“Anything else I can do for you, oh perfect one?” Spike asked.
He and Rarity were standing in Carousel Boutique's backroom amidst Rarity's usual mess, and Rarity was working on her latest masterpiece. It was a simple dress, yes, but to her, it was more than that; it was an opportunity. She was on the brink of something new to the world of fashion, and she would be damned before she let such an opportunity pass her by. Spike had been happy to help, of course: perhaps a little too happy.
Something in Spike's tone made Rarity pause. He seemed to be a bit more attentive than normal, true, and she was grateful for that. He didn't sound that much different than normal, but she found it to be more unnerving today. Had she just grown more accustomed to his mannerisms over time, and today was an exception? Surely, it had to just be her imagination. She had been fretting for hours about where to make a simple stitch, and she knew she was pushing her stress limits just a bit.
“Just a moment, Spike.” Rarity shook off the strange moment and affixed a few more pins to the dress Hoity Toity had commissioned. It was highly decorated, even by her standards, and she was quite certain that most anypony who looked at it would cringe a little from all the sparkles and sequins she had added. However, whoever he was obtaining this dress for, he wanted nothing but the most fabulous of all the fabulous dresses the world could provide—so naturally, he had come to Rarity for help. She smiled, trying to keep herself from drooling as she thought of the flood of bits this one dress would provide just from publicity. She had never imagined she would be making a dress for a stallion, but if Hoity Toity's client thought this was going to be the next big thing, who was Rarity to judge? Fashion waited for nopony, and she preferred to be leading the herd.
“Spike, be a dear and grab me some more rubies, will you?” A few more gems were all she needed, just to be sure.
“At once, milady!” Spike saluted and dashed off. He rummaged through Rarity's things in search of more gems, tossing various nicknacks aside in the process. He had gotten more and more efficient at fetching things for her as time went on; the result of hours of practice and memorization, Rarity supposed. At times, Spike almost felt more like her assistant than Twilight's, particularly since he'd returned from his little outing among his fellow dragons. More than once, she'd sent him back home after a day of helping her, only to find he'd only made it a few steps outside the Boutique's door before falling asleep on his feet. She smiled, thinking of the sight of Spike snoring on the ground.
“No. I must focus,” she muttered. As she worked, her expert magic continued to pull the dress together almost without effort. Although she still needed to give her efforts her full attention, she found her thoughts drifting to Spike's behavior once again.
He had been spending more and more time around her since he had tried to follow the Great Dragon Migration, to the point where she had begun to worry: was Spike starting to reject all of dragonkind in favor of... her? The little darling would no doubt make some lady dragon very happy some day, but Rarity couldn't help but worry that he was making a broad generalization about his fellow dragons based on the ones he had met so far. True, her own experience with dragons had been less than pleasant, but if Spike was any indication, dragons could be quite the little gentlep—er, gentlemen under the correct circumstances. Spike had just been unlucky; for his sake, Rarity hoped that was true.
Even though Rarity was quite happy to see him content living among ponies, she worried for his future. Dragons were long-lived, or so she had heard, but Spike seemed to be behaving a bit more like a pony each day. Eventually, he was bound to learn that some differences just couldn't be overcome. After all, differences and diversity were what made Equestria great. It had, after all, been a coming together of different ponies that had given rise to the nation in the first place.
“Got 'em!” Spike called as he dashed over with a load of rubies hugged to his chest.
“My word, I hadn't realized I even had that many left! You are quite the little helper, Spike-er...” She bit off the end of “Spikey-wikey” and noticed a quick flicker of a frown pass over Spike's face for a moment. Had he noticed?
However, Spike's face immediately brightened and reddened. As Rarity took the gems in her magical grip, he scratched his head and leaned against a wall, striking a slouched pose that strove for “cool” and “humble” but attained neither. “Aw, it's nothing.”
Rarity continued to work on the dress, pouring all her creative energies into getting it done. After all, she did have other orders to deal with later this afternoon; she only hoped she would have the time to work on them afterward.
She had the materials. She had the design in her head. All it took now was just some elbow grease. As she worked, attaching dozens upon dozens of rubies in strategic locations, she became more and more aware of Spike's lovestruck gaze on her. Rarity began to sweat, partially from the exertion of creating a fabulous work of art and partially from her mental picture of Spike.
She knew full well that when she turned, he would just be standing there, staring at her with a vacant expression. It was sort of adorable to imagine the little dear with a crush on her, but such a thing could never work in practice, of course. Had he been acting like this all along? Idly, Rarity wondered at what point exactly she had become accustomed to such behavior. The thought that she had ignored this for so long spoke uncomfortable things about her character.
“Spike, dear?” Rarity asked without turning.
Rarity suppressed a shudder at the oozing admiration dripping off his voice.
“Might you, eh...” Rarity's mind blanked. What could she have him do? It didn't seem fair to keep him here and away from whatever Twilight was doing today, particularly if all she had left to do was simply assembling the thing. Besides, some time away from her might do him good. “I do believe that that shall be all I need for today.” She turned, putting on her best starry, half-lidded gaze for him. “Thank you ever so much for helping today, Spike. I don't know what I would have done without you.”
He nodded, looking bowled over by such praise. Spike remained in the room, leaning forward at a slight angle, enraptured by Rarity's every slight movement.
Rarity shifted her weight uncomfortably. “Er, Spike... what I'm trying to say is that you could go back to helping Twilight. I'm sure she's got a lot to do today; after all, Princess Celestia has been calling her to the castle more and more, and I'm positively certain that whatever it is, it must be quite serious.” Rarity put a hoof to her chin in thought, considering what top-secret things Twilight was doing for the princess, only to dismiss the tangent just as swiftly.
Spike waited, staring for several long moments after she had finished speaking. “No, that's fine,” he said, sounding half-awake, “I'll just stay here. Twilight said she would be okay today, so I'll just stay here in case you need any more help.” He drifted over to a cushion and plopped down, his half-lidded eyes fixed on Rarity.
Rarity searched for a response, but came up empty, her brows twitching as her eyes fluttered about. “Well... all right, then.” With a smidgeon of hesitation, she returned to her work. Her hooves and horn moved in unison as she continued to work on the dress. All she needed was just to affix a few more gems, and her masterwork would be complete. With infinite patience, she floated the final gem into place with a gentle push. “And... done!” She stepped back and admired her work. “Well, Spike? What do you think?” She bounced in glee. Seeing a completed work always filled her with joy; although the road to get there was often hard, she loved it when a fashionable plan came together.
Spike stared across the room and over the dress-wearing ponyquin at her. “Oh, it's fantastic...” he murmured, not bothering to take his eyes from Rarity's sweaty form.
Her eyes narrowed. He wasn't paying any attention to her creation at all; he was only present for her. As nice as a girl could feel from such attention, it irked her that all her hard work was being ignored. If this was the level his affections had grown to, she had to take action. His indifference was an affront against fashion, and such things could not be ignored.
Rarity trotted across the room and bent down to Spike's level. She spoke, trying to keep her voice warm, yet firm. “Spike, we need to talk.”
His eyes shot open in delight at being addressed in such a direct fashion. “Oh, sure! What about?”
She glanced at his trembling hands askance; she didn't feel comfortable looking into his eyes. “About... us.”
He tried, and failed, to suppress a giant grin. “U-us?! W-w-what about us, Rarity?” His breathing quickened, and she was quite sure that his little heartbeat had quickened.
She paused. How to attack this? She didn't want to crush his feelings, so perhaps beating around the bush a little was in order. “Spike, has Twilight had a talk with you about the birds and the bees?” In all likelihood, she realized, that had probably sounded like an awful non-sequitor to poor Spike, and her expectations of him knowing what she was talking about and getting the hint were rather low. She couldn't imagine Twilight approaching such a subject in the first place. Even if she had tried to explain such a thing, Rarity couldn't imagine Twilight delivering it any way other than with a deep blush on her face as she tried to keep it as academic and clinical as possible. She could be so unromantic at times.
Still, one could always hope for an easy solution.
He blinked. “That kinda sounds like something Fluttershy would talk about, not Twilight.”
Just as often, the easy way out was not an option. She paused, considering how to remain ladylike and elegant while broaching such a subject. “Er, that is to say... you're a strapping young dragon, and I'm quite certain that...”
“I sure am!” Spike puffed himself up, trying to look as manly as possible.
Rarity rubbed a hoof on her head, trying to ward off a looming headache. “Look, Spike... how about this. You are a dragon, and I am a pony. Yes?”
He nodded his head, although his dull-eyed, vacant expression made it clear he had no idea what she was driving at. “Uh-huh.”
“Good. So, then, you understand.”
“Uh... no.” Spike scratched his head, a sheepish grin crawling across his face.
Rarity resisted the urge to break something; her left eyebrow twitched in annoyance. “Spike, darling, you know I love having you around...” She noted with dismay his face lighting up at her use of the word “love.” “However, I can't help but fear that you may be spending time with me a bit more than might be entirely healthy.”
Spike scrunched up his face in confusion and folded his arms. “Too much time? With you? Naw, Rarity, that's just not possible! I mean, you're... awesome!” He laughed the little nervous laugh Rarity had come to know very well; it always meant Spike was trying too hard to be “casual.”
Rarity sighed and patted him on the head as she realized that explaining this might take more time than she had thought. “I'm afraid that is just the sort of thing I am talking about, Spike. Here, have a seat,” she said.
He sat down, still looking perplexed over the direction the conversation was going. Rarity sighed and carefully floated over a cushion, fluffed it for a few moments so it was precisely to her specifications, and sat, careful to get her entire body on the overstuffed cushion; Rarity would brook no possibility of discomfort if there was another way.
“Now Spike, I am quite certain that you think rather well of me... well, I know so.”
“Aw, gosh.” He blushed and scratched the back of his head. “You noticed, huh?”
She smiled, a warm memory surfacing. “Well, words that could have been the last a lady ever hears while she is falling to the ground do tend to stick out. I know you have a crush on me, Spike, and it's very sweet.”
He curled into a little ball, his tail riding up as his face burned with embarrassment. In that moment, he looked his age: a baby dragon, trying to be bigger and older than he really was.
She felt her heart melt a little at the sight. Somehow, she doubted the little fellow knew just how cute he really could be, but telling him would probably do more harm than good in this situation. Spike could be insecure and full of false bravado sometimes, but she had no doubt in her mind that he'd realize his true strengths eventually.
However, to realize that potential, nothing could hold him back. Including her.
“W-well, Rarity... you're just very pretty. And smart. I really... I mean...” He paused. “I wanna be your knight!” he blurted out, only to cover his face with both claws. He pried a small hole in his own defense against the sight of her, fearful of what reaction he would behold.
Rarity, for her part, kept her serene smile on her face, although her mind was reeling. Her knight? She wasn't sure if that was obsessive or romantic. Then again, there was a fair amount of overlap between the two at times, or so fiction had told her.
“Spike, that is a very noble thing to want to do. But...”
“But?” He cringed again, fearing what was to come.
Rarity reached over and tilted his head up with a hoof. Then, trying to be as gentle as possible, she gazed into his eyes and said, “Spike. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about dragons, but I have to admit, I was a little nervous around Twilight when I saw you followed her everywhere. I had always heard dragons were nasty, uncouth brutes, and even though you were just a baby dragon, I assumed you would be the same way.”
He tried to shy away, but she cradled his head gently, coaxing him into looking at her.
She chuckled. “However, you proved to be quite the little gentleman. I did—and do—appreciate all the help you give me around the Boutique from time to time. Really, I should hire some help one of these days, if ever I could find someone who could live up to my standards... but that's besides the point, I suppose.
“But Spike, like it or not, we're different species, and things just couldn't work. I know you haven't had the best of luck with other dragons so far, but if one dragon can turn out this adorable and refined, I'm sure others can too. Don't worry, you'll find... somedragon... someday, but it's not healthy to almost... drool over someone of a different species. Not that you drool, mind; such a thing would be most ungentlemanly. It's just that sometimes I can't help but worry that you're focusing a little too hard on, well... trying to be my knight.
“Don't worry, Spike. You'll find a nice lady dragon one day, and I hope I'm around to meet her. I'm not the only princess out there, Spikey-wikey.”
Spike, who had been silent, spoke up a tiny, fragile voice. “Does this mean... we can't be friends?” Tears gathered in the edge of his eyes.
She scoffed. “Oh, Spike. We can always be friends.” She wrapped him in a warm embrace. “We'll always be friends. Just think about finding some dragon friends one day too, okay?” Gently, she stroked his head spines.
Spike hugged back with all the strength he had in his tiny arms. “Yeah... friends...”
Rarity felt tiny patches of moisture on her coat, and she hugged him closer. “Don’t worry, Spike. You’ll find your princess someday.”
"I hope so, milady," he said weakly. "I hope so..."