"Come on, Twilight! We need to hurry up! I wanna ask her right as the sun touches the horizon, and that won't happen if I'm late!"
"Sorry, Spike, but you know this spell requires complete concentration on both our parts. I can't perform it if your mind is jumping all over the place." Twilight had to close her eyes to competely focus on the impatient dragon. "Now hold still..."
A flash of light enveloped Spike as the random items placed on his body began to change form. The small blanket covering his body became a black suit jacket and a pair of matching pants, the pail on his head became a top hat, and the muddy galoshes Twilight let him borrow (that he was supposed to also clean a week ago) became a pair of handsome, black dress shoes. With the spell complete, Twilight fell back on her haunches in exhaustion. "Are you okay, Twilight? You don't usually get that tired when you perform this spell. Can I get you anything? Water? Lemonade?"
"No, no. I'm fine. Perfectly fine. I've just been using quite a bit of magic today, and I guess I didn't know how much I had left to burn."
Spike immediately felt guilty for rushing her through the dressing process. "I'm sorry, Twilight. I didn't mean to drain you like that. If I'd known you were that tired, I wouldn't have asked you to--"
"Don't worry about me, Spike. Tonight is your night." A warm smile came from Twilight that melted away Spike's worry. "You just get to Rarity's house and ask for that date, ok?"
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. And you'd better hurry; the sun's setting fast."
Spike took a quick look at the sun. Slivers of it were touching the horizon. "Oh man! Thanks, Twi! I owe you one!" He hastily grabbed the bouquet of roses and, giving Twilight one last hug for luck, zipped out of the door for Rarity's house.
Twilight walked out of the swinging door and watched him move with impressive speed. "Don't forget to tell me how it goes when you get back!" No response from him told her that he was out of earshot and didn't hear her. "Oh, Spike. I hope she says yes this time, you really deserve it..."
"Hmm...maybe if I...no, that won't work. It'll just fall to the other side." Twilight pulled the rose to her side of the vase. As predicted, the rose went limp out of her touch and retreated from her to the other side. She groaned and simply let the rose be; she had been fiddling with it for fifteen minutes and the rose just would not stand straight up for her. She didn't want the poor thing to die, especially after what Spike had went through to get it. He grew it, along with an entire bouquet more, himself to give to Rarity. He watched over them day and night, through sun and rain and chores and pretty much everything else the world gave him. He wanted them to be perfect for the mare he thought was perfect, and he did everything in his power to ensure that they were. Of course, it's perfect... Twilight thought as she trotted to the stairs. She gave the rose one last look before going up the stairs to wait for her number one assistant to return home with the exciting story of his first date.
It had been a long day for her: Equestrian history from sunrise to about nine, then a few chemistry experiments with Spike in the basement until noon, then lunch with Pinkie Pie (which, by the way, was a nightmare to schedule), an afternoon of timing Rainbow Dash's flying routines to make sure that they were still up to snuff with the Wonderbolts, then more time with Spike picking off all of the thorns on the roses and getting him into his clothes. He planned on asking Rarity on a candlelit dinner, and he wanted to look his absolute best...
Two hours passed, and Twilight had dozed off in the middle of her favorite Daring Do novel. She hadn't meant to, but the section she was reading was getting slow. Besides, she'd hear the door when Spike came back. And if she didn't hear that, Owlowicious would wake her and alert her of his return.
Twilight jumped up, ears perked and eyes alert. She hadn't expected the door to close so loudly. And it didn't take a detective's hat to figure out that the one slamming the door was upset. Oh, no. Spike...Twilight rose from her bed and looked over the stairway to find Spike's shadow rummaging through something in the kitchen. The clothes he was wearing were scattered across the floor, and the roses he was carrying were crumpled on the floor as if someone stomped on them. She leaned over the edge of the bedroom in an attempt to see him, instead of his shadow.
"Spike?" ...No answer.
"Spike, is that you?" ...Still no answer.
"Spike, please say someth--"
"Yeah, it's me, okay?!" His voice cut her like a knife. It was so cold and unfeeling.
"Why did you slam the door like that?"
"Why do you think? She brushed me off like an annoying mosquitoe, that's why..."
"Oh, Spike..." She knew that he hurt. She hurt for him. He worked so hard with those roses, with the preperation, with everything. He had practiced the question for days; Twilight even helped by pretending to be Rarity. All of that hard work, for nothing. "Do you want to talk about it? I can give you a shoulder to cry on..."
"I'm not going to cry this time, I already promised myself that. We can talk tomorrow; right now, I just wanna eat some ice cream and be alone, okay?"
"...Of course, Spike. Anything you want. But I need to see your face before I leave you alone."
A pause from Spike. "Why?"
"I just need to. Please?"
"...Okay, fine." Spike walked out of the kitchen and showed Twilight exactly what he was feeling: anger, sorrow, disgust, everything. Twilight knew that his expressions showed her exactly what he had been through; after all, she knew him better than anypony. And looking at his face, she could tell exactly what happened without even being told. He went to ask her on the date, she refused. He asked why, she gave an excuse that could be easily believed but not overtold (probably something about an order for a dress that needed to be finished that night). The door was shut on him and he sulked the rest of the way home, probably stopping a few times to watch the sun set or sit on a bench.
"You'll get her next time, I promise. Okay, Spike?"
"No, I won't, Twilight. I'll never get her to like me, and I'm not trying to make her anymore. I'm sick of falling flat on my face for a girl who won't even give me a passing glance. Tonight was the last straw! From now on, I'm through with Rarity, and I'm through with love!" He stomped at the roses on the ground to prove his point before walking back into the kitchen and opening the freezer.
Twilight had to choke back tears. "I'm...I'm sorry, Spike. Just...try not to eat all of the...nevermind. Goodnight..."
"Twilight?...Twilight, wake up."
She rolled away from his voice, mentally begging for more sleep.
"Come on, Twilight. It's almost noon. What's wrong with you? You never sleep past ten, even when you're really, really tired!" Spike had done this many times before whilst living with Twilight. There was only one way to get her out of bed when she was tired like this. He climbed onto her bed and began to poke her with a somewhat sharp claw. "Come ooooooon! Wake uuuuuuup!"
She began to squirm about under her blanket, resisting his touch and stifling giggles. "Hehehe! Stop it, Spike! You know I'm ticklish!"
"Now where do you think you're goin'?" Spike jumped on top of her in an attempt to restrain her so he can tickle her full force. "I'm not gonna stop tickling you until I see your eyes!" At that command, she closed her eyes tighter and struggled hard enough to break free from his hold on her body, but soft enough to keep him knowing that they were still playing. She rolled and twisted, giggling all the way. But as much as she moved, she could not escape his grasp. "Haha! Think you can get away just like that? You've got another thing com--WHOA!"
They both tumbled to the ground in a haze of blankets, bodies, and laughter. Twilight finally opened her eyes to see if Spike was okay, only to find him staring back into her eyes as he lay, on top of her, nose to muzzle, lips centimeters away from each other. Neither pony nor dragon moved an inch. After what seemed like the millionth time waking her up this way, they had never fallen out of the bed. And they had especially not fallen this way together. Twilight cleared her throat and blushed furiously, giving her scaly, blushing counterpart a signal to roll off of her. Twilight managed to break the awkward silence. "Well, heh heh...that was..."
"That was different, heh heh..." Spike finished. He quickly stood up and brushed nothing in particular off of his chest while Twilight had an opportunity to roll over in a seated position on her haunches.
"Now, was there any particular reason you just had to wake me up, Spike?"
"Well, aside from the usual 'you never sleep in this late' thing, you never told me what you wanted for breakfast."
Twilight looked at the sun from her window, and it was high in the sky. "Uh, don't you think it's a little late for breakfast, Spike?"
"Well, of course not! Its never too late for breakfast! Besides, you know what you're always sayin' about 'never breaking a routine.' Well, we haven't had breakfast, and I'm starving!"
Twilight mused, regretting her words. "Well, I guess you're right. But I would think that you'd have already eaten if you were 'starving' and all..."
"Oh, no. Today is special. I couldn't eat without you today."
Confusion from Twilight. "Oh? What's so special about today?"
"Today is the ten-year anniversary of our meeting. Don't you remember? You called it 'Assistant Appreciation Day!'"
"Oh, right! Ten years ago today is the day that I cracked the egg that enrolled me into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, and it's the first day that I met you! Oh, Spike, I am so sorry that I overslept! Can you forgive me?"
"I already have, because you gave me time to think about what I wanna do today!"
"And what would you like to do?"
"Well, since we had a big party and didn't really get to spend any time together last year, I was hoping that we could just have a nice day together. Just you and me. No chores, no friends, no obligations. Just you, me, breakfast and then other things."
"That sounds wonderful, Spike. So where would you like to go?"
"For breakfast. I can't have you cook on a day like today, and you know my cooking isn't exactly five star..." she gave a little blush, remembering the last time she tried to cook. It...wasn't pretty. "...So just pick a restaurant, anywhere at all, and we'll eat there."
Spike's eyes widened with shock. This has never happened before. He had always had to eat whatever Twilight wanted to eat. Now he could pick whatever he wanted to eat, and there were so many options! He could head down to Sugarcube Corner and get another sapphire-encrusted cupcake, or he could go to his favorite pizza stand on the other side of town, or he could even head out to the fields on the outskirts of Ponyville that were always so abundant with jewels of every shape, size, and flavor. He knew of all of the sweet spots for rubies out there; he and Rarity went there all of the time to collect...
Spike's eyes returned to normal and his expression changed from one that could lift even Pinkamena's spirits to one of pure, unbridled sadness. He looked down at the floor in attempt to keep Twilight's now inquisitve eyes from searching his soul and finding something that would change the outcome of this day.
"Spike? Is something wrong?" Twilight was worried about his expression. Did she do something wrong somehow?
"...Twilight? Do you know if Donut Joe is still in Ponyville?"
"Yes, I believe so. He told Pinkie and I yesterday that he would be here selling until the end of the week, why?"
"I wanna go to his place. I need a donut right now...with extra sprinkles..."
The streets of Ponyville were bustling with activity at this hour. Today was Market Day, the day of the week when all of the farm and garden ponies opened their stands and sold their goods to the public. Twilight did not like walking through the lively town when the markets were still in high demand; she preferred waiting until about six when most ponies had gotten their fill of weekly groceries and had been on ther merry way. It was...more effecient, in her opinion. Nevertheless, the only way to get to Joe's donut shop was through Mane Street amongst all the hustle and bustle of the markets, and her little dragon companion requested donuts and couldn't wait another minute. How could she refuse him on his special day?
In Twilight's mind and Spike's stomach,walking through the markets in the middle of the day was like walking shoulder-deep in pudding. It was unbelievable how many ponies needed things on a weekly basis. Unsurprisingly, Spike had much to say in complaint of the wait. After a while, the complaints died down, and Twilight checked to see if everything was ok with the little dragon...only to find him snoozing on her back. Oh, Spike. What am I going to do with you? Twilight giggled inside her mind thinking about how hard he must be sleeping to not notice the sounds of business all arou--
"Apples! Git yer apples here! Fresh and delicious!" Came the familiar screech of a young filly. Twilight looked to her left and smiled as she noticed Applebloom bouncing around a cart with an apple balanced on her head.
"Applebloom! What'd Ah tell ya about screamin' and jumpin' around like that?" Her big sister, Applejack, came into view now as Twilight attempted to make her way through the crowd to the two without waking Spike. She didn't much care for donuts, and an apple sounded delicious right now, seeing as it was well into the day and she was hungry as it was. Besides, she didn't want Spike to know that she stopped before getting him his treats.
Applejack saw her before she could get completely over to the cart. "Well howdy, Twilight! Fancy meetin' you here this time 'a day. Ya usually don't show for another couple'a hours when all'a the sellin's done."
Applebloom bounded directly in front of Twilight from the other side of the cart, allowing the apple on her head to roll off into her hoof. "Howdy, Twilight..." She extended her hoof to put the apple directly in front of her face. "Buy some apples!"
Applejack lowered her sister's hoof from Twilight's face. She gave her sister a stern look. "Applebloom. I told ya you could come with me apple sellin', but ya can't show all'a that energy. Ya can't just put an apple in front'a somepony's face and expect them ta just buy it. And ya can't keep bouncin' around like that. Ponies'll think you're crazy, or somethin'. Now get back to the cart and wait until the other Crusaders come to pick you up." Applebloom's head lowered in slight embarrassment as she returned to the cart while Applejack returned to her friend. "Now, back ta you. Why're you so early today, Sugarcube?"
"Well, it's a very special day for Spike and I needed to get down Mane Street to get to Joe's donut shop."
"Oh, right. It's Spike's little "Assistant Appreciation" thingie today, isn't it?"
"Yes it is. He asked for the two of us to spend the day alone without a party. And for his breakfast, he specifically asked for a donut with extra sprinkles."
Applejack cast a look of confusion. "Another one? Ya mean he ate all the others?"
This time, it was Twilight who was confused. "Others? What others?"
"Well, Ah saw Spike last night sittin on a bench, munchin' on a box'a donuts. From the look of his clothes, he had jus' gone out on a date, but...the look on his face said somethin' jus' ripped his litle ol' heart in two. What happened?"
Twilight's heart sank. She looked back at the sleeping dragon starting to murmur in his sleep. "It's...personal, AJ. I just don't want to talk about things in his life that he's not ready to talk about himself. You understand, right?"
"Of course Ah understand, Sugarcube...wait, hang on a spell. I'll be right back." Applejack quickly turned around and inspected her apples carefully, looking for the best two. After finding them, she turned back to her friend. "Here, Ah want you two ta have these, free of charge..." She extended the apples to Twilight, who gratefully took them with her magic. "Tell him that if ever he needs to talk to anypony about somethin' or other that's botherin' him, he's always welcome down at the farm. Ah won't judge."
"Thank you, Applejack. I'll pass the message along for you."
"No problem, Sugercube. It's the least Ah can do for a friend. Now, if you'll pardon me, Ah've got a customer. Have a happy Assistant Appreciation Day!" And with that, she went on about her business. Twilight looked at the apples, back to the stirring dragon, and over to Applejack and, with a warm smile, waded back into the crowded ocean of ponies to continue on towards the donut shop.
"So how's the donut, Spike?" Twilight had taken a seat across a table from Spike. "Was it worth the long trip here?"
"Mmmm..." Spike couldn't talk, his mind was gripped with the flavor of his meal. He had ordered a box of his favorite donuts and was eating them with surprising gusto. "AMAZING...Are you sure you don't want any?" Spike waved a half-eaten donut in Twilight's face. "They're freeeesh..."
She turned her muzzle away in slight disgust. "Like I said the last time you asked, Spike, I'm fine with my apple. I'm not really a "donut" type of pony. Besides, those are for my number one assistant on his special day. Nopony else."
Spike pulled his arm away from her and popped the morsel into his mouth. "Okay, Twilight. But you're really missing out on somethin' great with these things. I don't know what he puts in them, but I hope he never takes it out! I feel better already!" He bit into another donut. "By the way, where'd ya' get those two apples, anyway? You didn't..." he swallowed, "...didn't have them before."
"About that, Spike. We need to have a talk..."
Spike looked puzzled. "What about?"
"Well, if it's alright with you, I'd like to talk about what happened last night..."
Spike's face changed back to the one he had the first time he remembered Rarity earlier that day; however, this time he didn't attempt to hide his face from her. "Well...I guess I could talk about it to you."
"If you'd rather not talk to me, Applejack told me to tell you that if anything's bothering you, she could help. She's excellent with advice."
"No, no. I wanna talk about this with you. I'm closer to you than I am with Applejack. You know more about me than anypony I've ever met. I can only talk about these kinds of things with you..."
That made Twilight smile. "What kinds of things?"
"The things that I try to hide from myself. Things like my attempts to date Rarity."
"What about them?"
"All of those times that I kept asking her out and asking you for help, you just...I don't know, you seemed like you kinda knew all of my attempts would fail. So I wanted to ask you: did you think that Rarity and I would ever...you know...be together?"
"Well...I hoped that you would, for your sake. But taken from a logical standpoint...no. I didn't think you would. But it wouldn't be your fault that the relationship wouldn't work, at least not entirely. Think about it this way: have you ever asked Rarity if she liked another pony?" Spike shook his head. "Had it ever crossed your mind that she was in love with somepony else and couldn't date you?" Another no from Spike. His eyes started to glisten with tears. Twilight had to put on her best compassionate voice for what she was about to say. "Exactly, Spike. I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but Don't you think these are questions that needed to be asked before you attempted to date her? She could be put in a weird spot right now with you if she was dating somepony because you didn't know to back off." Spike nodded to show his understanding. "Now, if you think about how the many times you've asked her on dates, what facts remain constant?"
Spike thought long and hard about the hundreds of times that year she refused his offering of dinner or dancing or something or other. No matter how many times he tried to go about this question, his mind drew blanks. "Um...I don't know. Do you?"
"Well, from what I've noticed, you ask her too many times about dates that are too sudden to possibly work with. Think about last night. That was the third time this week you've asked her out. Furthermore, you asked her on a dinner date that night. What if she had company? What if Sweetie Belle had been over? What if she had already had dinner and just didn't want to hurt your feelings? What did she tell you last night?"
"...She said she was feeling 'a bit under the weather' and she said she would have to reschedule."
"And how many times this week has she told you she had to reschedule?"
"...All three times..." A tear began to fall from his eyes as he began to fully realize his mistakes. Yes, he had attempted to rush into dating without even asking if anypony else was in the picture. Yes, he had bothered her non-stop about dates and things too much and on too short-notice. And, come to think of it, what did he see in her, anyway? She was pretty, and she could find gems. That's all Spike wanted. That's all Spike needed...right?
Spike's head fell onto his arms and he cried. Hard. Twilight moved from her chair around to him and placed a foreleg around his shoulders in an attempt to comfort him. "Oh, Spike...I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you like this..."
He looked up at her and tried to calm down, for her sake, at least. "No, Twi-*sniffle*-light...I needed you to tell me this. Otherwise, I *sniffle* would never understand why I kept failing. Thanks for telling me before I found out a much harder way..."
Twilight gave him a big hug. "Anything for my little dragon. Is there anything else you need to say or hear?"
"Well...can I have the apple that Applejack gave me? I'm still a bit hungry, and I don't want any more sweets..." She took the apple from the other side of the table with her magic and put it in his hands.
"I wanna go somewhere outside of the library that's private, and I wanna spend the rest of the day there with you. I need space away from everypony so I can think about some things."
"Of course. And I know just the place..."
Twilight eyed the ground she was walking on with complete concentration. Using her magic, she surveyed a few feet underground for a special type of gem. She had found this spot a few times before on her observations of the area around Ponyville, and she praised herself on being the only pony in town to know about it. Even Rarity was unaware of it's location, for a special spell was needed to find these gems, and Rarity didn't know it. As far as Rarity knew, it was just a piece of land with nothing special underneath. Good thing Twilight knew better than to judge a book by it's cover.
"Come ooooon, Twilight. We've been walking forever already, are we there yet?" The already too impatient dragon was squirming on Twilight's back, looking for a new comfortable position to lay.
"First of all, Spike, I'm the one that's doing all of the walking. Secondly, I need some concentration to find something. As soon as I find it, I promise you'll get a surprise. Seem fair?"
Spike was somewhat interested at this new piece of information. "A surprise? What kind of surprise? Like a present or something?"
"Well, if you keep complaining about the trip, I won't give it to you. You need to stay absolutely quiet the rest of the way so I can find it, okay?"
"I knew there was a catch...fine. I'll stay quiet."
"Thank you. Now, I know we're close, so you don't have to wait much longer." She closed her eyes and continued her search. After several minutes of gem-hunting, she finally found what she was looking for: It was a small cluster of small, clear diamonds of every shape and size, intentionally buried in that spot. She had placed them there as a marker to show that she was directly above her secret spot. "Alright, Spike. We're here!"
Spike looked around. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this spot as far as he could see. Well, aside from the fact that nopony was there, it just looked like a grassy field outside of Ponyville. "So...Where's here? It's just a field..."
"Well, you can't see it now. It's about a hundred feet below us in the catacombs."
"You know, underground caves? It's a place I found quite a while back after we bumped into those Diamond Dogs. Apparently, they had dug them, realized that they found something they didn't want, and simply kept moving. Lucky for me, they didn't have a clue what they found..."
"So...What did they find?"
"Instead of trying to explain it, how about I just show you?" A bright purple light surrounded the both of them as she performed a simple teleportation spell, sending them into the caves below.
"Okay, now what's so special about these cata--DEAR SWEET CELESTIA." Spike looked all around him and was in complete shock to find every wall and ceiling covered in completely clear diamonds and gems. The ground was the only thing not covered in them. "Twilight! What wizardry is this?!"
"See? I told you you'd be surprised."
"This is incredible! Why wouldn't the Diamond Dogs want all these diamonds?!"
"Well, I would say that because of their affinity for the luster of all gems, they walked right by these because they're clear and don't shine. To them, they may as well have been shards of glass. But when I stumbled across these caves after Rarity cleared them out with her 'complaining,' I saw a more scientific importance to the gems inside."
"Twilight, one does not simply stumble across this...this...I can't even describe this in words! I mean, just look at this place! I've never seen any of these gems before! What are they called? How do they taste?" He picked a big one out of the wall and picked off the dirt before bringing it to his mouth.
"Spike, I don't think you want to eat that just yet!" He stopped, with the gem only inches from his mouth.
"Well, why not? Nothing's wrong with it. Besides, this is my surprise, right?"
"Well, it's half of the surprise. You see, what you hold in your claws is called a 'No-Gem.'"
"Yes, it's a very special type of gem with very special properties that takes a very special spell to find. These have been my secret for quite some time. Now go on, have a taste."
Spike bit into it and chewed for a bit. "...I don't taste anything..."
"Exactly! Now, what's your favorite of gem?"
"Oh, rubies! Rubies, for sure! Why?"
"Just watch what happens when I do..." Twilight used her magic to lift the rock out of his hand and high into the air, "This!" Without hesitation, the No-Gem began to change color and shape. Within seconds, it fell back into Spike's hand as a half-bitten ruby.
Spike couldn't say anything. He stared at the ruby in his hand, then up at Twilight, then back at the ruby. "Wha...But...It was just...HOW?"
Twilight giggled at the face he was making. It was as if he had gotten a present from Celestia herself. "That's the rest of the surprise. Come on, don't keep me in suspense! Eat it and tell me how it tastes."
Spike popped the rest into his mouth and his eyes lit up. "This is by far the greatest thing I've ever tasted in my life!"
"That is the wonder of the No-Gem, Spike, and I've only scratched the surface of their power. I'm glad you like them."
"Like them? I LOVE them! So you're the only pony who knows about these things?"
"I think so. I've read plenty of books on minerals, rocks, gems, et cetera, and I've never read anything in any library about them. I think I may be the only pony in all of Equestria who knows they exist. I wanted somepony else to know about it too, and...well, it is your special day and all."
"Well this is definitely an awesome surprise, Twilight. Can you make me more?"
"That's another reason why I brought you here, Spike. There are hundreds of thousands of No-Gems down here, just waiting to be studied. I know you said you didn't want me to have any obligations today, but I figured if I made you happy while I was studying, it wouldn't exactly be an obligation, persay. So, what would you say if I made a few different gems for you and documented some things about them and your reactions to them?"
Spike's smile could not get any bigger. He could help Twilight, spend time alone with her, and eat as much as he wanted to. "What would I say? I'd say get me a fist-full of opals, and you got yourself a deal!" With a handful of No-Gems, he climbed onto her back and she walked into the next cave opening to more untold, delicious wonders.
It was dark. And it wasn't an average everyday darkness. This was...advanced darkness. Spike couldn't see anything. "Where am I?" He reached around for something, he didn't know what, and eventually found metal walls all around him. From the curved feel of the tops of the walls, he felt like he was inside of an egg-like structure. He heard voices coming from the outside, but he couldn't tell exactly what they were saying. "Twilight?" The talking resumed, as if he hadn't said anything. "Twilight, is that you? What is this place? Where are you? I'm starting to get creeped out..." Again, he remained unheard. The panels underneath his feel began to light up, and magic began to flow into the chamber. Spike immediately felt the effects of it on his body; he saw his body getting smaller and smaller. He felt the spines on his head get shorter and he felt his scales get tighter. It didn't hurt, but it didn't feel good either. He screamed. It wasn't out of hope that somepony would rescue him when they heard it; it was out of fear that he knew that nopony would rescue him at all. He felt his vision blur and his thoughts melt away...
"Spike, please wake up!" He jolted up and opened his eyes. He was back in the caves, with Twilight standing over him. "Oh, thank Celestia, you're awake. I was so worried. Are you okay?"
Spike looked at his body. His legs and arms were the right size, his scales felt the same, and his spines were still the same height as they always were. "Yeah...I'm just fine now. How long was I out?"
"About an hour. You had fallen asleep after around your fourth amethyst, and you looked so peaceful. I left you alone for a minute to go explore and when I came back you were...well, you were scaring me. But now that you're awake, we need to leave, the sun's starting to go down, and that means these caves are going to get dark. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm sure, Twilight. Don't worry, it was just a dream..."
"...Well, in that case, want a ride up to the surface?" She lowered her back to let him jump on. "We'll talk about that nightmare of yours when we get home, but for now I'm going to chalk it up to a side effect to all of those No-Gems you ate."
"Right...Let's get outta here, the darkness is already spreading through the caves and creepin' me out..."
"Sure thing, Spike." They disappeared in one flash of light and reappeared in the fresh air of the surface in the next. It was dark, but there was just enough sunlight to see Ponyville from where they were. "Whoa, I didn't think we had been down there that long. The sun is almost fully set. And there's the moon, too. We'd better get home before Owlowicious gets too worried, right?" Twilight started walking at a brisk pace to get home before it got too dark to see.
Spike thought over the past few days. "You know, come to think of it, I haven't seen him lately. I wonder where the little guy is."
"You know owls, Spike. He's usually out collecting field mice and things of that nature at night. He's an independent creature when he wants to be."
He shrugged. "Oh well. Guess that gives us some peace from his constant chatter, huh?"
Twilight had to giggle at that. Owlowicious had been a bit talkative this past week, keeping Twilight and Spike up with him. "I guess it does. So, did you like your Assistant Appreciation Day today?"
"Oh, definitely! This was the best Assistant Appreciation yet! I think this year, I've really made a big step towards maturity. With your help, I finally got over my infatuation with Rarity, and I've actually gotten to keep my head clear of her for a while. Did you know I started actually reading the books in our library the other night?"
"Well, I've noticed you grow up lately, Spike. You really are becoming a big dragon now. I just hope you don't get too big and fly away from me anytime soon..." She didn't show her face to him, but from the slowing of her walk, Spike could tell that her remark saddened her to some deree.
"Don't worry about that, Twi. I won't ever leave. Not until you want me to, okay?"
She smiled at that. "But...what will you do when you eventually get too big for the library?"
"Well...I'll sleep outside, or somethin'. I'll make it work as long as I can keep you happy. Haven't I always tried to keep you happy?"
"Well, yes. But it's your job to make me happy. When you're older, you won't have to keep dusting my shelves or re-organizing my books. It won't be your job anymore..."
"What if the reason I made you happy all these years was because I wanted to, not because of a job requirement? You're my friend, Twilight, and I dust your shelves and re-organize your books and wake you up and make you breakfast and remind you of things all the time because...well, I really care about you."
Twilight stopped and thought about what he had just said. "...That's really sweet of you to say, Spike. I care about you too. And I know I don't say it as much as I really need to, but thank you for everything you do to help me out in my day. There's nothing I can do that sums up my appreciation for all that you do."
"Uh, isn't that what this day is all about? Heh heh..."
Her cheeks turned bright pink when she realized that he was right. "Oh. Right. I knew that...I was just testing you, is all..."
"Uh huh. Suuure you were, Twi."
"Hey, you've never called me 'Twi,' before..."
Spike blushed slightly and looked up at the sky at nothing much in particular. "Well, I hear Applejack call you that all the time, and it's a nice nickname and...Wow, the stars are bright tonight, don't you think?"
Twilight giggled as she looked up into the clear, blue night sky. The stars were indeed bright up there, brighter than they ever were looking through her telescope at home. "Well, Spike, the stars are always that bright. It's just that we don't see all of their light in Ponyville thanks to all of the lanterns that everypony lights at night. If only Ponyville knew to turn off their lanterns when they went to sleep, I'd be able to stargaze from my room more."
"So...Do you like stargazing?"
"Oh, I love stars. Stargazing is my favorite pastime, besides reading, of course. One of my dreams is to go up there and see the stars more closely...but I'm just a unicorn, so the telescope's fine with me..."
"I could take you up there. When I'm a grown-up dragon, I mean. When I get my wings, I could fly you up as high as you wanted to go so you can see every star in the galaxy."
"You'd do that for me?"
"Of course, Twi. I wouldn't be goin' anywhere else when I grow up, heh heh..."
"Hehehe, sure you wouldn't, Spike. But you know, it's funny; we've been rambling so much, I hadn't noticed we were already in Ponyville for quite a while now."
"Yeah, I know. There's the library. I can't wait to hop into bed and get a good night's sleep!"
"How can you be thinking about sleep at all? You've been napping all day long!"
"Twilight, you know I can never get too much sleep. How long have you known me?"
Twilight had finally gotten to the library's front door and used her magic to open it before walking inside. "Well, it has been a good twelve years now, hasn't it? I guess I should know that about now."
"I know, sheesh." He hopped off of her back and began to climb the stairs to his bed.
"Wait, we still haven't talked about that nightmare you had earlier!"
"Eh, it was just a bad dream, Twi. It's not worth talkin' about. You were right, it was a bad side effect from those 'No-Gem' thingies. Don't worry about me, I'm fine..." He yawned and continued his walk upstairs. At the top, he turned around and noticed that she was reaching for a book on an upper shelf. "You're not comin' to bed?"
"Not yet, Spike. I've got some things I need to catch up on. Since I didn't get to study at all today, I need to make up for it tonight."
"I guess that makes sense. What are you studying for tonight?"
"Oh, uhhh...nothing important. Heh heh..." She looked sheepishly at the book before placing it behind her back.
She had acted that way about that specific book for a while, now. But it was late and Spike's basket was calling out to him like never before, so he let it slide this time. "Okey dokey, then. G'night, Twi..."
It's been a long day, and boy, do I have things to write about.
Firstly, Spike had a wonderful day today...At least he said he did. I wanted to make this day special for him since he wasn't able to have his night with Rarity. I wish I could talk with her about that tomorrow; if she knew how much Spike worked for her, how much he cared about her...well, it's in the past for Spike. I can't just bring that up with Rarity now that Spike is over it. I guess I just have to let sleeping dogs lie...
But I digress. Spike got to go see Joe this morning for breakfast, but beforehoof, I met Applejack and her sister at the market on the way. She told Spike that he could come to her with anything and she would help him through it. I really appreciate her for that. I know that she works hard enough as it is with her family and her problems, and she still wants to take Spike's problems into consideration. She truly cares for her friends.
Anyway, at the donut shop, Spike and I finally had our talk about Rarity. He's really growing up so fast; he took a lot of things that I said to heart and he's giving up on his infatuation with her. I'm proud of him for making that decision for himself, not because I asked him to. That took a lot of guts.
After that, we headed to the catacombs so I could show Spike all the No-Gems I discovered. You know, come to think of it, is that a good name for them? Given their metamorphic properties, I should have called them Every-Gems. Oh well, I told Spike they were No-Gems, and I guess I have to stick with that...
We stayed there for quite a while. Spike fell asleep, unsurprisingly. What was surprising was the dream that he had. I had left him alone to record some findings about the No-Gems when I heard him calling for me in his sleep like he was having a nightmare. I tried waking him up every way I could think of, but nothing worked. I tried using my magic to pull him out of his dream, but he started screaming like I was killing him. I was terrified. He snapped out of his nightmare before I was forced to probe his mind. It should go unsaid that I'm never feeding him those things again. At least not until I find out what happened. Maybe the No-Gems cause hallucinations in dragons. I have to record that before I forget and feed him those gems again. He says he fine; I say neigh.
Either way, we spent the rest of the night chatting about random things. He told me he would stay with me as long as I wanted him to, even when he was too big for the library. I know that eventually, he will leave on his own, no matter what he says now. Still, it's a nice sentiment to think about. And if he somehow chooses on his own to stay with me, he promised to take me up into the sky to see the stars up close. He's so sweet...I hope he keeps that promise. I would really love being up there. Over Ponyville. Just him and I...
What am I writing?! It's against the rules to think about your dragon that way! The Princess said so!...
...Still a mare can dream...I really need to stop writing. If I don't, I may write some things that could really get me into trouble with him and the Princess.
"Are you sure you can handle it, Spike? This is the first time I've sent you out like this alone..."
"Oh, lighten up, Twi. Remember, I'm a big dragon now and it's just shopping around Ponyville. I can handle something simple like this."
"I know...but sometimes, groceries can be tricky. You have to make sure things aren't bruised and that fruits and vegetables are fresh and not any color they shouldn't be..."
"And you have to make sure to put the bread on top of everything in the sacks so things don't smash it. And be sure you get the ice cream last; we don't want it to melt before you get back..."
"Oh, and please be sure to--"
"Twilight!" She stopped talking and looked at the annoyed (yet sympathetic) look on his face. "I told you, I'm not a baby anymore. I'll make sure to get everything and make sure it's in the exact same condition as when it was on the shelves. Just trust me, I've got it. Will ya please let me go before the sun goes down?"
Twilight lifted a pouch of coins with her magic and held it over Spike's hand. "I'm sorry. It's just you're growing up so fast now. I have a hard time letting you do things on your own when it comes to responsibilities. I know you say you can handle it, but what if something happens out there and you need my help?"
"Twilight, I'll be fine. I can take care of myself. Stealing has never been a problem before, so you don't have to worry about that. And I always go with you when you go shopping; just this time, I won't be checking things off. I know everything you want me to get by heart, so you shouldn't have to worry about me forgetting. I'm fine, promise. Now can I have the bit pouch so I can go?" Twilight looked into his eyes. They were firm. He knew what he was doing, and she knew it. She stopped her magic and allowed the pouch to fall into his hand. "Thanks, Twi. I'll be back in an hour and a half, okay? Try to read something; that always calms your nerves, right?"
"Yeah...It shouldn't take too long, right? You'll be straight home when you're done?"
"Of course. And when I get back, you can inspect everything when you put the groceries away. Okay?"
"...Deal." She watched as he tied the pouch to his arm and stepped outside to leave. She couldn't have more pride and confidence in the little dragon as he hugged her and left the library. But she couldn't stop herself from sticking her head out of the window and giving him some last-minute reminders. "Be sure to only spend twenty-five bits! I know you might only need fifteen, but--"
"I will, Twilight!" He continued to walk away He was right; it was all fine. He knew what he was doing. But still...
"Make sure the bananas aren't green! They need to be ripe when you buy them!"
"Sure thing!" He was almost out of earshot. It's fine. It'll all be--
"Be sure to lightly shake the melons before you just pick one! If you hear a--"
"Bye mom!" He began to walk at a faster pace and went into the now buzzing streets of Ponyville out of her sight.
She felt sick to her stomach letting Spike go on his own. But he was right; he was a big dragon, and she couldn't baby him forever. She had to let him go out on his own eventually. But why did this day have to come so soon? She looked at her sundial, which was perched on the side of the window that she stuck her head out of. About twelve-thirty. That means he should be back at around two. That is, if something didn't happen to--no! She wasn't going to think like that! He'd be back at two. No sooner, no later than that. In the meantime, she had her books to keep her company. She walked to her shelves and thought about what she would want to read. Maybe a bit of John Steinbuck...she thought. She went to the shelves and picked a book of his at random: The Red Pony. She climbed the stairs to her bed and curled up with the book expecting to read until Spike got back. She opened the book and tried to read...
...tried but failed. For the first time in her life, she did not want to read. She used her magic to lay the book on the floor before laying on her side and staring out of her window. It was another bright and shiny day in Ponyville, as usual. Many different types of ponies were seen through the streets: Carrot Top was out watering her garden, Berry Punch was out walking with her daughter, and Ditzy Doo was flying low to the ground to keep up with that strange, brown pony. Something must be going on for him to move that fast...what was his name, again? Doctor something...anyway, Ponyville was definitely busy today. Almost everypony had something to--
"Yoohoooo!~ Anypony home?" Twilight rolled over and looked over her perch to greet who had entered her library. "Twilight, darling, why are you still in bed? Shouldn't you be outside enjoying this simply marvelous weather we're having?"
"Rarity?" She climbed out of bed and began her walk down the stairs.
"Why, of course! Who else?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Well I tried talking to you yesterday about something, but Applejack told me you didn't want to be bothered by anypony. Was something wrong? Care to talk about it?"
"Oh, Spike and I were just...out yesterday. It was Spike's Assistant Appreciation Day, and he wanted to spend it away from everypony." She didn't want to say anything more, for fear of saying too much.
"Ah, yes! His Assistant Apprecation Day, how splendid! Speaking of, is my little Spikey-Wikey home? I have a present to give him for his special day..."
Twilight felt a nerve pinch in her stomach when Rarity called him that pet name, though she didn't let it show. "No, he's out getting groceries. It's his first time out on his own getting things for us. He left not too long ago."
Rarity gave a little pout. "Oh, very well. Could you be a dear and give him this? I made it for him yesterday!~" She used her magic to pull a small box out of her tail. "Don't tell Spike, but I got him three large baby-blue diamonds cut to look just like my cutie mark. I thought he'd like them, considering his...um...affection for me." The box exchanged magical auras as Twilight took posession of it.
"Uh...thanks, Rarity. I'll be sure to give it to him...Is there any other reason you dropped by?"
"As a matter of fact, there was! I wanted to have a talk with you about Spike..."
Oh boy... "What about him?"
"I'm sure you've noticed how frequently our little dragon has asked me on...outings, recently."
"Yes, I have..."
"Yes, well *ahem*...could you please tell him to...oh, what's the phrase? 'Tone it down?'"
"Tone it down?"
"Yes...I don't exactly mind that he is affectionate and all, it's just the way he shows his affection is a bit...bothersome, sometimes."
Twilight involuntarily reacted to her choice of word, and Rarity noticed. "Wait, so he bothers you? What does that mean?"
"Well..." Rarity tried to pick her words carefully. "...It's just that he asks me all too much for them. It seems like he tries too hard to impress me. It gets...oh, what's the word?..."
"Annoying?" Twilight couldn't help but put a hint of anger behind the word.
"That's not exactly the word I would use, but...in a sense, yes. Annoying."
"I know he can be excited about dating sometimes, but his head and heart are in the right place, trust me. He is not annoying. He asks so much because you constantly tell him no. You shouldn't have tried to push him away so much. You don't know what could happen; he might not come back to you if you push too hard..."
"Well, I...guess you're right about that. He does try hard, but his intentions are pure. That, I've noticed. Thank you for the advice, Twilight. I certainly will put it to use. Could you please tell Spike what I said about all of the asking?"
"I'll be sure to let him know..." Twilight used her entire will to keep her talk with Spike inside of her head.
"Fabulous! Now, I wish I could stay longer, but Sweetie Belle is waiting outside. We were going out to the fields to have a picnic with Applejack, her sister, and the rest of our friends, and I was seeing if you wanted to join us, darling!"
"Uhh...Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to pass. I need to...study up for an upcoming test. For the Princess and all..." Twilight hoped to Celestia that Rarity would believe her and leave.
"Oh, very well. If you must." Rarity stepped outside beside the waiting Sweetie Belle. "Are you sure you can't even pop by?"
Twilight walked towrds the doorway. "I'm positive. Besides, I have to wait for Spike. He's going to be home shortly..." Twilight stole a glance at the sundial. Still another hour before two.
"If you must. Just try not to be such a stranger, Twilight. The Boutique is always open for friends..." The next thing Rarity mumbled almost made Twilight yell in protest. "...Spike knows that all too well, unfortunately..."
"...Okay, Rarity. I'll see you around..." She closed the door without waiting for a response from the fashionista outside. She gave a sigh. How dare she call Spike annoying?! Spike isn't annoying at all! He's sweet and kind and nice and anypony would be lucky to have him!
She carried Rarity's box upstairs and slid it under her bed. The nerve of that mare! She's lucky to have gotten Spike's love for this long. If I had been in her position...She shocked herself out of her anger with one simple fact: she knew what she would do, and it was against the rules. She had heard it straight from Celestia's mouth when she was a filly: do not attempt a relationship with your dragon; otherwise, she would have to intercede. Twilight feared the penalty of disobeying this one direct order more than anything else in Equestria, simply because of the fact that she didn't know the penalty. It wasn't disclosed to her by Celestia. She didn't even know if anypony else had ever done it. She was simply told not to love Spike as more than friends. And right now, she was terrified because if she continued down the path she was on with him...if she didn't stop herself...and if her mentor found out...she had no idea what could happen.
She fell onto her bed and cried.
"Are you sure, Rarity?"
"I'm positive, Applejack. She just seemed so...different. So distant."
Applejack bit into her apple. "That jus' plum don't sound like Twilight ta' me."
"Me either..." Fluttershy chimed in after a sip from her juice box. "Is she angry at you?"
"I don't believe so, darling. I couldn't imagine what for..."
"Well, when Ah talked to 'er yersterday, she seemed fine..."
Pinkie Pie rolled over next to Applejack. "Oooh, I love love love mysteries! And it looks like we've got a real life one right now!" She pulled her detective's hat from her picnic basket in front of her and placed it on her head. "Let's solve this thing! The Mysterious Case of the Mysterious Twilight Sparkle and her Mysterious-ness..."
Applejack ignored her. "Well whatever's botherin' her must've happened real recently. What connects you ta' her that happened recently, Rarity?"
Rarity thought back over the past few days. "Nothing that I can think of...Hang on! Spike asked me on another one of his dates the other night. That's definitely something, right?"
"Ooh, another piece of the ever-growing puzzle. And what did you say?"
"Well, Pinkie, I politefully declined. I didn't feel like going out that night."
"Likely story, suspect!" Pinke performed a somersault and landed directly in front of Rarity. "You're holding out on us, Rares! Talk!"
"I swear, that's all. He came to my door at around sunset, asked me out, I declined, and he walked away. What else can I say about it?"
"Hold on a spell. This was two nights ago? Cuz' Ah saw him sulkin' around in a suit that night. So that was why? Rarity, how could you?"
"A new piece of evidence!" Pinkie turned to face Applejack. "And what were you doing on the night of...well...that night?!"
Rainbow Dash finally spoke. "Uh, Pinkie Pie? Dont'cha think you're takin' this a bit seriously?"
"That's what a pony who's hiding something would say..." She cartwheeled over to the relaxing pony. "So where were you during all of this?"
Rainbow lifted her sunglasses. "...Seriously, Pinkie? I was hanging out with you. Remember, you needed help pranking back the Cake twins?"
"Oh...The logic on that alibi is sound enough."
"Ya think?" She put her sunglasses back on and returned to her relaxing.
"But that still leaves the question of where Applejack was during all this."
"Well, Ah went out fer' a few drinks with Big Mac that night. That's when Ah saw Spike. He looked purty sad about you shootin' 'im down, Rarity. Worse than usual, Ah mean..."
"I didn't mean to depress the poor dear, I simply didn't want to go on a dinner date that night! And after what I said to Twilight about him! I feel absolutely awful now!"
"Oh goodness," Fluttershy commented. "What did you say to her?"
"I told her that I thought Spike was being bothersome and annoying with his constant 'date visits'..."
Rainbow clicked her tongue from her reclined position. "Smooth move, Rarity. You had to finally break the poor guy's heart into the millionth piece, didn't you?"
"Well, I didn't mean to, Rainbow Dash! Oh, no! Twilight was right! I did push him away too hard this time!" She began to trot off towards the nearest road back into Ponyville.
"Where ya' goin', Rarity?"
"I must make something for my poor, little Spikey-Wikey to apologize for being such a brute! Please watch Sweetie Belle for me; I simply cannot have her over tonight! Oh, of all the worst things that could happen..."
Sweetie Belle looked at Applebloom. "Come on, AB! We've gotta find Scootaloo for our..." they both jumped up, "CUTIE MARK CRUSADER SLEEPOVER AT SWEET APPLE ACRES! YAY!" They both zipped away to find the third in their group.
"Wait, Rarity! Ah can't--" But it was too late. Rarity had already moved both out of earshot and out of sight.
Applejack sighed and looked at the other mares seated with her. "She'd better fix this, 'nd soon. I sense a storm 'a brewin'..."
"Well, it's a good thing I packed an umbrella!" Pinkie (somehow) pulled a full-size umbrella from her basket and opened it above her head. Everypony looked at her with puzzling expressions. "What? I'm always prepared!"
The door burst open and two large, brown paper sacks walked in. "Alright, Twi! I'm home!" The bags were placed on the ground, revealing Spike behind them. He didn't hear a response from their bedroom. "Twilight? You up there?"
Twilight wiped her eyes and looked over the edge of the perch. It was hard to pretend that she wasn't crying, but she managed. "I heard you the first time, Spike. I'm...glad you're home."
"I told you nothin' was gonna happen! I got everything you asked for, too!" He rummaged through one of the bags.
"Thank you, Spike. I always knew I could count on you..."
"I even got you a little something with the extra bits left over. Nope, not in this one..." He reached into the other bag.
"Thanks, but...I'm not exactly in an 'eating' type of mood right now." She walked down the stairs and met up with him in the kitchen.
"Oh, Twi. I don't always think with my stomach!" He pulled out his gift for her, and she gasped. It was a bouquet of purple carnations. They were her favorite flower, and he got her a bouquet of them on his own? She felt more tears welling in her eyes...But what kind of tears were these?
"...Spike...These are absolutely beautiful. Where did you get them?"
"I stopped by Rose's house before I got back. I know you told me not to, but...they are your favorites, right?"
"Of course they are. I just don't know what to say. This is so thoughtful..." She took the bouquet from him with her magic and turned around to put them in the vase that was originally only for the rose. She turned back to him and wrapped her forelegs around him. "Thank you, Spike."
He was a bit surprised. She had never hugged him first. But he wrapped his arms around her neck anyway and embraced her. "No problem, Twi." They stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity before Spike felt something sliding down his back. Then he felt two somethings hit his shoulder before he heard Twilight sob and realized that the somethings were tears. "Twilight? Are you...Are you crying?"
She didn't say anything. She just cried. She wasn't afraid to cry, not with him. Not this time. She cried and screamed and tried to talk, but couldn't. And she knew even if she could talk, what would she say? She had no idea why she was crying, or even what emotion the tears were of. She just felt...better, crying in his arms.
The tears lasted for an unknown amount of time before Twilight broke the embrace. She turned from him and, instead of explaining, began to pull boxes out of the grocery sacks and stack them in cabinets. Spike still had no idea why she had cried on him, especially since she said she was happy with her flowers. Maybe it was just one of those things grown ponies cry about...so instead of asking, he just reached for something in the bag to help in Twilight's unpacking.
He stopped reaching. "Yes, Twilight?"
"Do you remember the rules Princess Celestia gave you when you became my assistant?"
"Of course. Those rules are my life. I know them all by heart."
"Did she tell you any rule about any...feelings toward your owner?"
Spike was confused. "No. What kind of feelings, Twi?"
"Well...did she ask you not to...feel anything about me?" She stacked three more packages in the pantry, trying not to let him see her face.
"I'm not exactly sure what you mean. I feel a lot of things about you. None of those feelings are wrongor bad...right?"
"Of course not. It's just..." She paused. "What do you think she would do to me if I disobeyed one of her rules?..."
Spike could not find any clarity from any question she asked. "What are you talking about? What rule are you disobeying?"
Twilight found it hard to talk all of a sudden. It was like her throat closed on purpose to keep her from saying something she truly did not want to say. "...It's...not important. It's just a dumb rule. Just answer the question, please." She felt something inside when she called her mentor's most important rule about Spike "dumb." It was like her heart skipped a beat...in a good way.
"Well, I guess if it was just a single little rule, she wouldn't care all to much. You're her prized pupil, I'm sure she could understand if you broke one little rule one little time..."
"What's this all about, Twi? You know I don't like it when you're like this..."
Twilight turned back to Spike and lifted the bag of groceries using her magic toward her and began packing things in the fridge. Spike took a close look at her. She was smiling. Her tears had stopped, at least for the moment. "I just needed a second opinion from you. I was thinking about doing something for quite a long time, but I was getting held back by a few things."
"Twilight, what are you talking about?"
"It's...not important right now. I needed to hear you say that right now. Thank you." She paused as she finished with the groceries and pushed the empty bags to Spike. "Could you please throw these away?"
"Aw, yeah! Now we're talkin' my language!" He took the paper bags and crushed them into two little paper balls. This was his favorite thing to do after shopping. He took one and tossed it in a high arc dead center in the trash can. With the next one, he tossed it straight up, watched it fall, and swatted it with his tail just before it hit the ground. It sailed through the air and hit the wall before falling into the can. "Yes! Two points! Spike's on fire today! HAAAAAAH! HAAAAAAH!" He bowed to his pretend-screaming crowd.
Twilight giggled as she left the kitchen to look at her new flowers. They were still firm and blooming, and they looked beautiful sitting next to the rose; still, Twilight used her magic to place the rose in the middle of the bouquet of carnations. It was a bit of a squeeze, but every flower had its space. Perfect...
The sun began to set over Ponyville, casting beautiful rays of oranges and pinks throughout the town and parts beyond. Everypony set this time aside to wrap up the day's events and find their beds for a good night's sleep. Everypony...except Applejack. This evening was once again her drinking night with Big Macintosh and Rainbow Dash, but she decided not to go today and, instead spend some time with Applebloom.
"Ain't it nice, Applebloom? Ownin' yer' own farm, raisin' a good, honest livin', doin' somethin' good wit' yer' life..."
"Sure is, Applejack."
"That's the life Ah'm glad I'm livin'..."
"Ah'm jus' glad ya' didn't go off an' stay with Auntie and Uncle Orange out in Manehattan."
"Yeah, Ah'm glad Ah came back, too. Somepony's gotta make sure you grow up right an' stay outta trouble..." She rustled her little sister's hair.
"Oh come on, Applejack. Ah don't get in too much trouble."
"Course ya' don't, lil' miss 'Love Potion...'" Applejack loved teasing both of her siblings about that little tangle with Cheerilee ever since she heard about it from Twilight.
Applebloom turned bright red. "Ah told you already! It was an accident, and we misread! How many times are ya' gonna bring that up?!"
Applejack leaned back against the tree and tipped her hat over her eyes. "Ah promise Ah'll stop bringin' it up...when it stops bein' so dang funny!" She giggled and took a gulp of her cider.
"You said that last time, too!"
"Well, Ah guess it's still funny, ain't it?"
"Shouldn't you be on yer' way to be findin' Big Mac an' goin to your bar, already? Sheesh!"
Applejack lifted her hat and gave her sister a smug look. "Ya' mean you don't wanna spend some quality time with yer' own big sister? Ah'm plum offended, Applebloom!" She stuck out her tongue, and the filly responded in the same way.
"Speakin' of, where is Big Mac? Wasn't he out here with you buckin' apples just a bit ago?"
"Ah told him to go on and find Rainbow Dash without me. Ah didn't feel like goin' out to no bar tonight. Besides, here Ah can mix my drink the way Ah want it, an' it's always on the house!~" Applejack took another gulp of cider. "Ya' want some?"
Applebloom looked up at her. "But that's the hard cider fer' grown ponies! Ah can't drink that!"
"Ah'm not sayin' drink the whole mug, Applebloom! Jus' a sip or two...Do ya' want some or not?"
Applebloom was a bit skeptical. "This is some kinda trick, isn't it?"
"Why in tarnation would it be a trick?"
"You want me ta' say yes so you'll get me in some trouble some kinda way an' it'll give you some more ta' laugh at, huh?"
"A'course not, Applebloom. Ah jus' figured, since we hardly ever get to spend time together out here like this with me workin' an' all, I could share a lil' drink with you. But if you don't want any, I'll jus' keep it ta' myself..."
"...You sure ya' won't get me in trouble?"
"Come on, Applebloom! It ain't even that alcoholic! You'd need like ten'a these ta' even notice that yer' feelin' somethin'! Ah'm sure Granny Smith wouldn't mind you havin' a tiny sip. 'Sides, she let me have some when Ah was about yer' age."
"Well, if you say it's okay..." Applebloom took the mug from her sister and took a small gulp. She was right about it being safe for her; there was barely any alcohol in this cider. She could taste a small hint of it, but not enough to make her spit it out. "It tastes...sour."
"Eeyup, that's what it's s'posed ta' taste like. Now give it back. Ah need a swig." She took the mug back and drank the rest in a few gulps. "Oh dag-nabbit. Now Ah gotta go get some more..."
"Ah can go get it for you! Ah'll get some'a the non-alcoholic kind for me too so we can both have somethin' ta' drink!"
"Well, Ah'd mighty 'preciate that, AB." She watched her little sister get up and trot towards the barn that they keep the barrels of stored cider in. "Hurry back, we're losin' sunlight!" Applebloom disappeared over the hill, and Applejack took the opportunity to catch a few minutes of sleep before she came back.
Minutes passed, and eventually Applejack felt something somewhat sharp poke her leg. She lifted the hat off of her eyes expecting to see cider. She actually saw something completely different. "Hey Applejack. I didn't wake you from a nap or something, did I?"
"Well, a'course not, Spike. What's up?"
"Well, I was kinda hoping that I could talk to you about some things. You said I could come to you, right?"
"A'course ya' can, Spike. Are ya still on that issue with Rarity?"
"Actually, Twilight helped me work through that. How did you know that I had a problem with Rarity?"
"Well, Ah saw ya sulkin around the other day with a suit an' flowers. Ah didn't need to be a detective ta' put two and two together about that night."
"So what can Ah do ya' for?"
"Well, I actually had a few questions about dating. Would you be able to help me?"
Applejack sat up. "Ya' finally got a date with Rarity? Well, thats great news!"
"Actually, it's not with Rarity. I've decided that I'm not gonna get my heart played with anymore, so I'm not goin' out for her anymore."
Applejack was a bit surprised. Spike was going out on a date with somepony who wasn't Rarity? "Well if it ain't Rarity yer' needin' help with, then who is it?"
"I'd rather not say, if that's okay with you. It's a secret until I officially ask for the date and she accepts."
"Wait, yer' askin' for datin' advice and you haven't even asked fer' the date yet?"
"I'm workin' on it, okay? Can you help me?"
"A'course Ah can help, Spike. Ah'm assumin' ya' need help with askin' the gal first?"
Spike nodded quickly. "Of course. Any help would be awesome!"
"Take a seat, then. We gotta lot to learn tonight..." Spike plopped down next to Applejack under her tree. "Speakin'a learnin', where is Twilight? Shouldn't she be here ta' help ya' take notes er' somethin' like that? You know how that mare can be when it comes to learnin'..."
Spike blushed a bit at the mention of her. "Actually, she's out right now studying in the Eastern Fields not too far from here. She left me behind to take care of the library and said she wouldn't be back until nightfall."
"Well, Ah guess that gave ya' time to come talk ta' me about yer' mystery date, didn't it? In that case, let's get down ta' business before she finds out yer' gone. Now, what seems ta' be the problem?"
"I just don't wanna strike with this girl like I did with Rarity, ya know? How do I talk to her? How should I ask her? What if she says no? How will I--"
Applejack brought a hoof to his mouth. "Step One: don't get too excited. Yer' gonna drive her away if ya' act too crazy around'er. Stay cool and calm, and let her come to you. Remember what happened with Rarity? Ya kept gettin' all worked up and that scared'er off..." Applejack didn't like saying that to Spike, but it was the truth.
"Okay, stay calm. Got it. What's next?"
Applejack thought for a few seconds. "Do ya' know what she's interested in?"
"Oh, definitely! We know just about everything about each other!" Spike regretted saying that to some degree, hoping Applejack wouldn't get the slightest hint as to who he was talking about.
"Well, could ya' talk about it in conversation with her?"
"What do you mean?"
"Her interests. If this gal tried to talk about'er interests, could ya keep a conversation goin'?"
"Well...I mean I guess..."
"That's Step Two: learn more about'er interests. Figure out what she likes ta' do in her spare time and try ta' work that into some kinda thing you both can enjoy."
"Well, I do know she really likes to stargaze, so..."
"Now that's exactly what Ah mean! If ya' wanna get'er intrigued about goin' on a date with you, tell'er y'all can do that."
"Okay, what else?"
"Step Three: the way into a mare's heart is a long and winding road...but shortcuts're covered in gift wrap. Give her presents every now and again, maybe a few flowers once a week. That'll always brighten her day!"
"Presents every so often. Right. Anything else?"
"Only one other thing Ah can think of: when in doubt, communicate about it. There's only one thing a gal likes more than a guy who isn't afraid to talk about'is problems, and that's a guy who will let them talk about theirs. If you've got a problem, communication is key. Get it?"
Applejack nodded. "Good. Now, Step Four--"
"Applejack!~" Applebloom called from down the hill. "Ah'm back!" Spike turned around to find Applebloom trotting up the hill with two mugs of bubbling cider.
"Ah, shoot. Ah fergot all about Applebloom...Sorry ta' cut our lesson short, but...ya' know, lil' sister's an' all. Anyway, that's jus' the basics of my datin' tips. Yer' still too young to hear about anythin' past second base, so that's all Ah'm gonna say fer now."
Spike looked to her. "Wait, what's past second base? And...What's second base?"
Applejack laughed. "Exactly, Sugarcube. Jus' stick ta' what Ah taught ya' for now, an' you'll be fine."
Spike stood up, ready to head for home. "Well, thanks for the help, AJ. I really appreciate it."
"No problem, Spike. Jus' remember to bring yer' lil' friend on over to the farm sometime so Ah can get a good look at her..."
Spike blushed. "Uh...Sure thing, AJ."
"Either way, Ah wanna see'er, okay?"
"Sure thing!" Spike started to take off down the hill for home before Twilight realized that he was gone. He had learned quite a few valuable lessons that evening, and he wanted to make sure they were put to good use.
The sound of magical sparks broke the peace and quiet of the Eastern Fields of Ponyville, quickly preceding a flash of bright purple light and signaled a fast approaching Twilight out of nowhere. She had spent all day down in the catacombs finishing documentation of what she could about her precious No-Gems. She was obviously exhausted from walking around in a cave all day, conducting experiment after experiment. Her mane was slightly curled in places it shouldn't have been, her eyes were half-lidded, and her expression screamed 'bed'. "Oh, dear sweet Celestia. Is it that late? Spike must be worried sick about me!" She tried to gallop home, but her legs quickly rejected that silly idea by giving out under her and landing her flat on her face. "Ow...Maybe I should try walking..." She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and bean to lightly trot herself home.
She looked up at the moon as she walked. She loved nights like this: the air was cool and brisk, the grass was soft and barely damp with the coming dew, and nopony was around making noise or interrupting Luna's beautiful symphony of silence. This moment was almost perfect; the only thing that could've made her walk home better would be if she had been walking with Spike. She had finally decided while down in the catacombs that she wasn't going to be afraid to say it anymore. She made herself say it down there in the safety and privacy the catacombs brought: she loved Spike. She loved him, and nothing Celestia could do would change that fact. It was a scary thing to say, to reject the direct words of one who could send her to another heavenly body for the rest of your life...but it was the truth.
She quickly found her way back into Ponyville, where she found most of the town's residents fast asleep in their homes. She had to admit, seeing Ponyville so devoid of activity was a bit...eery to her. It was like a ghost town, save for two ponies walking her way. "Hi Rainbow Dash! Hi Big Macintosh!"
Rainbow walked up to her, stumbling a bit as she did. "Hey Twi...*hic!*" Rainbow slurred a bit as she spoke. It was obvious that she was tipsy. Big Mac followed closely behind and nodded in Twilight's direction.
Twilight sniffed the air and noticed a familiar scent. "Have you two been drinking tonight?"
"Eeyup..." Big Mac uttered in reply. He didn't have the slurring in his voice that Rainbow did. He was always able to hold his drinks down better than her.
"But it's nothin' serious yet. We only hit two clubs so far. There was that one down on *hic!* Brand Street that plays that jazz stuff," She turned to Big Mac."I don't see why you're into that *hic!* kinda music..." He shrugged his shoulders. "And then there was that one on the other side of town that I really *hic!* like that Vinyl plays in. She seriously knows how to drop some *hic!* fat bass!~"
"Well, I hope you two are enjoying yourselves. Don't stay out too late, okay?" Twilight walked around them in an attempt to get home.
"Twi, wait up a sec!~" Twilight turned around. "I don't know if this is your 'thing' or not, but..." Rainbow started to blush a bit. "...when we're done bar hoppin' or *hic!* whatever, we were gonna go back to the farm for a little...afterparty, if you know what I mean.~" Big Mac started to blush. "If you aren't doin' anything in a couple hours, you could joi--" Big Mac covered her mouth with his hoof and smiled sheepishly at Twilight, who returned the expression.
"Uhhh, she's drunk, isn't she?"
"Eeyup..." He started to pull Rainbow away to the next club.
"Hey! I'm not that drunk!" She stumbled into Big Mac's chest. "Well...maybe a little drunk..."
Twilight couldn't help but chuckle at her friend. "Try to get her into bed at a reasonable hour, okay?"
"Eeyup," Big Mac replied and nodded. He turned himself and the now giggling Rainbow Dash down the street to their next destination.
Minutes passed quickly and once again, Twilight was alone on the street leading home. In the distance, she could see the wooden door of her library and her legs picked up a bit of speed to make it there faster. She longed for her home, for her bed, for a wonderful night's sleep. In her mind, she could not have gotten home fast enough as she pushed the door open with one hoof, having drained all of her magic in the catacombs. "Ugh, finally home!" She fell into a heap of exhaustion on the floor.
"It's about time you got back, Twilight. I've been waiting here all day! You said you'd be gone for a little while with those No-Gems. What kept you?" Spike and Owlowicious were sitting on the steps leading up to the bedroom, reading a book.
Twilight stood up again, much to the protest of her aching legs. "What are you still doing up, Spike? Don't you know how late it is?"
"Well, of course I do. I'm guessing somepony didn't notice the sun going down again, tonight?"
Twilight blushed. "Uh, never mind that. You're actually reading?"
"Yeah, I know. Surprising, huh?"
"You have no idea. I knew I'd rub off on you one of these days..."
"Oh, hush Twi. I'm just brushing up on some things I already knew about. I pick up a lot of stuff listening to you when you write out loud."
Twilight looked away when she realized she did have a habit of saying what she wrote as she was writing. "Well, what are you brushing up on?"
"Just some stuff on stars and comets and junk like that. Learning constellations is tough work when you realize just how many there are..."
Twilight walked over to her assistant and sat next to him. "If you'd like, I could teach you a few I know off the top of my head..."
"Really? You'd do that?"
"Of course..." She yawned. "...But can it wait until tomorrow night? I'm pretty tired..." An idea popped into her head. "Better yet, how about we go out to the Southern Fields tomorrow night? The stars are always more beautiful there than the Eastern Fields, and I can show you every constellation up there in the sky instead of on a page."
"Sure. We'll go at sunset?"
"That sounds lovely. It's a date..." Twilight yawned again.
Spike and Owlowicious looked at each other before looking back at Twilight. "A date?"
Twilight started to blush. "If you don't want to call it that, it can be something else like an outing or a meeting or a--" Spike brought a claw to her muzzle.
"Calm down, Twi. I'm fine with it being a date. That is, if you're okay with it..."
"I'm fine with it being a date, too..."
"Good..." He looked into her eyes.
"Good..." She looked back into his.
"Hoo..." Owlowicious hooted.
The pair looked at the owl before Twilight realized how tired she was again. "Heh heh...Well Spike, I'm heading up to bed. I'm really tired, and I'll need my sleep for tomorrow." Twilight climbed up the stairs and turned back to him at the top. "You coming?"
Spike looked at the book in his hand. He placed it on the table in the middle of the room and started his way upstairs. He already knew tomorrow would be a great day, he could just feel it...
Twlight woke up. She was in complete darkness, and she was unable to move any of her limbs. From what she could tell, she was chained up, hanging straight up from some place high in the air. "...Hello?" She called out to the echoing darkness. The darkness didn't answer her. "Is anypony there?" Still, no response. However, she saw a flash of yellow light behind her before she heard the sound of wings flapping. The sound got progressively closer and closer to her and she couldn't breathe. She was terrified; she had no idea what was going on or what was about to happen. "Please, you have to help me! Somepony trapped me in these chains and--"
"The chains I wished I would never have to use on anypony else. Especially you, my dear student..."
Twilight's eyes widened. She had never been so afraid in her entire life. She heard the voice. It was sharp. It was cold. It was devoid of all feeling. It was Celestia's.
"P-p-p...Princess Celestia?...What's going on? Where am I? Why am I chained up like this?" She felt Celestia's prescence directly behind her, but she dared not look. She was too afraid of what she might see.
"Really? You don't know why you are here, my student? Allow me to refresh your memory..." Twilight felt her mentor's horn press against the back of her head before everything went white.
She was back in her library, with Celestia by her side. She wondered why her teacher brought her here, and her eyes widened when she looked around and found out why. She was watching herself and Spike have their conversation the previous night. She watched the corner of her eye in horror as Celestia shook her head. She felt sick to her stomach, as if she were watching a brutal murder play out in front of her. She saw herself stand up and walk up the stairs before everything faded to white again and she returned to her prison. Twilight looked down in shame.
"Well? Do you not have anything to say for yourself?"
Twilight looked back up. Tears were now in her eyes. "I...I don't know what to say. I'm sorry I broke your rule, Princess..." She started to cry.
Celestia turned around and started to leave. "You aren't sorry now, but don't worry. Like my sister was when she was brought here, you will be..."
"Your sister...So that means..."
"Yes, Twilight. I hoped you would not have to share the same fate of my sister in a banishment here in the moon. You saw what turmoil it put her in. However, I personally told you not to pursue a relationship with your dragon, and you deliberately disobeyed my orders."
She tried to break free of her chains, but they would not allow her much movement. She tried to use her magic to break them, but her horn did not work. A magic inhibitor ring was placed aound the base of it, preventing any magical use and leaving her useless. She grew frantic; she couldn't spend a thousand years on the moon! What would happen to her friends? What would happen to her library? What would happen to Spike? "Please, Princess! Don't leave me here! I'm sorry!"
Princess Celestia was surrounded by a bright yellow light once more. "No, my student. I'm sorry..." She disappeared.
Twilight was left alone again. The darkness surrounded her again, almost threatening to choke her. She struggled hard, trying to break free somehow. Her strength and will was draining fast. She screamed with everything she had in her, hoping somepony would hear her and knowing nopony would...
Twilight sat up in a cold sweat. She gasped for breath, feeling for something solid, something real. It was just a dream...Just a dream... she had to repeat in her head. She looked out the window to prove she was still in Equestria and not in the moon. Slivers of the sun were visible over the hills beyond Ponyville, meaning that day was fast approaching. She got out of bed and looked at Spike. He was starting to stir, so it wouldn't be long before he woke up for his morning chores. She quietly walked to the mirror she kept on her personal shelf and took a good look at herself.
She looked terrible: her eyes were red from crying in her sleep and her face was sticky from the tears. But what surprised her most were the specks of white in her mane. She grabbed a brush and groomed her mane and tail free of the unknown substance. Apparently, she still had pieces of No-Gem in her mane from the catacombs the night before. She would have to make a note to wash herself after each trip down there from now on.
She heard a yawn from Spike, a sign that he was now awake. "...Twilight? That you?"
"Yes, it's me. Good morning, Spike..."
"You're never up before I am. What's going on?"
"I just..." she shuddered, "...Just had a bad dream."
Spike stood up and scratched his back. "What happened?"
She stared at herself in the mirror. "I don't want to talk about it..."
Spike walked towards her, but paused when he stepped on something behind her that poked his foot. "Ow..." He bent down and took a closer look at what he stepped on. "Hey, are these bits of No-Gem? You have some with you?"
"Yes, they're No-Gems, but I don't have anymore with me. These little pieces were in my mane and tail last night and I must not have noticed."
"Well, I guess these'll count as a little snack before breakfast..." He began to walk around her, picking up bits and pieces of the crystals she accidentally brought home.
She took them from his hand using her magic. "Spike, no. Remember what happened last time you had eaten too many No--"
"Oh, come on Twilight. I just woke up! I'm not gonna have nightmares this time I eat them. And besides, these are only little pieces! What harm could they do? Please?"
"I'm sorry, Spike. I still don't know how we react in prolonged exposure to them. I think they cause hallucinations or something..." She began to have flashbacks of her nightmare, but she quickly shrugged them off. "Until I know for sure, we're staying far away from those things, okay?"
Spike pouted. "Fine..."
"Good. So now that that's settled, start on your chores and I'll be down in a minute."
"Alrighty then!" He saluted and jumped down two stairs before turning around. "Wait! What do you want for breakfast?"
She thought it for a moment. "Surprise me."
"Oh, and Spike?"
"Be sure to pack some food for our date tonight. Don't forget, okay?" She gave a little smile at him.
"Got it!" The little dragon moved out of sight and onto his first task with a bit more pep than before.
She turned to her reflection in the mirror. "Come on, Twilight. You can say it. You said it down there, and you can say it up here..." She stared at herself begging, pleading, daring to say those three words in the light of day. She remembered everything in her dream, the Princess' tone, her face, her disappointment. She closed her eyes, faced the sun, took a deep breath, and spoke with every ounce of bravery she had in her body:
"I love Spike. I know you told me not to. But I do, and there is nothing that you can say or do to me, in a dream or otherwise, to make me stop loving him."
She exhaled. She just indirectly spoke against her mentor, her Princess, the most powerful being in all of Equestria...and she felt so much better for doing so. She felt lighter than air, knowing a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. If she had the courage to say that, she had the courage to do anything. And there was something that she wanted to do that night that required that much courage...
"Come on, you rocks. Tell me what I want to know..." Twilight dropped another speck of No-Gem into one of the many strange chemicals on her lab table and waited for some type of reaction. She looked for anything that could explain the nightmares, anything to explain the hallucinations that they had been having. However, the observations she made and the data she collected could not prove that the No-Gems had caused any negative effect on her. But that was impossible; she saw their effects first-hoof. She would never have a nightmare like that on her own. And after what she saw Spike going through after he ate so many of them...there had to be a reason, and she wasn't going to leave her laboratory until she--
"Twilight? Are you still down here?" A voice calling from the top of the stairs behind her broke her concentration.
"Yes, Spike. What is it?"
"The sun's starting to go down."
Twilight turned from her table to Spike, unsure of what that could mean. She saw the book tucked under his arm. It was the same book he had the previous night on stars and comets.Her eyes widened when she realized that she was supposed to be taking him stargazing that night. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry, I completely forgot! I was just so focused on my studies!" She jumped from her stool and lifted her lab coat off, using her magic to place it on a coat tree next to an identical, smaller one suited for the dragon. "I am so so so sorry, Spike. Let me go get ready, it'll only take a second!"
"We can just go tomorrow night, if you want..." Spike watched as she zoomed past in a blaze of purple towards the bathroom.
"Nonsense, Spike! I told you we were going tonight, and we're going tonight!" She closed the bathroom door. "You know I don't go back on my word!" Spike heard the bath start as he tried to talk to her through the door.
"But you've been working all day. Don't you think you'll get too tired out there to--"
"You know me, Spike. I'm perfectly capable of working a day and staying up all night..."
"Sure, just like you're perfectly capable of cleaning up your piles of books after yourself..." Spike muttered.
"What was that?"
"Nothing!~" Spike stuck his tongue out at the door.
"Uh huh..." Twilight rolled her eyes and Spike practically saw it through the door. "Why don't you go out ahead of me and make sure everything's ready? I can't make myself decent with you constantly bothering me," she teased.
"Oh, so now I'm a bother, huh? I think I should be offended, Twi," he teased back.
"I didn't say it was a bad thing, did I?"
"Since when is calling somepony a bother a good thing?"
"Well, you seem to pull it off rather well. It's cute when you do it."
Spike blushed a bit. "In that case, hurry it up in there! Celestia won't keep the sunset forever so you can laze around in the tub all evening!"
"Oh, hush! I said it was cute. Don't push it," she said with flirtatious perturbation. "And didn't I tell you to get out of here?"
"Fine, I was just tryin' to keep you company, sheesh!~" He heard Twilight giggle through the door before he walked to the bags that were sitting in front of the door, waiting for departure. He quickly made sure everything was packed correctly (because he knew Twilight would ask) before loading the bags onto his back. They were a bit heavy, but he could handle them easily. Besides, the Eastern Fields weren't too far from the library, so he wouldn't have to walk far. "Alright Twi, I'm off!"
"Did you make sure everything was packed correctly?" Spike laughed at her predictability, not answering her question as he opened the door. "What's so funny, Spike?"
"Just your little quirks, Twi. Sometimes you can be cute, too." He opened the door. "Don't take too long, okay?"
"This bath feels amazing, so I'm not promising anything!~"
"Suuuure, you're not..." He hopped off the step in front of their tree home and made his way to the specified fields to set up.
"Ugh, Im so bored!" Sweetie Belle shuffled around the lobby of the Carousel Boutique, looking for something fun to do. "Rarity, are you done yet? You said we would play at sunset, and it's sunset already!"
Rarity poked her head out of her inspiration room. "Sweetie Belle, please let me work in peace. Can I go a moment without hearing your whining?"
Sweeite sat up and worked her best Rarity impression. "I am not whining! I'm complaining!" Rarity rolled her eyes. "Besides, why are you making that stupid dress anyway? You don't even like Spike!"
"Now just one second, Sweetie Belle! I never said I didn't acquire feelings for the little dragon..."
Sweetie looked away. "You sure don't act like you like him all that much..." she muttered under her breath.
"I am a lady, Sweetie, and ladies act with class and patience. Matters such as love are long processes, and must be handled as such."
"So what if Spike doesn't know that? Seems an awful lot like he asks you out almost every other day. If I were him, I'd cut my losses and just move on to somepony who can at least say yes to a stupid date..."
Rarity rolled her eyes again. "I can say yes to something as silly as a date, Sweetie."
"So why haven't you? You've had, like, a million chances so far!"
"I would accept if he could act like a gentlecolt and give me time to prepare. You should know what I mean, you were here last time he asked me. Don't you remember how sudden he was? I had no time to get ready, and I especially had no time to find you a babysitter..." She started to walk back into her inspiration room and away from Sweetie Belle. Sweetie followed, determined to prove some kind of point.
"I keep telling you, Rarity. I'm old enough to watch myself, I do it all day while you're working anyway. And how much time could you possibly need to get ready for dinner? It's food, for Celestia's sake! Besides that, you were trying to get away from me that night anyways!"
"Sweetie Belle, watch your tone. And you wouldn't understand why I didn't go with him that night. I can't just get up and go out whenever I wish. I have responsibilities around here."
"What'd you have to do that night? If I remember, you were busy doing a lot of laying around."
Rarity started to get a bit irritated. "Don't you have something to do somewhere else that doesn't have to do with bothering me?"
"You were supposed to be playing with me, anyway!"
"Oh...right. Well, can you please find something to do somewhere else that doesn't have to do with bothering me?"
Sweetie Belle groaned. "You're just mad because you know I'm right..."
"Sweetie, out please."
"Fine, then. Be that way..." She walked out of the room. "Just know Spike isn't gonna wait forever for your classy flank..."
Rarity turned around. "What was that?"
"Nothing!" A halo popped up over Sweetie Belle's head.
"...Be sure to keep it that way." Rarity used her magic to close the door to her inspiration room.
Sweetie stuck her tongue out at the door. She looked around the room for something to do. Eventually, she shuffled across the room long enough to spot some of Rarity's fabric and a pair of scissors laying around. "I'm sure Rarity wouldn't mind if I borrowed a bit of this..." Sweetie said to herself as she started snipping three large capes out of it.
It had been almost ten minutes since Spike had finished setting up for Twilight's arrival at the top of a small hill near the center of the field. He brought their copy of the Astrological Astronomers Almanac to all Things Astronomy (fixed, of course), the telescope from her balcony, a picnic blanket, a few sandwiches for Twilight, a few of the jewels he'd been collecting for himself, and a few other odds and ends that were deemed necessary for the date. All Spike had to do sit back, relax, and wait for the inevitable arrival of Twilight. He leaned back on the tree he decided to unpack under and sung quietly...
"For a thousand years, I've waited here for you,
Waited every night,
For I thought you were the answer to my life~
Days turned into years, and into centuries,
Patience had to fade,
Don't you see that there is vengeance in my eyes?~"
"Wow, that's amazing Spike..."
Spike jumped up a bit at the sound of the voice now rounding the tree he was leaning on. "Twilight! How long have you been there?"
Twilight sat down next to him. "A few seconds. I didn't know you could sing, Spike."
He turned red. "I can't, I just had a song stuck in my head and I needed to get it out."
"What song is that? I've never heard it before..."
"I don't know. Pinkie showed it to me earlier this week and I haven't been able to get it out of my..." Spike sniffed the air.
"Is something the matter?"
"Do you smell that? Something smells really good..." he sniffed closer to Twilight. "Are you wearing perfume?"
"Well, this is a date, isn't it, Spike?"
"Yeah, I guess you have a point there. What smell is that? It smells like a big, juicy ruby!"
"Remember how I told you those No-Gems have many different uses? Well, I was able to use a complex system and scientific processes and magical spells to turn them into a sort of gas. Basically, this perfume has the power to change its smell to anything you can think of."
"That's really cool, Twi! Only you'd be smart enough to turn a diamond into a fragrance!" Twilight blushed at the compliment. "How long are you gonna keep something as cool as that to yourself? You could be making a fortune selling all of this No-Gem stuff!"
Twilight walked over to the telescope and began twisting a few knobs on it. "I can't just give these things away, Spike. Not until I know just what kind of powers they hold inside. If they really are capable of hurting ponies, I don't want to show them at all. Just give me more time to study them."
"Alright, Twi..." Spike opened the book he brought and flipped through its contents, going from individual stars to the planets visible with a telescope to planets that have so little known about them that they may not even exist at all. Finally, he landed on the beginning of the chapter marked "Constellations" and set the book down between the two of them. "Are you done with that telescope yet? I already found the constellations page."
"Almost, Spike..." A few twists of the last knob meant Twilight was finished calibrating the telescope for the stars they would be looking at for the night. "Done! Now we can see almost every star in the night sky with this. Have a look!" She moved over a bit and gave Spike room to see the stars.
"Wow...There are so many of them. They're like tiny pieces of glass!"
"Yeah, they're all beautiful just looking up at them normally. But they get so much more beautiful when you look at them up close with a telescope..."
"Yeah, no kidding. Is this what I've been missing out on? This is actually pretty cool. I thought they'd just be boring, old clumps of space dust, but some of these are moving and crossing paths and doing all kinds of stuff!"
Twilight laid down next to her assistant and her telescope and looked up. "That's the wonder of stars, Spike. They fly all over the place every night, but we never notice. They're too far away for us to..."
Spike pointed to a group of stars. "There's the Little and Big Dippers over there! I already knew those without even looking in the books."
Twilight looked up. "Yes, that's them. But do you know what that one is, over to the right?"
Spike thought about it. "Uhhhh...I can't tell."
"That one's the Bull. And under it is the Hare, and there's the Great Dog..." She moved from constellation to constellation as Spike followed with the telescope.
Seconds turned to hours as Twilight and Spike lay next to each other, staring at the cosmos and pointing at various star clusters and constellations. They talked and laughed and ate and talked some more, telling stories of their past adventures or talking about things in the near future. Twilight tried to weave her confession into their conversations, but she found it rather difficult finding something relevant. She didn't want to just bring it up out of the blue, but she felt an inner obligation to herself to say it at some point.
Spike ran out of things to talk about, and Twilight, never being one for long conversation, lost her chance of saying it without making things awkward and saying it randomly. She kicked herself inside for procrastinating, but she sympathized with herself on her wanting it to be just right. So they just laid next to each other in silence, staring up into space at nothing in particular. After a while, Twilight felt something moving next to her ear and onto her mane, rolling groups of hair around in circles. She always liked having Spike play with her mane while they sat together or walked through Ponyville, and this time was no different. His claw quietly lulled her into a sense of inner peace, a state where she could forget her worries. "Hey, Spike?"
A voice responded out of her field of vision. "Yeah?"
"What are you thinking about right now?"
There came a short pause. "Well, I ate my last jewel a while ago, so I'm thinking I'm getting pretty hungry."
She giggled a bit. "Don't you ever think about anything besides your stomach?"
"Hey, I can think about other things, thank you very much."
She turned to him. "Oh yeah? Like what?"
"Well..." The claw that wasn't playing in her mane went to his chin as he thought. "Sometimes, I think about how long it would take to fly up there." He pointed up to the sky at the brightest star he could see. "When I'm bigger, I hope I can grow wings so I can fly out there and pull one of those stars out of the sky..."
"Hmm...It's a nice thought. Almost impossible and highly dangerous, but a nice thought, nonetheless."
Spike waved his hand at her notions of "impossibility." "Pffft, I bet I could do it. If Princess Luna finds a way to get rid of the stars every morning, I'm sure it can't be that hard, right?"
"I guess you're right. Then again, she has had thousands of years to practice, though."
He stuck his tongue out at her, and she giggled in return. "Well then, genius. Since you have an answer for everything, why don't you tell me what you're thinking about?"
"Trust me, if I told you everything in my head, you'd either have a headache or a quick snooze."
"That boring, huh? Good thing I don't think that way, or I'd be sleeping 24/7." She rolled her eyes and smiled. "But anyway, you don't have to tell me everything. Just throw out a thought. Anything's good with me."
"Well, the forefront of my mind is focused on this date."
"Oh yeah..." He felt his face slowly heat up. "What about it?"
She stared back into the sky. "I had a really nice time out here, with you. Stargazing was the perfect way to calm my nerves, and you seemed to come up with the idea just in time."
Spike gave a little smug face and put his arms behind his head. "Well, you know me. Always looking out for my favorite pony in aaall of Equestria."
"Your favorite, huh?..." Her cheeks turned a bit pink at the compliment.
"Yep. But, then again, you have been with me my whole life. That adds up to something, right?"
Twilight slowly nodded. "Yes, I guess it does...I've grown fond of you too, my little dragon."
His eyes flickered as he sat up. "That reminds me. There's something I kinda wanted to ask you."
She sat up with him. "Alright, shoot."
"How much do you really care about me?"
She froze, turning a lighter pink again. "...What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean, I just wanted to know. You smile a lot more around me, and you call this a date or whatever." He turned a bit red at his remark. "I mean, I wanted it to be a date too. But I thought you might not have wanted that kind of stuff."
This is it! Twilight thought. She picked her words over carefully in her mind, wanting them to come out just right. "Well, to be honest...I've noticed a few things about you too, recently. The flowers, the way we've been talking to each other, and even this whole outing. I did want this to be a date, because...well..." She stopped talking, as if no more sound could pass her lips on the subject. Come on, Twilight, say it.
"Well...um..." Say it! Twilight screamed in her mind. She couldn't exactly find the words in her vocabulary bank to tell him the way she felt. Spike leaned in her direction, eager to hear her next few words. "I just...I think that you...I really..." Ughhh! Why can't I say it?! Just say the three little words! Just say--
"Do you like me?" She stopped trying to talk and turned a bright red. Spike took one look at her face and understood everything. Twilight wasn't the only one who could read faces. "You do like me. And from the looks of your face, it just isn't a 'like' like. It's a 'like' like..."
She stared at him for a few seconds, a bit in shock. Then she hung her head, disappointed in herself for not being able to say it herself. She barely whispered under the mane blocking her face.
"What?..." Spike moved in a bit closer to her in an attempt to hear her better.
She whispered it a little louder, but it was still below audible levels.
"Yes! I love you! Okay?!" She quickly covered her muzzle, embarrassed to be shouting that as loud as she did. Spike, on the other hoof, almost fell backwards because of her little startle. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell like that. I just..."
"It's okay..." Spike explained as the ringing in his ears stopped. "Just warn me next time you're gonna yell like that, heh heh..."
She removed her hooves from her muzzle, which was still burning red. "Wait...You aren't mad at me? Or embarrassed? Or...anything?"
Spike thought for a bit. "Well...I don't think so. I mean, I'm surprised you said it, but...I don't feel too embarrassed. In fact, I'm a bit relieved, actually."
She tilted her head in confusion. "Wait...What? Did you hear the same thing I said?"
"Yeah, I heard that you love me."
"And you don't feel anything about that."
"Well, I didn't say that. I do feel something, Twi."
Twilight felt herself tense up again. "So...How do you feel?..."
He scratched the back of his head and showed his first signs of embarrassment. "I kinda figured you'd ask that...Well, uh...I guess I'd say that I like you too, Twi."
She sighed and fell backwards, obviously feeling a giant weight fly off her shoulders. "Haaaaaahhh... You don't know how long I've wanted to hear that from you...~" He fell backwards next to her and the pair looked in each other's eyes. He smiled at her, and she blushed at him. Then, without any warning, Twilight began to laugh. She didn't know why she was laughing, but she couldn't stop herself. She rolled around and laughed until she had tears in her eyes. "Hahahaha!~ I can't believe it was that easy!"
Spike stared at her, chuckling at her laughing fit. "You can't believe what was that easy?"
"Telling you about this, Spike! I've been wanting to tell you that I loved you for quite a while. I thought Celestia would be mad at me, but she doesn't even know! Ha!"
"Wait, what? Why would the Princess be mad that you love me?"
She rolled to face Spike and wrapped him in her forelegs, nuzzling his cheek. "The rule, Spike! Remember that rule that I cried about before, in the kitchen?"
"Her rule was that you couldn't love me? That's what you were crying about? That's the rule you wanted to break?"
"Yes, Spike. All this time, I've been worried about that rule and my relationship with you. I've wanted to break that rule for who knows how long. And now...I've done it! I don't have to worry about her mystery consequence anymore! Ha ha!~" Her laughing fit returned, making her roll about on the blanket with Spike wrapped around her.
"Hahaha, okay, okay! I get it! Now let go, Twi! You're crushing me!" She rolled onto her back, allowing him to sit on her stomach.
"Haha, sorry, Spike. I'm just so happy. I don't have to hide the way I feel anymore. I used to always think she watched over me like a hawk anywhere I went. But I guess that was another silly notion in my head. Sorry for putting you through so much, Spike."
"I was more worried about you than I was about myself, Twi. With all the stuff about the No-Gems and Celestia's rule, I thought you were gonna end up a crazy pony, heh heh..."
"I guess you're right. I did go a bit nuts for a while. But look on the bright side; I have one of my problems solved, right?" Spike nodded and they looked in each other's eyes again, softly laughing. "So...we know of our feelings for one another. What do we do about these feelings?"
The dragon scratched his head and gave a loud yawn. "I dunno. I mean, I wanna be with you, but I've learned to wait so I won't get hurt. Decision's yours. What do you wanna do?"
As if on cue, the moon completed its revolution in the sky, bringing the very first rays of light of the sun into view. Something happened in the mare's mind as she saw the bright beams. It was as if a wave of something cold and invisible hit her and filled her with an awful emotion. She slowly stood up and trotted over to her telescope, her body moving on its own. Spike stole a glance of her face in the light of the sun. Her pupils were smaller than normal, and she was biting her lower lip at its tip.
"What's up, Twilight? You okay?"
"I...I'm fine. We just...need to get home."
"You sure, Twi? We have time. I've stayed up this long, I can stay up a little lo-"
"I'm sorry, but I have to get back home. Now." For a spilt second, Spike heard something in her voice. Desperation?
"Okay, okay. Let me just go and pack the wagon." He stood up and slowly began to place each item he brought with him back into the cart. Twilight helped, moving a bit faster than he did, and before long the wagon was full again and ready to take back to the library. "Alrighty then, everything's set. Let's get mo-whoa!" Without much warning, he was lifted into the air and onto her back by her purple magic. The same aura covered the handle of the wagon, pulling it behind her as she began to walk with a pace unfitting a mare who'd been up all day and night. "What's going on, Twilight? What is it?"
"Sorry if I seem like I'm rushing, Spike. I just...don't feel too well right now. I really need to get to bed." She quickened her already unusually fast pace as she looked down and noticed that the light from the sun had already made its way past her hooves and coated the nearby grassland back to Ponyville in its brilliance. Before long, it would be at her doorstep, through her windows, in her home. After what they had talked about earlier that night, this normal, everyday occurrence filled her with dread.
Spike turned around to look at whatever was making her move so quickly, as if it was a specific animal or creature she was trying to run from, when he took a long glance at the horizon over the houses of Ponyville. "Wow...Hey, Twilight! Look at the sunrise! It's so colorful!" Spike was mesmerized by its beauty the rest of the way home, but Twilight never looked. She dared not look. She simply wanted to get away from it, to get away from her eyes.
It didn't take long for the pair to make their way back to the library; still, the sun's rays shone ever brighter with each passing minute. The mare opened the door and set the wagon to the side on the wall before quickly and quietly walking up their stairs. The blue curtains to her bedroom were wide open, giving her a good view of the sun peeking out of the horizon. She quickly shut the curtains, darkening the room a bit more. With that, she softly slid the now sleeping dragon off of her back and into his bed, carefully tossing his blanket over him with her teeth. Then, without thinking, she gave Spike a soft kiss on his cheek. "I love you, Spike..." She then turned to her own bed and fell into it, allowing subconciousness to take over. She wasn't sure, but before she fell asleep, she could've sworn she heard Spike murmur in his sleep...
"...I love you too, Twi..."