Spike sighed, feeling considerably lighter than before. Part of him wanted to sleep yet he knew his sleeping schedule would be messed up. After that day, Spike was surprised; he was back to school the next day. No danger assessment, completely in the clear and the largest problem in his life was solved. Resting his head against the window of the police car, Spike just wanted to go home. He wanted to do something out of the ordinary for once. A gentle hand was still draped around his shoulder and he felt a heat radiating off the limb. Twilight refused to let go of him and, oddly enough, she had fallen asleep instead of him. Moving his left arm, he repositioned himself as to return the gesture to the girl. Haruo kept a smile from appearing on his face as he examined the rearview mirror.

"I don't wanna break up another gesture between siblings, but we're going to be arriving in about thirty seconds," Haruo said, making a sharp left.

Spike kept a sigh back before gently shaking Twilight, the girl's eyes fluttering open. Sitting on the left side, she realized that she had accidentally leaned more on Spike. Her left hand, sitting on his chest, quickly pressed into the muscular, toned flesh before she retreated, sitting upright with a blush on her face and her hands set on her lap.

"O-oh god, (9 + 7i)(3 - 10i) equals 97 - 69i. 9x2 + 3x - 56 equals… (3x - 7)(3x + 8). Calcium, phosphorus, krypton, einsteinium, radium, thallium." Twilight continued on and on, reciting several more math problems and elements before the car slowed to a stop.

Spike glanced out the window to see the same house he'd lived in for seven years, going on eight in six days. Haruo unlocked the doors and both her and Twilight stepped out at the same time, perfectly synchronized in their robotic movements. Spike's eyes continued glancing at his home through the tinted windows before a set of hands slapped themselves against the glass, startling Spike out of his trance. Twilight had a drowsy grin on her face as she opened the door.

"Come on, we're home!" she squealed, leaning over him.

"W-woah, what?" Spike asked as he leaned back, Twilight's hands dangerously close to his lap.

Before she could respond, the seatbelt around him retracted and Twilight yanked the boy out of the vehicle, Spike stumbling on the front lawn before Twilight released him. Sighing, Spike pushed himself to his feet and walked up the steps, failing to notice the old truck and Kawasaki MV Agusta F4 1000 parked in the driveway. Twilight panicked when she realized them before sighing with relief as Spike's drowsy eyes stared at the doorway. Walking towards the front steps, he sloppily stepped up, Twilight and Haruo tailing behind. Placing his hands on the door, he paused, his fingers slowly caressing the metal texture of the brass handle. Hearing the news inside, as always, Spike slowly twisted the knob and stepped inside.

The lights were off, the near-sunset giving an ambient glow to the house. The entry was the same as before, the kitchen visible straight ahead, the living room arch to the right and stairs going down and upstairs to the left. Spike sighed, wondering how his parents would react. Stepping inside further, he was surprised when his footstep sounded like a click. In reality, that was the lightswitch as the whole entry lit up. In unison, several feet landed on the ground as numerous bodies stomped on the floor. Confetti was launched in his face from all directions, much to Spike and Twilight's surprise. Blinking to avoid having coloured paper cut his eyes, Spike found himself dumbfounded when faced with the rest of his and Twilight's friends, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and even Pipsqueak. His father and mother stood in the living room, absolutely relieved to see their son was okay.

"SURPRISE!" several voices shouted in unison.

"Huh?" Spike asked, confused.

"Yeah, what? Pinkie Pie, I sent that text an hour and a half ago," Twilight said, checking her phone to make sure.

"YEAH I KNOW which is why we only decorated the front entry super-duper well to make it look like we had planned this beforehand but when I heard that Spikey-wikey was going to be okay I just had had had to come here after stopping by Fun Store Unlimited Fun House of Fun to grab supplies and now we're gonna celebrate and well we couldn't make a cake so I asked Mr. Light if he could order a cake and ten pizzas and he ordered two and twenty pizzas and now it's just one big—" Pinkie Pie stopped to take a deep breath and everybody immediately covered her ears. Haruo remained oblivious as Pinkie Pie pulled a megaphone from seemingly a rip in space and time and shouted. "WE-LOVE-YOU-SPIKE PARTY!"

Pinkie Pie sheepishly grinned, the megaphone mysteriously gone to the surprise of nobody. All eyes turned from Pinkie Pie over to Spike who looked dumbfounded as he scanned the smiling faces of his friends and family. His eyes met hers and his scanning stopped, a gulp in his throat getting stuck. He coughed once and attempted to speak before no words came out of his mouth.

"Before you ask why, you should realize this, fuckstick," Rainbow said, squeezing Applejack and Scootaloo closer to her as they both grinned, the farmer more slightly embarrassed. "Bitches care about you, and as much as it sounds totally fuckin' gay, I do too."

Spike's eyes once more trailed from someone else to Rarity's as the girl stepped forward, the words of the previous night fresh in his mind. Spike gulped once as he felt himself feel as a small child once more before Rarity's hand gently pressed against her cheek. No words had to be said, yet they were anyways.

"We love you, Spike, and I do too. I'm sorry we didn't notice sooner," Rarity said.

She stepped back as Spike continued gaping, unable to speak as his voice remained trapped in his throat. His breaths came in light intervals and sleep was the last thing on his mind. His mother and father stepped forward, along with Shining Armour as well. Twilight briefly wondered if he had flunked school due to the recent days spent at home.

The eldest brother stepped forward, the memory of the previous night fresh in his mind. Spike's clothes remained stained, yet he looked past that; his face was clean and in need of the one thing that Shining Armour knew Spike needed the most. His arms reached forward and latched onto Spike, the brother being only one of two people they knew superior stronger to him.

"I don't treat you like it all the time, being caught up with school and coaching and all, but you're still my little bro," Shining Armour spoke softly, his voice ironically betraying his last name as it pierced the wall Spike had built up.

Spike's arms latched around Shining Armour's body as he let out a long, trapped breath coarsely escape his lips in a sharp manner as he attempted to stifle the exhale. He pressed his face into Shining Armour's chest, hoping that somehow nobody would be able to see him. Most of him didn't care, so he let it out.

He let out a loud scream into Shining Armour's chest, one that sounded loud even though it was muffled. The noise faded into something softer as Spike let out several drowning sobs, his chest heaving over and over again as he felt his body shiver. He could feel Shining's shirt dampen against his cheek and he knew he couldn't keep it in anymore.

"I hated him! I hated him so much! I hated everybody! I hated you! I hated Night Light and Twilight Twinkle! I hated my real mom and dad because they just up and left me and then just died! I hated that stupid house in Canterlot! I hated Twilight! I hated Rarity and Pipsqueak and Rainbow Dash, and I hated football! I hated myself! I ruined everything and hurt everybody else!" Spike had to stop to take in several breaths, feeling his voice falling apart as he choked back a sob. "A-and I wanted to hurt everything I h-hated because I was too s-stupid to do anything a-about it and I j-just waited and I hated! B-but I d-don't want to h-hate anybody a-and I w-want to see their f-faces again and h-hold Rarity's hand and I w-wanted to a-apologize and I w-wanted to collect gems o-on F-Fridays again a-and play f-football and have fun."

Spike grit his teeth, feeling himself grow tense as he attempted to force himself to stop sobbing. No matter how good he was at it, he was far beyond the point of no return and he wrapped his fingers around the fabric of Shining's shirt. Twilight's arms slipped between his and Shining's bodies as she held him close too and Spike continued to sob, openly letting out feelings held up for seven long years.

"I h-have to f-find my bag, it has my f-football gear in it," Spike muttered as his body loosened up greatly.

Shining Armour and Twilight Sparkle released their hold on him and stepped back as Spike wiped his eyes, clearing any excess tears out of it. Glancing up, he spotted Rarity's smiling face, liquids threatening to spill down her eyes too. It was evident that many people in the room almost did yet Spike was glad they didn't. He did enough of that just now.

His gaze followed Rarity's body down until she saw him holding onto his sports bag. He stepped forward, relief washing over him as he reached for the bag's handle. Instead, his fingers slipped between the nylon and soft fingers as Rarity was forced to drop the bag, Spike's fingers sliding around hers as he took a brief moment to study his hands moving over her hands. Glancing up at her face, her gaze locked onto his and Spike forced a smile even though his eyes were red and puffy.

"CND Shellac, Blue Rapture applied ninety minutes ago," Spike said, sniffling as his voice seemed weak.

Rarity had to cover her mouth to stop a loving sigh from being too loud. She felt as if she could melt from his instant recognition of her nail polish and she settled on staring into his eyes. He settled on leaning forward, his fingers gently caressing her hand. She leaned forward too. As their lips met, their eyes closed... and then their eardrums practically burst.

"Let's partay!" Pinkie Pie shouted with her megaphone once more.


Stepping onto the pavement, Spike glanced out around the parking lot. He took a brief moment to observe the surroundings before stepping to the side, allowing the door of the station wagon to close behind him. His eyes scanned the front of the school before he sighed, stepping forward with Twilight shortly following him behind. His hands gripped the straps on his bag, feeling his arms grow tense as he once more followed Twilight towards the front entrance. Around him, he could see the sets of eyes glancing towards him, people turning to stare when they thought he couldn't see. He always could. He could always hear what they said, too.

It was pity, mostly. Nobody blamed him for what he did to Felix. Some speculated he actually killed Felix. Only he knew what happened and he would take what happened to the grave. After a few seconds, Spike realized something was occurring for the first time in seven years.

He was shutting out the voices. All of them. None were bothering him or getting to him. His ears picked up all the words yet none bothered him. The rumours, the pity, none of that bothered him. To make sure that he wasn't just bullshitting his way through everything, his gaze turned towards his sister just as she glanced back to him. A warm smile sounded and it registered in his mind.

'Pipsqueak, Dumbbell, Score, Hoops, Rarity, Twilight, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Snips, Snails, Featherweight… mom and dad. Not Night Light and Twilight Twinkle. Mom and dad. They've been there for me the whole time. I don't need to be alone anymore. 'cause I'm not.'

Spike didn't allow himself to grin. Keeping a stern gaze, he and Twilight pushed the doors open and stepped inside the foyer of the school. The AC blared overhead, sending a burst of air into Spike's head, ruffling the spikey green hair. Holding his breath in his mouth, he pushed into the next set of doors and entered the main street of the school.

Completely averting cliches, nobody inside was talking about him. Nobody was focusing on him, caught up in their groups and discussions. Only a few stragglers noticed him and vice versa. Unlike those that spotted him, he didn't care anymore. Twilight slowed to a stop as she watched Spike walk forward, a smile appearing on her face. Spike slowed as he noticed Twilight lagging behind, facing her with a smile of his own.

He turned fully and walked towards her, shutting out any thoughts that plagued him. With a swift motion, he wrapped his arms around his sister as she returned the favour expectedly. Parting, Spike turned around and strode down the hall, heading towards his first classroom.

"Mmm, Spike has gotten better since two days ago," Rarity commented as she stepped out of the cafeteria, watching Spike waltz off.

"I'm glad. Some things seem off but he's not slouching like he always has," Twilight said, pressing a finger to her lip.

"I wanted to talk to him a bit more. Last night, we didn't talk much," Rarity muttered, checking her makeup in a mirror.

"Wait, what? But you were alone in his room for two hours and—" Twilight paused, the implications clicking in his mind. "Ugh, noooo," she whined, shaking her head as she lightly stamped on the ground.

"Mmm, you're getting there, dear," Rarity responded with a small chuckle, closing the mirror with a snap as her eyes turned to follow Spike. "Such a sweet boy."

"For the love of god, stop, I've already had an odd week regarding Spike," Twilight grumbled, rubbing her temples.

"Well, c'mon, Twilight, you still owe me for missing calculus practise last night," Rarity responded in a sing-song voice as she returned to the table the rest of the girls were at.

Twilight followed, grumbling as she shuddered at the implications. Taking her seat across from Rarity, Twilight glanced over the entire group. Applejack sat there, the urge to shove Rainbow Dash off her shoulder absent entirely.

"Mmm, what firm abs you have," Rainbow muttered, caressing Applejack's abdomen.

"What weak and fragile arms ya have, Rainbow," Applejack said with a grunt, one hand latching onto Rainbow's wrist.

"Hnng, w-what amazing resistance you have, sugartits," Rainbow grunted as she attempted to keep her hand pressed to Applejack's gut.

"So, how is Spike?" Fluttershy asked, turning her attention away from the fondling.

"Ooh, I saw him last night. He seemed chipper after he and Rarity came down from his room. Did you give them drugs, Flutters!?" Pinkie asked, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a decaying lettuce leaf.

"W-what!?" Fluttershy asked, her voice fading as her face reddened.

"No, they just engaged in an extended moment of intercourse much to my ignorance," Twilight muttered, sliding her bag off her back and pulling out a textbook.

"T-Twilight, I would appreciate it if you didn't disclose such information openly," Rarity muttered, maintaining her composure even if her shaky hands could barely open her textbook.

"I've been meaning to ask, why can't you tell us the details, Rares? As much as I say it, Applejack really doesn't have a vibrator I jam up her pussy all the time," Rainbow said. Applejack's left arm reached around, putting Rainbow in a headlock as the athlete coughed, prying at the farmer's stronger arm. "Urk, b't, di… dick, how… is is is?" Rainbow squeaked out. "Yo' c'n let m' g' now, Appl'j'k!"

Complying, Applejack grinned as she released the hold and Rainbow fell onto the floor, quickly scurrying to her chair again as she breathed fresh air, her face slightly red.

"B-but as you just witnessed, Applejack is into some kinky stuff," Rainbow stated with a chuckle, coughing as she settled for draping an arm around the farmer's shoulder.

"If you must know," Rarity started, raising a finger and closing her eyes knowingly. Opening one eye, she saw five heads leaning in closer to her, Twilight failing to remain discreet. "Ask Spike."

Her head tilted down as she pulled out a pen, clicking it before starting to write in her workbook. Rainbow groaned, slapping her forehead while Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie went back to accusations and denial of the former's "drug dealer" status. Applejack frowned, examining a paper in front of her until Rainbow's eyes broke the silence between the two.

"College application? By mail?" Rainbow asked, frowning.

"Eeyup," Applejack responded.

"Ooh, where to!?" Twilight asked, her face brightening up and turning to the farmer just as Rarity attempted to ask a question.

"Small place. Fillydelphia; where Big Mac 'n Ah were born. Ah'm applyin' t' Ponyville College," Applejack said, looking over the details she had written down.

"That's actually who our next game is against; the Ponyville High Ponies," Rainbow Dash said. "If we beat these fucktards, we're goin' to the finals!"

"You say 'our' and 'we', and yet you're not even on the team," Rarity commented, but Rainbow Dash didn't seem to care to correct herself.

"They're an ensemble darkhorse; nobody saw them coming yet they've done nothing but dominate their opponents even moreso than the Canterlot Wondercolts. Then again, nobody saw the Manticores as a formidable team. Mostly because we've never been able to play before due to our small team," Rainbow said, checking her phone.

Applejack glanced towards Rainbow's phone as the girl unlocked it, her face reddening as Rainbow lazily held the phone for anybody to see with one of the many photos the farmer had sent her lover that one night.

"R-Rainbow!?" Applejack gawked, her hand shooting towards the mobile device.

The phone was smacked out of Rainbow's hand, sliding down the table with all six eyes watching the phone spin before hitting Twilight's textbook. Curiously, the four girls who haven't seen it glanced curiously at the photo before shrugging their shoulders. Confused, Applejack's hand shot towards the device and picked it up. Relief washed over her as she saw the photo album app open, showing a photo of a photo; particularly one of the duo many, many years in the past right before they had met Twilight and Spike. What was once embarrassment and fear turned into a smile and her heart skipping a beat. Applejack wrapped her arm around Rainbow's arm as well, feeling content with the situation.

"So Applejack and I totally had bondage sex in Big Mac's truck."


Sweat dripped from Spike's brow as the steam heated his body up. Around him, teammates dried off and slid on their under armour and uniforms. He tapped his fingers together, the towel wrapped around his waist the only thing covering him. His mind was wrapped up in the game that could very well be their last. And even then, their team was still separated, violently torn apart with Rainbow Dash's departure.

"Alright." Applejack's voice shocked all boys in the change rooms, forcing them to grab whatever was closest to cover. Pipsqueak found himself hiding his male pride with a shampoo bottle. "Y'all, our final game is home field, again, an' our opponents are from Fillydelphia; specifically, their first school, Ponyville High. Th' Ponies are our opponent if ya hadn't caught on by now and so far, they've done nothin' but win each of their games, total clean sweeps meanin' they're far more imposin' than th' Wondercolts." Applejack scanned the change rooms, several boys awkwardly covering themselves.

"Yeah, so? Get the fuck out so we can finish changing," Dumbbell shouted, tossing a bar of soap across the room.

Applejack stepped to the side, sighing as she felt the twinge of pain nagging the back of her mind as she left the room. Failure as a captain ringed in her mind as she heard several derogatory comments from the room as she exited directly onto the field. She couldn't help but smile as, just before the door closed, she could hear Spike immediately speak up to defend her.

Shortly after, Spike was fully dressed and leaving the room before everyone else, having grown sick of the "banter" and insults to each other and Applejack. Pipsqueak and himself were the only ones actively trying to defend Applejack while everyone else were staying completely clear of Spike. Once he spoke up, everybody happened to drop the subject, the events of a week prior still fresh. To his surprise, Spike found several apologies heading his way, obvious attempts to prevent what Spike did to Felix from happening to them. Sighing, Spike made his way onto the same path as before, walking towards the gap in the bleachers.

'They're scared of me,' Spike thought, gritting his teeth at the implications. 'They don't trust me.'

Sighing, Spike proceeded forward, failing to notice Rainbow Dash underneath the bleachers. The only thing giving her away was the light flashing onto her face, an image of a nude Applejack present on the screen. Rainbow Dash completely missed Applejack and Spike as they walked by, only noticing once the rest of the team walked by with loud footsteps. Pocketing the device, she waited for them to pass, relying on the shadows of the bleachers to keep her hidden as Big Mac strolled by, idly chatting with Shining Armour. She could already tell the farmer was scanning the area for her, sticking her tongue out at him as he walked by. Glancing back at her phone, she swiped the screen, watching the kinky photo of Applejack slide to the left only for her hormones to subside, her breath catching in her throat. Just a simple photo the two had taken the morning after they confessed; a pleasant smile on the two faces. The genuinely happy grin Rainbow wore in the photo pained the girl in real life as she turned her head, looking between two feet under the bleachers at Big Mac, scowling at him.

Resisting the urge to scream, she pocketed the phone and zipped up the jacket on her body. Before shuffling out from under the bleachers, she took a whiff of the jacket, loving that Applejack had really worn her scent into it after many days of hard work and sweat. It smelled exactly like Rainbow thought it would… yet it almost excited Rainbow too much. Composing herself, she shuffled out from under the bleachers and ran across the path. She continued running past the bleachers until she was on the next path and slowly walked towards the front of the field beyond the fence, doing her best to be as far from Big Mac without catching his attention.

Feeling the vibrating against her lower stomach through the layers of fabric, Rainbow Dash turned the phone around in her pocketed hand. She slowly pulled it just barely out of her pocket, enough to see the caller ID on the screen.


She narrowed her eyes at the display, recognizing the name as the very one that stopped her heart. It vibrated again as her eyes flickered up to the girl in question, who stood on the field completely oblivious. Rainbow's eyes moved across the team, looking for the source, only to find her eyes settling on the girl's brother, who had a phone pressed to his ear and his eyes set on her.

Rainbow pursed her lips as she knew he had seen her, and had taken Applejack's phone to call rather than go out and talk. She scowled and slowly raised the phone to her ear, answering it with her thumb and silence.

"Ah thought Ah told you not t' come 'round here," Big Mac's voice came low over the phone, and the two glared at each other through the chain linked fence.

"I'm not even on the field, Mac," Rainbow Dash growled, her bright pink eyes seeming much more intimidating from afar.

"Ah though Ah made m'self clear, Ah don't want y'anywhere near m'sister," he repeated as if she had not got the message.

"I'm here to see the game," she argued calmly, her voice shaking with a desire to run in, despite his clear commands. "I'm not moving."

Applejack kicked the grass at her feet, feeling utterly alone standing out there even though her team stood around her. As if compelled to do so, she turned and looked out towards the fence. As her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting there, she easily picked out the silhouette of Rainbow Dash, standing there by her side. Applejack could not fight the loving smile that melted across her face, and she stared admiringly out at the girl. Rainbow Dash felt her heart speed up as their eyes met, and a smile of her own crept out unhindered.

"Dash? Dash, 're y'payin' attention? Dash?!" Rainbow Dash slowly moved the phone from her ear, dropping her arm to her side as Big Mac's voice got quieter and quieter. She ended the call with another flick of her thumb, and waved to Applejack casually with her free hand.


"I miss Dash as a captain, Applejack is bunk," Dumbbell snorted, crossing his arms grouchily. "Always telling us around like she has any authority, she just got the spot because she's the fucking quarterback."

"No way dude, Dash was way worse, we'd be better without either of them," Score argued firmly, punching his friend in the shoulder. "We should just get back to beating on our enemies, that worked just fine."

"You're both wrong." Pipsqueak stepped up to put them in their places as best he could. "Our captains ar' far more experienced and skilled than any of us chaps, you should respect that."

"Some captains, always fighting and getting each other kicked off the team," Dumbbell went on with a snarky and sarcastic tone.

"Fighting, aye? Seems like they're not the only ones on that account." Pipsqueak crossed his arms and glared at the older yet shorter and thinner boys.

"Why are we even playing this game? We're no where near prepared for it, everyone's a mess, we're just going to lose and be humiliated!" Dumbbell argued in a loud voice, gesturing his words madly.

"Shouldn't we at least try?" Scootaloo peeped up, and the others had forgotten she was even there.

"And what, show off how much we suck?" the centre linesmen barked, holding his arms out in exasperation. "We can't remember or do any of the plays, 'jack and the coaches won't let us rough up the enemy team, we're just going to look like idiots."

"You already look like idiots," Scootaloo murmured, rolling her eyes with a sneer.

"Seriously? Are you really standing here arguing?" Everyone turned to see Spike approaching them, giving them a more than displeased expression. "Come on guys, we're never going to work as an effective team if we don't get along. Sure, the opponents seem more experienced than us, but we've faced worse."

Ignoring the team's squabbling, Applejack stepped up beside the referee and faced the Ponyville Ponies' captain. Looking him over, she noticed he was a very strapping young lad, with a genuine smile and good attitude. His tanned skin and brown hair contrasted his green and blue uniform, but he didn't seem to mind.

"Hello there. You're the quarterback, aren't you?" he asked pleasantly, tilting his head as he inquired.

"Ah am, yea'. An' actin' captain f' now." Applejack bowed her head once as if she would have picked up her hat to introduce herself, had she been wearing it. "Applejack, by name."

"Pleasure to play you, I hear the Manticores are a surprisingly formidable team, it should be a good game," he replied, extending his hand out towards her. "I'm David Smith, but everyone calls me Whooves. You can find me at centre, hopefully you won't be seeing much of me."

"Y'mean unless you're knockin' me over, right?" Applejack chuckled, shaking his hand firmly.

"Yeah, but hopefully your line won't let that happen. That's why I play centre, anyway, to keep my quarterback safe." His eyes drifted back to catch onto a girl on his team.

Applejack looked over at her too, sizing her up as an opponent. She had bright blonde hair and a dopey expression, and there was something about her lazy eye that was unsettling, but Applejack didn't speak of it. Regardless, Whooves as he was called seemed fond of the girl for some reason, and cast her a simple wave before the coin toss was called.

The guests took the coin toss, and captain Whooves decided to take the kick first. The captains separated to start the game, and teams set up on opposite sides of the field. As they did, Applejack glanced back across the field once more, running her eyes over the enemy team, which seemed just about as small as their own, with few substitute players. Narrowing her eyes on one particular player, she knew that she had seen him somewhere before.

It was the silver Mohawk that gave him away, and Applejack was certain she had seen him somewhere before. But when was it? The Ponies were setting up for the kick, and the player she was carefully watching replaced his helmet on his head and shook out his arms, readying for the play. Suddenly, though, the familiarity hit her, and she stepped over to Spike to ask the boy something.

"Heya, Spike?" Applejack spoke his name, and he glanced over at her as she pointed across the field subtly. "Ain't that Thunderlane? Wasn't he Rarity's fella for a while?"

"Thunderlane?" Spike recognized the name, but hardly the boy. He had perhaps seen him once or twice in passing, and it was a long time ago. The name, however, he did remember, and spoke it with poison on his lips.

"No mistake, tha's him," Applejack's voice fell into an accusing murmur, but she went back to her position anyway.

Spike frowned deeper as his eyes settled on the boy. Rarity had told Spike some things about him, and none of them were very good. In fact, it was enough to rile Spike up and make him contemplate going back to the violent strikes of their previous game. The kick flew out though, and he had no more time to contemplate it.

The ball landed on the ground, and as luck would have it, it bounced in the exact direction he wanted it to go in. It went directly to their centre and immediately, Scootaloo and Spike darted forward, Spike barely managing to keep up with the speedster. Once they approached the other line, the linemen preparing to bump the duo, Scootaloo's speed almost doubled as she cut a sharp left which successfully distracted the linemen to her left. Spike leapt forward, challenging the other linemen as they stopped dead in their tracks, Shining Armour's lesson reminding him of the triangle stance. His cleats dug in and Whooves glanced back briefly, having lost his backup causing worry to impact him upon thinking of their quarterback.

The girl's name was Derpy, and one could never tell whether or not she was all there in the head. Applejack frowned, contemplating the reason why Whooves mentioned her, and why they made a girl with walled-eyes their quarterback. As the rest of the Manticores line stormed forward silently, a wall of death threatening to close in on him, Dumbbell darted forward and attempted to grab onto Whooves. To his surprise, Whooves didn't try to avoid and took the tackle as the rest of the Dumbbell trio dove in to fight for the ball. Pipsqueak and Apple Bloom spread out to cover the receivers while Featherweight and Snails prepared to intercept. Instead, Whooves lazily tossed the ball behind him as Score attempted to swat it out. Derpy caught it in her hands, giggling far too cutely for the sport, and immediately darted down the field, her speed catching Applejack off guard. What caught her off even more was her erratic foot movements; Applejack chased her down yet could not predict when the girl would swerve to the left or right or just stop and shoot back the other way. She grit her teeth, charging ahead as Derpy made her way to the end zone.

Scootaloo and the receiver she was trying to cover stepped back and forth, their movements synchronized. They attempted to dart past each other if only to prove they could break the repetition only to slam into each other just as the referee's whistle blew. Scootaloo turned around after a brief moment of confusion and shock to see Derpy had left Applejack in the dust. Turning her head back, Scootaloo was going to shout only to find her mystery rival gone entirely. Shrugging, Scootaloo jogged back towards the end zone.

"I… I did it!" Derpy shouted with glee, jumping up and down on the spot as Applejack observed her for a moment.

"Did what? Score f' yer team?" Applejack asked, bemused at the girl's actions.

"I got my very first touchdown!" Derpy squealed, giggling as she danced on the spot.

Applejack's eyes widened and she whistled, a grin appearing on her face as she walked towards the opposing quarterback. Derpy slowed to a stop as Applejack approached, her lips pursed as she waited for the Manticores quarterback to do something. The grin softened Derpy as Applejack patted her on the back.

"Good fer you, hon. Ah'm real proud of ya, an' yer team should be as well," Applejack said.

Derpy stared, perplexed for a moment before jumping forward and hugging Applejack, their helmets clacking briefly as Applejack found herself choked by the embrace.

"Thank you thank you! You are so nice, I hope you win!" Derpy said, releasing her grip. Applejack chuckled briefly before Derpy's face turned red and she glanced down, averting her gaze as she poked her forefingers together. "Err, I mean, 'eat slime, slime eaters,' hehe!" Derpy gave Applejack a toothy grin.

"Good luck t' ya. Ya better be runnin' along now," Applejack said as the rest of the Manticores team arrived.

Derpy skipped off as the Ponies retook their positions. Applejack's eyes continued watching the girl until she ran up and hugged the team captain, excitedly pulling the rest of her team into a group hug. Applejack watched with a fleeting feeling of longing, it fading when she watched her team robotically take their places. Sighing, she glanced down the field, watching the team prepare for the kick.


Applejack swallowed hard before calling the snap, already anticipating the usual outcome. As the ball touched her hands, her receivers took off, though they were not nearly as fast as Scootaloo had been when she used to play that position. Due to their lull, Applejack was forced to wait and step back from the line, as already she noticed it falling apart at her toes. The boys who blocked in front of her gave way easily, opting to lazily let the line fall past rather than put any effort into holding it up. There lack of morale had never been more apparent than then.

Hitting the ground again and wincing, Applejack found herself staring at a now very familiar dark sky. The enemy players climbed off of her without trouble, walking back to their positions confidently while passing around handshakes and fist bumps. Before she got the chance to get up, a shadow fell on her as a much smaller girl squatted beside her.

"You know, for a girl, you sure get sacked a lot," Scootaloo remarked with a smirk.

"Y'sound like Dash," Applejack chuckled as she sat up with a groan, her muscles aching and her back bruising by now.

"Do you want me up in the line?" Scootaloo asked, tilting her head and letting Applejack shift onto one knee before forcing herself to her feet.

"Naw, no sense in lettin' two of us get hurt," the quarterback patted her on the shoulder twice, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Ah reckon Ah miss you as receiver, though. That speed'a yours was a blessing."

"I can try the rush again, you know," she reminded the taller blonde, squeezing her fists up determinedly. "I can do it this time, I know it."

"Y'flinch any time you're near th' line, Ah don't want y'all getting' distracted by what happened 'gainst Cloudsdale." Applejack told her carefully. "B'sides, y'still can't take th' handoff none too well, we ain't got th' time t' practise yet. Ah'd say go f' it, if the line was steady, but it ain't lookin' good, sugarcube."

"I know... it just," Scootaloo frowned and looked at her shuffling feet. "It sucks seeing you get hurt all the time. Rainbow would be screaming her head off right now, if she was out here."

"You're prob'ly right." Applejack laughed lightly, though it hurt to do so. Smiling, she kept an optimistic mood as she spoke, "Well, how's this, then. Y'all head up by Spike, kay? He'll keep ya from getting' too hurt, an' maybe y'all can hold em long 'nough for me to get a pass out, if our block-headed receivers can make th' catch. That don't work, well, we'd best practise that handoff at halftime, an' looks like Ah'll have t' step up t' th' line m'self."

"You got it, boss." Scootaloo saluted her obediently and stepped closer to the right, examining the players she would be up against.

"Al'right," Applejack settled back over the line as they set up, Dumbbell crouching over the ball casually. "Y'all gonna do y'job this time?"

"What, do you want to be up here instead?" Dumbbell looked back over his shoulder irritably. "We're not going to fucking win anyway, why waste the energy?"

"As a matter o' fact—" Applejack was interrupted by the ball flying up into her hands, and she grabbed it as quickly as she could, seeing the enemy team move forward in one unit.

From so close to the line, it was no feat for Applejack to catch exactly what Dumbbell did. Stepping to the side, he easily slipped between the advancing players, letting them break right through and charge the stunned quarterback. Two of the enemy players tackled her at one, slamming her back down to the turf in a mere instant. She could hardly feel her arms or legs at they were pinned against the grass, but soon enough the pressure was removed, and she was left dizzily counting the stars.

"Ready to forfeit, yet?" a voice asked her dully, and she glanced over to see Dumbbell standing over her, one foot between her legs and the other beside her. He scoffed and waved his hand passively, "Useless excuse for a captain."

"Yea', Ah reckon Ah ain't much for leadin'," Applejack numbly agreed, turning onto her side and pushing herself up. "But at least Ah ain't quittin', neither."

Dumbbell clicked his tongue in an annoyed tone and turned away, leaving her there getting herself back to her feet. Her body was shaking now after all the hits, but somehow, she was standing. Glancing over at the line, Applejack noticed Spike jog over to her, worry apparent on his features. He snarled at the other linemen accusingly, but said nothing to them. Placing a hand on his captain's shoulder, he caught her eye line.

"Are you okay, Applejack?" Spike asked gently, his expression hard and uneasy.

"Yea', ain't nothin' Ah can't handle, Spike." She grinned weakly, patting him roughly on the arm twice before nodding breathlessly towards his position. "Line back up, okay?"

"Uh, right," he agreed with a questioning look on his face, but listened to her and went back to his place as she wanted.

As Applejack set back up for the third down, she heard the Dumbbells muttering to each other in front of her, and caught them looking back with dark eyes. Though the cages of their face masks made them look intimidating, she hardly batted an eye before falling into her lower stand, examining the field. It was clear now that the other team had caught on to the trouble within their ranks, and their muscle had begun to focus around the middle of the line.

"Hut!" calling it at once, she felt the football connect with her fingers once again, this time more roughly than before.

She nearly dropped the snap, but managed to get a hold of it as Dumbbell clumsily and violently handed it to her before stepping away. That time, he, Score and Hoops all avoided the line entirely, separating fully and leaving a clear path between the quarterback and the entire middle of the enemy line. Her eyes widened immediately as she saw them, all looking to add another sack to their record. The first three pummelled her all at once, the forth and fifth slowing down enough merely to add some extra force before pulling away as best they could as the quarterback went down once again.

Spike watched in horror as the mound of much larger players clambered off the poor girl, and for a heart-stopping moment, it appeared as though she wasn't even breathing. Her helmet rolled back and forth just behind her, as it had been knocked clean off, and slowly, she opened her lonely green eyes. Spike had seen it all, how the linesmen had just stepped right out of the way and let that happen. What kind of a team was he playing on, anyway? Half-time was nearing eagerly, but it seemed like they weren't even going to make it till that pause.

Rolling her head tiredly to the side, Applejack gazed out towards the fence, blurredly catching sight of the girl she loved standing there. Her pale fingers were deeply entwined into the fence, and though Applejack was rattled, it almost seemed like Rainbow Dash was crying. Applejack gave a small smile, the rim of water stinging her own eyes as her body responded to the winding hit. Coughing painfully, she could feel how awfully small she was, laying out like that in the middle of the field.

All around her, tickling her face and hands, she felt the grass. Each blade a slightly different length and thickness, some poking at her and some resting against her. Down by her feet, the backs of her own teammates seemed so large and ominous, and the retreating forms of her enemies threatened to turn back and crush her all over again. But still, between their shifting bodies, she could see the end zone, the goal posts, the scoreboard. Her fingers dug into the grass fondly, feeling how soft it really was despite the force of her grounding hits. With a content sigh, she picked herself back up.

It was rough, it was trying, and it was hopeless. But still, her wobbly feet held her up, and Spike watched on carefully, unsure if he should let her continue taking this brutality. Under her chin, he could still see some remnant of the mark he had given her, a terrible bruise imprinted by his thumb, and it taunted him.

Spike knew how he might have handled such a situation: he would have left, he would have hid from the troubles like he always did, saying nothing to anyone and doing nothing to fix it. He would focus on the difficulties in front of him, and let it tear him down. No, after this much confrontation? From friends and foes? It would have been a repeat of what happened in the alley, destroying those who bothered him, shouting at the people who stood around him, maybe hurting them too.

But Applejack did none of those things, she waved the worried expression of her younger sister away and picked up her helmet, pulling it back over her head and fastening it tighter. Getting back to her position, though her feet stepped unevenly and her back ached as she leaned over, Applejack let out a slow breath. She squeezed and released her hands twice, trying to get the blood back into them.

Casually, she glanced over to Spike, and their eyes met. He held the gaze, as if asking her what she could have possibly been thinking. Her hand raised between them though, and though her fingers were curled in, she raised her thumb up and held up the gesture. Further, she tipped her hand up closer until her thumb almost touched her lips and turned it sideways, rotating the gesture until her pinkie finger was the highest point. He knew that gesture, it reminded him of the foolish way Rainbow Dash drank her beer, chugging the whole damn thing.

It was a play, he recalled, the last one that Rainbow Dash had been working on, a near-suicidal move she described as: "Bottom's up."

Before he could drop his jaw open to speak, she turned back away and called the snap count for the fourth and final down. Spike hurriedly set up and grabbed the player opposite him as it rang out, and heard the scuttling of legs as the Dumbbells once again moved out of the way. Applejack anticipated it this time, though, and Spike watched over his shoulder.

Applejack took the ball firmly in her hand and rotated it carefully as her line ducked out of the way. Her fingers combed through the laces comfortably as she guided it securely under her arm, and stared daringly at her obstacles. The whole group pushed through once more, all famished and thirsty for a taste of glory or blood. In their earnest and headstrong force, they had absolutely no time to adjust as Applejack moved.

Dodging the first offender entirely with a quick spin and step, Applejack tapped little steps away from his stumbling body. As he went to make chase, the second and third pursuers ran right into him, the group losing their earlier momentum. Sprinting past the next wave of linesmen that threatened her, she made a break for it up the right side. Rainbow's eyes glistened widely as she watched on in awe, and before she knew it, her feet shuffled after the girl, following her. Spike saw the quarterback coming, and forced a greater grip on his opponent, stretching his arm out to link it around the torso of the player Scootaloo had been guarding.

"Scootaloo!" Spike called her name, and like a bullet, she took off.

"I know!" She replied as she hurried ahead of Applejack, distracting the safety and crashing right into her, using her superior speed to set her off course.

Throwing the two players down as Applejack ran past him, his feet moved alongside hers, carrying him up the field long enough to meet an outside linesmen who had taken off from the other side of the line. Wrapping his arms around the player right before they ran into Applejack, he used their momentum to force them to the ground, though he himself was pulled down afterwards. The quarterback kept her firm hold on the ball, darting across the field in a full sprint to the silent shock of the crowd. All at once though, they erupted with cheers and praise, ushering her on.

What really kept her going, though, was noticing out of the corner of her eye, the shadow of a girl chasing her from the other side of the fence. Rainbow's hand dragged along the wire fence playfully, but she managed to keep pace with Applejack the whole while. Once or twice another blur tried for the tackle, but again, she dodged right around them just as quickly as Rainbow Dash herself might have. Leaping over an attempt at her legs, she cleared the entire enemy team and had a straight shot for the end zone.

Her tired and sore feet crossed the endzone at last, and upon breaching the line, she slowed down. The hiss of the audience was overwhelming, and she turned around slowly to take it all in. The cheerleaders were up on their feet once more, swinging their pompoms and chanting her name along with the spectators. She took the ball out from under her arm and held it laxly in her hand, swinging her arm to relax at her side. Despite the twitching and burning ache of her muscles, she felt very light.

Not able to wait another moment, she spun around and faced rainbow Dash, who was huffing out of breath and grabbing at the fence just a few yards away, smiling widely and shaking her head in astonishment. Applejack hurried over to her, dropping the ball along the way as if it didn't matter at all. Hitting the fence in a matter of seconds, Applejack fed her fingers through the wire and entwined them fondly with Rainbow's, the two pressing their hands together through the barrier.

"Man, AJ, you're amazing," Rainbow praised her, leaning her forehead against the fence in an attempt to get nearer.

"It should be your name they're shoutin', Rainbow." Applejack replied in a sad voice, running her fingers against the girl's for some small loving touch. "Y'were always th' star."

"No way, you earned that, babe," Rainbow confirmed, glancing back and forth between Applejack's still somewhat bothered eyes. "You okay?"

"Ah can't run every play, Dash," Applejack spoke softly, biting at her lip as she noticed how comfortable it was to just lean against the supportive fence next to Rainbow Dash. "Ah need a team."

Rainbow Dash smirked suddenly as she looked back down the field at the Manticores, and gestured for Applejack to look too, saying, "I think you just got one."

Following Rainbow's gaze, Applejack's concern was eased by the cheering of her team, and several of them came together and high-fived or hugged. Even the Dumbbells, who looked just as surprised as they did ashamed, seemed to join in. Dumbbell himself looked out at the pair, and though while he usually would have teased them or made a rude remark, this time, he merely raised his hand to his forehead, giving a lazy and acknowledging salute.

The crowd continued to roar as the other team scoffed at their miscalculation, but seemed to recognize the Manticore's abilities. The score on the board changed, awarding points to the unlikely scorer. With a gentle smile and a modest humility gracing her features, Applejack blushed at the attention, squeezing Rainbow's hand. Her bright eyes flashed up to the rainbow-haired jock, and she begged for more.

"Will you hang 'round t' watch th' game?" Applejack asked hopefully.

"Wouldn't dream of otherwise," Rainbow agreed certainly with a warm grin and a wink. Leaning back playfully and teasing, she added, "Though it might be tough to watch you get your ass kicked when it's not me kicking it."

"Ah'm sure you'll manage." Applejack chuckled, letting go of the fence and stepping back, readying to return to her post as much as she would have liked to stay.

"Good luck out there, AJ," the former captain called after her, flashing a thumbs-up. In her usual confident tone, she told the farmer, "Give them Hell."

"Without m'little vixen?" Applejack remarked, nodding her head at the lovable scamp. "Ah'll have to, if Ah want any hope'a winnin'."

Spike grumbled briefly, his confidence from the previous week vanishing quickly. His team was still sketchy, having practised none of the recommended tactics or plays provided discreetly by their former team captain. Applejack did her best to relay the plays yet she could only do so much when her teammates were so insistent on ignoring her. In reality, it was only the Dumbbells whom were actively ignoring it, influencing Snips, Snails and Featherweight. Pipsqueak attempted to play both fields of the inner turmoil while Spike, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom trusted Rainbow Dash and Applejack.

Even then, Spike's trust was tested as the scenario looked hopeless. Gritting his teeth, he glared at the team opposite, locking eyes with what could be considered his arch-enemy. Thunderlane brushed his thumb over his nose in a sniff, locking eyes with Spike as the teams proceeded to their endzones.

"Feh, ass cheated on Rarity five years ago, consider this payback," Spike muttered, his loyalty to the play wavering. Shaking his head, he sighed, placing his guard in his mouth. 'No, if the opportunity comes up, I can violently shoulder check him. For now, stick to the play.'

A quick glance to the scoreboard revealed less than a minute in the current half of the game where the two cheerleading squads would perform a routine to commemorate the final game before the last eight teams enter the quarter-finals.

"Reno, 69, 69, Zap Apple Jizz," Applejack shouted to her team.

"What? Oh come on, just when I started thinking you were a sensible leader," Dumbbell shouted, grumbling as he took his place as centre.

"Don't fall apart on me now, y'all," Applejack said. "Ah need you."

"Whatever, we'll try this play. Don't let the Manticores heartbeat flatline, 'jack," Score shouted, cracking his neck as the teams waited.

Sighing, Spike lined up as Applejack set up the square. The pigskin was vertically balanced by the farmer and the referee blew his whistle. Several eyes remained on him as they waited for him to start his run. A walk quickly turned into a jog then into a sprint as the whole line marched forward and Spike launched the football into the skies, taking advantage of the windless night.

The ball was launched to the right yet Spike knew how he kicked it; the spin he gave it caused it to slightly curve left. That, added on with the lower kick, made sure it flew towards the linemen. Thunderlane arced right, darting ahead to intercept the ball and prevent the linemen from getting it. With a few seconds to clashing, Thunderlane attempted to dart out to the right on Featherweight's side. Unfortunately for him, Applejack was directly behind him. Unable to foresee the farmer's appearance, Thunderlane attempted to stop only for Applejack to slap at the ball, knocking it into the sky. The two collided as the ball flew freely, the duo tumbling to the ground.

The two lines clashed, Spike finding himself staring down the meek Blossomforth. For a brief moment, he remembered the girl's hairdo looking exactly like Twilight's, only the colour being different. The girl ducked down submissively as she took in the sight of the larger boy. Settling for simply taking down a teammate rather than take down someone whom wronged his girlfriend in the past, Spike swung in an underhand motion, disregarding the gender differences as he latched his fingers into the clothing and underarmour between the girls brests. She let out a yelp as Spike placed his free hand on her shoulder. Stepping past the girl, he yanked his arm that held onto the girl's uniform while pushing on her shoulder. Blossomforth buckled, being thrown to her back as Spike let go of her uniform.

Spotting the ball constantly being swatted around as several players attempted to wrap their fingers around it. Spike leapt into the air as the group was less interested in being competing players as the similar nature between the two teams almost turned it into a brawl. Luckily, Spike leapt up, hoisting himself up with an oblivious Ponies player and gave the ball a firm smack, knocking it to the side of the entire group. Immediately, two bodies darted from the near-pileup caused as the two lines settled on simply holding each other.

"Jeez, they're barbarians," Rainbow muttered from behind the chain link fence.

Big Mac and Shining Armour sniffed, facepalming in synchronization. Spike's eyes didn't notice them as Scootaloo and Rumble dived for the ball, hitting each other in the process. They hit the ground, sliding a few feet with closed eyes. As they slowed, they opened their eyes, locked onto each other. The two faces grew red and a brief lapse in reality occur. Snapping out of it, their hands slid out from under them, both slapping onto the ball at the same time.

A horn blared out as the first half ended and the two receivers glanced up as the lines separated. Spike kicked the dirt, scoffing as he realized they hadn't achieved anything. Scootaloo and Rumble slowly glanced back towards each other, eyes locking onto one another. Rumble spit out his mouth guard and gave her a toothy grin.

"My name's Rumble," he muttered, anxiously gulping.

"Scootaloo," the girl responded with a wink and a lick of her lips.

"Wanna grab dinner sometime?" Rumble asked.

"Only if you're paying. And if you don't eat tuna, I wouldn't mind a kiss on the cheek," the girl said as she pushed herself up.

She helped Rumble to his feet and the two held their gazes on one another before turning away, heading back towards their benches. Spike eyes the two teams without going to any side. The Manticores were still separated mentally and the Ponies were the exact opposite. They seemed entirely together and collected, friends fire forged through some event they'll never hear, perhaps. Spike shrugged, deciding to turn around and walk off the field. He headed straight for the path between the two bleachers and removed his helmet, pinching the bridge of his nose.

'We're a team. We don't act like a team… and there's no point in that, is there,' he mentally stated, knowing the answer.

Big Mac glanced to the right, just in time to spot growing spectral hair behind the bleachers. Recognizing the girl, his instinct took over and he almost stomped towards her, biting his lip. Just as Rainbow Dash was crossing the path towards the other set of bleachers, Big McIntosh called her out.

"'ey," he shouted.

Rainbow slowed from a stride to a snails pace as she annoyingly glanced over at Big Mac. He simply stared at her as she slowed down to a stop and faced him. Big Mac's eyes studied the girl's figure and looked to her face; stern and not taking orders from him. It almost made him mad; yet it wasn't what came out.

"Why?" Big Mac asked.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. "Huh? Why? Why what?" she asked.

"Why is it you're s' darn insistent? Ah tol' ya t' stay away! Why can't y'all jus' go off an' do your own thing with th' others an' leave m' sister out of it!?" Big Mac stepped forward slowly.

No intimidation came from his mouth or appeared in his mind. Big Mac lost the will to continue threatening someone let alone a friend or his sister's friends. He absolutely refused to listen to her declarations of amour.

"Because I trust in Applejack to tell me to fuck off should I do something rash," Rainbow responded, placing her hands on her hips. "I trust her far more than you do, apparently."

"But… why? Ah can't let my sister associate with you… you're bad news, Ah can't lose her like ma and pa," Big Mac responded, feeling a bad feeling in his gut.

"Oh goddammit, Big Mac, I'm not in some fucking gang, I'm not gonna get Applejack shot by 'them niggas down at Grove Street, yo'," Rainbow said, altering her voice while using exaggerated gestures. She looked back at Mac who kept his gaze on her; it was now uncertain. "Big Mac, I'm sorry for anything I've said before, or anything I've done, but please, for the love of god, just let me do something right and make your sister happy. I love her, and if I was truly ruining her life, I would gladly leave even if it was the most painful thing ever." She gulped, her lips trembling. "I'm not good with words, but I know for sure what love feels like, and I'd never do anything to hurt Applejack."

"But, ya said," Big Mac responded, finding his argument gone entirely. His gaze turned to the garbage bin next to the bleachers as he attempted to find words. Looking back up at Rainbow, he saw she was in the same position he was in; pleading. "Ya said… that ya love her, right?"

"Big Mac, if you want, you can even beat the shit out of me right here, I don't care. I just wanna see AJ, I'll stay behind the fence and everything," Rainbow said, her pleading becoming increasingly obvious. "I'm tired of fighting all the time, against authority."

Silence held in the air as the two were lost in thought. Big Mac's steely gaze was absent, a softer, compromising gaze studying the athlete. Rainbow's eyes lost the fire and intensity of a fighting spirit, replaced with a guilty apologetic soul. Neither wanted to fight anymore. Unfortunately, any resolution was cut short. Behind Big Mac, someone stepped from the bleachers, ignored by the spectators in the stands.

Spike spotted the two as he removed his helmet and he paused his step upon seeing them before letting out a deep sigh, shaking his head as he resumed his pace. Big Mac opened his mouth as if to chastise Spike yet Rainbow piped up first.

"Yo yo yo, Spike the stud, what up?" Rainbow's obnoxious voice shouted, an upbeat chime to it.

Spike stopped, turning his head towards the girl in Applejack's old jacket. A grin was plastered on the athlete's face as she stepped onto the path, away from the grass behind the bleachers and the fence. Shrugging, Spike curled his lip briefly before speaking up.

"Gonna just sit alone and think, usual superhero stuff," Spike responded robotically, attempting to keep a smile, ignoring Big Mac's presence.

Rainbow chuckled, kicking the ground as she glanced to her shoes. The silence hung for a moment before she tilted her head up just enough that her eyes could spot Spike under the hanging spectral bangs.

"Naw, you were gonna cut and run to stiff it to those fuckers, right?" Rainbow asked.

Spike hesitated half a second longer than he had wanted. "What makes you say that?"

"Because I would have done it myself by this point, except I wouldn't have fucked the team over," Rainbow said, keeping a chipper voice. Her breath was visible, Spike noticed as he realized it was a chilly night nearing the start of Winter. "Even if it did in the end."

"Not your fault, you were forced into a position to cut and run," Spike said, his voice drooping as he went on, ignoring the man that let the comment slide. Averting his gaze, Spike glanced down and examined the paint on his helmet, slightly scratched from the many drops he had. "I had many chances to fix my problems and I blew it."

"Hey, you're getting off scot-free; many people would have paid to be in that position," Rainbow responded, rocking back and forth on her heels. "Plus, you were forced into a position where you could only blow it, wink wink." She enunciated her words with a wink of her own, clicking her tongue as well.

"Just because Felix isn't pressing charges doesn't mean that everything he did before is suddenly forgotten, you know," Spike responded bitterly, his brow lowering into a scowl. "I have to carry that stuff around with me. All that frustration and stress, it caused me to snap, on him, and on the people that I care about. How can I know that won't happen again?"

"Listen kid, it's never going to be forgotten, sure, but that doesn't mean you have to sit there dwelling on it." Rainbow favoured her right leg as she crossed her arms, returning the scowl. "Part of growing up is moving on, accepting that shit happens, yeah, but learning that it doesn't dictate how you run your life or anything."

"How would you know, Dash?" Spike responded, his anger threatening to surface once more.

"What, didn't Twilight ever tell you?" Rainbow asked with a shrug and eye roll. "I had my share of troubles too."

Spike scoffed, rolling his eyes as well. "Like what? Dash, you are a bully. You can't understand how it feels to be on the other end of that. What could you possibly have to say that would relate to me?" the boy asked, disdain showing itself.

"You wanna know, huh?" Rainbow Dash asked. A long pause followed as some music started up, presumably the Ponies' cheerleading halftime show. Rainbow sighed, quickly scanning the area briefly. "Well, I guess I should start by telling you that, yeah, I was not always the nicest girl. I used to be a lot worse than I am now, trust me. I thought it was pretty funny to pick fights and push people around, that is, until a little life experience straightened me out. Fluttershy was always getting picked on and stuff, so it kind of made me realize how it could go too far, you know?"

"Yeah, trust me, I know," Spike responded with a droll voice, still staring expectantly at Dash.

Rainbow bit her lip as she attempted to process her words, her head briefly turning towards the field as if to spot Applejack. "I thought I was done with all that stuff even now, but I realized it when you were kicking the crap out of that Felix kid the other day, I'm not much better now. I was picking on you, too. Guess I still have a long way to go."

"It's no big deal. I can handle it," Spike muttered, shrugging as he accepted it easily.

"You can tell yourself that time and again, it doesn't really make it true. But anyway, that wasn't my only brush with school yard razzing, let me tell you." Rainbow gulped, seemingly preparing for what she was going to say. Spike and Big Mac watched her nervously attempt to start. "A-a couple years ago, I came out and said that I liked girls. Didn't come as much of a surprise to my friends, actually."

Spike's brow briefly raised, jokingly surprised that she wasn't always as vocal as she was before. Gulping once, he spoke. "Did you get picked on about it?"

A simple shrug. "Well sure I did, people will find anything to make you feel awful about yourself. I guess it's like I just handed them the tomatoes and stood up on stage with a blindfold, really." She sighed, doing her best to continue even though Big Mac was standing next to her. "It was rough for a while. I was kinda scrawny, always angry, and really opinionated. I had a big mouth and nothing to back it up, see?" Rainbow couldn't help but smirk and agree when Big Mac subtly nodded his head. "I didn't think it would be a big deal or anything, so I came out, told a few friends and soon enough it spread all around school. I thought them knowing about it made me different, badass or whatever. Boy was I wrong."

"What happened?" Spike asked, his animosity all but gone.

"I was not doing too good, I mean guys were always picking fights and if they weren't, I was holding grudges and starting them myself. Got myself into plenty of trouble. They were always bigger than me, and there were a lot more of them. I was on track to get myself killed, or kicked out of school or something." Rainbow turned towards Big Mac, his eyes locking onto hers as he knew this comment was directed at him. "That is, until Applejack saved my sorry ass."

"Applejack?" Big Mac and Spike asked in unison.

"Yeah. She would never talk about it or tell anyone, but she's kind of like, my hero." Rainbow's mouth formed a wide grin as she glanced up, reminiscing. "There were these few guys in particular who really had it out for me, I couldn't tell you what they wanted or whatever. It was after school, by the parking lot at the rear wall by the dumpsters. They were roughing me up, smacking me around a bit, you know how it goes."

"Yeah, sounds familiar," Spike said with a lighter voice, shrugging.

"Anyway, next thing I know, Applejack's standing right there, and she sees me, and she walks right over. I mean, it was kind of hard to see because one of my eyes was swelling up a bit and the sun was right behind her, but she came right up to us, and she looks at me, not judgemental or anything, just looking. But damn, she was angry. I'd never seen her so mad, you know?" Big Mac and Spike nodded their heads, resisting the urge to chuckle at the synchronized movements. "I don't really remember what those guys said when they saw her or anything. I just remember this one guy turning right around, and going over to her with his fists all balled up tight, like he was going to hurt her just for being there. But he didn't get to. He just walks up to her, then bam!"

"Bam what?!" Spike asked, urging her to continue.

"Applejack pins him right up against the wall, with her forearm just pressed hard against his throat, right? The other guy sees this, and runs up behind her like some cheap bastard, but again, wham!" Rainbow quickly twists her body and kicks one foot out, imitating what she must have spotted in a movie. Or maybe she had karate lessons; who knew? "She kicks backwards and nails him right in the gut, I swear he almost coughed up his lunch and his breakfast. She grabs the guy at her arm and spins him around, knocking him into his buddy and sending them tumbling to the ground."

"Applejack did that?!" Spike asked, temporary disbelief decorating his expression. "I never really thought she was much for violence, other than football and rough-housing and stuff."

Rainbow laughed, shaking her head and yet again, Big Mac nodded. "Oh she's not, not unless she's provoked, and let me warn you, do not provoke her." Rainbow whistled, setting her hands on her hips as she clicked her tongue, once again picturing the scene. Her gaze turned towards Spike and she put on her grin once more. "But still, you know what really, really got me? She walks right over to me, and I'm still sitting there gawking at her like I just saw a damn ghost, right? Those guys are calling her the worst names, saying horrible and rude things, commenting about how she's like my lover or something, all kinds of profanities and remarks and shit. Thing is, it doesn't bother her at all. They're shouting all these awful insults, but she's still just looking right at me."

"Why? Why didn't she go back and make sure they never did it again?" Spike asked, utterly confused. His mind wandered to what he did to Felix and his buddies yet he winced, shaking his head to keep it from his mind.

"That's not Applejack, that's why. She leans down, and she picks me up, helps me walk out of there, and wipes the blood off my stupid face. And you know what? She doesn't say anything about what happened. Not one word, not ever!" Rainbow exclaimed, impressed as she giggled briefly at the thought.

"So then, what happened to those guys?" Spike asked, attempting to think of an answer.

A smirk appeared on Rainbow's face as she eyed Spike. "The bullies? Yeah, they still came around a bit, but not as much. It was like she had knocked them right off their game. And soon enough, they just moved on. I guess some people grow up slow, you know, and sometimes you have to force them into it." She averted her gaze and glanced down at her own feet. "And I mean, I know who I am, I'm too proud to even admit that I'd need someone else to fight my battles. But what Applejack did, it didn't feel like that at all. It's more like, like she inspired me or something. I don't really know how to explain it."

Spike let the silence hang as he contemplated her words before going back to asking questions. "Inspired you? How?"

The athlete's gaze turned back to Spike, the grin larger than before as she started moving her hands as if it'd spur the words to churn out. "Okay, well she stepped right into the middle of everything, right? Kicked some serious ass, sure, but that isn't even what I loved most about all of it! And you know, I don't even think that's what got them to stop, either. It's like, those guys, they couldn't even touch her. You know? Not with their hands, not with their words or insults or anything. They couldn't fucking touch her. That kind of strength, that's what I wanted." Rainbow winked at Spike and his left eye twitched as his mind instantly went back to Rarity's birthday. "So, I asked her to join the football team, and she helped me become a little more tough and level-headed. No surprise how she became the quarterback, that's just how she is. Oh, and she has a damn rocket for an arm. That helps."

"So where are those guys now? Do you ever see them any more?" Spike muttered, clutching the face cage of the helmet as his mind wandered back to his final talk with Felix.

Rainbow shrugged. "Well sure I do, all that other stuff is in the past. You even know the guys, I mean, they're our linesmen." Rainbow's eyes rolled as she folded her arms as if it were common knowledge.

"What?!" Spike exclaimed while Big Mac's eyes merely widened. "They're on the team, with us?"

"Funny, huh?" Rainbow chuckled, kicking the ground once more. "The point is, kid, is that things like that can only bother us if we let them. I mean, look at AJ? On the field out there, she couldn't catch a break, everyone and everything seemed to be working against her. But did she let that stop her? Fuck no, not AJ."

"Yeah, but still, we're not going to win. Our team sucks, Dash, there's no way we can pull off a victory now," Spike muttered, holding his helmet up as he examined it from several angles.

Snorting, Rainbow rolled her eyes. "Depends. What exactly is a win, anyway?"

It was Spike's turn to roll his eyes. "Duh, beating the other team," he said, a light growl coming from his mouth. "You can make it sound as metaphorically nice as you want, saying stuff like 'you had a moral victory', or 'you won in spirit' or some shit, but come on. That's not what football is about."

"Tell me, Spike," Rainbow asked, placing a hand on her hip and wagging a finger at Spike. "Why did you join the Manticores, anyway? Did you want to be some super star? Did you think that would make you happy? Get the girl, you know, become Mr. Popularity, look good and score all kinds of glory? Or maybe, just maybe… you joined to find out something about yourself. Maybe, you joined to become more of... a man. What that means, well," Rainbow shrugged once, maintaining her grin. "Guess that's up to you."

Spike closed his eyes as Rainbow didn't continue further on as he processed her words. Everything that had happened in three months was coming to a head. The Wondercolts, the Buffalo, the Griffons, the Alicorns, and the Ponies. All of their opponents and faces flashed in his mind. All of the faces of the Manticores flashed in his mind. All the people that had wronged him or done him good, all his family and friends and the moments that stuck out to him.

Big Mac maintained his gaze on Rainbow, puckering his lip as he wished he had a piece of straw at the moment. The girl wasn't facing him, too busy watching Spike think. After a moment, he let out a long, deep sigh from his mouth before stepping forward. His footsteps reminded Rainbow there was a spectator to her speech and the girl glanced up at Big Mac, mind racing with what he was gonna do. At that moment, Spike's eyes widened and he grinned.

'I did this to be a better person. To be worthy of my family's love and care… and to be worthy of Rarity. I did it to be a man. I did it to say goodbye to the me that sat back and let bad things happen when I could have helped.' Spike glanced up, spotting the moon in the distance as it's phase rained a brilliant glow upon the city, light pollution or no. Still looking up, he wordlessly brought his helmet up and set it on his head, strapping the helmet onto his chin and biting the mouth guard.

At that time, Big McIntosh reached around and pulled Rainbow closer, as much as he didn't want to. Rainbow didn't expect the hug and was too shocked to respond to it as Big Mac swallowed his pride.

"Ah haven't been a very good big brother an' Ah haven't been trustin' m' sis enough." Pulling her back gently, Rainbow glanced up at Big Mac as he attempted to smile. "Treat her right, and go out on that field, otherwise Ah'll take ya up on that offer t' beat th' shit outta ya."

Rainbow stared for a moment, contemplating the moment to be a dream before she let out a squeal, a massive grin forming on her face as she covered her mouth, a girlish moment coming up.

"Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh OH MY GOSH!" Rainbow squeaked, lunging forward and hugging Big Mac. "It's a start but I'm sure you'll be a great big brother!"

Big Mac's expression contorted to confusing and he glanced down as the rainbow hair pressed into his chest, nuzzling him regardless of any bad blood between the two.

"Ah beg yer pardon?" Big Mac asked, puzzled.

"By the way, I may have absolutely wrecked Applejack for marriage which is fine since I wouldn't let anybody else except Rainbow Dash do it," Rainbow muttered into her chest.

Spike and Big Mac stared at her briefly, the former chuckling while the latter rolled his eyes, frowning as he stepped back, the grip the athlete had on him gone. His hand was placed on her back as he pushed her towards the field.

"Get your ass in there b'fore Ah retract m' decision, ya punk," Big Mac shouted, placing his hands on his hips for once.

Spike walked forward, almost passing Big Mac before he stopped. He turned his head slightly, gritting his teeth against the mouth guard before he spit it out and glanced towards Big McIntosh.

"While we're on the topic of bad stuff, I kinda did wrap my fingers around Applejack's neck," Spike muttered.

Big Mac turned towards him, his eyes widening and face growing red, rage coursing through his body. Spike's eyes widened as he shuddered for a moment and Spike almost turned and ran.

"B-but, it wasn't her fault, she was protecting Rainbow. Because I was gonna kill her. Because I was mad and irrational and beating Felix nearly to death," Spike spat out as fast as he could.

"Git yer ass over t' th' bench an' wait for th' next half, ya blasted varmint," Big Mac shouted.

"Yessir!" Spike quickly said with a salute before he jogged back onto the field.

Big Mac let a low growl escape his mouth as he pinched the bridge of his nose, gritting his teeth together. Hand rested on his hip, he let out another deep sigh before stepping forward back onto the field.

"Soon, we'll be lettin' you frickin' kids get away with murder," he muttered, shaking his head.

As soon as Spike arrived at his bench, he noticed Rainbow was gone entirely, the entire team still sitting there, lazy and depressed at their score; a 7-24, Ponies favour. A moment of thinking made Spike remember that Applejack had always brought Rainbow's bag to practise for the sake of coping with their situation. She seemed entirely oblivious that Rainbow was getting changed in the school's changerooms right now. Grinning, he stepped over to the bench and sat down right between Applejack and Rarity, whom, along with Twilight, filmed the half-time shows. The Ponies were just finishing their show when he did and he felt content.

"Spike, are you alright?" Rarity asked, feeling uneasy after watching his attitude on the field.

Spike turned his head and faced her. Within a second, he had undone his helmet strap and had removed it, a huge grin on his face as Rarity watched with an interested gaze. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips against Rarity's much to the surprise of the fashionista as well as his sister on the other side. Pulling back, Spike panted heavily as he nodded his head.

"Everything will be just fine, Miss Rarity," he said with a wink.

He turned back to the field just as Sweetie Belle, the band class and the rest of the cheerleaders stepped onto the field. Rarity's gaze turned back to the field as she held in a squee of glee as she saw her uniforms, made specifically for this event, shine as the group made it onto the field.


Diamond Tiara pouted briefly as the cheer squad prepared for their show. She was glad her father was there but not satisfied with the lyrics Sweetie Belle had written. It had warmed up slightly to her as time went on and she was proud of her dedication. She watched the Ponies' half time show, eying one member closely. Silver hair and glasses on her face, Diamond Tiara was reminded of a childhood friend whom she met in Canterlot years prior before they both went different ways. As their show ended, Diamond Tiara kept her eyes focused regardless of Sweetie Belle's snapping at her. As the Ponies' cheer squad left the field, Diamond Tiara saw the girl she was staring at from afar and she grinned, squealing excitedly.

Sweetie Belle's attempts to get the prissy girl's attention failed and she sighed, slapping herself in the face as Diamond Tiara shot to her feet and skipped towards the other team. Diamond's face lit up and ran towards the girl.

"Silver Spoon!" Diamond Tiara shouted as she closed in on the cheerleader.

Silver Spoon glanced up, her face lighting up as well when she saw Diamond Tiara. Both teams' cheerleaders glanced at the two as they crashed into each other. They squealed loudly, jumping up and down with several onlookers on their own team rolling their eyes.

"Are you kidding me?" Sweetie Belle groaned, shaking her head.

"Well I am happy for them! We should throw them a party!" Pinkie Pie said. "And Flutters?" She turned towards the shy girl as Fluttershy was adjusting the bra underneath her uniform. The girl in question turned towards Pinkie, waiting on a response. "Can you bring some of that leafy greens? I'd give them my drugs but it's kind of not feeling well." Pinkie Pie reached into her bag next to the bench and pulled out a stem, studying it closely.

"Pinkie Pie, h-how about we forget the whole thing," Fluttershy muttered, sighing as she leaned over, resting her head on an energy drink barrel.

"Hi, Diamond Tiara! It's been so long!" Silver Spoon squealed as they separated, still holding the other's arms.

"Oh my god, I know! And you're a cheerleader too!?" Diamond said, her grin plastered to her face.

"Ah, I know! And you look so cute in that outfit! Who made it!?" Silver Spoon asked, glancing up and down to examine her friend's clothes.

"Oh, she's dating our team's tight end, the cutie with the green hair; her name is Rarity, and I don't know her last name," Diamond Tiara said, glancing over Silver Spoon's uniform as well.

"Oh, really!? She did ours too, our team manager commissioned her," Silver Spoon said. Tilting her head, she glanced by Diamond Tiara to spot Rarity sitting in the bleachers, wrapped up in a leathery-white jacket next to a nerdy girl in a sweater-vest.

"Well, now that I know you're here, I feel more confident in what I'm about to do," Diamond Tiara said, smirking as Silver Spoon's brow raised.

"What are you gonna do?" Silver Spoon asked, nervously glancing back and forth between Scootaloo and the referee in the centre of the field.

"We're gonna nail this half time show and make yours look like a kindergarten show," Diamond Tiara said.

Silver Spoon grinned, stepping back as she playfully shoved her friend away, the two girls turning their backs to each other upon separation. Diamond Tiara tilted her head back briefly to glance at her friend, just as Silver Spoon did the same.

"We have to meet up after the game, Diamond!" Silver Spoon shouted with glee.

Diamond Tiara didn't respond, following the Manticores' cheer squad upon being announced. The group marched onto field and took their positions, Twist and Pinkie Pie deep in conversation about some candy. Diamond Tiara waltzed up behind Fluttershy who lagged behind the group. Glancing around unsure, Diamond's eyes turned towards the shy girl who nervously poked her forefingers together, hiding behind her pink hair as she hunched over.

"Let's do our best, Hootershy," Diamond said with glee, pride swelling through her body.

Fluttershy squeaked, turning her face to see Diamond's. Fluttershy's face was bright red and her arms instinctively covered her chest. Diamond Tiara was confused briefly before she lightly tapped herself on the head.

"Argh, Fluttershy, whoops. Sorry," Diamond Tiara muttered as Sweetie Belle took her position, the rest of the girls following suit.

At first, distant drumming rhythmically beat through the crowd, the snare and high hat catching on runs of fabric and sticking to soles of shoes. Just as simply and suddenly, a tambourine hissed, shaking and shivering to accompany the solitary pounding. Finally, some trace of tune called out, notes singing about from strings. Tapping her foot and raising her head to reach the microphone, which stood slightly too tall for her, Sweetie Belle took a firm grip and tore it from confines.

"In the city that never sleeps,

We find something better to do.

We sure love our company,

So we hold tight and we talk dirty,

And we hope that it will get us through.

What's with bigger people

with smaller hearts?

we've got no self esteem

and a terribly late start.

We work hard to make a difference, but we're too young,

we speak better with our thumbs, and talk dirty with our tongues.

Yes we talk dirty, maybe,

But we know, baby,

It's about time we measured up

To those etches in the door frame.

And stop calling names and giving blames

And learn to play an honest game.

What's with bigger people

with smaller hearts?

we've got no self esteem

and a terribly late start.

In pursuit of the end zone, we throw the pass too long,

we speak better with our thumbs, and talk dirty with our tongues.

So say, "Hail mother Mary,

full of grace,

may you forgive our furies and

teach us to behave?"

"We are tempted, we are troubled,

but we are standing, though we may stumble."

Oh, pray, "Hail mother Mary,

full of grace,

may you take our failures and

teach us to be brave?"

Yeah, there are bigger people

with smaller hearts,

Who have more self esteem

and who take an early start.

Yet we see the end zone, and we throw the pass so long,

we speak better with our thumbs, and talk dirty with our tongues.

Oh, we see the end zone, and we throw the pass so long,

we may speak better with our thumbs,

but baby, we talk dirty with our tongues."

Observing the finale as the crowds cheered, Spike whistled, scratching his chin.

"Sweetie Belle must have read my mind," Spike whispered into Applejack's ear.

"Spikey, are you kissing Applejack's ear?" Rarity asked, a light chuckle escaping her lips.

Spike turned his head towards Rarity, wide eyes and a huge grin on his face that unsettled the girl as he shook his head before turning back to Applejack.

"Hmm?" Applejack asked, making sure her under armour was properly set.

"I know what we're gonna do. It's the last play I'm gonna ask you to try and get the team to pull off," Spike said. "What I mean by that, if the next play doesn't work, we are a dysfunctional pack of bitches."

"What play d' ya have in mind?" Applejack asked, worriedly scanning the Manticores as they suited up.

"Play 9913," Spike said with a grin.

"Yer kiddin' me? How're we s'pposed t' do that when we're still shaky? Sure we're better than we were back 'en but we're still bein' held t'gether by duct tape," Applejack responded, whispering the last part.

"Trust me," Spike said, giving her a smile as he pounded his chest.

Applejack's eyes were glued to his lips as he spoke before he set his helmet back on her head. She put hers on as well, continuing to glance towards Spike.

"Uh, jus' sayin', but yer lips are red," Applejack said.

Spike finished the strap, grin still on his face. Upon finishing, he let out a deep sigh, his body loosening up and he turned to her, grin still on his face.

"I couldn't care less, captain," Spike said, slapping his knees as he shot to his feet. "I'll handle it, you just make sure the ball goes where you want it to go."

"Al'right y'all, let's get back out there," Applejack stood up at once, pulling her helmet on over her eyes and adjusting the bars around her eyes.

"Do we really have to bother? I mean, there's no way we're going to win," Dumbbell grumbled, stretching his arm out and pulling it farther with his other one as he approached them.

"Well," a very familiar and confident voice arose from behind the group, and Applejack froze as she recognized it immediately. "Looks like I'm going to have to pick up all this fucking slack, after you jackoffs got bitch slapped in the first half."

"Rainbow?" Applejack turned around and gazed at the girl in question, who stood before her clad in the flattering Manticore red uniform.

"Hey babe," Rainbow responded promptly, a wink accompanying her grin. "Ready for a comeback?"

Without even hesitating, Applejack spun around and nearly tackled the smaller girl in an embrace, squeezing her tightly around her thin waist. Rainbow Dash eagerly returned it, smelling the girls hair and neck as she fought against the impermissible helmet the farmer had on. After a brief comfortable moment, Rainbow Dash pushed her just a fraction back and grabbed her helmet by the face mask, her fingers slipping into the bars.

"Get this shit out of the way and show me a real welcome, 'kay?" Rainbow murmured seductively as she pushed the mask up, lifting it right off of Applejack's head.

As the helmet moved out of the way, their lips came together at once, hardly waiting until Rainbow tossed the hard object in some random direction. Applejack tugged at Rainbow's hips, pressing them together as she moved her lips against the athlete's. Most eyes were glued to them, a good deal surprised, others uncertain, and some relieved or happy. Though the helmet nearly clocked Dumbbell in the head, he still found the scene rather interesting.

"Fucking called it!" he shouted loudly, slapping his hand on his knee knowingly.

"Damn dude, but 'jack is hot, why would she turn into a lesbian?" Score wondered with a frown, seeming disappointed.

"Score, you can't just ask someone why they're a lesbian!" Hoops whispered loudly as he slapped his friend on the back roughly.

Reluctantly, the two pulled apart, though their bodies remained lovingly entwined. Applejack shyly glanced over at her brother, who watched on with a less than irritated expression, to her surprise. As Rainbow went right on ahead with leering at Applejack's body so near to her own, the farmer cleared her throat, biting back some of the blush in her cheeks.

"You, uh, y'alright with her playin', Mac?" she asked carefully, holding eye contact.

"You kidding?" Rainbow pulled away at last, turning half of her body to look at the older boy. "He loves me, he said you all needed a good kick in the ass and begged me to come back!"

"Somethin' like that," Mac said lowly, scoffing and rolling his eyes, though there was a smile on his face.

"Alright, so what're we doing, fucksticks?" Rainbow asked, clapping her hands together as her and Applejack parted.

"9913," Applejack said proudly, glancing around for her helmet briefly.

"Wait, are you serious? We can actually totally pull that off with Rainbow back. Fuck, Applejack may not have been the best captain but she still had a fuckin' awesome arm," Dumbbell said, clasping his hands together.

"I'd break your dick off like a twig if I didn't need you on the field," Rainbow growled, kicking Dumbbell in the shin.

The boy stepped back, rubbing his shin as his armour absorbed the most of it. Big Mac silently nodded in agreement as Applejack ignored it entirely.

"What's 9913? I kind of missed a bit of practise," Scootaloo muttered.

"So I noticed, squirt," Rainbow grinned, raising an eyebrow as she rubbed her chin. "It's called a Hail Mary, squirt. Let me fill you in."


Spike sighed, preparing for the biggest play of the game. They were still 26-0, Ponies favour. Applejack and Rainbow Dash both had a knowing smirk, entirely prepared for the play. Scootaloo only had half their confidence yet still found it in her to glare across at Rumble. The boy smirked back, winking at her and Scootaloo's eyes widened, an intense fire burning in them upon spotting her rival.

"Sixty-nine, sixty-nine, sixty-fucking-nine," Rainbow shouted regardless of that being Applejack's job.

Applejack immediately called the hut afterwards and the ball snapped into her hands, the two lines clashing. The Ponies had been caught off-guard by the sudden hut and they had been shoved back. Unfortunately, the Ponies' line had just as much push as the Manticores. However, Whooves managed to slightly overpower Dumbbell, causing the brute to grunt.

"I am going to protect her, mate," Whooves spat through his teeth.

"Th' fuck are you talkin' about!?" Dumbbell spat out, his face turning red from the pressure he had to exert.

Spike darted forward and realized who he was facing; Thunderlane. Before the boy could react to Spike, Spike thrust his hands forward and pressed his palms flat against Thunderlane's chest. His fingers bent, latching onto the jersey and Spike pressed off the ground, hoisting Thunderlane from his safe grip. Thunderlane groaned as Spike shoved him off, the older boy tumbling to the ground as Spike stumbled, rounding out to the right.

Scootaloo backed off much to Rumble's confusion as Scootaloo rounded back towards Applejack. Rumble rounded further to the left en route to sack Applejack. Before he could get close, Apple Bloom checked him from the side, sending him to the same fate as his younger brother. Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo both closed in to Applejack. Upon seemingly running into each other, Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo turned around and darted back in opposite directions, running around their lines. Spike had already gotten a head start with the two girls following close behind. Spike was fast, yet he whistled as Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash darted after him, each hunched over with their arms looking like they held the ball.

Thunderlane pushed himself to his feet while Rumble attempted to. Apple Bloom still covered the younger brother while Thunderlane chased after Rainbow Dash. The boy had kicked off just as Rainbow zipped by and he was making time on her, the girl not running her full speed. Another girl with walled eyes chased after Scootaloo. Spike was passed by, obviously not carrying the ball. As Derpy zipped by the slower boy, Spike attempted to wrap his arms around her only to fail. He continued pacing herself as Derpy caught up with Scootaloo. Spike grinned; he knew they weren't running their full speed. Yet his grin vanished when the two Ponies' players tackled the two speedsters.

Applejack winced slightly as she saw Rainbow go down somewhat roughly, the wall-eyed girl taking it easy on Scootaloo. The Ponies and Manticores linemen lightened up as it looked like the play ended. The referee almost blew his whistle before he noticed something; Applejack stepped back, her arm cocked back and a familiar pigskin sitting wrapped firmly by her fingers.

"Sorry," Derpy spoke sadly, giggling as she hugged Scootaloo on the ground.

"Uh, it's okay?" Scootaloo asked, her arms wrapped around Derpy.

The Manticore girl squirmed uncomfortably, the two girls' well-endowed breasts rubbing up against each other. Scootaloo still had her arms wrapped around Derpy, much to her confusion. Rainbow had her arms wrapped around Thunderlane.

"Wait, where's the ball?" Derpy and Thunderlane asked in unison.

Spike trucked by, putting Rainbow and Scootaloo with their fellow trapped Ponies far behind him. Rarity, Twilight along with both cheer squads watched with anticipation as Applejack stepped forward, twisting her body as she thrust a hand forward, grunting as she launched the ball into the sky. The football spiralled, cutting through the windless skies in a high, long arc down the field. It was Applejack's best throw and Spike continued running, his back to the incoming football. Thunderlane and Derpy's eyes widened as they spotted Spike up ahead and a ball incoming. Attempting to push themselves up, they found themselves pinned down as the girls below them held them in their place. The rest of the Manticores team as well as the Ponies simply stopped fighting and watched the ball soar.

Passing a line, Spike's arms shot out in front of him and he felt his fingers twitch briefly. The end zone was merely ten meters ahead and Spike grinned as he felt the football land directly in his hands. He clenched his arms to his chest and sped past the end zone, a horn blaring as the crowd went wild. Spike thought it to be a high school movie cliche, yet a certain warmth entered his body as he slowed down, spiking the football as he did. Turning around, he saw the scoreboard change to 26-6 and he never felt more proud in his high school years before. He strolled back down the field, Rainbow shoving Thunderlane off her without warning while Derpy merely began glomping Scootaloo, the two rolling around on the ground. After a few seconds, Scootaloo merely sighed and returned the massive hug, ignoring the tingly feeling she got after their breasts rubbed together.

"Congrats, you fuckin' pipsqueak. You got our first point!" Rainbow shouted, jogging over towards Spike.

Rainbow punched Spike on the shoulder, the boy sheepishly grinning as he felt a sense of accomplishment. The duo walked back towards the Manticores, the Ponies returning to their endzone, stepping over Derpy and Scootaloo who still continued rolling on the ground, even as Scootaloo began to panic. Eventually, Derpy released her bearhug from Scootaloo and the smaller girl somehow felt a sense of giddiness from the interaction. Derpy's excitement seemed contagious, apparently.

Once the Manticores regrouped at their endzone, Spike glanced towards Rarity as she sat on the bleachers, waving at him. Leaning forward, he let out a deep breath as he prepared for the next kickoff. Rainbow and Applejack exchanged grins, the former making a motion reminiscent of fellation. Applejack rolled her eyes, facing forward as a giant smile appeared on her face. Rainbow faced forward as well, her confidence stronger than before.

"Applejack, tonight, I am gonna tongue that pussy until you can't walk. How's that for motivation?" Rainbow grinned.

"Mmm, jus' dandy, an' somethin' bes' left for private conversation," Applejack said with a shaky voice.

"As for the rest of you, I'll beat the shit out of you any day of the week. So, with that motivation in mind, let's win this thing!"


The game ended 47-46. The Ponies had won. The Manticores had lost. And Spike didn't care. He saw the scoreboard, the cheering of the Ponies screaming as they threw one member in the air; their quarterback, Derpy. Spike turned to her upon spotting her being tossed above and he couldn't help but smile. He saw Derpy's reaction to her first touchdown from earlier. Spike couldn't help but find it cute. Sighing, he removed his helmet and glanced skyward. A massive grin appeared on his face as he spotted one star in the sky, regardless of the light pollution. Closing his eyes, a breeze blew by his face, a crisp scent to it.

Turning his head, Spike walked away, sighing in contentment as he opened his eyes, spotting the line ahead of him, the bench just a little further. The cheer squad seemed happy and sad at the same time; they totally kicked ass with their half time show yet their team lost in the end. Spike felt sympathy for them as well as his own team, yet he felt fulfilled. Stepping off the field, he set his helmet on the bench and glanced up to the bleachers. Rarity was staring at him as she descended, Twilight following along with his parents. Shining Armour walked from the side while Big Mac pinched the bridge of his nose, watching Rainbow Dash.

"FUCK! Shit, goddamn, motherfucking titty cuntslut!" Rainbow shouted, punctuating each word with a stomp of her foot.

Applejack stood by her, constantly rubbing Rainbow's shoulders as the team captain did her best to prevent tears from staining her face. Rainbow removed her helmet and drop kicked it across the field, not caring that it almost hit someone from the other team. Applejack groaned, grabbing the shoulders of her lover and yanking her into a hug.

"Y'know, yer so darn cute when you're mad," Applejack whispered into Rainbow's ear with a chuckle.

"Fuck you," Rainbow whined into Applejack's shoulder.

"Ya can do all that an' more t'night, babe. Ah'll even let ya use your toy on me, and Ah'll do that tongue thing ya like s' much," Applejack whispered into Rainbow's ear.

"Mmmph," Rainbow muttered into Applejack's shoulder.

"What was that, sugarcube?" Applejack asked, chuckling as she rubbed Rainbow's shoulder.

"I… love you, you slut," Rainbow responded with a light giggle.

Spike's eyes averted from the scene, a smile on his face. Shifting his gaze, he spotted another scene that brought a smile to his face. Scootaloo and Rumble had slowly approached one another by the edge of the bleachers shortly after the celebrations had ceased for the Ponies. Eyes turning elsewhere, he spotted Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon catching up as well; Spike knew them to be bullies from the CMC's childhoods, yet he knew Diamond Tiara wasn't an awful person. Twist, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom had run into each other and were conversing; Spike knew Apple Bloom as Twist's friend before they met Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. All around, his teammates had met each other and members from the other team and family to converse. The Manticores had attempted to cope with their season being over. Even the Dumbbells had spoken with Pipsqueak, Snips and Snails. Everybody had found something and for a brief moment, Spike felt alone. He was glad that he was incorrect as several voices snapped him out of it.

"Oh, Spike, are you alright?" Rarity's voice asked, running up and hugging him from behind.

Spike turned his head, Rarity's chin rested atop his left shoulder. He smiled and turned around, setting his hands on Rarity's hips.

"You had a damn good run, son," Night Light said, his hand around his wife's hip.

"All without 'shooting up'?" Twilight Velvet said, lightly elbowing her husband.

"I don't even care anymore," Twilight muttered, shrugging her shoulders and rolling her eyes.

"And that was an impressive Hail Mary. I thought Dash was gonna catch it," Shining Armour said.

"That'd be too easy," Spike muttered with a chuckle. Turning back to Rarity, he brushed a loose hair out of her face. "I'm fine. Better than ever. We lost, and that's fine. I had fun getting here."

As usual, Twilight didn't say a word. However, this time, she smiled and felt nothing but pride. Turning away, she walked to the bench and sat down, trusting Spike to be fine on his own. Spike noticed the subtle movement she made and smiled in response. It was the first time he ever saw it and he knew what it meant. His gaze focused on Rarity, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers, his eyes closing as he did. She was caught off guard as he leaned in quickly yet she softened against the kiss. After a second, Spike pulled back and they stared into the others' eyes.

"I have been a huge wreck these past few weeks, but that's behind me now. I had fun getting here and I connected with wonderful people." Spike caressed her cheek, a toothy grin visible on his face. "I'd say all together, this year was perfect, minus a few bumps."

As the two parted, Rarity checked her phone. Spike bid her farewell for the moment as she walked over towards the front of the school along with Twilight and the rest of his family. Spike still had to change so he stayed behind as the team cleaned up. Spike walked towards the path to head back to the change rooms yet stopped just short of leaving. The entire field has almost been vacated, save for two or three others; he wasn't sure. Turning around, he glanced over the field with every memory that occurred thanks to stepping onto the field popping up in his mind. He closed his eyes and hummed in thought, a small smile etched on his face.

Spike found himself being grabbed by the back of his jersey and yanked a few feet away from the group. He hardly had to ask to know who it was, the rough shoves and snickers gave that away.

"Let's play a little game, spiney," Rainbow's arm draped around Spike's shoulder and she squeezed roughly. He grunted as her other arm swung around and slammed a football against his chest, wiggling it until it caught his attention. "Whoever has sex in the most awesome place gets the final game's ball. Sounds fun?"

"You're not serious," Spike asked incredulously, taking the ball in his hands and making a weird face.

"Of course I am, you fuck!" Rainbow laughed loudly, coming around in front of him and slapping him on shoulder twice. "Now, let's start off slow, shall we? You can go first."

"Fine," Spike let out a slow sigh, blushing a bit to think of it. After debating whether or not to engage in the game, he spoke, "Rarity's bedroom."

"Rarity's guest bedroom," Rainbow retorted quickly, and nodded to him. "Go again."

Feeling somewhat more competitive as she egged him on, Spike continued, "The boutique change rooms, during business hours."

"Back of a pick-up truck in an alley," Rainbow hurriedly went on, dropping her voice low and winking as she added, "With ropes."

"Rarity's kitchen," Spike went on, his hands playing with the ball as he recounted. "Which Twilight walked in on."

"In broad daylight behind the bleachers," she teasingly teetered from foot to foot. "Which Big Mac walked in on."

Knowing he had nowhere better to top that with, not yet anyway, he admitted defeat, "Damn it."

"Well, thanks for playing!" Rainbow playfully mused, grabbing the ball from his hands and tossing it between her own as she did a little dance. "You ever do better, you come get this, 'kay?"

"Don't think I won't," Spike said with a casual nod, and Rainbow grinned to hear such a proclamation.

The two were interrupted abruptly.

"Gang-banged in the school library," the smaller girl grabbed the ball out of Rainbow's hands, sticking her tongue out and spinning around.

"The library? What the fuck, dude, why would you go there?" Rainbow asked with a contorted expression. "Well, other than the sex, I guess."

"Wasn't my call," Scootaloo just shrugged as she continued off, spinning the football around on her finger. Spike laughed lightly and followed after her, going to get changed.

"Little brat," Rainbow said in a laugh, shaking her head.

Another girl walked up behind Rainbow, slinging her arm easily around the athlete's waist and tugging her closer. "What was that about?"

"Oh, don't you worry about that, AJ," Rainbow told her, rolling her head to the side and letting Applejack give her a quick kiss on the jaw.

"She took th' football," Applejack noticed, tilting her head as she noticed quite what pride Scootaloo showed in carrying the ball.

"Don't worry, we're going to get it back," the athlete told her girlfriend, grinning and grabbing at her shirt before pulling her around. Speaking almost right against the farmer's lips, she demanded, "Come on babe, we have a date at... hmm, the opera?"

"Th' opera?" Applejack repeated with a frown. "That sounds a lil' bornin'."

Kissing her passionately as she dragged her back to the change-rooms, Rainbow assured her, "I'm sure we can find a way to spice it up."

"Better sweet," Spike whispered, grinning.

Applejack and Rainbow followed after Scootaloo, the younger girl skipping around happily, tossing the ball in the air. After a few more seconds, Spike continued observing the field for a few more seconds. Eventually, he shrugged and followed after the girls, holding his helmet proudly for a few moments.

"Man, what if I had joined the baseball team?" Spike mumbled, chuckling quietly.


The rest of the month passed by quickly. The Ponies and Wondercolts had clashed in the finals as predicted yet Rainbow never attended a game afterwards… at least not without prompting from Applejack's side. Spike still faced some legal issues, having to sign off some things to square complications with the police. A recount of the night, his family lawyer to assist and eventually, the night was but a smudge in his memory of the entire year.

There were ups and downs for him and the rest of the team and his new friends. He went to a party like all high school kids and to the surprise of nobody and anger of Rarity, he woke up naked on the front lawn of someone's house. His sister was not happy to hear that. Shining Armour made it a point to "accidentally knock Spike down some stairs" for the stunt. Spike blamed nobody but himself. Luckily for him, Rarity's idea of "punishment" wasn't the cold shoulder; Spike even contemplated getting into trouble again after that.

Scootaloo got the help she needed. A few trips to the school shrink revealed Scootaloo to require more professional help and as usual, Scootaloo refused to go to her sessions without Rainbow present. She even managed to have a small fling with Rumble before they called it off on account of distance. The two remained good friends, even helping Scootaloo have someone other than her therapist and Rainbow to talk to. Before long, her relationships had mended just like Spike's had and it was like nothing bad had ever happened.

The year, regardless of everything that happened, was a good one.


Despite everything, the sun still hung in the sky. The world still seemed to turn, he could tell by the nearly unnoticeable shift of the shadows over the metallic side of the dumpster, and birds still sung in the brilliant morning air. The sky was so very clear and blue as the sea, faint drifting clouds like waves crashing against the horizon. Despite all his troubles, the day went on.

Anyone would say that this was a glorious day, a wonderfully welcoming weather forecast and an abnormally abundant cheer drifting through the streets and into the swinging campus doors. A beautiful late summer day tangled in the beams of sunlight and the quickly changing hues of leaves, leaves which blew around him in his somewhat compromising position. But none of those things really mattered to him. He felt like trash, but hey, that came with the territory.

He sat up at last, wincing at the trouble his stomach muscles had lifting his weakened body to peer over the tall metal siding. He put his hands on it, and was quite sickened by the anonymous sticky substance that baked onto the bin like the leftover lining of cupcakes in those little round pans. He managed to pull himself up high enough to hoist his slim body over the tall metal obstacle, though his landing on the other side was less than graceful. Dusting the garbage and rubbish of his freshly pressed pants, he groaned audibly, glancing back at the old familiar dumpster he thought he had outgrown. Surely throwing a kid into a dumpster was an old and tired ruse, but perhaps some people just never grew up or got creative about anything.

A shadow approached in front of him and the boy glanced up, spotting a larger boy with green hair and slitted green eyes. He was smiling down at him, the boy could tell regardless of the sun silhouetting his face. The smaller, younger boy was nervous for a brief moment, having just dealt with another "smiling" face. The larger boy held his hand out and the younger boy timidly took his hand. Being hoisted to his feet, the boy brushed off his clothes, turning around to the garbage bin. He couldn't see over the bin and he sighed sadly, cursing his small stature.

"Want some help?" Spike asked, glancing over the edge of the dumpster.

"Oh… alright," the boy said slowly.

Spike stepped forward and reached over the edge of the dumpster, retrieving the bag and supplies belonging to the smaller boy. The boy held his bag open as Spike placed the materials inside of it, zipping it up.

"Thanks," the boy muttered, throwing the bag over his shoulder.

"Don't thank me, I'm just being a good guy," Spike said, turning away and walking down the path. "Just enjoy your day and know when to ask for help, y'know? Trust me on that." After a few steps, Spike stopped moving, turning around to spot the boy still standing there shocked. "Do yourself a favour; join a club or do a sport. Like, the football team. Get involved. It changed my life."

Spike didn't wait for a response before turning back and walking straight forward. His step had a gentle stride to it, the knowledge that going home was going to be decent. Maybe he'd run into Rarity later that evening, check up on her and her classes to see how her first day went. With a spring in his step and a smile on his face, Spike crossed the street as he headed towards the unfamiliar entrance to Ponyville High School, prepared for his first day as a Grade 11, and in a new city. The journey was long and tough yet the knowledge that he no longer had to dread coming to school was soothing, and who knows?

He may even make a few new friends here.