Twilight sat on the sofa in the library, doing the thing she loved most; reading. The reading glasses on her face glinted by the firelight She was reading her favorite novel for the fifteenth time and was about half-way through it. She was just getting to her favorite part when there was a soft knock on the door. She frowned in annoyance at being interrupted.
“I’m sorry, we’re closed,” she shouted to whoever was on the other side of the door.
After a few moments the knocking came again.
“Ugh,” she groaned. She got up off the sofa and walked toward the door. Enveloping it in her magic, she opened it.
“I’m sorry, but we’re closed. You’ll have to come back tomor-” She gasped when she saw who it was standing on her doorstep. “Spike?”
She almost didn’t recognize him. He stood on all fours at almost twice her height. The green scales that ran down his back were pointier and curved back, his tail and neck had gotten longer and the pointed end of the tail was more pronounced. His face was longer and his adult dragon fangs had come in. Even his eyes looked older, though they still held that boyish look she remembered.
“Spike!?” she asked again in disbelief.
“Hi, Twilight,” he replied in a deeper voice than he previously had.
“Spike!” She leapt up and hugged him. After hesitating a moment, he hugged her back, his larger arms enveloping her. Tears were streaming down her face as she held the dragon who had been like a son to her. She wanted to say something, anything but only one phrase would come to her lips; “Welcome home.”
She invited him in and started a pot of tea. Once it had boiled, she poured them each a cup and they sat down in awkward silence for a few moments.
“So…” Twilight asked. “How have you been?”
Spike sipped his tea and replied, “Good. I’ve missed everyone. What’s happened in Ponyville since I’ve been gone?”
“Well, let’s see. Big Macintosh and Fluttershy got married a few years after you left. They have two foals, a colt named Jonagold and a filly named Sweet Potato. They live at the edge of Ponyville now where Fluttershy runs a veterinary clinic.
“Rainbow Dash joined the Wonderbolts a few years ago. She’s going to be the team captain after Spitfire retires at the end of the season. Rainbow still comes by and visits every so often.
“Pinkie Pie has been dating a guy from town named Pokey Pierce. She still throws parties at the drop of a hat, but she’s not quite as wild and random anymore.
“Applejack married a retired Wonderbolt named Soarin’ and they’re doing really well at Sweet Apple Acres. They have a little colt named Blue Sky and they’re expecting another baby pretty soon. Sweet Apple Acres is doing really well. They’ve won several farming awards and made the cover of several farming magazines over the years.
“Rarity…,” Twilight paused. “A few days after you left, Rarity disappeared. She went into the Everfree forest to look for you and we never heard from her.”
Spike stared into his tea. “What about you?” he asked after a few moments of pregnant silence.
“Well,” Twilight replied, “about a year after you left I started tutoring some of the unicorn fillies and colts in magic. Eventually there was enough interest that the school board made it an official class. I teach magic at the school now on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“Good for you, Twilight. What about the Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
“The answer to that question depends on who you refer to as the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Scootaloo, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle eventually adopted more members into the club. When the three of them got their cutie marks, the other Crusaders kept it going.
“Before the Wonderbolts recruited Rainbow Dash, she gave Scootaloo flying lessons and before we knew it, Scootaloo discovered that she had a knack for speed flying. She’s working to be one of the fastest flyers in Equestria. Soarin’ coaches her now that Rainbow is so busy with the Wonderbolts.
“Apple Bloom discovered that her special talent was fixing things. She runs the Ponyville repair shop now.”
“What about Sweetie Belle?” Spike asked, his smile fading as he stared into his tea.
Twilight placed a hoof on his arm. “She’s fine. She was actually one of the first students I tutored. She eventually discovered her talent was singing. She became friends with Sapphire Shores and they toured together for a while. She came back to Ponyville three years ago and lives in the Boutique.”
A few moments of tense silence passed between the two. Finally Twilight couldn’t take it anymore. She pulled Spike into a hug and her eyes welled up with tears.
“What happened, Spike?” she asked. “You just left us. You didn’t even say goodbye. I was worried sick. I didn’t get a decent night’s sleep until you sent that letter a few months after you left. Even then the letter only said that you were okay. Where have you been the past ten years?”
Tears came to the purple dragon’s eyes. He hated himself for hurting the mare that had raised him. He hugged her back and they just sat there for a while in silence.
When they broke apart, Twilight looked at him with tears streaming down her face. He knew that she was still expecting an answer.
“I ran, Twilight,” he said. “I ran so far but never got anywhere. I ran from my dragon’s greed, but it would always find me. I couldn’t get away from it. Eventually I came across a very kind dragon named Sharpclaw. He took me in and taught me to control my greed. He taught me to use draconian magic. When he had nothing left to teach me he told me that I had to come back and I knew he was right. I had to face what I was running from.”
“Spike,” she said, trying to comfort him, “it wasn’t you fault. You didn’t…”
“Twilight, please, can we not talk about this? I promise we will, but just not now.”
“Alright, Spike. When you’re ready, I’ll be here to listen.”
A few more moments of tense silence passed before Twilight changed the subject.
“So, what kind of magic did Sharpclaw teach you?”
“Just a few spells that dragons can use. I can use my fire to burn things different ways, I can encase things in diamond with my breath, I can find gold and precious stones…,” Suddenly a smile spread across his face. “…and I can do this.”
He got up and walked to the other side of the room. He growled something in draconian and snapped his fingers. With a small flash, a roll of parchment and a quill appeared in his claws.
“Ooh, impressive,” said Twilight, who had never seen a draconian materialization spell before.
“That’s not it,” he replied. He wrote something down on the parchment and rolled it up. “I can send scrolls to anyone, now; not just the princess. It’s how you got the letter I sent you.”
In answer, he puffed a small green flame that incinerated the scroll. The ashes floated across the room and reassembled in front of Twilight. She unrolled the scroll and read it:
Pretty cool, huh? I can send anything to anyone as long as I can picture them in my head.
She put the scroll down on the sofa. “That’s wonderful, Spike.”
The two continued talking late into the night. When it was time for bed Spike curled up near the fireplace. Twilight offered him the guest room, but he explained that he had been sleeping on Sharpclaw’s cave floor for the past ten years and this was far more comfortable.
Twilight went up the stairs to her room and got into bed. After a little while she heard steps coming up the stairs. Her door opened and Spike looked in.
She sat up in the bed. “Yes, Spike?”
“Can I…do you mind if I sleep in here?”
She smiled at him. “No, I don’t mind at all.”
Spike walked through the door and over near the foot of her bed. He smiled when he noticed that she had kept his little basket lying there. He moved it to the side and lay down in its place. Twilight got out of bed and kissed his forehead.
“Goodnight, Spike,” said Twilight. “Sweet dreams.”
Spike lay awake for a while. He looked up when he heard Twilight snoring softly in her bed. He found comfort knowing she was there, safe and sound. He remembered what she said about his leaving worrying her. He remembered why he had left so suddenly.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered as his eyes began to water.
He curled up and, just like he had done every night for the past ten years, softly cried himself to sleep.
The next morning Twilight awoke to a delicious smell she hadn’t smelled in a long time, Spike’s homemade pancakes. She got out of bed, brushed her mane and went downstairs to the kitchen.
“Good morning,” said Spike as she entered.
“Good morning,” she replied.
She took a seat at the table and he placed two pancakes on her plate. She poured syrup on them and started eating.
“Oh, wow! Spike, these are amazing! I’d forgotten how good a cook you were.”
Spike gave a small bow of his head in gratitude and placed two pancakes on his own plate.
“Do you still keep that container of rocks in the cupboard?” he asked.
“Yes, I do.”
He walked over to the aforementioned cupboard and took out a large bowl with an assortment of rocks in it. Rifling through them, he pulled out a small chunk of granite. He returned the bowl to the cupboard and ground up the granite in his claws, sprinkling it on his pancakes. Twilight smiled. She had always been interested in the draconic habit of putting rocks on food to add flavor.
When they finished eating, he cleared the dishes and Twilight began heading for the door.
“Come on, Spike,” she said. “We should get going if we want to tell everypony that you’re back.”
Spike’s eyes shot wide open and his pupils shrank to pinpricks.
“What’s wrong, Spike? Don’t you want to see everypony?”
“Uh…well…that is…I don’t want to not see them. I just…I don’t…I can’t. Not yet. Would it be alright if they didn’t find out I was back yet? Please.”
Twilight sighed. “Alright. I won’t tell anypony.”
“This secret of yours is mine to keep, and of it I shall not give a peep.
And if I utter a single word, may a rabid badger come and rip my traitorous mouth from off my face.”
“What?” Spike stared at her quizzically.
“Pinkie Pie changed it after Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake started squashing cupcakes on their faces when they Pinkie Promised.”
“Oh.” Spike chuckled to himself. It was good to hear that the pink party pony hadn’t changed too much.
Twilight left to go teach her magic class and Spike was left alone with the empty treehouse. He thought he would make himself useful so he found the cleaning supplies and set to work dusting and cleaning the library. The work took far less time than it had when he was small because, by standing on his hind legs, he could easily reach the top of the shelves. He finished the cleaning in short order and began looking for something else to keep himself occupied.
He went into the library proper and began perusing the shelves. He searched for an old book about dragon magic he knew Twilight had, but found that it had been checked out. He continued browsing until his eyes came across the familiar title of a particular book. He removed it from the shelf and looked at the cover, which read Obscure Unicorn History from Starswirl the Bearded to Luna's banishment. It was the book that Twilight gave him for his birthday the year before his first greed-induced rampage, which he had never read. "Oh well, no time like the present." He sat down on the floor and began to read.
After making it through the first part of chapter one, he found himself engrossed in the old tome. The section on Starswirl the Bearded was particularly fascinating. He became so absorbed with his reading he made it through several more chapters and didn’t hear the door to the library open.
“I’m home, Spike,” called Twilight. She noticed how far he was in the book he was reading. “Have you been reading all day?”
“No, I’ve only been reading for a little while.” He looked out the window and noticed the time. The sun was setting and the sky was beginning to get dark. “Oh, I guess I have been reading all day.”
Twilight laughed. “Well, come on. I’ll start dinner and you can tell me what you thought about it.”
They went into the kitchen and got dinner going, talking about unicorn history. After they ate they cleared their dishes and, at Twilight’s suggestion, went into the library to study together.
A question had been bugging Twilight all day and she decided to ask Spike about it.
“Spike? I know you said that you didn’t want to talk about it yet, and if you still don’t then I won’t press the issue. But, it’s something that I wondered since the day you left. What happened that day? Why did you leave?”
Spike was silent for a very long moment before he answered.
“I think that you know the answer to that question, Twilight. I had to leave. We both knew I would eventually. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“But, Spike, no one got hurt. Whenever your greed came over you, all you did was steal and sometimes break things. The worst slip up you had was a few days before you left. You managed to smash a few buildings, but nopony was really hurt, just some scratches and bruises.”
“Somepony would have gotten hurt, Twilight. My rampages were becoming more frequent. After my first one, the greedy urge came every couple of months. Most of the time I could just lock myself in an empty room until it subsided. But as the months went by, they became more frequent and they got worse. I started having them every month and then every few weeks. I never told you about how frequent they were because I didn’t want you to worry.
“The only one I ever told about them was Rarity. She had a closet in the middle of the boutique that she reinforced and she would lock me in when the urge came. As long as I stayed in there with nothing else, I never grew very big. The first few times she stayed in the room with me, telling me it would be alright and singing softly to me to help me through it. After a while, I convinced her to stay outside and talk to me through the door because I didn’t want to hurt her.
“When I had the last rampage before I left, I went to the Boutique as soon as I felt it coming. I got there, but I didn’t get into the closet in time and I started hoarding everything in the shop. Within moments, I had grown too big for it and I think you know the rest.”
Twilight nodded. “You rampaged through town, collecting things and growing until the girls and I came out to stop you. We got to you and then Rarity and I talked you down. Everypony in town understood that you couldn’t control it and you only ever had one or two serious rampages.”
Tears were flowing down Spike’s face now and he sniffled as he tried to explain. “I hurt her, Twilight. While I was hoarding things in her shop she tried to stop me and I scratched her.”
“I never saw any scratches on Rarity,” said Twilight.
“Don’t you remember? She wore a cape when she came to help you stop me. It was the middle of summer. She had no reason to wear a cape, no matter how fashionable it was. When the rampage ended I saw her blood on my claw and her attempt to hide what had happened. It made me sick, Twilight. I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her. She said it was alright, that it wasn’t me, that I couldn’t help it, but it didn’t change the fact that I had hurt the one I cared about so much. I couldn’t bear it, Twilight and I…I…”
He broke down and began sobbing. Twilight embraced him and held him tight as his great dragon’s tears fell, staining her coat and making puddles on the floor. They held each other until he had calmed down.
“What happened to Rarity, Spike?” Twilight asked after a while. “She disappeared after going to look for you. Did she ever find you?”
Spike bit his lip and wiped the tears from his eyes. “No…no, Rarity never found me.”
They sat there comforting each other until the moon had climbed high in the sky. Spike looked down and saw that Twilight had fallen asleep in his arms. He gently picked her up and carried her to bed. After tucking her in, he kissed her forehead.
He went to the foot of her bed and lay down. He looked out the window and his eyes became wet with tears again.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered into the night. He laid his head down, curled up and cried himself to sleep again.
Spike and Twilight quickly fell into a routine. Every morning Twilight would wake up to the smell of food from the kitchen. She would brush her mane and go down to find that Spike had cooked breakfast. After they ate, Twilight would either go to teach her class or sit at her desk and do lesson plans. Spike would clean and do chores and then make lunch. On days when she was teaching, Twilight would be gone until dinner. If she wasn’t teaching, she and Spike would study together in the afternoons. After dinner they would study some more or play a board game.
As the days passed, Twilight noticed that something seemed off about Spike. He would smile when he greeted her in the morning and when she got home, but she could tell that the smile wasn’t heartfelt. He went about his work with the same dutiful fervor he had when he was small, but with much less enthusiasm. It seemed as though he was walking around with a heavy weight on his shoulders. She asked him if there was anything wrong, but he just smiled and said everything was alright, so she decided to drop the subject.
Occasionally, she would ask him about telling their friends that he was back. Whenever she brought it up, he would tell her he couldn’t yet. If she pressed the issue, he couldn’t make eye contact with her and insisted that he just couldn’t see them yet. Eventually this subject, too, was dropped.
One night about a week and a half after his return the two were in the library studying. Twilight was reading 101 Physics Experiments Involving Toasters and Spike, who had just finished reading a book about Starswirl the Bearded’s Fundamental Theory of Magic, was perusing the shelves for something new.
The Ponyville weather team had been collecting clouds throughout the day in preparation for the storm that now raged outside. Rain pelted the walls and windows of the treehouse, its pitter patter punctuated by the occasional boom of thunder.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Spike froze in terror.
“You can hide upstairs,” said Twilight “but I really think you’re being a little ridiculous about not seeing anypony.”
Spike bounded up to the house part of the treehouse and shut the door behind him. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he opened the door a crack to listen to whoever was at the front door. He heard Twilight talking to them.
“…can hang your raincoat and umbrella right up there.”
“Thanks, Twilight. And thanks for giving me a few extra days to read that book. I really enjoyed it.” The voice sounded like it was a young mare. It sounded somewhat familiar, but Spike couldn’t place it. He opened the door a bit wider to hear better.
“It’s no problem at all, though I am curious about something; why are you so interested in a book on draconian magic?”
‘Oh,’ thought Spike, ‘so that’s where that book was.’
“Well,” said the voice, “ever since I came back, I remembered how much fun it was learning about magic with you. When you told us that dragons could do magic, I was curious about what kinds they could do, but I never got around to satisfying that curiosity until now. I’ve just been really busy with the boutique lately.”
Spike’s heart froze in his chest and he held a claw to his mouth to suppress a gasp.
“Sweetie Belle,” he whispered to himself. Against his better judgment, he took a few cautious steps down the stairs. He knew if he stayed high enough up on the stairs, he would be able to see her without her noticing. He had to see how Sweetie Belle had turned out after the disappearance of her sister. He peaked around the corner and looked at her.
She was turned away from him, but he could still see most of her. She stood at the same height as Rarity had. In fact, she looked so much like her sister that Spike had to do a double take. Her fur was as white and as well kempt as Rarity’s had been. Her mane was still curly, but she had it in a similar style to the one that Rarity had worn. Adorning her flank was a microphone with a pink heart on the receiver.
He took another step down to get a closer look. When he did, however the floor creaked. Sweetie Belle’s ear twitched and she turned around and her emerald eyes locked with his.
“Spike?” she whispered in surprise.
He panicked. Before he could register what his body was doing he was already out the door.
“Spike!” Sweetie Belle called, starting to run after him.
“Sweetie Belle, wait!” called Twilight, but it was too late. The white unicorn was already out of earshot.
The cold rain pelted against Spike’s scales as he bounded through the streets. He ran down side streets and alleyways in an attempt to lose Sweetie Belle, but he just couldn’t shake her. Every few moments, she would call out for him to stop, but hearing her voice only drove him to run faster. He couldn’t let her catch him. It was because of him that Rarity had disappeared. He ran faster and faster, his longer legs pulling him ahead of Sweetie Belle. Running down an alley behind the flower shop, he saw a sharp turn fast approaching. Attempting the turn, he over shot it and slammed his right shoulder into a dumpster. Pain shot through him, but he kept running. He would probably have a bruise there in the morning.
Eventually the chase came near the edge of the Everfree forest. Spike made for the tree line, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to keep on his tail in the dense foliage. He was only a few hundred feet away when there was a bright flash in front of him. He shielded his eyes and skidded to a halt.
Sweetie Belle stood before him, shivering and looking exhausted from running and from the teleportation spell she had just used. Her pink and purple mane was sopping wet and clung to her neck and face. Her formerly well-groomed fur was now matted and splotches of mud covered her legs. Water was running down her face and he knew that not all of it was from the rain.
“Spike,” she panted, “please…don’t run…just want…to talk …please.”
Spike stood there for several long moments. Looking at her, he knew that if he ran, she would be too exhausted to follow. He could lose her easily and not have to face her. He wanted to run. Every instinct he possessed told him to run, but something stopped him. He looked into her emerald green eyes. In those eyes he saw the pain still felt by a filly that wanted to know what happened to her sister. Her eyes told him she was hoping with all her heart that he would give her the answer she was looking for.
“Spike,” she pleaded again, “please, I just…want…to…” Her legs caved in and she fell to the ground in exhaustion.
“Sweetie Belle!” He quickly scooped her up in his arms and held her close to warm her up.
“I’m okay,” she said, “just tired from the spell. It took more out of me than I thought it would.”
“Come on; let’s get you out of the rain.”
They were nearer to the boutique than the library, so he headed that direction. He arrived at the door and began feeling the wall to the right of the front step. A part of the wall opened to reveal a small compartment. Inside he found the key that Rarity had left there in case his greed came over him when she wasn’t home. He unlocked the door and carried Sweetie Belle inside.
The inside of the carousel looked nothing like it had the last time he saw it. It looked nothing like a fashion boutique anymore. The stage where Rarity would do fittings was now bigger and had microphones and a few instruments on it. Speakers were hanging on the walls all around the room. Opposite the stage was a booth with soundboards and other recording equipment.
He carried Sweetie Belle up the stairs to the living area above the boutique. This part of the building hadn’t been altered much save for some different furniture. He set her down near the fireplace and ignited it with his breath.
He went to a nearby closet and got a towel and some blankets. He draped the towel over her and she dried herself off. Once she was dry, she wrapped herself up in a blanket. Seeing she was comfortable, he followed suit and sat across from her. Silence reigned as they sat and warmed themselves.
“So, um, how have you been?” Sweetie Belle asked, trying to break the silence.
“I’ve been good. You?”
“Good.” Silence enraptured the room until she spoke again. “I finally got my cutie mark.”
“Yeah…I, uh, noticed.”
“I didn’t even get it doing any of those crazy stunts I did with the crusaders. The crusaders and I entered a talent show, but we couldn’t decide on one thing we all wanted to do, so we entered separately. My parents convinced me to do a singing act. I was a little shaky at first because of nerves, but a couple of lines in I felt like I never wanted the song to end. When I finished I got a standing ovation and this mark on my flank.”
Spike smiled. “Good for you, Sweetie Bell.”
Another long silence.
“The place looks, uh, great,” said Spike. “What’s all the equipment downstairs for?”
“I turned the Boutique into a recording studio when I moved back to Ponyville. I’m helping other musicians get their music out and I’m even working on an album of my own.”
There was yet another long silence. Finally Sweetie Belle asked the question she had been longing to ask since they left the library.
“Spike…why did you run?”
Spike tensed. He had been hoping not to answer that question.
“Why did you run, Spike?” Sweetie Belle repeated, “I haven’t seen you in ten years and when I spotted you, you looked at me like I was the most terrifying thing you’d ever seen. How long have you been back?”
Spike hung his head. “Almost two weeks.”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes were starting to water now. “You’ve been back almost two weeks and you’ve been hiding in the library. Why, Spike? Why didn’t you want us to know you were here?”
Spike remained silent for a long time until Sweetie Belle spoke again.
“Is it because you blame me?”
“What?! No! I don’t blame you for anything. Why would I possibly blame you for anything?”
“I found out about how Rarity was helping you control your rampages. I overheard you and her talking about the greed. You sounded really worried about anypony finding out, so I never told her that I knew. I should have told her. I should have been there for her. On days when she locked you in the closet, she could hardly sleep when she went to bed. She was scared and worried for you. If I had been there for her, if I had supported her, she would still be here.”
The dragon hung his head. He knew that Rarity had worried about him, but not to that extent. He looked back at the white unicorn.
“It’s not your fault, Sweetie Belle.”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not! It’s mine. I’m the one who ran away. I didn’t want to hurt Rarity, but I wound up hurting her…more than you know.”
Sweetie Belle looked at him quizzically. “What do you mean by that?”
There was no turning back now. His mentor had been right; it was time to stop running. He began sobbing, his tears making small puddles on the floor. Sweetie Belle stood next to him and put a hoof on his shoulder.
“What’s wrong, Spike? What did you mean by…”
“It was me, Sweetie Belle,” he said between sobs. “I’m why Rarity disappeared.”
“Spike, my sister cared about you. It isn’t your fault that she went…”
“And I’m the reason,” he interrupted, “that she never came back. It’s my fault she isn’t coming back.”
Sweetie Belle withdrew her hoof. On some level she always knew that something had happened to Rarity, but hearing it confirmed still shocked her.
“I killed her, Sweetie Belle,” Spike cried. “I killed your sister.”
“What?” she asked in disbelief.
“She found me in the Everfree Forest a few days after I left. I was in the middle of another rampage and when she tried to talk me down, I…my tail…the tree…”
The rest of what he was trying to say was lost as the dragon fell into incoherent sobbing. He waited for Sweetie Belle’s reaction, expecting anger or perhaps a buck to the head. He hoped she would, he knew that he deserved it. When no reaction came, he looked up at her. She was just standing there, tears streaming down her face. Then something happened that Spike never would have expected.
Sweetie Belle wrapped her forelegs around his neck and started sobbing. Her tears ran down his shoulder and his back. Seeing how he had hurt her brought his own sorrow back and he began crying again. The two friends just sat there in front of the fireplace, crying and holding each other. They sat there for a long time, mourning their loss.
Sweetie Belle wiped the tears from her face. “Where…where is she?”
He looked down into her red, puffy eyes.
“Where’s my sister?” she asked again. “Where did you leave her…her body?” She almost couldn’t bring herself to say it.
“I buried her in the Everfree Forest. I’ll take you there in the morning.”
“Can’t…can’t we go now?”
“It’s the middle of the night. The forest will be teeming with monsters. It’s better to go during the day.”
“How can I be sure you won’t leave again?”
He reached down and put a claw on her cheek.
“You can’t. But I promise that I won’t.”
She sniffled. “Pinky promise?”
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye. I won’t leave this house until we set out for the forest in the morning.”
She smiled. “That’s not quite how you Pinky promise nowadays, but it’ll work.”
Sweetie Belle got up and went to her bedroom. Spike knew that Twilight would be worried, so he summoned a piece of paper and wrote a note letting her know that they were okay and he would explain tomorrow. A puff of green flame later the note floated in the direction of the library.
With Twilight notified, Spike curled up in front of the fireplace. He tried to sleep, but it just wouldn’t come. He got up and knocked on Sweetie Belle’s bedroom door. The knob glowed light pink and magically opened.
“Is something wrong, Spike?” the young mare asked.
“Sorry, did I wake you?”
“No, you didn’t. I was just about to get into bed. Did you need something?”
“Well, it’s…I… never mind. It’s not important.”
He turned to leave, but she stopped him with a hoof on his shoulder.
“What is it, Spike? What’s bothering you?”
He looked down at her hoof touching him and then looked her in the eye and saw something he never expected; concern. She was concerned about him, the one who killed her sister.
He had dreaded coming back to Ponyville for so long because he knew that she would be here. For ten years, the one thing that had scared him the most about coming back was having to face her. He had gone over how she might react hundreds of times and almost all of them involved her being angry at him. At the very least he had expected to walk away with nothing less than a few bruises.
He wished that she was angry with him. He wished that she would attack him in her anger. He would have laid down and taken it. He deserved whatever fury she could throw at him and more. But with everything that he had done, she was still concerned about him. Not a hint of anger showed in her emerald eyes.
“Spike,” she said, trying to comfort him, “it’s okay-”
“No!” he said, pulling away from her. “No, it’s not okay! I’m not okay! I don’t deserve to be okay! I deserve to get bucked in the face or sent to the moon. I’m a monster! I’m the monster that killed Rarity and you’re not even mad! I took away your only sister and you’re trying to comfort me.”
“Don’t say things like that. You’re not…”
“It’s true! Buck me in the face! Right here! Kick me! Hit me! Throw things at me! Just give me what I deserve! I can’t stand living with how I hurt you anymore and I just want it to stop.”
“Spike, I’m not going to kick you. I want to help you.”
“Why? How can you help me? How can you even stand the sight of me after what I’ve done?"
“Because you’re my friend, Spike. My sister cared about you and so do I. When Rarity left to go look for you I was mad because I thought she cared about you more than me. When she didn’t come back and everypony started assuming she was dead I was mad at you for taking her away. But eventually I realized that Rarity wouldn’t want me to hate you. You’re my friend and I hate seeing you like this. Rarity would want you to move on and so do I. You need to forgive yourself for what happened.”
“No!” he shouted, his tears flowing anew down his face. “What I did can’t be forgiven. I can’t let it be forgiven.”
Unable to make further eye contact, he let himself fall to the floor. There was a long silence before Sweetie Belle spoke again.
“Then I will.”
He looked up at her. “What?”
She stepped closer to him. “If you won’t forgive yourself, then I will.”
“Do you regret what happened? Are you sorry for what you did?”
He hesitated, knowing what his answer would get him. “Yes.”
“Then I forgive you,” she said, placing her hoof on his shoulder again. “You don’t need to feel guilty anymore.”
His tears flowed even faster and he began sobbing again. Sweetie Belle hugged him and held him close. He hugged her back, still not completely understanding how she could ever truly forgive him. But feeling her holding him and seeing her concern for him in her eyes, he knew that she truly did. And it felt wonderful.
Eventually he broke the hug and asked her what he wanted to ask her earlier. He had hesitated because he thought it might have been too painful. But knowing that he was forgiven gave him the courage to ask.
“Sweetie Belle, do you…could I…could I sleep in the closet?”
She looked up at him. “The one that Rarity would lock you in when you were about to have a rampage?”
“Why? Do you feel one coming?”
He quickly shook his head, easing her worry. “No, I’m over them. I don’t get them anymore. It just…I thought it would be…comforting, you know. It probably sounds a little strange.”
She smiled at him. “No, I understand completely. Come on.”
They got up and she led him downstairs and behind the sound booth. She opened the door to the closet, turned on the light and let him in. His eyes opened in slight surprise as he took it all in. The last time he was in this room, it had been mostly empty so he would stay small while he tried to hoard things. Now the room looked like it had swallowed up what used to be in the main part of the boutique. Several dress foals lined the left wall, some with outfits in varying stages of completion. A sewing machine rested near the back wall next to a drawing table and on the left wall were shelves and cubbies of fabric and other supplies of Rarity’s trade.
“I like to come here and make dresses whenever I miss her,” Sweetie Belle explained. “It reminds me of the days I would spend with her, watching her work. None of what I make will probably ever wind up becoming really popular, but when I wear them to my concerts it’s like Rarity’s there with me. I’ve even slept in here a few times. Like you said, it’s comforting in a funny kind of way.”
Spike took a few steps into the room. The air smelled just like the boutique used to. He felt a wonderful sense of calm and safety here and he realized just how exhausted he was. He curled up in the middle of the floor.
“Thank you, Sweetie Belle,” he said.
She dimmed the lights and closed the door. Spike laid his head down and closed his eyes. He was just on the verge of drifting off when he heard the sound of hoofsteps coming down the stairs. He raised his head and a few moments later Sweetie Belle peeked through the door. She noticed he was awake
“Hey, um, sorry if I woke you, but, uh, would you mind if I slept in here?”
He shifted over a few feet, signaling his reply. “Not at all.”
She levitated a pillow and some blankets from her room and made a makeshift bed a few feet away from him. Closing the door with her magic, she lay down and closed her eyes.
“When are you doing another concert?”
She opened her eyes and looked at him. “Probably in a few months. Why?”
“I just realized I’ve never heard you sing.”
“Oh. Well I could sing now if you want,” she said, sitting up.
“Oh, no, you don’t have to.”
“Nonsense, I want to.”
She straightened her posture, took a few deep breaths, and began to sing a lullaby. As her melodious voice flowed from note to not, tears came to Spike’s eyes. She was singing the same song Rarity would sing to him when he was locked in the room. He laid his head down and continued to listen. Eventually his eyes started feeling heavy. He smiled and slowly drifted off into the first peaceful sleep he’d had in ten years.