Spike of All Trades

by Ariamaki

Chapter 23: Maturity

"-a Belle always hits the mark."

He couldn't respond, still in awe at Rarity’s display. Twilight had a lot of magical power, that was for sure. He'd been at her side as she developed all twenty-five of her original tricks, and dozens more since then. Spike had seen his (that extremely complex word they still had debates about some nights when they couldn't sleep) lift an Ursa in her magic alone, saw her meddle with the very concepts of the world, watched as she saved said world time and again. But this level of miniaturized work, fine control, the range... Rarity might have Twilight beat in this particular game.

Spike took a breath of his own and activated the Dragon's Mind, looking at her with an intent gaze (and ignoring Ammo's curious glance).
"Do that again, please."

She picked up his gist quickly, firing the same shots a little more slowly this time. He watched the magic build and flow, paid special attention to each movement through the symbols and systems that her will established. The first shot was plain, and he could feel rather than know when it was registered into his memory. The second one involved more effort, a spin and the addition of more power. The third... His mana cratered out to 0 in an instant trying to process everything he was seeing. Too many complex details for him to work out, and far too fast in his current state.

Meanwhile Mrs. Ammo was speaking to the Night Guard stallion in hushed tones, eventually turning back to them and clapping one hoof on Rarity's shoulder.
"Not half bad! I had no idea you'd been working on the Maelstrom Shot between lessons, but it's good to see you've got the basics down."

Rarity blushed a bit, dusting off one hoof nonchalantly.
"Well... I had an excellent teacher. Best there is, really."

Ammo threw her into a hug, giggling like a filly a fraction her age.
"Awww you!"

Sappiness aside, Spike was even more excited now than before.
"That was incredible! Could you teach me?"

The owner quirked an eyebrow when he said that.
"I dunno... Could I? Last I checked, dragons can't use magic like that. Or at all? I will be the first to admit I don't know a ton about dragons, aside from what we cover in the Guard."

"Hey, that makes two of us: But I think I'm pretty unique. I pick new things up real well, and I might be able to fake it until I make it."

"HAH, well, that's the spirit. Then again... I'd hate to deprive Rariere a chance to spend quality time with her dragonfriend, so why not have-"

Rarity interrupted with a nervous expression.
"Excuse me, Auntie... That was 'dragon friend', two words, yes?"

"Nooo? One word, no space. Dragonfriend. Like coltfriend, but-"

"Yes, I understand the intent. It's just... not the case!"

Ammo scoffed.
"Seriously? Well, get off your flank and make a move: Some other mare might take him! He strikes me as a perfectly eligible bachelor."

"I would hope not! Spike is still a child!"

That didn't hurt as badly as he expected it would: He knew that she had always thought of him as too young, and it was part of what kept him from expressing his feelings when he was younger. But that was when he was younger, years ago. Even if he hadn't grown up physically, he had matured.
"I am not a child! I mean..."

Wait, no, he HAD grown physically! Just a little while ago, this very day. And it had been Rarity's fault to boot: And remembering that brought a little bit of the anger back from under the surface, with a hint of mischief to temper it. So he was old enough to risk unexplained tricks and magical experiments, but too young to date? Well, two could play that game...
"I mean, you made me into an adult just this morning."

He heard a commotion between the counter and watched Ammo actually faceplant. He'd never seen somepony do it outside of comics, but there it was: She stopped mid-stride as if tripping before vaulting muzzle-first into the ground in shock. Spike just set that aside and focused his attention on Rarity's expression, her stammering, her red-hot blush. Turnabout was fair play, right?
"I-I, no, that... Phrasing! That is deliberately misleading phrasing, and I object!"

At this point Ammo seemed like she either had to break or resort to humor. She chose wisely.
"Oh how scandalous! The seamstress mare of Ponyville locked in a tryst with a dragon that she herself calls underaged."

"No, NO, I-"

"But Rarity, you made me so big, I couldn't even-"

"THAT is NOT-"

"Listen to this boy go! You must have sent him on such a trip..."


"She even gave me an entire box of gems for my trouble!"

Ammo cracked up at that, curling up into a ball and laughing herself into tears. Even the stallion behind the shooting range counter was hiding a laugh behind one wing, looking anywhere but at their conversation. For her part Rarity just slumped over and smothered her face in her hooves.

"bury me. bury me and send me to tartarus. it'd be better than this. what did I do to deserve..."

Quite a large part of Spike felt like this joke might have been a touch too far. It was outweighed, barely, by the part of him that was still miffed about being forcibly turned large not long ago. In the end compassion beat out bitterness, as it often did around here. Spike he walked over to Rarity, putting a claw into her field of view to help her up from the floor.
"We're joking, Rarity. It's obvious that... well, it's pretty obvious that you didn't, and you wouldn't."

She took the offer and sat up, looking down at his claw with a sour expression.
"...No, I suppose I wouldn't. And what does that say about me, hm?"

He didn't have a response to that, or more accurately he did... But he knew not to say it right now.

"I'm not blind, Spike, and you... you were not terribly subtle, especially in those first years. But that didn't stop me from being misleading at best and callous at worst. I wonder how many hours of work I got out of you, playing on your affection for my own prof-"

There was a sharp -thwack- as Ammo cuffed her niece upside the back of the head.

"None of that! We, and by that I mean everypony and everydragon here, knows better. You're a good pony and self-recrimination doesn't do you or him any good. If you feel bad about how you acted, buck up and apologize. And if it's not that bad? Buck up and shut up, you know how much I hate ponies wallowing in self-pity. I swear, Mag should have never gotten you that fainting couch."

Rarity glared at her aunt with a heated expression and a deep-set frown.
"You are getting socks this year. Not even nice ones. Trashy ones. With holes."


Her expression softened slightly.
"...Lace, maybe. That has holes, but they’re nice holes. Holes with purpose. I'm not a monster."

"No you're not. And that's my point. So maybe we can all treat this like rational ponies? I know that's a lot to ask from Ponyville, I've seen some things these past few months, but come on."

He sighed in relief, holding up his claws in a gesture of surrender.
"I probably pushed you too far with the jokes, and I didn't mean to bring up... us. The lack of 'us'."

Rarity nodded her head and nuzzled him for a moment, in simple friendly affection.
"I overreacted, again. And I probably should have been more clear, this morning... Or years ago."

Arcane Ammunition pulled one of Rarity's hooves together to one of Spike's claws.
"Good! Now shake. I'm not apologizing for anything though, that was hilarious until the meltdown."

Rarity shook her head with a soft laugh, and then shook his hoof with a fragile smile. Spike's own expression felt stronger, but for all he knew there were tears in his eyes or something. They'd probably need to talk later. Right here was not the place and right now was not the time. But at least they had cleared the air, right?