This is a short story in The Journey of Graves.
The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.
IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.
And so, the saga continues...
There's a Reason They Call it a Crush
“Get back here, you furry little devil!”
With a rolling dive catch that would’ve shamed any pro ball player, Spike finally managed to get his hands on said furry little devil, also known as Angel the Bunny. Resisting the powerful urge to convert the critter into a set of lucky charms, Spike dropped the rabbit into a nearby flower pot, threw down a cushion, and plopped his backside right on top.
It was a testament to the sheer degree of Angel’s irritability that his thrashing almost knocked the Salamander boy clean off his perch. Fluttershy had been gone for almost two weeks earlier that month, much too long for the plucky rabbit to be without his favorite lackey. He’d calmed down considerably in the few days after her return, but when Twilight and Rarity had shown up and instantly whisked her off again, well… it was just too much for his little bunny heart to handle.
“L-l-look,” Spike said as his teeth clacked like a pair of castanets from Angel’s violent struggles. “Twilight sent me a note saying that she’d be back this afternoon, and that probably means Fluttershy’s gonna be back with her. If you stop squirming around and behave, I’ll take you to see her instead of making you wait around. Deal?”
The flower pot shook once, twice more before finally growing still. Cautiously, Spike eased himself off the cushion and peeled it back to take a look. Instantly, a furry white cannon ball shot out and caught him square on the nose.
“Ow! Why you little–” The green haired boy began before pausing. Though Angel had launched a smart retaliatory strike, the antagonistic little creature had in fact settled down. Thumping away with his back foot irritably, the bunny still scowled something fierce, but at least had stopped its mad tear around the cottage.
“So, we got a deal, you little furball?” Spike frowned as he rubbed his nose. After a few moments of consideration, Angel heaved a weary sigh, and with all the pomp and pretension of a king accepting surrender, waved a tiny forepaw in acceptance, deigning to grace his other lackey with agreement to the terms.
“It’s a wonder how Fluttershy even puts up with you,” the spiky-haired boy muttered as he straightened his jacket. “Alright, I’ll take you along, but only after you help me clean things up around here. And don’t give me that look. The last thing Fluttershy needs is to come back to a messy cottage that looks like it’s been ransacked by a wind storm. A mess you caused, remember?”
Stamping furiously and squeaking a series of bunny expletives that would no doubt require censoring had they been translated, Spike simply crossed his arms and waited. Eventually, seeing that his tantrum would get him nowhere, Angel finally resigned himself to the task and began helping him clean up, still scowling adorably as only very angry bunnies can.
Sighing with relief, the Salamander boy reached into the pocket of his purple windbreaker and fished out the note from Twilight one more time. He’d read it several times before, if only to make sure he’d thoroughly memorized the time of their arrival, but he still felt compelled to check the destination one last time.
“Meet at the grazing pasture of Sweet Apple Acres?” he mumbled in confusion. “Wouldn’t the train station have been a better spot? Why the farm?”
Well, no sense in wondering about things that didn’t have an answer. Twilight said to meet at the farm, so that’s what he was going to do. Right as soon as he finished cleaning up the cottage. And taking care of the other pets. Including Opal. At the very thought, Spike let out a weary groan. Angel had been bad enough, but considering Opal was currently the incarnation of hissing fury itself, the Persian’s downright satanic fits could make the rabbit seem a saint in comparison.
“Maybe I’ll just leave Opal for Rarity to deal with,” he idly thought aloud before quickly rejecting the idea. No, that wouldn’t do at all. The violet-haired beauty had been gone for so long, she deserved a proper homecoming, one that didn’t involve a tornado of swiping claws. Even if it hurt, he was going to do his best to placate the cat so his beloved Rarity wouldn’t have to.
“Ah, Rarity,” he sighed with a dreamy smile before a well-placed kick from Angel got him back to cleaning. Darn pets could be such a headache. Ah well, soon it wouldn’t be his problem anymore and he could get back to his regularly scheduled task of wooing the prettiest girl in Ponyville.
Wouldn’t that be great?
It was an odd menagerie that made its way to the open pastures by the Apple family farm. Leading the charge was a small, white rabbit straddled atop a yipping dog like a warlord going forth to battle. Overhead, a turtle… tortoise?... with a mechanical whirlybird rig flew loopdeeloops alongside a discernibly exasperated owl. Finally bringing up the rear with fuming kitty cat and an alligator that stared with the empty eyes of a stone cold killer, came Spike in all his bandaged and lacerated glory.
What had started out with only Angel had ended up with all of the pets in tow, as each by some animal instinct had sensed the return of its beloved master/lackey/food source and/or minion slash peon. It’d taken some wrangling, some finagling, and a whole lot of bumps, bruises, and scrapes on Spike’s part, but the Salamander boy did eventually make his way to the designated meeting spot, all the animals in tow and his own hide still relatively intact.
“Great.” Heaving a huge sigh of relief, fell back onto the cool grass, albeit with tugging, straining leashes still held firmly in hand. Sure, he’d learned to handle the critters for a few days at a time, but if the girls ever left him with them for such a long period again, he was moving back to Canterlot.
“Speaking of the girls, where are they?” Spike wondered. He could somewhat make out the big clock in town, so he knew he was on time. Plus, he’d checked the note again and made sure that this was the place. So where was everybody?
It was Gummy who noticed it first. Slowly raising his toothless head, the small reptile stared toward the sky, as if his unblinking gaze could see into the infinite void into some outer realm of truth. Or maybe he’d just spotted the tiny speck that rapidly grew larger as it rapidly drew closer.
Squinting in the same direction, Spike’s jaw dropped as he spotted the massive ERA airship heading right for them, its eight gargantuan pairs of wings and air sacs that dwarfed the town hall blotting out the sun as it approached. Lifting arm to his face, Spike braced himself against the hurricane downdrafts as the giant vessel slowly descended onto the grassy pasture below. Wings finally beating to a halt, the port side hatch opened and ejected forth a set of levitating stairs leading right to the boy. What came out next was truly a sight for sore eyes.
“Spike!” Twilight cried as she bounded down the stairs and seized up the little boy into a chiropacter's nightmare of a hug. “Oh, it’s so good to see you again!”
“Geez, lighten up Twilight,” Spike replied as he squirmed in embarrassment. “You were just here a few days ago, remember?”
“Yeah, but I was only around for a little bit, and I didn’t get to see spend any time with my most favorite little dragon boy in the whole wide world,” she replied, giggling as she continued the mortifying public display of affection.
Spike would have loved to wriggle free, but it really had been a while since Twilight could really say she’d been back home. She was probably really homesick and had decided that the best cure would be giving her baby brother big, snuggly hugs as soon as she got back in. So, in spite of his glowing cheeks and prepubescent embarrassment, the green-haired lad resigned himself to the embarrassment and let his big sister hug away.
“Aw, isn’t that just so cuuuuuuuuute!”
Glancing up from his squishy hugs, Spike’s face took on a whole new shade of scarlet as he spotted Rainbow Dash floating high overhead with a just about the smuggest grin that he ever did see.
“Lay off, Rainbow,” Applejack chuckled as she Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy exited the hatchway. “I don’t think Twilight’s ever been gone for such a long stretch before.”
“I know, I know,” the hovering athlete nodded, still looking as pleased as a cat with cream on its whiskers. “But that still doesn’t make it anything less than absowutely adowable!”
First jab, Spike could have forgiven. But second jab, what with the baby voice, squished up face, and big googley eyes, well… every boy has his limits. And it just so happens that this boy still had his hands on the leashes of several very antsy animals, an airborne tortoise-turtle being one of them. Whether it was a genuine accident or some moustache twirling malevolence, we may never know, but what we do know is that after Rainbow Dash’s choice comments, Spike’s grip just so happened to slip.
Like a series of biological missiles, the Ponyville critters rocketed towards their prospective masters. It was pleasant for some, like Twilight as Owlicious took a perch on her head with a contented hoot, or Applejack as she and Winona rolled onto the grass in a yipping, giggling wrestling match. As for Rainbow Dash, well… let’s just say that turtles are not known for their flying prowess, especially in the area of braking in close proximity to exposed noggins.
“Uh, Twilight?” Spike wheezed, his face starting to turn a bit blue. “You think you could let me down, now?”
“Oh, sorry Spike,” Twilight giggled as she finally set her little brother down. “Applejack was right. I don’t think I’ve ever been away for so long before. Guess I got a lot more homesick than I thought.”
“Well don’t worry,” the green-haired boy grinned. “What’s important is that you’re all back now.” Once his feet were properly planted on the ground however, he began to glance around. “Um… you are all back, right?”
“Of course we are,” Fluttershy remarked as she cradled a now considerably less irate Angel. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t see Rarity anywhere.” Indeed, Opal had been the only animal not to move, as her fashionable food source had yet to appear.
“Nope, she’s definitely here,” Pinkie Pie giggled as she tossed around Gummy like a bean bag. “She’s just helping the marshal settle some stuff before heading out is all.”
“Great!” Spike smiled. “And I guess this means that Graves is back as well, right?”
“You betcha!” the bubbly baker laughed as the toothless reptile began gnawing on her ear. “Ooh, that reminds me! I gotta start getting things ready for the super big welcome back slash new Ponyville couple party! I’ll catch you later!” And with a last cheerful wave, the curly haired girl and her deadpan critter friend dashed off.
“… New couple?” Spike repeated as he scratched his head. “Did something happen while you all were gone?”
And with that, the smiles all around faded faster than Discord’s malevolent magics could ever hope.
Exchanging concerning looks, the homecoming festivities were briefly overshadowed by one juggernaut of a dilemma. All the girls had been filled in on the basic gist of what transpired over the course of their trip and thus, were no longer quite so inclined to strangle the marshal as they had been before. However, Spike had been left more or less out of the loop through the entire process. In the hustle and bustle of all the effort in getting everyone back home, they’d overlooked this one, crucial question: how were they going to break it all to the little boy with the really big crush?
Apparently, in the most straightforward way possible. Before anyone could speak, a clattering at the hatchway drew all eyes as the violet-haired beauty and stone-faced soldier made their appearance.
“Hey Rarity!” Spike called out, a big goofy grin plastered all over his face as he picked up Opal and dashed toward the stairs. “Glad to see you’re back!”
“Spike, did you bring Opal all the way out here just to welcome us back?” Rarity beamed as she reached out to pick up the cat, but to no avail. Once the Persian had confirmed that her owner was back, it was perfectly content to go right back to snubbing her and thus jumped out of reach and sauntered away. The young lady, however, was unperturbed and instead returned her smiling face to the green-haired boy. “Thank you so much, Spikey-Wikey. That was incredibly thoughtful of you.”
When she planted that little kiss on his forehead, the Salamander thought he might well die of sheer bliss.
“Anywho, how are you doing, Graves?” Spike asked, still grinning as he turned to the marshal. “I heard you were sick or something. Everything going good?”
“Yeah, it’s all fine,” he replied, a small smile on his face as he answered in his typical baritone rumble. “Glad to finally be back.”
“It’s good to have you,” Spike answered cheerfully. “Lots of folks were saying how things didn’t feel quite right since you left. Guess you’re already a Ponyville fixture.”
“Is that so?” Graves murmured in mild surprise.
“Yup, which is why Pinkie Pie’s party will be just great; she’s already gone off to get things ready, so everybody’ll be able to see you guys are all back safe and sound.”
“That sounds just like Pinkie Pie,” Rarity sighed in tired amusement before turning to the raven-haired soldier and slipping her hand into his. “Are you up for it, Graves? I know you’d like a bit to just get settled back in, but you can’t really say no to Pinkie Pie. Trust me, I‘ve tried.”
“Been gone for so long,” he shrugged, “saying hi’s the least we could do.”
“Ever dutiful, as usual,” the pretty dressmaker giggled, planting a quick peck on his cheek. Though Graves remained as composed as a stone, no amount of composure could keep those stony cheeks from turning just the faintest shade of pink.
“Oh right, that reminds me,” Spike piped up, the display of affection jogging his memory. “Pinkie Pie also said something about using this party to welcome Ponyville’s newest couple. What’s that all about?”
Once again, Spike noted the same strange reaction, the same blank stares and the worried looks. Only this time, it was even weirder because Graves was in on it too. I mean, seriously, the marshal being worried? What, had a civil war broken out that the boy wasn’t aware of?
“Ah yes, about that…” Rarity smiled, looking almost guilty as she did. “Recently, there were some… developments. Of the romantic variety to be precise. However, given the hectic nature of affairs, we simply never had the time to fill you in, Spike dear.”
“Developments?” Spike repeated, now more confused than ever. Why would Rarity feel guilty about not keeping in filled in on romance stuff? It’s not like he liked all that frilly frou-frou nonsense? After all, he only had one person on his mind, and that was–
That’s when illumination hit him like a sack of spuds. The uncomfortable looks from all the girls. The hand holding. The kiss on the cheek. Everything.
“You’re… you’re…” he gaped, looking to the marshal, then to Rarity, then back again. No way. There’s no way it could possibly be happening this way.
Graves gave a single, solitary nod.