It is important to realize that winning over a mare is much more than just winning over a mare – it's also winning over her friends. Stallions often fail in this task, or put off befriending their lady's "BFFs" until it is too late. If you want to ensure victory, you will need your mare's friends on your side. The more they like you, the more they will encourage your mare to consider you as a prospect. Additionally, if a mare observes you enjoying social time with those closest to her, she will see you in a positive light, rather than seeing you as a threat. If there is one thing a mare dislikes above all, it is a stallion driving her away from her friends and family. Prove to her that you accept her and her social clique, and you will be well on your way to securing her heart.
It was late. Spike wasn't used to being up late. He usually conked out just after sundown, but tonight, he couldn't sleep. He rubbed at his eyes, reading through chapter two for the umpteenth time.
After great reluctance, Spike had decided Twilight had a little bit of a point. He'd already made a first impression on Rarity, a long time ago. Skipping Step One probably was for the best. But he would not skip Steps Two, Three, and Four, no matter what his sister suggested. And no, it had nothing to do with being nervous about Step Five and trying to put it off. Nothing at all.
Step Two would be valuable, right? Sure, technically he already was friends with Rarity's friends, but who's to say he couldn't become better friends with each of them?
"I hope you know what you're talking about, Smooth Fox," Spike said, finally dragging himself to his bed. He fell asleep to the sound of Twilight's snores.
"A picnic?" Twilight asked over her morning bowl of hay.
Spike nodded enthusiastically from his kitchen stool. "And we have to invite everypony."
Twilight raised an eyebrow. "Does this have anything to do with Step Two?"
Spike sniffed, lifting his head up high. "So what if it does?" He glared down his nose at the unicorn – something only made possible by his stool, which made him taller than usual.
Twilight opened her mouth to reply, but must have thought better of it, because she closed it just as quickly.
"I know what you're going to say," Spike said, hopping down to clear the breakfast table. "But I figure it can't hurt to spend more time with Rarity's friends. Just to make sure I know them well enough."
"Spike…they aren't just Rarity's friends. They're your friends," Twilight pointed out. "And please tell me you're not including me as one of the ponies you need to get to know better."
Spike put the dishes in the sink. "Don't be ridiculous. I know you better than Rarity does."
Twilight sighed in relief. "Good."
Spike glanced back over his shoulder at his sister. "But I don't think I know Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, or Fluttershy as well as Rarity does."
Twilight groaned, putting one hoof over her eyes. "Spike."
"What?" Spike asked defensively, grabbing a broom to begin his morning chores. "I have to do this, Twilight! I'm never going to win over Rarity on my own, and Smooth Fox guarantees success!"
Dust flew back and forth, and Spike realized he was letting his emotions get into his sweeping. He slowed down a notch, and the dust settled through the air, fluttering slightly in the rays of morning sunlight.
Twilight shook her head. "Alright. Do what you want. I'll see what everypony is up to this afternoon. A picnic does sound like fun."
Spike perked up at that. Maybe Twilight wasn't entirely against this idea.
"A picnic!" Pinkie Pie leapt onto the middle of the picnic blanket, shaking her basket back and forth. Cupcakes flew from it, and a few of them actually managed to land on the plates set out.
"Yes, Pinkie, we know," Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, ducking as a cupcake sailed over her head and squished onto a tree.
"Thank yeh' kindly for inviting us all out this afternoon, Twah'light," Applejack settled herself onto the blanket, setting out a plate of apple tarts.
"Don't thank me. Thank Spike," Twilight said, nudging the dragon forward. "It was his idea."
Spike blushed a bit. "Yeah, well - "
But he was interrupted.
"Angel, no!" Fluttershy yelled. Well, she didn't exactly yell. Spoke very sternly, perhaps.
A white rabbit hopped through the picnic, darting off with one of Applejack's apple tarts.
"You know better than to take, Angel! You should wait to let Mommy pick out some healthy treats for you!" The pale yellow pegasus flew after the speedy rabbit, but Rainbow Dash got to him first. She put out a hoof, and Angel, who had been looking over his shoulder at the pursuing Fluttershy, ran straight into it.
Spike winced as Angel stumbled backwards, shaking his head dizzily.
"Oh, Angel, are you okay?" Fluttershy asked, her eyebrows shooting up in concern. She scooped up the rabbit in her arms and flew back to the picnic blanket with him.
"You're welcome," Rainbow Dash snorted, taking back the apple tart.
Spike really wished he could take notes on what each pony was doing, but he felt that would be a bit too obvious. He'd have to keep everything in his head in order to get all their personalities down. That way he could figure out how to best become good friends with them. Now, if he could just talk to each pony one on one…Would they let me interview them if I said it was for one of Twilight's projects?
But no, that'd be a blatant lie. Pinkie Pie might fall for it, but the others would see through it faster than a Manehattan minute. Why would Twilight need to ask them personality questions? She was already friends with them all.
So are you, you nitwit, Twilight's voice spoke in Spike's mind. The dragon spun, looking over at his sister. But no, her horn wasn't glowing. That was no magic. That was just him, imagining Twilight's response.
Spike slumped his shoulders. Imaginary Twilight was right, of course. He already knew Rarity's friends. And pretty darn well, too. So how was he supposed to accomplish Step Two? How could he guarantee those closest to Rarity would vote for him to be her guy?
Speaking of Rarity…Spike blinked. Where was she?
He glanced around the picnic. Applejack and Twilight were having a conversation that for some reason, involved a lot of hoof gestures on Applejack's part. Pinkie Pie had somehow managed to get up a tree, and Fluttershy was fretting over the risk of her falling, while Rainbow egged Pinkie on to climb higher. Now that he wasn't under supervision, Angel was back to nibbling on the apple tarts. But there was no sign of Rarity anywhere.
"Why Spike, aren't you going to welcome me to your picnic?" a voice asked from behind him, and Spike turned.
"Rarity!" he exclaimed. He swallowed hard. Today he was determined not to let any dragon spit out of his mouth. "Yes! Of course! Welcome! For! I mean, thanks for! Coming, that is!" Spike stumbled over his words and his feet, as he shuffled to the side to give her a clear path to the blanket.
She looked at him funny. "Is everything…alright?" Rarity asked, raising one beautiful eyebrow.
"Yes!" Spike replied. "Fine! Everything's fine, now that you're here!" Spike slapped a hand over his mouth.
Rarity just laughed lightly, patting him on top the head. "That's my Spikey Wikey. Always so sweet!"
Spike wasn't sure, but he thought he saw the faintest reddening on Rarity's pale cheeks. Then again, it could've just been his own eyesight getting blurred over by red hearts the moment she'd touched him. Spike swayed happily. I'm Spikey Wikey, and I'm always so sweet! He'd long since given up caring about her stupid nickname for him. Anything that pony said was like honey to the ears.
"Oh Rarity, you made it!" Twilight said, looking up from her conversation with Applejack.
"Yes, so sorry I'm late," Rarity walked over to the rest of the ponies. "I had to help Sweetie Belle with a bit of homework."
Sweetie Belle. The words rang around inside Spike's head.
"How is Sweetie Belle doing lately, Rarity?" Fluttershy asked.
"Very well, thanks for asking," Rarity replied. "She's with her friends now, at their little clubhouse."
"Is that where Appleboom'd run off to? 'Ah suspected as much," Applejack said.
"Oh yes, you know them." Rarity smiled. "Always planning a new adventure."
"New adventure fer trouble," Applejack laughed.
Spike wanted to smack himself. He'd forgotten about Sweetie Belle. Smooth Fox said over and over again how important it was to get on the good side of those closest to your mare. And he'd forgotten about Rarity's sister.
Ironically, she probably hadn't jumped to mind, because he didn't know her all that well. Spike held back the urge to start chewing his claws in panic. Okay, calm down, Spike. At least you've thought of her now. You can fix this. You can get to know Sweetie Belle.
"Hey uh, Applejack? Rarity?" Spike asked. "Where is this clubhouse?"
Spike heard the little pony trio long before he caught sight of their clubhouse. Luckily, that made it easy to track them down.
The clubhouse came into view, and Spike could just make out the figures inside, pacing and yelling.
He took a deep breath. So what. They're fillies, they're allowed to be a little –
- loud. Spike grimaced, heading up the ramp to knock on the door.
"Who's there?" Applebloom called from inside.
"It's me! Spike!" Spike answered. "Stopping by for a visit!"
"Really?" Applebloom opened up the door. "Well, that's mighty nice of yeh."
Spike gave a friendly smile, and entered the clubhouse.
"Hey, Spike!" Scootaloo said. She had her Rainbow Dash hat on.
"Hi, Spike!" Sweetie Belle smiled. "What brings you here?"
Spike looked around. "Just wanted to say hello…you know…visit…" he trailed off awkwardly. The trio of ponies stared at him.
This wasn't going quite as smoothly as he'd imagined.
From the walls, drawings of three sets of cutie marks were everywhere. Spike easily recognized them as Rarity's, Applejack's, and Rainbow Dash's.
"So…er…what were you three up to before I interrupted?" Spike asked, twiddling his claws about.
"Just trah'in to decide who the best pony in town is," Applebloom said.
"Obviously there's no contest," Scootaloo snorted. "It's – "
"Rarity!" Sweetie Belle interrupted, squeaking slightly on the first syllable.
"But Rarity is the best dress maker anywhere, and her magic can find more gems than Rainbow Dash and Applejack could ever find, combined!"
"But Applejack can buck the most apples outta anypony, and no pony could farm better than her!"
"Farming, making dresses, PSH! Rainbow Dash can do a Sonic Rainboom, guys. How can anypony compete with that?"
The argument escalated, and Spike had to throw his hands over his ears from the noise. He was not used to dealing with children. Sure, technically he was a baby dragon himself, but being a baby dragon was way different than being a baby pony.
"Hey!" Spike interrupted, shouting over the three Cutie Mark Crusaders.
They shut up, all turning to the dragon and blinking.
"What?" Scootaloo asked.
Spike sighed. "You can't possibly settle this argument."
"What do you mean?" Sweetie Belle tilted her head.
"Don't you see? You're each arguing about things that the other ponies can't do," Spike explained. "Sweetie Belle, your sister makes dresses and finds gems with magic, which Applejack and Rainbow Dash don't have." He turned to Applebloom. "And Applejack is an Earth pony, so of course she's good at farming and working with the ground and the trees." Next, he turned to Scootaloo. "And how in Equestria could Applejack or Rarity ever do a Sonic Rainboom when they aren't pegasus ponies?"
The three blinked at him some more.
"So…what yer sayin' is…" Applebloom narrowed her eyes.
"You can't compare them using traits specific to unicorns, Earth ponies, or pegasi!" Spike threw his hands out in exasperation.
"So…that means…" Sweetie Belle crinkled her eyebrows.
"…we need to compare them using traits that ALL ponies have!" Scootaloo exclaimed.
"Er…that's not what I meant…" Spike started, but it was too late.
"Applejack's the strongest!"
"Rarity's the most creative! And the prettiest!"
"Rainbow Dash is the coolest – and hey, what do you mean Applejack's the strongest? Rainbow Dash totally is!" Scootaloo shoved her face in Applebloom's.
"No way!" Applebloom shook her head, her bow bouncing slightly. "And wait a minute, you think Rarity is the prettiest?" She spun at Sweetie Belle. "Applejack is way prettier!"
"Nuh uh!" Sweetie Belle stamped one hoof.
"Yuh huh!" Applebloom stamped back. "She's got natcheral beauty. Rarity's only pretty because she trah's to be!"
"What?!" Sweetie Belle screeched.
"Don't yeh agree, Spike?" Applebloom asked.
Spike nearly fell backwards. "Uh…what? You're dragging me into this?"
"Obviously, we need an outside opinion," Scootaloo said. "So?"
The three loomed over him, and Spike crept backwards towards the exit. "Erm…"
"So?" Sweetie Belle demanded. "Isn't Rarity the prettiest?"
"Uh…" Spike bit his lower lip, wondering how much farther he had to go before he reached the door.
"So?" Applebloom reared up, slamming her front hooves down.
"They're all pretty!" Spike said in a rush. "Really!"
"Gag!" Scootaloo said. "Rainbow Dash would kick a stormcloud in your face if you said that to her!"
"Okay, fine! Rainbow isn't pretty, then. She's…awesome?" Spike tried.
"Much better," Scootaloo sat back, satisfied.
"So you think Applejack is prettiest, then?" Applebloom asked.
"I didn't say that…" Spike said, glancing at Sweetie Belle. The whole point of coming to visit was to get on Sweetie Belle's good side, after all.
"He said they're both pretty," Sweetie Belle said. "So there." She stuck her tongue out at Applebloom.
Applebloom sat down, mulling that over.
Spike didn't think he could take any more. "Well, I really got to be going now," he said quickly. "You three have a good afternoon!"
And he darted out the door before any of them could ask anything else.
"Hey Rarity, guess what!" Sweetie Belle squeaked, popping into the boutique. Rarity turned at the sound of the door slamming.
"Sweetie Belle?" Rarity walked out of her workshop to find her sister dashing over to her. "What are you doing here?"
"Mom said I could come here for dinner! Isn't that great?" Sweetie Belle smiled up at her sister.
"I…suppose…" Rarity grimaced. She was going to have to talk to her parents again about warning her if they were sending the little walking disaster over. But Sweetie Belle's excited expression melted Rarity's heart a bit, and she sighed. "It's fine. Really. But you'll let me do the cooking, right?"
"Yeah, yeah," Sweetie Belle said, trailing after Rarity into the kitchen. Rarity couldn't help but smile just a little.
"How was your afternoon?" Rarity asked.
"Good!" Sweetie Belle replied, hopping onto a kitchen chair. "Spike came to visit us at the clubhouse!"
"Oh yes," Rarity said. "He had been asking where to find you three…" Rarity was still puzzled over why Spike suddenly wanted to talk with the three little fillies.
"Well, he found us!" Sweetie Belle said. "He's a really nice dragon. He helped us stop arguing."
"Oh did he?" Rarity asked, bemused. "Well, Spike always has had a sensible head on his shoulders."
"You bet he does!" Sweetie Belle grinned. "He said you were pretty, after all."
Rarity's eyes flew wide. "Did he now?" She coughed a bit, turning her head to avoid looking directly at her sister.
"Yep!" Sweetie Belle answered. "But, he also said Applejack was just as pretty as you, so maybe he's not all that super sensible or whatever you said."
Applejack? Just as…? Something cold slid into Rarity's stomach, slicing through her like a chunk of scored lake ice. "Really now," she said, swallowing shakily. "He said that?"
"Yeah," Sweetie Belle sighed. "But don't worry, I still think you're prettiest!"
Rarity forced out a little laugh. "Thanks, Sweetie Belle. You always know how to make me feel better."
But she didn't feel better. All Rarity felt was worse and worse. It was a duel blow.
Spike didn't think she was the prettiest. Blow number one.
Realizing how much that bothered her…that was blow number two.
Come on now, Rarity. This really shouldn't matter. Spike can think whatever he wants. It doesn't change your friendship at all, right?
She felt her eye twitch. But…Applejack?
Rarity narrowed her eyes. She would not let this get to her.
"So what's for dinner?" Sweetie Belle asked.
Rarity shook herself out of her thoughts, grateful for the distraction. "I'm not sure yet. Let's see what I have in the cupboards, shall we?"