• Published 28th Apr 2013
  • 14,867 Views, 518 Comments

Spike on Strike - Sarcasmo



Spike has had it. It's not his fault the library is a shambles. But he's not gonna take the blame. Until Twilight starts appreciating him, he goes on strike.

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1st Act

Spike grumbled a little. He tossed and turned two more times, but no matter what he did, he couldn't get back into that comfy spot. While he had involuntarily left, his comfort had stayed in dreamland. Now it taunted him from above as the gatekeeper that wouldn't let him back in.

The sleep in his eyes gave him a nasty itch that grew too strong to ignore. Eyes still shut, he picked at it with his claws. He had gotten rid of the greater part, when a realization blew his eyes wide open: why hadn't the alarm woken him?

He had slept in, came the horrid conclusion. With one big jump out of bed he was practically halfway down the stairs. He wouldn't be able to properly chew his breakfast if he wanted to make up for the time lost. And he'd have to make up or Twilight would be furious. And Twilight would be disappointed in him. She would give him a scolding and a proper punishment and that look of disapproval she tended to get at times like these. Twilight... should and would have woken him up once she had noticed that he was still asleep. But she hadn't. Because, he realized, she wasn't even there.

He remembered. Now Spike remembered what exactly was going on: Twilight had left the library before sunrise to catch the first train to the Crystal Empire. There she needed to pick up a number of books from the Empire's library, specifically copied for her and of classified content, if he had understood her correctly, and she wouldn't be back until five. That's why he hadn't set the alarm. That's why he had been able to sleep in. Today, he would have the entire day to himself.

Once he would finish his chores that is. When she got back, Twilight was sure to check on him, and if she wouldn't be satisfied with what she found, she would surely decide she couldn't leave Spike on his own ever again. But still, with himself in charge there were certain corners he could cut, for instance merely sweeping dust under the carpets or behind the shelves. If all went as planned, he'd be done in time for lunch.

A merry tune on his lips and a smile in his heart, preparing his breakfast became more of a dance than anything. Bowl, milk, and his Sergeant Sapphire cereals (the only brand-name cereal containing natural gemstones) seemed to fall into place on their own as he fantasized about his afternoon plans.

He two-stepped to the breakfast table, the bowl in his claws a makeshift dancing partner, when he found the nasty surprise Twilight had left for him. In the middle of the table, almost in exact geometrical alignment, lay a note. It read:

Spike,

I forgot that I had an order of 50 quills from Quills & Sofas ready to be picked up at 1 p.m. Would you be so kind to pick them up for me? And don't let the store owner talk you into buying another sofa. Under no circumstances do we need another one.
Also, I wasn't able to finish going through all the outdated books in the basement to see if I categorized any of them incorrectly. If you would be so kind to do that for me, that would be great.
Remember to eat healthy (no, ice cream does not constitute healthy) and take care of yourself and the library. I trust you completely. I should arrive at the Ponyville station at 4:36.

Love,
Twilight

Spike sighed heavily. Six hundred forty-seven characters had ruined his afternoon fun-time in the blink of an eye. These additional chores were sure to take all day. That just wasn't fair!

However, if he was going to be busy with his duties all day anyway, there was no point in rushing things; he could take his dear time having breakfast. Still somewhat cheerful, he started picking out the purple gems from his cereal to save for later.

* * *

The basement smelled of dust, dirt, and musty pages. Visually, it seemed to be mimicking the design of an ancient, only recently discovered crypt. Essentially, the dust lay so thick it had formed into an entire landscape of little dunes. When Twilight had been down here (if she had been down here at all), she hadn't bothered to clean up in the slightest; that was another task which would fall to Spike. There was no way he could even think about sorting the outdated books without dusting off a little (or even a lot) first, if for the fear of suffering from silicosis alone.

It wouldn't be any change, of course, as he had been busy cleaning house the entire morning, just like he expected, with only occasional interruptions when he had to tend to the regular librarian duties of loaning books. He hadn't even bothered to put down the feather duster when he got down to the basement, and decided to put it to work right away.

The first sweep sent cascades of dust falling down in every direction. It was as if the dust had been part of a fragile ecosystem that was rapidly falling apart due to Spike's violent intrusion. But it didn't deserve any better. Spike was willing to mercilessly wipe out every last grain if he had to.

Every sweep made good progress, but he didn't even manage to finish the first shelf, when all of a sudden a voice called out from behind him: “Hey Spike! What'cha doing?”

He fell over backwards, sending half the cascade right back upwards in the process. Once he had collected himself, he looked up at the eyes of an upside down Sweetie Belle. “Oh, hi Sweetie Belle! I was just...” He interrupted himself to let out a sigh. “...going to dust off and sort all the books down here.” Before he continued, he turned around and got up. “And what about you? What are you doing here?”

“We came here to pick up a book for Zecora,” Sweetie Belle explained. “We want to give earning our potion mixing cutie marks another shot. Zecora agreed to help us, but she said she doesn't have any books on the basics anymore. So she sent us to pick some up.”

An eerie chill crept down Spike's spine, freezing each vertebra individually. “We? Us? You mean Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are here with you? And they're still upstairs? Unsupervised?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle answered. “They were already searching for books when I went looking for you and Twilight.” She rubbed her front hoof a little. “I'm sure you wouldn't mind, but I felt we should properly borrow the books from the library and not just take them ourselves.”

Spike barely listened to her response. That eerie chill forced him to run upstairs and check for any remnants of a library still left on the first floor. As he peeked behind the basement door, he was almost overwhelmed by the sight. Only slowly could his eyes and feet wander towards the epicenter of chaos, from which came the gruesome chorus of destruction.

“This one?” – “Nope!” – *thud* – “This one?” – “Nope!” – *thud* – “This one?” – “Nope!” – *thud*

“What are you doing!?” Spike shouted, much more shocked than angry, at one Scootaloo climbing the half-empty book cases and one Applebloom watching from below.

“Hi Spike!” Scootaloo greeted as she jumped back down from the shelves. Sweetie Belle, having come up alongside Spike, also took her place next to her fellow Crusaders.

Apple Bloom went on to explain: “We were just looking for some books. Zecora...”

“I know that! Sweetie Belle told me,” Spike interrupted. “But did you really have to trash the entire place in the process?”

Only now did the three Crusaders bother to look around and become aware of standing knee-deep in a sea of books that had flooded the ground. The entire scene wouldn't have looked much different if a tornado had raged through the library, browsed every single shelf, and carelessly discarded any book it hadn't liked.

Scootaloo was the first to speak. “Sorry, I guess. We didn't really pay much attention to anything we didn't need.” The others made a quick apologetic gesture.

“But we're gonna help you clean up,” Apple Bloom said, already picking up a number of books, shoving them back into the shelves. “Promise!”

“Who knows,” Sweetie Belle added, “maybe we'll even get cleaning cutie marks! Or librarian cutie marks!”

A sigh of relief, along with most of his deepest worries, escaped Spike. “Thanks, girls. I don't know if I could do it on my own. You know, Twilight would be furious if she...”

Just at that moment, the front door opened. Spike instinctively shrunk, trying to hide himself within himself. He didn't dare to take a glance over his shoulder to see the disgruntled face of his friend and employer behind him.

But he couldn't stay like that forever; the problem wouldn't go away by itself. He drew himself up, turned around, and stared into the disapproving eyes of Zecora. She didn't need any more than a first impression to piece together the situation. She walked over to the three Crusaders and, her sullen face towering above them, began to speak: “When you come to me with a notion, you can't run off and cause commotion! If you don't stop your misbehaving you'll never get what you are craving. Now do show Spike some courtesy and offer an apology.”

“But we already did!” Scootaloo argued. “We even promised to clean up with him!”

Zecora answered her with a smug smile: “That I did not know. But then, it does not hurt to do so again.”

None of the Crusaders had any response to that, so they all just faced Spike and hung their heads. “We're sorry,” they all said in unison.

Zecora nodded her approval. “Well said, but there's a brew awaiting, and there's no need for more berating. So grab all things you need to pack, for we must hurry and head back.”

That was something that perfectly suited the Crusaders' books. Immediately, they made for the door. “Sorry, Spike,” Apple Bloom repeated once more while parting. “And I hope you don't mind us taking this here book.” She held up a copy of A Basic Course in Brewing.

“No, go ahead,” Spike responded, hanging his head. He was a little grief-stricken, but he had to accept his fate nonetheless. Having somepony to help him clean up sounded too good to be true anyway.

Noticing his woe, Zecora couldn't just leave the poor little fellow alone. None of this appeared to be his fault; he simply ended up with the short end of the stick. She walked up to him, lifted his chin with her hoof, looked him deep in the eyes, and shot him a warm smile. “I'm sorry I couldn't prevent this tizzy, but I myself was pretty busy. But please, young Spike lift up that chin. Though it is a big mess you're in, I would think, from what I have seen, that you'll get this place sparkling clean."

The good intentions were plain to see, even for Spike, but Zecora's words didn't fully comply with them. Nevertheless, it was enough to put a smile back on the little dragon's face.

Satisfied with her success, Zecora turned to leave and check on the Crusaders; it was better to keep a constant eye on them. Only when she was in the doorway did she stop to speak her parting words: “I hope you get to tidy fast, as one o'clock has already passed.”

Spike indeed had to get a move on if he wanted to finish in time. It might be cutting it close, but by his estimate he could manage to do so. Plus, despite all this work he still had to remember about the errand Twilight had...

“No, no, no!” He darted out the door as fast as his claws could fly. He managed to cross half of Ponyville in under a minute, overtaking Zecora and the CMC in the process, and with a dive, he landed in the entrance of Quills and Sofas.

“I'm... here... pick... quills... Twilight...” His words came with the rhythm of waves breaking on a shore.

Davenport, proud owner of Quills and Sofas, looked down at him from behind the counter as he picked up his clipboard. “Let's see,” he said in that rhetorical way meant to exude authority and activity. “Ah yes, here it is. An order for fifty quills and a sofa by Twilight Sparkle, to be picked up by either herself or her assistant Spike.”

“Exactly!” Spike replied, still working on an inner check list in which he had moved from the first point 'getting up' and the second 'catching his breath' to the third 'getting the order done'. “Wait, did you say fifty quills and a sofa?”

“Yep!” Davenport announced. “That's what it says on the form: fifty quills and a sofa.”

This, of course, had to be a mistake; a simple mistake Spike would be sure to sort out in no time. “I'm pretty sure the order was just for fifty quills.”

Davenport eyed his customer warily. “And I'm pretty sure the order was for fifty quills and a sofa,” he grunted.

Spike was turned feeble by the situation he found himself in. “But Twilight explicitly told me not to pick up another sofa. She would get furious if I came back with one.”

“Why would she be furious?” Davenport asked, all his previous hostility replaced with that coaxing charm of a proper vendor. “When she lays her eyes on this beauty, she will fall in love with it immediately. Here, just give it a try.” Like a sack of flour, he heaved Spike into the air and onto the sofa in question.

It really did feel good. The way the armrest yielded to his claws, the way the backrest supported his back, the way the cushions tended to his behind – it was incredibly comfortable. It was a good sofa. No, he'd go farther than that: it was a great sofa. Twilight was sure to love...

He shook his head to come back to reality. There was no way Twilight would be taking this whole thing affirmatively. She would insist on not having wanted the sofa in the first place and maybe even force Spike to pay it off himself. She might even withhold his allowance for a couple of weeks.

“No, I can't,” Spike eventually said. “I can't bring this sofa back to the library.”

“Why not?” Davenport asked incredulously. “Isn't it comfy? Isn't it sturdy? Isn't it the greatest sofa you ever had the pleasure of sitting on?”

“It's not about the sofa,” Spike said. What little poise he had was slowly being gnawed away, like a cracker in the hands of a rodent. “It's about the original order which was only for fifty quills. I can't come back with any more or any less.”

“Look, kid,” Davenport began, his coaxing charm flipping back to the previous hostile behavior, “I'll put it bluntly: either you walk out of this here store with fifty quills and a sofa, or you walk out with nothing at all. I won't have Twilight come over here tomorrow to complain about a messed up order. I don't do part orders and I won't start now.”

Spike's words, as well as his confidence, failed him. He didn't have the nerve to fight the store owner any more; all that was left for him to do was choose the lesser of two evils. He left the store with as many words out of his mouth as quills in his pockets. With his head parallel to the ground, he trudged home.

* * *

When Spike scuffed through the door, he was greeted by the literary mayhem that had awaited him ever so patiently; or maybe not so patiently, since he felt it had grown even further and devoured the last visible remnants of the floor in the meantime. He was looking at a never-ending meadow of books, single pages sticking out like flowers; flowers which attempted to cause an allergic shock.

It was more hopeless than ever. With less time for the deed and a seemingly grown disorder, there was no way he could be done before Twilight got back. And he had neither had time to clean up the basement, nor managed to fetch the quills from the store. That would be three strikes. Three strikes! The magic number that automatically made any mishap ten times worse.

Spike couldn't help again envisioning all the disappointment and the fury, the horrible, horrible fury that would be writ large in Twilight's face once she returned. He tried his best to suppress these thoughts, but they kept coming back, growing more and more vivid on every iteration.

The image became unbearable. He had to get rid of it, by force if necessary, and one of the scattered books would be his perfect aid. He picked it up and slammed his head into it.

The trick didn't work, partly because the slam was much too gentle, as Spike was afraid of hurting himself, partly because it was a foolish idea that could never have worked in the first place. He opened his eyes and took a look at the book cover. It read A Gardening Guide for Growing with Gallantry. If memory served, Twilight had had a small debate on whether the book belonged in the gardening or the etiquette section. Eventually, she compromised on putting it in a shelf within the gardening section where it was visible from any point of the etiquette section. Spike still remembered the exact place and quickly walked through the room to put the book where it belonged. Over there he picked up another tome. This one belonged in the bottom shelf two bookcases to the left.

He repeated this process over and over. Like an automaton, he bustled about the room, slowly conquering the limitless sea of book. He didn't even notice that, all at once, the dreaded thoughts had vanished. He had successfully drowned himself in work, or rather backstroked through his work in delightful bliss. When he eventually looked up at the clock and then around the room to see how much cleaning he had done by now, hope started to bud that there might still be enough time to at least return the library to its pre-Crusader-state before Twilight would arrive. For the last hour Spike doubled his efforts.

He was just about to put away the very last tome, when he heard the door hinges squeak behind him. He couldn't stop now, so very close to the finish line; he'd have to complete his task right away. In a fit of panic, he quickly shoved the book into the empty space in the shelf before him.

That proved to be a grave mistake. The force of his shove toppled the bookcase, causing it to slowly shift its center of mass to the back, eventually reach the wall behind, bounce of said wall, and rock right back at him, looming ever so eerily.

For just a moment it seemed like the shelf would hold. It was frozen in place. It had managed to defy gravity. But only up to the point until it didn't and it finally tipped over. To add insult to injury, it not only emptied its entire content onto Spike, but also managed to spread the dust he had hidden behind it across half the library.

All the noise did not pass by the incoming Twilight. Taking in the condition the library was in, she walked over to her assistant, who had managed to stick his head out of the pile of books. “What's going on in here?” she asked as her magic helped him out of his confinement.

“It was... I-I-I...” Spike stuttered, desperately trying to catch the right words as much as the ground below his feet.

Twilight didn't wait for a proper answer. All the disappointment Spike had previously imagined became a reality in her facial contours. Yet, there was no fury.

“Spike, we talked about this,” she began in a patronizing tone. “Just because I'm not around, doesn't mean you can shirk your responsibilities. I thought you knew better than that. You're old enough; I expected you to be more mature by now. You have to realize I won't always be around for you. At some point, you have to learn to take care of yourself.”

“But I... But before...” Those randomly uttered syllables didn't make a good case for Spike.

“Did you at least pick up the quills like I asked you to?” Twilight asked. There was an expecting glimmer in her eyes, a glimmer of hope that was his chance at redemption – a redemption that was just as impossible to get as the actual quills had been earlier.

“I tried, but... They were... The store was...” It was as if his vocal chords had conspired against him. They tried to form every appropriate, viable sentence at once, ending up with nothing but complete nonsense.

Twilight looked him deep in the eyes. “Oh Spike!” was all she said. It was all she needed to say. Those words stung hard enough for Spike to feel nothing but shame.

Twilight turned his back on him. After a small pause she began talking again. “Tell you what: we will pick up the quills together tomorrow morning. Tonight however, you take this broom –” She levitated said item right into his claw. “– and make up for your misconduct by cleaning the library right now. If you do a proper job, I will desist from giving you any punishment. And after that you are going to take a bath, because I can smell from here that you didn't bother to take one this morning.” Twilight turned back around and shot Spike a smile, proud of her Solomonian judgment.

Spike was much too ashamed to accept his punishment just like that. Although it didn't feel like shame any more; it felt like something completely different now. It felt much more intense and much more animating. What he had thought to be shame had all along been pure, unadulterated anger.

It had come, he realized: the fury Spike had dreaded so much. Only that it wasn't Twilight's, but his own. His blood was boiling, his intestines were twirling, and his toes were curling upwards. Some frail voice, one last remaining bastion of reason, begged him not to do it, to reconsider, sleep over it, or do anything else, but it was already fighting a losing battle. Spike's mind was made up. He took the broom in his hand and violently dashed it to the ground.

“I quit!” he squealed with mighty force. Granted, it was a very manly squeal, or at least an above-average manly squeal, that only barely deserved the name.

Twilight was completely petrified. She blinked multiple times in rapid succession, but the image before her refused to change: it always remained the same discarded broom at the same trembling feet of the same recalcitrant little dragon. Being fully occupied with hanging agape, her mouth only managed a small break to form a single word: “What?”

Spike crossed his arms. “I said I quit! You can do your stuff yourself!”

The shock was just as great the second time around. Twilight decided to get a hold of the situation the only way she knew how: by lecturing. “Now Spike, listen: You have to...”

“No, you listen!” he yelled. “I've been dusting the entire library, survived an attack from the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and dealt with the world's most obnoxious sofa salespony just for this!? I'm not working my butt off all day to have you come in and scold and patronize me! If that's what I get, I'm outta here!”

It was all much too surreal. Twilight was unable to fully grasp everything he said; why, she didn't even chide him for using the word 'butt'. She was only focused on saving the situation by somehow calming down her assistant. A thousand ideas were flashing through her mind, but none of them were any help. They either all let him get away with his unacceptable behavior or they would always risk aggravating him even further. Only one thought Twilight had to carefully isolate from the others provided a solution to the problem, and even better yet, an explanation for it. With the insight, a smile crept onto her face.

“Oh, I get it,” she announced. “You think I'm mad at you. You think just because of your little misdemeanor I'd dismiss you as my Number One Assistant. But that's just silly, Spike. Granted, I'm a little disgruntled by the looks of the library, but that's nothing to speak of. Just because you made a mistake, I won't stop loving you. Didn't you learn that the last time? Believe me, you'll always be my Number One Assistant, no matter what!”

She stretched out a hoof, sure to have made peace. She wasn't too sure what she was going to do with it, maybe a pat on the shoulder or playfully ruffle his scales a little, but it didn't matter since she never got that far. Before she reached him, Spike cast her hoof aside.

“No, Twilight,” he said, as he lowered his head. His face was a black shadow, like a moon in a lunar eclipse. “You just don't get it.”

Perfectly calm, he walked out the door with small, slow steps, leaving behind a Twilight that was much too startled to run after him.

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