Note: This takes place in my Discord-as-Q series "Next of Kin to Chaos", between "Negotiating Terms" and "Hit Me". Discord's other identity is not particularly important to this story, however.
It had been a week since Discord had "reformed", although Twilight Sparkle was still mentally putting quotes around the word, and she had been watching him carefully. While Fluttershy seemed convinced that he genuinely had the best interests of ponies at heart now... and Twilight did have to admit that he did seem to truly like Fluttershy, or at least, he listened to her when he didn't listen to anyone else... Twilight was putting together a list of evidence that this was, at best, giving him an excessive benefit of the doubt.
Number one: She had tried to get him to write a Friendship Report to Celestia on the grounds that it had been such a help to her to produce such reports while she was learning what it meant to have friends. She'd thought she'd had a success after he'd actually done one and sent it. However, after the Princess got her coat back to its normal color, the lemons out of her bathtub and persuaded the foals who lived in the palace, the children of the servants and the guards, that possibly they should stop singing "The Song That Doesn't End", she informed Twilight that under no circumstances was she to attempt to pressure Discord into writing any sort of report on anything ever again. And on top of all that, he'd eaten the book on friendship she'd given him to read, and had the nerve to complain that she should have put pepper on it.
Number two: He had generated a tornado near Cloudsdale, on the grounds that pegasi in his time got training in dealing with serious weather, and Rainbow Dash had been complaining about wanting a real challenge. The weather ponies had gotten it under control and no one had gotten hurt and Rainbow Dash confessed secretly that she'd found it really exhilarating, but absolutely no one was to admit to Discord that they had gained any benefit from it in any way because no one wanted more tornados. Fluttershy had sniffled about all the animals that could have gotten hurt if the pegasi hadn't gotten it under control so quickly, and Discord had promised not to make another tornado, but... it was Discord.
Number three: He had taken the Cutie Mark Crusaders into dragon territory to go exploring. They had not come back with exploring cutie marks. He had not informed their families. Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack had been on the verge of actually fighting with Fluttershy over her vow not to use her Element against him by the time they came back chattering eagerly about what a great time they'd had exploring dragon country and meeting dragons, and then they'd actually gotten into a lengthy conversation with Spike where they'd told him everything they'd seen, so it had all in all been a benefit... except for the part where three of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony had ganged up on a fourth yelling at her because they were afraid for their little sisters (or sister figure in Rainbow and Scootaloo's case.) Twilight was not convinced this hadn't been Discord's purpose in the first place.
Number four: He'd gone to Mexicavallo and brought back a little pink earth filly with a brown mane who'd already gotten her cutie mark (hers actually was in exploring) to meet the Princesses. He'd also gifted her with boots for her pet monkey that enabled him to talk. That part was actually kind of sweet. The part that was, well, Discord was the fact that again, he hadn't asked her parents or told them where she was. Also, he'd brought with her a kleptomaniac fox from her home town who had nearly made off with Luna's crown, a large number of jewels, all the palace silverware, and several of the statues in the Canterlot garden before little Exploradora (Dora for short) had used a spell on him, chanting "Swiper, no swiping!" at him three times, which apparently forced him to give all the stuff back. Dora being an earth filly, the fact that she could use magic was certainly very interesting and some ammunition for Twilight's theory that earth ponies and pegasi could, and probably should be, trained in magic in some cases. And the filly had certainly enjoyed herself, and her klepto fox acquaintance hadn't actually managed to keep anything he stole, and the monkey seemed to really like being able to talk. All in all, if Discord had bothered to inform her parents before he'd kidnapped their daughter it might have been wholly beneficial... but Twilight couldn't consider the terror the parents had experienced before Celestia had been able to notify them of what was going on to be anything other than deliberate on Discord's part.
Number five: Under the grounds of teaching the Cutie Mark Crusaders how chaotic the Equestrian language was and helping them with their spelling, he had wandered around Ponyville with them transforming things in ways that were consistent with either adding or removing a silent "e" to their name. This had resulted in Fluttershy having to rehome a little bear cub to a new family because he had been a wooden storage cube and neither she nor the CMC had been willing to let Discord turn him back into one now that he was a living creature. Everything else had been turned back, but many ponies had been quite bothered by finding that their cans had become canes, their tubs had become tubes, and whatnot. Rarity did admit privately afterward that the jaunty little cap she'd been wearing had made a rather magnificent cape, but no one ran around wearing capes except Trixie so it was not really in fashion.
Number six: When Fluttershy asked him to help with the housecleaning, he'd started by enchanting a mop and broom to do the work on their own, then run out the door to Pinkie Pie's claiming that he forgot his hat, then invited Pinkie Pie to to go with him to Neighpon without telling her that he was supposed to be helping Fluttershy clean. Twilight Sparkle had ended up having to undo the spell after the mop and the broom had begun chasing Fluttershy's pets around trying to sweep them up or mop them. Neither Discord nor Pinkie Pie had bothered to notify anyone what they were doing, and they were gone the entire day. Pinkie, at least, was genuinely sorry for worrying her friends afterward. Discord had obviously still thought it was funny, and while he'd technically apologized to Fluttershy Twilight was fairly convinced that he either couldn't comprehend why what he'd done was wrong, or he comprehended it just fine but didn't care. She leaned toward the latter, herself.
And this was after being reformed for one week. She was only surprised she hadn't found something amazingly inappropriate he'd done on the seventh day, but maybe the reports just hadn't come in yet, since that was yesterday.
In Twilight's opinion, he wasn't reformed at all. He genuinely did seem to like Fluttershy, since he listened to her when he didn't listen to anyone else, and he'd stopped tormenting her pets or trying to annoy her deliberately (most of the time) and according to Fluttershy, she had actually gotten him to make dinner on occasion and it was both edible and not 100% tooth-rotting empty calories. And he was getting along well with Pinkie, which honestly wasn't a surprise, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders liked him now... which wasn't necessarily a good thing, to be truthful. It gave him an emotional hold on three Bearers of Harmony who didn't like him; Rarity and Applejack and Rainbow Dash would do what they had to do, but they'd be a lot less willing to turn him into stone if it would break the little fillies' hearts. He didn't have to try to win them over, just their little sisters.
Twilight was the only one he didn't have any kind of emotional hold on at all. He learned fast, Twilight thought. Maybe he did really like Fluttershy, but Twilight was convinced that he was once again trying to use the ties of friendship against the Bearers to protect himself, only he'd learned enough about friendship by now that he was going about it in the opposite direction. Now he was creating potential strife between ponies who loved each other by convincing some of them to like him, thus paralyzing the ones who didn't.
He didn't understand why ponies didn't like his chaos, or he didn't care, or both. He was restraining himself for Fluttershy's sake and because it was part of a long-range plan to incapacitate the Bearers of the Elements so they couldn't turn him back to stone, without doing anything that was obviously harmful to anypony. Twilight was almost certain of this. He kept doing things that seemed benign but had malicious strings attached, like wonderful fun trips for foals that terrified their families, or that were obviously malicious but not enough to justify moving against him, like the tornado.
But Twilight had found a new weapon.
He wasn't afraid of the Elements anymore. Fluttershy had vowed not to use hers and she'd never break a promise to a friend. Pinkie Pie hadn't made him any promises but it had been hard to get her to focus on defeating Discord the first time they'd done it because she'd actually enjoyed some of the chaos; Twilight suspected Discord would have to actually kill somepony before Pinkie would be willing to move against him again. There was now nothing anypony could hold over his head to make him behave himself except his supposed friendship with Fluttershy, and he was Discord. He was conflict and disharmony incarnate. How long could friendship possibly bind him from doing what was in his nature to do, when friendship itself was antithetical to what he was?
No, she'd needed another stick to hold over his rump, and she'd found it. One of the books in Princess Celestia's library of magic had a reforming spell in it that he'd missed eating. And Twilight had memorized it. So short of killing her or erasing her memory – either of which were actions that would lead even Fluttershy to break her promise – Discord had no way to prevent her from using it, except to behave himself, by her standards of behaving himself and not Fluttershy's overly lenient ones.
So she was very, very cheerful in a grimly determined way as she waited for her friends, and Discord, to arrive at the library, so she could inform Discord in front of the others that his days of abusing his privileges were over.
Rarity was the first to arrive. "Oh, Twilight, I must look a perfect fright," she said. "I came here as quickly as I could, since you said you would need support dealing with Discord, and I'm sure it's ruined my mane. Am I in time? He isn't here yet, is he?"
"No, I had Owlowscious carry the message over to Fluttershy's; he'll go slower than the magic I used to send messages to Applejack and Rainbow DO NOT FLY THROUGH MY—" The multicolored streak of pegasus skidded across the library floor, having sailed in through the open window, stopping just short of crashing into a precariously balanced book cart.
"I brought my Element," Rainbow Dash said. "Is this a fight? Are we setting up an ambush? I came as fast as I could!" She appeared to notice Rarity for the first time. "Oh, hi, Rarity, were you here already?"
"No, I'd just arrived."
"Huh." Rainbow shrugged. "Thought I'd be first. Oh well, I was coming all the way from Cloudsdale."
That was... absurdly fast. It was not normally a ten minute flight from Cloudsdale to Ponyville. Either Rainbow Dash had been closer by than she was implying when she got the message, or she was breaking the laws of physics almost as flagrantly as Pinkie Pie usually did. "Did you have to fly in the window?" Twilight demanded, aggravated. "You could have hit the books!"
"But I didn't. Because I am just that awesome."
Spike arrived with Pinkie Pie. He was out of breath; Pinkie was not. "Hi, everypony! Are we getting together for a party or something?"
"I explained to her about Discord," Spike panted. "Oh, hi, Rarity! Hey, can I get you a cup of tea or something?"
"Spike, you're just arriving yourself," Rarity said, "after running about delivering Twilight's message to myself and Pinkie. I do think you should take time to relax and compose yourself before waiting on any of us. Though some tea will be lovely once you've had a chance to rest."
"This isn't a party, Pinkie," Twilight said. "Did you remember to bring your Element?"
"I did, but we're not going to need it. Discord's our friend now, remember? If he goes back to being a bad guy again I will totally never make him another cupcake in his life, and boy, he's not gonna want that!"
"I'm really not so sure he is our friend," Twilight said. "Pinkie, I know he's been hanging out with you lately—"
"He's actually really fun once you get to know him! And also once he stops being all psycho maniacal laughter and mutating animals into weird creatures and making everypony's houses float in the air."
"He attacked Cloudsdale with a tornado," Rainbow Dash growled. "Does anyone else buy that BS about he was trying to help us practice handling tornados?"
"Well, you did say you found the challenge exhilarating, darling."
"Yeah, but I'm not gonna tell him that! What if we hadn't been able to get it under control?"
"He has been lovely with the girls lately. At least since we put our hooves down about informing us of their location and getting permission."
"It's only been a week," Twilight said.
Applejack arrived. "Looks like the gang's almost all here," she said. "What's the plan, Twilight? Ah'm guessin' that since Fluttershy and Discord ain't here yet, you arranged stuff for us to be able to make a plan before they show up?"
"Kind of. Look, we all know – well, except maybe for Pinkie – that regardless of what Fluttershy thinks, and regardless of what he told Princess Celestia, we probably cannot trust Discord. We also know that we're not going to be able to use the Elements on him as long as Fluttershy keeps her promise—"
"I didn't make any promises, but I wouldn't wanna turn him into stone unless I knew he was really hurting somepony," Pinkie said. "I know he can be a big jerk, but I actually think Fluttershy's right and he's trying to learn how to be a decent pony! Dragon goat lion eagle thingy."
"Pinkie, what we call that varmint is a lyin' liar what lies," Applejack said. "Just 'cause he's actin' all nice to you now—"
"Yeah, Pinkie, have you forgotten what he did to us?" Rainbow demanded. "He made you hate laughter!"
"He said he was sorry," Pinkie said.
"No, he didn't," Twilight said, puzzled. "He's never apologized for a single thing."
"Just to me! The other day. He said he was sorry he did that because I was the only one who appreciated his work even one tiny little bit and he didn't like having to mess with me but he didn't want to get turned into stone! Which I can understand because I have known a lot of rocks, and you wanna talk about boring, there is nothing more boring than being a rock. I tried to throw some rocks a party to cheer them up one time and I think it worked a tiny little bit but who knows with rocks!"
"Well, he's never apologized to me," Rarity said.
"And speaking of rocks..." Rainbow Dash deadpanned.
Rarity glared at her. "Are you speaking of the thing we all agreed we would never speak of again?"
"Ain't never apologized to me neither, and he made me a liar. Pinkie, anypony who likes to laugh could have a day where they ain't feelin' like laughin' or bein' cheerful, but when it's part of your personal honor to be honest, you lie one time and it's like it ruins you forever. Sometimes Ah just don't even get why you fillies all forgave me for that."
"'Cause we were all big mean jerks because of Discord, that's why," Pinkie said. "You weren't really a liar."
"But ah was. Ain't like with Fluttershy, he just up and straight messed with her mind. But the rest of us, he opened a door and we walked through it, and we gotta live with that. Ah ain't sure why you can forgive that so easy, Pinkie."
"That's easy! I was just thinking that maybe he went a little bit crazy because he's actually a disembodied energy being from another dimension and he had all his feelings about Equestria locked up in his stone statue body and then he got sucked back into it and all those feelings hit him like a sucker punch and that made him really really mad at Princess Celestia so he decided to plunge Equestria into chaos because he was really upset about being a statue!"
Everypony looked at Pinkie Pie. "Just a feeling I get," she said.
"Ah ain't sure that would justify it anyway," Applejack said.
"The point is," Twilight said, "it's obvious that Discord may have toned down the chaos, but he hasn't stopped by any means. And as long as he doesn't do anything that upsets Fluttershy enough to break her promise to him, why would he have to? He has almost free reign; Fluttershy takes her promises almost as seriously as Pinkie does, and if she's decided to trust him and give him the benefit of the doubt... we all know how far she'll give anypony the benefit of the doubt. And she's just not going to want to believe she's misjudged him."
"So what's your plan, Twi?" Rainbow Dash asked. "We can't use the Elements against him to keep him in line if Fluttershy won't cooperate, and you're right, Fluttershy's basically gonna be useless unless he starts making it rain anvils or something. Have you got something else?"
Twilight grinned. "I do, actually. And it's a doozy."
At this point Discord and Fluttershy teleported in, in a flash of light. Discord's forelimbs were flung wide, and there was a small explosion of confetti as they appeared. "Buongiornio, mes amis!" Discord shouted, mixing languages with little regard to accuracy. "We have arrived!"
"Uh... hi," Fluttershy murmured.
"I'm glad you're here," Twilight said. She smiled. It was not a nice smile. "Discord, I've been reviewing the reports of the things you've been up to since you supposedly 'reformed'."
"Supposedly?" Discord sighed heavily. "This again?" He turned to the little yellow pegasus next to him. "Fluttershy, they're being so mean to me."
"I, um, I did say it would be better if you told the parents of all those little fillies?"
"Haven't you ever heard 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission?'"
"I ain't got a lot of forgiveness in mah heart for you right now, Discord," Applejack said. She glanced over at Rarity. "The only reason Ah haven't told Apple Bloom to stay well the hay away from you is that Sweetie Belle and Scoots would hafta do it too, and the girls had a point that makin' friends with you was supposed to be what reformin' you was about. But you took 'em to dragon country for a whole day—"
"A whole schoolday, I might add," Rarity said. "I was a perfect wreck when Miss Cheerilee asked me if Sweetie was ill! I'm sure you cannot imagine how stressful it is when you don't know where your loved ones are, or if they're possibly hurt or worse."
"Yeah, we turned this whole town upside down looking for those kids!" Rainbow Dash said. "And it turned out they were with you the whole time, and you didn't bother to tell anypony. Not even Fluttershy."
Discord smirked. "So? Have you called me here to use your Elements on me, then? For shame, Twilight, not offering the condemned prisoner a last meal." In a flash he was dressed in the black and white striped uniform of a convicted criminal that used to be common before the zebras had pointed out that it was incredibly racist. He had a cigar in one paw, and a plate of chocolate-colored spaghetti in his other. "Let me just finish my dinner, and then you can lead me out to the courtyard and do what you must. Oh, but wait!" The uniform, cigar and plate of spaghetti all vanished. "I almost forgot." He scooped up Fluttershy and held her out the way he once had Twilight when he was gloating about turning Ponyville into the Chaos Capital of Equestria. "My dear, dear friend here isn't going to use hers! You're down an Element! Whatever shall you do?"
"Discord, can you put me down please?"
"Oh, of course, Fluttershy." He set her down gently in front of him. "Forgive me, I got a trifle carried away."
"It – it's all right but I really don't like being, you know, where everypony's looking at me..."
"No one would turn you into a statue for being inconsiderate about the way you entertain foals," Twilight said. "Although you've done it twice now, even though you were warned the first time."
"Oh, come on, Dora's parents let her run all over the jungles of Mexicavallo by herself! She has a map for a cutie mark!"
"That's not your call to make, Discord. You're not one of her parents, you're not even a friend of the family, and I can't even imagine why a little filly would have trusted you enough to go with you to Canterlot, but I wouldn't be shocked if she was just a little grey when she got there."
"Well, actually no," Rarity said. "I was actually in Canterlot browsing the shops that day, so I had the opportunity to meet the adorable little adventurer, and her colors were quite vivid."
Discord sniffed. "Just because all the ponies in Ponyville are racist toward draconequui doesn't mean everypony is. Exploradora Rosada has friends of all different types of species. I should bring Fluttershy to meet her, she has an aunt and uncle who run a wild animal rescue."
"I, um, actually that does sort of sound like something I might like? If they're nice ponies who really like taking care of animals?"
"I hardly think you have any call to talk of racism when you just wore that horrible zebra-mocking costume minutes ago," Rarity said sternly.
Discord blinked at her. "Zebra mocking? I was mocking ponies' traditional costume for felons. If I'd been mocking zebras... well, if zebras I'd been mocking, in rhymes I would be talking. What, are there racial tensions with zebras now?" He manufactured a handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes, as if he were beginning to tear up, which he wasn't. "Oh, dear me, I've missed so much, being trapped in stone for a thousand years! What other astonishing new developments have there been? Next you'll be telling me that Earth ponies fly around in balloons."
"We actually do!" Pinkie Pie said. "In fact we used a balloon when we were fighting you to go get Rainbow Dash! And... you already knew that, didn't you."
Twilight cleared her throat. "As I was saying... nopony's going to turn you to stone for taking foals on excursions where they didn't get hurt, as long as you get permission in the future. But there's a pattern here. You completely disrupted Ponyville by changing things to match their spelling if you added or removed a silent 'e'—"
"That was educational."
"You threw a tornado at Cloudsdale—"
"Which they handled admirably!" He was suddenly wearing a top hat, which he took off and tipped to Rainbow Dash. "Kudos to you and your team, Rainbow Dash, you performed splendidly."
"Yeah, but what if we hadn't? Then ponies could've gotten hurt!"
"Oh, I was positive the incredibly awesome Rainbow Dash could handle the situation. Scootaloo assured me you would know how to deal with a tornado! To be honest, in fact, it was the little dear's idea."
Rainbow Dash snorted. "Yeah, right. Scootaloo probably said I was so awesome I could beat a tornado and you took that like she was telling you to attack Cloudsdale with one. I know Scootaloo isn't that irresponsible that she actually suggested that you make a tornado."
"Are you so sure? She and her little pals did let me out the first time, you know."
"It doesn't even matter if she did or not, you're supposed to be a grownup! How old are you, like twenty thousand?"
"Try five billion."
"Well, then grow the buck up! A filly who hasn't even gotten a cutie mark might say something stupid because she's not thinking things through, but you oughta know better!"
"The point is," Twilight said, noting grimly that Discord was smirking and enjoying himself as he riled the other mares up against him, "that you are deliberately misbehaving and causing disharmony, in ways that aren't catastrophic enough to justify using the Elements against you even if Fluttershy hadn't promised not to. You have your supposed benevolent excuse for everything you've done—"
"He's, um, he's been really good about making dinner!" Fluttershy interjected. "And, um, sometimes he helps with feeding the animals..."
"Just stop it, Fluttershy," Applejack said. "We all know you're gonna defend him, and we all know it's 'cause you're a kind, considerate, loving friend that he doesn't deserve. But you can't go givin' him cover for the bad he's been doin'."
"Actually," Spike said, bringing in tea, "you know what else?"
Twilight turned. "What?"
"You haven't checked the books since he got here, did you?"
"What did he do?"
"Rearranged them all. I was just shelving Maps of the Gryphon Lands while I was waiting for the water to boil, and then it disappeared, along with all the other books in the reference section, and now it's full of comics and Daring Do and adventures and stuff."
Twilight turned back and glared at Discord. "You've been in my home for less than ten minutes and you had to rearrange all my books? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO RESHELVE THEM ALL?"
"Pish posh, Twilight. I kept your categorization schema; all the books are still alphabetized, they're still with books on similar topics, I've just rearranged the shelving scheme. A fresh new look for your library, to help attract more patrons! After all, the only reason you put reference material in the center shelving was that you would find reference material enticing, but I assure you, nopony else does. By putting the sort of exciting, easy-to-read books that attract the non-intellectual sort of ponies in the center, I'm helping you inspire new readers and bringing more traffic to your library! Surely it can only be a good thing if more ponies use your facility, right?"
"You put cookbooks next to medical texts," Spike pointed out.
"What, you think doctors never get hungry?"
Twilight took a very deep breath. "This is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. You do something chaotic that's guaranteed to upset somepony, and claim you had a benevolent reason for it. Some of the time you might even have a benevolent reason for it, but that doesn't change the fact that it's something that's absolutely certain to upset somepony, whether it's frightening parents by luring their daughter off on some kind of adventure, terrifying your best friend's pets with the cleaning implements you enchanted to clean her house for her when you know how much her pets mean to her... I mean, this is Fluttershy! The only pony in the universe willing to make friends with you when you wouldn't even meet her halfway!"
"Um, Twilight, Discord and I already talked about this, so, uh, I don't really feel right, being an example here..."
"That's right, Twilight," Discord said, smirking. "Fluttershy and I would prefer to keep our personal lives personal."
Fluttershy turned bright red. "Discord! That came out all wrong sounding..."
He looked down at her. "Why, what's wrong with it?" he asked, eyes wide in a parody of innocence. "Surely you're not implying that your dear friends would read something sordid into such a simple statement. Don't you trust your friends, Fluttershy?"
"Leave her alone!" Rainbow Dash shouted. "You are the worst excuse for a friend I ever saw!"
"Leave her alone?" This time Discord's look of bewilderment almost looked sincere. "What was I doing? I was defending you ponies... giving you the benefit of the doubt. See if I do that again."
Applejack scowled at him. "Ah don't trust you," she said. "You got more twists than a carnival pretzel, and you live alone with our friend. You could do anything to her and we wouldn't know about or be able to do anything about it."
Discord smiled coldly. "Oh, but Applejack," he said. "I don't need to be living with a pony to do anything I want to her. Why, right at this very minute your sweet old grandma is in her rocker, knitting, safe and sound in her home with your brother and sister right with her. If I had truly malevolent intentions... the stove is on, she's roasting a casserole. It would be truly, truly awful if the stove suddenly developed a terrible malfunction, wouldn't it? Did you know that an improperly vented stove can fill a room with a colorless, odorless, undetectable, poisonous gas?"
Rainbow Dash launched herself at him, slamming him to the ground, where Applejack pinned his neck with a hoof. "You had better not be threatening mah family, you son of a snake, or Ah will find a way to end you!"
Discord smirked. "With what?" he asked, and suddenly Applejack had Rainbow Dash's wings, which were flapping on their own, lifting her off of him. Both she and Rainbow Dash shouted in startlement, and in Dash's case a little bit of panic.
"Discord! Stop this right now!" Fluttershy shouted.
Pinkie Pie landed her whole body straddling Discord's neck, staring down at him. "Don't make us have to fight you, Dissy," she said. "You really, really like to kick hornets' nests, but you know who doesn't like that? Hornets. And also all the ponies anyplace near the hornets. And the thing with hornets is they're super tiny but there's lots and lots of them and they can sting, and it hurts a lot! Did you ever get stung by a hornet?"
"Is this metaphorical or literal?" Discord said. "Because if you mean real hornets, like the ones in Rarity's bag, then no."
Rarity shrieked as her posh, elegant handcrafted purse opened on its own under the pressure of a horde of loudly buzzing insects. Spike charged at her, grabbed the purse, and breathed fire at it and the hornets that were starting to escape. "Rarity, are you ok?"
"Oh, I'm just fine, Spike," Rarity said weakly, breathing hard. "Thanks to your quick reflexes! But I do hope that didn't destroy my purse; it was one of my best."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't have destroyed anything of yours," Spike said, grinning broadly. "That's the messenger fire. All it did was..." he trailed off, realizing something in horror. "...sent the purse to Canterlot..."
Discord grabbed Pinkie Pie and planted a giant smooch on her cheek before setting her down and coming to his feet like he didn't have to worry about pesky things like bones. "Oh, Pinkie Pie, thank you for the inspiration! Now I must go see Celestia! This is bound to be hilarity incarnate!"
Fluttershy glared up at him. "Purse! Here. Now. With no hornets. Hornets back to their nest. And you, stop riling everyone up! And you don't get to leave to go see Princess Celestia in the middle of an argument!"
"Moooom, you never let me have any fun," Discord whined, but snapped his talon, and a hornetless purse landed on Rarity's head.
"My mane!" Rarity shrieked, as her purse crushed her elaborately styled and coiffed manedo and disarranged it completely.
Ignoring Rarity, or at least pretending to, Discord continued, "A shame, I was so looking forward to seeing how Celestia had modernized pest control since my day."
"Ah'll show you modern pest control," Applejack growled, the Element on her neck glowing. Somewhere in the fracas she had lost Rainbow Dash's wings, which were back on Dash.
"That's not modern at all," Discord scoffed. "Those things are positively ancient."
"Yeah, sometimes the old things are the best things!" Dash shouted, her own element glowing.
"Everypony please just stop..." Fluttershy murmured.
Pinkie Pie now had a party cannon pointed at Discord. "Don't make me use this, buster," she said. "You will not like it if I have to use this."
Discord's eyes widened in glee. "You're going to shoot me with a party? Glorious! Fire when ready!"
"You asked for it," Pinkie Pie said, and set off the cannon.
A moment later Pinkie Pie was standing where Discord had been a second ago, Discord was behind the cannon, and Pinkie was covered from head to toe with spinach. "Oh, my nemesis!" Discord said, parodying a look of terror. "Second only to the Elements of Harmony as a weapon against me! Healthy food! "
"Yeah, I knew you wouldn't like that," Pinkie said proudly, acting for all the world as if she'd successfully hit him and not as if he'd reversed their positions so the spinach had hit her instead.
"Everypony... please..." Fluttershy whimpered.
Twilight had had enough of this. "EVERYPONY STOP RIGHT NOW!"
Every pony, plus the dragon and the draconequus, stopped what they were doing.
"You think this is all hilarious, Discord, don't you?" Twilight said softly into the resulting quiet. "You can play pranks, you can make threats, and it's all fun and games to you. You don't think anything here can hurt you, because you don't think Fluttershy will use her Element, and that's the only weapon we have against you."
Discord had begun to nod along with her. "Hmm. Yup. I'd say that just about sums it up!"
"I found a reforming spell and memorized it," Twilight said, letting the spell light up her horn.
The last time she'd seen the draconequus' expression change that radically, it was when he'd just realized he was turning to stone again. Discord actually took a step backward. "Now, Twilight, let's not be hasty about anything here..."
Twilight smiled fiercely. The look of fear in Discord's eyes filled her with savage joy. "Looks like I found another weapon, doesn't it?"
She wasn't planning on actually using it – yet. She just wanted him terrified. So she let magic build up in her horn, knowing Discord would be able to see the spell sitting there. The rest of her friends had formed into a rough circle around Discord, except for Fluttershy, who was next to him, looking up at him with a look of shock on her face.
"You don't know what you're dealing with," Discord said, breathing hard, eyes riveted to her horn. "Where did you even get such a spell? I thought I got them all!"
"You missed the protected books in Princess Celestia's private library," Twilight smirked. "It took some doing, but I found one in there. And I memorized it. So it won't do you any good to eat the spell now."
Discord had actually gone visibly pale under his fur. "One of the ones from Celestia's protected library? She lets you go in there?"
"Princess Celestia trusts me," Twilight said.
"Well, then she's an idiot!" Discord said, an edge of panic in his voice. "If you think those spells are anything a little pony like you should be playing around with—"
"Discord, if you're reformed, why are you so scared of a reforming spell?" Twilight asked triumphantly. She took a step toward him, horn glowing, and he actually took another step backward. "If I cast that spell on, say, Spike, or on Fluttershy, or anypony else here, nothing bad would happen to them. There's nothing for the spell to work on, when a pony doesn't need to reform."
He shook his head wildly. "That's not how they work. How could Celestia be so irresponsible as to let you get your hooves on magic you don't even begin to comprehend?"
"That is how they work! I've been studying magic for years, I know how reforming spells work! If there's nothing to reform, the spell has no effect! The fact that you're afraid proves you're not really reformed!"
"Do it, Twilight!" Rainbow Dash shouted. "If he's messing with Fluttershy now, it's only a matter of time before he'll be messing with Ponyville!"
"Evil little snake threatened mah family," Applejack growled. "Ah say do it."
Fluttershy shook her head, and said something, but her voice was too tiny to hear it.
"I didn't threaten your family! I pointed out that I could threaten your family if I wanted to but I wasn't doing it! I was just making a point, Applejack, I had no intention of harming your family!" Discord sounded both indignant and more than a little panicked. "Look, I like your little sister, she's adorably chaotic, I'd never do something to harm her even if her older sister's an insufferable moron!"
"Guess what?" Twilight said, grinning. "I've adjusted the spell so that it goes off the nanosecond anything tries to tamper with my horn, and it'll follow any spell energies touching my horn back to the source. So if you try to stop me by taking my magic... you're getting a targeted reforming spell directly to the face, and even if you try teleporting, it'll follow your magic."
Rarity took a deep breath. "I must agree that the miscreant has demonstrated that, friendship with Fluttershy or no, he is still incorrigible," she said. "Why, I could have been seriously hurt by a swarm of hornets inside my purse while I was carrying it. I vote yes, Twilight. Reform him."
"I wasn't going to let the hornets hurt you! It was a joke! Pinkie Pie gave me too good of a setup to pass up!"
Pinkie, who had managed to divest herself of the spinach, glared at him. "You don't take the stuff I say and use it to hurt my friends as a joke," she said. "That is Not Funny."
"Don't, Twilight, he's scared," Fluttershy whispered, but her voice was so tiny Twilight could pretend she hadn't even spoken. If Fluttershy hadn't made that stupid promise, they wouldn't be in this position. She wasn't going to show mercy just because Fluttershy wanted her to; Fluttershy would let Discord walk all over them, and insist on giving him the benefit of the doubt, up to the moment that a pony ended up hurt or dead.
"What do you say, Pinkie?" Twilight said, knowing that Pinkie was the most likely after Fluttershy to try to give Discord the benefit of the doubt.
Pinkie shook her head, her mane drooping. "Twilight, I... I can't be the deciding vote on something like this... I don't think so, okay? I think maybe things got a little out of hand. I mean, he did get rid of the hornets the moment Fluttershy told him to, and he hasn't actually hurt anypony yet..."
"Yet," Rainbow Dash said. "He took my wings and put them on Applejack!"
"I gave them back to you!"
"You never should've taken'em in the first place!"
"Answer me, Discord," Twilight said. "If you're reformed, why are you scared of a reforming spell? It's like me being upset about a spell that turns somepony's coat purple."
"Well, actually, dear, that's not the best analogy," Rarity said. "There are different shades of the color purple, and you would look so unfortunate in a bluer shade. And what if having a spell for purple on top of purple increased the purple saturation so it approached black?"
"You're not helping, Rarity."
"I'm just pointing out that the analogy isn't entirely sound."
"No, it's actually perfect," Discord said, a bitter tone in his voice. "What makes you think that a reforming spell produces effects even vaguely approaching what reforming by free will would?"
"What makes you think any of us but Fluttershy and maybe Pinkie think you've reformed by free will?" Twilight shot back.
"Because if I hadn't reformed, why haven't I unleashed total chaos all over Equestria?"
"Not wanting to make your only friend so mad at you she breaks her promise not to attack you isn't the same thing as reforming! You don't care if ponies are miserable as long as the only pony you care about isn't too mad at you! And she lets you get away with everything!"
"Please don't," Fluttershy whispered.
Discord looked down at Fluttershy, with an expression that on anypony else Twilight would have described as anguished, but there was no way Discord actually had that kind of depth of emotion so it was obviously a put-on so they'd feel sympathy for him. "Fluttershy, I don't want to do this..."
That sounded like a threat. Twilight threw a teleport shield up around the room. Discord's head whipped around to look at her, a stricken expression on his face. "You don't know what you're doing, Twilight, don't do this," he warned, but if he'd intended it to be menacing the panic in his voice ruined it.
"There's one more vote," Twilight said. "Spike? What do you think?"
Spike looked hard at Discord, then sighed. "He could have really hurt Rarity, and it was just for a stupid joke. I don't... I wouldn't wanna put him in stone at this point, I don't think what he's done is that bad... but it's only a matter of time before he does something worse, and a reforming spell isn't a punishment, it'll just make him behave. So... yeah. I say do it."
"Wait! Twilight, you don't know about the side effects of that thing! You know nothing about that spell!"
"And let me guess, you're going to tell me. Because you have no reason to lie and make it sound worse than it is."
"I'll get you a book. There's a book that has the side effects. Please, Twilight, you can't just go using a spell you don't understand anything about without even doing the research to understand how it works!" Before she could say anything, he reached a paw out to where her books on knitting ought to be, and a tome of magic spells flew into his hand.
"Discord, I've read that one cover to cover. It's a manual of friendship spells. It says absolutely nothing about reforming spells or their side effects!"
He was thumbing through the book rapidly, flipping pages like a dealer shuffling cards. "I know that," he said. "But it'll tell me how to find the other book."
"How?" Twilight demanded.
"And if you know where this other book is, how come you need to look up where it is?" Rainbow Dash asked triumphantly, as if she'd caught Discord lying.
"Do I look like the sort of guy who remembers where he put the stuff he left lying around?" Discord asked irritably. "Besides, a thousand years in stone, remember? Okay, there we go." He tossed the friendship spell book at Twilight, who instinctively redirected her magic to catch it. "I'll go get you that book and be right back, Sparky. Ta!"
And then Twilight's teleportation shield shattered, driving her to her knees with a sudden agonizing pain in her horn, and Discord vanished.
This story is part of my series "Next of Kin to Chaos." Because fanfiction dot net has no way of marking stories as part of a series sequence I am including the correct sequence at the bottom of the fics:
I Could Be Again: Q's days of making overconfident, stupid mistakes come to a middle. Pre-"Return of Harmony" in MLP sequence; post "Q Who" in TNG sequence.
The Princess and the Dragon: A dragon who isn't a dragon shows up in Celestia's bedroom to offer unsolicited advice about Discord. Post "Return of Harmony", pre "Keep Calm and Flutter On."
Discord's First, Last and Only Friendship Report: Somepony thought it would be a good idea for Discord to write a friendship report. Somepony was plainly out of their mind. Post "Keep Calm and Flutter On."
Negotiating Terms: Direct sequel to "Friendship Report". Discord wants to know why Celestia thought it was a good idea to reform him. Celestia wants to know why it worked.
The Tale of the Terrible Doctor Twilight: Twilight Sparkle has found a new weapon to hold Discord accountable with, a reforming spell he missed eating. But a cornered draconequus is a dangerous beast...
Hit Me: Discord wants Twilight to hit him. Twilight does not respond with the expected delight.
The King Who Would Be Man: Immediately prior to, and during, TNG "Deja Q". Discord's new life with friends and frenemies in Ponyville is disrupted when he is arrested by the Q Continuum.
Note: As of "Princess Twilight Sparkle" this series is officially AU, because my backstory for the Elements does not match the one in the series and I don't want to change it for this series.