Twilight Sparkle wandered anxiously back and forth through the Canterlot market, occasionally poking her head into a stall before moving on to the next one. Spike followed her path, though every so often he would have to break into a jog to keep up. They had been at this for hours now and his feet felt like lead.
"Oooh," Twilight moaned. "What in Equestria do you buy a princess as a gift?"
"There's a shop over there selling beds," said Spike wearily. "I think she'd like a bed. Maybe I should test one out and make sure it's OK."
"Focus, Spike. I need to meet Princess Celestia today and I still haven't found a gift that says... you know..." Twilight blushed.
Spike sighed. "You're sure you want to go through with this, Twi? Telling Princess Celestia about your feelings for her?"
Twilight shot him an angry glare. "Yes, I am. I kept my feelings to myself too long and today..." she waved a hoof at the marketplace's holiday-themed heart-shaped bunting and a sign over a florist's stall. The sign said 'Say you love her with flowers'.
"... today is the day to tell her."
Spike shrugged. "Fine, I was just asking. We've been shopping since dawn, though, and I'm tired and hungry."
As if prompted, his stomach rumbled loudly.
"Correction," he said. "I was hungry hours ago. Now I'm starving. Can I just get one gem, please Twi?"
Twilight was about to tell him no, but a pang of conscience held her back. Trepidation over her impending confession to the princess had made her poor company on this trip and Spike had been suffering the consequences ever since they had left Ponyville yesterday.
"Fine," she conceded. "But make it quick. There's a stall over there."
Not needing to be told twice, Spike skipped excitedly over to the display of gemstones and began to hum and haw over the selection like a child trying to pick a flavour of ice-cream. Twilight, meanwhile, cast a jaded eye over the jewellery hung at the back. They had been in some of the finest jewellers in Canterlot and she doubted she would find anything of higher quality in a market stall that had been erected that morning.
Sure enough, she saw nothing that would suit the princess and she turned her attention back to the baby dragon. But her tired imagination caught up with her and elbowed her in the ribs. She looked back over the jewellery to a heavy gold necklace with four purple topazes embedded in it. It was nice, she thought, but not perfect. A gift given with a proclamation of love needed to be perfect. Her imagination nudged her again and the colours on the necklace swam and changed. She gasped and excitedly waved the vendor over.
"Do you do modifications?" she asked. The vendor, a middle-aged grey mare, nodded in the affirmative.
"Can you take that" - Twilight pointed at the necklace - "and change three of the stones for that" - she pointed at a pastel pink ruby - "that" - she pointed at a sky blue sapphire - "and this" - she whisked a pale green garnet out of Spike's hands. He gave her a look like a kicked puppy but she took no notice.
"Sure thing, ma'am," said the jeweller. "I'll have that done within the hour and the whole lot comes to four hundred and fifty bits."
Twilight balked. "Four hundred and fifty -" she began, but stopped. There was no way she was going to give up this opportunity.
"Four hundred," she replied.
"Four forty. Faded garnets are hard to come by."
"I saw a basket full of them in Lenore's Jewellers this morning. Four ten. You'll have cuttings left over after you fit the new gems."
"Four hundred thirty-five. The gems I take off will be harder to sell alone."
"Four hundred thirty and you have it ready in a half-hour."
Twilight danced happily on the spot. "Yes! Finally! It's going to be perfect for her! Come on Spike, let's let the lady work in peace."
Spike, frozen in place, stared at his empty hands where the delicious gem had once been. His lip quivered pathetically as Twilight skipped away, humming to herself.
The palace was quiet. Many of the staff were taking advantage of the holiday and only a few remained to wait on the royals. Princess Celestia had retired to her chambers and was currently flicking through a dog-eared copy of The Entwined Ship, a tawdry novel she had one of the maids sneak in for her. Trashy paperbacks were a guilty pleasure of hers and she rarely got the chance to indulge herself while there were so many staff about. She lay on a bed of cushions on the floor with a glass of wine by her side, the book propped against a larger, more sombre tome.
Just outside, Twilight raised her hoof to knock on the door, but hesitated. The necklace, now boxed and gift-wrapped, was perched on her back and seemed to be growing heavier and heavier with the significance it bore. She lowered her hoof again and scampered back to a pillar near the end of the corridor where Spike waited impatiently.
"... thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine... aaaand you're back again," he said. "You're getting better, though. It was nearly thirty-nine seconds before you chickened out this time."
Twilight looked miserable. "I know, I know! I'm too nervous."
"Twilight..." began Spike.
"It's just that I don't know what to say and I don't know how she'll react and I really really really don't want to mess up the relationship we have now."
Spike tried to speak again but Twilight continued, her voice picking up speed as fear and frustration got the better of her.
"Maybe I'm not ready yet. Maybe it's OK like it is. We can just stay friends and that's OK, right? Right? This was a silly idea. I don't know what I was thinking."
She looked at Spike and put on a happy face. "Come on Spike, we're leaving. You must be hungry. You can have this; it's not important anymore."
She shoved the colourful box into Spike's arms. Spike was ravenous and the mere thought of the gems within sent his stomach into peals of gurgling again but as he watched, a tear formed in Twilight's eye and rolled down her cheek, betraying her false smile. He shook his head sadly.
"All right, Twilight. If you're sure that's what you want, let's go."
He climbed onto her back and the two trotted towards the exit. As they passed Celestia's door for the last time, Twilight became aware of a faint squeaking noise. She stopped and leaned towards the door, her nervousness temporarily drowned out by curiosity. But the squeaking got neither louder nor quieter as she got closer to the door until she realised it was coming from Spike. He was using a large blue marker to write something on the box she had given him.
"What are you doing?" she hissed.
Spike capped the marker and rotated the gift so Twilight could see his writing. It read:
With all of my love,
Before she could react, Spike inhaled deeply and breathed a huge gout of green flame over the box, which evaporated into a plume of smoke that flowed through the air and under Celestia's door.
Twilight watched in horror as the last wisp disappeared from view. Spike, meanwhile, dismounted and rapped his knuckles loudly on the solid oak timbers, then sprinted down the corridor with the speed only mischief makers can attain.
"Come in," said a voice from beyond the door.
Twilight briefly considered fleeing but now that Celestia had the gift, she had to go in and explain herself. She swallowed her fears and opened the door. Princess Celestia was kneeling on her cushions with the gift held between her hooves. Several cushions had been piled in a heap as if to hide something.
Probably another one of her "secret" novels, thought Twilight. Sweat was forming on Twilight's forehead as Celestia looked up uncertainly from the writing on the box to her visitor.
"Hello Twilight," said the princess. "Is this for me?"
Blushing furiously, Twilight took a deep breath and stammered out a shaky "Yes, princess. It is."
The princess untied the large bow and opened the box. Her eyes widened as she reached in and gently pulled out the necklace. It shone brightly, refracting beams of sunlight the colours of the princess's hair onto the walls.
"It's beautiful," she breathed. She turned back to Twilight, still uncertain of her intentions. The purple pony swallowed hard, locked her eyes with the princess's and began to speak.
"I - I need to tell you something. I need to tell you that everything you've done for me, all the time we spent together here in this place... it meant a lot to me. A lot more than I ever said. When I spent time with you, I felt like I had something more than just a mentor. And I wanted to tell you today what you meant to me."
Twilight lowered her horn and levitated the necklace from Celestia's hooves. She unfastened the clip, circled the chain round the princess's neck and closed it again. The gems rested on Celestia's chest as if they belonged there.
"Happy Mother's Day," Twilight finished.
Princess Celestia wrapped her forelegs around the young mare's shoulders and hugged her tightly. Tears of joy ran down both their faces.
"Oh, Twilight," she said. "My Twilight."