoof to Tumble.

Tumble bumped hooves, "Nah." Silver moved to walk around him, but Tumble started following him.

It suddenly dawned on Silver. He stopped and turned to Tumble, who stood right in front of him. "Tumble... I'm going to ask something, but before I do, I want you to know something."

"What?" asked Tumble with a raised brow.

"This isn't... an insult or anything. We're... cool, but." He leaned in a little, "Are you a colt cuddler? No offense!"

Tumble turned red quickly, "What! Why! I oughta..." But he didn't rush to maul Silver, or even deny the statement. He just looked ashamed, and uncertain.

Silver let out a slow breath, then smiled at Tumble, "It's cool, I said that. If you are, or if you aren't, it's cool."

Tumble looked around for other ponies close by before he moved in over Silver, looming intimidatingly, "So what of it?"

Silver scampered back a few steps, "Nothing. You can be one if you want. I don't have anything against colt cuddlers."

Tumble blinked at Silver, "You don't? Everyone does."

Silver tilted his head, "I admit I... really don't know. Is that... a thing? I'm new... to Canterlot."

"So where ya from?" asked Tumble. "Must be a weird place, ponies don't care about colt cuddlers."

Silver shook his head a little, "They care, but I don't. Who a person finds love with is none of my business. What's the harm?"

Tumble smiled a little, "You're a weird little colt."

Silver looked around a moment, then back at Tumble, "So..."

"So?" asked Tumble.

"No more bullying?" asked Silver.

Tumble shrugged softly, "You're off the hook."

Silver fidgeted a moment, "I'd rather you didn't pick on anypony."

Tumble gave a loud snort, "What are ya, an Element?" He shoved Silver back a step, "What's it to you if I pick on somepony else?"

Silver regained his stance and stepped towards Tumble carefully, "It wasn't fun when you were picked on. You don't need to be mean to others."

Tumble suddenly looked both angry and sad, "Nopony cares what I think! Why should I care what they think?"

Silver summoned his hand and softly scratched Tumble behind the ear, "I care. If you promise to try being nice, I'll introduce you to other nice ponies."

Tumble shied back almost violently when the scratching started, but when it didn't stop, he slowly began to relax, and settled on the ground, "You're crazy, colt. I should pound you one."

Silver flashed a bright smile, "But you won't."

Tumble lashed out a hoof. Silver squeaked in sudden fear, flinching, but he was only dragged closer to Tumble. "Don't get cocky."

Silver wasn't sure how to feel at that moment. Tumble was being nice, mostly. He was also gay. He was also large enough to tear Silver in half if they did that kind of thing, and he didn't really want to do that kind of thing anyway. "So, want to play a videogame?"

Tumble rose to his hooves, "Nah. I played all the ones at the arcade."

Silver smiled, "You haven't played any of mine!" He took a cantering step back towards his house, "Come on! I have a driving game you could try."

Tumble ambled after him, "What kinda driving game?"

They trotted on, soon approaching Silver's house. Tumble asked, "So, is it true? They said you were playing a game with Carrot, a dirty game."

Silver flushed lightly, "It was her idea."

Tumble nodded, "I can believe that. She tried to get me to play stupid games. After I said no enough times, she stopped asking. You gotta put mares in their place."

Silver turned to look over his shoulder at Tumble, "You had better not say that around Trixie, or she might do something awful."

Tumble shuddered, "No thanks. That mare's dangerous." He trotted up beside Silver, "Is she your mom?"

Silver tilted his head, "Close enough. Magic tutor, but she lives with me."

Tumble snorted, "Your dad must be rich, affording her."

"Nah," said Silver as he opened the door and invited Tumble in. An evening playing games together sounded a lot better than the other ways Silver had spent time with Tumble.

Author's Notes:

Nothing here but two guys bonding over a crazy female. It's a tale as old as life itself!

Did you suspect Tumble's particular leanings? A cookie for you!

But no cookies for typos. They are bad and should feel bad.

15 - Meet my Friends

Tumble started visiting every day, invited or not. Silver had no reason to turn him away, so he let him in and they did homework together, or played video games. Sometimes Tumble would just sit there and watch Silver practice his magic, though there wasn't a lot for the earth pony to see when he did this.

After one such session, it was growing late in the day. Tumble ambled on home while Trixie stayed in the den with Silver. She poked him in the shoulder. "Trixie is not an expert when it comes to little colts, but he is looking at you."

Silver raised an ear, "Huh?"

Trixie snorted lightly, "Looking. He likes you. Every time you glance at him, he looks away."

Silver flushed warm in his cheeks, "Better than pounding me."

Trixie frowned a little, "It is, but is he here because you are afraid of him? Your amazing teacher will send him away if that is the case."

Silver shook his head, "No! He's OK. I mean, he hasn't bothered anypony for a few days now. He's trying to be good." He rolled over onto his side, "He's trying to be a good pony, and if I turn him away, he'll be back to nothing."

Trixie raised a brow, "Are you going to raise your tail for him to keep him as a 'good pony'? Trixie thinks that is a foolish idea."

Silver shuddered softly, "I don't want... things back there."

Trixie crossed her hooves under her chin, gazing at Silver with naughty eyes, "Then maybe you will be the stallion of the pair?"

"Why do I have to be anything of anything?" asked Silver, springing to his hooves. "I want... a family. You don't make cute little foals with another stallion. Biology doesn't work that way."

Trixie shrugged her shoulders, "That is for you to decide. This isn't included in magic lessons." She gestured to Silver's room, "But, for now, it is sleep time. Go to bed."

Silver did just that. The next morning he prepared for the day and trotted off to school. He surveyed the schoolyard when he arrived, spotting Meadow Leaper and Lily Jump playing a game, bouncing a ball off a wall back and forth between each other. He saw Tumble sitting by himself, though that quickly changed. Tumble spotted Silver and ambled over with a smile, "Hey Silver Lining!"

Silver got an idea, and smiled back, "Hey Tumble. Let's go say hi to some friends."

"Uh, OK..." said Tumble, less sure. He followed after Silver as he approached Meadow and Lily.

"Good morning," said Silver, "I want to introduce somepony to you."

"Who's--" Meadow stopped, looking at who Silver was referring to. "Uh... we've met."

Lily bobbed her head, "Everypony's met Rough Tumble before."

Silver shook his head, "That was the old Rough Tumble. The new Rough Tumble is way better." He gently nudged the nervous-looking Tumble closer. "He's nice."

Meadow was the first to go with it, offering a hoof, "Dad always says a pony deserves another chance. Put 'er there." They met hooves in a friendly bump. "There, now we're cool."

Lily smiled when they hoofbumped, looking encouraged, "Wanna join us?" She kicked the ball so it bounced off the wall and came at Tumble at a leisurely rate. Tumble bumped it back, and they began to play. Silver quietly scooted away from the trio, pleased with himself. Maybe now he could get a break from the constant presence of Tumble, friendly as he may be.

The school day went smoothly. At the end, Butter Scotch dismissed all the students, but asked the handful of unicorns present to remain behind.

Butter smiled warmly at the remains of her class, "Next week is a very important week. For those seeking to learn magic more deeply, the academies will be visiting the school. They will take you aside and perform tests. If you do well, they will invite you to come study with them." She held up a hoof, "This is not mandatory. Many unicorns live a perfectly satisfying life without learning magic beyond their special talent, and that's just fine. I know a few of you tried last year and didn't get in, but this is another chance for you. Any questions?"

Silver raised a hoof, "Do we need anything for it? Should we prepare?"

Butter shook her head a little, "You already have a personal tutor. I'm certain she can prepare you for it. Now don't worry too much, you have a week before they start arriving."

With that, school was dismissed and Silver trotted home, thinking about those academies. He really wanted to learn more magic, and a school where that was the focus had a strong appeal over the general and unfocused study of the grade school. Was there an age requirement? Did he know enough magic?

He arrived home to find Rough writing in the living room next to the computer. Trixie was blending up a fresh oat shake. He waved to each of them, "Hey Rough, Trixie. Uh, Trixie? Butter said some academy ponies were going to visit."

Trixie tilted her head, "Already? You are unlikely to catch their eye this year. Maybe next year."

Silver blinked, "Just like that? I shouldn't even try? Maybe they'll be impressed with my dexterity."

Trixie shook her head, "This is doubtful. If you can't even reliably show off the magical alphabet, they will probably not look further." She waved a hoof, "Still, you should try. It will be a learning experience. You will know what they will want for next year."

Silver frowned a little, "Alright... Is it OK if I study the book?"

"You may," conceded Trixie, "But you're not going to memorize it all before they arrive. When are they coming exactly?"

Silver made a vague gesture, "Next week."

Trixie snorted, "Such little warning." She trotted up to Silver and patted him on his head, "Trixie wishes you the best of luck, but there is next year. You are a little colt. We have time."

Silver wasn't interested in using his physical age as an excuse. He marched into the den and plucked the book of magical letters from its resting spot. He spent the rest of the evening reading over the letters over and over, trying to bake them into his mind.

The day passed, and the next day found Silver trotting to school. He blinked in surprise when he arrived. Tumble was playing with Soft Blush and Lily Jump. The two mares were having a tea party, and apparently Tumble was invited. Though the bigger stallion looked awkward, he was behaving himself. Silver smiled, proud of himself and his friends. He trotted over to join them, "Room for one more?"

They graciously allowed him to join in the game of pretending to sip tea and talk about nothing in particular. It seemed that having Silver there also playing relaxed Tumble, and they all had a pleasant time until the bell went off, summoning them inside.

School went by without much of anything interesting happening, until towards the end. Butter summoned the unicorns aside, "Before the testers arrive, we have to measure your basic abilities. Those who can't muster enough light and force will not be tested further." She looked over the small gathering of colts and fillies, "Just to remind you all, this is not a strike against you, as a pony. You may get stronger with time and practice, or not, and either is just fine. Your worth as a pony is not measured by your ability to do magic. That aside, let's begin." She went to each unicorn in turn, having them glow as brightly as they could.

His practice had served him well. Silver could see the magic flowing through their horns. With it, he could see the imperfections in the channeling. Magic flowed wildly into the outer channels where it was needed in the center for light for many of the unicorns, though one other, Soft Blush, seemed to have it down right. When it was his turn, he let the magic flow powerfully through him, growing warm. He opened the floodgate and kept the magic held tightly to the center. He couldn't see his own horn very well, but he could see his silvery light shining off the ponies around him. Butter nodded at him, "Very good." She moved right on to the next in line. When she reached the end, she sent some of the unicorns back into the school, already it was down to only six unicorns.

Butter pointed at a series of weights placed about twenty feet in front of the line. "When it is your turn, you need to pick up each weight, one at a time, starting from the lightest. If you can't lift a weight, then stop. There's no reason to strain yourself." Soft Blush reached the third weight, barely getting it off the ground before she set it back down with a soft panting. Most of the other unicorns got about that far, with one colt grabbing the fourth weight and hefting it up with effort.

Butter look to Silver, it was his turn. He released the magic into the outer channels and took a slow breath. With a silver hand he plucked up the first weight. That was easy. He set it down and moved for the second weight. This one was a little heavier, and it dragged against his magic.

He went for the third one and tried to heft it up, but it didn't want to move. He frowned and summoned his other hand, working it under the weight. He wasn't sure if two mental hands were any stronger than one, since it all came from the same place, but it felt better. With the two mental hands he put his all into it, grunting and heaving. "Silver, this isn't a contest," warned Butter. "It's OK."

Silver wasn't having it. He heaved the weight, flipping it over even as he reared up into a standing position with his hooves raised, sympathetically making the motion that his hands had made. Butter shook her head, "Technically, you did move it. Good job."

Silver settled back down, blushing a bit. That was barely average, and he had to work so hard at it! He plucked a bar from his saddlebag and chewed it with a frown. A glance showed he wasn't the only unicorn nibbling a snack after that.

Author's Notes:

The big test is coming up! Will Silver pass and get into a school? Will he get into Celestia's school? Does he deserve it? Does he have the raw talent?

Will he and Tumble confess their true feelings, that's what you all care about, admit it.

The typos couldn't pass the unicorn test and are revolting in protest.

16 - Hard Blush

After the test was over, and school was wrapped up, Silver did not head home immediately. Instead he found Soft Blush and followed her out of the school. Trotting after her, he called out, "Soft Blush? Do you have a moment?"

She paused and looked back at him, looking nervous a moment. "I suppose..."

Silver tilted his head, "Why are you nervous? We're... friends right?"

She shook her head, then bobbed it up and down, "Well, yes, at school. My parents were ever so insistent I not socialize with you after the final bell."

Silver blinked in surprise, "What, why? Did I? I mean... what?"

Soft Blush's ears pinned back as she shook her head again, "It's... about Carrot Plate. They say you're a bad colt looking to get fillies in trouble."

Silver flopped down onto his haunches, "Oh. Do you believe that?"

Soft Blush gave a little smile, "I suppose I don't. I'm large enough to decide with whom I will socialize or not. Very well, what business did you have?"

Silver brightened quickly, "Thank goodness. I wanted to talk to you, since you're a unicorn, and you looked like you were good with your horn."

Soft blinked softly, "Did I? I wasn't the brightest, or the strongest. Whatever makes you say that?"

Silver pointed at her, "I have an eye for these things." It wasn't a lie. "Is this your first year trying?"

She shook her head, "I've taken the test for eight years."

Silver reared his head back a little, "Didn't pass?"

She held up a hoof, "Passed every time."

Silver looked her over, down to her cutie mark that looked like a face with eyeshadow, then back up at her, "If you passed, why aren't you in an academy?"

Soft Blush made a dismissive wave with her left hoof, "What use do I have with all that? It is only to satisfy my dear parents. They would be ashamed if I could not pass their boring exam. My talent is simple." Her horn began to glow and Silver felt something brushing his face. She drew out a mirror from her delicate bag and showed off Silver's new makeup. It was tasteful and subtle, likely to enhance whatever ponies thought was attractive.

Silver tilted his head one way, then the other, looking at himself, "Nice job." He had no idea if it was a nice job or not. "So are you going to work in a department store?"

Soft Blush heaved a light sigh, "I wanted to make a salon of my own, but whoever heard of one just for makeup?"

Silver tapped the ground with a hoof for a moment before he asked, "Well, wait. Maybe you're looking a bit too directly."

"Too directly?" asked Soft, "I'm afraid I haven't the foggiest what you mean. Please explain darling."

Silver flashed a light smile, "Your talent is makeup, but there's more to makeup than just prettying somepony up. What if... I wanted to be a wolf?"

"A wolf?" asked Soft, but then she frowned in thought. Her horn began to glow and the tickling returned, working over much more of Silver's body. She circled around him as she worked. Even his tail got a moment of being worked on. Soon she stopped back in front of him, "There. A masterpiece, if I say so myself." She wielded her mirror for him to see.

Silver struggled to restrain his giggles. It was amazing work, to be sure, but a pony werewolf -- as he was gussied up to be -- was just funny to look at. He wagged his canine like tail back and forth and shook his floppy ears. When did he get floppy ears? "I don't think wolves have floppy ears."

"But you look ever so darling," she reasoned with a smile. "This has been most interesting, but I fail to see your point."

Silver raised a hoof, only to notice it was done up to look like a paw. He snorted softly, "You're amazing. You could be working for actors, not aging housemares trying to hide their wrinkles or desperate rich ponies trying to look their best. Performers of any kind would pay a lot for you..." He trailed off, then clopped his hooves together, "I have a friend who could point you in the right direction."

"Whoever would that be?" asked Soft Blush, growing interested. "I never considered that angle before."

"Nicole Foalman. She's really nice, and she owes me a favor," said Silver just before he was bowled over to the ground under a wide-eyed Soft.

"You know the Nicole Foalman, personally?" she asked, "She's my idol! Her skill with disguise is what inspired me! Would she really help me?"

Silver flushed hard. It felt kind of nice to be pinned down by the older filly, to say nothing of that enchanting scent that clung to mares. "Uh, yes. I'm sure of it. Absolutely sure. I'll write her a letter when I get home."

She climbed off of him and lifted him to his feet with a flash of magic. "Dreadfully sorry, I lost my composure."

Silver shook his head, "It's OK. So, uh... any advice, for getting into the academy? I really want to get in."

Soft leaned forward and planted a kiss between his eyes. He wobbled in place, muscle tone vanishing. He could barely hear her over the roar in his ears, "You darling little colt. You're too young to be locked away in some stuffy academy. Besides, if you went off to an academy, we wouldn't be classmates any longer." She turned and walked off, leaving Silver to flop against a fence, breathing softly.

When his wits returned, he pushed to his hooves and moved for home. He was happy that he had helped Soft, but grunted in frustration. He still wanted to pass that exam. "Anything worth doing, is worth doing right now." A sudden sharp jolt ran through his body, and he began to prowl through the streets like the wolf he was disguised as, "When you're on the prowl. Let them hear your howl." Oh, oh god. Was he singing? He was singing. Why was he singing? "I'm a wolf in the grass, Surely I can pass, if I just put in my all." He could hear a counter-rhythm coming from somewhere, and felt the urge to be silent for a moment, though he continued to stalk along.

Equestrian song magic had him entirely in its grip. Though his body obeyed without question, his mind reeled with confusion. Suddenly Trixie stepped out of nowhere, shaking a hoof at him, "You're trying far too hard," she sang, "Gonna go down in flames. Why don't you listen to Trixie, She's faced this shame long before!" Huh, was rhyming optional? Trixie just walked off as if nothing happened, and he prowled on.

The urge to sing returned in full force and he called out, "Why don't they understand. This is where I'll make my stand. I'm good enough. It can't be that tough!"

Ponies emerged from either side, singing his words back at him, "This is where he'll make his stand. Why can't they understand?" Then they ducked away back into their houses. This was becoming hilarious, and scary, all at once.

Silver spotted a skateboard just sitting there and suddenly knocked it into position and hopped onto it. He zoomed down the hill towards his house at an alarming speed as he sang, "It's all coming so fast, but this test I will pass! I'm not just a colt... I'll give them a jolt, when I pass... this... test!" He was mid-air as he said the last word, soaring over a bump. The music magic fled him abruptly, leaving him back in control of his body as the skateboard came back for a landing. "Oh shit!" The skateboard hit the ground, and kept going. Silver did not.

His hooves went out from under him and he fell over, tumbling in several rolls before he came to a slow, painful, stop. He quietly hoped music magic wasn't always so... abrasive...

Author's Notes:

Silver gets a nice chat with Soft Blush, and sings a musical number. What more do you want out of a chapter?

The typos were singing too, it should be easy to find them!

17 - Sun Burn

Silver appeared in a flash of golden light. Celestia loomed over him. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is to plan for each pony's destiny?" she asked in that soft maternal voice, though it was tainted with a subtle anger.

Silver looked around, it was dark all around them. "Every pony," continued Celestia, "Has a destiny, laid out clearly for all to see."

A dizzying array of cutie marks began to appear and vanish around the two as Celestia stepped closer, "And you interfered with one. What gives you the right, alien, to corrupt my little ponies?"

Silver thought quickly, but went around in circles, "I, what? You mean Soft Blush? When did you start ma--"

"Silence!" ordered Celestia with a scowl. She brought down a golden-clad hoof and it broke the void, depositing them into the royal garden. "What gave you the right? That is the question."

Silver shrank a little, "Nothing?"

Celestia smiled at him, "On this we agree." She reached forward a hoof, raising Silver's sunken chin to face her, "You want to be a good pony?"

Silver nodded faintly, trembling with fear of the immortal pony princess.

"Then accept your fate," she spoke gently. A searing pain suddenly erupted through Silver's flanks, burning as if to the bone. He screamed wordlessly and collapsed to the ground. He could see his flank and the manacle that hung around the sheep that was drawn on it.

"What does it mean?" he asked, fearing what he assumed it meant.

"Is it not obvious?" asked Celestia. "You are our slave, forever. When we tire of you, we will throw you away, like the garbage you are."

She began to laugh as Silver crawled back to his hooves, frightened and confused. Suddenly Celestia popped like a dirty soap bubble, and silence reigned in her stead. Silver tilted his head a little. "Uh... hello?"

"Hello," spoke a new voice. Luna. She descended from above and landed on the spot Celestia once stood. "Do you look upon my sister with such fear truly?"

Silver glanced away, then back at Luna, "I can't say I'm not happy to see you. That was a dream? It was so intense."

Luna nodded gently, "It was a nightmare, and I have banished it." She raised a hoof to point, "Do you fear Celestia? Do you fear being owned?"

Silver glanced back at his flank, where the hateful mark remained, "I... yes. You've been supportive, but Celestia follows her people, and her people don't seem to like me much. If they ask for something terrible to happen to me, I'm not sure she'd say no." He sank, belly to grass. "I didn't want to chase Carrot Plate. It made nothing but trouble trying to go after her."

Luna gave a slow huff as her wings ruffled up, "We agree that the trial was a farce of the highest order." She paused a moment, then looked at Silver anew, "I will ask you something. You do not have to agree. Few ponies have, and I will not think less of you if you are one of the many who decide against."

"What is that?" asked Silver with a tilt of his head.

"I would know more of you. Give consent and I will lay your sleeping mind open." Luna gestured with a hoof in a circular fashion, "You will be naked before me in the truest sense, and I will know, without doubt, what the truth is."

Silver made a bit of a face, "I'm not afraid of what you'd see, here, in Equestria, but I was a pretty strange person back home, and I'm not sure I want any...pony... to see that."

Luna raised a brow, "Were you an outlaw? Do you flee the law of your land?"

Silver shook his head quickly, "No! I was actually pretty bland, in what I did, but my thoughts were..." He struggled for a word. "Tawdry? Debased. Perverse. I don't want to sully you with them."

Luna moved up and tapped him on the nose with her hoof, "You forget what I have already seen. I sincerely doubt you have anything in your mind that could challenge what I have already witnessed since I took on the role of warden of dreams. Your concern is admirable, but misplaced. You simply need have faith in my abilities." Luna raised a brow, "If you were so perverse, why choose the..." Her expression darkened into a scowl, "Do you hunt for the company of foals?"

Silver scrambled back away from her fury, "No! No no! I've had plenty of chances and haven't acted on one of them, honest... You... can we switch topics a little?"

Luna raised a brow, calming slightly, "What weighs on you?"

Silver reached up a hoof to point at his muzzle, "When I am around females, they have a very intense scent. All of them. Every single one. Is that normal? Is that what stallions just deal with?"

Luna looked perplexed, "Is it an offensive odor?"

Silver shook his head, "Attractive, wonderful... If it wasn't a weird thing to do, I'd just park myself next to one and breathe her scent all day long."

Luna snorted softly, "We do not think that is normal." She raised a hoof, "It is all the more important that you agree to be examined. Even in Celestia's debased court, my word will carry more weight if I have seen your exposed soul spread before me. Perhaps justice could be done."

Silver did not look convinced, shuffling in place. Luna switched topics, "We have been informed your possessions are recovered and functioning. May we visit to witness them?"

Silver blinked and nodded quickly, "Of course. I mean, I guess... it's all technically yours now."

Luna smiled gently, "They are, but we are not cruel. It was yours first. Open the door."

Silver suddenly came awake in his bed and heard a gentle tapping at the front door. He slid from bed and trotted over to answer it. He opened it with his magic to reveal Luna, who stepped inside immediately.

"Were you waiting just outside this whole time?" asked Silver as he closed the door and moved for the computer.

"Nay, we can teleport," said Luna as she followed him, but then moved past him when her eyes settled on the functional and activated computer. "What manner of magic is this?"

Silver hopped up into his chair and considered what to show Luna. He really wasn't sure until a flash of inspiration hit and he went to his folders and pulled up some images. "Here is my rendition of the Moon Princess."

Luna tilted her head at the picture, "That is not me."

Silver nodded, "It was made up for a fictional world, which had a moon princess. She's kind of like you. She guards the night and dreams of her people."

Luna sat next to Silver, "What else does it do, besides display drawings?"

Silver summoned up some adventurous-sounding symphonic music to Luna's amusement. She clapped her hooves, "It's like a phonograph, but we see no record. We were told it also plays games?"

Rather than pull up any games, Silver instead brought up a word processor, and showed how he could type by writing the words even as he spoke them, "It can also track words and you can go back and edit them on the fly." He erased 'fly' and put 'sky'. "When it's working properly, the computer can share everything it has with any other computer, allowing people to collaborate from across the world."

Luna nodded before she extended a wing over the computer, "We wish to examine this at our leisure. We will take it."

Silver winced a little. His computer addiction had fallen quite a few pegs during his time in Equestria, but losing it again had a bit of a sting. Still... "I suppose that is your right."

Luna punched him in the shoulder, making him shrink away. "You are too passive. I favored you more when you stood up to me and spoke your mind clearly."

Silver's ears folded back, "Maybe it's this pony body... I got hit with music magic today."

Luna tilted her head, "What?"

Silver blinked, "Music magic? I started singing on the way home, even hopped on a skateboard and did a few tricks. It was scary as heck."

Luna shook her head then, "We know not of what you speak."

Of course... The ponies didn't perceive the music magic. "Nevermind."

Luna offered a hoof, "Do we still smell good?"

That was a blunt and awkward question, but Silver nodded anyway, "Yes. All mares."

Luna shoved her fetlock right up to Silver's snout, "Breathe."

This was becoming more confusing by the moment for Silver, but he did as he was bade and began breathing the scent. His worries started to melt away as comfort and warmth filled his body. His eyelids drooped to half-shut as he started sniffing eagerly, consuming that delightful aroma. Nothing seemed to matter much other than staying close to Luna.

Luna spoke in slow tones, "Do you agree to let me inspect you, exposing your mind and soul to my full examination?"

"Sure," said Silver, "If that's what you want."

Luna nodded, "We hope you will remember this, but we do it for your own good. Justice will be had, and your attacker will be brought to task for their crimes. You are ours, little pony."

"I am yours," spoke Silver. He looked up at her, "Am I a good little pony?"

Luna nodded slowly, "Yes. We hope you will forgive us in time."

Silver's fogged memory couldn't fathom what Luna had done that would require forgiveness. She was a perfectly lovely mare. Who could possibly even imagine being angry with her? He nuzzled the fetlock still held in front of him, and his eyes drifted shut.

Luna let out a bit of a sigh, "This is not the proper way, but justice will be done."

Author's Notes:

Bad dreams and a moon princess angered at a corrupt system. Surely this will end well!

The typos are not calmed by Luna's scent.

18 - The First Examiner

Silver spent the rest of the week studying the book of the magic alphabet, getting school assignments done, and even finding a bit of time to be friendly with his clique, which Tumble now appeared to be a full member of. As Luna had promised, his computer was gone the next day, desk and all. She left his chair behind, to his bittersweet discovery. At least he'd have that uncomfortable chair, thank the heavens.

There was no time to worry about the computer. Any time he would have spent playing a game was instead time spent trying to get down the letters, which proved as frustrating as ever before. Ready or not, the first representative of an academy arrived at the school. The mare wore a cloak covered in constellations, and her hooves were perpetually on fire. Silver raised a brow at this, wondering if this was specifically to impress the students.

"Hello class," she said, standing at the front of the room. Miss Butter Scotch sat at her desk, surrendering her class to the academy mare. "It's nice to meet you all today. Since I am the first of the week, I will take some time to explain things to everypony, unicorn or not. Attending an academy is a wonderful experience for a unicorn, learning to use their magic beyond the basic intuitive tricks of illumination and force, to being able to do anything at all with enough skill." She lowered her head and her horn let loose a small ball of light that exploded into a glowing panorama of the city of Canterlot, floating in the air. "Teleportation, illusions, elemental control, and even lofty feats like shapeshifting are possible for those special unicorns with the drive and ability to reach for them." She suddenly vanished, replaced with a pop of blue energy, to appear several feet to the left in another sphere of blue.

"Power does not come free," she said in a warning tone. "Academy unicorns must study long and hard to learn true magic. They must study with all the passion that a pony feels towards their special talent, which is why most academy unicorns have a magic-related cutie mark." She turned to show off the cutie mark that was embroidered onto her robes, displaying an opened tome with a ball of fire coming out of it. "Are there questions?"

A pegasus raised a hoof. When he was called on, he asked, "Why aren't there pegasus academies or earth pony academies? We have magic too, right?"

The unicorn nodded her head, "A perfectly valid question. The answer is simple. Most pegasus and earth magic is unconscious. Nopony has discovered a language for their magic, so they are limited to what their cutie mark gives them, though it can be amazingly, wonderfully, powerful. Without a language, how can anypony call for magic that was not given to them?" She pointed at the pegasus, "Show us your cutie mark."

He did so, revealing a cloud with rain pouring freely. "There. You will find convincing clouds to release their precious water easier than most, but how can another pegasus learn from that? You can't switch cutie marks, so there is no pegasus academy." The pegasus settled back into his seat, not looking entirely satisfied with the answer, but not prying further. "Of course," said the instructor, "If some clever earth or pegasus pony wanted to be remembered through all history, they could discover the language of their magic. I would delight in seeing that, but I fear there may be no such thing. Any other questions?"

The rest of the questions were pretty tame, and soon enough she moved to go outside, "If the hopeful unicorns would follow me."

Those who had passed the light and weight test followed, which numbered only five, including Soft Blush and Silver Lining. She gathered them into a line and began by first having them all turn to the side and examine their cutie marks. Silver was the only one without one, and she frowned at him. "That is a mark against you, but not a fatal one. Even the Princess Twilight Sparkle was without a cutie mark when she first applied. What is your name?"

"Silver Lining," said Silver, "Ma'am."

Her frown deepened, "Son of Rough Draft, ward of Trixie Lulamoon?"

Silver blinked, "That's me."

She waved a hoof dismissively. "The academy has no use for such troublemakers."

It was like someone threw a bucket of ice water across his face. "What?"

She leaned forward with narrowed eyes, "Did I not speak clearly? You are not welcome. Begone."

Silver opened his mouth to protest, but could think of no good thing to say. Screaming at her certainly wouldn't improve his odds. "Sorry..." He walked stiffly back into the class room, to the judging eyes of his classmates as the test went on without him. He settled heavily in his seat and buried his face in his hooves. What if all the academies had already decided to blacklist him? Why did they insist on going after that crazy mare? Anger mixed with his frustration and he slammed a hoof down on his desk, then slumped, flopping over the desk. Butter Scotch glanced over at him, but opted to not call him out on his outburst and instead continue with the class.

When school was over, Silver moved to head directly home, but was intercepted by Soft Blush. "Oh, hey Soft... did you pass?"

Soft snorted softly, "But of course I did," she said as if it were obvious, "I declined. I'm not here to discuss that dull affair. I'm here to speak my support for you. That was simply dreadful the way they shut you out."

Another voice joined, Meadow Leaper, "That was so uncool."

Lily Jump joined in, "I just wanted to give you a hug! You looked so sad!"

Tumble snorted, "Want me to beat her up?"

Silver looked around. When had his friends all just... shown up? Oh god, was he losing his situational awareness? Maybe this was some kind of friendship magic. "Uh, thank you all." He gave a light smile, "I'm glad I have friends like you." He looked to Tumble, "No attacking ponies! She's a wizard even. You don't want to be turned inside-out."

Tumble grunted, but didn't argue. They all moved together on some unseen cue and Silver was embraced between all four of them. His worries retreated and a smile came to him. It really was nice having friends. He decided to share his worries, "What if they're all like that? I'll fail before I even get a chance to try. What if they let me, but quietly fail me anyway, no matter how good or bad I do?"

Lily Jump tilted her head, "Have you tried making up with Carrot Plate?"

Silver blinked. "But..." No, that was actually genius on some levels. He plopped down on his haunches. "I don't know if she'd even want to at this point. And she's... the one that attacked me."

Lily shrugged a little, "I dunno... It was just an idea. If she's not mad at you, her parents won't be mad at you, and then everypony else will calm down."

Meadow Leaper and Tumble seemed against the idea. Meadow shook his head, "You shouldn't have to apologize when you didn't even do anything wrong. They're being big, rich, brats."

Soft extended a hoof, "I'm afraid I simply must point out that this city is full of 'brats', and they stand side-by-side on any matter that involves the lower-born." She pointed at Silver, "You are a commoner. I don't say that as an insult, but you are, and they will ally against you without reservation."

Silver raised an ear, "I'm a squire of the court, does that help?"

All four stood still. Only their blinking eyes proved they were still alive.

"What?" asked Silver.

Meadow recovered first, "No way! You're too young. What would... No way!"

Soft glanced at Meadow and looked back at Silver, "I must agree with our friend. That is simply impossible. Whom do you serve?"

"Luna," said Silver. Warmth flowed through his body as he thought of her, bringing a strange sense of security and chasing away some of the despair.

Tumble laughed, "You are full of surprises, little colt. Why don't you get Luna to bust her chops then?"

Silver shook his head, "She tried..." A soft sigh escaped him and he rose to his hooves, "I should get home. Thanks everyone."

Waves were exchanged, and he continued on his way, though Tumble trailed behind. Silver looked over his shoulder, "If you're hoping to play games, we can't today."

Tumble raised a thick brow, "Why not? Too sad? It'll cheer you up."

Silver shook his head, "Luna took the computer to examine."

Tumble snorted, "Guess being a squire isn't all good. Want some company anyway?"

Silver smiled at Tumble, "Thanks... but I think I need some alone time." They parted ways and Silver Lining reached home without further incident.

Author's Notes:

A little shorter than my 2k goal, though I've been doing multiple chapters a day, that makes up for it, maybe? Not sure. It felt like a natural enough break-point.

Silver learned what happens when you get an elite family on your case, and it is not pretty.

Carrot Plate's parents have also been talking with the typos!

19 - No means No

Luna sat across from her sister at breakfast. Her thoughts were full of strange and alien notions, but she pressed them aside, "Sister."

Celestia looked up from her tea, "Yes? You've looked distracted all morning. Are you well, Lulu?"

Luna smiled thinly at the personal name, "I am well, but there is a matter of grave import we must discuss. Silver Lining consented to have his soul laid bare to me, and I have seen much."

Celestia tilted her head faintly, "I have never heard you do that with one that is not a pony."

Luna was about to argue it, but the alien things she saw returned to her mind. Silver was not a pony, even if he desperately wished it to be so. "Be that as it may. He was clearly assaulted that day. She used physical intimidation to get him to go where she wanted, magic to hold him down, and did not stop when he asked her to clearly. It was only Rough Draft's sudden appearance that caused her to stop."

Celestia let out a slow breath, "Luna, my dearest sister."

"Your only sister," corrected Luna.

Celestia nodded, "I know you speak the truth, but it is not enough. I believe you. I believed you before. I believed Silver before."

Luna brought a hoof down on the table, rattling the fine ceramics, "Then why do you do nothing?! This is a mockery of all that is good in Equestria. You told me, Tia, that you were proud of the good your little ponies had risen to. Is this what you meant? Is this the uplifted kingdom that you mean me to see?"

Celestia looked away a moment, the words stinging sharply. "We are not without faults... I have not done nothing."

Luna settled slightly, lowering her hoof to the cushion she sat on. "Tell me then, what have you done?"

Celestia concentrated. A paper appeared. Luna gripped the paper in her magic and brought it over. It was a royal offer to one Carrot Plate for a position in the royal court. "I do not understand," murmured Luna as she read on. The letter went on and on about the honor and privilege that Carrot Plate would look forward to, serving just under Celestia herself. "Why do you reward her?" She read on until she reached the next part, when a delicate frown overtook her features. The actual position was of a supervisory position with orphaned foals. "You have thrown the wolf to the chickens in the hope the wolf will become friendly?!"

Celestia shook her head, "She is being watched very closely. It is a prison sentence with gilded bars. Her parents insisted she accept when they realized the prestige in it." She brought her hooves together, "We have arrested her without offending the elite."

Luna set the paper aside, "Very clever, but it is still most foul. Why do we have to approach justice so carefully? She has done wrong, she should be punished swiftly, that other ponies may learn from her mistake, that the victim may know his hurts are felt by all and his princesses care." She leaned forward with a delicate frown, "He thinks that you hate him. He believes there is no justice in the world, and that to hide is the only answer. He... he cries inside, thinking that he has burned his bridges with you and you have turned from him."

Celestia spun an ear back, "That is not true, and you know it. He is a curious creature, an alien in the body of a pony, but his heart seems good." She tapped her chin with a hoof, "Should we invite him again, to clear the air?"

Luna huffed, "A few lashes across the back of that mare would do wonders. But, failing that, speaking to him would be good."

Celestia paled, "Lashes have not been served for over half a millenia."

Luna gave a slow sigh, "Has it been for the better?"

Celestia switched topics, "The guards say you had Silver's alien artifacts brought to the castle. Are they functional?"

"Indeed," replied Luna. "They are clearly built for a species with fingers and hands, but magic suffices. It is a wondrous artifact, able to entertain and facilitate work all at once. We do not yet understand even the start of how it functions. He looked sad when I took it from him."

Celestia canted her head before she took a delicate bite of a morning cake, "Why did you take it?"

"Because I could," spoke Luna. "He needs to learn defiance, just a little. He had some when he first arrived. He stood up to me when I wanted to visit swift wrath on a changeling in Manehattan, and was unflinching when I visited his dreams, even when he was lost in the wilderness. Even with Discord, he showed no fear."

Celestia rose a brow, "Why would he protect a changeling?"

Luna set her chin on a hoof, "Do you know of one Nicole Foalman?" Celestia nodded. "She is a changeling queen." When Celestia's eyes widened, Luna continued, "Her hive consists of two drones. She hasn't a mean-spirited plate on her chitinous body. I have dug thoroughly into her past. She gives away roughly half of the bits she earns as an actress to various funds to support the downtrodden. Her body is whole and pure, free of the rotting disease that has overtaken the other changeling hives."

Celestia shook her head, "Why did you not tell me of this earlier?"

"To what end?" asked Luna. "She is a citizen of the kingdom. She pays her taxes, she obeys the laws, and she is a good pony. I dare say she is better than most of the 'elite' of this city. Would that Carrot Plate could aspire to her level."

Celestia frowned, "If she is so good, we could use her to show changelings can be redeemed."

Luna gave the table a light tap, "You would kill her."

Celestia reared her head back, but it came to her soon enough. "Her career would end." Celestia looked crestfallen, "Such an opportunity. The changelings were always a pitiable lot. If they came as friends, there would surely be love enough to feed them all."

Luna snorted, "They would starve in Canterlot. Or, mayhaps, their invasion was more successful than we knew."

Celestia frowned at Luna, "That is enough. I will not be nettled over breakfast." She sipped softly at her tea. "I will send her a letter in any event, extending my welcome. If she is as pure as you say, she is a valued addition to the kingdom, changeling or pony."

"Do not forget her companions," spoke Luna. "She has two drones. They are almost mindlessly obedient to her, but she seems to endeavor to give them freedoms and respect. It will warm her heart if you remember to call them out specifically in your letter and welcome them." A wiley smile spread on Luna's snout, "In fact. Why don't you invite just one of them to visit?"

"Why just one?" asked Celestia, "I've seen that expression, Lulu, what have you in mind?"

Luna clopped her hooves together idly, "Oh, nothing... I just assume if they are separate, and one is in a new city, they will have more chances to think for themselves. We should endeavor to see he is well treated for. He will be confused and lost, but he may grow."

Celestia nodded softly, "I approve of this idea, but we should move with care. He could get alarmed, scared. We will have to be very gentle."

They went on to discuss idle matters of the state and finished up breakfast, with Luna heading to bed and Celestia moving to oversee day court.

Silver sat in front of Trixie and Rough, "And she told me to go, just like that."

Trixie turned red with an obvious fury, "How dare they turn away a student of Trixie's without giving him a chance to show off her amazing techniques!"

Rough frowned and reached for Silver. Silver went stiff, but was soon drawn into the embrace. "I messed it up again, didn't I?" asked Rough.

Silver perked his ears, "Wh-- oh... I mean... You did what you thought was best."

Rough flopped over on his side, dragging Silver right along for the ride, "And got you kicked out of the academies before you even got in."

Trixie scoffed, "The blame rests squarely on that spoiled foal and her parents. Trixie will not accept any responsibility." She rubbed her forehooves together with a thoughtful expression, "We should find out where she works or attends school, then get revenge properly."

Silver shook his head from the furry prison of Rough's hug. "That'll just make me look like even more of a troublemaker. That reminds me. I need to get a letter to Nicky."

"The changeling?" asked Rough, "Why?"

Silver wriggled a little before he found a comfortable position, "It's for my friend, Soft Blush. I think she has a future in film and theatre, and I want Nicole to help. She has to know a million people in the industry."

Rough bobbed his head, "That makes sense. I can get a letter to her."

Trixie waved a hoof dismissively, "This is all well and good, but does not get Silver his chance to take the test. He may not pass, but he deserves the chance to try, and learn." She raised a brow, "You will need to tell about this adventure with changelings, but that is beside the point."

Rough smiled, his whole face brightening, "I know!" He sat up, bringing Silver along, "The house. We should talk to Fancy Pants and Fleur. They have connections."

Trixie raised an ear, "They have all the connections. Carrot Plate and her family are nothing compared to them. The elite of the elite, as they say, and Trixie has seen nothing to prove it wrong." She waved a hoof around the house, "This was a quaint weekend home for them to use. For us, a spacious house."

Silver smiled with growing hope, "Do you think they'd help clear things up with the academies?"

Rough nodded, "If we played our cards right, I wouldn't be surprised if they could just sponsor you right into an academy."

Trixie shook her head quickly, "Silver deserves the chance to take the test, fairly. If he cannot pass it, he should wait a year and try again, like any other hopeful student."

Silver noticed something, "Trixie?"

"Yes?" she asked, looking down at him.

"Did you..." He rolled a hoof a little, "ever go to academy yourself?"

Trixie flushed dark, "Trixie is... self-taught. She did not need any fancy academy to pry into the mysteries of the arcane! She learned from many books she traded hard to get." She gestured over the bookshelf in the den, full of magical tomes.

Silver shook his head, "Did you pass the test?"

Trixie suddenly rose and departed from the room. She slammed the door shut behind herself.

Rough nuzzled the top of Silver's head, "I think you upset her."

"Ya think?" asked Silver sarcastically, frowning at the slammed door.

Author's Notes:

Luna and Celestia share an overdue chat, and Silver delivers news of his aborted test.

Luna insisted on using old Equuish for the spelling. I tried to convince her it wasn't right anymore, but here we are.

20 - Let's do Dinner

Trixie led Rough and Silver through the city. It wasn't far from their home to Fancy Pants' current dwelling. "It is good that Trixie knows where he is. He moves quite often." She pushed open the gate and strode up to the door before knocking lightly.

The door opened to reveal the butler they had seen the first day of reaching Canterlot. He raised a brow, "Yes?"

Trixie smiled, "We are here to see Fancy and Fleur, are they in?"

The door closed. Rough tilted his head, "Is he getting them?"

Trixie frowned a little, "I do not know why they like him so much, but he gets the job done." She settled on her haunches and waited. Several minutes later, the delicate muzzle of Fleur poked through the door and brightened on seeing them.

"Miss Lulamoon! And you brought your family! How delightful. Do come in." She stepped back and they all entered the opulently-appointed home. "I hope the spring house has served well. I know it's a little small, but in such a rush..."

Trixie made a dismissive wave of a hoof, "The house is lovely, and its gift continues to warm our hearts. I," Silver rose a brow at her lack of third person, "wish I could say we were here for pleasantries alone, but there is a very serious affair to deal with."

Fleur looked serious, "Whatever is the matter dear? Have the neighbors been playing their phonograph too loudly?"

Trixie shook her head quickly, "Nothing so petty." She pointed a hoof at Silver, "It seems that our foal has become a pariah in the cultured circles. Some loathsome mare is spreading the worst kind of rumors of his character."

Fleur advanced on Silver and circled him, "This handsome colt? He doesn't look capable of an uncouth thought. What do they say he did?" She had the soft scent of a mare, which kept Silver's attention on her, but mostly he kept still.

Trixie huffed indignantly, "They say he coerced the hussie into playing a very improper game involving ropes and a crop, only to grow cold hooves when his father appeared." She gestured then to Rough Draft, who looked properly embarrassed.

Fleur recoiled with shock, "That is very serious."

"It grows worse," sighed out Trixie. "There was a court trial. Celestia found her innocent and Silver's testimony baseless. Between those that saw the trial first hoof and those who hear from the mare's parents, Silver can't get a break."

Fleur raised her hooves, capturing Silver's cheeks and looking into his eyes, "Did you do that to this mare?"

Silver tried to shake his head, but it was held firmly. She was surprisingly strong for such a slender model of a pony. "She brought me against my will. I didn't want to play anything with her."

Fleur looked thoughtful a moment before she nodded, "I will speak to my husband, and we will do what we can."

Rough smiled, "We really appreciate that. Silver wants to get into a magic academy but they won't even let him take the test."

"Non!" exclaimed Fleur. "This is unacceptable." She frowned in further thought, "If they are giving those, then there is no time. What school do you attend?" She asked the last of Silver, looking back into his eyes. Her hooves were still holding him. That smell was still... nice. He gave the address of his school with a faintly quivering voice.

Fleur released Silver as she stepped away, "Oui, I know of that school." She trotted away on those long legs and returned with a collection of papers. Some quick turning revealed what she was looking for. "Tomorrow you will be visited by the Academy of Curled Horns. I will visit them tonight."

Silver got curious, "What academy was today?"

"The Academy of the Elements," answered Fleur.

Trixie huffed, "This is a shame. The Academy of the Elements is a good school."

Rough asked, "So how does the Curled Horns one rate?"

Fleur gave her soft smile, "They specialize in air magic. Some of their unicorns can put pegasi out of work. It is often a matter of contention."

Silver tilted his head, "I'm not sure I want to specialize in air magic."

Trixie waved a hoof, "That matters little. Once you know magic, you can study what you wish. The practice is the important part, and good teachers." Trixie puffed out her chest, "You have Trixie for a tutor, which puts you ahead of most others."

Fleur nodded at Trixie, "Your mother is a very talented magician. You should listen to her." Trixie went dark in the cheeks as the old misunderstanding blossomed. "You be a good colt and follow her lessons."

"Yes ma'am," replied Silver with a swishing tail. "She's taught me a lot already."

Fleur seemed to grow curious, "Show me."

Silver allowed his magic to flow freely, illuminating the room with a silver glow, pure and unwavering. Light had become much easier over time. He drew the magic to the sides and conjured his silver hand. He grabbed an apple from a bowl and brought it over to Fleur, offering it to her. She took a delicate bite of it before nodding softly. He set the apple aside on the counter, unsure where to put it, and summoned the other hand, giving Fleur a soft petting across the mane. Her horn glowed softly before his hands were repelled. "Non. You do not touch a mare without permission." Her tone was soft, instructing, and devoid of anger.

Silver bobbed his head quickly, "Sorry." He thought back to Fleur's examination of him the last time he stood before her. Mares you don't touch without permission, but colts were open season. "Thank you for helping."

Fleur smiled, "It is my pleasure. I need to freshen up before I go." They were dismissed, though she was far too polite to say as much directly. The hint was received, and soon they were returning home.

Rough asked as they walked, "Do you think it'll help?"

Trixie shrugged softly, "It certainly couldn't hurt."

The next day was drizzly, as promised. Silver trotted to school with a silvery hand of force shielding him from the light downpour. The hand was far larger than the ones he normally conjured for grasping and moving, blocking all the downward falling rain from reaching him. Along the way be bumped into Lily Jump, who looked damp. He moved beside her and expanded his protection over her. She giggled, "Thanks Silver. Are you going to try again today?"

Silver huffed softly, "I didn't even get a chance to try yesterday, but yes. We think we have it worked out."

Lily bobbed her head, "I'll be a little sad if you go, but you should do what you want to do."

Silver raised an ear, "We could still be friends, right?"

Lily tilted her head, "I suppose, but I mostly see you at school. If you don't go to school, where would we meet?" She shook her head quickly, "Don't worry about that! You have to go after your dreams!" She bumped into him from the side. It was harder to tell in the rain, but Lily had the scent, though it was fainter. Was it youth or the rain? "I'm going to try my best. If I do go to another school, we'll just have to meet on weekends and stuff."

They arrived at school. In the inclement weather, everypony was inside, school started or not. When the bell rang, everyone moved to their seats. Butter Scotch was at her desk with a smile and began the lessons of the day. It wasn't until just before lunch break that a new examiner arrived. He had a long beard and his robes blew in non-existent wind. "Good day, class. Since I am the second representative to arrive, I will dispense with introductions and get on to the test. Would the hopeful unicorns please come with me?" He turned and strode out into the drizzle, though the water seemed to avoid touching him.

Silver slid from his seat and followed after, calling forth his inflated magic hand to keep dry. There were only four unicorns left. He moved over beside Soft, "Are we missing someone?"

Soft nodded her head, "Winter Breeze passed and went to the Academy of the Elements without waiting to see what other tests she may pass."

The instructor cleared his throat, "The test is simple. This drizzle is no coincidence, few things are. You must walk across the yard." He pointed to the dirty yard, muddy from the constant drizzle. "Reach the fence and return with not a fleck of dirt or drop of water and you pass." He looked to one unicorn that was already wet, "You fail." The filly sniffled softly, and returned inside.

Silver considered the challenge. He spread out his hand, forming it into more of a bubble around himself. He hopped up and let the bubble seal underneath him and landed on the surface of the silvery magic. It was more slippery than he bargained for, making him dance in place, and he could feel the strain already building. He pulled out a snack bar and began chewing as he hurriedly scooted across the yard under power of hoof and horn. He bumped into the fence and spun around before hurrying back. The pain in his horn was growing by the moment and he knew it was a race against the clock. He jumped up onto the cement by the school and let out an explosive exhalation. He kept the bubble, but release it around his hooves, allowing him to sink to the ground safely.

"Did I pass?" he asked, looking up at the bearded stallion.

"You have yet to fail," replied the examiner. Only Soft Blush eventually joined him. The other unicorn was sent back inside with a muddy pelt.

The examiner pointed up to the sky, "This weather was created by academy students, not pegasi. If you wish to join us, you will do the same. Dismiss a cloud. It is now permissible to get wet."

Silver released the bubble, shuddering in the pleasure of the moment like finally being allowed to let go of a heavy weight you were holding stiffly with an arm for too long.

Soft Blush turned her gaze to the sky. He could see an intricate pattern of magic across her horn before one of the clouds winked out of existence. "Very good," said the examiner. "You have studied air magic, clearly."

Silver silently cursed. Trixie had not shown him any actual spells yet, just magical 'letters'. Trying random letters hardly seemed the way about it. He tried to use what he knew. He threw out a silver hand, reaching higher into the sky. The further the hand went, the fainter it became. By the time the hand was beside a cloud, he could scarcely see it through the drizzle, and his horn had begun to throb in agony. He tried to push through it. How long could it take to shove a cloud away? He increased the magic flowing through him, growing dangerously hot and leaving him panting, but the force fueled his hand, making it a bit more solid. With a mental flick, the hand became a simple folded fan, unfurled and ready. He began to pump it up and down, nudging the cloud away from the others.

"The cloud must be dismissed," reminded the representative, "Not simply moved."

Silver nodded as he blinked away some sweat. He moved the fan directly into the cloud and thrashed around, trying to rip it apart. The cloud whirled and flowed around the fan, distorting it badly, but there was still a cloud. "Your time is almost up."

Silver clenched his teeth as he reconfigured the fan into a bubble, surrounding the cloud. He remembered something and shrunk the bubble violently. Something popped in his head. Everything started to whirl around him wildly. He hit the ground heavily. Was that blood? Was it his?

"Very good, you--" The instructor looked down at the unconscious form of Silver, bleeding from the nose onto the drizzle-dampened concrete. He frowned. "Fail."

Author's Notes:

You were waiting for some more Fleur, were you not? We deliver!

Silver gets a chance to show off his stuff, but that wasn't in the plans, was it?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to proofread in a drizzle? I tried!

21 - Pony Down

Trixie and Rough sat side-by-side beside the bed. Soft beeps of the machinery and the quiet noise of other ponies moving around the hospital were far too quiet to keep them from sleep. They had sat there waiting for Silver to awaken for the greater portion of the day, and fatigue pulled at them both. They eventually surrendered, sleeping against each other as they remained, ready to protect the foal they had been charged with.

Luna stepped in moments later, then gestured with a wing. A pink alicorn stepped in after her. "Why are we being so quiet?" asked Cadance, "And what was so important that you called me away from the Crystal Empire?"

Luna pointed at the sleeping Silver, "That one. His heart is in dire need of your expertise. He does not know what he loves, or lusts. He is afraid to love anything, but desperately wants it."

Cadance perked an ear, "That doesn't sound like something I can wave some magic at."

Luna made a soft urging motion with her hooves, "Try. You are the only one I could think of to call. He is too valuable to the kingdom."

Cadance wondered what manner of foal this could be, this colt, to have Luna so concerned. She glanced over at the two other ponies. Were they his parents? They looked it. He had his father's pelt coloring and his mother's mane coloring, though his mohawk was his own. Maybe it was just cut like that? In either event, they were deeply asleep under what Cadance suspected to be Luna's magic.

She trotted beside the bed and let her magic spread out over the colt to get a feel for things. The first thing that stood out was that the colt was suffering terrible damage. She guessed he burned out, a not all that uncommon thing to happen in eager young unicorns. She let her love flow into the abused pathways. She was no healer, but her kind magic would help them spring back on their own and reduce the chance of scarring along his aetheric net. As the magic flowed gently, his breathing became more relaxed and he sank deeper into whatever dream world he was in.

She turned her attention to his heart and mind. Sure, there were those who claimed the heart did not make decisions, but Cadance's magic said differently. She could feel love there, and she followed its many lines. She found little threads running across the room to his parents. They were firm and two-sided. She smiled gently. It was always nice to see a loving family. With her eyes so attuned, she could see a smaller thread dangling between the two sleeping ponies. It was frail and tenuous for a mated pair. Cadance's smile faded to concern. Was worry for their foal tearing them apart? She could help with that. She sent love through the filament, pure and untainted by any other motivation. She strengthened that thin wire. It wouldn't last forever, but they would wake up with an intense desire to express their true feelings, and that would make it stronger on its own.

She saw other cords, but they went off to places far distant. They faded from her sight once they went too far. One went to Luna. Cadance tilted her head curiously, examining this cord. Luna saw Cadance looking at her and blinked, "What do you see?" Cadance ignored the question, examining the thread. The love flowed both ways in a restricted channel. Neither had confessed their true feelings, but those feelings...

"What is your relationship to this colt?" asked Cadance with a confused tone.

Luna brushed the door closed with a wing gently, "He is no colt."

Cadance shook her head, her eyes still on the cord that hung between them, "That doesn't answer my question, Auntie. I'm going to say something and you're going to want to yell at me, but you shouldn't."

Luna's wings ruffled up in preparation, but she sat still. Cadance decided to continue, "He loves you, the way a stallion loves a mare, but also the way a colt loves his mother, and the way a pony may appreciate a pretty bird. It is a confusing mess that he has tightly repressed." She pointed at Luna, "To say nothing of your side."

"We do not wish to hear this," said Luna, falling back on her odd speech as she looked away.

"Too bad," said Cadance. "You look at him like a coveted object, but also a... I just don't know." She raised a brow, "You don't love him, not like a mare loves a stallion. You are better at guarding your feelings. Even now I can see your side growing dark and trying to hide from me. This is not healthy, Luna."

"That is not why we summoned you hither." She gestured a wing at Silver, "Fix him and his broken heart, do not harry us."

Cadance let out a slow breath, "If you toy with him, you are part of the problem, Auntie." She turned her attention fully on the colt, gently pulling through the tangled cords, digging deeper and trying to get to the truth of it all. She tilted her head, "He only has some love for himself. It is not terminal. He is not suicidal. Is he depressed?"

Luna shook her head, "He has acted energetic enough. We are told he has made new friends and does well in school."

Cadance gave a soft huff, entirely unconvinced. "Honestly, Luna. You summon me here in such a rush just to not listen to me."

Luna's wings unfurled wide a moment, "We are listening! Please..."

Cadance let her sight return to normal as she faced Luna, shaking her head, "No. Enough. You're done listening. I'm listening. Tell the truth."

Luna recoiled a little at Cadance's sudden outburst, "Thou will not order us! We are your superior!" She only realized after the fact that she had used the Canterlot royal voice, shaking the room and likely frightening many of the patients in the hospital.

Cadance shook her head slowly, "I'm leaving. I'm sorry, Luna, I really am. I can't help you." She rose to her graceful pink legs and started for the door.

Luna threw herself in the way, "No, wait, please. We... I am sorry."

Cadance slowly settled to her haunches, "I am going to assume you are beside yourself with worry for your friend and put that little episode behind us. Are you ready to talk?"

Luna glanced around the room. Rough and Trixie remained under the sway of her spell, slumbering peacefully. She gave Cadance a soft nod, "Since you insist. The colt you see was once an alien species."

Cadance rose to her hooves, "If you're not going to be serious with me... Really, Auntie."

Luna shook her head quickly, "You can ask Celestia! She knows it is the truth. He was a 'human', an evolved ape much how we are evolved horses."

Cadance settled, making note to ask Celestia about this to be sure. "Alright, but he isn't anymore?"

Luna pointed at Silver, "It was his request to become a pony, that he might find love and life in Equestria."

Cadance glanced back at him, feeling the threads coming from him, "I would say that he has, but why would he not seek his own kind?"

Luna shrugged gently, "He is the entirety of his own kind, on this world. He chose to become a pony, rather than be the only human."

Cadance shuddered softly, "I would decide the same. To be alone..." To the princess of love, it seemed worse than a death sentence. "Alright, is he adjusting well?"

Luna wobbled a hoof, "That remains to be seen. He has friends, as I have said. His guardians love him truly, and he adores them in return. I have never seen him look at them with less than love."

Cadance nodded in agreement, "Their love is strong. But something brought me here?"

Luna frowned in thought. "There are several things. His desire for contact corrupted his change, I believe. He becomes complacent and happy around any mare. I was able to get him to agree to anything once he had submitted to my presence."

Cadance looked perplexed. She turned her eyes to see the threads of love and approached the colt. Sitting by the bed was not close enough, nothing happened. She reached for him. When her hoof got within a foot of his nose, a new line formed, running to her. It was a simple and frail line. She examined it intently, holding out her hoof. It was a formless love. He wouldn't even know who it was directed at, just that he was in love or being loved. The cord seemed to slowly change the longer she held the hoof there. It was growing more permanent. She wrenched her hoof away and it faded away. "How long did you keep him near you?"

Luna went quiet.

"How long?" Cadance asked again. "Luna?"

Luna's ears were pinned to her head, "An hour?"

"An hour!" exclaimed Cadance. "A minute would have been enough to get whatever you wanted. What did you want?"

Luna shrank with guilt and Cadance frowned a moment before her features softened, "Please. I will not judge you."

Luna let out a soft sigh, "He gave me leave to spread his mind before me."

Cadance's eyes went wide, "Did you know he was under that effect?"

"Yes," said Luna in a tiny voice.

Cadance sank in place, staring off into space for a moment before she came back into focus. "That is... there are no words for it, Luna."

"You said you would not judge," said Luna, wings spreading wide.

Cadance pointed at Luna, "You've taken everything from him, and he was powerless to say no. How long ago was this?"

Luna looked away to the side, "About a week."

Cadance's wings spread, "He loved you before then! You could have just asked nicely, and he likely would have agreed, but you reached in. You just... took it. That is monstrous, Auntie. Did you not know he liked you?"

Luna accepted the scorn Cadance heaped on her. She deserved it, and she knew it. She sank to the floor with a thump. "He trusted me... I wanted to protect him. I thought I could get justice for him, if I could get the truth from him."

Cadance folded her wings and approached Luna, "You have forever soiled your love with him. Do you love him? Can you love him? You know everything about him, but he knows almost nothing of you. You, princess of Equestria, and he, an alien. Is he immortal?"

"Do not lecture us!" hissed Luna, "You are married to a very mortal stallion."

Cadance tilted her head, "Did Celestia not tell you? I'm not immortal. I will grow old and die with Shining Armor held close at my side. I have one life to live, and I will try to live it well. Is he immortal? I am guessing not."

Luna's ears fell, "No... He was middle-aged when we found him."

Cadance looked over at the colt, then back at Luna, "He looks quite young for middle-aged."

Luna huffed out her breath, "That was another mistake of mine. Celestia has already chewed my tail about that."

Cadance shook her head slowly, "You must tell him. If you have even a shred of respect for him as a person, you must tell him what you did." She looked to the bond between them, "He may forgive you, if he thought he had a real chance with you. But he doesn't, does he?"

Luna sat stoically.

Cadance shook her head, "Of course not. You are an immortal princess from a harsh time. This one just wants love and doesn't know how to find it. He needs a gentle hoof, not a cruel mistress." Cadance strode for the door, "He will be fine when he finds true love's companion. Don't prevent him from finding it and he will recover."

Cadance's parting words had a barb to them, and Luna winced as they dug deep into her.

Author's Notes:

This chapter surprised even myself. I started off with the idea of Rough and Trixie talking over an unconscious Silver and then, bam, it was like Luna actually cast her spell and stormed on the scene. She had a part to play and flipped her hoof at me and my pathetic ideas.

I love it when a story does that.

Sleep spells can cause insomnia and typos.

22 - Getting Feelings off our Chest

Rough Draft was the first to awaken. The room was as he left it, clean and mostly quiet. He looked over and saw Trixie there. He paused. He saw Trixie there. She was... enchanting. Even with drool hanging from her sleeping snout, he could see no wrong in her. He leaned in and gently nuzzled her on the cheek, waking her with a start. Even the way she woke up was... What did he do to deserve being next to this stunning mare?

Trixie came awake with soft blinks. They were still in the hospital. Rough Draft was looking at her oddly. His face was... handsome. He was strong and reliable. Trixie's heartbeat began to race as she gazed into his eyes, and he into hers. He had all the skill with words she wished she had, and he cared for her so deeply. He hadn't slept in an actual bed since they moved into the house, giving up the comfy master bed to her without even hesitating.

They leaned towards each other slowly, taking in one another's scent with gentle twitches of their noses. Neither scent was new to the other, but it seemed... better right then. "Trixie," said Rough, "I... I've been lying to myself."

Trixie tilted her head, "You do not have a dishonest bone in your body, Rough. What do you mean?"

Rough suddenly pressed forward, stealing a kiss from her brow at the base of her horn, a lewd act to be certain. "You are amazing, and I haven't told you that enough."

Trixie went scarlet under her fur. "Then Trixie is also guilty of deception..." She leaned in, gently nuzzling over his neck, "Trixie feels safe when you are beside her." She swallowed heavily, both of their faces red, their hearts thundering in their ears. All of their lingering feelings poured out freely.

Rough suddenly tackled her to the ground. She squeaked in alarm, which quickly faded as he kissed over her collar and withers, "I don't deserve you. You are truly great and powerful."

Trixie soaked in the praise, holding Rough closer with her hooves, "T..." she stopped, frowned, "I," This was too important to play her part. She could feel her tender heart exposed. "I think I love you..."

Rough smiled, a goofy smile. "I think I love you too..."

Trixie squirmed underneath Rough, happy, and yet nervous. "What do we do now?"

Rough softly shrugged before kissing along her horn, making her squirm in delight, "I show you all the love I've been holding back?"

Trixie smiled gently, "That sounds lovely..."

The door opened suddenly, admitting a nurse into the room. The mare blinked down at the two ponies entwined in one another's legs, went red, and walked right back out with a stiff gait.

Trixie gently disentangled herself and stood up, straightening her cloak on the way with soft pulls of her magic.

Rough was soon up as well, and cleared his throat, "We should... continue this outside the hospital."

Trixie bobbed her head, flushing gently. How could she have taken so long to realize this pony loved her? How could she have taken so long to have realized she loved this pony? Everything fit together perfectly, except... She trotted over to the bed and looked at the slumbering form of Silver. He looked better, restful. She leaned in and kissed his brow, and his eyes suddenly fluttered open.


Trixie went still in surprise. Silver's wits returned to him and he realized this was a pony, certainly no human. "Hi Trixie."

Rough padded up on the other side of the bed, "You gave us quite the scare."

Trixie softly prodded him in the shoulder, "You incorrigible little colt! You scared Trixie half to death. She thought you might never..." She pulled out a rubber ball and tossed it on the bed. "Go ahead."

Silver looked confused at the ball, then back at Trixie, "Go ahead and what? What happened?"

Rough shook his head, "You strained yourself to the breaking point. Do you feel better?"

Silver took stock of himself. His horn was a little sore, and he wanted to stretch, and he had a headache, but other than that... "I'm OK."

Trixie nudged the ball, "Can you lift it? Just a little. If it feels heavy, stop."

Silver unleashed the magic and gently wrapped a silver hand around the ball. He lifted it and offered it to Trixie. His horn ached a little, but it was well within his means. "What is this supposed to prove?"

Trixie took the ball in her own magic, "You could have burned yourself out entirely. Imagine that, a unicorn with no magic at all?" She rose a brow at Silver, "You are lucky."

"Sorry..." murmured Silver, "Can we go home now?"

Rough reached over and pressed the nurse call button, "We should let them look at you once to make sure you're fit to go."

A new nurse appeared in a few moments with a smile, "Is our patient feeling better?" She began to take his temperature, look in his ears, and put a stethoscope to his horn.

Silver looked up at her cross-eyed, "What can you hear?"

She smiled down at him and soon had it on his ears instead. He could hear a gentle thump-thump, like a heart. "Sounds healthy," she announced. "Irregular beats in the horn would be bad."

She reclaimed her stethoscope as Silver realized something. She hadn't washed that before swapping from ears to ears. Do ponies just not have that kind of worry? He smiled up at the nurse hopefully, "Can I go home?"

She nodded, "I don't see anything a little rest and love can't fix." She waved a hoof at him, "Now don't go hurting yourself again. We don't want to see you in here for a while."

"Yes ma'am," said Silver as he slipped to the floor and began to stretch out languidly. He looked up at Trixie and Rough. They were glancing at each other, trying to be subtle and failing at it entirely. "So..." He glanced between the two, "Did I miss something?"

Indecision rippled through both ponies, but the lingering effects of Cadance's magic emboldened them. Rough Draft nodded, "I will be sleeping in the master bedroom."

Silver blinked a few times before it all clicked and he laughed, "You sly dog! I... gotta admit I'm a little jealous."

Trixie tilted her head at Silver, "Wh..." It became clear to her and she flushed red, "It is not proper for a student and a teacher! Besides, you are a colt, not a stallion."

Silver nodded his head, "All true, but I've a pair of eyes, and that's all I need to say Rough Draft is a lucky stallion." Some pony perspective helped. He could pick out a few tiny things that made Trixie prettier than another mare, but a few things she lacked as well. Trixie was not a model, but she was a fine mare. Silver tilted his head, wondering if he was even looking at the right things. "I'm going to stop thinking about that now."

Rough booped him on the nose, "Good. She's mine. Dibs." He kissed Trixie on the cheek and hugged her tight. Silver smiled at the exchange, even if some small part of him whimpered.

They were checked out of the hospital and trotted home together. "So," asked Silver, "How long was I out?"

"Most of the week," replied Rough.

Trixie said with scorn, "You are not taking any more exams this year. Trixie knew you were not ready."

Silver flinched and sagged at the angry words, ears falling, "I'll be more careful..." His chest hurt a little. He hadn't heard that particular tone of utter disappointment since he had left Earth. "Sorry, really. I didn't mean to worry everyone."

Rough nudged into Trixie's side, "He's going to try anyway."

Trixie rolled her eyes, "This is true." She leaned in, "You must let go if it is too much. It is not that important you get into an academy this year. Where would you be if you had burnt out? Weaker than an earth pony, without any magic at all?" She snorted softly, "It is truly the most pathetic of things. Trixie's student will not end his learning in such a fashion." She reached and ruffled his mane with a hoof, "Now how about some mint ice cream?"

A cool treat sounded like a far better topic. They soon arrived at a small dessert shop and gathered around a table. The waiter, a cheerful pegasus, had their bowls of ice cream out in a flash of green fur. "Enjoy!"

Silver lapped at his ice cream directly a moment before he noticed Trixie looking at him. "What?"

Trixie gestured to her own, lifted it in her magic and took a delicate nibble. "It is never too early, or late, to learn proper manners."

Rough leaned in and took a big bite out of his sugary treat directly, "He looks fine."

Trixie huffed and produced a small vial of pills. She shook out a pill with her magic and brought the pill over to Silver, "We should get a permanent prescription."

Silver snapped the pill out of the air and swallowed it without water. His head and horn ache dulled slightly as it worked its magic. "Thanks... for everything." He wobbled a hoof, "For being my stand-in pony parents. I can't imagine that's helped your normal work schedules."

Rough flashed a smile, "I finished my book! I sent it off to get edited and copied."

Silver tilted his head, "Are you going to head to a convention to sell it?" Rough bobbed his head, "Are we coming?"

Rough nodded quickly, "If you want. I'd be happy to have you both along." He went in to steal another kiss from Trixie, though the boosting magic was wearing thin. He hesitated with anxiety, but went for it anyway, getting a smile from Trixie.

Trixie nodded lightly, "If she doesn't keep an eye on you two, who will? Trixie will be there."

With their snacks completed, they left the eatery behind with a small collection of bits. They soon arrived at home. Silver entered after Rough Draft and in front of Trixie to spot something odd in the living room. He tilted his head, "When did we get the computer back?"

Trixie shook her head, "It was not there when we left. Mayhaps Luna has finished her study of it?" She didn't seem too worried about it, and neither did Rough, and they soon retreated into the... Silver watched them trot into the master bedroom and close the door behind themselves. A soft click of the lock told Silver all he needed to know.

Rather than allow his thoughts to stray to what his guardians were up to, he hopped up into his ever-uncomfortable chair and pulled up a delightfully mindless and violent game. He had the sound turned down, and his headphones over his ears. Human headphones felt odd on pony ears, but they worked.

Author's Notes:

A needed wind-down after last chapter, and some emotions get put out there, thanks to Cadance's meddling. Pink princess can be best princess sometimes.

You know who doesn't have any love? Typos.

23 - Love Talk

Cadance circled around Luna, who was seated on a cushion. "Did you give him everything back?"

Luna perked an ear, "He showed no interest in most of it, but I gave back the largest artifact, which he seemed to prize."

Cadance made a soft gesture, "Alright, that's good enough for now." She marched up to Luna, "Now that the air is clearer, you still have to tell him. You also have to decide." She held up a hoof, "Do you love him?" She switched hooves, "Or is it a fixation? If you love him, he must become more of your equal."

Luna twitched her ears, "The only way I could do that is if he knew how to part the soul as well, which he does not. He is not even close to skilled enough for that. He hurt himself trying to enter an academy."

Cadance pointed, "There you go. If you want to do him a favor, a real favor, you'll show him how to use that horn."

Luna looked clearly uncomfortable at the idea, "He has a teacher, and we have not... that much time."

Cadance shrugged, "He doesn't have to know everything of you to be more equal, but it means you have to bow that neck of yours and stoop down to his level. It means not giving him orders, or expecting him to do as you say, or testing if he'll do what you say. You should be encouraging his strength, not testing his weakness." She looked over her shoulder at Luna, "But I'm not certain you are ready for that."

Luna shook her head, looking forlorn. "I don't think I am either."

Cadance approached Luna and gave her a gentle nuzzle, "Then you must quit him. You are hurting him, and he is hurting you. Neither of you mean to, but it is what it is. Visit him once more to apologize, and to say goodbye."

Luna flared her wings, "That will crush him."

"It will," agreed Cadance, "But it will be a short-term pain. He will recover, and be healthier for it. He has to find someone closer to his own level, not chasing after princesses."

Luna wrinkled her nose, "You sound like a stuffy courtier, insisting the classes not mix."

Cadance nodded, "Sometimes it can be true... He is so far beneath you that he doesn't even know what world you live in. You have no common reference." She paused, then pointed at Luna, "Well, I suppose you have his frame of reference, but you're not willing to dive that deep."

Luna's ears flipped back, "His 'frame of reference' is alien. He has seen things, impossible things, and debased things. He has seen things wonderful and perverse. It is beyond me how any one pony, even of his true age, could have witnessed so much. To say nothing of his thoughts of me! And you!" She raised a hoof and pointed, "If he thought he had a chance, he'd gladly leap on any of the princesses, to say nothing of the Elements. His favored is Twilight. He likes her eccentric nature and her keen hunger for knowledge."

Cadance frowned, "Is he a predator? I'm not going to ask how he knows of any of the Elements."

Luna shook her head, "Yes and no? His species is, but crippling doubt keeps him from ever being much a threat to a pony. I'm surprised he has adjusted so well to pony life. Before he came here, he ate meat rather regularly, and now, none at all." She rose to her hooves. "He is a bad habit."

Cadance nodded, "We agree. You have enough to worry about without entangling your life with an alien. Maybe when he's not young enough to make other ponies worry about the implications?"

Luna snorted, looking thoughtful a moment, "Maybe I should arrange him a partner. It is still within the royal right to do so, is it not?"

Cadance raised a brow, "Technically, but it hasn't been used in practice in a long time. Do you have somepony in mind?"

Luna smiled gently, "Now that I know him clearly, one that I thought was seducing him is revealed to be one he already had feelings for. He still dreams of her regularly."

Cadance nodded, looking pleased, but then doubt came over her, "Is this pony... also a filly or colt?"

Luna shook her head, "She is mature, as is her partner."

Cadance's confidence crumbled further, "Partner? This pony already has a partner?"

Luna waved a silver-shod shoe, "And he desires both of them. They were to be a herd before things came to a head in Manehattan. I thought all his feelings for her were forced and artificial, but I see now that he found her appealing long before then."

Cadance shook her head, "The way you describe it, he finds most ponies attractive. You said he was a biped?"

Luna snorted softly as she moved towards a window, gazing out over Canterlot, "This one is different. They share interests. She plays the same games he does, and admires his species. His being a human, even former, is a plus for her."

"But she's a full-grown mare?" asked Cadance. "Even if they do bond, she will grow old long before he does."

Luna flapped a wing, "Is it not said it is better to love and lose than to never love to start?"

Cadance shook her head quickly, "That does not make it our goal. Think, Auntie. If you insist on searching for him, surely you know somepony closer to his age? His physical age."

Luna snorted softly, "He does not find ponies his own age appealing, beside the euphoria of their scent. He sees them as foals, little ponies, even if he is their size."

Cadance let out a small laugh, "I'm actually relieved to hear there is something he is not drawn to, but did it have to be the one thing he should be? Your colt is one big bundle of trouble."

"Tell me about it," said Luna with a snort.

Cadance poked her in the shoulder, "Alright, from the top. What does he favor?"

Luna considered a moment before tapping her hooves, "A kind temperament, and the ability to see beyond the current situation. An aggressive partner, but not too much so."

Cadance softly huffed, "That writes you out."

Luna frowned, but continued, "Light-hearted, playful."

Cadance smiled gently, "That isn't so exotic. He just wants what most ponies want."

Luna suddenly brightened, "I know it! Somepony with a predatory side, that will challenge him, and chase him." She strode to a writing desk, grabbing a quill in her magic, "Yes, this should work out well."

Cadance pointed at Luna, "Don't forget you still have to confess. I'm not leaving until you come clean. If you don't tell him, I tell Celestia, and she will be very upset."

Luna frowned, "Don't use my sister against me." She turned her attention back to the paper, writing quickly, then folding it shut and sealing with wax. "Let us be off."

Rough and Trixie lay in the bed, satisfied. Rough gently nuzzled with her, rubbing snouts as he looked into her eyes. "You are the enchantress of my heart."

Trixie gave a soft giggle, "That was awful. You are the pillar of my soul." They squeezed together. "My muse I never knew I was missing."

Rough softly nipped at her ears, "The spark to light my fire."

Trixie tilted her head, "Why did you never tell me before? We were together for long enough."

Rough's ears pinned down, "I... was afraid you'd reject me. You're so... wonderful. Your lustrous blue fur, your dazzling eyes. Even your magic has an air of majesty and mystery to it."

Trixie could argue none of these points, but it felt nice to hear, "I'm sorry I never said anything." She ran a hoof gently over his ears and neck, "You always stood at Trixie's side. Even when my ideas didn't work, you just encouraged me to try again." She bumped noses with Rough, "Tell me about my mane."

Rough was only too happy to begin describing the wonder of her mane, its silvery other-worldly hue, the way it held itself so perfectly and made her all the more bewitching. His words made Trixie's heart feel light and she rolled over on top of him. "Will you stay?"

Rough blinked softly, "Stay?"

Trixie made a dismissive motion, "Now that you have had me, will you run away?"

Rough shook his head violently, "No! I want... to stay at your side. Forever, if you'll have me."

Trixie rested her cheek against Rough's, "Forever is a long time. Why don't we try this... I think I like this... like you..."

Rough squeezed her gently, "I love you, and I'll protect you."

Trixie's doubts had returned, with none of Cadance's magic to ward them away, "Trixie has heard that before... But you will get your chance. We are marefriend and coltfriend, yes? Show me that you are sincere before we rush ahead any further."

Rough rolled over, taking the top. He sealed his agreement with a kiss, and then much more.

Silver perked an ear. He closed his game and headed for the door, opening it to reveal Luna and Cadance. He blinked at the two royal ponies and stepped out of the way. They trotted in lightly and he closed the door. Luna looked at him oddly, then away. Cadance nudged her with a hoof, "Go on."

Luna cleared her throat, "We are afraid we have not been entirely truthful."

Silver could hear worry in Luna's voice, but couldn't fathom what she had to worry about. Such a magnificent mare could hardly do much wrong. Maybe she was in trouble? "Can I help?"

Cadance saw the cord between Silver and Luna glowing brightly. Though it was against her nature in every literal sense, she gently pressed down on that connection with her magic, choking it. It was painful in her chest, but she held it shut for the moment. Silver's eyes cleared of the fog gathering in them and he blinked, "Huh?"

Luna glanced at Cadance, then back at Silver, "We took advantage of your weakened state to secure permission to examine you. We have seen all."

Silver went red rapidly, "Everything?"

Luna nodded her head, "Everything."

Silver squirmed in place, "Are you going to banish me now?"

Luna blinked at this response, "Why would I do that? I came to apologize."

Silver shook his head, "I don't actually care that much if you know everything. I told you, I just thought it... would be unpleasant for you, and might get me kicked out of Equestria."

Cadance lightly punched Luna in the side, "Told you!"

Silver continued, "So... you're OK with what you saw?"

Luna took a slow breath, "No. Your thoughts are alien. Never have I seen a mind so divorced from the harmony of Equestria. My mind still reels from the things I have seen." She raised a brow, "Is it common for people of your world to fantasize about other species so much? To say nothing of what is in your head about me alone."

Silver sunk his head ashamedly, "That's mostly just me, but there are others." He looked up at Luna, "I hold you in the highest respect, even if my imagination is terrible."

"Imagination!" exclaimed Luna, "We have seen all. We know other humans have made drawings of our royal personage. We are... flattered, perhaps, but disturbed. To think a bunch of evolved apes are dreaming of me a world away."

Cadance began to grow curious, "Do they... of me?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Luna, then sank in place. "Be that as it may, I have wronged you. It is within your right to demand recompense."

Silver tilted his head one way and the other. So Luna knew all his thoughts, all of them? A horribly lewd thought popped into his head and he opened his mouth to demand something awfully decadent, but it never emerged. "You don't owe me anything."

Luna seemed to grow instantly angered, "You must demand something! I will not be another female to leave you used with nothing."

Silver frowned in thought, then glanced over at Cadance, "Hey Cadance. It's nice to meet you in person."

Cadance smiled and reached to ruffle his mane, "Hello Silver. You have Luna running in circles."

Silver nodded, "On one hand, er, hoof, I just want her to let it go. We made mistakes, it happens. I don't do grudges, and it didn't actually hurt me."

"About that," said Luna. "When I abused your intoxication, it may have muddled your mind towards me."

Cadance shook her head, "It will fade with time and separation, but I am holding it back for now. Your thoughts are your own."

Silver frowned, that explained certain things. "So, I don't suppose you could fix that?"

Luna shook her head, "I do not even understand it. Cadance?"

Cadance allowed her sight to slip to the realm of love. She extended a hoof towards Silver, waiting for that cord to appear. It sprung out, linking them, and she followed it back to his heart, then she blinked, vision returning. "How could I have not realized?"

"Realized what?" asked Silver. Cadance smelled nice and his nose danced lightly.

Cadance pushed Silver away, "It's nothing mystical at all. You just don't know how to handle pheromones. Did your native species not have them?"

Silver shook his head, "People argue about it a lot, but our noses are not that keen compared to most animals."

Cadance nodded her head, "You're being overwhelmed. I shudder to think what would happen if you came on a mare who was in season."

Silver bobbed his head, "Alright, that makes sense, so... what do we do about it?"

Cadance lifted her shoulder, "You get used to it, unless you want your nose crippled. That would just be barbaric."

Luna raised a brow, "I am relieved it wasn't my magic, but you have yet to name your price for forgiveness."

Silver smiled nervously, "Promising not to do it again isn't enough?"

Luna shook her head, "No."

Silver looked between the two princesses, unsure of what he should demand of Moonbutt.

Author's Notes:

What should Silver ask for?

How about immunity to typos forever! I can get behind that wish.

24 - All Hail Princess Woona

"I have decided," said Silver, "that I want a nice car, for my friend. He's an earth pony. Uh, make that a truck, nice and solid."

Luna frowned softly, "While this is certainly within our means, it is not recompense for you." She pointed at Silver, "What do you want?"

Silver glanced between the two princesses, uncertain and wary. An idea came to him. Surely they would refuse and accept just giving the truck. He pointed at Luna, "I want you."

Luna blinked and Cadance recoiled. "What?" asked Cadance.

Silver bobbed his head, "I want her to be the first mare of my herd until my lifespan naturally ends." He flashed a bright smile, "Is that selfish enough?"

Cadance's wings spread wide, "Selfish enough? That's--"

"Agreed," said Luna.

Cadance spun on Luna, "You can't be serious! He's a colt! What will the ponies say when you drag him into court at your side? This isn't healthy, for either of you!"

Luna shook her head. Silver saw strange new patterns dance along Luna's horn. Were those new letters? His memorization was still far from perfect, but he watched them curiously until an inky black flash engulfed the room. Where once there was one Luna, now there were two, though one was considerably smaller and younger. They smiled together. "This will suffice," they spoke in tandem.

This... oh crap. Silver's ears went back against his head as his bluff was called. The smaller Luna trotted up to him and pressed her snout against his and everything stopped mattering. He fell to the ground under the press of the filly.

Luna looked to Cadance, "See? We should depart." She ushered the stunned Cadance from the house with a wing. When they were outside, Luna quickly whisked them away back to the castle, wearing a triumphant grin.

Cadance shook off her stupor, "What was that? What did you do? Who was that younger you?"

Luna gestured at herself with her wings, "It was me. A second me, created to be his first wife."

Cadance blinked owlishly, "You can do that? How? I never heard of that spell."

Luna wobbled a hoof, "Tia almost certainly outlawed it, but she never bothered to tell me."

Cadance frowned a little, "Are you... aware of the copy?"

Luna nodded, "She is showing Silver she is friendly right now. They will be equals. A magical simulacrum is not a princess, after all."

Cadance raised a brow, "Can... There are so many questions that come with this." She sank to the floor and let out a slow long sigh, "Fine. This is better than most of the scenarios I feared. I am going home. I miss Shining."

Luna moved up and wrapped a wing around Cadance, squeezing her, "Thank you. Without you, this would have turned out terribly. I am indebted."

Cadance smiled, "Princess of Love. It's in the job description, but this was way too much for me." She trotted towards the door, "Please don't break him." Then she was gone, her steps retreating down the stone hallway.

Back in Silver's home, he was pinned under the eager kisses of the miniature Luna. He squeezed her, delighting in this warm, soft, loving presence. Curiosity burned, however, and he drew back away from her kisses. "Luna?"

"Call me Celine," said the younger Luna, er, Celine. "We're married now."

Silver gently pushed her to her hooves and rose up himself, "We are?"

Celine bobbed her head, "Two princesses witnessed it." She leaned in and kissed him on the nose, "No backsies."

Silver warmed softly in his cheeks, "Am I still your squire?"

Celine shook her head, "You are Luna's squire. You're my stallion. Think of us as two different ponies."

Silver nodded slowly, "Alright..." He rose to his hooves, "This is so weird."

"Good or bad weird?" asked Celine, watching him.

Silver smiled, "I'm hoping the good kind." He sat on his haunches and looked her over. "Aren't ponies going to ask questions? You still have Luna's cutie mark."

Celine shrugged her shoulder, "That is royal business. They will keep their mouths sealed if they know what is good for them."

Silver shook his head a little, "Alright, so... taking stock. My marefriend is an immortal princess in the body of a filly that knows way too much?"

Celine grinned, "That's the start of it. I will grow up with you, get old, and when you are gone, I will go too. I don't want to think about that." She made a dismissive gesture of a hoof, "We can enjoy now?" She suddenly jumped at him, tackling him to the ground and kissing over his barrel. Silver wasn't sure how to react, but he was... pretty sure he liked this.

The door to the master bedroom opened. Trixie and Rough came out with smiles that faded slightly when they saw the little alicorn crawling all over Silver. Trixie tilted her head, "Trixie missed something..."

Silver wriggled free of Celine, kissing her cheek before sitting beside her instead of under her. "This is, kinda, Luna. Meet Celine."

Rough gave a mute nod, staring at Silver and his new marefriend.

Celine announced with a hoof at her chest, "I am staying here, with Silver."

Trixie shook her head a little, "This doesn't make any sense." She looked at Silver directly, "Are you being forced into this?"

Silver shook his head, "Took me by surprise, but I can't say I'm upset to have Celine." Celine smiled brightly and leaned against Silver. The attention was new and strange, but far from undesirable. "I should get ready for bed." He rose up to his hooves and started for his room, with Celine trailing behind. As he passed Rough he bumped the larger male, "Looks like we both get a mare to cuddle."

Rough blushed gently, "Mine is prettier."

Trixie smiled at the praise while Celine rolled her eyes. Soon everypony had settled into their new beds, preparing for the next day.

Silver trotted towards school with Celine beside him. He glanced towards her, "You already know everything the school could teach, why are you even coming?"

Celine shook her head, "Many things have changed since we were gone. We may learn something new."

"And you get to be with me?" asked Silver.

"And I get to be with you," agreed Celine.

They arrived at the school and Silver's friends approached cautiously. Soft Blush was the most eager, smiling broadly. "Miss Foalman sent a letter! She's arriving this weekend! I'm so excited, I can scarcely contain myself." She clapped her forehooves with her eagerness.

Silver smiled back at her, "That's fantastic, just show her what you can do. She knows everypony there is to know."

Soft Blush tilted her head, "If she finds me a job, I may leave the school. If that happens, thank you, for everything, all of you." She went around the circle, giving a light peck on the cheek to everyone but Celine, who she tilted her head at, "I'm afraid I haven't had the pleasure?"

Celine grinned, "Celine! I'm Silver's marefriend."

Meadow coughed, then punched Silver in the withers, "You stud! You don't even bat an eye at a single mare, then, bam, alicorn." He tilted his head at Celine, "Speaking of, who are you the foal of? I didn't know any of the princesses had foals recently."

Celine nodded her head, "Luna made me." It was... true to a degree. Silver chuckled at the half-truth of it as his other friends crowded around Celine.

Tumble looked the least excited, "So.... uh, Silver. You like mares huh?"

Silver winced, "Um... yes..." Tumble's head lowered and Silver advanced on him, throwing a leg over his neck with some effort, "We're still friends, right? Just not that kinda friends."

Tumble suddenly stole a kiss. With Silver so close, it was easy to press his lips into Silver's, then he ran off into the school, leaving a stunned Silver.

Lily Jump tilted her head, "He's a colt cuddler? I never would have guessed!"

The others peered at Lily a moment, then back at each other. Celine cleared her throat, "Perhaps his gift will cheer him up."

Silver blinked softly, "I thought you said no to that."

Celine lifted a hoof, "To that alone." She gestured at the street where a large truck sat. When had that gotten there? "We will show it to him after school."

The bell rang, summoning them inside. Butter Scotch noticed the new filly quickly and moved to her desk, "Well hello there! I wasn't expecting a new student." She noticed the new student had little wings and a little horn and grew confused and curious, "Are you sure you're in the right place deary?"

Celine bobbed her head, "I am in the right place, beside Silver Lining." The entire class began to make noise. Some gave soft awwws while others giggled or laughed.

Butter Scotch nodded, "As long as you pay attention during class. What's your name?"

"Celine," reported the lunar filly. "It is a pleasure to be here."

"Everypony say hello to Celine," beckoned Butter Scotch, getting a classwide hello from all the foals. "Now then, today we're going to go over the minotaur nation." She pulled down a string, showing a map of greater Equus. It extended far beyond Equestria's borders, showing the other nations of minotaurs, dragons, griffons, and others beside. "Does anypony remember the name of the minotaur who first made contact with Equestria?"

Class went fairly normally until a new examiner arrived. This one had an especially androgynous appearance. Silver could not tell if it was male or female at all, even trying to steal glances, as its robes concealed everything. It smiled, "My academy specializes in overcoming the frailties of the flesh. Those who attend our school can be as strong as the minotaurs you are studying, or fly like a dragon. Your body will be the easel on which you imprint your will."

Silver perked up. That sounded incredibly interesting and he leaned forward towards the examiner. Celine seemed to notice his interest, watching him intently out of the corner of her eyes.

"Those who would join, please follow me," bade the instructor as it stepped outside of the school. The same four unicorns were there, including Silver and Soft Blush. Celine had stayed inside. The examiner strode up to Silver and pointed at the dangling heart crystal around his neck, "What is this? Have you already felt the touch of our magic?"

Silver bobbed his head quickly, "Yeah. I... it's a long story."

The examiner shook its head, "I have time. Tell me, without omission."

Silver glanced about, "Well, alright. I've been changed by powerful magic before. I've had hands and feet instead of hooves. I've felt what it's like when you do this kind of magic wrong. Princess Twilight Sparkle stretched my net like taffy."

The examiner brushed Silver's dangling charm with a hoof, "What did you learn from this?"

Silver smiled gently, "Not to practice that magic without proper training and a heart crystal, and what it feels like when you do."

The examiner softly snorted, "You would not believe the number of unicorns that become burnt out, or worse, learning that very lesson." A bright cherry red heart crystal was produced from its robes. "Even when you have the training, it is wise to be prepared. I am surprised to see a colt wearing one day-by-day. Do you have an enchantment in it?"

Silver shook his head quickly, "It just... feels right to wear."

The examiner raised a fine brow, "I see." It looked across the line and stopped at Soft Blush, "You have passed this test many times. I will not waste both of our time satisfying your parents. Tell them you passed again." Soft Blush nodded and trotted back into the school without a word.

The representative nodded at the remaining unicorns. "The test is simple, but do not think that makes it easy. To master change, you must first master your sense of self. I will change you in subtle ways, and you must be able to identify where and what has become different." It leveled a hoof at one of the other unicorns. Silver could see the examiner's horn flash with letters, then it lowered the hoof. "What has changed?"

The colt looked over his hooves and pulled out a mirror, but nothing was obviously changed. "I... don't see anything..."

"Failed," announced the examiner. Its horn flashed as whatever change was undone. A filly was chosen next. Instead of watching them, Silver cast his senses inwards. He let his magic flow at a gentle pace and felt through his insides, trying to memorize, at least for an instant, the subtle workings of his internals. "Failed," stated the examiner, looking next to Silver and raising a hoof.

The magic flashed, and the flow altered, just a little. Magic seemed to be avoiding a sudden blockage in his upper right shoulder. He pointed at the shoulder with his other forehoof, "You changed something there."

The examiner gave a thin smile, "What has changed?"

Silver tried to feel around the obstruction. It was about the size of a baseball, a sizable lump in his network. But what could he do to identify it? "It's about this big..." He said, holding his hooves together, "It's perfectly round. I don't feel any patterns on it."

"You are describing it accurately, but you have not said what it is," explained the examiner.

Silver grunted softly, but an image suddenly came to him, like a daydream. "You... put your heart crystal in me."

The examiner's brows rose in unison, "That is correct." With a flash, the obstruction was removed. "What is the extent of your magical knowledge?"

Silver flushed lightly, "I'm memorizing the magic patterns."

The examiner nodded, "Finish that learning, and the academy's doors are open to you. You pass." It turned and trotted off quietly. Silver returned to his seat with a silly grin on his face. The rest of the school day went past in a half-daze until Celine nudged him and gestured for him to follow after the last bell.

He followed her out. She pointed at the retreating Rough Tumble. Silver picked up the pace and rushed up to Tumble, "Hey!"

Tumble turned in place, "Huh? Oh, hey Silver... What's up?"

Silver smiled brightly as he gestured at the truck parked near the school, "What do you think of that?"

Tumble looked past Silver at the truck, "It's nice. Shame I'll never have one like that. Why?" With a pop, some keys appeared and fell on Silver's snout. He jerked back in surprise and they fell to the ground.

Tumble looked down at the fallen keys, then back at Silver, raising a brow. "Surprise!" said Silver, lifting the keys with his magic and holding it up to Tumble, "It's for you!"

Tumble flopped down on his haunches. He looked... uncertain. "I... thank you... I'd rather..." He clammed up, going quiet and misty-eyed.

Silver moved up to him slowly, "What's wrong? It's what you wanted, right?"

Tumble grabbed him when he was beside him and squeezed Silver, "I'd trade a thousand cars for you."

Silver flushed and squeaked. Just when he thought his romantic problems were settling... "We're still friends, right?"

Tumble released him and took the key, "Yeah. Thanks, you crazy colt. Want a ride home?"

Silver nodded softly, "How did you even learn how to drive anyway?"

Tumble grinned widely, "There was a fair. They were showing off all kinds of cars. I took to it like a natural, got my cutie mark. Hop in." He trotted over and clambered up into the driver's seat. Silver hopped up in the passenger seat. With his magic he pulled the seat belt into place, then pulled Tumble's in place.

Celine was not in the truck, but Silver could see her. She was smiling and waving at them. Suddenly he couldn't see her. The truck pulled forward rapidly and smoothly went down the hill. They arrived at Silver's house in just a few minutes. Tumble nodded at Silver, "See you tomorrow?"

Silver unbuckled himself and slipped from the truck, "Of course." He smiled at Tumble, "We're pals." He closed the door with his magic, then trotted inside.

Author's Notes:

That escalated quickly, but we managed to fit in some school! I did promise some slice of life up in this place, though I don't think I deliver much on the comedy tag, hmm.

You know also doesn't enjoy being friendzoned? Typos. They deserve it.

25 - Home Life

Silver opened the door to his house to discover Celine had somehow beaten him home. She was seated beside Rough Draft and the two were having a conversation. Silver closed the door behind himself and went to the fridge, fetching a celery stalk to nibble on. The noise must have given him away as he turned away from the fridge to bump nose-to-nose with Celine. He squeaked in surprise, but soon smiled.

"Hey," said Celine, "What took you so long?"

Silver held the celery in the corner of his mouth as he spoke, "I rode here in a truck. Until I learn teleporting, that's about as fast as I can go." Celine advanced and nuzzled him under the chin. Silver went still, caught off-guard by the affection. There was no attack in it, and she backed off. He relaxed and leaned forward, returning it with a gentle bumping of noses. He could get used to this. "Ready to do some homework?"

Celine led the way into the den and they were soon hard at work. While Silver breezed through the technical portions, finding the linguistics and math portions childishly simple, Celine was a great help for history. "I knew him personally," she said with a smile. "He was stubborn as a, well, bull, but a pleasant enough fellow."

With their assignments complete, Trixie trotted in and pulled the introductory book from the wall. She laid it in front of Silver and sat down with a patient look. Silver quickly flipped it open to the alphabet and resumed trying to memorize, "So... I passed one of the exams."

Trixie blinked, "What?"

Silver looked up from the book, "The exams, I passed one."

Trixie tilted her head, looking shocked, but then her gaze slid along to Celine and the expression darkened to a frown.

Celine looked away, "What? I didn't do anything..."

Silver spotted the many tells and thumped the carpet with a hoof, "That was you?! I thought I figured it out on my own!"

Trixie shook her head, "You cheated, even if you were not aware of the fact. Which test was it?"

Silver let out a soft sigh before he explained, "He, or she? Whoever they were, they did changes on the inside of each unicorn and challenged them to identify what changed."

Trixie tilted her head, "How far did you get without your little helper?"

Celine stuck out her tongue, "I only helped him at the end. He had it almost all figured out."

Silver gave a hesitant nod. "I used the flow of magic in me as a kind of radar."

"Radar?" asked Trixie.

Silver waved a hoof, "I felt where the flow changed, and I could tell a lot about what was changing it, but I was stupid and forgot how large and what shape his heart crystal was. He had put it in my shoulder. I..." he frowned, "How did that not put a lump in my shoulder, or hurt?"

"Magic," said Celine simply with a smile.

Trixie snorted softly, "The true answer is more complex, but, yes, magic is a valid answer. Are you thinking to run off to his academy tomorrow?" She looked ready to argue, body tense.

Silver shook his head, "He suggested I finish learning the basics first, but that I was welcome. There's still one more examiner, right?"

Trixie relaxed immediately, "Good, and yes. The least of the schools, Canterlot Academy of Higher Magic. Perfectly fine, as schools go, but with no specialization, they have the fewest stand-out unicorns to their name."

Silver tilted his head a little, "Did I miss the one from Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns?"

Trixie snorted, "You have to go to them. That university will not come to schools. There is also a significant entrance fee that is not refunded if you fail the test." Trixie poked Silver, "Twilight went to that school, and look at her."

Silver considered this a moment, "Now she's a princess?"

Celine giggled softly, "And neurotic."

Trixie pointed at Celine, "Precisely. You already have Celestia's attention. You don't need to go to her school. Besides." She poked Silver gently, "You can't be a princess."

Silver stuck out his tongue, "That's sexist. I'd make a perfectly fine princess."

Celine tilted her head, "You don't have the right kind of magic to be an alicorn."

This made Silver blink softly, "What?"

Celine bobbed her head, "Alicorns can only exist where all three tribes can blend together in magic. Even the most non-magical mare has this magic, inside of her. It's how a unicorn can make an earth pony or a pegasus make a unicorn."

Silver gave a slow nod, "Well, alright. That sort of makes sense. So princesses are what they are because of womb magic?"

Trixie raised a brow, "This makes sense..." she said in a tone that implied she hadn't heard the idea before.

Celine went on, "That's why gender-changing magic is so hard."

Silver clopped his hooves together, "Because you'd either have to add the whole new magic system, or take it out. Either way would be a huge deal."

Trixie nodded her head, "You have expanded the Curious and Attentive Trixie's knowledge."

Silver pointed at Trixie, "Since she has one, a womb that is, does that make her a better wizard off the bat?"

Celine shook her head, "She doesn't cast using that power. It is strictly internal unless you become an alicorn. So, you two are on even hoofing."

Trixie scoffed, "My student is very ambitious, but he is still years from even dreaming of challenging his teacher."

Silver rose to his hooves and took a few steps up to Trixie. He leaned forward and touched his nose to hers, "Thank you."

Trixie went red lightly, "What was that for?"

Silver smiled, "For being my teacher, and my mom." He returned to his book and laid down. "So when should I expect a brother or sister?"

Trixie's red went to full force as she frowned, "That is a very improper question! We haven't even married yet."

"Yet," said Celine with a little giggle.

Trixie hopped to her hooves and stormed out of the room, "Trixie does not have to take this!"

Silver let her go, then looked back at Celine, "Before the end of summer?"

Celine stuck out her tongue, "Before the end of the month."

Since the book on patterns was left on the floor, Silver availed himself of it, working through them with his horn. He'd memorize them, eventually, he hoped.

After an hour of cycling through the patterns, Celine nudged him, "You look tired, let's go to bed." She was quite insistent, and soon he found himself under the covers with her. He was tired enough to start fading out, but then he felt her touch somewhere... sensitive.

Silver jumped, but the sensation continued. He didn't know what to say or do and mostly laid like a lump as she had her way with him. In the end, he was panting for breath as the sensations tingled through him. He felt her teeth nip at his exposed throat. "Next time I expect you to play along."

Silver trembled lightly. Was that enough to consider his virginity lost? He hadn't been... He tilted his head in the dark, then squeezed Celine close. He stopped caring as he gently inhaled her scent and faded to sleep in her hooves.

The next day, Silver and Celine trotted to school together. They arrived to see the usual group playing a game of loopty hoops. Silver was surprised at how well Tumble could keep his hoop going. Glancing around, Silver spotted his truck parked not far away. He looked over at Celine and saw her eyes roaming the schoolyard. He decided to approach his friends, "Hey!"

Lily Jump's hoop fell to the ground as she stuck out her tongue and lowered herself to all fours. "Hey Silver. How are you?"

Meadow performed his namesake leap, the hoop ending up in his mouth before he set it down gracefully. "Good to see you two." He looked at Celine directly, "Are you two... together, like for real?"

Celine grinned as she reported, "We are married. I am his first wife."

Soft Blush raised a brow high, "First wife? You hadn't mentioned you were forming a herd."

Lily Jump tilted her head, "That's so weird! I thought only country ponies did that kinda thing."

Meadow threw a leg over Silver's neck, "I clearly underestimated you, you mare-killer you." He squeezed Silver before letting him go, grinning with the pride of camaraderie.

Tumble gave a slow blink and leaned in, "W-wait, you mean..."

Celine nodded her head, "I can suggest other ponies to join the herd, and if both of us agree, then the herd grows."

Silver blinked, "Oh, is that how it works?"

Celine gave an mmhmm, "I'm already looking for good ones."

Silver shook his head quickly, "I'm still getting used to you, Celine. I mean... I like you... But I'm not used to having a marefriend. Can't we just be... us for a little bit?"

Lily Jump gave a loud aww, "That's so sweet!"

Celine bobbed her head, "Alright, for a little bit, but it's my job to make sure you are surrounded by loving mares."

The bell rung and they all filed into class. Butter Scotch's social studies lesson of the day had to do with Equestrian banking. It wasn't that terribly far off from American banking, but the banks had no power to lend money that they didn't actually have, nor did the idea of doing that seem to even enter Butter's mind. Checks written from one bank to another involved an actual transfer of the bits from one bank to another, and often had transportation fees attached. There was no 'virtual' currency to be seen.

The final examiner trotted in mid-morning. She looked like a perfectly normal unicorn mare with a nice jacket. "Hello students," she said in a friendly tone, "I'm here to administer tests. Don't worry, pass or fail, there's always next year, and we do offer study assistance programs." She was the friendliest by far, but Silver supposed that made sense for being the least prestigious of the schools. She led the four remaining qualifying unicorns out, then looked them over. When she saw Soft Blush, she checked a scrap of paper held in her soft blue magic. "Are you Soft Blush?"

She nodded.

The representative smiled, "You already earned a full scholarship. You don't need to take the test." Soft Blush nodded and returned to the school, leaving Silver and the two others behind. The examiner looked over the remaining three, "This test couldn't be easier! You just have to show mastery of the basic patterns."

Silver swallowed nervously. Of course. He watched as the filly went through the alphabet, but even he could see where her horn tripped over a pattern, a discordant flash before his eyes. She braved on through it and he saw no other obvious errors.

"So close," said the examiner with a smile, "A little study and you'll have it down. Don't be discouraged." She turned to Silver next. Why couldn't he be last again? "Your turn."

Silver took a slow breath as the filly returned inside. He formed each pattern slowly but carefully, but there were several he just didn't remember, so he skipped them rather than make a random pattern.

"Very nice," she said, "Your patterns were crisp and straight, but you missed a few. Once you learn the rest, you'll get in with no trouble at all!" And she turned to the last student. She hadn't said 'Failed', but he had. Silver trotted back into class.

Author's Notes:

Things stabilize quite a bit in this chapter. Silver is... mostly just happy for a change, which is nice! You go, colt. Tumble sees a glimmer of opportunity as Silver's herd status is made public.

This chapter failed the test because of its typos and will not be attending the Canterlot Academy of Higher Magic.

26 - Everypony's Working for the Weekend

Silver sat in front of his computer and loaded up Civilization. For extra irony points, he giggled to himself as he loaded some pony mods he had for it.

"What are you doing?" came Celine's voice over his shoulder. Silver turned quickly to see her hovering there on her small wings.

"I was going to play a game," replied Silver, recovering from his surprise.

"Can I play?" asked Celine.

Silver glanced at the screen, then dismissed the game. Celine looked surprised at his actions as he slid to the ground. "It's a single-player game, but if the choice is that or you, I'll take you."

Celine smiled brightly, landing on Silver's back and hugging him even as he wobbled around under her weight. "That was too sweet!"

Silver sank to the floor with a soft grunt, then gave a laugh, "So what do you want to do?"

"You," said Celine with horrific bluntness.

Silver pinned his ears back and squirmed, "Uh, well, I guess we could do that, but I thought you'd want to do something, like a game, or something?"

Celine slid off of him and her magic wrapped around him, pulling him up into a seated position easily, "We could go watch the commoners in the marketplace?"

Silver blinked at her, "I am a commoner."

Celine stuck out her tongue, "You're an alien, that's pretty uncommon! And you're a squire too." She leaned in, snuffling at him, "And you're my stallion."

Silver flashed a grin, "I don't think that last one makes me not a commoner."

Celine shrugged her shoulders, "Maybe not." She rose to her hooves, "You're still scared of me."

Silver paused, then nodded, "I guess I am a little."

Celine tilted her head, "Why? Did I do something wrong?"

Silver shook his head quickly, "No, nothing like that. I'm just a doof. I'm still getting used to the idea that a female of any species really wants me, and to be around me, for that. The idea that you're thinking those kinds of thoughts about me, it's... exciting, and terrifying."

Celine nipped an ear in her blunt teeth, "Do you want me to stop?"

Silver shivered softly, allowing his eyes to close a little, "No... Please go on, just don't be mad when I get awkward. That's just me being stupid and getting used to it." Celine suddenly jumped into him, knocking him onto his side.

She bit at his throat and held him still as she squeezed him with her hooves a moment before she let him go. "You wanted to be chased. The apex predator bares his throat and submits to the prey, smiling all the while."

Silver smiled nervously, his tail twitching back and forth, "This is... yes, I did... and I still want it. The, ugh, I feel stupid."

Celine tilted her head down at Silver, "Tell me why."

Silver considered just being quiet, and started to do just that, but she resumed her affections, biting at his shoulder, then his sides. Her little tongue found its way into his belly button and he squealed, wriggling about. "Tell me."

"OK OK!" he called out, "I give! I feel, I don't know, selfish? It feels really good to know you're after me, but what am I giving back?"

Celine rubbed noses gently, "What if I like hunting you?" She reared back, "How is this different from when Lyra was hunting you?"

Silver flickered an ear, "Well, for one, I was human at the time. For two..." He leaned up to rub noses back at Celine, "I did want her back. I adored the way she wanted me and kept at it."

Celine pouted a little, "Then you were sad when Luna sent her away?"

"A little..." confessed Silver, "But now I have a Celine."

Celine's pout turned to a smile as she snuggled her coltfriend eagerly.

The front door opened with a glow of Trixie's magic before she entered. She raised a brow at the two on the living room floor as she trotted past into the kitchen, "Don't do anything Trixie wouldn't do."

Celine nipped at Silver gently, "So what about that Soft Blush girl? She's polite and she's about to start earning her own way."

Silver tilted his head a little, "What about her?"

Celine shook her head, "She could be a second wife."

Silver blinked, "What? No. We're just friends, not more than that."

Celine put a hoof on his snout, quieting him, "If I wait for you to decide when to make the next move, we will be waiting forever. It's not your job to decide when, just agree with who."

Silver flushed softly, "I don't get a vote on that at all?"

Celine nuzzled into his chest as she slid down against him, rubbing her knee in a very interesting place, "I did say I would wait a little while..."

Silver felt his breath picking up and heart thump with excitement. Celine seemed to know how to play him, and he was starting to enjoy being played. "We should let her get her life started. This isn't the time for her to bond with us, then run off, probably to Manehattan."

Celine flicked her tongue over his chest, "You have a point, but I don't plan to leave you without a second wife for too long."

"Why?" asked Silver, "I mean... not... that I'm upset you're watching out for me, but really, why?"

Celine drove in her knee a little more firmly, making Silver yelp before he shuddered, putty in her hooves. "I can't give you everything you want alone."

Silver twitched an ear as he snuffled at her. It was working, though her scent still made him feel happier, it was less pronounced than before. At this rate it'd fade down to just being a little happier to have her around, which is how he felt already. "So, wait, give me what?"

"Everything," replied Celine. She hopped free of him and trotted towards the front door.

Silver was soon up on his own hooves and following after her, "You seem pretty good at that, so far?"

Celine looked over her shoulder, "I can't do everything, but I'll make sure you get it."

Silver frowned softly, "What can't you do?"

Celine circled on him, "Well I can't be a stallion, for one."

Silver shuddered softly, "Who said I wanted one of those?"

Celine bonked him on the head, "Everything."

Silver flushed as the point was driven home, "Well... Geeze. Idle musings are not... sincere desires. I want a mare, and I got one."

Celine nodded softly, "You're making me happier than I thought I'd be, claiming I'm enough forever." She turned to Silver and moved up on him. She ran her head under his chin, avoiding poking him with her small horn in the stroke, "You know how to talk to a filly."

Silver giggled a little, "I didn't know that was all it took." He nuzzled her shoulder gently, "But, really. I'm happy right now."

Celine seemed to grow serious, "But you won't be, later."

Silver shook his head, "I don't get it."

Celine waved to the door, "Go take a walk. I have things I need to plan anyway."

Silver blinked softly, "It's been awhile since I was banished from my house." He opened the door and stepped through it. He turned to say something else, but the door slapped shut in his face. Was it something he said? He trotted off into the city, "Maybe I should get her a gift..."

He felt it! A song began to issue forth from his mouth and he struggled. He wouldn't be a victim a second time! He tried to focus his magic, but it was already at work. His unicorn body was the cause of this song magic, of course it wouldn't be on his side. He thrashed and kicked in his own mind, managing to force his muzzle shut, muffling the words, but the song continued as if nothing was wrong.

By the time the song number was complete, he had no idea where he was anymore. His traitorous legs had carried him off into Canterlot and left him there. He looked around, not even seeing any stores that he could get Celine a gift at. "Stupid song!" he shouted in frustration before a flash of green caught his eye. He jerked his head to the left to see a quickly retreating figure. His curiosity piqued, he trotted after it, trying to catch up without actually galloping.

Suddenly he was lifted up and pressed against one of the walls. A knife handle wreathed in neon green magic hanging in front of his left eye.

"Move or answer one of my questions with a lie and you'll get more than a new mane-cut," A colt's voice said in his ear. "This knife can cut iron cleanly, it'd be a shame to see what it could do to this horn of yours..."

Silver tried to look around from where he was, held against the wall of an alleyway, but unable to see who was doing so, other than their green magic. "Hi." Smile, say hello. It never fails, sometimes. "Can you... not cut me? Please. I like that horn, and all my other parts."

"Then you'll answer my questions. Who sent you? Who do you work for?"

Silver gave an eloquent uh before he replied, "I'm a school student? My name's Silver Lining. What's your name? Can you lower that dagger away from my face? I'm not running anywhere."

"This knife moves when you stop dancing around my question or when I get tired of you."

Silver gave a slow nod, "Well, OK, but I can't tell you much more? Uh... so are you a... don't take this the wrong way, a changeling?"

The knife shifted, going up to the top of his vision. "Who. Do. You. Work. For? The Plates? The Chalices?"

Silver quickly denied, "What? No. They don't even like me, uh, the first ones that is. Man, really, come on. Three of my best friends are changelings."

"Oh yes, and one of them's a queen, right? Now, Who do you work for?" The colt took a sniff of Silver's mane, "I get it, you're one of their new recruits."

Well actually... Silver swallowed his thoughts as the interrogation seemed to turn in a darker direction, "I'm not here to spy on you or anything." He twitched faintly, hooves held in the air, "Please... I don't want to hurt you, or be hurt by you. I'm just a pony, right?"

The voice was silent for a few moments before saying, "You aren't with the Voluntas?"

Silver tried to spot the aggressor futilely as he swallowed, "I don't know what that is but fuck this is getting stupid. I know what it's like to be distrusted for how you look. I know how much it sucks. I'm not one of those pe-- er, ponies. Can you, please... put the knife down?"

Silver felt the weight holding him shift. "You had somepony shadowing you... Wait. What's she doing coming this way?"

"Huh?" said Silver eloquently, "Oh god, I didn't mean to be followed. Don't take that as an excuse to stab me." He let the magic flow within his young body, hoping he could turn aside the blade. Maybe if he made a thin film of magic? He slowly spread the invisible force across his front, praying it would help.

Amusement entered the colt's voice, "You're just wasting magic doing that. Besides, if I'd known you were her friend I wouldn't have done this." The colt sighed as the knife was sheathed -- as far as Silver knew.

Silver perked an ear, "Whose friend?" He swallowed a little, "So, uh, we're cool? I can stop being threatened maybe?"

Silver felt his hooves touch ground again, the weight keeping him pinned falling away quickly as the other colt spoke, "That's right, I asked her to keep me a secret. I'll bet she acts kinda like an airhead?"

Taking the opportunity to have a look around as he wobbled on his clumsy coltish legs, Silver bobbed his head a little, "Yeah? She's nice? Uh... I never got your name? I'm Silver Lining if you missed it." His magic faded without his concentration, body cooling subtly.

Standing before Silver was a grey unicorn colt. "Moonfire, and no, I didn't."

Silver smiled lightly, looking over the other unicorn colt curiously, "Hi Moonfire, so..." He scuffed a hoof, "Are you? I mean, no offense or anything. I don't hold it against you if you are."

Moonfire turned his head toward the alley's opening just as Lily Jump turned the corner. "You could've told me that your friend was nosy."

Silver's smile grew more genuine as a familiar face entered his view, but befuddlement overtook it quickly, "Lily Jump is your friend?" He plopped down on his haunches, "This is unexpected, but, hey."

Lily's cheeks lit with a bright red as she stammered out, "Um... W-we were actually more than friends when he left. But yes, I know him..."

Silver nodded at Lily, "You'll excuse me for not expecting a changeling." He glanced at Moonfire quickly, "No offense! I thought I was the only one that met one before."

Moonfire smirked, "None taken, I've had to be extra careful about who follows me."

Silver raised an ear at the two, swiveling between the ponies as his breath slowed. With the immediate danger passed, he relaxed a little, "So, nice to meet you. What brings you to Canterlot?"

The colt's smirk faded and they were silent for a few seconds before Lily said, "He's trying to woo a filly from the town he is trying to hide in."

Silver tilted his head a little, "Do, uh.." He brought his fore hooves together, rubbing one on the other, "Do changelings do that? You know, get coltfriends or marefriends, get married, have little kids?"

Moonfire and Lily looked at each other for a second before bursting out in laughter.

"I-I think it's a good thing he's just a friend!" Moonfire exclaimed before succumbing to laughter once again.

Silver looked at Lily, then Moonfire, "Is that a yes? The ones I met weren't all that, well, we didn't have the time to go delving into changeling society or anything like that.." He tapped a hoof on the ground, "I do hope things go well with your filly friend."

Letting out a few more chuckles Lily said, "He's not exactly what you would call a 'full' changeling. So I guess it's possible."

"And she's not my marefriend... yet," Moonfire added after his own chuckles were tamed.

Silver nodded quickly, "That's what I meant. Uh, I'm new here too, just about a month back." He made a soft gesture behind himself with a hoof, though his gaze kept slipping towards Lily. Was her simple act just that, an act?

Moonfire stiffened suddenly and looked at Silver with interest, "Your first taste of deception here in Canterlot?"

Lily's hoof went to her face. "You told him, didn't you? You always say to not mess with somepony else when they're in a disguise, yet you completely blow mine."

Silver's body tensed as the words parsed, "Uh, no, wait." He held up his hooves, "I'm not a changeling, I'm just cool with them." He flashed a soft smile, hopefully a convincing one, "I have no beef with them, and they never hurt me." Well there was that one time, but she apologized.

Moonfire's eyebrow raised at the griffon-like saying, "Yeah, I know you aren't, and neither is she."

The filly sighed and lowered her hoof, "I just didn't want anypony worrying about me more than they are already. I knew I'd have to play dumb about Moonfire anyways, so I just... extended it to the rest of what I knew. I could do a very convincing act of amnesia before he gave me a few pointers."

Silver reached out to put a hoof on Lily's shoulder, "Secret's safe with me. So," he glanced back at Moonfire, "Just passing through? Need some help?" On a sudden whim he asked, "Know any good gifts to get a mare?"

Lily's ears pricked up, "I could help there. Moonfire wanted me to get him a reservation at The Princely Apple. I could ask for two tables for two instead."

Silver tilted his head before nodding, "You're the best. You remember Celine, right? She'll be excited, I hope." He looked uncertain a moment, then moved for the exit of the alleyway, "I'll see you both around. Be safe."

"Before you go, though," Moonfire said.

Silver peeked over his shoulder, "Huh?"

Moonfire pulled a knife sheath out from his mane and floated it over to Silver, wearing a big grin. "You might want to wait until you're home to look at that."

Silver eyed the sheath as it floated towards him. He reached out with a silvery hand and gently curled its magic fingers around the gift, looking quite uncertain. "It's not going to explode or something I hope?"

Moonfire shook his head his smile growing a bit. "No, it's the knife I threatened you with."

Silver bobbed his head, uncertain look lingering as he trotted quickly away. He thought of Celine waiting for him and his pace hastened as he navigated his way through the city. The thought that he had a warm body to return to, genuinely curious about his time out, made his trot turn into a canter, eager to be home.

When Silver did make it home, he drew the sheath from his saddlebag and pulled the blade free. It was wood, not even sharp looking wood. He was held up by a little wooden stick with a dagger's hilt. He slipped it back into the sheath, chuckling as he opened the door and went inside, eager to share the tale, minus a few specifics and alarming bits, with Celine.

Author's Notes:

Welcome to the great collab chapter! The second portion was done live with Moonfire himself as a bit of an experiment. Did it turn out alright? You tell me.

Two sets of eyes equals twice the chance for typos!

27 - I was in Town

The next morning, there was a light knocking on the door. Silver closed his game and was on his hooves quickly, trotting to the door with a light, clumsy stumble. Maybe a month wasn't quite enough to work out all the kinks? He put the thought aside and opened the door, revealing a familiar face.

Nicole Foalman smiled down at him brightly, "Hello, little colt. Is David Silver in?"

Silver blinked but quickly recovered with a smile, "Right here, Nicky. How are the boys?"

Nicole tilted her head a little, "You didn't tell me humans could do this?" She entered and nudged the door shut with her magic, "Are you playing a joke on me?"

Celine trotted out from the back and looked up at Nicole, then at Silver, "Hello Nicole."

Nicole smiled winningly, "Hello little filly. Have you seen me before?"

Celine nodded, then nuzzled into Silver's side, making him blush.

Silver gestured at Celine with a hoof, "I've been busy since last we met. I'm kinda married now. Meet Celine."

Nicole leaned in closer, "And you're a unicorn? And a colt? This is becoming hard to believe." She looked over Celine, "Nice to meet you, Celine. Is this really David?"

Celine shook her head, "He was David, now he's Silver Lining, and my stallion. I am his first wife, so if you want him, you'll have to impress me first."

Nicole burst into a soft laughter, "Well! I'd better get my act together then." She reached for Silver, ruffling his mane, "I wanted to say hello, and thank you for your recommendation. Soft Blush is a very talented mare. She'll let some actors be almost as good as me at looking the part."

Silver smiled, "So she got the job?"

Nicole waved a hoof dismissively, "I could barely wait for the ink to dry. She's off to Warneigh Brothers where her talents will be put to work right away. So, are you going to tell me? How did you end up like this?"

Silver tapped his chin with a hoof, "I made a lot of stupid decisions, followed by a few good ones. I'm living life from the start basically." He turned and bumped his nose into Celine's cheek, "It's working out so far."

Nicole tilted her head one way, then the other, "You're cute for a colt, but I'll miss the big shaggy human." She rose up and began to turn, "Still, it's nice to know you're doing well. Do drop a letter once in a while, I don't bite unless you request it."

Celine grabbed the door in her magic, opening it for Nicole. "Have a nice day!"

Soon she was gone, and Silver looked at Celine, considering pouncing her for a change. He waited too long, and was bowled over by her. She soon had him in a strong hug, snuggling him into the ground. He gave a soft giggle and hugged back gently, "It'll be sad that she's gone, but I'm glad she got a nice job."

Celine tilted her head, "Life is change. She's an adult now. Your first real job is when you can stop being called a filly or a colt."

Silver raised an ear, "Is that how it works? So people just... stay in school until they find a job?"

Celine shrugged, letting Silver stand just to lean on him, "To a degree. Once in a while, a foal just never finds work, out of laziness, or indirection, disaster, or something. Thankfully that's rare." She nipped him on the cheek, "You have a job waiting for you."

Silver shivered softly at the nip, then pressed against Celine. She allowed him his victory, being laid out on her back as he slid in over her. She grinned up at him, "Are you going to do it, uh..." she looked thoughtful a moment, "Missionary? What does that mean? That's a strange name for this."

Silver flushed gently, "That wasn't the goal, not that I'd mind it, but not on the living room floor, sheesh." He snorted softly, "And stop digging through my memories for position names, that's creepy."

Celine twisted strongly, and soon Silver was pinned under her, "We can do it cowboy style instead?"

Silver wriggled under her, "You're impossible!" He stopped then and reached, putting a hoof on her belly, "So, uh, what about this? If we play like that, we'll make a foal, right? What are the rules about that? I don't want to be a deadbeat father, heck, am I old enough to make a foal?"

Celine wriggled her ears, looking thoughtful, "I can't think of a time a stallion without a cutie mark fathered a foal unless they just never got one." She pressed against him in a delightful fashion that made his heart start to pick up, "Though you are a special stallion, but you don't have your mark. We should get you one."

Silver tilted his head, "You say that like we should stop by the cutie mark store and pick up a nice one."

Celine giggled and silenced his questions with a kiss that seemed to go on forever. When she drew back, she ran her hooves down along his body, teasing over his blank flanks, "I have a pretty good idea what could bring your mark to you. It's still a guess, but I'm kind of in the best position to make that guess."

Silver shook his head, "How do you keep all of 'me' up there?"

Celine shook herself out from head to her dark tail, "Easy! When Luna split, she gave most of 'you' to me. 'You' are a big part of me. I think about 'you' a lot. Luna gets to be free of 'you' and your confusing human thoughts." She stuck out her tongue, "Everypony wins. I'm made for you, so having 'you' there is just... lovely for me."

Silver looked concerned with a soft frown, "Is that right? I mean... you don't have free will?"

Celine suddenly punched Silver in the belly, knocking the breath from him. "I am not your slave! You get that thought out of your head. If you start acting like a jerk, I'll stop liking you. It's not unconditional love."

Silver struggled to regain the breath violently torn from him, nodding, "Sorry... Please don't hit me like that." He flopped back, looking at the ceiling, "You can tell me I'm being a jerk, or stupid, but I... want to know you'll never hurt me."

Celine looked guilty, glancing left and right before she nodded, "I won't hurt you again, but no promises on tackling, nibbles, or tickling."

Silver smiled, "I can live with that, even if I cry like a filly." The moment passed in one another's forelegs, comfortably entangled.

"So," asked Celine, "Did you want to try?"

Silver raised an ear, "What do I have to do?"

Celine sat up on Silver, "Well... I'm not entirely sure, but I have a hunch you need to see magic, real magic, spells!"

Silver nodded lightly, "I've been trying to do that, but everypony insists I memorize those patterns first." He frowned sharply, "I hate it. I don't memorize that way, usually. I memorize by doing, and by using pieces in a system I can tinker with. Give me bits of game rules and I'll work them together. Give me shreds of a programming language and I'll make it bend backwards to do something it's not designed to do."

Celine looked thoughtful for a moment before she hopped off of Silver and trotted off. He quickly rolled over, following her, "Where are you going?"

Celine didn't answer as she stepped into the plushly-carpeted den and made her way over to the magic books. She reached for a book and an image of Trixie appeared, "You are either a thief, or my naughty colt. Either way, no book for you! The Great and Powerful Trixie has spoken." With the warning spoken, a field of force appeared over the books, barring the way. Celine's horn shone with a rapid pattern and she thrust a hoof through the field, knocking one of the books free. It was grabbed in her magic before it hit the ground and Celine trotted back to the surprised-looking Silver.

"Read this," she beckoned, flipping it open to the first page, the part Trixie had skipped.

Silver tilted his head a little before he flopped down and got to reading curiously. The book seemed to go over the flow of magic, from a high-level viewpoint. It talked about how the patterns came together to form spells and shape intent with a specific sort of syntax and phrasing. The more he read, the more it seemed to make sense. Though the entire first chapter had no specific facts that would allow a colt to cast a spell, likely why Trixie had skipped it, it made it all come into focus for Silver. "Magic is a programming language!" he exclaimed as he sat up.

Celine paused, digging through her borrowed memories to learn what that was, "Yes, sort of, though you're programming the universe, not any silly computer."

Silver thrust a hoof into the air, "I can get behind that! These patterns are just the primitives. Why am I memorizing primitives? I can reference those!" He snorted softly, "I'd rather get to work on a real spell." He flipped ahead to the basic alphabet and pointed, "Can you make copies of this? So I can have a reference chart?"

Celine's horn flashed with complex magic before copies of the pages floated up and bound together into a small leaflet of the alphabet.

Silver tilted his head, "Hrm, can you make it one big sheet of paper, so I can see them all at once?"

With some magical tinkering, the papers were reconfigured into a big sheet, all the information in one place. "Perfect! Thanks." He kissed her on the nose, then plopped back down in front of the book, flipping past the alphabet. "Simple spells for foals, now we're talking..."

"Silver Lining!" came the angry voice of Trixie from the open archway to the den. "What are you doing?" She trotted up, her magic slamming the book shut, "Trixie did not give permission to study the book today. How did you get this off the shelf?" She saw the big floating reference chart and blinked at it before waving it away, "Go study that, that's harmless." She shoved the book back into its original place, leaving a disappointed Silver there on the floor as she cast a different defensive ward and sat watching them, "Go on."

Silver only realized then that Celine wasn't in sight, though he could see a faint haze of her magic lingering. He sat up, "Uh... sorry."

Trixie pointed at him, "Go outside and play like a normal colt. You don't need to study over the weekend. You may be an adult inside, but that won't stop Trixie from tanning your bottom if you disobey her again. It's for your own good."

Silver's ears fell. He didn't want to be spanked, least of all by Trixie. He wondered a moment how hooves, or a furry rump, would work with that, but decided not to test Equestrian physics and dashed from the room and the potential pain. He was soon out of the house, head full of half-aborted glimpses of real magic.

Author's Notes:

So close...

Trixie's new spell scrambled some of the letters to keep Silver away from those spellbooks.

28 - Back to Living

Silver's attempts to gain access to the spell portion of the book were a bust before they began. Trixie kept out the reference page he had made with Celine's help and insisted he just study that, refusing to retrieve the book again. The weekend passed well enough, ignoring that part, and soon Silver was trotting to school at Celine's side. When they arrived, he looked for Tumble's truck and didn't see it. Was he running late? He saw his other friends present, minus Soft Blush.

He approached them with one hoof up, and fell over. Walking with three legs was an advanced skill he hadn't quite got the hang of yet. Celine gently lifted him in her magic, setting him on his hooves, "Thanks. Hey guys."

Lily Jump smiled, "Hey Silver. Oh, my dad got me these tickets to this place, but I don't even like their food, you want it?" She passed him tickets and he accepted it, looking uncertain a moment before he remembered and bobbed his head.

"Thanks," he said, then looked to Meadow, "How's it going?"

Meadow shrugged in a pleasant way, "Weekend was cool. I got to see a hoofball game, major league! It was up in the nosebleed section but it was still pretty nice. Anyone see Soft Blush, or Rough Tumble?"

Celine raised a hoof, "Soft Blush went to work at Warneigh Brothers."

Meadow pouted a little, "Oh... I mean, congratulations to her."

Silver looked to Meadow curiously, "So what do you plan to do, after school?"

Meadow turned to display his cutie mark of a hurdle with a hoof just over it. "Leaping's my talent. I'm going to play in the Equestria Games!"

Silver bobbed his head, "That sounds good for, what is that, a week? What about the rest of your time?"

Meadow shuffled in place, looking thoughtful, "What... else can a jumper do?"

Silver tapped his chin in thought as the bell rang. He aborted the thought for the moment and went inside with the others. School began, starting with a lesson on newspapers, their rights and restrictions. The lesson petered off to a stop as a pony entered. Tumble shuffled up to his desk. He had clear bruises and one eye was a little swollen. He looked awful to Silver, but Butter just frowned, "You're late, Rough. Please be inside at the bell."

"Yes, ma'am," said Tumble, his head low.

When they were let out for a lunch break, Silver approached him, Celine at his side without being prompted. Tumble looked up when he approached, "Hey Silver."

Silver looked around, still not seeing Tumble's truck, "So, decided to walk today?"

Tumble grunted, "Yeah..."

Silver fidgeted in place, uncertain, "Want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what?" asked Tumble, sounding alarmed.

Silver gestured at Tumble, "You're kind... of a mess."

Tumble ran a fetlock over his face, straightening out some of the fur but doing nothing for most of the bruising and swelling, "Where?"

Silver rolled his eyes then, sitting on his haunches, "Everywhere. You look like you got into a boxing match with a bear. Was it your dad?"

Tumble went stiff.

Silver tilted his head, "Your mom?"

Tumble suddenly jumped at Silver, knocking him to the ground. Stars swam in Silver's vision as he was struck once across the jaw, but the attack was already over. Tumble was lifted into the air, wrapped in Celine's magic, where he sobbed.

Silver quickly scrambled to his hooves, rubbing at his jaw lightly. For a Tumble hit, it didn't hurt nearly as much as it should have. Did he hold back, or was he hurt that badly? Silver glanced at Celine. Celine gently set him back on the ground, but put herself between him and Silver. "Silver is trying to help you, you big dumb colt. You don't have any right to hit him, or anypony else," she said with a firm authority despite her small form and high-pitched voice. "This is your one chance to say what is wrong."

Tumble slumped in place, "They took it. They didn't believe it was a gift. They called me a liar! They wouldn't stop asking where I really got it from." He flopped to the ground, "I kept telling them."

Silver raised an ear, "What did... they do when you stuck to the truth?"

"They hit me," he said, "Each time I said it. When they got bored with that, they said..." He raised up onto his haunches, "'If you're not going to tell us, we're just getting rid of it.' And they took it to the side of Canterlot, and they kicked it over the edge."

Celine frowned, "That's illegal."

Silver shook his head, then looked to Celine, "Can we do something? His parents are, well, terrible, from what I hear."

Celine gestured at him, "He's too old. If he doesn't like his parents, he should have already moved out. He even has his cutie mark."

Silver huffed, "What good is that mark if they take away what he'd use! That truck was supposed to let him use his talent. Now it's pancaked on the side of a mountain."

Celine glanced up at Tumble, then back at Silver, "There is one other way a colt can move out, besides becoming an adult with a job. Well, two, really."

"Those are?" asked Silver curiously.

Celine held up her left hoof, "They go to a secondary learning school, like a pegasus going to the Wonderbolt Academy, or a unicorn to any number of magic schools." She switched to her right hoof, "Or if they marry, the colt or filly may move in with their partner. Other than that, get a job, and then you're free. If he were still a foal, which he is not, there would be other options." Celine approached Silver, snuggling up to his side and whispering in his ear, "We could save him."

Silver flinched a little, "But..."

Tumble had barely followed half the conversation, but it had his attention, "So what do I do?"

Silver frowned and looked at Celine, who just smiled at him. "Celine, do you think this is a good idea?"

Celine stopped smiling and seemed to put serious thought into it. "I think you'll be guilty if you don't. I think he really loves you, and I think--"

Silver pointed a hoof at Tumble, "I think he hits too much!"

Tumble fell at Silver's hooves, "I'm sorry!"

Silver sighed softly and reached, gently mussing up Tumble unkempt mane, "I'm not going to leave you like this, but you have to promise. No more hitting, ever. One more hit, just one, and you're out."

Celine took an imperious pose before Tumble's prostrate form, "I, first wife of Silver Lining, do extend invitation to you, Rough Tumble, to join our herd. Do you find this acceptable, Silver Lining, stallion of the herd?"

Silver hesitated before nodding, going with the flow, "I, Silver Lining, stallion of the herd, agree with your invitation, Celine, first wife." He looked at Tumble, "Do you accept?"

Tumble bobbed his head quickly, a smile spreading. Silver winced lightly, "Your teeth."

Tumble's smile shut quickly, "What?"

Silver shook his head, "No herd-mate of mine is going to be so neglected." He gestured up with a hoof, "Stand, come on. We have to finish the school day, then we're off to the hospital." He quietly hoped that Zecora's tooth-growing potion had equivalents here in Canterlot and wondered how long Tumble had been suffering.

Word spread quickly. A filly moved out from behind Silver without asking and Tumble ended up in the position. Butter Scotch made no comment on the adjustment, and the day slid to a close with everyone being released from school.

They trotted as a trio to the closest hospital, where they received raised brows before Celine, after much hesitation, flashed her royal flank and flapped her little wings. Unable or unwilling to argue with royalty, even one they didn't quite recognize, they took Tumble in for care.

Silver sat beside Celine in the waiting area, tapping on the tiling with a hoof idly, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Celine tilted her head, "As sure as I can be. He deserves a chance, even you think so."

Silver grunted. It was both reassuring and irritating how well Celine knew him. "He does, but I'm still not gay."

"Colt cuddler," corrected Celine, "And you are wrong. Before this day is done, you will cuddle that colt and you will like it."

A warm blush rose to Silver's cheeks. Just cuddling isn't so bad, right? He'd nuzzled and hugged Rough Draft more than a few times. "One hit," he said warningly.

"One hit," agreed Celine. "I will give him a chance, but you are more important than him to me. If he didn't love you so much I wouldn't even give him that."

"Then why did he hit me?" asked Silver.

Celine shrugged, "I have your memories, not his. We could ask him afterwards?"

They waited largely in silence until Tumble was brought out to them, looking a bit better overall, though clear to Silver that he was still recovering. Silver flashed his teeth, "Let's see yours."

Tumble returned the gesture, exposing bright and new teeth. Silver bobbed his head, "Much better." A doctor wandered up and set a note beside Celine. She lifted it in her magic and looked at it.

"A bill," she announced. "We'll bring it home."

As they departed the hospital, Silver confessed, "I kinda thought Equestria wouldn't have hospital fees."

Celine perked an ear, "Depends what for. Chipped or damaged teeth that isn't clearly a disease is considered a cosmetic, and isn't covered by the crown."

Silver huffed. Ah well, even pony land had to have a few flaws in it. He led his herd home. When he got inside, Rough Draft was scribbling something in the living room. He looked up at the three with a smile, "Come to play videogames?"

Silver shook his head, shuffled a little, "I, uh, kinda grew my herd."

Rough tilted his head, confused, "Where's the new bride, and isn't this fast?"

Silver hiked a hoof at Tumble silently.

Tumble went red, "I'm a bride? I... does that work that way?"

Celine gave a soft giggle, "I don't think Silver will consent to play bottom with another male, so, yes, you are the new bride."

Rough shook his head slowly, "The human I imagined has changed a bit."

Silver moved up to Rough and nuzzled his side, "The pony I imagined has changed a bit." He sat and looked up at Rough, "I still love him."

Rough reached and plucked Silver off the ground, hugging him gently, "I still love him."

Author's Notes:

The herd expands, with the member some of you were waiting to happen.

Will this end in tears? Will this end in typos?

29 - I've Been There

Celine gently ushered both of her stallions into Silver's room. With a soft nudge with her magic, the door was closed and she looked back and forth between the two. Tumble looked... lost. He wandered the room slowly, looking at everything there. "I've never seen your room before... You both live here?"

Silver nodded at Tumble, "Me and Celine, yeah. It was just me at first."

Tumble nodded stiffly, "Thanks, I mean... for taking me to those doctors." He sat down in front of Silver and smiled, "So, when do I go home?"

Silver blinked at the question and his head tilted, "I thought we made it all official?"

Celine shook her head, "Actually, none of us are adults. Last time there were two princesses there. I don't count. The words we said are important, good enough to take authority in a medical emergency, but his parents could claim we're too immature to take him away."

Tumble shrank a bit, "They'll come for me. They always find me. One time I tried hiding over at Meadow's place and they found me there too." He shuddered softly, "I don't want to go back there. They say the only thing I'm good for is pulling things, but I want to pull things in my truck, not on my shoulders." His face fell, "Oh Celestia, that was your truck! You're pr--"

"Enough," said Silver, holding up a hoof, "Tumble, seriously. We're not angry at you. You didn't wreck the truck. You didn't punch yourself. You did punch me though." He raised a brow, "Why did you do that? I thought we were friends."

Silver was attacked, sort of. Tumble picked him up and hugged him to his chest. It was warm, soft, but stifling, "A few ponies had asked about them before, but nothing good ever happened. One time somepony came around the house and talked with Mom and Dad and they got so mad..."

Silver wriggled in his prison until he could get a gulp of fresh air, dangling from Tumble's desperate grip, "That's not how we solve our problems." He kicked his legs weakly, hanging in the air, "If you're going to be part of this herd, we don't hurt ponies, any ponies."

Celine nodded softly, "Even when they deserve it. That is our stallion's way, so it is our way."

"Our way," echoed Tumble, setting Silver down gently, "So, you really mean it? Like, really really? I'm a stallion of a herd?" He raised a brow, "Didn't figure it would work that way. I always thought I'd find some other stallion and, you know, one-to-one?"

Celine raised a hoof, "Technically, you are his mare. There can only be one stallion in a herd. Do you question Silver's right to be stallion?"

Tumble looked confused at this, "But... I mean, I'm a stallion."

Celine shrugged, "Not in this herd." She pointed at an equally confused Silver, "That is your stallion." With a flash of magic, a pointing neon arrow appeared over Silver's head with the letters 'S-T-A-L-L-I-O-N' in bright colors.

Silver coughed a little, amused, and a little intimidated, by Celine's strong display. "Does that bother you?"

Tumble shook his head a little, then smiled, "It's like destiny... When you hit me with that magic and made me your mare before. I was still a stallion then, right? But I was your mare." He lowered himself and rolled over onto his back, hooves in the air, "Will you be good to me?"

The tone he used echoed through Silver. There was a desperation there, but also a fierce hope, but most importantly, Silver could hear trust being extended. He approached Tumble and nuzzled his cheek, "I will try to never do wrong by yo--" his words were cut off as Tumble took the opportunity for a kiss. No quick stolen kiss. There was tongue, and passion. Silver was unprepared for this, but tried to just... bear through it. By the time Tumble let him draw back, Silver was a deep maroon and flopped back onto his haunches.

"You broke him," said Celine in a joking fashion. "Bad mare." She moved up to Tumble and nuzzled his other cheek, "We are sisters now, herd-sisters. I am first wife, you are second."

Tumble rolled up onto his belly, bobbing his head. His eyes were bright with life and newfound hope, and his tail wagged eagerly behind him.

"I'm going to teach you a few things, for his benefit." She looked at Silver, "Mare conversation, shoo."

"But..." Silver found himself hovered through the suddenly opened door, and it shut behind him. He got no vote in this. He shook his head a little, why couldn't their second wife be a nice soft mare, with a sunny smile and a good past. He trotted towards the kitchen to get a snack as he thought this through. It wasn't like Tumble was a bad pony, but he was pretty clearly damaged goods. He would need support and caring, no matter how it was sliced.

Silver gnawed on a radish, pausing in his thoughts to wonder how a raw radish could be as tasty as a raw apple or orange. He moved to his computer chair. He didn't turn on any games, just sat in the chair, musing. Maybe Tumble was one of those people born as one that identified as the other. Did ponies have those? Maybe the fact that they didn't is what was breaking him up so badly. Maybe he really did want to be Silver's mare, but pony magic was pretty bad at making that a reality, not that human technology was much better. How would he even ask this question of Tumble without sounding insulting?

The radish was gone, devoured stem and all. The door to his bedroom opened and Celine poked her head out, waving him back in. This promised to be an awkward transition at best. He was just getting used to Celine's constant, but desired, proximity. He paused on his way to the bedroom, thoughts whirling. Was this not the definition of humanity in some ways? Changing things to suit yourself instead of yourself to suit the environment? He snorted softly and joined his mares, even if one of them did have an extra bit dangling off. He was soon pressed between the two. Thankfully neither of them tried to initiate anything, since he was not at all sure he would react well.

Silver galloped freely through unending fields of grass on all ends. He could see faint numbers and letters dangling to the blades as he ran faster and faster. Even the sky had tags, with each cloud having its own identifier. As his breath turned into an internal roar, he could see puffs of letters spilling from his mouth, and he could feel his body was a complex mesh of connections and numbers. Everything was working together in some insanely complicated system, and for just that moment, he felt like he understood it all.

Suddenly Luna. Silver skidded to a halt before the moon princess, blinking up at her, "I thought I was done seeing you in my dreams?"

Luna ruffled her wings lightly, "Do you not wish us?"

Silver shook his head, "Nah, it's OK... but I felt like I was on to something there." He flopped onto his belly, looking up at Luna.

Luna nodded as she settled down, sitting across from him, "Celine showed me what's going on. Celestia has forbade that I interfere any further in your life until you are a formal squire."

Silver tilted his head then, "But you're here?"

Luna smiled gently, "I am. I don't want Trixie and Rough to wage this battle. Tumble's parents are... I've seen their dreams."

Silver flipped his ears back, "Are they that bad?"

Luna nodded softly, "Now that I have looked at them directly, I am entirely confident, but their position in relation to yours restrains our actions, so now is your first action, as a squire. You must arrest them."

Silver gave a slow blink, "What? What am I going to do? They're earth ponies, like Rough Tumble right? Just... bigger, and stronger?"

Luna nodded slowly.

"And you think I can restrain them?" asked Silver in a worried panic.

Luna conjured an image of Silver laying between Celine and Tumble, "You have allies, one of which will suffer terribly if you fail."

Silver snorted, "Why not send the guard after them? Half-a-dozen night or day guards would do the job, right?"

Luna shook her head, "The only evidence I have is what I have seen in their slumber, which Sister insists is not enough. When they attack you, which I feel certain they will, that will be crime enough."

"Well, alright, so," said Silver as he gestured impotently with hooves, "Give us a few guards to watch from a distance and come help? Only one of us knows magic worth a damn, and she's a little copy of you. She's perfect, by the way."

Luna smiled warmly, "I am pleased to hear you appreciate me. I will send a trusted member of the night guard. She will keep an eye on things and move as needed."

Silver let out a breath. Did he have breath in a dream? Luna faded, and the dream resumed as if she were never there.

The three of them trotted to school, side-by-side. When they arrived at the school, the kids were staring at them a little oddly. Silver went to approach Lily and Meadow, waving.

Lily smiled warmly, but Meadow looked a little unsure. "Uh, I thought this was a game, you know. Something Celine put together. Why are you all still together? It was cute and all, but don't you think it went on long enough?"

Silver tilted his head, "What?"

Lily punched Meadow lightly in the shoulder, "Can't you see they're totally in love? It's like a romance book. Two stallions, one mare." She looked at Celine directly, "Lucky."

Meadow shook his head, "I'm not the expert when it comes to this, but even I know it's one stallion and some mares. You have more stallions than mares, how's that even work?" He reined himself in, "I mean, whatever. It's your herd, not mine." He leaned in close to Silver, "But, c'mon, Tumble, really? You can do better."

Silver went red, and Tumble proved to have good hearing when best suited for drama. "What did you say?" he demanded, looking furious.

Silver held up a hoof, "Let it go."

"No!" said Tumble, frowning. "Are you saying I'm ugly?"

Meadow took a step back slowly, "Well..."

Tumble advanced with Meadow, "Don't see why anypony would pick Tumble, huh?"

"I..." Meadow glanced around, but like Tumble's other fights, no other pony was eager to get in the way. Except one.

Silver moved between Meadow and Tumble, facing Tumble, "Relax."

Tumble snorted loudly, "He's calling me ugly and stupid."

"Nopony said you were stupid," said Silver. It was true, as far as he could remember.

Tumble shoved Silver out of the way. Why did unicorns have to be so light compared to earth ponies? He rolled through the dirt before coming to a stop and Tumble advanced on Meadow. Celine moved to Silver's side, helping him up with her magic. Silver was no longer watching the conflict. His breathing was harsh and labored, and he stormed off. Celine glanced back at Tumble shouting at Meadow before she moved to follow Silver quickly.

She caught up to him around the school where he had sat himself. He looked at her, "I can't do it."

"Can't do what?" asked Celine.

He waved a hoof, "This. I'm broken enough on my own. I can't deal with his malfunctions. He deserves to be loved, fine, but I can't do it. I can't live with someone that can not only overpower me at any moment, but doesn't hesitate to do so the moment things get tense."

Celine smiled gently, "I'm more powerful than you."

Silver gently smiled back, "And yet I would trust you. I would roll over and let you have your way because I know you won't do anything, even if you could. I don't... even totally understand how I know that, but I do, and you haven't proven it wrong so far." He approached her and rubbed his tear-stained cheek to her dark-furred face, "I can't do it. I said one, just one. If you're that insistent I need a stallion, get a small one, or even better, don't get any. I just need you."

A loud shout brought their attention back to the front of the school. Peeking around the corner, they saw two large earth ponies shoving Tumble.

"Already making trouble!" shouted the male. "We let you out of our sights for a moment and here you are, picking on the other ponies. What's the matter, you can only win fights with smaller ponies?"

The female grabbed his ear in her teeth, tugging him away from Meadow Leaper, "When we get home, you are on punishment for a month."

Tumble shrieked in terror as he was being hauled away. Silver frowned, "There's one thing we still have to do."

Celine followed Silver across the yard as they moved to intercept Tumble and his parents. Silver brushed his heart crystal, for good luck, then cleared his throat as he plopped down in front of the angry parents, "Sir, ma'am? I need to talk to you."

The stallion peered down at Silver and past him to Celine before snorting, "You're those kids that was filling our boy with lies! He ain't gonna be nopony's mare." He drew his belt off suddenly, holding it in his teeth and slapping the leather on the ground. "Your parents didn't teach you good enough, we'll just do the job for them."

The mother stayed where she was, holding Tumble firmly in place.

Silver went taut, then let his magic flow. He grabbed the belt quickly in his hand and yanked it away, but the stallion's grip was sure. For one delerious moment it was like playing tug-o-war with his dog back home until the earth pony wrenched the belt free of the magic. The belt came flying with its liberated momentum and slapped Silver across the shoulder. Without the proper crack, it only stung a little, but it was enough to make his hand vanish as he hopped away from the earth pony.

Celine's horn glowed with a sudden spell as the pony was encased in a translucent blue bubble. This enraged the mother, who cuffed Tumble, ordered him to stay put, and then she entered the battlefield. With a lash of her hind legs, she shattered the bubble and freed her husband. "Wicked little unicorns, think you're better than us earth ponies, just like all the snobs here in Canterlot." She wheeled around to lash at Celine with a powerful buck. Silver saw the blow hit a wall of energy, but it was too much and Celine was sent sliding back.

Silver summoned his hands back, then grabbed the husband before he fully recovered, pinching his snout shut with two firm hands. The stallion began to kick and thrash, but there was no obvious sign of what was wrong with him. He couldn't tell which unicorn was behind it, but he chose Silver at random to charge towards with a muffled cry. Silver turned tail and fled, but kept his focus. He led the angry stallion around, letting his breath run out all-the-faster with his air cut off.

Celine kept trying to deflect the incoming blows, but the mare had the strength to break through them. Each shattered shield backlashed on Celine, giving her an increasing headache. She fell before the mare, wheezing for breath. "Not so tough now are you?" asked the large mare as she stomped up to Celine. She raised a hoof high, ready for a telling blow when a new figure suddenly dropped on her face. She screamed in surprise and pain as whatever it was bit into her with needle-sharp teeth.

Silver couldn't hear the sound of his pursuer and looked over his shoulder. The stallion was taking slow, staggering, steps. His chest heaved, trying to force air through, but Silver's hands still held, even if his horn was beginning to ache. Tumble's father fell forward, pawing at the ground weakly before he went still. Silver was wracked with indecision. He didn't want to kill a pony, but what if the stallion recovered? The idea of personally killing something was too repugnant, and he let the hands go. The stallion took a harsh breath, but remained unconscious.

Celine wobbled back to her feet, watching as a young thestral (bat pony) fiercely did battle with the mother. The matron finally got a hoof between herself and the bat-winged pony and knocked them to the dirt with a savage shove. Her face marred with scratches and punctures, she roared in fury and charged the downed thestral, looking ready to stomp her into the dust. Celine grabbed her in her magic and directed her towards the ground. The mother tripped in her charge, going full speed into the soil with a grunt of pain.

The thestral was quickly on its feet and into the air on leathery wings. "You're under arrest," she said in a young female voice. "Attacking a night guard and assault on two minors. Come peacefully and Celestia may have mercy on you."

The earth pony looked enraged, but her eyes peered around, spotting her unconscious husband, her sobbing child, and the three enemies that seemed ready to fight. She hung her head slightly, and the battle was over.

Author's Notes:

Action! Excitement! And I know at least one reader will be extremely sad. I'm sorry!

I was so busy handling all of that drama that I didn't have much time for error checking.

30 - As I Planned

Celine was taken for examination after her magical exhaustion, and Silver would not be parted from her. Tumble's parents were escorted away by the thestral and school began. Tumble himself was sent to school, with instructions to wait around afterwards to be picked up, though by whom, Silver knew not. Silver went with the paramedic ponies when they arrived and soon he sat at Celine's bedside.

The doctor had said she would be fine, just a little overstressed from her magic use, and trotted off, leaving them alone together. Celine was awake and smiled at Silver, who returned the expression. "Are you OK?" he asked, "Sorry I didn't help more."

She shook her head, "You took out a stallion on your own, that's plenty." She held out a hoof and he took it in his own, sandwiching her hoof between both of his. "I'm going to take a nap, but I'm fine. You don't have to watch me sleep, go do something fun."

When she faded to sleep, Silver plopped back down and waited. Sure, he could go somewhere else. Nopony would likely yell at him for skipping school after that, but he didn't feel much like leaving Celine's presence. Minutes passed as he mused on his new life. Thinking back on it, a lot of his little speech patterns had subtly altered over time. He was not the same person he was before coming here.

Was that bad? He looked over at Celine and gave a light smile. Nah, a little change just means you're still alive. A lot of change is an adventure, right? Having little better to do, he went through the symbols he could remember, pacing through them with patient flexes of his magic until the door swung open to reveal the thestral from before.

She wasn't wearing her night guard armor and had round glasses on her snout. "Hello there," she said in a soft and friendly voice. "You awake?"

Silver sat up and nodded at her, "Yeah, thanks for helping out."

She shook her head, "Thank you for your part. Without your help, they would still be beating up that poor colt."

Looking her over, she had to be about his age. She looked like little more than a filly without the armor. "What's your name?" asked Silver curiously.

Her leathery wings unfurled, covered in a soft-looking layer of the same greyish fur that covered the rest of her, though her wings were a touch more purple. "Oh! I'm being rude." She took a moment to adjust her glasses, "I'm Night Watch." She blinked her amber eyes, slit in that odd way that bat ponies seemed to share, "And you are Silver Lining. I've heard a lot about you."

Silver nodded hesitantly, "Nice to meet you, Night." She had a sort of geeky flavor to her that amused Silver and he smiled, "Good things, I hope?"

She stepped closer, wings folding back up, "Did your dad actually make Humanway?"

Silver bobbed his head, "I ran it at Manehattan Bipedcon."

She stopped, and tilted her head, "I heard about that. They said..." She trailed off and looked him over again before snorting softly, "The mistress didn't lie."

"About?" asked Silver with a perked ear, "What's gonna happen with Tumble's parents, and Tumble?"

She gestured at Silver, "There's more to you than I can see, but I'll root it out. That's what I do." She smiled brightly. Her face framed her glasses perfectly and Silver thought she was adorable in her enthusiasm. There was no malice in her tone or posture. He could see that she had some sharper, longer, teeth that peeked out in the smile. "Tumble will get help. He's a little old for foster care, so we'll go the other way instead. I heard they'll help him get started as an adult, and talk him through his problems."

Silver nodded lightly, "That sounds good. He deserves a chance, you know, to be happy. He's not..." he wobbled a hoof, "Bad, just... broken?"

She pointed at Silver, "Like you."

Silver jerked back in surprise, "Uh..." Then he sank, "Yeah... But my broken doesn't make me hit people or try to hurt anypony." He pointed at Celine, "I'm pretty happy being her stallion, and learning more about magic."

Night looked past Silver to the slumbering Celine, then back at Silver, "I can't imagine too many would be upset with an alicorn for a partner." She flushed softly in her cheeks, "Speaking of that..."

Silver tilted his head at her, "Hmm?"

Night extended a wing, pointing it at him, "I was told to get to know you, so, if you don't mind, I'll be hanging around."

Silver shook his head slowly, "Uh, I guess that's alright? You didn't say what's going on with Tumble's parents."

Night frowned, "If Luna had her way, they would be punished severely to make an example out of them, but it is in Celestia's court that they will be judged." She sat down lightly, "If I were to guess, there's a thirty percent chance they will be made to cry and be forgiven. A forty percent chance they will be made to perform some menial task for a time, and a twenty percent chance they'll do something stupid and she'll give them something really hard to do."

Silver did quick math in his head, hooves moving as if he still had fingers to count with, "What's the other ten percent?"

Night shrugged, "Call it Discord's odds. Something crazy could happen, for their good or bad, and throw the whole thing on its ear."

Silver pointed at her, "Speaking of ears, and don't take this the wrong way, but you look... different."

Night recoiled a little, looking defensive as she frowned and curled back, "Does it bother you?"

Silver shook his head, "It's pretty cute, actually. What are you?"

Night gestured at herself, "I am a lunar pegasus. We're related to solar pegasi, obviously, but while they take after birds, we take after bats. You wouldn't call a solar pegasus a bird pony, so please never call any of us a bat pony."

Silver quickly bobbed his head, "Lunar pegasus, got it." He approached her cautiously and she allowed him, watching him with her intense amber eyes. He circled around her, "Your ears. I love those tufts."

Night blushed softly through her fur, her tufted ears spinning back on her head, "I, uh, thank you. Oh!" She turned to face him, "I was told to inform you that your herd's inclusion of Tumble was dissolved."

Silver tilted his head, "That was fast. I thought I'd have to go through some kind of process."

Night shook her head, "He has been ruled unfit of mind at the time of the vow." She waved a wing lightly, "Besides, you had no formal witnesses. If you want him back, find him after he's cleaned up."

Celine's voice came from the bed, "Silver? Who are you talking with?"

Silver was back at Celine's side in a hurry, galloping the short distance to nuzzle her hoof, "I'm right here. The lunar pegasus that saved you came to say hello."

Celine sat up in bed and looked at Night Watch with a smile, "Hello there. I was wondering when you would arrive."

"Ma'am?" said Night with uncertainty.

Celine pointed at Night, looking at Silver, "I want you to get to know her. I think you'll like her."

Silver blinked softly, then frowned, "Are you already looking for another one? Didn't we learn something from this?"

Celine settled back in the bed, "Trust me, please. I'm not nominating her, yet. Just get to know her. If you like her, great. If not, I won't say a word."

Night shook herself out, "Don't I get a say in this?" she asked, confused.

Silver smiled gently at her, "You sort of get used to this. Uh, well, being your friend seems harmless enough, if you want?"

Night looked uncertain a moment before offering a hoof, "We could play a game of Humanway, if you like? Or you could tell me how you took down that stallion?"

Silver met her hoof with his own, clopping together. "I would be delighted. I have some games at home if you like that sort of thing, uh, roleplaying that is."

Night tilted her head to the side, "Other roleplaying games? Like Dragon's Hoard or Mazes and Minotaurs?"

Silver shook his head, "It's hard to explain, but if you like those, you'll like these."

She smiled that cute smile, "Alright then. You didn't say how you took down that brute though?"

Silver summoned up his hands, "This is going to feel odd and I'll only do it for a moment so don't panic, OK?"

Night gave a slow an uncertain nod before Silver gently pinched her snout and nose closed. Night's wings unfurled instantly in alarm, but she stayed still. Just a moment later, he let go and she took a soft breath, "Never do that again, to anypony."

Silver tilted his head, "It... worked?"

Night shook her head quickly back and forth, "You could really hurt somepony, forever. Chokeholds are specifically barred from use." She poked Silver in the chest, "You might not be a guard, but if you see yourself as a good pony, you'll never choke somepony ever again."

Silver's ears pinned back as he nodded, "I won't, promise. I had to think fast! He was big enough to punch me into next Tuesday and barely even notice I was there."

Night gave a soft sigh, "It was pretty crazy. You did good for a colt your age. With a little training, you would have known other techniques to disarm the situation."

Silver pointed at her, "For a colt? How old are you?"

Night went red again, "That's beside the point! I have my cutie mark and I have my job." She displayed the magnifying glass hovering over an eight-sided die that was branded on her grey-furred flank.

Silver leaned in a little to look at it, "I get the glass. You're an investigator, right? What's with the die?"

Night shrugged, "Maybe I like roleplaying games too much."

Celine spoke up from where she lay on the bed, "Or maybe you know when to play the odds. Will you take a chance with us?"

Night Watch looked between Celine and Silver, "I said I'd be friends. Let's try that first and see where it leads us." She pointed a hoof at Celine, "You're not royalty, alicorn or not. Stop trying to order me like one."

Silver waved it off gently, "She means the best. She's a good pony, and I think you are too. I don't know where we'd be if you hadn't been there."

Night Watch waved a wing dismissively, "Just doing my job, which apparently includes watching the two of you." She reached with her snout into a small bag and pulled out an even smaller bag. She upturned it and a collection of dice fell on the floor, "You ran a game at the con, how about you play a game for once?"

Silver blinked softly, "That... sounds more appealing than I thought it would. Please, go ahead."

Night smiled as she settled into place and they began to play a game together. Silver played a human wizard, giggling internally as he tried to make it as close to his old self as possible, and ran through Night's adventure, having a good time.

Author's Notes:

Say hello to Night Watch! She's a good pony, and she has bat wings. What more could you ask from a pony?

That hospital room was kept dim the entire time, making spellchecking difficult at best.

31 - Clean Bill of Health

A little napping was more than enough to get Celine back on her hooves, and she led the way from the hospital with Silver trailing behind. He noticed Night continuing the chain once they started down the street and looked over his shoulder, "What's up?"

Night raised a brow, "Nothing."

"You're following us," said Silver.

Night wobbled a hoof, "I've been doing that for a while. You know me now, so there's less reason for me to hide about it."

Silver plopped down on his rump as Celine joined the conversation, "That makes sense." Celine smiled at Silver, "Now you can get to know her."

Silver shook his head, "No."

Celine raised an ear, "No?"

Silver nodded his head then, "No. No offense to her, but no."

Night snorted softly, "The feeling's mutual there, colt. You're kind of awkward."

Silver blinked, "What'd I do?"

Night adjusted her glasses, "Well, let's see. You see a new mare, and the first thing you ask is 'what are you' followed by 'hey, nice ears'. That's kind of a creepy thing to start with."

Silver flushed gently, "I was trying to be nice, sorry. I didn't mean anything by it."

Night waved a hoof lightly, "If I thought you had, I would have shown off one of several takedowns I learned in the guard. I said you were awkward, not a total sleazoid."

Celine's ears fell as they talked back and forth, "This isn't how I imagined it."

Silver grunted and thrust a hoof at Celine, just shy of her nose, "I'm more than my memories. I'm more than my past thoughts. I know how this worked. You said 'Hey, let's grab a geeky girl. She's smart and awesome and he won't be able to help himself. He'll fall for her for sure!'"

Night's wings spread quickly, "What? I'm on assignment."

Silver looked at her flatly, "What is the assignment exactly?"

Night pointed at Silver with one of her wings, "To observe you and make a full profile of your behavior and personality as well as guard you from threats in certain situations."

Silver looked to Celine, "This isn't fair. Not to me, not to her. She has a life. We can't just... expect her to do what you want."

Night shook herself out, "Wait wait wait." She advanced on Celine, nose to nose, "You want me to join this herd?"

Celine shrank away, "Yes?"

Night gave Celine a light shove, "No."

"That's what I said," exclaimed Silver with a huff. "I'm really sorry, Night Watch. You seem like a really nice mare, but I'm tired of being led around."

Night smiled, exposing some of her long teeth, "Hey, thanks for being honest. You're still awkward."

Silver poked Celine, "Stop trying to control me."

Celine suddenly reversed their stances, leaning into Silver aggressively, "So is this what you want? You tossed Tumble aside like it was nothing! You don't care what happens to him at all? I thought you were friends."

Silver shrank back a little before he pushed forward, nose to nose with Celine, "That's exactly what I am, his friend. I'm not his stallion, and he shouldn't have ever been my mare. I don't love him." He drew back from Celine, "I still love you, I think, but this has to stop. I'm putting a hoof down." A clop resounded as he struck the ground with a hoof. "I will pick what mares, if any, if ever, join us."

Night Watch held a pen in one wing and a paper in the other and was busily scratching away, watching them but not participating.

Celine's feathery wings went wide, "That's not how it works! You asked me to be first wife. I pick the other wives, not the stallion. You approve, but I pick. That's how it works."

Silver tapped her on the nose, making her flinch back, "That's how it works with me. Maybe when I feel that particular trust with you again, we can consider it, but for now, I'm holding that to myself."

Celine trembled with apparent fury before she deflated, "Do you hate me?"

Silver blinked at the question, "What? No... I want to take you home and hug the stuffing out of you, right now, but this, all this." Silver made a wide gesture, "It has to stop. I shouldn't have had to make room in my bed for someone I don't love, and you shouldn't be happy trying to make me do that."

Night Watch suddenly spoke, "I'm here at Princess Luna's orders, not hers. You're still stuck with me." She was still writing on her paper as she said this, watching them both through her thick glasses.

Celine looked like she was about to object, but the thought died within her and she turned for home, starting to trot off. Silver moved to trail after her, but turned his gaze to Night, "You're here to watch, right?"

"It's in the name," agreed Night with a smile. "Mind?"

Silver shrugged, "You're not putting off any vibes that put me on edge. Sorry you had to see that."

Night tilted her head as she followed along, "Are you kidding? I've learned more today than most of the other days combined!" She tucked away the paper she was working on and focused on walking. "You're interesting, but awkward."

They soon arrived home. Silver went to close the door behind himself but Night caught the door on a hoof and slipped inside.

"Uh," started Silver, raising a brow, "You're in my house now."

"Orders are orders," said Night Watch, "Pretend I'm not here at all."

Silver began to color, "I was... going to try out that whole angry make-up loving I'd read so much about. I don't really want to do that with you watching." He frowned then, realizing what he had said. Surely he wouldn't have told someone he's about to fuck someone else before he was a pony.

Celine looked from the kitchen, "If she wants to watch, I won't stop her."

Silver stomped a hoof, grunting. Night snickered softly, "You're an odd colt. Most blank flanks don't even see mares that way yet. You go do whatever you plan to do, I'll wait out here."

Silver's fragile mood was broken. He joined Celine in the kitchen, "Why is she here? I said no to her joining, she said no to her joining, and yet, there she is."

Celine shook her head, "How would I know? I knew what Luna was planning basically at the time I was born, but after that? As I said before." She leaned in and kissed Silver's cheeks, "Think of us as two different ponies. This one loves you very much."

Silver returned a soft kiss, "An argument doesn't change that. I still want us. Me and you, I like that."

"What's this?" came Night's voice. They turned their heads to see her using her wings to wiggle the mouse around on the computer with little effect. She lifted the mouse and peered at the red light that came from the bottom, "Is it supposed to do that?"

Silver nuzzled Celine gently before trotting over to Night. "I'm going to show you a game, and you're going to play it while we apologize to each other."

He quickly started Fallout: New Vegas, "This is a game about what would happen in a world of humans if war tore them apart. You play one, a human that is. That's all I'm telling you. Consider it a test of your investigating skills. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish." He started the game for her and surrendered the mouse and keyboard to her before trotting off to join Celine in the bedroom, wondering if that was the wisest idea, though it certainly felt good.

With the door locked, he and Celine apologized, first with words, then kisses, then with more. His movements against her soft body reminded him that being with Celine felt... great, and he decided he didn't want to give it up. "You respect me, right?" he asked before be bit down on the back of her neck. "No more, right?"

Celine arced her back and moved with him, dancing the ancient dance, "No more, until you say so. Why do you go for so long?"

Silver paused, looking perplexed, then he laughed loudly, "Oh god. How long do ponies usually go for? I thought I was pretty fast."

Celine pouted, "We can talk about this afterwards?"

No more words were shared until they lay side by side, both pleased and considerably more relaxed. Silver nuzzled gently into Celine's shoulder, "How long?"

Celine nibbled softly at his chest, "Once they put it in? Maybe ten seconds. You're a pony, it should work the same."

Silver shook his head, "But it obviously doesn't. I did think it was faster than..." he trailed off.

Celine raised a brow, "I thought you were a virgin before me."

Silver shook his head, "I've, you know, done it myself... There was one time someone used their mouth? I was slow. It annoyed them. God, that was embarrassing. I'm definately faster than those times, but I figured that was just because there was an actual female." He snuggled against her, "A young, fertile female."

Celine flushed deep as she shook her head, "You last at least half a minute by my counting, longer with repeats."

Silver blinked, "Thirty seconds is a damn short bout for a human, you should know that."

Celine sifted through the memories before she nodded, "It is, but you're a pony now, and that's long."

Silver began to get stiff and awkward, "Am I hurting you? Is that bad?"

Celine shook her head quickly, "You don't move fast enough. You handle me like I'm made of glass. It's very sweet, and with how long you go, it's nice, but different. I feel things tighten up and move that I hadn't before. Still, if you sped up, you'd probably normalize, so stop handling me like I'll break."

"Before?" asked Silver.

Celine bopped him in the nose, "I was once Luna. She isn't a virgin."

Silver flushed gently, "I suppose not... Is Celestia?"

Celine nipped his shoulder gently, "Ask her yourself?"

Silver burst into rough laughter, "Oh, hey, Sunbutt. Have you ever had your fields ploughed?"

Celine rolled her eyes, "She has. She's very picky about her partners, and they are sworn to secrecy. Don't tell her I said a thing about it."

Silver quickly shook his head, "Wouldn't think of it. We should see what Night Watch's gotten into. I wonder if she ever got out of the first town."

They were both on their hooves shortly and moved across into the bathroom first. Cleaning after such activities seemed wise. Night could wait a few minutes longer...

Author's Notes:

Emotions get discussed! Also some sex talk. Meanwhile, Night Watch gets to play some Fallout. How did she do? Tune in next time to find out!

All this social-gender politics is confusing to follow, but typos are easy to follow. Destroy them.

32 - Living in a Rut

Life settled into a new, if pleasant enough, rut. Five days out of the week, Silver and Celine went to school. He practiced his patterns, and failed to convince Trixie to let him look ahead at the actual spells. Night Watch followed after them, at school, at home, over the weekends. Now that she had been spotted, she just made herself a casual part of their lives, only leaving them alone when they retired to bed.

Tumble never returned to school, but the school year went on unimpeded. Lily Jump said something about having to go to Ponyville, and gave no real explanations. Silver approached Meadow one Friday a few weeks later.

"I had an idea," announced Silver, Celine following after him.

Meadow Leaper perked an ear at Silver, "Your ideas are dangerous, but sometimes amazing. What's your idea?"

"It involves your long-term job," said Silver with a smile.

"You have my attention," said Meadow, kicking the ball he had towards Silver lightly.

Silver gently nudged the ball towards Celine, who kicked it back to Meadow, "You like jumping, but you like moving in general, right?"

Meadow bobbed his head, "Love it! Running, jumping, playing hoofball or loopty hoops. I'm happiest when I'm moving."

Silver pointed a hoof at Meadow, "So maybe you're thinking too narrow. Why don't you share your love of moving?"

Meadow tilted his head, "I'm interested... but I don't get it. How do I share that?"

Silver sat on his rump, "You can start with me. I'm not the most graceful pony."

Meadow gave a soft pfft, "You're the clumsiest colt I ever saw, no offense."

"None taken," said Silver, "If you opened a gym or something, you could show people how to work out, how to play games, keep in shape, all that! You'd be sharing your talent with everypony, and they'd pay you for it."

Night Watch dropped from a tree branch, hanging from her hind legs in a fashion that looked simply impossible to Silver. "Did you read that somewhere?"

Silver peered at the dangling Night, "Uh, no. I was just thinking about Meadow."

Meadow tapped the ground a little, "I... like the sound of that. I could show everypony how fun it is to move! I could even help ponies that are hurt that need help moving."

Celine tilted her head, "That takes a lot of patience and care."

Meadow waved a hoof, "If it means somepony can move again, that sounds worth it." He jumped forward, putting forehooves on Silver's shoulders, "You, my friend, are a genius. I know what I'm doing after the Equestria Games now."

It was the last day anyone saw Meadow at school. Silver's clique had shrunk considerably to just Celine, with Night Watch always close by, but not attending classes.

It wasn't that Silver was disliking his lot in life, but he wanted... "Celine?"

She tilted her head at him, seated beside him in the living room, "Yes?"

"I think I'm wasting my new life," said Silver.

Celine flicked her ears at the unsatisfied sound in his voice, "Why do you say that? You're doing well in school, and you've helped your friends move on to great things."

Silver waved a hoof, "Yeah, sure, but where am I going? I need a spell book."

Night Watch joined the conversation suddenly, "Oh? Is that all?"

Silver blinked, "Is that all? I've been trying for months!"

Night Watch shook her head slowly, "You're smart about some things and dumb as a brick about others. Where do they keep a lot of books, genius?"

Silver frowned a moment, then it hit him and he thumped the ground with a hoof, "You are kidding me."

Night Watch rolled her eyes, "So, we're going to the library today or what?"

No further words were needed. They were off at a brisk trot towards the Canterlot Archives. "Will they let me browse whatever magic I want?" asked Silver along the way.

Celine shook her head, "There are several restricted wings that only royalty and high-level wizards are allowed, like the Starswirl the Bearded wing."

Night Watch asked, "If the humans use so many firearms, why don't they get any bonuses to them in Humanway?"

Silver blinked, "Have you been playing Fallout?"

"Oh yeah," said Night, "Very educational, if violent. I never saw a game with so much blood, gore, and..." She tilted her head, "How much did you pay for that? It's beyond any other game I ever played, beyond even the cutting edge things."

Silver glanced around, "Uh, it was a lot..."

"You're lying," said Night flatly. "I don't appreciate that."

Celine shook her head, "It was a gift from Princess Luna. He is probably trying to protect her."

Night flashed her sharp teeth, "You're better at lying than he is, but you're still hiding something."

"Here we are," said Silver, pointing at the library they had just reached, "Do you know your way around, Celine, Night?"

Night gave a soft huff, "I'm not forgetting this conversation, but follow me."

Night Watch led the way through the marble tile floors of the library to the foal's section, which turned to soft carpeting. She pointed, "Here." She had brought them to a section of foal's introduction to their horn, and magic in general.

Silver walked up and started looking over the books. 'Mommy What's This Thing on my Head?' 'The Tingle Means it's Working', and other titles promised some faint shreds of information. He stopped when he found 'A Dozen Simple Spells to Impress your Friends'. "Yes!" He grabbed the book with a silver hand and set it on the ground, flipping it open and flopping in front of it. With great hunger he searched for the first spell. The spell apparently punched a small hole in a glass, so somepony drinking from it would end up dribbling all over themselves. "That's a stupid prank," said Silver, but he read on anyway.

The symbols were listed to fire the spell, but no explanation was given for why these symbols, and why in that order. Out of curiosity, he looked around and focused on a bookshelf. His horn glowed soft silver as he went through the symbols quickly. A new tingle ran through him as real magic fired, and a tiny divot appeared in the wood. "Huh..." He pushed up to his hooves, "I need something a little more advanced than this. Somepony has to explain why they pick the symbols they do."

The search was on! Silver began to wander from book to book, looking up a variety of spells of increasing complexity, but it seemed none of them offered even the start of an explanation for why the spell was the way it was. "Ok, seriously, this is stupid." He stomped a hoof and looked to Celine, "You're a unicorn, sort of. Tell me, why aren't there any explanations? The alphabet clearly has a meaning, they even say as much, but nopony shares the meaning with their spell. The meanings aren't so simple that it would be obvious to a random unicorn, would it? Or why would there be any spells at all?"

Celine shook her head, "I was never a scholar of magic. I mostly used spells that others shared with me, and you are correct, they never said why, just gave me the pattern and what it should do, as a whole."

Silver sank to the floor with a deep frown, "They can't be... guessing it all, can they? No wonder new spells are so valuable! If you want a fire ball, you need some heat, and some pressure, and some speed, but how much of each? How much does each symbol give specifically? No one bothered to figure this out or keep track of how they interact, in general? This is crazy!"

Night Watch raised a brow, "I'm not a unicorn, but for a blank flank colt, you're talking like you know something. If you think that should all be written down, why don't you write it down?"

Silver huffed and kicked his hind legs across the floor, wriggling in building frustration, "Maybe I'll do just that!" His magic grabbed his notebook free of his saddlebag and he threw open the closest spellbook. "Here, it creates water. It only uses three symbols." He went through the symbols quickly, "Now what happens if we add an extra of the first one?"

Silver began to scribble notes. They were chicken scratch, but they were notes, and that was good enough for him. He tinkered through the day, abandoning memorizing the symbols, abandoning memorizing spells, and instead recklessly adding and dropping symbols from existing spells and writing down the effects and trying to figure out the system behind it all.

The sun had long since set, and the library was quiet save for Silver's incessant quill scratches. Celine leaned against a bookshelf, her eyes mostly shut. Across from her, Night Watch also looked drowsy, yawning widely as he worked.

"I have it!" cried Silver, startling them both to wakefulness, "If this works, it should make a fire ball. A real fire ball."

Celine blinked softly, "Why is your first spell a ball of flame?"

Silver blinked back at her, looking lost, "Uh, seemed as good as any. It's a classic wizard spell." He trotted quickly away with his notes, soon leaving the library entirely with his two female friends close behind. "Let's try it!" He focused his horn and ran through the symbols he theorized should work. Fire sprayed out of his horn in an intense but brief burst, arcing into the sky before vanishing. "Uh... No, not enough pressure holding it together."

He tried again, adding another of one of the symbols. Instead of a cone, it came out as a straight line, firing up into the night sky. "Closer!" Again and again he tinkered with the recipe, made notes, and tried again. Finally, he flashed through the symbols and a perfectly round orb of fire drifted up into the sky. He started to giggle manically, watching it, "It's perfect, perfect!" He turned his horn left, and it followed. He turned it right and it kept moving along with it. "Better than I dreamed!"

Night Watch shook her head, "That's nice and all, but what are you going to do with it?"

Silver brought his silvery hand, and the ball in its palm, down into the stone plaza violently. It exploded just the way he wanted it to, flame escaping in all directions until the energy was expended. He clopped his hooves in triumph, "And, best of all, I know why!"

Celine nudged Silver in the flank lightly, "You know more than that."

Silver peeked down at his back end to see his flank was now adorned with a section of the mad scribbles he had made. He burst into giggles at the sight of it, pride swelling through him. He felt... completed for lack of better word. He also felt tired. All the energy used in the experiments caught up to him and he staggered drunkenly, "I'm... so happy..." He hit the ground with a thud.

Celine gently lifted him in her own magic, tucking his notes away in his saddlebag.

Night bobbed her head, "I have to report that. Orders." She spread her wings and took off into the night, soon lost to Celine's vision.

Celine trotted for home, carrying her exhausted stallion with her. She walked with a renewed pride. Their herd was true now, for no colt led it, but a proper stallion, with a cutie mark to display his talent.

Author's Notes:

Why do they grow up so fast?

Is this the end of this part of the story? Is it time for a sequel?

Are there still typos? I'll answer that one for you, yes.

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