Spike of All Trades

by Ariamaki

Chapter 24: Confirmation

It turns out that while right there and right then had not been the place and time, leaving that entire situation to fester was equally unreasonable. So mere minutes later the two of them were sitting across from each other in the Arcade’s little food court. They had settled down for lunch and a long overdue talk about their, uh, ‘situation’. Spike’s plate had chili served over pasta with sharp onions, sharper cheese, and even-sharper ruby fragments (those supplied from his Inventory) while Rarity’s had a daisy sandwich with hay fries, no frills. Two glasses of lemonade were sitting on the table, silently sweating... just like the pony and dragon that were sipping at them.

It was Spike who broke the silence, clearing his throat and refusing to make eye contact.
"So. We-"

Rarity cut him off almost immediately, but even after that she took a moment to compose her words.
"Spike, I... we are friends. Close and inseparable friends. And it is... not impossible that we could be something more than that, someday. Romantically. Let's make that clear now."

He leaned back, trying not to let his shock or pleasure show on his face. That restraint became easier when he noticed how unenthusiastic she seemed at the prospect... There was more. Of course there was.

She looked off into the distance, avoiding his gaze across the table.
"The thing is, I would be lying if I said it would be soon, even theoretically. Not even remotely. I know about your... affections. I always have, but I never once considered reciprocating them. You're a sibling-of-sorts to one of my closest friends, and you're so... well, I still think of you as young, like Sweetie if not younger."

"But I'm not just a kid to you? In other ways?"

"Of course not: You’re a dear friend, even if I spent some time showing it poorly. But thinking of you as a romantic prospect or even something close to that... Well, that is an idea I would need to warm up to. I'd never really given the idea serious consideration, you understand! Because everything else I said doesn't even touch into the... issue of...um, well-"

She trailed off and looked back at him: He knew why pretty quickly, and also knew how to emphasize it: He flexed a claw, cracking another ruby onto his food. It was fascinating how she followed the motions as he cut and crushed the stone bare-handed, her eyes wide and fur bristled. It only got worse when he took a bite, a bite taken with teeth sharp enough to cut meat and hard enough to break rocks.

She visibly deflated and turned to look at him... She couldn’t keep the fear completely out of her eyes, now that he knew to look for it.
"Yes, frankly."

"Well... Yeah. I don't think that's a problem. I can see how it would be weird, and I never... I never expected anything, if that makes sense? It was always more dreamlike than real. Twilight would probably say my attraction was 'Fantastical, not actionable', or something like that."

Rarity nodded and took a bite of her food: It felt like it gave her some energy as she continued.
"Right. And given that... This is not ‘no’, and it's not ‘never’. However, it's honestly not ‘wait’ either. Spike... I think of you very fondly, and I want you to be happy. And if that happiness ends up being with me at some point down the line? So much the better!”

There was a pause as she looked away yet again... But he saw her expression curve, just faintly, into a hint of a smile.
“I can see it just a little, imagine it in my mind’s eye. It's a future I can picture, and a happy one in theory. That is more than I can say of most. But I can't guarantee it. I'm barely certain of now in my life much less then. And even in the best case I have a lot of things to work through, between now and then. So what I'm trying to say is... If you find love? Follow it. Please don't wait on me."

His smile felt more real this time, more genuine, as he briefly laid a claw across her hoof.
"Of course. I mean... Well, it sounds weird to say 'I definitely wouldn't', right? Putting it that way feels dismissive. But I mean it! I mean it in a good way: I won't wait, but you will never not be in my heart."

That drew a sniffle out from her and a sigh from them both. They both relaxed, really relaxed, and Spike felt a sense of peace wash over him. This had been weighing on him for a long time. Ever since he’d first come to Ponyville all those years ago, his attraction to Rarity had been something any pony in town could have told you about him. Most of them had never even talked to him before they knew, since he was... unsubtle, immature in his attraction. Of course, that was further cemented during that first incident with his accidental growth, but even before then he’d been...

He’d been selfish, in a weird way. The attraction had never been about Rarity, it had just been another latch-on crush like when he’d been a hatchling. Imprinting like a feral animal would, something he should have realized sooner... Something both he and Rarity had come to regret, clearly. Hearing that there was potential for it in the future kept the spark alive, but it was only that: A spark. At this point he was older and wiser than when he’d first seen her pale fur and purple mane, poise and grace...

But she was her own pony, and he was his own dragon. Spike was a carefree kind of guy, he felt that to be true... But this had always been there in the background, lurking behind his happy moments. And now they’d finally taken one of his only cares, one of the few things that really weighed on him, and broken it down into pieces. Airing it all out like this, to have an answer... It made him feel whole.

A skill has been created through a special action! By living a life dedicated to Harmony and the happiness of others, you have shown that you possess a [Balanced Soul].

He stared. He blinked. He couldn't help himself: He laughed loud and hard, the chuckles barely restraining a scream.
"Aaaaahahahahahaseriously! NOW?"

Rarity was clearly concerned with his sudden outburst, quickly lowering her sandwich.
"What... what? Is everything-"

He clicked the box away, pulling up the Skills menu afterwards.
"Believe it or not, that got me a skill. Cathartic dialogue about our lack-of-a-relationship got me a freakin' skill. I just... I've got no words."

Rarity seemed to recognize what his claws moving through thin air meant even before he said it, but once it was confirmed she clearly had to restrain a frustrated laugh of her own.
"Oh! Well, that.... That is rather gauche, no? Then again, benefits are benefits I suppose... Do you think it's a social feature? You did make a rather touching denouement, and I’ve read enough romances to know from touching."

"I'm not sure. The name is pretty generic, so it could be nearly anything..."
Scroll, scroll... There. Click

[Balanced Soul] (Passive) Lv 1, EXP: 0.00%
An ability found in those who truly understand that while Harmony and balance are difficult to maintain, they are worth maintaining. This skill creates internal harmony so that improving one aspect of the user improves them all, granting enormous growth via balanced distribution.

You gain one extra attribute point per level, in the future and retroactively.
Your base attributes are improved by 1%. This factor will improve with increased level.
You gain experience 10% faster and gain 10% more from quests and other bulk sources.

All of your base attributes must be exactly equal to one another in order to reap these benefits.
If one attribute rises higher than the others, this skill’s benefits will diminish in equal severity.
This requirement will become less strict with increased levels in this skill.

"...Or everything. It could also be everything."