Ch. 1 - Kindling
"Are you sure?" Spike asked hesitantly.
"Eeyup" Big Mac answered in his deep southern drawl, before replying "As far as A'h know, being quiet and polite seems to work for me... And A'hm sure you've noticed how much they like me."
"That's true; you do seem kind of popular with the mares around Ponyville... Thanks Big Mac, I'll give it a try!" Spike replied cheerfully, before heading off towards town to test Big Macintosh's method.
"Hmm.... He's gonna get himself hurt chasing after 'em like this..." Big Mac mused as he resumed working on the defunct tractor.
"Hi Spike! What'cha up to?" Rainbow Dash queried as she peered at him, lounging on a particularly comfy cloud near the outskirts of town.
"Hello RD... Nothing important" Spike briefly replied.
"If it's not important, why are you doing it? This is the perfect time to do nothing if you aren't busy..." Dash replied, eyebrow raised at his quick answer.
With a shrug, Spike continued trudging towards Ponyville.
"Hmm... That was weird... Maybe I should follow him and see what he's doing..." Dash mused before deciding, "Nah, this cloud is too comfy... I feel like taking a nap anyways..."
"Hi Spike!!" Pinkie Pie greeted him, bouncing around behind the counter at Sugarcube Corner, filling orders with a face-splitting grin. "What can I get ya?
"The usual, I'm gonna head to Rarity's soon..." He answered, dodging a cupcake she tossed to a customer who had forgotten to pick it up.
"Aren't you helping out Twilight in the library today?" She said as she prepared pastries for the young drake.
"No" he replied, not mincing words.
Tilting her head a little at his short reply, she handed him the bag of treats before bouncing off to get an English muffin for a brown earth stallion who waited anxiously nearby.
Knocking gently on the door of the Carousel Boutique, Spike waited for somepony to answer the door. After a few minutes of this, he peered through the window and discovered the familiar sight of Rarity completely absorbed in a new project. With a sigh he let himself in and walked up to her, briefly ducking as fabric, tape measures and scissors flew overhead.
"I brought you some food" He announced, as he set the bag down next to her.
With a barely audible mumble of thanks she floated an éclair from the bag and nibbled on it, not bothering to break pace as she toiled away, a half-finished, light brown dress on a mannequin nearby.
As Spike silently glanced about the room, he noticed how much more attention she must have been giving this dress than her usual projects, there were dozens of piles comprised of drawings, half finished sketches, and crumpled up papers scattered about the room. Leaning back against a wall he noted the easel that currently occupied her tunnel vision was constantly being drawn on and erased with several pencils that she held in her aura. He was about to make a suggestion, before remembering Big Mac's advice and remaining quiet.
Finally noticing the almost awkward silence that permeated the room, now that it had a secondary and silent occupant, Rarity asked over her shoulder, "What do you think, Spikey? How does this look?" before floating the easel towards him, displaying its neatly drawn content.
"..." He tilted his head and picked up a pencil, before making changes to the ruffles of the dress and the embroidery pattern she had sketched on the piece.
"What did you...." Her voice trailed off as she gazed at the elegant design he had added to the paper. "Spike, this is beautiful... Where did you learn how to..." she stammered, before stopping with a determined look in her eye and turning back to the mannequin. Tearing off the fabric that had previously occupied it, she started anew with the refined sketch.
Spike sat down nearby and watched as she worked on the redesigned dress with a fierce passion, fabric flying about the room madly as she did so.
With a satisfied sigh Rarity wiped away a drop of sweat from her brow and munched on her last éclair, the rest having been gently devoured during the duress of her work on her newest masterpiece of fabric. "That looks gorgeous... Where did you learn to make designs like that?" She prompted him as she finally sat down for the first time in a few hours.
"I picked up a few things helping you out around here" He answered with a small blush.
Raising her eyebrow, she replied in a skeptic voice "Darling, that's not just a few things... That's better than almost all of the designs my customers come in with... And I've had customers from Prance before."
Remembering his plan to avoid speaking much, he simply answered her praise with a gracious smile and a nod.
"I really appreciate your help today... You're an excellent helper, I can see why Twilight keeps you around," She praised with a brilliant smile. This simple compliment from the mare he adored made him feel even warmer inside, which seemed illogical because of the fire in his chest; But Spike brushed the stray thought aside and returned her smile, lost in her beautiful eyes. So lost that he almost missed her saying "I'm just glad I got this done so soon, I might have been put behind schedule on the dresses for the Gala."
This snapped Spike back to reality as he remembered why he had come here today, he had been working up the courage to ask if he could take Rarity to the Gala as his date for weeks now...
"I'm really looking forward to the Gala this year; I'm hoping it turns out better than last year, however..." Rarity adopted a discouraged expression as she informed him, "I really don't have that much of a reason to go this year... After what happened with Blueblood..." She trailed off, a sad expression adorning her face like harlequin makeup that had been smeared onto her normally beautiful smile.
It was at this moment that Spike's moment finally came, presented to him on a silver platter by her dismayed mood. "Well... Bluebood doesn't have to be the reason you go... I... I could take you to the Gala..." He suggested with a hopeful smile.
Upon hearing these words Rarity realized something she had not realized before; Spike might be small for a dragon, but she hadn't stopped to consider his actual age before... She had attended his birthday party but a few months before that Pinkie had thrown to celebrate Spike turning... Oh my... Pinkie had thrown a special party this year because... He had turned eighteen... With that thought she blinked and realized she had simply been staring at him for quite some time now, and he looked rather discouraged by how long she had taken to think. "I.. I would love to go with you Spike, it'd be nice to have a date to the Gala," she replied with a gentle smile.
"........" Spike's jaw hung open upon hearing his request permitted by the mare of his dreams, and not only that... His mind scrambled to find any coherent response to the fact that she had called it a date. She... said this was a.... She must have just meant I was to accompany her! But she called it a date... No, she said "It'd be nice to have A date to the Gala" She probably meant that you were just going with her, probably nothing will come of it. Spike sat there dumbfounded, trying to convince himself of what she had meant; Unintentionally spacing out and leaving himself staring at Rarity like an idiot for the longest time.
Spike snapped out of his reverie with the speed of Dash pulling out of a dive. "Y..yes, Rarity?" Idiot! He berated himself, You'll scare her off if you just sit there staring at her like a weirdo…
"Are you alright?" She prodded, worried by his apparent lack of response to her acceptance of his offer.
Biting his lip to avoid blurting out anything that might worry her further, he simply nodded and gave a small smile. His actions seemed off to Rarity, but she dismissed the thought and gave a bright smile.
"I suppose I should start on that suit now…" Rarity sighed, "I really wish they hadn't come in so close to the Gala to have them made… Who would wear a red bowtie with a good suit anyway? That stallion has no sense of fashion…"