Spike scurried around the library, grabbing the piles of books Twilight had used the night before and finding their proper places on the shelves. It wasn’t hard work, but he still couldn’t believe how many books one unicorn could use in a single night.
A knock interrupted his chores and he answered the door. A white unicorn smiled at him from the other side.
“Oh, Rarity,” Spike said, slipping into a lovestruck expression as she stepped past him.
“Hello, uh... Spike. Is Twilight home?” Rarity asked.
“Nah, she’s helping AJ at Sweet Apple Acres today. Maybe I can help you?” he asked with a hopeful smile.
“Well, I suppose. Would you be a dear and fetch me any books you have on Medieval Equestria? I’m thinking about a new fashion line inspired by the period.” Rarity turned away without waiting for an answer and dropped into one of Twilight’s chairs.
“Sure thing Rarity. That sounds like an amazing idea. I’m sure everypony will—”
“Yeah, yes,” she said with a dismissive wave. “The books?”
“Uh, right. Just a second,” Spike said, frowning slightly.
He scanned the bookcases for a few minutes, picking two particularly thick, dusty tomes from the top shelves. As he reached for a third, Rarity said something unintelligible. He turned around. “Sorry, what was that?”
“I didn’t say anything,” she replied, idly tracing the arm of the chair with a hoof. “Are you done yet?”
“Almost,” Spike said, grabbing the last book from the shelf. He turned back to see Rarity glaring into an empty corner.
“Uh, is everything ok?” he asked.
“Of course, Spike.” Rarity gritted her teeth for a moment before turning to smile at him. “Spikey Wikey.”
“Um, okay. Well, here you are. I hope they’ll do,” he said, offering her the books. She took them and tucked them away in her saddlebags.
“Thank you, Spike. Hopefully these will give me some new ideas. I’ve been looking to make a new necklace or two.”
“Oh? What about the fire ruby necklace you made?”
“That old thing? I made it weeks ago. I wouldn’t be caught dead in something so outdated.”
“Oh,” Spike said, spines visibly sagging. “Right. So what did you do with it?”
“I tossed it in the garbage last week. Thanks for the help, Spike.” Rarity gave him a quick nod before leaving.
“Yeah... no problem...” Spike blinked several times quickly and turned away, pretending to straighten a pile of books until he heard the door close behind her. The book he was holding fell from his claws to the floor with a loud thump. After a few steadying breaths, he gave up and shuffled upstairs, leaving his work half done.
Rarity dropped the books in a messy pile just inside the door to Carousel Boutique before trotting into the kitchen. She searched through the fridge and selected a couple of daisy sandwiches and a bottle of water. Levitating them and a bottle of water with her horn, she went back out into her work room and down the stairs toward the basement.
With a quick spark of magic, she unlocked the door and eased it open. “Dinner time.”
No answer came from the dark room. She nudged the door wider and stepped in. “I said dinner time. If you don’t answer you’ll just have to starve.”
Something shifted at the top of a shelf to her left and a shadowy figure dropped toward her with a cry, “HAAA!”
Rarity’s horn flared up with green light and the shadowy figure was flung into the far wall, giving a quick scream before crashing into another shelf. Another flash of green flicked the lights on and she smiled at her assailant, another white unicorn with a purple mane. “How rude of you, miss Rarity.”
The white unicorn fought to untangle herself from rolls of fabric and ribbon. She finally got to her hooves and glared at her double, head tilted forward as though she wanted to charge. “Get out of my house, you imposter!”
The fake Rarity laughed and held a pristine white hoof up. “Oh, since you asked so nicely, I suppose I don’t have a choice.”
“It’s only a matter of time before my friends realize what’s going on. They would never fall for your tricks. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll run now.”
The fake Rarity pushed her lips out in an exaggerated pout. “But I’ve been working so hard on my acting. Watch!” She threw a hoof up to her forehead, bending back and crying, “Oh in the name of fabulousity, this is so unfabulous!”
“How dare you! I sound nothing like that!”
She shrugged and bent her head. Rarity fell back as the changeling was engulfed in green light. When it faded, Crystal Ball stood in her place. “It’s been a pleasure chatting, but I have work to do.” With a twitch or her head, the food dropped to the floor. “We’re going crusading today. Then I have to get ready for your birthday party. I wonder if your dragon friend will be there.” Another twitch and the door closed and locked behind her.
A heavy thud hit the door a moment later and Rarity screamed from the other side. “If you go near Sweetie Belle, if you talk to Spike, if you lay one hoof on anypony, I swear I’ll destroy you!”
Crystal Ball just giggled. “I’m sure you will.”
Rarity laughed in surprise as the light flicked on and everypony jumped out. Sugarcube corner had been decorated with white and purple streamers taped to every inch of wall. Balloons floated freely on the ceiling and streamers clung to chairs and counters.
“Oh thank you eveypony. This is just so fabulous!” Rarity stepped further into the room, nodding at everypony she passed.
“Were you surprised?” She turned to see a pink pony literally bouncing through the crowd. “Were you? I thought it was surprising. Did you think it was surprising?”
“Yes, Pinkie. It was very surprising. And these decorations are completely fabulous.” Rarity cringed away as the pink pony leaned uncomfortably close. “So, uh, yes.”
“Okie dokie lokie! Come on all of your friends want to give you presents! And then we can eat cake and play pin the tail on the pony!” Without waiting for an answer the pink pony grabbed her and practically threw her to the center of the party.
“Happy Birthday!” A hoof wrapped around her and pulled her over to a small group of her friends.
“Oh, thank you, uh, Rainbow Dash.” She said, trying to open some space between he and the blue pegasus. Her other friends stepped up to her other side, closing her in.
“I’m surprised you aren’t wearing one of your dresses,” Twilight said.
“Dress? Oh, well, I didn’t have any that were, uh, fabulous enough for such a fabulous occasion.”
Dash rolled her eyes and nudged Rarity in the side. “It’s just a little party. I’m sure you had a ton of dresses that would work.”
“Well, it’s my birthday. If I say none of my dresses are worthy, then they aren’t.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dash laughed. “Or maybe even you get tired of being all made up all the time.”
Rarity snorted in frustration and stomped away.
“Rainbow, do ya really need to be teasing her on her Birthday?” Applejack asked with a disappointed frown.
“Aww, she knows I was just kidding. Oh look, Pinkie’s starting pin the tail on the pony!”
Rarity was finally able to fight her way through the crowd of dancers and well wishers. She squeezed past one last couple and sagged against a dessert tray, sighing in relief.
“Uh, hey Rarity.” Rarity turned to see Spike standing behind her, nervously holding some flowers. “I uh, got these for you.”
“Oh, they’re lovely,” she said, reaching out to take them. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Aww, it was nothing,” Spike answered.
“No, I mean you shouldn’t have. Spike, can I talk to you privately?”
Spike nodded and she led him over to a mostly empty corner of the room.
“Is everything okay, Rarity?”
“Spike,” she said sadly, “this needs to stop.”
“This. The flowers, helping me around the shop, constantly fawning over me. It just isn’t going to work out.”
Spike scratched his head absently. “You don’t want me helping you anymore? But I thought—”
“It’s not that you help me. It’s why. I’m just not interested in you like that.”
Rarity cut him off with a raised hoof. “I’m sorry Spike. It’s just, a dragon and a pony? It would never work. It just doesn’t make sense.” She dipped her head sadly and pushed the flowers back into his claws. “I think you should go.”
“I...” his lip quivered as he ran argument after argument through his head, each lamer than the last. His face fell, eyes clouding with tears as Rarity stared at him impassively. Finally he sighed, turned away, and slowly shuffled to the door, whimpering lamentably to himself.
Wonderful performance. There is hope for you yet.
Rarity smiled. “Your turn.”
Spike dangled his legs over the shallow stream just outside Ponyville’s park, trying to enjoy the cool night air. The flowers hung limply from his claws, seeming to have wilted in the past minutes. He sighed softly. “What was I thinking? I knew I shouldn’t have gone with something as obvious as flowers.” With a grumble he tossed them off the bridge and watched them drift away.
“She’s right. It just wouldn’t make sense,” he said in a defeated whisper.
Oh, what fun is there in making sense?
Spike jumped in surprise. “Huh? Who’s there?”
Oh, nopony important. I just overheard you. You sound like you could use somepony to talk to.
“Where are you?” Spike asked, pulling himself up with the bridge’s handrail.
Spike stopped looking around. “Canterlot? Uh, what do you mean?”
Just what I said. I’m in Canterlot. But it’s so boring here, I decided to talk to you here in Ponyville.
“Who are you?” Spike asked again.
Discord. I believe you’ve heard of me?
Spike froze, looking around again. After a few seconds he took off running toward Sugarcube Corner. “Twilight! Twilight!”
Oh, calm down Spike. I just want to talk!
He was still a block away from the bakery when somepony jumped from the shadows in front of him. They collided and sprawled to the floor in a tangle of limbs and tails. He tried to get back up, but his legs were kicked out from under him and he landed on his back. The little pony jumped onto him, knocking the breath from his lungs.
She was a white unicorn filly with a blue mane. It took a moment, but he recognized her. “You’re the new crusader! Get off, we need to get out of here! It’s not safe.”
Crystal Ball rolled her eyes and put a hoof over his mouth. “Shut up and listen, okay?”
Nice catch, Discord said to both of them.
“Yeah, yeah. You almost ruined everything.”
Spike struggled to get the filly off of him, but she was heavier than she looked.
“Calm down. Spike, isn’t it? Discord isn’t a threat to anypony right now, so I’m going to move my hoof and we’re going to talk, okay?”
Spike’s eyes shifted frantically from side to side, looking for anypony to help him, but the streets was empty. Finally he nodded and she removed her hoof.
“Who are you? How do you know a jerk like Discord?” Spike demanded.
“I’m Crystal Ball. Discord came to me a few weeks ago, offering to help me with a problem. The same thing he’s doing for you now.” She kept him pinned, but leaned back to give him a bit of room.
“Well forget it. I don’t have any problems he can help with.” Spike wiggled again, but the little filly wouldn’t budge.
Oh really? Discord asked. Rarity’s voice echoed in the darkness, A dragon and a pony? It would never work. It just doesn’t make sense.
Spike turned his head, heart jumping as he thought the unicorn of his dreams had come to save him, but then he heard the words and sagged back into the dirt. “So what? She doesn’t like me, it’s not a big deal.”
Crystal ball giggled on top of him. “Yeah, I’m sure you really think that.”
Oh Spike, you’re among friends. You can tell us the truth.
“Friends?” Spike asked. “Yeah, right.”
Admit it Spike, it burns you up inside. After everything you’ve done for her, after all the help and attention you’ve given her, and she just tosses you aside. It isn’t fair.
Spike tried to shrug, but couldn’t move his shoulders enough. “Rarity’s such a kind and generous pony, I’d help her out no matter how I felt about her.”
Crystal Ball rolled her eyes. “What kind of dragon are you? You shouldn’t let her walk all over you like that. You aren’t a dragon, you’re a doormat. Who knew growing up with ponies would make you so pathetic?”
Spike just glared at her in response.
She’s right, isn’t she? You know deep down that you shouldn’t have to take this. You should just take what you want. It’s in your nature, after all.
Spike shook his head. “I’m not like that. I’m not like other dragons.”
Oh Spike, there’s no need to be ashamed. Your friends don’t understand. Twilight and Celestia don’t, but I do. I understand because I’m the same. We’re both creatures so very different from ponies. If we want to live with the rest of pony society, we have to suppress who we are at our very core, and it just isn’t fair.
You can’t be with Rarity because you’re a dragon. You can’t do anything to win her over, because giving in to your greed and pursuing her would just make you more of a dragon. But you can never be a pony. You can’t ever be one of them.
Spike closed his eyes, trying to block out Discord’s voice. He breathed deeply, refusing to cry in front of them.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Spike opened his eyes and his breathing hitched. “What do you mean?”
Rarity can’t be with you because it doesn’t make sense, right? Well, why does anything have to make sense? Join us. Help me get free, and in the world I create, anything is possible. You could keep your friends without having to lose yourself.
Spike’s breathing relaxed as he closed his eyes again. Crystal Ball smiled triumphantly.
“No. Twilight told me all about how you twisted all our friends up! I’m going to send a letter to Celestia and get you locked up even tighter so you can’t hurt anypony!”
The smile fell off Crystal’s face.
“And you’re going to be locked up forever for helping him,” Spike said, looking her in the eyes. “They might even send you to Tartarus for this.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t actually do that, would you Spike?” Crystal Ball asked with a smirk. “Could you really bring yourself to get one of the crusaders sent to Tartarus? One of your friends, even?”
“You aren’t my friend!”
Crystal giggled again and got off his chest. She took a few steps back and pointed down the road. “I don’t mean me.”
Spike turned to see Scootaloo trotting toward them. She met his eyes and slowed to a stop several yards away. “Uh, hey Spike. Crystal. What’s up?” She gave him a forced smile.
“Go ahead and tell the princess about us. She’ll send your friend to the dungeons faster than you can say Equestria.”
“Wait,” Spike said, taking a step back from her. “You want me to think Scootaloo is helping Discord? That’s crazy. She’d never do something like that. Tell them.” He looked at Scootaloo again and froze. She was staring at them with large frightened eyes.
Everyone stood frozen for a moment before Spike turned tail and stumbled blindly down the street.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Scootaloo shouted, stomping up to Crystal Ball and getting in her face. “Why would you tell him that? Are you trying to get me locked up or banished? What if I get sent to the moon? I’m going to have to run away from Ponyville now!”
Crystal Ball raised a hoof and shoved Scootaloo backwards. She tripped over her own tail and fell. Crystal stepped forward to look down on her. “Just because I am in this form does not mean you should forget who you’re talking to.”
That’s enough, both of you. Chrysalis, that was a stupid move. If Spike tells anyone, we’re all in trouble. Scootaloo, rather than shouting and stomping around, you need to go find Spike.
“But what can I tell him to stop him?”
I don’t know. You know him better than I do.
Scootaloo hesitated a moment before turning and galloping after Spike.
Spike ignored the call and sped up. He was almost to the library. It would only take a minute or two to write a letter for the princess, and then he could forget about the entire thing.
Scootaloo caught up to him and slowed to a walk. She took a moment to catch her breath before saying, “Spike, please, wait.”
He couldn’t think of anything to say, so he just walked faster.
“Please, just listen to me!”
Spike hesitated. Was... was she crying? But Scootaloo never cried. He slowly turned toward her.
Scootaloo stopped a few feet behind him. Her eyes glistened with tears in the moonlight. She tried to wipe them away, but they were flowing freely, slipping silently down her cheeks.
He gave a frustrated sigh and went to sit at the side of the road. She followed, and after stumbling over the first few words, she began talking.
“Do you think it will work?” Chrystal Ball asked.
Not right away. Spike won’t tell anypony after hearing Scootaloo’s oh-so tragic tale. He’ll try to keep her away from us, but he won’t risk getting Scootaloo into more trouble.
“It seems like an overly generous act for our element of greed.”
Discord chuckled. Give him time. He’s heard our offer. He’ll start to wonder if we’re right. With Rarity acting so indifferent to him, he’ll wonder if he can really live a normal life.
Crystal shook her head. “You’re so full of yourself. We could have used any dragon. Why him? If he tells even one pony, it’s over.”
You’re probably right. Any dragon could wield the element of greed. It could even be possible that his experiences will make wielding the element impossible.
“Then why? You could use any dragon to beat Twilight Sparkle.”
I don’t want to see her beaten. Discord chuckled softly. I want her broken.