Spike sat reclining in his little pet bed in the castle, carefully weighing his options. In his claw, he held two tickets to Twilight’s royal ball the following evening, and for the first time ever, he would be there as a guest rather than the princess’s assistant. There was only one hitch in his plan so far, though. He didn’t have a date.
The answer should have been easy. If there was a mare who showed any interest at all, even a little, he should jump at the chance, right? After all, how often did a mare interested in a little dragon come along? But in another shocking first for Spike, he had not one, but four mares he believed has been flirting with him lately. It was a new experience for the dragon, though a welcome one, but it left him unsure what to do. Spike was left with a weighty decision, one he’d been thinking over all day.
First, there was Rarity. She was the obvious choice, since Spike had been crushing on her for literally years. But that weird quasi-relationship had run a winding course full of ups and downs, and Spike was finding that the prospect of the same old thing was slightly less exciting now that there were new options ahead of him. Nothing against Rarity, of course. She was beautiful as ever, regal, successful, and she’d surely be the perfect date at a royal ball! More than that, she’d given Spike a kiss on the cheek during their most recent party together, and the thought of it was still leaving him feeling all tingly inside. Were his many years of longing finally coming to fruition?
In recent years, he’d also become close to a pony named Starlight Glimmer. While she had her issues, and a very troubled past, she was one of the few ponies that didn’t treat him like a kid. She was open and honest about her feelings, and wasn’t afraid to listen to his advice, which few ever did. Spike knew he was her confidant, her dear friend, and recently he suspected that she might want more. Although Starlight had forged a friendship with Trixie, she had recently been spending more and more time with him. There were more hugs. There was more laughter. It was as if she wanted to move into more areas than friendship, and this ball might be the perfect opportunity for him to seal the deal.
Then again, as much as he preferred to be treated like a grown up, he was, in fact, still a very young dragon. Which brought him to Sweetie Belle. Not only was she more his age, but she’d grown into a very intelligent and lovely young mare. She had a beautiful singing voice, a big heart, and she even could put on that regal air she must have learned from her sister. While they hadn’t been that close, and Spike didn’t know a ton about her, she had also shown interest lately. She’d been coming over to Twilight’s castle, and instead of going to see Twilight she’d come to see Spike. It was like she wanted to get to know Spike better, and had been more willing to share personal experiences. She’d probably be wonderful to chat with at the ball.
On the other hand, while he was Sweetie Belle’s age, he wasn’t a pony. He now had a friend who was also not a pony, and she’d definitely shown him favor. More than that, Ember was a dragon, just like Spike! She was queenly, a formidable ally, and was always trying to learn more about friendship. The questions she’d asked had slowly become less about how to be a friend and how ponies worked, and more about personal matters. Were there better ways of showing intimacy than hugs? Were there different levels of liking someone? She’d also been sheepish when he’d given answers. She was pretty bad at hinting things, but Spike got the feeling she was trying to tell him something. Maybe that she had feelings for him?
No matter how he wracked his little brain, Spike couldn’t figure out how to choose for his extra ticket. If he pursued one relationship, would he lose others? When he tried to decide it logically, there didn’t seem to be a right answer. If he tired to follow his heart, he felt torn in all directions.
He let out a long sigh and stared down at the tickets in frustration. He’d tried making a list, pros and cons, all of that, but nothing was working. He needed an outside opinion, he’d decided, but Twilight was always so busy with preparations for the ball. Who else did he trust enough to turn to about this? Who else knew matters of the heart well enough?
All at once, he knew exactly who to ask, and he broke into a smile. What’s more, she was staying right there at the castle, just a few rooms over.
Spike hopped up out of bed and practically sprinted out of his room and down the hall, then knocked soundly on the guest bedroom door. After a moment, he heard a call from inside.
“Coming! Just a moment!”
He heard hoofsteps towards the door, then it opened to reveal a slightly sleepy looking Princess Cadance. She’d gotten into town the day before, and was staying at the castle until after the ball was done.
“Oh, sorry Princess. Did I wake you?” Spike asked sheepishly.
For a moment, Cadance looked annoyed, but then she quickly put on a prim smile and smoothed her mane back into place.
“No, not at all, I was just napping while the baby slept,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “What can I help you with.”
“Well, uh…” Spike stuttered out. “To be honest, it’s a matter of the heart.”
At this, Cadance gave him a knowing smile, and stepped out into the hallway. She shut the door very quietly, likely to keep the baby sleeping.
“You’ve come to the right mare,” she said soothingly. “Tell me what the trouble is.”
Spike took a deep breath, collected his throughs, and then let it all loose.
“Well, I got these tickets to Twilight’s royal ball tomorrow, and I get to be just a guest there and enjoy myself for a change. Because of that, Twi gave me two tickets, so I could bring a date but… there’s a problem.”
He began to pace back and forth in the hallway in front of Cadance as he spoke.
“There are four of my friends who I think, well… I think they have the hots for me. At least they’ve been acting like it. Rarity and I have always kind of been close but never quite together, and now she’s been dropping hints that she’s finally ready for a relationship. She even kissed me! But one of my best friends, Starlight Glimmer has been spending more and more time with me lately, even though she has other best friends. She’s been giving me more hugs from usual too. Sweetie Belle and I have never been too close, but it seems like she’s been trying to get closer to me recently. Like… trying to get to know me or something, and she is pretty cute. Then there’s Ember, who’s an actual dragon, and she definitely has been asking me some very intimate personal questions. She blushes a lot too, so maybe there’s something there.”
Spike took a deep breath and turned to face Cadance. He spread his claws in open bewilderment.
“They’re all so cute and nice, and I’m not used to having anypony like me that way, not even to mention four someponies! I want to take one of them to the ball, but I don’t know which. You know all about love so… what do you think?”
Cadance was silent a moment, just looking down at the little dragon. Then, all at once, she broke into hysterical laughter.
Spike watched open-mouthed as Cadance continued to openly guffaw and cackle, swaying on her hooves. After a moment of laughing, she even reached up to wipe a tear from her eye, and slumped backwards against the wall. The little dragon wasn’t sure how to respond to this, and just stood there dumbly as the pink princess continued to laugh. At last, her laughing dissolved into near-sobs and coughs, and she stammered to find her words.
“S-spike,” she said, still chuckling under her breath. “You… you know none of them are flirting with you, right?”
Spike blinked, shocked and a little horrified. Cadance went on, as if she didn’t notice his open dread.
“Rarity kissed you at that party because it was a Hearth's Warming celebration and you were under the mistletoe! She’s always thought of you like a very dear little brother, you know that. Starlight has been hanging around you so much because Twilight is busy, and Trixie went out of town, remember? She told us all last week! Sweetie Belle is out of school right now, and she’d been trying to learn more about what it’s like to work with royalty, since she’s studying abroad in Canterlot next month. And Ember? She told me the other day that she thinks she has a crush on a dragon back home, and she has no idea how to tell him. She probably figured you would know how male dragons think better than anyone!”
Spike felt tears welling in his eyes as he stared up at the pink alicorn. She was shaking her head, laughing between sentences, but when she caught sight of his face, she quickly stopped.
“Oh. Oh you poor dear, you really did think they were all flirting with you, didn’t you?” she said more gently.
Spike opened his mouth to say ‘yes’ but shut it again quickly for fear he’d start to sob. Cadance frowned sympathetically and moved to sit alongside Spike. She extended a hoof and gave him a gentle hug against her side. Now, he did allow himself a sniffle or two.
“Spike, I am so sorry,” she said with a sigh. “That was terribly insensitive of me, I honestly didn’t know you were taking this so seriously. It just seemed unlikely you would make that many assumptions! But it was my mistake, I'm so, so sorry.”
“They’re all so cute,” Spike whined. “I just thought, for once, that a few cute girls might be interested in going on a date with me. I thought I actually had, you know, options. Potential dates for the ball. I guess… I guess I was wrong.”
He lowered his head against her pink fur, and shut his eyes. After a moment, she pulled away from him, and patted him firmly on the shoulder. He looked up to find her smiling down at him.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” she said with a nod. “I was a real heel just now, so let me make it up to you. I can get a really cute pony to go with you to the ball. Seriously, she’s a real sweetie.”
“Y-you can?” Spike said, perking up considerably.
Cadance winked at him.
“You bet!” she said. “I can pretty well guarantee she’ll say yes. And she’s right here, in this castle with you, right in front of you. What do you say?”
Spike found himself smiling. Maybe this ball wouldn’t be so bad after all!
Spike sulked in his bowtie and little tux along the side of the dance floor, and watched the happy ponies talking. Beside him was a lovely blue magical high-chair, and in it was a continually babbling Baby Flurry Heart.
“This wasn’t what I thought you meant...” he mumbled in the general direction of Cadance where she danced with Shining Armor.
The pink alicorn looked over at him a moment, and gave him an obvious wink.
“Told you she was cute!” she mouthed across the dance floor.
Spike just glared at her, then looked over at the baby. Flurry Heart grinned at him, and waved her tiny hooves above her head in excitement. She let out a soft coo of joy, and spit up a little on the front of her sparkly bib she’d been dressed in just for this occasion. Spike rolled his eyes.
“Next time, I’m asking Zecora for advice,” he grumbled.