Only Competent Assistants Get Tickles

by jkbrony

Chapter 1: Could You Tickle Me?

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“Twilight, could you tickle me?”

The innocuous question emerged from the mouth of Twilight’s infant dragon, and she found it so unexpected that her hooves, which had been carrying her up to her bedroom to sleep off the exhaustion of a long and eventful afternoon with her rambunctious niece, came to a sudden halt.


“Could you tickle me?” Spike repeated, still just as casually as though it were any routine requested. “You know, like you did a long time ago?”

Twilight stared at him blankly, her head tilting to the side.

“You want me to tickle you?”

Spike answered with a slow nod, his heavy expression giving no indication that he was being in any way disingenuous.

“That’s...kinda random, Spike,” noted Twilight. “Where is this coming from all of a sudden?”

Spike stared guiltily at his feet.

“Well, when you were playing with Flurry Heart today, it just...kinda brought back a lot of memories for me. I remember when you used to play with me like that. And well...I’ve kinda forgotten how it feels to be tickled by you.”

Twilight said nothing, her expression softening as Spike kicked slightly at his reflection in the marble floor.

“So...will you?” he asked, raising his head again.

Twilight stared hard into Spike’s hopeful face, but before the urge to oblige her sympathetic dragon could grip her too tightly, she closed her eyes and pointed her muzzle upward.

“I don’t know, Spike,” she said in a mockingly stern tone. “You aren’t as young as you used to be, you know? Your days of getting tickles just for being young and cute have long since passed. If you want tickles now, you’re going to have to earn them.”

Spike’s face stiffened, but understanding what Twilight was doing, he replied with a nod.

“Okay, what do I need to do?”

“You must prove that you’re the B-A-E, of course!” Twilight exclaimed.

Spike appeared thoroughly confused, just as he had when he first heard that same acronym earlier in the day.

“The…‘Best Aunt Ever?’”

“No,” replied Twilight. “The ‘Best Assistant Ever.’ You see, only competent assistants get tickles, Spike.”

“No problem!” Spike said with a confident grin. “Just tell me what you want me to do!”

Twilight went silent, her eyes trailing around in thought as she conceived a challenging task for him. Her face then perked and she rushed quickly into the nearby sitting room and came back levitating a thick, hardcover book, which she dropped rather ungracefully into Spike’s claws. He quickly read the title: A Comprehensive Study of Gravity Spells.

“This book belongs in the library,” said Twilight. “I want you to put it back for me.”

“Is that all?” Spike asked, scoffing at the lack of challenge. He ran to the library, stopped as he reached it, then hastily returned to Twilight, who was now grinning rather sinisterly at him.

“Umm...where does it go?”

Twilight’s sinister grinned widened.

“I’m not telling you.”

Spike blinked. “Huh?”

“You’ll have to figure it out yourself,” Twilight explained in a playfully stern voice. “As my competent assistant, you are no doubt well-informed about the layout of my library, and you shouldn’t have any problem knowing exactly where to place this book according to shelf, row, and order.”

Spike felt his scales quiver slightly at Twilight’s words as all pretense of the task’s simplicity instantly fading. He gulped hard.


Twilight raised an eyebrow. “That’s not going to be a problem, is it?”

Spike vigorously shook his head as though trying to convince himself as much as Twilight.

“No. I can do this!”

“That’s what I’d like to hear,” Twilight said. “Off you go, then. I expect to see you returned to me very soon, with that book sitting in its rightful place.”

Spike hurried to the library again, glancing down at the book’s front cover.

“Okay, so...a book about magic…”

Spike at least knew where Twilight stored her magic-related books. He crossed over to a bookcase near the center of the library, his mind scrambling to figure out exactly on which of its eight packed shelves the book belonged. He searched for any noticeable gaps between the books for a hint, but managed to find several, each appearing to be a similar width apart and none giving any indication as to the proper placement of the book in his increasingly nervous hands. Spike groaned, certain that he had never been more irritated at Twilight’s complete inability to read one book at a time...

Unsure of what else to do, he grabbed a book from the bottom shelf at random and glimpsed its cover:

Advanced Levitation for Young Unicorns

Spike knew enough about magic to know that levitation was one of the most basic spells that just about any unicorn could perform. Perhaps this meant that the bottom shelf was reserved for basic magic, while the higher shelves were reserved for more advanced magic? Without bothering to find a ladder, Spike carefully climbed the shelves up to the top of the bookcase. He grabbed the first book his hand touched and quickly read the title.

Draconequus Magic: A Brief Overview

Spike grinned with satisfaction as he put the book back on the shelf, certain now that his hunch was right. Discord could do practically anything—there was no question that draconequus magic was the most advanced magic in existence. The task was now to figure out where gravity spells fell within the spectrum of advanced magic.

He recalled Twilight performing a gravity spell during their very first adventure in the Crystal Empire. It seemed rather difficult for her, but he had certainly seen her struggle harder with other spells. Spike dropped down a few shelves and moved to the nearest gap, which was between books about invisibility and transfiguration magic, both of which seemed more advanced than gravity. He dropped down a shelf to the next gap and saw that it was bordered by books about wide-range barrier spells and long-distance teleportation, which he was somewhat less sure about. He moved down one more shelf to the next gap between books about levitating heavy objects and levitation-based flight. Recalling how he and Twilight had floated upwards when Twilight used her gravity spell, Spike felt safe in assuming that this was the best possible guess. He pressed the book into the gap, then climbed back down and returned to the front of the library where Twilight had been waiting, sharply observing his every move.

Spike threw her a desperate look, hoping that she would tell him that his placement of the book had been accurate, but was horrified when Twilight raised an eyebrow at him.

“Well, you took your time, Spike,” she said. “Much longer than I would have expected…”

Spike’s face fell. Even if Twilight was simply being playfully stern, he still remained loathe to the idea that he had failed to meet her expectations.

“Did I at least put the book in the right place?”

“You only guessed, didn’t you?” asked Twilight. “If you were right, it simply means that you guessed right, not because you knew the answer.”

Spike sighed. “Yeah...”

“But I will give you a second chance.”

Spike looked up, his face stiff with intense determination. “Okay, I won’t let you down this time.”

Twilight smiled and nodded, then took another moment to conceive a new task.

“I want you to find the book Moondancer gave me back when we lived in Canterlot, the first edition of Principles of Magic. It’s a recent addition to my library, so you should have no trouble finding it and bringing it back to me within only a minute.”

Spike’s knees suddenly felt several times heavier, and he just barely managed to stay on his feet. He doubted that this task would be any easier for him than the previous one.

“Your time begins...now,” Twilight said warningly.

Spike turned and rushed back towards the bookcases, his mind racing quickly. He was aware that Twilight owned a certain number of books that she considered more personal and special than others, and if Moondancer’s book was among them, he had an idea of where to find it. This particular bookcase was located near the back of the library, but Spike had no idea of the shelf the book would be located, if it was even there. As his eyes scanned the shelves, he soon noticed that the barrier between shelves was labeled by a small inscription stickered onto them. The first three shelves were labeled “Books From Friends”, and so Spike promptly went about scanning through the end labels of every single book on these shelves to find the one he was looking for, certain that he would succeed this time.

Spike was entirely unaware of how much time was whittling away as he searched, but at the end of the row on the third shelf up, he finally read Principles of Magic, First Edition on an end label, then promptly opened the book up to the blank, first page:

To my friend, Twilight Sparkle. Thanks for introducing me to the classics!- Moondancer

Grinning at the sight of the message, Spike then hastily rushed over to Twilight and thrust the book up to her nose.

“How long….was I?” he asked, attempting to catch his breath as he stared at Twilight’s unreadable expression.

Twilight levitated the book from his hands and opened it up to confirm that Moondancer’s message was inside.

“One minute, twelve seconds,” she said grimly, slamming the book shut while raising an eyebrow once more.

Spike groaned loudly, feeling as though he had received a swift hoof to the gut.

“Hate to say it, Spike, but I’m starting to question if...”

At these words, Spike’s claws clenched, and he glared fiercely at Twilight..

“Come on, Twi! Give me something else! I’m not finished yet!”

Twilight smiled and nodded again, apparently delighted by his unwillingness to give up.

“Well, I suppose I could get started on that book about dragons I’ve been wanting to write. Could you fetch a quill and parchment and—”

“On it!” Spike said enthusiastically, and he rushed over to a nearby desk, grabbed a loose piece of parchment and quill, dipped the quill in an inkwell, and hastily returned to her.

“I want you to write down everything I say, word for word,” Twilight commanded.

Spike nodded. “Understood.”

“First, I want you to write ‘foreword’ at the top of the parchment, then underline it. After that, begin writing under the line.”

Spike did as instructed while Twilight cleared her throat and began a circular pace around him.

“Equestria is inhabited by all manner of dangerous and deadly creatures, but dragons have remained the most mysterious of all. Over the course of hundreds of years, however, we have since come to understand some general facts about them through interactions that have often ended in rather unpleasant ways. We know that they can breathe fire—that was surely among the first things we learned. We also know that they are fully sentient, are capable of swallowing a pony whole, hibernate for over a century, are generally ill-tempered, and we even have some partial information on their migration patterns. But most of all, we have learned to stay well away from them—a valuable lesson, but one which has up to now prevented ponykind from learning anything substantial about their culture or customs.”

Twilight paused and looked over at Spike, whose quill was scrawling wildly across the parchment. Once it stopped, he looked up at her and nodded, indicating that he was ready to continue.

“However, my own experience has been somewhat different,” Twilight resumed. “When I was only a filly, a small, purple dragon egg was thrust in front of me and I was instructed to use magic to hatch it. It was a task that had the potential to change my life forever, and it was a task that I nearly failed. But as it turned out, fate was on my side that day, and it manifested itself in the form of a freak magical splurge which briefly and thoroughly overtook me. Within a matter of seconds, before I even knew what had happened, I had gone from the brink of failure to hatching a dragon, receiving my cutie mark, and becoming Princess Celestia’s personal protégé.”

Twilight again allowed Spike time to catch up. After a moment, he once again gave her an indication that he was ready to keep writing.

“As I look back on that day all these years later, I am confident in saying that hatching that dragon egg was the best thing I ever did. Not because it was the action that got me my cutie mark, or because it granted me a mentorship under the ruler of all Equestria, but because it opened my world to the kindest, noblest, and most lovable dragon I have ever met, not to mention the greatest and most competent assistant I could have ever hoped for.”

She paused, and Spike’s quill ceased movement simultaneously. He slowly raised his eyes from the parchment to see Twilight seemingly avoiding his gaze by keeping her eyes firmly shut. She continued speaking after only a few seconds, apparently no longer expecting him to continue writing.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I couldn’t begin to count all those moments when he was there to comfort me when nopony else was around, always reminding me how fortunate I was to hatch that egg, and at the same time, always causing me to fear that alternate future in which I had failed—an alternate future that I actually could have experienced not too long ago. Even now, he stands ready and determined to prove himself to me when there is absolutely no need for him to. Because he and I both know that there’s nopony else who can do what he does. He is not only my number one assistant, he is the best assistant ever.”

Twilight paused briefly again, eyes still closed. Spike suddenly found the quill very heavy to hold, and it slipped from his fingers.

“Though he remains a baby in dragon years, he has grown up on me surprisingly fast. Sometimes, I cannot even believe how much he has grown, or the things he has managed to accomplish in his young life that are nothing short of awe-inspiring. His willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the sake of ponykind has not only impressed me at the Crystal Empire, where he is heralded as a hero for saving it from King Sombra, but also in the dragon lands, where he chose to compete in a dangerous challenge to become the new dragon lord, just so he could protect Equestria from the dragon attacks which would have surely arisen under the rule of a more malevolent dragon lord. And on top of it all, it was his actions that paved the way for the Changelings, an enemy of ponykind for years, to shed their vicious love-sucking habits and are ready to live side-by-side with us in peace. Looking back on all that now, I simply cannot believe it. If the little dragon that I nearly failed to hatch should not be considered among the greatest heroes Equestria has ever known, I truly do not know who is worthy of such an honor.”

The parchment in Spike’s hand fell to the floor alongside the quill. His eyes welled while Twilight’s remained firmly shut. Half a minute passed before she spoke again, and when she did, her voice quivered noticeably.

“But because of how much I’ve seen him grow, I have a tendency to forget that he is still a child. He still loves to open his presents the night of Hearth’s Warming Eve like any excited young colt, he still loves to spend his free time indulging himself in the things he likes to do, which includes reading comic books, getting his claws massaged, and he still even wants to be tickled every now and then. Yet, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I sometimes forget that he has a need to feel that he is loved by me. But whenever that need arises, I am always more than ready to remind him what he means to me. To remind him that I am so very proud of him, and that I love him as much as I did on the day he came into my life.”

Twilight finally opened her eyes again, unrestrained tears streaming out of them, and greeted Spike with a warm smile. Spike stared back at her, his moist eyes shimmering.

“I hope you got all that, Spike. This book isn’t going to write itself,” Twilight said slyly.

Spike rushed forward and threw his outstretched arms around as much of her body as he could, tears dropping from his eyes. From behind his back, he felt a gentle hoof wrapping around him, pressing him even closer into her body.

Their embrace persisted in silence, and neither was sure how much time had passed by the time Spike spoke again.

“Twilight...did you really…”

But his words died and were instantly replaced by an uncontrollable fit of giggles. His grip on Twilight loosened and he found himself on his back before he understood what was happening. Twilight was levitating his quill and rapidly swishing its feathery end beneath his arms, across his belly, and under his chin.

“Twilight!” Spike cried out in laughter, squirming wildly as if trying to free himself from the pleasurable torture of the feather while simultaneously elated at finally receiving what he asked for.

Twilight grinned with satisfaction at the sound of her infant dragon’s laughter. Several minutes passed before she set the quill down again, by which point Spike was rolling and vibrating all over the floor. His nerves no longer stimulated, Spike’s laughter soon subsided and he wiped a few loose tears from his eyes as he got back to his feet.

“Is there anything else you would like, my competent assistant?” Twilight asked.

Remembering what he was going to say just before the onslaught of tickles, Spike’s jovial face became hard again.

“Twilight...did you really mean all that? Do you really think hatching me was the best thing you ever did?”

Twilight stared back at him with a similarly hard expression.

“You know, Spike, I do believe I have a book that can answer your question,” she said. “But this time, I’ll show you where I keep it.”

Spike followed her up a flight of stairs to the second floor, where she eventually crossed into her bedroom. She then turned to a small bookcase in a corner of the room and pulled out a thick-binded album.

“Sit down,” she said, taking a seat and tapping a hoof on the floor beside her.

Spike did as instructed, his anticipation soaring.

“You recognize this book, don’t you?” Twilight asked.

Spike vaguely recalled the distinctive cover, which displayed a large image of Twilight’s cutie mark, with a picture of a filly Twilight superimposed within the center star.

“Yeah, it’s a record of your favorite life moments, right?”

“Well, yes, something like that,” Twilight replied. “But more specifically, I consider it to be a record of my greatest achievements.”

She opened up to the first page, on which sat a worn-looking piece of parchment which was taped to the page.

“This is the report of Starswirl the Bearded I wrote when I was six. My first report ever!” Twilight exclaimed with a proud smile.

Spike casually rolled his eyes as Twilight cycled through the first several pages, each of which contained more of her early academic work. Eventually, she stopped on a pair of pages littered with pictures of Spike’s hatchling self experiencing life as it happened. Tiny inscriptions written next to or underneath many of the pictures—inscriptions in the same childlike font that covered the schoolwork of the previous pages.

Spike’s eyes latched onto a picture of himself playing with toys in a bathtub. Beneath it was written:

“Spike loves taking baths. He doesn’t even want to come out sometimes!”

He crossed over to a photo of himself seemingly attempting to force a green apple into his tiny mouth, a stained bib hanging from his neck. More of filly Twilight’s commentary was scribbled to the right.

“I still don’t know what dragons actually eat, but Spike seems to enjoy fruits and vegetables like most ponies. Sometimes he tries to swallow his food whole, like he thinks he’s a big dragon already!”

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Spike looked at the next closest photo, which was of him sitting atop filly Twilight’s back while she contentedly smiled for the camera.

“Spike climbs up on my back every chance he gets. I love him so much, and he loves me!”

Spike smiled, then turned to another picture just under it—a picture of himself laughing heartily as Twilight tickled his belly.

“Spike is very ticklish. I love hearing his cute little laugh!”

Spike reached over and cycled through the next several pages, noticing that he featured prominently on most of them, though often shared with more of her schoolwork. It appeared that Twilight captured images from nearly every moment they spent together while he was a hatchling and filled the book with the ones that had not been reserved for frames.

“I remember you showing me some of these pictures before,” he said silently.

“I’m lucky to still have this book,” Twilight said somberly. “I left it with mom and dad for a while, so it wasn’t in Golden Oak Library when Tirek destroyed it. I’ve been meaning to show it to you again since I got it back.”

Spike cycled a few more pages, on which he found even more pictures of himself, leaving him without any doubt that he was indeed the highlight of the book—a book of, as Twilight stated, her greatest accomplishments.

“Spike, there isn’t anything I said back there that I didn’t mean,” Twilight said as she brushed his cheek. “There isn’t anything I’ve accomplished that means as much to me as having you in my life.”

She enclosed a hoof around him and pulled him closer to her side while Spike leaned into her, reflecting again on her every word of the last fifteen minutes, but especially the words which were ringing loudest in his head: “To remind him that I am so very proud of him, and that I love him as much as I did on the day he came into my life.”

“Um, Twilight?” Spike said after another inconclusively long silence.


“I know I’m older now and everything, but…”


“I can still get tickles just for being young and cute, can’t I?” Spike asked, his emerald eyes wide and shimmering with hope.

“You know what, Spike?” Twilight replied after a moment’s thought. “I do think I want to hear your cute, little laugh again.”

And before Spike could respond, he once again fell to the floor in uncontrollable laughter as Twilight ran her hoof across his belly, allowing bliss and love to overwhelm him in equal measure.

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