• Published 8th Apr 2014
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A True, True Friend? - Blazewing


Spike wonders why he is always left out...

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A True, True, Friend?

Dear Spike,
Helping Pinkie Pie get things ready for Maud’s visit. Make sure the library’s spic and span if we stop by.
Love,
Twilight

A deep sigh escaped Spike’s lips as he put down the note Twilight had left him. When he had woken up, he had found it sitting out for him on the kitchen table. She must have left long before he had woken up. To add to that, she had taken Owlowiscious with her. Perhaps there was a Pony Pet Playdate today, too. Still, the fact that she hadn’t even bothered to wake him and tell him didn’t sit well.

Honestly, he shouldn’t have been surprised by this point. This wasn’t the first time Twilight and the others were off doing something without him, without even telling him about it ahead of time. He couldn’t even count the number of times he had been kept out of the loop, or hadn’t even been invited at all to something they were attending. He wasn’t allowed to come with them to Canterlot to spend Twilight’s birthday there, he didn’t get to go see the National Dessert Competition in Canterlot, he was explicitly not invited to the Crystal Empire to welcome Ms. Harshwhinny, even though it was partially due to him that the Empire was saved in the first place, he didn’t get to tag along when the girls went out to seek Daring Do author A.K. Yearling, he didn’t get to watch the tryouts for the Equestria Games, and now he wasn’t even allowed to welcome Pinkie’s sister to Ponyville. It was always the same thing every time: ‘be a good boy and look after the library’. He could understand if Twilight felt like she could trust him to take care of things, but to not even let him be included in their plans depressed him. They hadn’t even stuck around with him when they first arrived at the Grand Galloping Gala, only finding time to spend with him when their own evenings went awry.

He knew they meant well, he really did, but sometimes, he wondered if they really did remember him at these times, or if they needed some kind of kickstart to finally recognize his presence or absence. This had come to a boil during the fiasco in which they had become the Power Ponies and Humdrum, when he began to feel as if he really was no help to anyone, not helped any by the taunts of the Mane-iac. He had heard the others stand up for him and proclaim that they did think he was useful, and that he was always there when he needed them. This pick-me-up for his emotions only lasted so long, however. He was once more the same overlooked, beleaguered library’s assistant, constantly getting the short end of the stick despite his hard work. They had assured him that he was part of the team, so then why were there so many times where he wasn’t? Why did it feel like they only needed him when work was to be done, never when they could just relax? Was that all he was to them? A helper, and not a friend?

With another sigh, he grabbed his broom and went to get started cleaning the library. He didn’t need to give Twilight an excuse to call him out on not doing his duties. After this, he’d just go upstairs and stay out of the way if this Maud did come by the library. It was all he really felt like doing at this point, his spirits so low already.

***

Rock
You are a rock
Gray
You are gray
Like a rock
Which you are
Rock

Spike could hear Maud’s monotonous, emotionless voice reciting rock poetry all the way upstairs, as he lay awake in his basket. Admittedly, he would not want to have to sit through something like that, and felt a pang of guilt for Twilight for having to endure it herself. He wouldn’t wish it on anypony.

Nevertheless, the fact that he hadn’t been invited to meet Maud even before finding out about this trait of hers disturbed him. Even without knowing what she might end up becoming, wouldn’t it have been natural to have all of their friends meet a member of Pinkie’s family? Did that mean he wasn’t considered her friend after all?...

No. He couldn’t think like that. That was ridiculous. Of course they were his friends. He knew they were his friends...so why did he have these lingering doubts?

He thought of Rarity: beautiful, talented, charitable. She had known about his crush on her. She admitted to as much, more by tears than words, when they were falling to their doom when he had undergone a greed-fueled growth spurt. While she never reciprocated romantic feelings towards him, she still bestowed upon him a great deal of kindness and affection, asking for his assistance around the boutique or when gem-hunting. He was her Spikey-wikey, her Spikey-poo, her little gentledrake helper. But was that all he was to her? A helper? A means of assistance?

Then there was Pinkie Pie: exuberant, loveable, optimistic. She always knew how to make Spike smile, even when he was having an off day, whether it be by hugs or by a party. She could make anypony laugh, anypony smile, anypony have a good time. The little dragon and the pink party planner had always had a strong bond with each other. Even so, why hadn’t Pinkie bothered to invite Spike to Gummy’s birthday party? He had come to her own birthday party, but not Gummy’s. And besides, Pinkie had coerced a confession out of him that had brought her into a downward spiral. Granted, he should have been more aware of what she was going through at the time, but that was it: he hadn’t been informed of the party proceedings until the last minute, when it was time to fetch her for her birthday party. What was he supposed to have said to her?...

Rainbow Dash was fun too: sporty, boyish, devoted. The two had their share of good times on several occasions, laughing at Twilight’s expense on a couple of them, and he knew she had a special place for him in that loyal heart of hers. However, she also let her attitude speak for her more often than not. When he was handing out snacks during the dragon migration, she had called him out on it, calling him ‘lame’. This had stung him at the time, but then again, she was one of the ones who went to make sure he was safe when he went on his quest. She at least had felt sorry for what she had said and wanted to make amends for it. Still, when was the last time the two had really connected, or had spent some time together? Did she still value his company? After all, she never even invited him to come see the tryouts for the Equestria Games…

And then there was Fluttershy: gentle, patient, compassionate. She had been the first of their friends to truly befriend him when they first arrived in Ponyville, gushing over the fact that he was a baby dragon. While the two never truly spent alone time together, just the two of them, she did trust him, as it was he she had come to when she needed someone to take care of Angel while she and the others were away. She had forgiven him for disrupting the Breezie migration, but deep down, he wondered if she really had forgiven him fully…

And who could forget Applejack: hard-working, outgoing, dependable. She had called him and Twilight practically part of the family when she introduced them to hers. Spike had always looked up to her like a big sister, and she in turn looked upon him like a little brother. She had saved his life from timberwolves, and despite his attempts to repay her through his self-made dragon code, she remained patient with him, and had never even considered him anything less than noble, especially after he saved her life in turn. Sometimes, however, he couldn’t help suppressing a nagging doubt that she didn’t want a repeat of what happened then…

And of course, there was Twilight: studious, brilliant, faithful. He wasn’t sure what she was to him. At times, she was his mentor. At others, something like a mother or an older sister. Ever since he had been hatched, the two had been practically inseparable, and had been so to this day. She trusted him with the upkeep of the library and communications with Princess Celestia. She had promised him, on the day when he looked into King Sombra’s Doorway of Fear and saw a vision of what he feared would come to pass, that she would never abandon him, that she would always be there for him. If that were so, why did he feel so abandoned nowadays? Why did she leave him behind so often, if she was never going to send him away?

They were, undoubtedly, his friends...so then, why did he still doubt their friendship with him?

The sound of hooves outside interrupted his train of thought. He had half a mind to sit up and speak his mind to Twilight, but he kept still as she entered the room.

“Spike?”

He didn’t answer, nor give any sign that he had heard.

“Oh, you must be napping. You’re lucky. You didn’t have to sit through all of those rock poems...I know Pinkie Pie really wants this to work out, but I just don’t see how it can. How can we possibly make rock candy necklaces saying what friends we are when we’re not even friends?”

Rock candy necklaces? This was news to him! He loved rock candy! Why didn’t she say anything about it before?!

“I think I need to have a talk with Pinkie about this. Perhaps all of us, if they’re having as much luck as I did. I’ll be back soon.”

He heard the sound of her retreating hoofsteps as she left the room. He couldn’t take it anymore. This was too much! He ripped his bed sheets off and ran after Twilight, ready to demand that she explain why she was treating him like this, but he was too late. The front door slammed just as he caught up to her. He was alone again, and feeling much worse.

Rock candy necklaces, a symbol of friendship, and he hadn’t even been included in the equation. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. His blood boiled hotter than his own dragon-fire, and his fangs gnashed as he fought to hold back the diatribe of rage and distress he was dying to spew forth. He had half a mind to scream after Twilight as she was heading off, but he didn’t. Rushing back upstairs, he instead thrust his face into his pillow and let out a long, sustained yell, very nearly expelling a burst of flame that would have incinerated his pillow. Owlowiscious, sitting by the window, looked at him in concern, but knew better than to interrupt an angry dragon in a temper tantrum. At last, too drained to fight anymore, Spike flopped down onto his bed, giving himself over to bitter, quiet crying.

“Why?” he moaned to himself. “Why do you keep leaving me out?...”

Finally, when he had spent all of his tears, he drifted off into an unhappy sleep. Owlowiscious hooted in a soft, sympathetic way, then left him be.

***

Spike was standing on a worn dirt track running through a lush green field. A lake glistened in the sun beside him, and up ahead, the peaks silhouetted in the daylight, was a vast mountain range. He blinked several times. He could have sworn he had been in bed just a second ago.

“Spike!”

He stiffened. He knew that voice! Sure enough, Twilight stepped into view, smiling, her saddlebags strapped across her hips. Her five friends came into sight at the same time, similarly equipped.

“Spike! We’re going on a big adventure!”

Spike felt a great leap of joy in his heart. He was going to join Twilight and the others in an adventure! This was exactly what he wanted! As the six turned and started off, he broke into a run to catch up with them...but no matter how fast he ran, he didn’t get any closer. If anything, he was trailing farther and farther behind. He looked down at his feet, and saw the path sliding beneath him, like the conveyer belt of a treadmill. He looked anxiously up at the retreating hindquarters of his six friends.

“Hey, guys?” he called. “Wait up a sec, will ya?”

The ponies stopped, and Twilight turned to face him. Spike stopped running, and felt his insides freeze at the look she gave him. It was cold, unsympathetic, with an unpleasant smile on her face.

“And why should we do that?” she asked, in a soft, mocking tone..

Spike gulped, trying to keep down the fear welling up inside him.

“Y-You said we were going on an adventure.”

This set the six ponies laughing. Spike blanched. It wasn’t the same mirthful, cheery giggles he was used to. These laughs were mirthless and cruel.

“Why, darling,” said Rarity, laying ironic emphasis on the word ‘darling’, “whatever would delude you into thinking we’d take you along?”

Spike felt hot tears swimming into his eyes. Rarity never spoke to him like that…

“B-Because we’re...we’re…”

Friends?” asked Pinkie, sneeringly. “You thought you were our friend?”

“Oh, don’t make me laugh,” said Fluttershy, contemptuously.

Spike felt as though a heavy iron hammer had bludgeoned the side of his head. Pinkie and Fluttershy were the last ponies he ever expected to speak words so cruel and heartless. These were just like the Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie that had had their personalities reversed by Discord.

“Yer nuthin’ but a load we gotta drag around whenever we want somethin’ done,” sneered Applejack.

“Y-You’re lying!” Spike protested.

“Ha!” laughed Rainbow Dash. “Not too sure of yourself, are you? You know it’s the truth! You just don’t wanna admit it.”

“No!”

“Don’t delude yourself, Spike,” said Twilight, once more in that soft tone of contempt. “Why would any of us ever want to be friends with a weak, bumbling little baby who can’t even go five steps without messing something up? You make me sick.”

Spike felt as if an arrow, its tip saturated with cold venom, had pierced him right in the heart. He sank to his knees, shielding his head with his arms, tears streaming down his cheeks, as the ponies laughed and taunted him.

“Weak!”

“Pathetic!”

“Clumsy!”

“Stupid!”

“Stop it!” Spike wailed. “Stop it!”

Everything began to grow cold around him. The laughing, the mocking, the name-calling grew louder and louder, reaching such a pitch that he actually clamped his claws over his ears. All he wanted was for it to end, by whatever means.

And then, a new voice pierced the din: a familiar, regal voice, echoing in the air.

“Begone!”

The laughter stopped abruptly, and eventually faded away with soft moans of surprise. Looking up, Spike saw that the sun had vanished, to be replaced by a full moon. The figures of his six friends had also disappeared. In the glow of the moon, he saw a winged silhouette, its mane flowing, its eyes gleaming white, until it floated down towards him. Even before she had touched down, Spike knew that he had just been rescued by Princess Luna.

“Princess Luna!” he gasped, standing up. “It’s you! ...Does this mean I’m dreaming?”

“Do you believe you are dreaming?” Luna asked, gazing down at the little dragon.

“Well, it changed from day to night really quick,” said Spike, thoughtfully, “and you made Twilight and her friends vanish into thin air, so...yeah, probably a dream.”

He smiled up at her, but Luna didn’t smile back.

“How odd that those are the only signs you deem evidence to your being asleep,” she said, in a measured tone. “I do not hear you crying foul to the behavior of your friends in this dream.”

Spike knew what she was getting at. He looked down at the ground guiltily, ears drooped. He did not look up again until he felt Luna’s hoof tilt his chin upwards. He gazed into those wise blue eyes, and saw that she was now smiling, with a sad, kind sort of smile.

“Spike, you know that Twilight Sparkle and her friends would never say such things to or about you. You know this.”

“I know…” Spike sighed. “It was silly of me to even think it, but...I was just so miserable, so angry…”

“Would you care to elaborate?”

Spike hesitated, wondering if he should. Then again, if he couldn’t even confide in one of Equestria’s diarchs, who could he confide in? He sighed before proceeding.

“It’s just...I know I’m not always left behind when Twilight and the others go off and do important things, but it’s happened so often that I can’t help but wonder why. I was part of the royal wedding and Twilight’s coronation and stuff like that, but that was because I had jobs to do. What about things where I can just enjoy myself and be part of the gang? All the times Twilight’s made me stay behind and look after the library when she and the others got to do all the fun stuff together...I didn’t get to go to her birthday party in Canterlot, I didn’t get to go to the Crystal Empire to welcome Ms. Harshwhinny, I didn’t get to go see the tryouts for the Equestria Games, and now they didn’t even let me meet Pinkie’s sister! I wouldn’t have minded so much, except I heard Twilight talking about making rock candy friendship necklaces. Does that mean she doesn’t consider me a friend like she does the others? Why do they keep leaving me behind, Princess? Why?!”

Spike shut his eyes, feeling tears brewing up again. The memories of all that he had been denied in the past were resurging fresher and harsher than before. He felt Luna lay her head against his cheek in a gentle, comforting nuzzle, and he opened his eyes again.

“Hush, little one,” she said, softly. “There is no need to cry. I understand why you are upset. You feel you’re only allowed presence with your friends when duty calls, yet not when there is fun to be had. Is that right?”

“Y-Yeah,” said Spike. “I mean, I’m glad they told me they knew I was useful, even if they didn’t always need me, but is that all I am to them? Help? Not a friend?”

“No, Spike,” said Luna, “you are much more than a mere means of assistance. You are a kind, sensitive, noble boy. Twilight Sparkle is lucky to have such a friend as you.”

“Then why-”

“Sometimes,” said Luna, cutting across him, “the heat of the moment or the burden of our tasks makes us forget important matters. Do you recall when Rarity and Pinkie Pie were left behind in the desert when your friends were pursuing Applejack in Dodge Junction?”

“Who could forget?” asked Spike, grimly. “Rarity was furious with Rainbow Dash for leaving them behind. Not so much with Fluttershy or Twilight, though, and Pinkie didn’t seem too mad.”

“They would never have forgotten them willingly, but in the midst of convincing Applejack to return, they merely overlooked that issue.”

“It’s still a big thing to overlook!” Spike protested. “How can you just leave your friends behind in the desert?!”

“I am not saying it is right, Spike,” said Luna, evenly. “I am merely saying that it happens. It is painful, but it happens. I have often felt that I was only noticed or remembered because I raised and lowered the moon. I was too blinded by my sadness and anger at this thought that I didn’t realize there was somepony who did care about me more than just for what I did.”

Spike looked up at her, comprehension dawning.

"Princess Celestia?"

“Correct. My sister loved me more than just for being the provider of night. I was merely too blinded by my own feelings to realize or appreciate that. It was a terrible mistake on my part.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again, fixing Spike with her wise gaze.

“Your friends love you, Spike. They appreciate you for who you are, not merely what you do. They merely forget this sometimes. You must realize this.”

Spike didn’t answer for a moment, then asked, in a small voice,

“What do I do, princess? I don’t want to stay mad at them, but unless I know for sure…”

“I understand, Spike,” said Luna, calmly. “You wish to hear it from them in person.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Speak with Twilight Sparkle. Help her to understand what you are going through.”

“But what if she gets mad at me?” Spike asked, pensively. “What if she hates me for blaming her?”

“I doubt that will happen,” said Luna, “but Spike, these feelings you hold...they must be dealt with, or nothing will ever change. Nothing good will come from bottling up these fears and doubts you hold back.”

Spike nodded sadly.

“I understand. Thank you, Luna.”

The regal alicorn smiled kindly down at him, and slowly raised herself into the air. The moon began to shine even brighter behind her as she rose up in front of it.

“When you awaken, it will be time. Just speak your mind. Everything will be all right.”

Luna closed her eyes, and her horn flared up. Everything began to dissolve around Spike, diminishing into all-encompassing whiteness. He wanted to call out to her, but she was already gone.

***

With a start, Spike jumped up in his bed. He looked around the bedroom. Owlowiscious was at his perch, but the sky outside was a dusky purple. It was evening.

“Man, how long was I out?” he asked himself.

“Hoo,” Owlowiscious hooted.

“Me,” Spike answered, almost irritably. “Do you see anyone else in here?”

“Hoo.”

“Exactly. Is Twilight back yet?”

“Hoo.”

“Twilight! You know who she is.”

“Hoo.”

“Oh, forget it...It’s no use trying to talk to you.”

Owlowiscious flapped down beside him and draped a wing across his shoulder. Spike looked up into his brown eyes, and could not mistake the look of concern in them.

“I’m ok, buddy,” he said, quietly. “I just...need to talk to Twilight. It’s important.”

Owlowiscious nodded and returned to his perch. Once settled, he turned his head completely around on his neck, making Spike wince.

“That’s still really creepy,” he said.

Almost immediately, Owlowiscious turned his head back around and hooted, pointing to the window with his wing.

“She’s back?” Spike asked, and received an affirmative nod from the owl. “Ok. I’ll just wait for her to come up, then. Wonder how she and the others have been doing with Maud. She’ll probably wanna brag all about it…”

The front door opened, and he heard Twilight’s hoofsteps as she came upstairs. Then, he heard her call up to him, and he was startled by the tone of her voice. It was soft, almost sad.

“Spike? Are you awake?”

“Yes,” Spike answered.

“Good. I need to talk to you.”

Twilight entered the bedroom. Was it Spike’s imagination, or had she been...crying? She was doing her darndest to disguise it, though. She was smiling, at the very least, but it didn’t feel like the right kind of smile. Something about it...unsettled him.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” Spike reciprocated.

There was an uncomfortable pause, and when neither of them spoke, Spike heard Princess Luna’s words echo in his head.

Speak with Twilight Sparkle. Help her to understand what you are going through...these feelings you hold...they must be dealt with, or nothing will ever change. Nothing good will come from bottling up these fears and doubts you hold back...Just speak your mind. Everything will be all right.

It had to be done. Spike took a deep breath, then said, in as firm a voice as he could manage,

“Twilight, before you say anything, there’s something important I need to tell you.”

Twilight looked slightly taken aback by this, even a little fearful, but she relaxed her features and nodded.

“Ok, Spike. I’m listening.”

Spike took another deep breath, rocking back and forth on his little feet. He wanted to spit it out, but the words didn’t seem to want to come. Meanwhile, Twilight stood by, one foreleg raised, waiting expectantly, perhaps even pensively. At last, in a rush, he blurted,

“Doyoureallyconsidermeyourfriend?”

Twilight blinked.

“What?” she asked.

Spike gulped, then said, slowly,

“Do you...you, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie...do you all really consider me your friend?”

A flicker of anxious surprise flashed through Twilight’s eyes. She looked like she’d been hit with a book to the muzzle.

“Spike...Why would you ever-?”

“Please, Twilight,” Spike interrupted, firmly, though it was touched with desperation. “Please, just let me finish, before I lose my nerve.”

“O-Ok,” said Twilight, in a quiet, nervous voice.

It was clear she was terrified that her little dragon friend was speaking in such a way.

“I know you all said you value me, even if my help isn’t needed with something to be done,” said Spike, starting slow, but picking up steam as he went on, “and I’m grateful for that, but is that all? I helped out at the wedding and at your coronation, but what then? Am I just useful and valued when something needs to be done? When there’s work to do? What about times when we can just relax and have fun? What about the National Dessert Competition? What about greeting Ms. Harshwhinny at the Crystal Empire? What about the tryouts for the Equestria Games? What about the Gala, when you all left me behind? What about your birthday party in Canterlot?!”

He spoke these last queries with shocking vehemence. Twilight recoiled, stunned. But Spike wasn’t done. He was now speaking with a bitter anger that only seemed to toughen his boyish voice, almost like he was once again maturing prematurely.

“And now, even today, when you all get to meet Pinkie Pie’s sister, you don’t even bother to let me know in person, or let me get to meet her at all! All I get from you is a note telling me to clean up the library in case she comes by! How do you think that makes me feel, Twilight? Knowing you get to meet a member of Pinkie’s family but I don’t?!”

Twilight’s mouth worked wordlessly, as if she were a fish out of water. Spike, however, did not give her a chance to interrupt.

“If that’s not enough, I heard you when you came up to check on me! I heard all about those rock candy friendship necklaces you were planning to make! Am I not a friend, then?! Were you planning to wait until you were all done with them, before rubbing them in my face?!”

“Spike-” Twilight tried to interject, but Spike shouted her down.

“I’ve had enough of it, Twilight! You never want me around unless you want help with something, whenever you need a guinea pig or some muscle to do things for you! You never take me along when it’s just time to have a little fun! I’m always one more than you need, or just a load to carry around, when I’m not just there so you can have a good laugh!”

“Spike!”

“You promised me you’d never send me away! Why would you promise me that if you were never going to let me do anything at all?!”

He panted heavily, his rant spent, feeling exhausted from having raged so hard. His throat hurt, and his brow was beaded with sweat. Twilight stood still as a statue, horror and hurt etched into her equine face, tears sparkling in her eyes. Owlowiscious sat with one wing clapped over his beak, stunned at what he had just witnessed. The dragon didn’t know if he felt better or worse than before he started. All he wanted was Twilight’s response. As he looked at her face, full of sadness and grief at just being yelled at by someone who was both a son and a little brother to her, he couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt for what he had just said, but he couldn’t go back now. It had been said, and he only wanted to hear what she had to say.

At last, in a voice choked with tears, Twilight spoke.

“Spike, I...I’m so sorry. You’re absolutely right. I was worried it might come to this on the way back, but I had no idea it was this bad.”

Spike blinked in confusion.

“What do you mean?...”

“It was when we were on our way back from seeing Maud off…”

***

The train had begun to chug its way back towards Ponyville. Everypony was in high spirits, but Pinkie was beyond jubilant.

“Girls, I can’t thank you enough for everything! I know it started off kind of rocky-”

Pinkie broke into a giggle, but stopped when Rainbow interjected.

“Please, Pinkie, no more rock puns.”

“Heheh, sorry. Anyway, I know it was a rough start, but I’m glad we all got to spend some time with Maud and make our necklaces after all.”

“We were happy to help, sugarcube,” said Applejack, kindly.

“Maud really is a sweet pony deep down, to care so much for you,” said Fluttershy.

Pinkie grinned warmly.

“Now, the only question is, what are you going to do with the remainder of your rock candy?” Rarity asked. “Even with the necklaces we made, we hardly made a dent in your stockpile.”

“I’ve had my fill of it, thanks very much,” said Rainbow, grimly. She rubbed her belly, which was still a little bloated from the candy feast she and the others endured prior to Maud’s arrival.

Pinkie tapped her chin in thought. She hadn’t actually decided on what to do with the leftovers of her rock candy cooking. She could put away candy like nopony’s business, but she still had a ton left. Well, perhaps not a ton, since a ton was 2,000 lbs., whereas the stockpile she had just barely reached 200.

“Spike might like some of it,” said Applejack. “Might not be much, but it’s a start.”

“Excellent idea, Applejack!” said Rarity. “After all, rock candy is, in a way, sort of like gems. Spikey-wikey would love it! What do you think, Twilight? ...Twilight?”

There was no answer. The others looked up at her, and were discomforted by what they saw. The alicorn’s face had gone pale, her eyes widening, the pupils diminished, giving her the appearance of one who had just seen a ghost.

“Twilight?” Fluttershy said, timidly. “Are you ok?”

“Spike…” Twilight murmured.

“What about him?” Applejack asked.

“Spike! I completely forgot…”

“We forgot Spike?!” Pinkie shouted, aghast. “Quick! Somepony turn this train around! Leave no dragon behind!”

“No, Pinkie!” Twilight snapped. “We didn’t leave Spike back at the station! We forgot him entirely!”

Five pairs of eyes blinked at her in confusion.

“What are you talking about, Twi?” Rainbow asked.

“We never brought Spike along to even meet Maud!” Twilight went on, now looking distressed. “Pinkie Pie wanted to introduce her to all of her best friends. Why didn’t we think of Spike?”

At last, dawning, unpleasant comprehension settled on the five friends. Horrified realization gave way to guilt and contrition. Pinkie’s mane lost some of its bounce, and all eyes were fixed to the floor.

“Oh dear,” said Fluttershy. “Twilight’s right…”

“Shoot,” Applejack murmured. “Ah hadn’t even realized. How did we forget Spike?”

“I...I never even thought about him…” Pinkie murmured. “When I rounded you girls up to help me test the rock candy and to meet Maud, I didn’t even consider Spike…I didn’t invite him to the picnic or anything...”

“Poor Spike,” Rarity said, sadly. “The little fellow must have been so lonely while we were trying to bond with Maud.”

“But, he at least knew what was going on, right?” Rainbow asked Twilight, in an almost pleading tone. “You told him about Maud coming to visit, didn’t you?”

Twilight bit her lip, averting her gaze from Rainbow Dash’s rose-colored eyes.

“Well...he was still asleep, and he’s usually cranky if I wake him up too early. Besides, I was in a rush to get ready for the picnic before Pinkie brought Maud from the train station, so I left him a note, asking him to tidy up the library in case Maud decided to pop in. After Maud left, I went to check on him. He looked like he was napping, so I decided not to bother him about it.”

This response was met with looks of mixed gloom and exasperation.

“I had a lot on my mind!” Twilight said, in a tone of defensive despair. “What with meeting Maud, finding out what she was really like, sitting through her extensive list of rock poetry, the obstacle course, rushing out to meet her at the rock farm...I never had time to tell Spike.”

“Did you even remember him during all that?” Rainbow asked, sternly. “You live in the same building with him! He’s not invisible!”

“Don’t you even start, Rainbow Dash!” Applejack snapped. “Like you had any more mind for him than Twi!”

Rainbow’s anger died at these words, leaving her with drooped ears and guilt-ridden eyes.

“We were all neglectful, forgetting Spike,” said Fluttershy. “It’s not just your fault, Twilight. Any one of us should have remembered him.”

“Oh, Spikey-poo,” Rarity whimpered. “He must think we’ve all taken him for granted, that we don’t value him anymore.”

“And after the whole ‘Power Ponies’ thing, too,” said Applejack, regretfully. “We’d made a point to prove to that Mane-iac that he weren’t anythin’ like that Humdrum he was thrown into the comic as, and how do we repay him? By leavin’ him behind…”

Twilight’s amethyst-purple eyes were full of tears, and one ran down her cheek.

“I’m an awful guardian,” she muttered. “I’m the only family he truly has, and I’ve been casting him aside in times I should be sharing with him. I took Owlowiscious with me to meet Maud, but not Spike, too...He doesn’t deserve that.”

There was a long, deep silence in the train car for several minutes. Then, Pinkie said,

“We need to make it up to him.”

“Of course,” said Rarity, “but how? How can we ever make up for abandoning him like this?”

The six friends once more fell into a deep silence, thinking hard about what they could do. Then, Twilight gave a slight gasp. A light bulb had clicked on inside her brain.

“Applejack, Rarity, you know how you said Spike might like the leftover rock candy?”

“Yeah,” said Applejack. “Why?”

“I think I know the perfect way to show Spike how much he really means to us. I only hope he isn’t too angry with us already...”

***

Spike didn’t know what to say. He just stared at Twilight, into her sad, contrition-filled eyes. So they had remembered him in the end. He was beginning to feel guilty for having yelled at her just now, but Twilight continued.

“It was thoughtless to forget you, Spike. I admit that, and I can only beg for your forgiveness. I only wish I knew how hurt you really were, not just from today, but by those past events you just told me about. I should have talked to you about them instead of just shunting you to the side like that. It was wrong of me, of all of us.

“The National Dessert Competition was an impromptu affair, since Pinkie asked us all to help get the Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness onto the train. There wasn’t time to ask if you wanted to come along, but I suppose we forgot in the end. As for going to the Crystal Empire to welcome Ms. Harshwhinny, even I felt it a little unfair that you hadn’t been invited. You were the one who saved the Crystal Heart, after all. I really should have asked Cadence about it, but I’m sure she never meant to neglect you on purpose. We didn’t think you’d be very interested in watching the tryouts, but I guess we didn’t consider how much you’d have wanted to be involved. As for the Gala, you were right about how we should have just spent the night together, as friends. It wasn’t fair for us to abandon you, but we were all too absorbed in what we wanted to do. I had only hoped that joining you at the donut shop would have made up for it. And as for my birthday party…”

Here Twilight seemed to try to fight back a fresh set of tears, adding a new dagger of guilt to Spike’s heart.

“It was the same thing as the Gala. When I got Rarity’s letter saying she couldn’t leave Canterlot, I guess I just shelved everything else in order to get ready to surprise her and move the party there. I don’t have a good excuse for not bringing you along then. It was thoughtless of me not to include you on a special day, a day you should have been a much bigger part of…”

Spike blinked rapidly. Now he was beginning to tear up.

“Twilight, I-”

“No, Spike,” said Twilight, holding up a hoof to silence him. “You don’t have to apologize. You’re right. We all should have been more sensitive to your feelings, most of all me. We want to help make up for it, though. Right, girls?”

Twilight turned to the doorway as she said this. To Spike’s astonishment, up the stairs and through the door came, one by one, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy, all wearing saddlebags, and all looking as guilty and sad as Twilight. They had all been listening in. For a moment, none of them spoke, and then, Pinkie said,

“Spike, I’m really super-duper sorry I didn’t invite you to meet Maud, or even to taste-test the rock candy. I was so wrapped up in getting everything ready and wanting everypony to get to know her that I forgot about you. It was really mean of me, and I’m sorry.”

“And we’re sorry fer everythin’ else you were so upset about,” said Applejack. “We had no idea you felt so strongly about them.”

“We were all a bunch of jerks, just forgetting you like that all those times,” said Rainbow Dash. “I’d have wanted you there to see the tryouts. I just...didn’t think. Big surprise, I know.”

“We should have respected your feelings more,” said Fluttershy. “I knew you were upset about the Crystal Empire thing, but all I did was make you work for me. I even offered a jewel as compensation. You just seemed so happy about it at the time, so I didn’t bother to...”

“You’ve done so much for us, Spikey-poo,” said Rarity, “and what have we done to repay you? I had already had you in mind when I secured those tickets to see Hinny of the Hills, especially since you helped me with my bags, but as for things like the Gala or Twilight’s birthday party...it was inexcusable to leave you out like that.”

Spike looked from one to the other, taking in the contrition and pleading for forgiveness in their faces. He wanted to stay mad at them, but at the sight of their expressions, he felt his resentment with them ebbing away, replacing itself with a kind of dull ache in his stomach, as if he’d eaten too much sour candy. He was regretting more than ever that he had shouted at Twilight, at them, since they had been listening. He wanted to apologize to them, to take back what he said, anything to remove the guilt from their faces.

“We know it’s not even close to making up for all we’ve neglected you from,” said Twilight, “but we hope it will be a start.”

One by one, the girls reached into their saddlebags and pulled something out. Spike felt his jaw drop in surprise. They had each made a rock candy necklace, all of them composed of pieces of Spike’s favorite flavors.

“These rock candy necklaces are a sign of friendship between only the closest and bestest of friends, Spike,” said Pinkie, smiling. “Maud and I traded them for years, and now I’ve included all of my friends in it. I just hope it’s not too late for you.”

At first, Spike felt a surge of happiness course through him, but it evaporated as quickly as it had come. That was it? Rock candy necklaces? After all that he had poured his heart and soul into saying, after letting loose this diatribe that had festered within him for ages, this was how they intended to repay him?!

His resentment at this meager gesture must have shown on his face, as Twilight said,

"I know this alone isn't enough, Spike, but that's not all we had in mind. Girls?"

Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack stepped forward.

"Spike," said Rarity, "tomorrow, I want you to come gem-hunting with me. Not for jewels to put into my dresses, but for you. We'll bring them around to Sugarcube Corner-"

"-So that Applejack and I can make you the biggest, most delicious jewel cake you've ever had!" concluded Pinkie, excitedly.

"To make up for the one you were gonna make when we were off meetin' Miss Harshwhinny," said Applejack.

Spike's jaw fell open again. A jewel cake? They were actually going to make him a jewel cake? Before he could fully process this, Fluttershy stepped forward.

"I know how much it hurt to send your phoenix Peewee away," she said, "but thankfully, I remember you telling me where his new home is. Whenever you're feeling up to it, I'm going to take you there to visit him. Who knows? Maybe they'll even stop for a bit at my cottage."

Spike's heart gave a leap. He knew he couldn't have kept his little phoenix friend, but he greatly missed him. Now Fluttershy was going to take him to see him and his family! Now it was Rainbow Dash's turn.

"I realized you're the only one of us who's never seen Cloudsdale. Well, the Wonderbolts Air Show is going to be playing there soon, and you're coming with me, Spike! It'll be great!"

Cloudsdale! The Wonderbolts! All of this was too good to be true! Then, Twilight stepped forward, the glimmer of fresh tears in her eyes.

"Spike...even though you're still a young dragon, you're no longer a baby. You're growing up, and I think it's time, even if it may take time to get it ready...You're going to have your own bedroom."

Spike's eyes popped wide open. Had he heard right?

"T-Twilight!" he stammered. "You don't have to-"

"I do have to," Twilight interrupted, gently, "and I want to. You deserve it, Spike, rather than just a little basket to call your own. You're part of this household and part of this family. You deserve to be treated as such. I'm only sorry I hadn't done this sooner."

She smiled down at him, as did Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie. Spike felt tears coming into his eyes. He didn't know what to say. All of these promised gifts for him...it was all too good to be true. He had never felt so grateful that these six ponies were his friends.

The girls stepped forward, one by one, to drape the necklaces around his neck, and then to give him a comforting hug. Applejack was first, and she embraced Spike as she would a little brother.

“You’ll always be family to me, sugarcube,” she said.

Rainbow Dash draped a wing around Spike and pressed him close.

“I’m not good with the sappy stuff,” she admitted, “but you’re worth it, big guy.”

Fluttershy clasped Spike tenderly, like a mother holding her child.

“I knew you were special the moment I met you,” she said. “Never forget that I still think you are.”

Pinkie at first seemed ready to give Spike one of her bone-crusher hugs, but she instead held him close, nuzzling his cheek.

“You’re my very best dragon friend, Spike,” she said. “No other dragon could ever be like you.”

Rarity took Spike lovingly in her forelegs and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“I’ve always been grateful for your kind heart, Spikey-wikey,” she said. “Any lady who has you for a friend is lucky.”

Twilight had just draped her own necklace around Spike’s neck, and was about to hug him in turn, when he held up a claw to stop her. One more doubt still lingered in his mind, and he had to speak it.

“How do I know it’ll stay like this?” he asked. “How can I be sure everything’s going to be better, and that it won’t just go back to the way it was after today?”

He had expected some hesitation on their part. What he didn’t expect was Twilight suddenly drawing a foreleg about him and drawing him close to her, so that he was nestled against her belly. She looked down at him with a tender, maternal smile.

“Because now we know what you’ve been going through, and we won’t make that same mistake again. We’re going to make sure you’re never left out again, if we can help it. If you ever have any doubts, just come talk to me, any of us. You can trust us, Spike. You’re our friend. We love you. I love you.”

And she bent down and kissed him on the forehead. Spike sniffled, his restraint going beyond breaking point. The tears flowed freely now as he threw his arms around Twilight’s middle, crying into her coat.

“I...I love you too…” he sobbed. “I love all of you...You’re really the best friends a dragon could ask for…”

Twilight clasped him gently to her, tears running silently down her cheeks as she comforted the baby dragon. The others moved in and joined the embrace, all drama, anger, and guilt forgotten. A misunderstanding had been laid bare and rectified, and they would make sure their little friend was never left out again. Cross their hearts, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in their eyes.