• Published 26th Dec 2016
  • 5,988 Views, 163 Comments

The Secrets We Keep - BlazzingInferno



Spike and Rarity each have their secrets. Sharing them might be the best decision they've ever made.

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Dragon Dance

The cavernous throne room Spike once presided over had vanished. In its place was a throng of yaks and dragons that reached from one wall to the other and from the front doors to the dais. The only break in the shifting sea of dancing, singing, and carousing bodies was a pair of long banquet tables that nearly split the room in two. Even now, several hours into the party, food remained in ample supply. Everything from hay to fried vegetables to a ruby cake was up for grabs at one of the two tables, and grab he had.

Spike leaned against the throne’s back and patted his bulging stomach. Sitting up here, overseeing the party instead of getting lost in it, felt more lordly and important than babysitting the empty palace ever could, scepter or no scepter. Best of all, he still wasn’t doing it alone. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Rarity, that was some amazing negotiating.”

Rarity, who’d been seated next to him for the entirety of the party, touched a napkin to her lips and gave a long, contented sigh. “Thank you, Spikey-Wikey. I must say I had my doubts about my plan working; chivalry should always come before conflict, but… well… finding two ounces of chivalry in that crowd might take a very, very long time.”

He followed her gaze to the party taking place before them, where dragons and yaks were brushing past each other like grinding stones in a wheat mill. “Yeah. I’m glad we’re way up here. And I’m glad I stuck the spicy stuff the yaks brought way over by the water; we don’t need any more fire-breathing accidents.”

“Indeed, indeed. Thank you for keeping your ‘demonstration of friendship’ easy to remedy with a pair of scissors.”

He took a long, slow look at her, from the now-clipped tip of her tail, to her brushed coat, to her styled mane. All traces of their high speed flight and dusty landing were gone. He opened his mouth and quickly closed it again. There wasn’t much of anything left to say, not since he’d blurted out his deepest feelings and gotten a ‘maybe’ in response. “So…”

“Thank you for being so understanding and patient.” She hadn’t taken her eyes off the crowd.

“Huh?”

“You’re thinking about our conversation from this morning, aren’t you?”

His gaze dropped to the collection of dirtied plates at his feet. “Yeah.”

“I don’t have an answer for you. Even if we’d spent the entire day sitting here idly like we originally planned, I still wouldn’t.”

“That’s… okay. I won’t ask about it anymore.”

She patted his shoulder and spoke with a touch of sadness. “I’m sorry, Spikey. I hope you know I’m not doing this to be cruel.”

He reached up and touched her hoof just before it left his shoulder. “I know, I really do. A-and I’m still glad we talked and everything. It kind of made today work. If we hadn’t opened up so much, I don’t think I would’ve believed you really wanted me to set your tail on fire.”

“ ‘Want’ is too strong a word for that, but ‘need’ might do. The important thing is that the yaks are going home tomorrow morning, and so are we.”

Spike twisted himself from side to side, eliciting a few pops from his spine. Hefting Rarity’s luggage wouldn't be so bad since she'd used up so much yarn on Ember’s robe. “I’m gonna go get one more piece of that ruby cake. Do you want anything?”

Rarity’s plate collection arranged itself into a neat stack. “Mmm, perhaps I’ll go find the rest of those roasted chestnuts. Some of the yak food really isn’t so bad.”

“As long as you’ve got enough water, I guess. Want me to get you some?”

“That’s quite all right. I’ll meet you back here?”

“Sounds great.”

Spike hopped off the throne shortly before Rarity did the same. With a plate tucked under his arm, he approached the constantly-moving wall of partygoers. He dodged left and right, stepping over dragon tails, under yak beards, and past more sites of spilled food and drink than he cared to count. A minute later, the edge of the nearest banquet table came into view. He slipped between the table legs and ran underneath. Claws and hooves thundered on either side of his private highway, and the occasional spiked tail obstructed it. Still he ran, plate in hand, for the far end of the table and the enormous cake waiting on top of it. It didn’t matter that he was already full; dessert didn’t count towards a full stomach, at least that was his working theory, one he couldn’t prove without some more experimentation.

He rose above the table’s edge, right next to the cake. He set his plate next to it and grabbed the serving knife. A thin but gem-heavy slice plopped onto his plate, along with an extra helping of the garnish gems for good measure. No sooner had he put the knife down than someone slammed into his back, knocking him against the table and nearly sending his precious cake flying. Spike glared at the offending dragon tail and ducked back under the table, sugary cargo in hand.

“You know,” he said to the cake slice, “there’s no way you’re gonna survive the trip back to the throne. Might as well just eat here.”

He took a great sniff of the mineral-heavy frosting and leaned in for a bite.

“H-hey, Rarity!” Ember shouted.

Spike paused mid-bite. He looked up and saw Ember from the knees down, her robe trailing behind her as she navigated the crowd.

Rarity appeared next, everything above her cutie mark hidden by the table’s edge. “Good evening, Princess Ember. Thank you again for allowing Spike and I to use your throne for the party.”

“Uh, sure. I can’t blame you for wanting to keep your distance; my tail’s been stepped on more times than… Anyway, could I… uh… talk to you about something private? It’s not like anyone’s going to hear us here.”

“Of course, darling.”

Spike froze, frosting still on his lips.

Ember scuffed her feet on the floor. “Why does Spike pal around with you ponies so much? When I asked him to be my steward while I traveled, I didn’t think he’d bring a pony along.”

“My being a pony has nothing to do with it. Spike and I have been dear friends for years, and when he told me how he was going to be sitting in an empty palace with nothing to do for days on end, I gladly accepted his invitation to keep him company. Based on your encounter with the Yaks, surely you can see that one’s outer appearance has little to do with what’s on the inside.”

“Yeah, well that’s not going to do him any favors if he ever decides to live with his own kind. That’s actually why I wanted to talk with you. I really want to ask Spike to stick around, maybe even move into the palace… but I can’t figure out how to say it.”

Rarity took a step back. “Excuse me? I fail to see why Spike would ever leave his home in Ponyville, nor would I want him to!”

Ember stepped closer. “Look, Rarity. I get that you’re friends and all, but Spike’s not a pony. He’s a dragon at an age where he can do and be whatever he wants; he wouldn’t have been summoned to make a challenge for the scepter if he wasn’t. And even without that,” she leaned in, the downward-facing tips of her horns coming into Spike’s view, “I can smell it on him: brains, maturity, opportunity… He could have stuff here that he’s never going to with ponies. If he got himself a hoard of treasure he wouldn’t be so small, and once the other dragons see how great the dragon lord treats him, he might even get over his… other problem.”

Spike gulped. Gems slid around his plate as his hands shook. What could possibly be wrong with him?

Rarity’s voice lost its amicable tone. “Princess Ember, I assure you Spike is very much interested in staying among his pony friends, and I can’t imagine what ‘problem’ you’re referring to. Spike is a dragon, yes, but that has no bearing on his living happily and comfortably in Ponyville. The sooner you realize that, the better.”

Ember’s feet twisted and her claws scraped against the floor. “Ugh, I guess you wouldn’t understand… Look, Spike’s a dragon, but… right now he’s not much of a dragon. Everybody knows he’s poor and weak since he’s so small. That part’s easy enough to fix, but he… he doesn’t have any wings. He’s from the lowest of the social classes, the kind that some dragons think are a complete waste of space. Sure that might not matter while he’s living around ponies, but how long is he going to put up with not having one of those magical marks that you all have, or being smaller than everyone? I’m learning to look past this kind of stuff, but other dragons? I could really help Spike out if he’d stick around, and… and he could really help me, too. Ruling a whole kingdom is harder than I thought… it wouldn’t be so bad with him next to me.”

Rarity’s forelegs left the ground, no doubt putting her and Ember at eye level. Her voice sliced the air like a knife. “You, Princess, clearly have a lot to learn about Spike, and about friendship in general! Goodnight!”

As Rarity turned and trotted away, Spike stared down at his plate. The small mountain of baked gems he’d amassed looked about as appetizing as a pile of dirt. His stomach rumbled angrily, as if to promise him a world of regret should he eat one more bite. He set the plate down and started walking, each footfall tugging at his increasingly vocal stomach. He felt as if he’d swallowed a bowling ball dipped in hot sauce.

He ran a hand down his wingless back as he traversed the underside of the table. His pace quickened as Ember’s words nipped at his heels and tore at his heart. How could her saying ‘not much of a dragon’ hurt so much? How could that undercut everything he’d told Rarity about himself just that morning? Was it because another dragon was saying it, a dragon that was supposed to be his friend?

Soon the still-vacant throne was behind him, as were the wild sounds of the party. Slurred yak songs and dragon laughter echoed up and down the hallway as he left the enormous throne room, on his way to the guest chamber Ember had prepared for him. All she’d really done is have it dusted. His own reflection stared up at him from the polished marble floor, perfectly fitting Ember’s description: a little wingless runt, incapable of being a real dragon or a real pony.

“But that’s not true,” he whispered to his reflection, “right?”

Only bad memories answered him.

His sleeping bag interrupted his downward-facing view, one of the two objects in the otherwise empty room, the other being Rarity’s gargantuan camping tent. A real dragon wouldn’t need either; that had to be why this guest room was just an empty expanse of marble, like a miniature version of the throne room, right down to the same slitted windows that admitted a tiny fraction of the sun or moon’s light.

His sleeping bag felt warm once he crawled into it. Not as warm as his bed at home, or as soft. Still, it would do for the night. Tomorrow they’d go home just like Rarity said. He’d even have one more day with her all to himself, even if it involved a bunch of luggage piled on his back.

“Spikey, are you in here?”

Spike cringed and hid his face in his blanket. He hadn’t even heard the clip-clop of her hooves over the distant sound of the party.

“Ah, there you are,” she was closer now, a few paces shy of standing over his sleeping bag, “I was getting worried when you didn’t come back to the throne.”

Spike steadied his voice. “Oh, y-yeah. I just felt really tired all of the sudden, a-and we’re walking home tomorrow and everything…”

“I suppose it is getting rather late, and without you for company I’d just as soon have nothing to do with that self-serving, tasteless excuse for a dra—err, party.”

Spike gave a small nod. “O-okay. Um… goodnight, Rarity.”

“Goodnight, Spikey.”

Tears filled his eyes as her hoofsteps retreated. “R-Rarity?”

“Hmm? Is something wrong?”

Everything was wrong, all except for her. “Why… why are you such a good friend to me when I'm… Why didn't you just tell me no this morning?”

For several seconds, silence was the only answer. At last she came to the edge of his sleeping bag. “I presume you overheard my conversation with Ember?”

“I-I didn’t mean to! I just—”

He could almost hear her eyes rolling. “Pay her no mind, Spike. She clearly doesn’t know the real you, no matter how badly she might want to.”

“B-but… Can I tell you another secret?”

“Need you even ask?”

He took a deep breath, knowing he’d need it. “The stuff she said… I-I kind of worry about it… a lot. Anybody can cook, or clean, or take notes, but that’s all I’m good at… and who wants that stuff for a cutie mark anyway?”

“Spike—”

“I’m just this short, little… thing. I’m not really a dragon, and I’m not a pony either. I can’t ever be the big, strong hero I want to be. I try not to think about that much, but… when somebody else says it…”

Her hoof rested against his sleeping bag, pressing on his back. “Stop that thinking this instant, darling. Ember merely sees Spike the dragon, not Spike the kind, Spike the thoughtful, and certainly not Spike the brave and glorious.”

“I'm still Spike the dragon, too… the tiny, wingless dragon…”

Her hoof left him. “Wait right there. If telling you the truth isn’t working, I’ll simply have to show you.”

He heard her hoofsteps echo into the distance, presumably towards her tent. She’d sounded strangely matter-of-fact, and yet he had no idea what she was planning.

Her hoofsteps returned, but her hoof on his back didn’t. Instead, the sheet rose from his face, revealing a hovering makeup pen.

“Hold still, Spike.”

“What’re you—”

And then the pen went to work, nearly making him laugh as it tickled his cheek, his forehead, and his nose. Just when he couldn’t hold back his laughter any longer, the pen stopped. He took a deep breath and sat up to face his attacker. “What was tha—”

Instead of Rarity, he saw his reflection in a mirror. His face was now decorated with miniature versions of all his friend’s cutie marks, including Rarity’s and Twilight’s on his temples.

Rarity stepped to the side of the mirror, her smile earnest. “You, my dear dragon, are in no need of a cutie mark, because your special talent couldn’t be more obvious to every pony you know. No matter what any of us needs, you’re there. No matter if it’s saving Equestria for the umpteenth time, shelving library books, or sending letters to faraway ponies, you’re there. You’re always there when we need you, because your special talent is helping others succeed with their own.”

Before he could so much as gasp, she set the mirror aside and hugged him. “Just remember what you told me this morning. You’re simply Spike, and that’s plenty. You needn’t be any more or less than that.”

Spike didn’t know what to say. He returned the hug instead, holding onto her as strongly as he dared, hypnotized by the regular thumping of the heartbeat traveling through her chest to his ear. Hopefully she wouldn’t mind a few stray tears wetting her coat. “Th-thanks. Thanks so much, Rarity. I’ll carry all the luggage tomorrow when we leave. I’d carry it and you for a thousand miles!”

She giggled. “Carrying a portion of it to the nearest train station will be quite enough.”

The question surged through him, the question he said he wouldn’t ask again. He’d never felt closer to her in any sense. If only she felt the same. If only she’d say yes. If only he could pour his heart out now as easily he had that morning.

Instead her forelegs withdrew and the rest of her followed, save for her radiant smile. “Goodnight, Spikey-Wikey.”

He nodded, disappointed and elated all at once. She was five paces away before he found his voice. “Goodnight, Rarity. I… I couldn’t do this without you… I wouldn’t want to, either!”

She froze for a moment, and then quickened her pace. “Goodnight.”