A/N - This is a direct sequel to Secret of the Pegasi. Reading it is essential to understanding this story.
I do not own My Little Pony or anything related to it.
From his perch near the window, Owloyisius watched with one sleepy eye as Spike's clawed feet began to wear a furrow in the floor of the Books and Branches Library from the baby dragon's worried pacing. The reason for his worry was illustrated by the perfectly made and thus unused bed in the loft of the library's second floor. Twilight Sparkle had not yet returned from the party Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy had invited her to the previous evening. Spike knew there was the possibility the party had turned into a sleep-over, but the morning hours were burning away and there had been no sign of the lavender unicorn. Caught between a desire to go out and look for her and staying put to do his job of watching over the library, all he could do was pace and fret. When he was in the middle of the part of his path leading towards the stairs, the front door was flung open with a crash and Spike spun around to see Twilight stagger inside. Her mane was a mess of tangles and had a crusty dampness in spots, her eyes were bloodshot and listless, and her mouth was stuck in an agonized scowl. "Twilight!" Spike yelled, running over to her.
Twilight winced at her assistant's loud voice and waved off his attempt to hug her. "Not so loud Spike," she moaned, "I've got a hang-over."
"A what?" Spike asked, confused.
"A hang-over," the unicorn repeated as she plodded toward the stairs, "At least, I think that's what it's called. Rainbow Dash brought these drinks with alcohol in them to last night's party and we all drank too much. Now I have a headache and nausea and I just want to die." She reached the foot of the stairs and came to a stop, rubbing her head with a hoof. "Oh," she said, "and apparently I cast a spell that put Dash's wings on Pinkie Pie some time last night, so I've spent the last hour or so chasing her down and reversing it."
"So, pegasus wings can't be put on by other ponies without magic?" Spike asked.
"What are you talking about?" Twilight asked.
"Detachable wings," Spike answered, "That was the reason you all went to Fluttershy's wasn't it? So Rainbow and- OW!" The dragon was knocked to the floor by a blow to the back of his head. He looked up to see Owloyisius hovering in front of him with a warning look in his eyes. "What they hay was that for?"
"Come again?" Spike asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Spike," Twilight said, "I am really not in the mood to entertain any of your silly imaginations right now. I'm going to go take a nap. Do me a favor and find a book with hangover cures in it, will you?"
"I'm not making things up Twi," Spike protested, only to find the owl in his face giving him a dangerous glare. Spike glared back and muttered, "You're in on it, aren't you? C'mere." Owloyisius flew just out of Spike's reach and the dragon jumped around trying to grab him.
"Hoo," the bird replied in a low tone. Twilight looked at the two of them, then shook her head and slowly climbed the stairs.
"Removable wings," she said to herself with a humorless chuckle, "Of all the silly notions. It's not like they're horns. All the nerves and muscles and… ugh, my head." She reached the second floor and shut the door behind her, not noticing that her assistants had stopped their fighting and were staring in her direction.
"Owloyisius," Spike said slowly, "Did you hear what I heard?"
"You don't think…" The two slowly turned to look at each other, their faces speaking volumes to each other. "Truce?" Spike asked, offering a claw. Owloyisius put one of his feet out and the pair shook on it.
An hour or so later, the door to Twilight's room creaked open slowly and Spike poked his head around to peer inside. Twilight was sprawled out on top of her covers, evidently too agonized by her body's revenge against inebriation to bother with more than getting her head onto a soft pillow. One leg lay across her muzzle in an attempt to cover her eyes while the others were curled up against her body, and she muttered occasional nonsense between her soft snores. Slowly, Spike opened the door wider and tip-toed into the room. As he climbed into the alcove, his snout curled in disgust at the stench emanating from the unicorn's mouth. "Pe-yew," he muttered, starting to have second thoughts, "someone needs a mint. All right Spike, you can do this," he added, steeling himself to proceed. He walked to the side of the bed and looked up, trying to figure out how to get up and into position without disturbing Twilight. He gave the mattress and experimental shove and froze when Twilight groaned and shifted, but after a few seconds her snores made it clear that she was still asleep. A brief head-scratching brainstorming later, Spike gathered up enough books to build a tower tall enough to allow him to climb onto the headboard. By balancing on his stomach, he was able to reach down and grasp Twilight's horn. As he made sure of his grip, he paused again, wondering if what he was about to attempt might wake Twilight up.
I've come this far, the baby dragon thought, gritting his teeth. He began twisting the horn, his efforts growing stronger and more confident as the seconds passed. Finally, with a harsh twist to the left that took nearly all of Spike's strength, the horn became loose and popped out of Twilight's forehead, leaving a deep dimple behind. Surprisingly, Twilight gave a relieved sigh and seemed to relax more once the horn came out. Spike brought the horn closer to his face, stuffing his free hand in his mouth to stifle his laugh of triumph. He wiggled his way off the head-board, landing softly on the stack of books, and then jumped down to the floor and ran out of the room. He found Owloyisius waiting for him in the main room, a sheet of parchment sitting on the desk next to him. "It comes off!" Spike exclaimed quietly, holding the horn up, "This is crazy. What should we do Owloysius? I was thinking I could put it on a platter next to a hang-over cure and give it to her when she wakes up. I bet her reaction will be priceless!"
"Hoo," the owl said, tapping the paper with a talon.
"What's this?" spike asked, walking over and picking up the paper. His eyes squinted as he tried to make out what he guessed was the bird's writing. "Did you write this with your beak or feet?" he asked, looking askance at the owl.
"Hoo hoo," Owloyisius said flatly.
"Well excuse me for not being able to understand your dialect," the dragon deadpanned, going back to deciphering the note. After a few moments, his eyes widened slightly and he looked back up at Owloyisius and asked, "Am I reading this right? Earth ponies too?" The owl nodded. "Well, I think I see where you're coming from," Spike said, "but what do they have that unicorns and pegasus ponies don't? Nothing, that's what. All they have are four legs, a mane, and a tail."
"Hoo." Owloysius spread his wings and fluttered over to land on Spike's tail. "Hoo," he said again.
"Seriously?" Spike gave the bird an incredulous look, "You're just guessing, aren't you?"
"Hoo hoo," the owl answered, flying back to the desk.
"I'm not going to go around tugging on pony tails just to test that, if that's what you're asking," Spike said, rolling Twilight's horn in his hand, "I mean, it's crazy enough as it is that I'm holding Twi's horn here while she's asleep upstairs, and Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy can take their wings off. Don't try to deny that," he added, pointing the horn at the owl, who just blinked. "That reminds me," the baby dragon continued with a frown, "why doesn't Twilight remember about the wing thing? Is amnesia a symptom of hang-overs?" Owloysius just shrugged, his face unreadable. "Better start reading up on them then I guess," Spike said, shrugging in turn and setting the horn on the desk.
Twilight woke up from her nap feeling worlds better. The sunlight streaming in through the window didn't activate any alarm bells in her brain and her stomach felt like it was ready to behave itself again, provided she didn't start jumping around like Pinkie Pie at a party. More than willing to oblige that demand, she rolled onto her back and let out a big yawn while she thought back. Her memory of the previous day was still a black haze, and she couldn't come up with a single thing that would spark a successful retrieval of any facts within it. Admitting defeat for the moment, she climbed out of bed and opened her mouth to call for Spike, only to see the purple dragon walking through the bedroom door with a breakfast tray covered with a cloth in his claws. "What do you have there?" she asked him.
"Well," Spike said, setting the tray on the table, "I looked up ways to deal with hang-overs like you asked. I found several involving various levels of hot sauce, one requiring raw eggs, and a few others I think would make even a full-grown dragon pause. However, I think I found one that's cheap, easy, and has a high rate of success. Voila!" He pulled the cloth away with a flourish, smirking smugly as Twilight's irises shrank in shock when she saw the short spiral cone sitting on the tray. She clapped a hoof to her forehead and then, feeling a divot where her horn should have been, screamed.
"Spiiike!" The baby dragon flinched and covered his face as Twilight's eyes began to glow slightly in anger. "What have you…" the unicorn growled, "how did you find out?"
"Y-you," Spike stammered, "I-I heard you scoffing at p-pegasus wings being removable, saying 'it's not like they're horns.'"
"You heard that?" Twilight asked, anger being replaced by fear in her voice, "And you figured it out from there on your own?"
"N… Yeah, yeah I did," Spike said slowly.
"And it hasn't left the library?" Twilight asked. Spike nodded. "That's good," Twilight said, sounding slightly relieved, but then gave her assistant an apologetic look. "Sorry Spike," she said, walking closer to him, "but I have to wipe your memory of this."
"What? Oh heck no!" Spike exclaimed, grabbing the horn from the tray and holding it behind his back, "I'm betting you can't use magic without this, and there's no way I'm letting you have it back now."
Twilight rolled her eyes and walked away from Spike, heading to the chest containing her personal belongings. Instead of opening it, she gave the right end a sharp kick, causing a hidden drawer to open. She reached into it and came out with a lavender unicorn horn in her mouth. She tossed it lightly into the air and it began to glow with magic before floating to her forehead and screwing itself into place. Spike looked dumbfounded for a moment as she turned back to him, and then slapped himself on the forehead a few times. "That's right Spike," Twilight said flatly, "I have spares. All unicorns do. Horns start to wear out after a few months of use, and if we don't replace them they'll go rotten and infectious. Now that you know that, it's time to forget everything you just learned so we can go back to our normal life and the Princess will never know I slipped up."
"Wait!" Spike cried, holding a claw up as Twilight approached with her new horn aglow, "Please, hear me out before you do anything. Unicorns aren't the only ponies with detachable parts. Pegasus ponies really can take their wings off."
"Please don't resist Spike," Twilight said, "I have to do this. Besides, that doesn't make any sense; wings are far more complex than horns, so it should be impossible for them to be interchangeable and still work."
"It's true!" Spike insisted, backing up against the wall, "You and the others figured that out yesterday. You had me send a letter to Princess Celestia about it."
"I don't remember that," Twilight said, but she paused in her advance, looking puzzled, "In fact, I don't remember anything from yesterday."
"They must have wiped your memory somehow," Spike said, "Last night when you were all at Fluttershy's, Dash and Fluttershy must have done something to you." Twilight stood still, staring at Spike for several tense seconds, but finally her horn stopped glowing and she sat back.
"If that's true," the lavender unicorn said, eyes narrowing in thought, "That means both unicorn and pegasus ponies have the same kind of secret and the same methods of keeping it a secret. That seems too perfect of a match to be coincidence. In fact, that makes me wonder if earth ponies might have something…"
"Owloysius thinks their tails come off," Spike said, starting to relax.
"You talked to Owloyisius about this?" Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow.
"He already knows about the pegasus thing," Spike said, "Honestly, I think most birds are in on it. A whole bunch of them attacked the library when you took Rainbow and Fluttershy hosta- er, in for questioning yesterday. Do unicorns have any animal allies?"
"No," Twilight said, "I guess that's one big difference. This is troubling, and I can think of only one way to resolve it." She fixed Spike with a determined look, causing him to gulp nervously. "Spike," she said, "take some letters. Five to be exact."
"Hey Fluttershy." At the unexpected sound of the loud, slightly cracking voice above her, Fluttershy gave out an involuntary squeak and froze mid-step. She looked up to see her fellow flyer, the aptly-name Rainbow Dash, waving for her to join her on the cloud she was sitting on. The yellow pegasus took a calming breath to relax her wings out of the lock-up caused by her adrenaline spike, and then flew up to the cloud. "Seriously filly," Rainbow said, "you need to replace those wings soon. One of these days they're going to freeze up on you when you're placing bird nests or something else high off the ground."
"I know," Fluttershy said, avoiding Dash's gaze, "I keep putting it off because it takes so long to go to Cloudsdale and get fitted for new ones."
"Just do what I do," the cyan pegasus said, "Just send 'em a letter with your measurements and color and they'll ship the wings to you. I mean, you're not planning on growing any bigger are you?"
"No," Fluttershy said, giggling a little, "But, I do live on the ground you know, not in a nice secure, pegasus-ponies-only cloud home like you do."
"Oh yeah," Rainbow replied, averting her gaze in mild embarrassment. "Anyway," she said, looking back at her friend, "I actually had a couple of things to ask you."
"Oh?" Fluttershy asked, "What is it?"
"First," Rainbow said, "That crazy goose is hanging out around my house. I think it's trying to call in the favor I owe it already, but I don't speak animal talk. Would you mind trying to translate for me?"
"I'll try my best," Fluttershy said, "but I was just on my way to Twilight's house, so-"
"You got that letter too then," Rainbow said, "The one that said she needs to talk to all of us about something extremely important to our friendship."
"Why, yes," the yellow pegasus replied, "I wonder what it could be about. I hope it's nothing serious."
"Knowing Twi, she'll treat it like it's serious," Dash said, rolling her eyes, "Besides, it's only been two days since we had to deal with the others almost learning the Secret. Call me paranoid, but what if she got past the memory block somehow?"
"I… I don't know," Fluttershy said, "I just couldn't stand having to wipe their memories again." Her ears drooped and she hung her head sadly.
"Hey," Rainbow said, putting a leg around Fluttershy in an attempt to comfort her, "Don't worry. Like I said, I'm probably just being paranoid. The only way we'll know what's going on is if we go to the library, so let's go." Fluttershy nodded and the two pegasi took flight. They arrived at the library to find all the windows shut and blocked by blankets and quilts, and the front door somehow seemed to be even more tightly closed than usual. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy exchanged worried glances as they landed, and then the cyan one walked up and knocked on the door. It opened a crack and a bright green, slit-pupiled eye peered out at them. Fluttershy squeaked in fright and hid behind Dash, only to peer out and blush in embarrassment as the door opened wider to reveal the eye's owner to be Spike.
"Hey girls," Spike said, "We've been waiting for you. Get inside, quick."
"What in Equestria is going on here?" Dash asked as she and Fluttershy walked into the tree.
"That's what we'd all like to know sugar cube," Applejack said. She, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie were sitting around in the library's main room looking curious or, in the case of Pinkie, excited about the mysterious atmosphere in the building. "I'm surprised you weren't the first of us ta get here Rainbow," Applejack said with a smirk.
"I had some… business to take care of," the cyan pegasus said, fluttering up to a window sill that could support her weight.
Spike closed and locked the front door before jogging to the foot of the stairs and calling out "They're all here Twilight!"
"What is this about Spike?" Rarity asked.
"You'll see," Spike answered cryptically, walking away from the stairs to take a seat on his writing stool. A moment later, Twilight Sparkle appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing a wide-brimmed straw sun hat decorated with ribbons and feathers.
"Oh darling," Rarity said as Twilight descended to the ground floor, "thank goodness you had the state of mind to show that off to us in here rather than in public. It simply does not suit you at all."
"The hat isn't why I called you all here," Twilight said, trying to steer clear of the unicorn fashionista, "You'll understand why I'm wearing it in a moment, trust me. First though," she turned to Spike, "is everything secure?"
"Doors are locked, windows are blocked, and Owloysius is keeping watch for interference," the baby dragon reported with a salute.
"Good," Twilight said with a nod, and then looked at Fluttershy and said, "Now, take off your wings." Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash both stiffened as the other three ponies looked at Twilight like she was crazy. Fluttershy tried to speak, to try and brush off the request, but all she could do was squeak.
"Twilight," Rainbow said, jumping down from her perch and coming to her fellow pegasus's aid, "you're crazy. Fluttershy can't take her wings off."
"Where did you ever get such a silly notion Twilight?" Rarity asked, looking concerned, "you aren't coming down with something, are you?"
"No Rarity," Twilight said, dodging the white unicorn's attempt to feel her forehead, "Except maybe a case of the Truth." She gave her head a dramatic toss, sending her hat flying off her head and revealing a distinct lack of horn. Everypony gasped and Rarity fainted at the sight. "Spike," Twilight said simply, not taking her eyes off her friends. The dragon opened a drawer in the desk he was sitting next to, pulled out Twilight's horn, and hopped off the stool to stand next to her. "As you can see-" Twilight began, only to find herself pulled roughly aside by a suddenly conscious and angry Rarity.
"What are you doing?" Rarity hissed quietly, "Of all unicorns, I'd expect you to know better than any what the Princess will do if she finds out you've blown the Secret!"
"Trust me on this Rarity," Twilight muttered back, "If this doesn't go well, I'll just wipe everyone's memory, including my own."
"Oh, very… very well then," Rarity said, backing off.
"Now," Twilight said, looking back at her friends, "As you can see, my horn is removable. Rarity's is as well, but I won't ask her to demonstrate." She turned to Spike, took the horn in her teeth, and tossed it up to activate its re-attachment charm. "According to Spike," she continued, "two days ago we discovered that pegasus ponies can remove their wings, but something happened to remove the memory of that day from our minds." She fixed Rainbow and Fluttershy with a flat gaze before continuing, "I called you all here so we can entrust each other with these secrets and decide what to do about them. I'm already in deep trouble with Princess Celestia if I let the five of you who aren't unicorns, and that includes Spike, leave without taking back the knowledge I've just given you."
"Wait," Rainbow said, "You answer to the Princess about this horn secret?" Twilight nodded. Fluttershy and Rainbow exchanged a surprised glance and then looked back at Twilight. "But the Princess is in charge of the Secret of Wings," the cyan pegasus said in amazement, and then hung her head in shame, "She… she's the one who gave us the stuff that erased your memories. We put it in the alcohol."
"So that's how you did it," Twilight mused.
Dash nodded and then extended a wing to Fluttershy. "Would you mind?" she asked. The yellow pegasus gave a small nod and gripped the base of the wing in her mouth. With a hard twist to the left that made Rainbow grit her teeth, the wing came off, leaving a dimple of bare flesh behind.
"Oh wow!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, zipping in to take a closer look, "They really do come off! I thought that was just a crazy dream I'd had. Hey, can other ponies put them on? I've always wanted to fly, and not just with a balloon or pedal-copter, but with real wings. Oh wait, I did do that, after the party where you made us all forget. Can we do that again, except without the forgetting?"
"Yeah, I… I'm not sure," Rainbow said, "I don't remember how you ended up with my wings. It might actually have been a spell cast by Twilight here." Fluttershy glanced down at the cyan wing still in her mouth and walked over to try and stick it onto Pinkie's side. After a few tries and nearly tipping the party pony over, it became clear that the wing wasn't going in.
"Oh well," Pinkie said with a shrug. Fluttershy shrugged as well and went to put Rainbow's wing back on.
"Now, let's see here," Rarity said, looking around, "we've established that both unicorns and pegasi can remove key parts of their anatomy. That leaves me to wonder if earth ponies might have a Secret of their own."
"Heh," Applejack laughed, "That's just silly Rarity. Can y'all think of anything an earth pony has that-" she was cut off by a sound like an inflatable ball rapidly deflating and everypony turned to see Pinkie Pie with her hair flat and straight, her colors muted, and a shocked look on her face. She looked over her shoulder and everypony followed her gaze to see Spike standing behind the pink pony with a fluffy pink tail held in his claws and a surprised look of his own.
"Whoa," he said, "Uh, wow. I… honestly didn't expect that to work."
"Put it back," Pinkie said, her voice unusually hard and dangerous sounding. Spike quickly complied, inserting the tail into the dimple left behind and twisting it to the right. Pinke's color returned to its natural hue, her mane curled back up, and her cheerful demeanor returned. "Thanks Spiky!" she said.
Twilight, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy all turned to look at Applejack, who chuckled nervously and lowered her hat over her eyes. "Ah never said it weren't true," the farm-pony said defensively.
"So, your tails come off," Twilight said, "and they… affect your personality?"
"Nah, that's just Pinkie," AJ said, raising her hat back up, "The tail affects our talents. Mine gives me an extra boost fer buckin' apple trees and I can control it to some degree, enough to spin a lasso with it and whatnot. That trait kinda runs in the Apple Family."
"Mine makes me bouncy," Pinkie said, bouncing in place to illustrate.
"Hm," Twilight said, "what would happen if you two switched tails?" Pinkie quickly sat down with her tail under her rump, casting a warning look around the room. "Ok, we'll save that for later I guess," the lavender unicorn said, "Anyway, AJ, if somepony were to discover that your tail comes off, what would you have to do?"
"Well," AJ said, "bein' an earth pony herself, the Mayor's the one I'd report to, and she'd forward the report to somepony higher in the chain until a plan fer containment is figured out, based on how many unicorns and pegasi found out. If it gets ta be big enough, it'd eventually fall ta…" Her eyes went wide. "Land sakes, "she said in a low tone, "It'd reach Princess Celestia! The Princess is in charge of all three of these conspiracies!"
"Holy moly!" Pinkie exclaimed.
"Oh my," Fluttershy said.
"That… That…" Rainbow sputtered.
"But why?" Spike asked, "I mean, you girls can't swap parts across species, not without magic anyway, so what's the point of keeping all this a secret?"
"I don't know," Rainbow Dash said, pounding her front hooves together, "But I know how we can find out. Let's go to Canterlot and confront the Princess about it." She flew for the door, only to be stopped by Twilight's magic and Applejack's teeth pulling on her tail.
"Are you crazy Rainbow?" Twilight asked after dropping the pegasus, "we can't just charge into the castle to take on the most powerful pony in all of Equestria! Even if we are the Elements of Harmony, that's still suicide."
"Well we can't just sit here and do nothing, can we?" the brash pegasus asked hotly.
"We won't get anywhere if we go barging in without a plan," Twilight responded calmly, "and to be honest, I'm not sure if we'll ever find a safe way to approach the issue. For now, I'll have Spike write down everything we've learned and hide the notes in a safe place, just in case we slip up and get our memories erased, or worse." She looked around at each of her friends. "We'll go about our normal lives and never speak of this to each other except during a secret meeting we'll hold every now and then to discuss any ideas we come up with. Does that sound agreeable?"
"I suppose," Rainbow said in resignation.
"Mah apple cellars would be a good place tah meet," Applejack said.
"Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye," Pinkie recited. Fluttershy and Rarity simply nodded.
"Great," Twilight said, "Thanks everypony. Spike and I will get to work on our notes; you can all go home now."
"Hey," Pinkie Pie said as the others began to leave, "I wonder if Zebras have anything they can remove…"