Celestia found her gaze bouncing between Spike and the hallway Rarity had departed through. She didn't know what to feel, other than pain for the purple drake. She of all ponies should have expected something like this. The hearts of mares Rarity's age were easily convinced of things. She should have known that eventually, she too would have seen Spike for what he truly was, and come looking for him.
Despite all the things she should have known, she had paid them no mind. She was too concentrated on Spike now, and she had nearly forgotten what had driven him here in the first place, lost in the moment of that kiss. No reminder could have been more daunting than to see Rarity standing there, gawking in disbelief and hurt. Celestia didn't feel guilty, not for her relationship with Spike. But looking at her draconic friend, her heart was filled with sympathy.
Spike stood there, one claw still outstretched towards the hallway Rarity had fled down. His jaw was clenched to hold back another shout, his face shifting between shock and sadness. He had called to her without meaning to, Celestia realized. He had conflicted feelings about seeing her again, that much was obvious. Perhaps it was simply too soon, or her appearance too sudden, but his emerald-green eyes reflected true hurt.
Spike finally dropped his arm, sighing to himself. It was the most control he had been able to display in any of the stressful situations recently. He realized that only a few days ago he would have chased right after her, likely making things much worse. He was proud of his control, yet sick at his own lack of compassion. His heart was a bittersweet mess of pride and shame.
"Spike..." Celestia called quietly, her tone neither commanding or urgent. She simply wanted him to know she was still here, ready if he needed her.
"What do I do, Tia?" he asked, after a pause and another sigh. "Why is she here? More importantly, why now?"
Celestia smiled comfortingly at Spike. "I think you know why she came. Why now... Who can say?" she inquired rhetorically. "As for what you should do, I think you should go after her." She disliked that advice on behalf of her own heart, but ages of diplomacy and peacemaking told her that to let Rarity flee without pursuing her would cause Spike great pain soon. She would only return again, full of female anger. It was easy to put herself in Rarity's hooves, see it from her side.
"Why should I?" Spike asked, suddenly skeptical, his eyes squinting. "I mean... I know you know how I feel about her. But I'm with you now. Besides, I don't know if I can face her." He sounded bitter, almost angry. He could envision the reaction he would receive from Rarity; shock, anger, and more fear.
"Because, whether you are with me or not, she is your friend, and you love her." Celestia's retort was rough, almost angry, her face a mask of mixed concern and frustration. "Why shouldn't you go after her? Spike, she needs you right now."
Spike sighed. "She's still afraid of me. I just know it. How will a twelve-foot-tall dragon calm her down?" He asked, becoming exasperated. Why was she pushing him so hard to do this? She was his mare now, after all. Since when did mares tell their males to go comfort another mare? That got Spike to thinking on a dangerous track.
"Are you angry with me?" he asked cautiously. Was it possible that she was jealous? Spike had called out to Rarity when she had run away. Most mares would find that aggravating at the least.
Celestia scowled. "I'm not jealous, if that's what you're asking. But I will be angry with you if you don't go after her," she said, her tone final.
"Tia, I can't," Spike grumbled, as if she should understand this by now. "What could I possibly say? She'll only hate me more."
Celestia sighed in frustration. Stubborn youth, she thought. "Fine, have it your way. I'll go after her myself. She needs a friend right now, Spike, even if she doesn't think of you or I as friends this minute. If you won't be that friend, then I suppose I will have to." She stepped past him, her face all disappointment.
Spike winced, not knowing how to retaliate. He realized he couldn't, that there was no defense against his own stinging cowardice. He muttered something, not sure if any real words even formed. Regardless, Celestia kept right on walking, intent on finding Rarity and setting this all straight as best she could. Spike quietly watched her go, filled with shame.
Whatever angry thoughts filled his mare's head right now, he had earned them.
Celestia wandered the dimly lit halls, using her magic to feel out for the presence of the white unicorn. She finally found her a few hallways over, and down one floor. When she arrived, she found Rarity curled pitifully under a staircase, huddled in the dark alcove provided there. She knew that of all the ponies Rarity was expecting to see right now, it certainly wasn't her, and so Tia braced for a poor reception.
"Rarity... Rarity, come out please," Celestia called, not wanting to invade her hiding place. It would be a good first step to get Rarity to face her out here.
Rarity jumped, not knowing the Princess had followed her. She hadn't really expected to be followed by anypony; hadn't wanted to be followed at all. "Go away!" She whined, her voice thick with tears, her words choked.
"Rarity, please..." Tia coaxed, careful not to let any emotions into her tone that could be misconstrued. The last thing she needed was for Rarity to feel pitied. That kind of emotion, coming from Tia, her rival in love now, would only set her off.
"What do you want?" Rarity asked, her sadness turning to anger as she latched onto similar thoughts. Her rival had coming looking for her, not the dragon she loved. If she had expected anypony, she would have been hoping for Spike.
"Just to talk. Please don't hide from me," the princess said softly, almost pleading.
The dark alcove Rarity was hiding in was filled with shuffling noises, and a few offbeat hoofsteps as she staggered to her hooves. She came out slowly, her face a very unconvincing mask of anger, her coat matted with tears under her eyes, some still welling in the orbs themselves. Celestia saw it for what it was; an attempt to escape from sorrow. Rarity would have rather been angry with Celestia than sad by herself. Tia could understand that, and it only made her more glad that she had come.
"Alright then... talk," Rarity said, with a huff. "What could you possibly say? I saw everything." Her eyes were full of real anger now, righteously hurt by the sight she had seen.
"I know you did," Celestia said, perfectly calm, making sure her words and face betrayed nothing. "And if you had to see it a hundred times over, I wouldn't take it back. But I am sorry you had to."
Rarity backpedaled like she had been slapped. Celestia was doing the exact opposite of apologizing! She was rubbing Rarity's nose in that kiss. "You..." Rarity started, her eyes glaring and furious. She wasn't about to take that sitting down. She readied a hoof and prepared to slap the princess.
Celestia held up a hoof to try and calm her. "Calm down, please. You don't understand... I'm not taunting you, I'm trying to explain to you how I feel. So that you can better understand how you feel." Her tone was only friendly, polite, and that threw Rarity for a loop. She dropped her hoof, unable to follow through with her most unladylike plans for hitting Celestia.
Her anger remained, but she didn't continue the verbal assault she had been preparing to launch either. She wouldn't forget it though; just postpone it for the time being. "What do you mean?" she asked, her voice still angry, now with a hint of frustration and confusion.
"I love Spike. I wouldn't have kissed him if I didn't. And because I love him, I never would have taken it back. If our roles had been switched, and I were in your hooves, would you have taken it back either?" Celestia asked quietly.
Rarity calmed a bit at that, her mind full of the brief image of kissing Spike, of Celestia being shocked and hurt instead of her. "No, I wouldn't," she admitted sadly, unwilling to look Celestia in the eye, not eager to concede any point to her rival. Her anger resumed in a flash, in typical mare fashion, and she was back on the offensive, staring her opponent down again with hate-filled eyes. "But that's not how it happened! Don't try to run circles around me with your words."
Celestia sighed, seeing that this was quickly getting out of hoof. "That's not the point. I want you to understand that I know you love him. But you need to understand that I do, too." She paused, thinking of a new way to calm Rarity down, get her to see things clearly. "He still loves you, you know," she said quietly, her voice unintentionally going a little sour at that admission. Sharing love was not easy to do, and even the most patient, wisest mares disliked doing so. Tia was no exception.
Rarity did indeed calm down at that. Seeing that kiss had convinced her that Spike had forgotten about her, had moved on. Yet the very mare he had moved on to was here, telling her that Spike still loved her. It warmed her and chilled her all at once, as she came to an uncomfortable thought. "Then why didn't he come? Why did he send you?" She asked, her eyes no longer leaking tears, but squinting skeptically. She was unwilling to forego her anger and frustration just yet, but it had deteriorated to vehement complaining now.
Celestia was glad for this, but now she let a little anger of her own filter in. She needed to steer the playing field in favor of Rarity, by showing that even she, the princess of the world, could be frustrated by Spike. "He didn't send me. I came after you on my own, because he refused to. He thinks you are still afraid of him, and he doesn't want to face you like that."
That was a lot for Rarity to take in, and she looked hard at the floor in thought. First, Spike still thought she feared him. She had expected this, even had a plan for it. The fact that he let it keep him from coming after her was what disappointed her. It would make it hard to face him again at all, only confirmed her fears that he would run from her again. Secondly, she had to come to terms with the fact that Celestia had pursued her of her own free will, coming after Rarity, knowing that she would be jealous and angry.
"Why did you come after me?" Rarity asked, shooting for skeptical, but landing on confused.
Celestia smiled warmly. "Just because we love the same male doesn't mean I don't consider you a friend. I couldn't leave you here alone, hurting like you were," she pointed out.
Rarity's surprise was obvious. Friends, even after all this? She certainly didn't feel like it. Celestia had stolen her love! She sighed to herself, though, knowing that was untrue. She had driven Spike into her embrace. She knew she shouldn't be mad at Celestia, should consider her every bit her friend. But the jealousy still burned, the anger still simmered.
She didn't want to say it, didn't even know she had, but it was right and her true heart knew it. "I needed it," she admitted quietly. On a different day, she would have clamped a hoof over her mouth, berated herself for yielding a point in lieu of her own emotions. But she was drained, hurt, as Celestia had said. And she was tired of being the bad pony. She had made too many mistakes lately to claim she didn't need help, even from her rivals. She simply hung her head, knowing that yet again she had reacted in a way that would only hurt her and Spike in the future.
With that one statement, Celestia found her duty done. From this point, Rarity could confront Spike, face him with her feelings and not hide from him. "Don't let this chance pass you by. His feelings are just as conflicted as yours are, and you came all this way to let him know you love him," she pointed out, smiling at her own minor success here.
"But he loves you now. Why should I tell him, if I have no chance against you?" Rarity asked, sad in full now, instead of angry. The tears began to well again, her already-soaked face ready and willing to steer the flow of sadness.
"There's always a chance. The heart is a strange thing, but what can it hurt to tell Spike?"
"Why are you telling me this? Don't you love him too? What if you lose him?" Rarity asked fiercely, clearly not comprehending Celestia's level of compassion.
"Because I love you as a friend. I do love him. But as long as he is happy, I will stand by his decision. That's what love really is," Celestia replied with a sad smile. She knew it was a possibility that in all of this she could lose Spike, but her words were true. Whoever he chose in the end, she would support him. She would support everypony, as she had always done, even at the risk of heartbreak.
Rarity felt bolstered by that statement. She didn't have the words to thank Celestia, feeling foolish at her harsh treatment of the princess. Love was a game, had always been, and anypony was free to play. She couldn't fault her for loving Spike, a male she herself loved deeply. And she couldn't fault Spike for loving Celestia either, beautiful and wise as she was. She had certainly proven herself a fine friend. Rarity wished she could say the same for herself.
"Thank you," she said quietly, this time sincere. Her anger with Celestia was fast fading, though jealousy was a hard stain to remove. But as she had said, there was always a chance. "Alright. I need a little while to pull myself back together, but I'll tell him what I came here to tell him," she said, standing a little taller, more confident, wiping a hoof across her eyes.
"I'm glad to hear it. I'll let him know you're still here, and that he should expect to see you soon. And don't worry; he'll stay to hear you out," Celestia said with a friendly wink, before turning and leaving Rarity to herself. She made her way back to the garden, to find Spike. Another unpleasant conversation she knew needed to be had.
Rarity smiled a little to herself, glad the princess was intuitive enough to realize there was a possibility Spike would try to dodge her. Not wanting to confront Spike so soon after her episode with the princess, she made her way in the opposite direction.
A few twists and turns through the castle maze lead her towards a few voices, and Rarity found an opportunity for much needed mischief, a little something to help clear her head. Luna, who had been so eager to evade her earlier, was at the end of the hall, talking to some guards. Though her mood had improved by a drastic margin, she still had enough emotion left over to make her next move convincing. Putting on a furious glare, she made her way over to Luna, standing directly behind her. The guards caught sight of her and balked, for a mare expressing that much anger on her face wasn't something any stallion was trained for.
"Ahem," Rarity cleared her throat, and Luna went stiff, looking cautiously over her shoulder. "Still 'busy', I see," Rarity chided, expending her remaining pent up anger to get some answers from Luna. She had been shifty earlier, and Rarity meant to find out why. The white unicorn advanced, her posture all threat, eyes ablaze. The guards retreated a few steps, glad they weren't her target. Luna backed up, now facing Rarity, until her rump ran into a wall. Trapped between the angry mare and a hard place, Luna finally spoke up, her features all chagrin.
"O-oh, Rarity. We -- I didn't realize you were still here," Luna said, looking for a way out yet again.
"Oh, it's not just me here. Spike and Celestia are too. And you know what I saw?" she asked, bearing down on Luna; or up, rather, as the black alicorn was quite a bit taller.
"Do tell?" Luna asked, knowing she would not like the answer.
"I caught them kissing. Earlier when you saw me, you turned a most unpleasant shade of white; very unlike you. Now tell me, what do you know about this?" Rarity inquired, her tone that angry, deadly calm females use to intimidate their targets.
Luna gulped, eyes darting this way and that. "We -- I do not know what you are talking about," she said, smiling unconvincingly.
Rarity sighed, and poked Luna in the chest with a hoof. "Talk!" she growled, her teeth clenched.
Luna just waved a hoof in surrender, and Rarity backed off a few steps, letting Luna come away from the wall. "Alright, fine," the dark princess said, no longer willing to play the trapped, fearful mare. "I have known all about it for a while; before it even began, in fact." Luna's tone was conniving and smug, just like the look in her eye, the slight upturn in her muzzle. "Spike talked to me about his confrontation with you in Ponyville."
"And?" Rarity asked, giving up the angry act for a bit.
She would resume shortly.
"Well, I recommended he follow his heart, and when I discovered he and my sister shared feelings for one another, I prompted him to tell her so," she said, looking idly at one of her hooves, as if checking to ensure it was in perfect condition.
Anger resumed. "You what?" Rarity screamed, glaring again. "You told Spike to date Celestia?"
"Nothing of the sort," Luna retorted, putting on a pout as she was accused of this dastardly deed. "He told me how he felt, and I told him it was only natural to look for love in new and strange places."
"But he loved me before you told him that!" Rarity growled, huffing loudly through her nose.
"WE ORDER YOU TO CALM DOWN!" Luna roared, the Royal Canterlot Voice nearly knocking Rarity flat. She cleared her throat after that as Rarity rubbed at her ringing ears. "He loves you anyways. You cannot honestly say that you, being a pretty mare, have never been pursued by more than one stallion?" she asked, smugly confident in her point, quirking an eyebrow for added effect.
Rarity stammered, wanting to deny it, looking off to the side. "No. In fact, five at once, though I never went out with them all at the same time..." She clamped a hoof over her mouth this time, realizing her mistake.
Luna grinned. "There, you see? You went out with them all, just not at the same time. Yet you kept your options open, willing to look for love until you found it. When he came here, Spike loved you, but did not feel you loved him back. Why, then, shouldn't he look for new love? Have you not been in this kind of position before?" Luna asked, frowning as if she highly doubted that.
"I've been in exactly that position before," Rarity admitted. How was it everypony was able to turn her own words and actions around on her? She sighed to herself, realizing she had really just set herself up for failure, starting this argument. "I see your point. I certainly can't blame Spike for that, I suppose; not without being a hypocrite," she grumbled, scowling at the floor.
"There, you see? My advice was not so bad as all that," Luna said, turning up her nose as if she were insulted Rarity had thought so in the first place.
"I suppose not. At the very least I know how it all came about now," Rarity said gruffly. "I still need to talk to him tonight. What did he tell you, when you talked to him? It sounds like you had quite the conversation before all this happened."
"If you must know, he was reluctant to tell Celestia how he felt about her. His feelings for you held him back at first, and he had true feelings for my sister at the time. Eventually the longing of his heart directly in front of him won out, but think on that. He hesitated because he still loved you, at the time thinking you did not love him. Even that one-sided love was enough to stay his claw, had I not pushed him along in his life," Luna finished, smiling at Rarity. "If you have any doubts how much he loves you, look no further than that."
Rarity pondered that, putting a hoof to her chin. "Makes sense," she conceded reluctantly. "Alright then, I suppose you're off the hook."
"Thank the moon," Luna replied teasingly, acting relieved. "Now then, seems you know the truth of it and where you stand. Perhaps you are ready to confront your feelings and this dragon?" she asked, smiling confidently.
Rarity smiled back, just as confident. "You know, princess, I think I am." Turning and trotting back towards the gardens, she called back down the hallway. "Wish me luck!"
"WE WISH YOU LUCK!" came the Royal Canterlot Voice, shaking the walls around her and bringing the first warm smile of the day to her face.
Spike was somewhat surprised, and completely relieved, to see Celestia return alone. He was afraid she would bring Rarity straight back here, but he knew the look on Tia's face all too well. While he could see no signs of action, her expression stated simply that everything was being handled.
"I guess it went well then?" he asked, slightly amazed by that.
"Better than I expected," Celestia replied. "I am still angry with you though, like I said I would be. You should have gone to her. She was expecting you, not me," she said with a frustrated sigh, scowling at the dragon.
Spike sighed too, but in apology, meeting that scowl head-on. "I know that, and I'm sorry. But I don't want her to run from me, and I was afraid she would." It was still an admission he disliked making, even to Tia.
"She's afraid of the same thing, you know," Celestia said, sitting next to him, and allowing her temper to return to normal levels. "That you'll try and dodge her, run from her before she has a chance to tell you what she came here to say."
"That she wants me back right?" Spike asked, puffing smoke and rolling his eyes. "I was never hers. She turned me down."
"I know she did, but what's that matter? She's back to tell you she loves you. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" Celestia prodded, looking at him as if he were crazy if it didn't.
"Of course it does, but Tia... You're my mare now, and that means a lot to me, too," he said, finally explaining himself. He felt obligated to her, she realized. As if he was incapable of leaving her, regardless of the feelings in his heart.
"You shouldn't feel that way, Spike. I know that we love one another, but you need to understand that I want your happiness above all else. If you still love Rarity, you can't make a decision about your own love until you have faced her about this," she said, putting a hoof on his arm to convey the gravity of what she was saying, her eyes going soft with concern.
"But I do, Tia," Spike said with a disgruntled huff. "I can't change how I feel about you."
"And you can't change how you feel about her," Celestia pointed out, pulling her hoof away. This wasn't going anywhere, and her frustration with Spike was beginning to resurface. "You should have already talked to her, but you backed down from it."
Spike didn't like where this was going. He didn't want to have an argument with Tia, but he knew it was inevitable. Every couple fought at some point, and it was unavoidable. She was so much older and wiser, saw things so much more clearly. And he was young and stubborn, convinced he was right of most things in his own life.
"No, I can't change how I feel about her," Spike said, his tone unintentionally rude, his face dropping into a defensive scowl. "And can you blame me for being worried? After how she reacted last time?"
"I can't blame you, no. But I can call you a hypocrite for it," she said, her tone stern, her gaze cold.
"What do you mean?" Spike asked, not at all pleased with how she was treating him like a child, even if he was one.
"You won't face her because you are afraid. How does that make you any different from her? You're not afraid of her body, but you're afraid of her love. Which of those is worse?" she asked, looking at him with mixed concern and frustration in her eyes.
Spike reeled his neck back, putting a few more feet between him and Celestia. He knew he was a coward, not to go after Rarity earlier. Yet it was a shocking revelation to him to be accused of being afraid of her. Even more shocking to him was that Tia was right, in a sense. Yet she wasn't quite on yet.
"I know I'm afraid. Afraid of being wrong for loving you, or being wrong for loving her. I'm afraid of breaking your hearts," he said, his voice laced with a growl of frustration. "I just want everypony to be happy, but I can't make that happen. Tia, I'm in a position where no matter what choice I make, somepony will get hurt in the end. I know what that feels like, my heart was broken not even three days ago. I wouldn't wish that on anypony. That's why I'm afraid of her," he finished quietly.
Celestia stood and walked over to him, just standing in front of him. She smiled sadly at him, better understanding his hesitation now. "I know it's hard to hear Spike, but what matters now is your happiness. Do what feels right, not what you think you need to do. If being with me is an obligation, and not what will really make you happy, then I would be happier seeing you go with what you love."
"Tia, that's not how it is!" Spike started, ready to defend his relationship with her. She put a hoof to his lips though, stopping him silently.
"I know. I'm just saying, no matter what happens, do what makes you happiest. I will love you either way," she said warmly. "I don't like fighting with you, Spike, but you need to be told this in order to be brave, and take you life in your own two claws." She embraced him, rubbing her cheek against his.
"I know the feeling. My stomach feels like it's full of snakes when we argue, and I know I'll say something I'll regret," he said, nuzzling her back. "I'll talk to her, like you want... like I want. I just need to be brave," he finished, quoting her.
"That's my Spike," she said, backing up and smiling warmly at him. "Now then, she'll probably come looking for you soon." She made her way a few steps closer to the castle, looking back at Spike. "Everything will be alright," she said, before heading off.
Spike smiled to himself and called after her. "I know where Twilight gets it from." He suddenly had an idea, and called out to her again. "Tia, wait! I have a favor to ask you," he said, the princess already on her way back.
"Anything," she said, smiling warmly.
"Send a letter to Twilight for me, please. I have a feeling I'll need her after this," he pleaded.
"Of course, but you know she'll come straight here if I tell her what's going on. It'll only take her a few teleports," Tia replied, looking at him as if she expected him to be more unsure about this.
"Don't tell her all the details. Just tell her you need to see her. If I'm still talking with Rarity, you can fill her in then," Spike said, a fair enough proposition.
Celestia chuckled a little at the idea of telling her student that she was in love with her foster son and friend. "Alright, I think I can manage that. I'll see you later in the study." With that, and a thankful nod from Spike, she made her way into the castle at last.
Content that Twilight would be on her way, and that his life was his to steer, Spike curled a little tighter, and waited for his first love.
Celestia smiled to herself as she penned the letter. She could picture the look on Twilight's face when she finally broke the news to her. It was likely to cause even more drama, she knew. Yet Spike needed her, a perspective from someone who loved him as a son, and always had. That much was true, and so she was not inclined to deny his request.
"Dear Twilight Sparkle, I hope this letter finds you well. Spike has been having an excellent time here in Canterlot, but has requested you come for a visit. I would like to see you as well, so when the time suits you, please drop by. I know that Spike has a few things to discuss with you, but if you are busy it wouldn't hurt for him to sleep on it a little first. Your teacher, Princess Celestia."
She smiled at the completion of the letter, toying with the idea of leaving a post note to her student disclosing some minor detail that would pique her interest. She'd be here in a matter of minutes if she did that though, and she suspected that Spike's conversation with Rarity would last a little later into the evening. She sent the letter as it was, careful to use a method that wouldn't have the letter flying out of Spike's mouth. Chuckling to herself, she awaited the reply.
It came swiftly by way of Twilight's teleportation spell, similar to the way Celestia had sent hers. Transporting something as small as a letter was a fairly simple task, regardless of the distance, but moving a pony was a whole different task. Twilight's letter claimed she would be in later that very evening, and so Celestia resigned herself to the wait. It was about three in the afternoon now, so it wouldn't be long.
Her thoughts turned back to Spike for a short time. Things were so hard on the young dragon lately, and she hoped his heart would come out more mature as a result. He still thought and felt with all the innocence and selflessness of a child. But pleasing everypony wasn't possible, and though he had said he would try for his own happiness, she knew he would be easily swayed by sorrow or pleading.
Sighing, and hoping he would have the wisdom to do what was best for himself, regardless of her own heart, she went in search of dinner. She couldn't deny the fear of being left alone again, but for her sake and Spike's, she would be strong and not show it.
If anypony trifled with Spike's heart in this troubling time, it wasn't going to be her.
He was there, waiting patiently for her, curled under the very tree she had caught him kissing Celestia under. She tried to put that thought out of her mind, but it loomed over her head anyways. As if somehow, with that, Celestia had moved one step ahead in the game of love with Spike.
But it wasn't a game, she told herself quietly. There were no points or rules. There was only the goal, and it was serious. She had already broken his heart once, and she didn't mean to do so a second time. Steeling herself for the conversation, she made her way up to him.
It felt like ages since she had seen him last. Much more than the four days since she had seen him curled in a destroyed meadow. That memory roared in her mind for her to flee, that he was dangerous. But she ignored it, knowing that to listen was to deny everything she had worked for. She stopped directly in front of him, her eyes a few meager feet from his own. They didn't speak, just looked into one another's eyes, gauging each other.
What she saw there surprised her. The pain remained when he looked at her, but it was dulled. The eyes were the gateway to the soul, and his soul was screaming to her that it was ready to receive her back into his life.
Spike saw reluctance in her eyes, but did not see the fear she had displayed just a few short days ago. Instead, it was replaced with a fear he shared; the fear of breaking a heart, of being denied.
"Rarity..." he said quietly, his deep voice bringing comfort to her heart in this moment. He was calm and ready, and she should be too, she realized.
"Spike, I'm so sorry," she said, the start of her speech. Spike considered cutting her off, telling her it was alright. But one look at her told him it wasn't. She needed to say this in full, even if he already forgave her. "I acted like a filly, scared of the dragons in fairy tales. I could have looked past it, but I didn't. I took you for granted then, and let your feelings for me fall untouched." She had tears welling in her eyes, and Spike could feel himself growing sad in empathy.
"Rarity, I understand, and I forgive you. I don't like that you were afraid of me, but I can't dwell on that. My feelings for you haven't changed, and I've missed you terribly, regardless of how you felt then. I admit I'm surprised you came after me, though. I was afraid, too," he finished, bringing his head lower so that they could embrace.
Rarity came to him willingly, embracing him without fear. It warmed Spike's heart, even though he knew that her terror still lurked in her mind. It was second to her concern for him, her feelings, and that was all he could ask for. He smiled sadly as she asked the question he had been expecting.
"Afraid of what?" she inquired, pulling out of the embrace and sitting next to him. This was going so much better than even her best hopes on the train had lead her to believe it would.
"That that night would drive us apart. That I'd never be able to see you again," he admitted.
"Spike, that's ridiculous. I could never have let you leave, even if I didn't..." Rarity's speech dropped off, fearing she was about to dig her own grave.
Spike smiled knowingly. "Even if you didn't love me then. I know." He nudged her gently. "But that's why you're here now, isn't it?" he asked with a warm laugh. He was doing his best to make sure that things stayed light. He didn't want a repeat of his argument with Tia.
Rarity looked away, blushing slightly. "Yes, that's why I'm here. Spike, I do love you; honest and truly. I still have worries of course, but nothing I can't handle. Now, I know what I saw earlier..." she started, unable to pick a path to follow.
Spike looked away now, sheepish about that topic. "I know, Rarity. Even though she's the one who kissed me, I did kiss back. I do love her, Rarity. But I love you, too," he said quietly, as if he expected a terrible reaction.
He didn't receive one. "Spike, it's alright. I've dated quite a few stallions in my time, and I know what it's like to have your heart split. Believe it or not, Celestia and I already talked about this. I know she has a place in your heart, and she knows I have mine. And I agree with her; no matter who you choose in the end, even if it's neither of us, your happiness is what counts. I know that better than anypony,"
"What do you mean?" Spike asked, confused. She knew better than anypony?
"You're still young Spike, even compared to me. I'm not older than you by much, but enough to have dated a few times. I've broken a lot of hearts to pursue my own happiness." She looked deep into Spike's eyes for this, because it was a statement she felt would impact his decision greatly, in all the right ways. "It's not easy to do. It will hurt at first, and feel like you have done something wrong. But as time passes, you'll find it was the right decision."
Spike smiled sadly, knowing she was right. He could imagine the hurt of breaking their hearts fairly well. "I'm not ready to make that kind of decision yet. I need time, to decide who I want to be with."
Rarity smiled back, just as bittersweet. "I understand. I'm not asking you to choose now. It's enough to know that you still love me, and that someday you and I could be happy together. I know that you probably asked Celestia to be your mare, and I don't want to come between that, but for the sake of my own love I had to tell you," she finished, placing a hoof on his snout and rubbing it gently.
"Don't worry about that. Celestia knows that it's my decision to make," he said, rubbing back like a cat being petted. "Either way, I am glad you are both giving me the freedom to be happy, no matter what I decide." He dared to place a claw on the back of her head, the palm of his scaled hand caressing her hair gently. She didn't run, didn't even tense up. She just smiled warmly at him as her stroked her mane lovingly. "Thank you, Rarity," he said, smiling warmly. It was as much thanks for coming to talk to him as it was letting him touch her.
"No, Spike... Thank you. Without all of this, I never would have learned how deep my feelings for you were, or how foolish I was. I've grown a lot in the last four days, and it wasn't easy. But without it, I never could have told you what I did." She rubbed her cheek against his hand as her petted her head, smiling to him. "We both have something to be thankful for, lessons we learned."
Spike nodded, withdrawing his claw. She was right; in the end, this unfortunate chain of events had lead them both to better understand themselves, and their love for one another.
He smiled at her. "I have things I need to tell you, but they can wait a while yet. A lot has already been said. Why don't we go find some dinner? I had Celestia send a letter to Twilight, so maybe she'll join us later," he finished, hoping to end on a light and casual note.
Rarity didn't want to deny that chance at normalcy. "Dinner sounds wonderful," she said, smiling weakly. She still had worries, like she had said, but she could save them for later, too. "Lead the way, oh mighty dragon," she teased, prodding him with a hoof.
"Yes, my lady," he returned, his voice all mock-bravado. Together, they wandered the halls, talking pleasantly as they had used to. For a short while, if nothing else, Spike was glad to have his friend back by his side.
Celestia squinted against the flash of purple light, amused as always by Twilight's magical prowess. Her student knew enough to land square in the study, assuming Celestia would be there.
"Good evening Twilight," she called, getting up off the couch and walking over. She and her favorite student embraced, much like sisters. In a way, Celestia viewed Twilight like that; a younger sister, not a student.
"Good evening, Princess," said with a smile, prancing back a few steps. She looked around the study, clearly expecting to see Spike. Not finding him, she turned her eyes back to the princess. "You wanted to see me for something?"
Celestia nodded, gesturing to the couch. "A few things, actually," she said, following Twilight over to the seat and sitting next to her. "I'd also like to hear a bit from you. The last letter I received was your request for my help with Spike."
"Right, I know. I meant to send one on Thursday, but I got a little carried away. After Rarity decided to take this trip after Spike, quite a few ponies showed up wondering why their orders weren't filled yet," Twilight groaned. "I'm no good at fashion, so the best I could do was just tell them to be patient. Besides that, not much else is new. the girls seemed to be having a fun time of things with Rarity missing, but don't tell her I said that."
Celestia shared a laugh with her student over that. "Quite a bit is new here, actually. The crumbles moved out of their street stall and into a new Bakery just this morning, and construction on the library is going smoothly," she said with a small smile, excited to break that bit of news to Twilight.
"Construction on the library? How have I not heard of this?" Twilight asked, clearly excited. "Is it a new Moonbeam the Elegant wing? I know the old one is getting a little full. I always did like her work." Her enthusiasm was barely contained, and that only widened Celestia's smile.
"No, it's a completely new wing," she said, leaning in to whisper. Her student leaned in eagerly. "It's Twilight the Brilliant's wing."
Twilight shot back from that whisper so fast that she fell off of the couch. She didn't pick herself off the floor, but instead teleported straight back to the couch. "Are you serious?" she asked, clearly ecstatic. "I mean, I know I've made a lot of spells, and my studies on friendship are nothing to wave a hoof at, but a whole wing?" she was stammering and stuttering, her face shifting between awe and complete disbelief.
"Yes, a whole wing. They certainly won't fit in the shelves I had set aside in Moonbeam's wing anymore. Congratulations, Twilight. The council at the Magic Academy even approved the title of 'the Brilliant', so it's official. The Brilliant Twilight Sparkle... I've been saying it for years, but it's got a nice ring to it all the same," Celestia said, smiling warmly to her student, her sister at heart.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Twilight squeaked, hopping up and down on the couch. Though she was older now, she could still act like a filly under the right conditions. The two embraced again, Twilight practically vibrating with excitement.
Celestia knew she shouldn't, but her mischievous side got the better of her. She couldn't pass this chance up to turn that excitement into a dramatic over-reaction. Smiling to herself, barely containing her premature laughter, she readied her words. "Oh, and Spike and I are dating now."
Her plot worked far too well. Twilight froze, still locked in the embrace with her teacher. Celestia doubted she was even breathing, and so she nudged her gently to stir her.
"You're what?" she screamed, backing up and looking hard at the princess, her face full of skepticism and nervousness.
"It's true, I swear," Celestia said with a warm laugh. "He asked me to be his mare, and I agreed. He's such a charming young dragon; years of living with you has done wonders for him."
Twilight all but exploded with sudden magic, teleporting to random places in the room repeatedly, shouting to herself in utter confusion. "But this is too crazy!" was the last thing Celestia caught before Twilight warped somewhere outside the castle. Laughing to herself, she waited for the purple mare to return.
When she did, Celestia trotted over and snatched her up in her own golden aura. "Twilight, calm down. I know it's difficult to believe, but even I can have feelings for somepony... or some dragon. And he's so polite and mature for his age. Even if it's surprising, you should be able to understand how it happened," she was still smiling warmly, enjoying her student's reaction.
"But... but... I don't even know," Twilight finished, letting all her limbs go limp in Celestia's magical grasp and muttering to herself. Celestia just laughed and dropped her on the couch.
"That's why I'm really here, isn't it?" Twilight asked, glaring at the princess.
"Yes, that's why, though the part about the library is true. His heart's in a strange place right now, what with Rarity showing up," Tia said, completely unfazed by that glare. "He wants to talk to you, and try to get his head straight."
"But I'm no good with things like this," Twilight moaned, letting her head smack unceremoniously into the cushions of the couch. Celestia chuckled a little to herself at that, remembering a time not long ago where she had executed the exact same frustrated pillow-dive. Twilight resurfaced, ready to continue. "I mean, that's why I sent him to you in the first place."
"I know, but maybe he doesn't need your advice so much as just for you to listen," Celestia proposed.
"What do you mean?" Twilight asked, slightly puzzled.
"He could talk to me or Rarity, but she and I are the objects of his problem right now. What he really needs to do is be heard by somepony he can count on; somepony who's heart he knows he can't break," she replied, smiling warmly. "Somepony like you."
Twilight sighed, feeling that Celestia's words made an unfortunate amount of sense. "I see where you're going with this. Alright, I'll talk to him later tonight," she grumbled, not wanting to get any more involved in this than she already was. Still, Spike needed her, and she'd be there for him, one way or another. "For now, let's just change the subject."
Celestia smiled, able to guess how Twilight must be feeling about all this. Protective of Spike, she now had to help defend his heart on two fronts. That stress would undoubtedly bear down on her if they kept up, so she was more than willing to oblige.
Celestia had come along later to collect Rarity from Spike, the two of them almost disturbingly calm near one another. In either of their hooves, Spike wouldn't have been nearly so complacent about it. He was especially surprised at Rarity, the normally proud pony treating Celestia more like a friend than a rival. Celestia had simply told him that Twilight was waiting in the study for him. What the two ladies would discuss in his absence, he could only imagine. Scratching his head, Spike made his way up to the study.
Scratching his head, he pulled open the doors. He couldn't have been happier, seeing Twilight sitting on the couch, waiting patiently for him. He knew he had told Celestia to break the news to her, but he still didn't expect things to go smoothly here.
She bounded off the couch, making her way towards Spike as he made his way to hers. The two hit together in a classic moving hug, where the biggest body always wins. Spike picked her off the floor in his embrace, laughing gently to himself in the pure bliss of having this close friend here with him. She laughed too, wrapping her slender forelegs around his neck. Spike set her down gently back on the couch, curling up next to her.
"You wouldn't believe how good it is to see you," Spike said, with an exaggerated sigh. "It's been crazy since Rarity showed up."
"Oh, I think I would know a thing or two about how crazy it is," Twilight retorted, her face full of mischievous light. "After all, I'm the one who told Rarity you were here. And then Celestia told me all about your little relationship."
Spike just chuckled a little. "Well, I expected as much when I saw her here. Only one pony knew why I came to Canterlot. I imagine Rarity told you everything before she left?" Spike asked, hoping that was the case. It would save him a lot of time.
"She did, and I wasn't happy with her. In fact, I actually slapped her. I haven't been able to apologize since she left, but she ended up thanking me. Can you believe that?" Twilight asked, still mulling that over. She let her face, screwed up with confusion, bounce back to a more pleasant expression. "Anyways, I know most of it. So feel free to start where you need to, Spike," she said pleasantly, always the ready listener.
"Well, I don't know if Tia told you this, but she and I kissed," he said, blushing a dragon's blush, invisible under his scales.
Twilight's eyes went wide at that. "No, she definitely didn't mention that part. I still can't believe you and her are dating... I mean, she's older than I am, even though she doesn't look it. It's just... strange for me," she finished lamely, not wanting to offend Spike.
"It's a little strange to me too, but it doesn't change how I feel about her. Or Rarity. That's why I need you here right now, to help me thinking. Thinking was always your specialty, after all," he chuckled.
Twilight smiled a little at that. "Alright then, tell me about them. I think the first thing you should do is figure out what you like about them both, and what their faults are," she said, her analytical mind getting right to the needed facts for this kind of decision.
Spike knew better than to argue the logic of it. His life had been too consumed with feelings lately, so a little heartless number-crunching might be good for him. He scratched his draconic jaw in thought, tilting his head by rolling his neck.
"Well, they're both beautiful. And I don't mean to sound shallow, but it's the first thing that comes to mind. Rarity is more expressive; sometimes overly expressive. But Celestia is more in control, knows her way around most things. They're both more experienced than I am with dating and things like that, so I guess either way I'd learn from them. Let's see, what else... Well, Tia's definitely more brave, or at the very least the quicker thinker. She recognized me right away for what I was really like. But Rarity proved how strong she can be by overcoming it." Spike scratched at the carpet in frustration, finding that he could support them both equally if he kept on this track.
"Sounds like a very tough choice. Who do you feel best around?" Twilight asked, pulling out a parchment and quill.
"Don't take notes on this, this is private!" Spike groaned, running a claw over his face. Twilight's eyes pleaded with him to let her document this, and he sighed in defeat. "Fine, go ahead. Anyways, everything feels right around Tia. She's so strong and wise, it's as if nothing could go wrong. And she's strangely affectionate, though she doesn't come across as passionate often. But I've known Rarity so long, I can almost read her mind. I even finish her sentences sometimes. She's much better at portraying how she feels and easier to read. It's hard to tell sometimes how I make Tia feel, but with Rarity nothing's private. But that comes with time..." Spike trailed off, remembering one very important detail. His face went grim as he realized Twilight was not going to like this.
"What is it, Spike? Is something wrong?" She asked, dropping the quill and trotting over to him from the couch in concern.
"There is one problem between them... It has more to do with me than anything. Tia told me not long ago that, like her, I'm immortal. Or at least I can't die from old age. Supposedly it's a dragon thing," he said, displeased still by that knowledge.
Twilight sat down hard, her jaw hanging open, almost comedic. "You'll age forever, then?" she asked, feeling that twinge in her heart she knew to be pity. "Oh, Spike... What will you do when Rarity... I mean..."
Spike patted her head to calm her down. "I've been thinking of that ever since I found out. I don't know, Twilight. With Celestia, we could be together forever. But with Rarity, someday she'll die and leave me behind. I don't like to think about that. Celestia said that every moment with a mortal is precious, should be cherished. And I know I could be happy with Rarity, until the end of her days. But I don't know if I could face the hurt when she passes away in sixty years. Maybe even less," he sighed, dropping his claw from her tiny head.
"She's right though. Every moment should be treasured. And I agree with you, if you do decide to be with Rarity, you would definitely be happy. But it would eventually have to end. Oh Spike, I didn't realize the decision you had to make was this complicated. I admit I don't know much about love, but this seems almost unreal..." she muttered, edging closer to him and patting the side of his head.
"I know, Twilight. It's the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and maybe ever will." He looked out to the balcony, where the moon was rising, the last vestiges of sunset painting the rim of the world a beautiful purple shade, much like Twilight's coat.
She followed his gaze out there, looking at the wonderful sight. After a few moments of calm had passed, Spike's voice drew her back.
"Stay here with me tonight, Twi. I can't promise you'll get much sleep, but I can promise you I need the support," he said warmly, rubbing his cheek against hers.
"Of course Spike. I'll be here anytime you need me," she replied, leaning into him warmly. He became her living chair, and the two shared close conversation, Spike telling of the wonders of both his loves. Twilight grew to respect his maturity and bravery; faced with such a decision, she had no idea how she would react.
The two talked late into the night, until at last they could take no more, and fell asleep, Twilight cradled in Spike's arms.
By popular demand, this is a warning to all readers finishing chapter six. After this chapter, the story undergoes a split in which Spike either pursues only Rarity, or only Celestia.
Chapters denoted with a [Celestia] tag are specific to Celestia's ending. They have absolutely no overlap with the Rarity chapters.
Chapters denoted with a [Rarity] tag are likewise specific to Rarity's ending.
It is in your best interest to read either all of the [Celestia] ending or the [Rarity] one straight through, before going back to read the other.
Read [Celestia] VII, [Celestia] VIII, and the [Celestia] Epilogue in order.
Next read [Rarity] VII, [Rarity] VIII, and the [Rarity] Epilogue in order.
On a slightly more humorous note, some of my more avid readers have suggested I write a disclaimer regarding the epilogues:
This is a general warning to all readers. Fanfiction is a known addictive substance that can potentially be harmful to your mental or emotional state. Razorbeam does not promote the reading of the epilogues back-to-back, as this can lead to potentially hazardous reactions in readers with high blood pressure, heart problems, or a family history of d'aww induced cancer. If you are subject to extreme emotional whiplash or bouts of uncontrollable weeping, the author recommends you do not read the final chapters in one go.
Well, you have all been adequately informed. If you go against my warning, I can't stop you. Please follow the recommended reading instructions above for the best viewer experience.