Love in a Time of Dragons

by Orkus

Forming a Plan

As the radiant sun and azure horizon was lowered from the sky and replaced by the tranquil moon and a bed of flickering stars, Twilight still sat at her desk in the middle of her study. Surrounding her was her entire library, host to her massive collection of books and scriptures of times long past, some of which were stacked beside her on her wooden workplace, next to an inkwell that she typically dipped her quill into to write notes to her mentor in Canterlot.

One of them was right in front of her, and it was wide open. Reading fiercely, her eyes turned left and right as they scanned over its words. With the information shared by Ember's brief visit, coupled with Spike's decision to contemplate what to make of the news given, Twilight had been inspired to research diligently on what knowledge she could use to remedy the young adult dragon's quandary.

Speaking of her beloved assistant and friend, Spike had been in his room for just about the rest of the day. Missing dinner, Twilight brought it up to him and quietly slipped it into his room, as to not disrupt whatever it was he may have been thinking about or working on.

Happening sometime in the last two hours, Spike did come out of his room at last, emerging once or twice, but each time was in silence. All Twilight saw him do from the corner of her eye was attempt to stealthily pass by her, grab a volume-or-three from the bookshelves in his claws, and swiftly return to where his chamber lied without a word. Closely examining that which went missing after his departures (which wasn't really a challenge for the princess, seeing how she made quite the sport of organizing which tome went where), Twilight realized her assistant had nabbed many of the books that were based on her findings on dragon culture. With the information shared by Ember over the years, she was able to publish a few on the subject, and kept the originals in her library.

Twilight could feel herself dozing off with every minute that passed by. Soon she was snoring away in dreamland, only to snap back awake and to reality as her head slipped from her steady hoof and to the desk. Letting out a yawn, she realized what had happened.

Sighing, the alicorn looked to the clock hanging over the wall nearby and saw the hands were both pointing to the late hour of ten-twenty-five. Levitating a bright blue bookmark into her book and closing it, Twilight stood up from her seat, and, with the volume floating closely behind her in an aura of purple magic, began to walk out of her study and into one of the many halls of her castle.

She trotted along the long, dark corridor, occasionally shifting her view to the windows that showed the even darker outside. From them she could see the rest of Ponyville, looking as sleepy and calm as the night itself, causing a small twinge of envy in the sleepless princess. Finally reaching Spike's room after what felt like an hour in her drowsy head, Twilight looked at the large door that was its front and grabbed onto its handle, turning it after a small moment of delay.

"Spike, you awake?" she whispered as she creaked the door open a crack, causing its metal hinges to squeak in a most grating manner.

"Yes, I am," came the deadpanned reply. Calmly pushing the door open fully, Twilight could see that several candles were lit about in Spike's room, filling it with the glacé aroma of wax, and in the back, where a large bed lied with a pair of legs drooping over it, sat Spike himself. Surrounding him on his furniture of comfort was a rare sight, and that sight was the image of him willingly being amongst a horde of books. They were strewn about messily, each one clearly having been hastily read through, judging from the fact that some of them were still open.

"Is there something you need?" Spike asked, closing the one he was currently holding with an audible clap.

"I just wanted to check up on you," Twilight said, placing her own book down and stepping further inside. "To see if there was anything you needed."

"I'm fine, Twilight," he grunted, scrunching the wool sheets he sat atop of into balls in his claws. "Just a little irritated. And tired."

"I know you, Spike. And by that, I mean I know that isn't what you're really feeling," the princess went on, clearly concerned. "I just want to help you. Please tell me what's wrong." Spike only let out a bout of indiscernible grumbling.

"On second thought, I'm not fine. I'm furious," the dragon began to growl.

"Spike, listen. I-"

"This thing... this 'Time of the Heartscale'... only happens once in a dragon's lifetime, and if any dragon fails to find their significant other in the short few days it happens, they remain alone forever!" he bellowed in a muffled roar. "Why do dragons have to be so... crude with everything?"

Twilight sighed in understanding, before her face lit up like the candles planted around the room. "You don't have to be so hard on yourself over this, Spike. What about your feelings for Rarity? I always thought you two had something," she mentioned. Spike, after letting a few seconds drift by, began to shake his scaly head.

"Twilight," he started in a much more hushed voice. "I... lost my crush on Rarity years ago. I still care for her deeply, probably more deeply than most other ponies, but... just not in that way anymore."

He lowered his snout. "Twilight, I don't know what your opinion of this is, and I don't know if it's my instincts telling me to do this, but I think I want to go out there and try to be a part of the gathering. I want to see what it's like to be real dragon. I want to... try and find a life-mate, while I still have the chance."

His head slowly rose up and looked back to his friend, expecting her not to understand. Instead of seeing a look of disappointment or confusion however, Twilight was smiling. It was a gentle, maternal smile, one that quickly warmed his conflicted heart. "Spike, if you choose to become part of the Time of the Heartscale with the other dragons, then I want you to know that it's your choice, and I'm proud of you for making that kind of decision," she said, placing a hoof around his arm. "I'll always be proud of you, and I don't want you to ever forget that."

Unable to help himself in his exuberance, Spike leaned in and wrapped his long forearms around Twilight's smaller frame, bringing her in close against his green-grey chest in a large hug. Perhaps it was a little too close.

"Spike..." Twilight gasped, as the squeezing power of his natural strength became a tad too much to bear, "Spike, I can't... breath... hug is too... tight..."

Hearing her clearly, the drake instantly let go and chuckled in an embarrassed fashion. "Heh... sorry," he apologized as he watched her take in a few breaths. After fluffing her wings out, she shot him a droll look and turned to the door. She proceeded to pace over to it, and up to where she had let her book lie on the smooth floor.

"I've been reading something you might want to look at," she said, placing a hoof over it. "When you came down and took those books from the library, you forgot one. Sorry, but I was reading it for most of the night so far. I guess I wanted to refamiliarize myself with how dragons work, too."

Spike looked to the several tomes stacked about in his room, and then back to Twilight with a glum expression. "I thought I had all of them. Which one is it?" he asked.

"It's the one you definitely have to look over if you're going to try and participate with the other dragons," the princess grinned, traces of excitement drawn all over her face. "It covers the most details out of all of my other books on dragon customs, male and female behavioral patterns, and," she cleared her throat for the next part, "what may cause two to feel a mutual attraction toward one another."

Spike eyed the (rather thick-looking) piece of literature, before returning his view to the pony in front of him. "Ember shared all this kind of information with you?" he finally managed to ask, clearly awestruck by the sheer amount of it.

"I've asked her about a lot of things, Spike," she chuckled, reminiscing on the moments. "But if I were you, I'd read this in the morning. Even a dragon of your age needs some sleep."

"Yeah, I guess you're right about that," he yawned, scooping the book up in a claw. "Thank you for understanding, Twilight. For a second there, I thought you wouldn't. I hope you have a good night."

"You too, big guy," she smiled, playfully rubbing his head with a hoof like she so very often did when he was younger. "Sweet dreams." After flashing him another pleasant grin, she exited the door and closed it behind her with another squeak of the hinges. After she had left, Spike looked at, then opened the book to where he saw it was bookmarked, and skimmed the first few pages he met before closing it again.

"Ugh... Twilight's right. I'd better get some rest," he whispered to himself, brushing a finger over the bags that were already forming under his eyes. Without another word, he blew out all of the candles that lied around his chamber, put the tome to a safe spot on the side, and crawled into bed.

With the sun risen again and with the crow of a rooster, morning seemed to come at a breakneck pace, and the two inhabitants of the Castle of Friendship were up and about at an early time. After having a small breakfast, Twilight and her companion left to go have a small get-together with their friends at Sugarcube Corner, as they did many times before. Throughout the morning, and even along this walk he was sharing with Twilight, Spike was nose-deep in the book she gave him, researching as many facts as his mind could hold.

They casually strolled through most of Ponyville to reach their destination. All of the ponies in town had gotten used to seeing the sight of a dragon almost twice their height walking before them, and paid Spike no mind, save for when he was about to bump into them from lack of awareness.

Rounding a final building, Twilight spotted Sugarcube Corner, and, sitting at one of the tables just outside of it, were her five other friends, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie. A few of them had drinks on their person, apparently to hold themselves over in wait for Twilight.

"Twilight! Spike! Good morning you two!" Pinkie Pie greeted first, waving at them from where she sat upon spotting them. "Grab a seat!"

Smirking, Twilight made her way over to the awaiting table, with Spike not too far behind. After watching Twilight sit down and seeing that there wasn't much room left to hold himself, he decided to sit at the table adjacent to theirs; the metal chair creaking under support for his weight. After a few minutes of small talk, the ponies each began to regale to one another the latest news happening in their lives.

"Things are going pretty smooth back at the farm," Applejack revealed, proudly. "This year's apple-buckin' season is going greater than last year's, that's for sure."

"The Wonderbolts' last tour around Canterlot was spectacular!" Rainbow Dash shouted, nearly jumping from her seat with her enthusiasm. "And the best part? Yours truly performed a sonic rainboom at the most awesome time, right before the end! You all should've heard the cheers..."

"That sounds wonderful," Rarity congratulated, as she swished the tea around in her small cup with a spoon.

"Oh! And that reminds me of something else," Rainbow Dash suddenly brought up again, looking to Twilight. "How's Starlight Glimmer? Has she said hi to you at all lately?"

"She wrote to me that she's doing well in the Crystal Empire right now," she responded in a cheerful beam at the mention of her favorite student. "She's taught Flurry Heart quite a bit about how to use her magic alongside Sunburst. Cadence herself also told me the two are becoming great role models."

"That's so sweet," Fluttershy smiled in her typical light voice. The yellow-furred pegasus turned to Spike next. "How about you Spike? Has anything happened to you lately?"

"Oh, uh, yeah. Fine," Spike mumbled nonchalantly, still keeping his eyes glued to his book and attention on anything but his surroundings. Applejack, hearing him and instantly sensing something was off, scratched her chin with one hoof as the other remained on the handle of her mug of apple cider.

"If you don't mind me askin', what's Spike so enamored about within that book a'his?" she inquired to Twilight, curiously.

"That? Um... that's kind of a long story," Twilight spoke back, tapping her hooves together awkwardly. "It all started when Dragon Lord Ember came by at noontime yesterday..."

As she began explaining to her friends what had transpired the day before, they each listened intently. Some of their brows curled in interest, and sometimes lifted in surprise, or instead let their eyes widen. Pinkie looked mostly indifferent, and sipped her glass of hot cocoa with gleeful bliss in her action.

"...and last night, well... Spike told me that he wants to go and become a part of it when the time comes at the end of the month."

The moment Twilight wrapped up her tale, Pinkie Pie spat a stream of cocoa from her mouth to the dirt-and-stone ground, staining it with a sweet, but soggy brown tint. Fluttershy and Rarity both gasped in complete shock. Applejack lowered her hat over her face and Rainbow Dash's agape jaw looked as though it was moments away from dropping from her mouth like a broken hinge.

Spike, hearing the commotion, pricked his head up and looked at the ponies. "What? Did something happen?" he asked. Instead of witnessing an unfortunate accident, his eyes were greeted by the faces of the five ponies that had just finished processing Twilight's words, each slowly turning to face him.

"Spike, you're trying to do WHAT?!" Pinkie cried out in a disbelieving screech, zipping up to him in a pink blur of movement, jumping upon his table, and stretching her head toward him until it was nearly touching his. "You want to go to the Dragon Lands and find a special somedragon?!"

The now-flustered dragon's cheeks flashed a vividly crimson color and he dropped his book to the table; the object slipping from his limp grasp. With shakiness in his eyes, he snapped his view to Twilight. "Twilight... you told them?!" he squeaked.

"I was only telling them what happened yesterday!" she said back. "I didn't think they would take it this harshly!"

"Harshly? Darling, this is wonderful news!" the sound of Rarity's overjoyed voice chirped in. "My dear little Spike is all grown up, and he wants to find someone worthwhile!"

"Rarity, please don't treat this like a... romance novel," Rainbow piped up with a hint of disgust at the end of her sentence. "Why do you even want to do this, Spike?"

"Because if he wants to find a life-mate, he has to participate in the event. Every dragon around the same age has to. It's dragon law," Twilight replied for him. "If he, or any other dragon fails to find one by its end, they are forbidden to do so ever again. That's what Ember told us."

"That sounds terrible," Fluttershy mumbled. "And you said it's only a month from now? Goodness... he doesn't have much time to prepare for such a thing!"

"Which is why I'm starting now," Spike growled, shooing Pinkie off from his table and snatching the book back up from it. "If you'll all excuse me, I have some reading to do."

"Spike, why don't you let us help you as well?" Rarity spoke again as she saw her dear friend clearly about to storm off. "If this is truly something you wish for, then you surely deserve to get the best training."

"Say what?" Applejack asked, shooting her head at the unicorn. "Ya do know that most of us aren't exactly experts in the field of what makes dragons kick, right?"

Rarity puffed without worry, flicking her hoof's wrist. "Oh Applejack, please. We have Twilight for that!"

"Yeah, Twilight can help with that part!" Pinkie Pie readily agreed, bouncing into the air. She glanced at Twilight with an optimistic expression. "Riiight?"

"I guess I could. But what does Spike think?" The alicorn in question said. All of the ponies turned to him expectantly, and were met with a leer of uncertainty from their reptilian associate.

Spike looked back with unsure eyes, and everything went silent. Exhaling deeply in a defeated manner, he finally gave them the reply they wanted. "If you all really want to help me with this, then... it's alright, I guess."

Rarity looked downright joyous at his response. "Oh goody! When do we start?" she said excitedly in a contained shout, tapping her hooves on the table with great rapidity.

"Now, I'd reckon," Applejack decided to answer calmly, fixing her hat and taking a final sip from her mug of cider, placing the empty stein back on the table with an audible thud.