Rarity happily trotted through Ponyville on yet another bright and sunny day. What a perfect day for her weekly gem hunting trip! It had become a tradition, barring unforeseen circumstances, for her and Spike to go gem gathering every week. After the incident with the Diamond Dogs, the trips were largely uneventful.
She felt certain, as she walked up to the massive castle, that today would be no different. The main area of the castle, including the throne room, were open to the general public, much like the library used to be. Twilight had been working hard, ordering books from all over Equestria to replenish the library inside of the castle. Rarity's hooves clacked on the crystal floor as she walked into the throne room. Every time she came here she had to stop here and appreciate everything that had transpired. So much had been accomplished since they'd all became friends. Thinking about the whirlwind of events that had lead to the present day was a bit overwhelming.
She passed a final look to the seven thrones before turning and heading towards the stairs. Twilight and Spike lived on the second floor, which helped to maintain some privacy. Spike even had his own room now, though it was right next to Twilight's, of course. As Rarity reached the top of the stairs and looked down the hall, she could instantly tell something was wrong.
There was a vase knocked over in the hallway. The shards of crystal, scattered flowers and a small pool of water on the floor were incredibly odd in any place where Twilight and Spike lived. One of them would have cleaned it up almost immediately. Rarity began walking down the hallway, calling out. "Twilight? Spike? Are you two here?"
Rarity couldn't imagine anyone breaking into Twilight's home. Probably just a local foal who got a bit too curious and knocked it over by accident. She continued to walk down the hallway, pausing when she reached a very familiar door. This was Spike's room.
She could hear several things now that she was closer. For one, the familiar sound of Twilight running around in a tizzy, talking to herself, which came from the half open door a few feet down the hall. It sounded like she was attacking her books for some piece of information, as she usually did.
The second sound she heard, however, snagged her attention away. Soft sobs and sniffles caught her ears. They were muffled, but certainly close by. She turned towards the door to Spike's room, her magic reaching out for the handle.
"Spike? Darling, are you in there?"
"R-Rarity?" came the response from the other side of the door, as the sobs quieted. Rarity nodded to herself and pushed with her magic.
She nearly walked into the door, which didn't move an inch. It felt like she was pushing against a stone wall. She recalled that Sweetie Belle used to push her dresser in front of her door when she was upset. Had Spike done the same?
"Spike? Did you put something in front of the door? I can't seem to open it," she said. Sure enough, the handle would turn, but the door would not move.
There was silence for a moment before he responded. "Y-you shouldn't come in here. It's dangerous."
"Spike, are you going to leave a lady concerned and confused out in the hall? That is not the proper behavior of a gentledrake," she said, trying to play on his knightly fantasies. "Please don't block the door, Spike. I want to know what's wrong."
"N-no!" Spike shouted out. Rarity saw a lot of emotion in her job, both from herself and her clients. She could hear the fear in his voice, clear as day. "You can't see me. Not like this."
Rarity stomped her hoof in mock frustration. "Spike! There is nothing behind this door that I could ever possibly think badly of. I'm hurt that there are things you would not feel safe sharing with us. We're friends, aren't we?"
"No buts, Spike. I promise I'm not going to go anywhere."
She heard the sound of something heavy moving away from her, and nodded to herself with a smile. Her magic reached out again, opening the door before her.
Keeping her promise turned out to be much more difficult than she would have imagined.
"Spike! Spike, wake up! You promised you'd help me re-catalogue the west wing before you went out!" Twilight said, throwing open the door to the small dragon's room. Spike woke up, stretching out with a mighty yawn. His front claws pressed against the wall from his stretch as he roused himself.
It took him a moment to realize that his feet touched the wall as well.
Spike's mind seemed to register the event just as quickly as Twilight's did. She was standing in the doorway, mouth open and totally silenced. She walked up towards him slowly, her gaze going from confused to worried and then to upset.
"Spike! What have I told you about hoarding? You know how dangerous that can be for you!" she chastised him, looking around the room. It was as if she was expecting to see a huge pile of gems and pilfered goods.
Spike, who had been looking at the remains of his new basket, which had been crushed under his huge form, looked back at her. "But I haven't been! I didn't do anything!"
Twilight's mind was already running a mile a minute, however. She didn't even seem to hear him. He'd grown to be nearly three times the size she was. He'd even grown wings! He was trying to stand like he usually did, but his new form made that very difficult. His center of gravity was different, which was making it hard for him to keep his balance. "Maybe it's the castle? If he thinks that he owns it, it might have triggered the reaction," she said to herself.
"Twilight? I don't—" he began, feeling annoyed at her ignoring him. The change was rather shocking for him, as he flexed his wings and looked around at his huge claws and sweeping tail.
"Or maybe it's the throne? Of course! He thinks he's a ruler now, and that is only heightening the greed. Maybe I should remove it?"
Spike's teeth gnashed slightly. Being ignored was one thing, but Twilight was talking about taking away what was his because of some errant fear. Maybe it did cause him to grow, but why should he be excluded from getting something he worked for?
"Twilight. I'm not hoardi—"
"Maybe it's everything put together? Living here might be one, giant death trap!"
"I'M NOT HOARDING!" Spike shouted, slamming his clawed fists on the ground so hard that he cracked it. Twilight jumped into the air, landing by the door with her horn sparking. Her head was lowered slightly, as if she was going to fire some spell at him. A look of total horror overtook both of their faces at the same time.
She was going to attack him.
Twilight took two steps back, placing herself past the threshold of the door. "I... I need to research this!" she declared, running down the hall towards her study.
Spike slammed the door and began to cry.
Twilight's search had been just as useless as it always was. She'd gone through every one of these books before, back when Spike wanted to find out about himself. Still, this was how she dealt with stress, she researched. She threw yet another book to the side, nearly braining Rarity with it as the unicorn walked into the room.
"Twilight," she said quietly.
Twilight glanced up from her book for a moment, but quickly buried her nose again. "Oh, hi! Sorry, Rarity, lots of work to do today! Ha ha!" she said, forcing the laugh at the end.
Rarity walked calmly up to Twilight, put her hoof on the book the princess was reading, and pushed down. "Twilight, stop," she instructed.
Twilight looked up again, catching the stern gaze of her friend. "T-there's so much to do, so little time! Eh heh heh..."
Rarity just shook her head sadly. "Twilight, darling, what could possibly be more important than your best friend? And you know who I am talking about."
Twilight sighed, laying down on the ground. "I don't know what to do, Rarity. He's grown again. Who knows how long it will be until he's uncontrollable. He was inconsolable for weeks after that event. I can't let it happen to him again."
Rarity gave a relaxed smile, hugging her friend. "You're scared for him, but he thinks you're scared of him."
Twilight shook her head. "No! I could never be scared of him. I was just startled. I've been jumpy ever since... the attack. My home was destroyed around me. I can't stop thinking about it whenever I'm here. The noise startled me, and I just reacted. I would never hurt him."
"I know, darling, but he needs to hear that. He thinks he's a monster, but we know he isn't. I don't even think this has anything to do with his last growth. He isn't grabby, he's not driven by his base desires. He seems just as smart and kind as he was yesterday. I think this might just be natural."
"Natural? What could be natural about growing ten times your size overnight?"
Rarity shrugged. "I don't know any more about dragons than you do. But I do know that the sweetheart in the other room isn't a danger to anypony. I think you know that too, but I'm not sure he does."
"You're right," Twilight said, standing up and pushing a wayward tear off of her cheek. "And I know somepony who can help us." She jotted down a quick letter before moving over to a darkened corner of the room. An annoyed hoot greeted Rarity's ears.
"Yes, I know what time it is."
"Yes, I know that you worked hard last night."
"Spike's... not feeling well. Can't you please do this favor for me?"
Owlicious gave a final annoyed hoot, as he took the scroll and flew out the window.
Twilight nodded to Rarity, standing up and leaving her room. Rarity remained behind, content to give the two some privacy to patch things up...
And properly freak out herself, now that nopony was looking.
He was huge! Easily three times her size, not counting his tail. No longer was he the little baby dragon that helped her with her day-to-day affairs. Now he was the size of those awful teenage dragons they'd met. Of course, Spike was still himself, as far as she had seen.
Rarity paced around the room, dodging the books that littered the floor. How had this happened? He'd been perfectly normal yesterday, and it had been a perfectly quiet day. He'd been helping her in her shop in the afternoon, after his work with Twilight was done. He'd done his usual work for her: fetching fabrics, being the pincushion and even holding a hem or two steady so she could make adjustments. They'd had a few conversations, not the least of which was Rarity fretting about Sweetie Belle's first date. Spike had seemed interested in that, but Rarity did recall an odd silence that came around the room shortly after. She'd been 'in the zone', but thinking back on it she recalled how oddly quiet he had become.
Rarity was snapped out of her thoughts by the sound of hoofsteps in the hallway. They were coming from down the hall, which meant someone else had arrived in the castle. She decided it would be best to head them off before they got to Spike's room. No sense sending Ponyville into a panic before they were ready to deal with it. Rarity stepped out of Twilight's room and turned to see a familiar, though surprising, face.
"Zecora?" she said. "I wasn't expecting to see you here. Is something wrong?"
Zecora smiled, shaking her head softly. "I would be most remiss, if only you sought me when something was amiss. Still, that would be the case. The letter said I was needed post-haste," she said, pulling the letter Twilight had just written from her saddle bag.
Of course! Zecora was the only one in town who knew anything about dragons. It would make sense that Twilight would call her for help. "I am sorry that we only seem to call for you when there is trouble. That is terribly rude of us," Rarity began.
Zecora waved her hoof. "Do not let the thought trouble your mind. In truth, solitude was what I came here to find. My knowledge, however, I am happy to share. I find that wisdom on dragons is quite rare."
Zecora said no more, walking into the room occupied by the princess and the dragon. If Spike's new appearance surprised her, she did not show it at all. Instead she smiled, walking up to Spike before she set her bags on the ground. She began pulling seemingly random objects from the bag, setting them on the floor next to her. There was a small bowl, a medallion with a crystal in the center of it, various potions and some smaller pouches filled with powders. Spike looked over the objects, a skeptical look taking over his face.
Twilight lay at his side, precisely where she belonged at this difficult time. Everyone seemed to be waiting for Zecora to speak.
"The atmosphere here is quite tense. Come now, such worry makes no sense! There is nothing to fear from your beloved charge. It is a simple reason for why he has grown so large."
Rarity lay down on the other side of Spike, trying to offer the poor dear some support as Zecora began working. The zebra first lifted the odd medallion with the jeweled center, swinging it in front of Spike's face. Spike's eyes followed the medallion, for a time, but eventually his gaze twisted sideways, towards Zecora herself.
Zecora put the medallion down, taking the small bowl and filling it with an odd liquid. It had the scent of freshly cut tulips. A pleasant aroma helped to dispel the worry and doubt that covered the room. "My answer for you is the same as before. His magic growth desired an encore!"
All three of them tensed visibly, but Twilight was the first to speak. "You mean it's just like before? His... greed is making him grow again?" Twilight was careful to keep the accusations light in her voice. Spike didn't look to be taking this news well.
Zecora, however, smiled all the more. "Oh no, Twilight Sparkle, that is not so. For it is not greed that makes a dragon grow."
"What? But we've seen how Spike grew when he got greedy," Rarity said, her face scrunched in confusion.
Zecora grabbed a hoof full of some powder and sprinkled it into the bowl. "A dragon can grow because of greed, this is true. However there is more to it, observe the truth in this brew," she said, gesturing to the bubbling mixture before them. In it, appeared the form of a small dragon.
The dragon's body began to glow softly on the potion's surface. "Dragons, like all creatures far and wide, have magic lurking deep inside. Their power is no small thing, but unlike your own, it is kept within. While it may seem that their magic responds to greed, the truth is that it is awakened by need."
She swirled the potion more, and the image of the baby dragon was then next to a rather large gem. The gem was as large as he was, easily. "When a dragon find their current size is lacking, their magic rises to send foes packing. Their mind says that the time for being small is at an end, and their body responds by growing to tear and rend. A dragon will grow to the limit of their magic, often creating a creature quite tragic. In a child, such growth would drain them dry. This one, however, has more power than most, do you know why?" As she spoke, they could see the vision in her potion changing. The baby dragon grew in size, until it was able to coil around the large gem. It was now large enough to protect it.
When Twilight didn't answer, Zecora continued. "A baby needs magic while he sleeps in his egg. Knowing this, do you have the answer pegged?"
"The Element of Magic," Twilight said, starting to put the pieces together. "All the magic I used when I hatched his egg. That's why Spike can grow so fast?"
Zecora nodded. "Dragons are creatures of magic born. Inside his scales is power greater than even your own horn. But I fear this does not grant the answer you seek. For I can tell you how he grows, but the why is his to keep."
Spike looked taken aback by the declaration, as both Twilight and Rarity looked at him curiously. "W-what? No, I didn't want to be big again. I was happy how I was!" he said.
Zecora shook her head. "Your mouth and mind do not agree. The proof of your desire is not low-key."
"Zecora," Twilight interrupted. "Is Spike going to be OK? I mean, you said that he is going to grow when his mind tells him to, because of his magic. This won't go out of control, will it?"
"This I can say without a doubt. It is not dangerous that he stands tall and stout. His mind is whole and not stolen by greed. Further growth his magic will halt, until he has need."
Twilight drank all of this in easily. She was, after all, an experienced academic. "I'm so relieved. You're OK, Spike. You're going to be all right."
"Is that what she said?" he asked with a small rumble. "I got lost around the third sentence or so."
"Me too," admitted Rarity, "but it sounds like this is... well, natural."
Twilight stood up, pacing back and forth for a minute or so before she turned to face the three of them. Zecora had begun to pack her things back up, since her service here was no longer needed.
"Zecora. I need to tell Mayor Mare about this. If the ponies in town see Spike like this, they might panic."
Spike looked downcast at that, but Rarity attempted to soothe him with a comforting stroke of his powerful scales.
"With this burden, I am happy to assist. We will explain that the fear is not to persist."
Twilight nodded. "Rarity. Would you mind staying here while I go talk to the mayor? I... er... well, I don't want to leave Spike alone."
Spike sighed. "Twilight, I can stay home alone perfectly fi—"
"Honestly, darling, I was going to do it if you asked or not. It would be very poor manners to leave a friend alone with all that has happened today."
Spike turned to her in surprise. "B-but what about your gem hunting? You said you had two big orders for Hoity Toity this week!"
Rarity waved her hoof. "Nonsense, Spikey-Wikey! He won't even need them until next week. You know how early he sets the deadline."
Rarity was lying through her teeth. She really did need to get the gems to finish those dresses in the next few days. That no longer mattered, however. This was clearly more important. Silence overtook them quickly after Twilight and Zecora left. Rarity was wracking her brain for something to talk about, but she was finding herself without words, an oddity for her.
It was a sudden crash from behind them that stole her attention. Spike looked back, bashfully, at the dresser his tail had just knocked over. "Oops," he said. "It's so much bigger. It's kind of awkward."
Rarity's eyes lit up as she finally had a topic of conversation. This would probably do wonders for making Spike more comfortable as well. "Spike, darling, can you stand up? Like a pony?"
"Um, sure I guess," he said, rising above her. Rarity knew he was large, but the true extent of his size had eluded her until now. Standing like this, she could easily walk under him. She might have to duck her head to avoid scratching his scales with her horn, but it was certainly doable.
"My, Spike, you certainly don't do anything by half measure, do you? You're huge! I imagine this is going to take some getting used to for you."
Spike shuffled his feet about, nearly stumbling from the shift in weight. "Whoa! Y-yeah. My balance is all messed up too. It's so weird having to look down to see you and Twilight. I can only imagine how terrifying it'll be for the other ponies."
"Spike! There will be none of that! There is nothing wrong with you, it was just time for you to grow up. You may be larger, but you don't look frightening to me. One look at you, and I know you are the same sweet little boy who helps me around the Boutique."
"Of course! Would I lie to you? Wait... you haven't seen yourself yet, have you?" she asked, looking around for a mirror. This room lacked one, at least to her first look. "This will not do at all. Stay here, Spike."
"There's a mirror in Twilight's room!" he called as she ran out the door. In a few moments, she returned, levitating a full length mirror behind her. She placed it in front of him and then stood back, allowing him to get a good look.
Spike stared for a moment, then tilted his head from side to side. He stood and stretched his legs, and even spread his wings slightly. The wings, fully spread, could touch both walls easily. She still couldn't quite believe that he'd grown so much in just one night.
"I look dangerous now," he said, a remorseful expression overtaking his face.
"Nonsense, Spikey. You are no more dangerous than you were yesterday. You could breath fire and bite through gems like nothing, and nopony thought you were a monster. This doesn't change a thing."
She stopped there. According to Zecora, Spike had grown because his mind said he needed to. His magic answered that plea and this had happened. If she convinced him that nothing was different, would he continue growing? With her new knowledge of dragon magic, this problem became much more difficult.
"Spike? Do you have any idea why you grew?"
He'd denied knowledge earlier. Now that they were alone, however, she thought she might be able to get something more out of him.
Spike only shook his head. "I really don't know. I mean, I was happy living here. I don't want to go live in a cave or fly away with the dragons."
Rarity thought, rubbing her hoof along her chin as she lay back on the ground next to Spike, offering him a reassuring stroke of his scales with the other hoof. "Well, I don't think you have to worry about outgrowing the castle yet. You could easily fit down the halls as long as you kept your wings in. They are fabulous, by the way, darling. Powerful, but very majestic."
Spike blushed slightly, letting them relax. This made it drape over Rarity, almost like a blanket. With somepony else, Rarity might think it inappropriate, but this was Spike. He was just scared and lonely, so she would be there to be a good friend.
They fell into silence for another minute or so. This time, Spike was the one to speak up.
"So, how did Sweetie's date go?" he asked, trying to restore some form of normalcy to the conversation.
Rarity blinked. "Oh! I almost forgot. She was quite happy when she got in last night, so I would assume it went well. I haven't asked her about it quite yet."
Spike arched an eyebrow. "You assume? I thought you were watching them?"
Rarity looked confused. "Watching them? Sweetie Belle doesn't need a chaperone. I have faith in her to take care of herself... with things like that," she hastily added on.
"Huh. That's funny, cause Twilight said you borrowed her telescope the other day. I wasn't aware you liked star gazing." Spike smirked as he said this, causing Rarity to blush.
"W-well, I do like practicing more... er... mundane pastimes."
"I think Applejack could have told a better lie."
"Oh hush, you!" she replied, poking him in the side with a laugh. Her hoof didn't even push the scales in. His new scales were much stronger than before. A stray thought assailed Rarity's mind, causing her to blink once in confusion.
Was she... flirting with Spike?
No. No, of course not. She was just comforting an old friend and helping to take his mind off of all the drama from this morning.
"Anyway, I'm glad she had a good time. But don't you think it is a little early for her to start dating?"
Rarity shook her head. "While I do worry for her, she is more than old enough to make decisions like that on her own. A lady must be free to pursue all fancies of her heart."
"What about colts? It's OK if they ask her out, too? You seem awfully protective."
Rarity waved his question off. "I just didn't know him. He's so removed and isolated, playing those little games of his. I just wanted to make sure he would treat her right." She smiled as she looked to him. "Once you hit that age, you need to stop being afraid of rejection and failure. Push on and try your best. If you fail, get up and try again!"
Spike chuckled a little bit. "Like you did with the prince and Trenderhoof?"
Rarity looked slightly annoyed at that reminder. "It is terrible manners, Spike, to remind a lady of her less-than-flattering moments."
"Well... uh... let me make it up to you. How... um... w-would you like to... uh... go out for lunch?" Spike said, almost in a whisper.
Rarity would have been amazed that such a large creature could have produced such a soft sound, but right now she had bigger problems. She thought he would have moved on by now, or at the very least that she would have a few more years before he tried to press this.
She knew it would happen eventually, and she had rehearsed her answer to him. It wasn't that she didn't care for him, far from it, in fact. She'd been so lost when she first found out about his crush. Part of her wanted to stop it right then and there, but when she saw how happy it made him to just help her, she couldn't bring herself to do it. Just wait, she told herself. He'll grow out of it in time, she said.
But now she needed to give him an answer. She needed to break his heart. Because he was a child and she was an adult. It was not proper to do this to him.
He was only... how old was he again? He was hatched when she got her cutie mark, so that meant...
Her eyes snapped open as she realized something that never occurred to her before, something that made this situation much more difficult.
He was older than Sweetie Belle. Sweetie Belle, whom she had just said had reached the age where she could begin to explore as her heart told her to. She couldn't rightly turn him down for being too young, so what could she do now?
Race? No. They'd spent all morning reassuring him that nothing was wrong with him being a dragon. To say that now would be the cruelest thing she could possibly do.
Perhaps... she should agree to a lunch date? After all, they were great friends. What was the worst that could happen?
"You shallow, pathetic fool," a voice in her head spoke. "Had he asked yesterday, when he was still small, you'd have turned him down without a second thought. Kindly, of course, but you wouldn't have even entertained the idea."
This whole situation wasn't right. His attraction had been ignored because he was too young. His age was validated by Sweetie Belle's date, but he still looked like a child at that point. Why had he grown so huge at exactly this moment? That question made the cogs click together in her mind.
Dragon magic works on need... it responded to his desire. Oh sweet Celestia, he grew because of her! He knew that she could only see him as a child because of his size, and his magic responded to his desire.
"I don't know what's worse. That he thought he needed to change who he was to get your attention..."
She hadn't meant to be so rude to him, to be so cruel.
"Or that he was right. What do we always say? 'Make ponies as pretty on the outside as they are on the inside'? What a beautiful little lie that is. You can't even look past the outside of your dearest friend."
What he had was just a crush. It was infatuation that came from her appearance, nothing more.
"I suppose you're the expert on falling head over hooves for somepony you've never met. You really think he'd sacrifice all that he has for a pretty face with a rotten attitude?"
R-rotten attitude? No!
"Face it. You've been taking advantage of his feelings for years, and now that he finally wants something from you, you're going to back out? How generous of you."
She hadn't meant to! She just wanted to avoid breaking his heart!
"Doing a bang up job there, darling."
Everything he'd done for her, he'd done with a smile on his face. From helping her with her designs to finding more gems for her work. He'd fought against Diamond Dogs, given up his heart's desire, helped her try to win the heart of somepony she'd only barely met and gone to lengths no other stallion could claim, all to keep her safe and happy.
He'd gone all the way to the moon for her, for Luna's sake!
And how did she thank him? With scraps of jewels. With words of praise. With motherly nuzzling. He'd move the very heavens for her if he could, and she'd given him nothing in return except the 'gift' of her company.
Rarity realized that quite some time had passed since the question was asked. She was only snapped out of her daydream by Spike moving.
"Ah... I... uh... I should probably go. Thanks... for stopping by," he said.
And the tone of his voice made her want to cry. As he walked towards the door, Rarity knew she could not let it end like this. But was it right to agree out of pity? Was that any better than what she had been doing all this time?
"You say that like he hasn't shown every quality you've dreamed of in a stallion. If he wasn't a dragon you'd have been all over him."
And why should a silly thing like race matter? Sure, Spike still had some childlike behaviors, but he'd earned far more than what he asked of her.
"Wait!" she called out.
Spike stopped, turning with a confused expression.
"I haven't given my answer, Spike. It is rude to turn your back on a lady."
Spike nodded, sitting in the doorway as he looked at her. Rarity stood up, choosing her words carefully.
"Spike, I need to be honest with you. I should have said all of this a long time ago, but... well... I didn't want to break your heart."
"When I first found out about your crush, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to hurt you, but I couldn't possibly return the affections of a child. It was just a crush, you'd grow out of it." Rarity found, oddly, that this was easy to talk about. Maybe because it was just her vocalizing thoughts that had been attacking her ever since his birthday.
"But, over time, it became obvious that was not the case. I couldn't bring myself to shatter your dreams, so I waited. I waited, hoping that one day you'd make the decision for me so I wouldn't have to."
Spike seemed to be sweating bullets. No doubt he didn't expect this when he'd asked her on a simple lunch date. Still, Rarity had to clear away all of the illusions between the two of them before anything could be resolved.
"I had so many reasons prepared for when this day came. Ways to let you down gently if you ever grew the courage to ask," she admitted.
Spike sighed. "So that's it, eh? I should have guessed it from the start." He began to turn around, his tail barely lifted off the ground and his head hung low.
"Spike!" Rarity shouted. "What did I say about turning your back to a lady when she is talking? I am not finished!"
Spike paused, half turning back towards her. "Why? You've given me the answer already." His voice was sad, but also full of an emotion Rarity was very familiar with: bitterness.
"The reason, Spike, that I had to think so hard on it is because all of those reasons are worthless, and not fair to you. Outside of anything else, you've been there for me through everything. Through good and bad times, you've been there with a smile. Whenever I needed a knight, a friend or just an assistant, you were happy to help. At the very least, I think that is worth a lunch date."
Spike blinked. "Seriously?"
Rarity stood up straight, looking him in the eye. His eyes were full of hope, the child-like wonder that he always wore when he beheld her. She'd forgotten how much she missed it. "Well, I have thrown myself at the hooves of ponies I have never met. With all you've done and sacrificed, it would be horribly rude of me to not even give you your chance."
"So... that was all... payment?" Spike asked, eying her critically.
Rarity gasped in shock. "Never! I just... well, I just realized how cruel I'd been towards you. I toyed with your feelings because I didn't want to make a decision. You proved to me that, to you, this isn't some silly crush. You deserve a chance to prove yourself more than any other pony I know. How many stallions would go to the moon and fight an ancient evil? That sounds like something from one of Sweetie's old storybooks!"
Spike rubbed the back of his head bashfully. "I mean... I'm sure anypony would have done the same."
Rarity rolled her eyes playfully. "Honestly, Spike. I'm here, apologizing for treating your actions like they didn't matter, and you are trying to convince me that your actions didn't matter?"
"Heh, sorry. It's just... a lot to take in. I mean... what now?"
Rarity moved to the mirror, adjusting her mane. "Now? We wait until Twilight gets back. Then we head out to lunch, unless you have an objection?"
"No! No objection at all, my lady," he said.
"Wonderful! I am going to head home to prepare. You'll come pick me up, of course?" It was a rhetorical question, she was already leaving.
Spike nodded silently, still stunned by the turn this day had taken. Growing up was
As Rarity left the Palace of Friendship, she considered what had just happened. She'd agreed to go on a date with Spike. She would be going out to lunch, just the two of them, with a giant dragon. The thought both terrified and excited her.
But at the end of the day, Spike was Spike. Growing a few dozen feet didn't make him different. He'd been this noble and mature for quite a while, she'd just been too blind to see it in him. All this time she'd been looking for her prince charming.
Perhaps now was the knight's chance to woo the princess. After all, a lady was free to explore whatever flights of fancy that struck within her heart.