Today was the day. He had spent weeks preparing for this moment. Everypony knew what he was up to. Everypony, that is, besides her. This was how it was supposed to be, he knew. He wanted today to be private, but he could never have made all the necessary arrangements on his own, and he certainly wouldn't have had the courage without the support of his enthusiastic friends.
Spike was ready. His deep, majestic purple scales shone like stained glass, throwing purple glints of light everywhere. They were polished perfect; important, he knew, for there were few things she loved as much as style and beauty. His spikes were perfectly groomed, ground into stylish, sweeping fins instead of their natural, roundish shape. They were bright green and elegantly shaped, like the early leaves of spring. Truly he was awe-inspiring today. All of his friends had congratulated him on his new look, just as confident as he was that it would be a hit.
All of them except for Rarity. He wanted to be alone when she saw him. Alone, with her. He had hidden away from her the last few days, careful not to reveal even the slightest of his preparations to her. If he had his way, this would be the happiest day of her life... At least until he found a way to make her even happier. His excitement and confidence let his mind run away with grand ideas of marriage, starting a family. He knew that last part was all but impossible, but then he had no idea how genetically incompatible they were, so he didn't let the idea go completely.
He shook his head, trying to get himself back in the zone. This was an important-- no, this was the important step. It demanded all of his attention, his concentration. From this hour of his life, everything else that was wonderful would burst forth. His life, and hers, were in his tender claws. The clock tower gonged to the south, signaling one o' clock. He sat a little straighter on the edge of the street; the time was near, and he wanted to look his best.
He was too large now for pony booths at restaurants. Standing almost twelve feet tall, and at only twelve years old, Spike was something to behold. His wings had come in when he was roughly ten, but had grown rapidly to match the rest of his body. After only two years, they were as wide to either side as he was tall. But they were unwieldy, and he was unused to them, so he kept them tucked to his sides. He simply couldn't afford the possibility that he might knock over a market stall, or hit the barber's shop sign with his wings and embarrass himself.
Up and down the street, nopony was in sight. It was a Tuesday, and most ponies were busy working their jobs. But Rarity had taken the day off at Spike's request. She had been working too hard lately, Spike had pointed out. She could use a day off, he had said. What better day than Tuesday?
She had agreed, and they were to meet here at one. She knew that Spike did not fit into most pony buildings these days, and so they had opted for a picnic. Spike had already set things up in the park, feeling that he would look completely idiotic, holding the tiny picnic basket in comparison to his massive body.
The sound of hooves on the street yanked his attention away from his review of the preparations. Everything was out the window when he saw her, coming over the crest of a hill the street passed over. The sun was behind her and to her left, glinting off her stunning, stylishly curled purple mane, and rivaling Spike's scales for the shimmer it caused. Her eyes were crystal blue, the same blue as her cutie mark. Spike could be, and had been, lost in them for hours, simply listening to her voice, but comprehending nothing.
He found himself falling victim to just such a situation when he realized she had called to him a second time already. He smiled widely, waving her over. She trotted a little faster, her flank swaying gently, gracefully, as she stepped to. She came to rest in front of Spike, barely more than a third his height. It didn't seem to register between them how large Spike was compared to her. They were simply too close for that to matter, Spike knew.
"So sorry to keep you waiting." She said, exaggerating her words with a slight shake of her head and a worried look in her eyes. "You know how I--" She began, but Spike cut her off.
She was going to say 'how I am picking things to wear', like she always did when she was late. Spike knew though, and simply smiled at her. She returned his smile, knowing she didn't need to finish. It was always like this; Spike knew her so well. But today he surprised her.
"I'm glad you took your time. You look absolutely amazing." He said, smiling warmly at her.
Rarity wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but his smile promised that he wasn't joking. She smiled right back, taking the compliment gladly. "Spike, you're such a gentledrake." She teased, blushing for effect and pawing a hoof in his direction. "You look stunning yourself. I've never seen you do your spikes like that before. I love it, and you should do it like that more often!" She swooned, ever a sucker for style.
Spike smirked a little at that, feeling as if everything was off on the right claw... or hoof. Both, he hoped. "I try. Don't worry, they'll stay like this for a while. They grow slowly." He replied warmly, waving an arm down the street from them, towards the park. "I hope you came hungry; Applejack had a little extra time and apples, so she made quite a few additions to the meal. And I think Pinkie threw in a few cupcakes too." He said, trying to let the mood get more casual. His compliment had gone over soaringly, but it was time to let it sink in, and inject a sense of normalcy to the 'date'.
That's how it should feel, he knew. When he asked her to be his mare, and they were going steady, it should feel normal. The only thing that needed to change was how they felt about one another, not around them. And in Spike's case, all that feeling needed to do was grow. But from Rarity, he knew it would require coaxing.
She was so busy, she had hardly ever noticed Spike's subtle advances in the past. But he was younger then; not her type, he knew. She was too intelligent and clever not to notice how he felt, at least at first. But over the years, Spike had showed it less and less. There was no need, he thought. She already knew his feelings for her, and he didn't want to embarrass himself or her by bringing it up, only to be denied.
But he had matured, in mind as well as body. They had been closer than ever these last two years. Spike had spent as much time at the boutique with her as he had at the library... perhaps even more. They had shared laughs, secrets, sorrows. They had connected. He was no longer blindly in love with her like he had been as a boy. His desire then had been a farce; a mere bud waiting to bloom, or be killed by the frost of neglect.
But he had cared for his feelings for her, no matter how simple or childish they had been. He had not let those feelings die, but had cultured them, nurtured them. He only needed to know her more, and to be known better, he knew, to make things work between them. And his love had turned into something real, something undeniably strong. Strong enough to set his mighty legs to shaking when she looked his way, to make his heart beat like thunder in his powerful chest. Anything that could do that to a dragon his size was worth something, he knew.
The walk was short, but just long enough to make conversation. All a part of his master plan. "So, I'm sorry to have to take up your day off like this." He apologized lamely. It wasn't even remotely true, since her day off was his idea anyways. Still, it was a conversation piece, and one Rarity could work with. She liked correcting people, even if she didn't realize it.
"Oh nonsense!" She gasped, appearing hurt. But it was all show, so said her gem-like eyes. "You know very well there's almost nothing to do on a Tuesday besides a picnic. Just the kind of day I need, mind you. I can't tell you the last time I did 'nothing'."
Spike could sure as hell have told her. It was last month.
"Not that this is nothing." She said, with a nervous laugh, afraid she had maybe offended slightly. Spike smiled and waved a claw to show he didn't mind, and knew what she meant. "At any rate, you should also know I'd rather spend time with you than do almost anything else, Spike." She said, turning the situation on its head and pretending to be offended herself, since he hadn't. As if he had insulted their friendship by calling it a waste of time.
The act had no effect on Spike, other than to widen his smile. Exactly what Rarity had been waiting for, he knew, and they both shared a laugh over her poor performance. Hardly anypony realized when Rarity was trying to use her unique talent for drama to amuse people.
They arrived at the park, the hill where their meal was set only a short walk inside the ring of trees that marked the edge. It wasn't too high, nor too steep, and it leveled off at the top. It was the most popular picnic spot in town. And it was only free on Tuesdays, Pinkie had assured Spike of that. He gestured and waited for Rarity to sit before he laid down on the hill as well. Stretched out snout to tail, Spike was roughly thirty feet long. He curled his lengthy tail around and down the side of the hill, keeping it out of the way.
"So how was your week? I've hardly seen you at all since I got that new design request from Fancy Pants." Rarity said, her tone half curiosity and half apology as she took her seat.
"I found ways to keep myself busy, though I have to admit I missed being able to spend time at the boutique." He said, flipping open the lid of the basket. It was abnormally large by pony standards, but for Spike it seemed the opposite: abnormally tiny. He poked a claw into the basket, spearing a sandwich and taking the entire thing in one bite. It wasn't slovenly though; to Spike the large sandwich had been bite-sized.
Rarity smiled, and even chuckled a little at his method of consumption. "You, busy? My, Twilight must have had quite the week." She said, picking a cup and plate out of the basket. She wasn't surprised to see the tea set in the basket amongst various apple treats, sandwiches, and a few explosively colorful cupcakes. She poured herself a cup, but simply set it aside, using her magic to nudge the teapot Spike's way, silently asking if he would like a cup.
"No, but thank you." He replied out loud, fishing out a cupcake this time.
Rarity shrugged and took a whiff of the steam coming up from her tea. "Suit yourself, but it certainly smells wonderful. Is this the tea Zecora grows for Twilight?" She asked. She had had a cup one time, but the memories were vague, and she wasn't positive this was the right smell.
"It is. It's supposed to be really good, but it takes a long time to grow even a little. A dragon my size can't drink a whole cup without emptying Zecora's stock." He said with a warm laugh that insisted he didn't mind. "But Twilight insisted..." Spike felt his heart clench in his chest as he prepared for the most important milestone in his life so far. "Since today is a special occasion." He said, glad to hear that his voice remained calm and polite.
Rarity set down her cup and looked at Spike curiously. "Why, whatever do you mean?" She asked, completely unaware of any holidays today. Was she really that out of it, that she didn't know if it was a holiday or not? Perhaps she really did need this day off.
"Promise to hear me out?" Spike asked, smiling pleasantly. This was one of the iffy moments where she could figure out what he was getting at before he had time to say it, but he was confident that he could catch her by surprise.
Rarity nodded eagerly, sensing something unknown; gossip worthy perhaps.
And this was the part where Spike wowed her, at least in the plan. "We've been spending a lot of time together the last couple years. It's been a long time since I last told you how I felt, but today's a new day, and I'm a new dragon. Rarity, I want to ask you to be my mare." He said, smiling calmly, a face that said he could accept any answer. A face that didn't tell her how heartbroken he would be if she said no.
It was a good thing she had set down her tea, or she would have dropped it. Her focus was gone as the words echoed around in her head. She was unsure of how to react... Spike had certainly changed. In many excellent, perfect ways. But as she finally regained control of her eyes, she refocused on his body, his new form. She stood up without knowing it.
Spike smiled, thinking she was speechless, and all she could think to do was walk to him and hug him.
Clearly there were still things Spike did not know about her.
Rarity backed up a step, still not speaking. Her eyes darted all over Spike's body as she suddenly pictured a relationship with him. His smile was forced now, but she didn't notice. All she saw were the fangs, razor sharp. She could imagine them, not even an inch away every time they would kiss. Or the claws, every time they touched. Her heart trembled with fear at the imagined situations, and she had to look away from Spike to calm herself. She was breathing hard, and realized she had been staring for some time now.
But this was Spike! Spike! Her Spike, and he was harmless. A gentledrake if ever there was one. The nicest dragon she had ever met.
Dragon. She imagined arguments, a fight. Spike couldn't control himself, and he roared at her. Shaking, unable to retaliate against such a vicious noise, she was left vulnerable as he breathed fire in his anger, unable to control himself. She nearly choked on imagined smoke.
"Rarity...?" Spike asked, snapping her back to reality. She looked at him, her pupils still dilated from fear and adrenaline. "You're shaking... Is everything alright?" he asked, his deep voice all concern.
That calmed her a bit, and she nodded. But she didn't dare speak, knowing it would be high pitched and fearful. She couldn't grant Spike's request... She simply couldn't. She loved everything about him; his loving nature, his kind heart, and his perfect, smoothly cultured way of handling himself. He was everything she dreamed of.
Except he wasn't a stallion. He was a clawed, fanged, spiked creature of death on the outside. It had never mattered before this moment what Spike was... only who.
But he was her friend. She couldn't bring herself to turn him down again. She could see it all suddenly. All the absent days, the strange behavior of her friends. Spike had planned this, for days if not weeks. He had been so sure that she would agree that he had done his best to make it amazing for her, in every way. But she could not say yes... Not with that horror dominating her mind.
She didn't have the heart to tell him how she really felt. That he was suddenly fearsome. She had never had to imagine being so close with him, so intimate with that body of his. She knew that if she told him that, it would tear him apart. He was still her friend, even for all her sudden fear. She knew she loved him, but she couldn't.
She just couldn't.
She needed a lie. To tell him she couldn't, but without telling him she thought he was suddenly monstrous. She stammered, looking for the words. Spike was waiting patiently, but she could see him frowning and wringing his claws nervously. He could feel it, she knew; all his hard work, undone in this one moment. And he was dreading what she would say.
Oh, how it would destroy him. But her heart only beat with fear when she looked at him now, not the love he was expecting. There was only one choice.
"S-spike..." She began weakly, but she summoned all her strength to calm her shaking form. It worked, and so she continued. "You're a wonderful dragon; everypony everywhere should be jealous of your... perfection." She said, coughing in embarrassment for the delay. "But as much as you've changed over the years, my feelings for you haven't." She said sadly, taking a brave step his way. "You're a wonderful friend, and that's how I want us to stay, Spike."
But when she stepped toward him, Spike leapt to his feet and backed away one step. But one of his was five of hers. His sudden jump to his feet startled her, and she unconsciously flinched, backing up again.
Spike's pain was too great to notice her flinch, her fear of him. All he could feel was sadness. A sadness in his heart greater than anything he had imagined could be possible. He fully believed that this feeling was fatal, for never had he felt such agony. He suddenly wished it would simply kill him, to save him from this... this destruction of everything he had worked for. All his desires, his love, his kindness. Everything, simply ashes now. He felt hollow, and he looked at her without really seeing her. How could he, through all the tears in his eyes?
She stepped toward him again, but she could tell he was somewhere else right now, trapped in his own tormented heart. She could feel tears welling in her own eyes. How could she have hurt him like this? How could she, such a small pony, do so much damage to this creature she so suddenly feared? He was her friend, that much was true, and it destroyed her to see him like this. The bright sunlight overhead mocked them, as if it were offering them joy they could no longer have.
She was standing right in front of him now, without even realizing it. She couldn't withstand her own urge to cry anymore, for she could almost feel the pain emanating from her dear friend. But she was glad in a way; if she had told him that she feared him, he would have been even worse. But as it stood, Spike did not seem to be coming back, lost to his anguish. Quietly, she placed a hoof on his forearm and called to him, her voice stammering through her sobs as she tried to bring him back.
"Spike... Spike, I'm so sorry..." She cried, tumbling into him, unable to hold herself steady as her shoulders shook with sadness. Her mane was suddenly soaked as it intercepted the steady stream of tears flowing down Spike's mighty neck.
Spike snapped to suddenly, drawn by her sadness out of his own. He could understand, in a way. But he didn't want to understand. He only wanted to be right, to have his existence with her validated. But it wasn't. It was ruined, he felt. Tainted now. His love for her was indestructible, nothing could diminish it. And so the pain of her rejection was proportional, just as unshakable and powerful.
Spike pushed her away, fighting a mixture of anger and sorrow that begged him to push her harder, practically throw her. He would never have dared, even if all the forces of nature commanded him to hit her. But there it was, he could see it this time.
When he moved his claw away, having finished pushing her off of him gently, he could see it. The fear in her eyes, looking at his claws and not his face. She was locked on them, even through her sorrow. She jumped up and stepped back, as if terrified that he would come at her again with his black nails.
It would undo Spike. He could not see her now, or ever again, if it were true. But he had to know.
"Are... you afraid of me?" he asked shakily, choking on a lump in his throat.
Rarity suddenly came back to reality, shifting her gaze away from his claws and back to his eyes. There she saw the ultimate pain, a reflection of her ultimate failure as a friend. She only hung her head in shame, unable to find the words to admit to her dear friend.
Spike would never have heard them. His brain was on automatic now, as his emotions simply gave up. He backed away from her slowly. Spreading his massive wings, he leapt into the sky.
"No! No Spike, don't go!" Rarity screamed over the gusts of wind his wings created. She didn't know why she called out to him then. Perhaps to redeem herself, or maybe out of pity. It would take time for her to discover the true reason.
But Spike couldn't hear her. Or if he could, he simply decided not to. His eyes looked down on her, empty of all things besides his tears. Without a word or sign, he sped away, never looking back.
Rarity watched him go, basically flailing his way through the sky, and hardly flying. As if he were running, but stumbling constantly. She slumped to the hilltop, tumbling her teacup on the way down. She cried her eyes out, and her heart, unable and unwilling to do anything else. She couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breathe. What had she done?
"What... have I done?!" She cried out in agony, smashing her front hooves against the ground in anger; anger with herself. How could she be so stupid? How could she have lied to him? How could she be afraid of him? He loved her!
What had she done? She passed out on that hilltop, wondering this for what seemed like an eternity, with no answer in sight.
Spike crashed as much as landed, destroying a nearby tree on his way down. It should have hurt him, but he was numb everywhere. Suddenly alone, he vented the only emotion his ferocious body would allow him to; anger. He thrashed, cracking stones, snapping branches. Birds flew away as he stormed about, breathing green fire at random. Now and then the stream of fire would hiccup as he sobbed around it, only to resume full force as Spike cried out in grief.
Afraid of him! How could she be? He had always been kind, always polite. Always perfect. He loved her! Even if he was fierce looking, he would never have harmed her. Never could. He would have sooner slain himself than put a single hair out of place on her majestic head.
The world smoldered around him as the remainder of his fire burnt out. It was fitting, somehow, that the world should burn along with his hopes and dreams. But there was no more fire in his belly. Only a feeling that resembled eating a cold metal ball. He felt like he wanted to purge himself, but it would not come.
Emotionally, physically, and magically spent, Spike too collapsed. He didn't have the strength or the will to rise again. He lay there, looking at the little meadow he had ruined, thinking it a fitting metaphor for his life. If only he had never been born a dragon.
If only he had never been born at all.
With that pitiful thought in the forefront of his mind, Spike sobbed himself to sleep on the hard earthen floor of that ruined valley.