• Published 6th Jul 2012
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Cutie Mark Catastrophes - Wintergreen Diaries



Cutie Mark Crusaders find their marks and look to new horizons; taming colts for themselves.

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Melody of the Heart

Chapter 21: Melody of the Heart

The town of Ponyville lay still, wrapped in the final tender moments of Luna’s embrace as the moon dipped towards the horizon, bidding a fond farewell to the slumbering ponies and making way for her sister’s glory. Being one to whom staying awake into the wee hours of delirium was an average evening, going to bed early as he had the night before was a luxury rarely bestowed upon the young dragon and not one to be squandered. Even so, it was still an hour yet till daybreak when Spike awoke, stretching fitfully and heaving a massive yawn as he slowly eased himself upright, concluding with a contented sigh and the expulsion of a tuft of green flame. Perplexed by the calm of his heart, Spike sat stroking his covers thoughtfully as his mind drifted back to matters of the previous evening; a mire of mixed emotions and unsurety, all surrounding a little filly who made his heart skip.

Long had he pondered Twilight’s words, and Cerulean’s as well, making full use of the time that it took him to fall asleep at such an early hour the prior day. In the end, he’d come to realize that it was his own silence that had allowed Sweetie Belle to drive him bonkers with her pursuit of her first kiss fantasy, and if they were to grow together as friends and more, he’d have to make both apology and petition. Spike doubted it would be pleasant, and he was loathe to do anything that would make a filly sad, let alone one whose very smile shifted the steady rhythm of a simple heart to that of an erratic bongo solo, but he trusted Twilight more than anypony, even Sweetie Belle, and if anypony knew about friendship, it was her.

Friendship: deep, strong, and unbreakable. I should have known it wouldn’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it; all I have to do is look at Twilight to know that. That’s what I want most, Sweetie Belle... and hey! If you and I get married someday, that’d be amazing too. Sweetie Belle didn’t know just how similar she and Spike really were in regards to the wonder with which they held one another, and the dragon flopped back into bed as excitement coursed through his veins with an intoxicating mix of adrenaline and affection. His mind danced from memories of her laughter to dreams of a future spent together, and it wasn’t until he stopped to ponder how often he’d shared the feelings filling his heart that he began to calm, the sobering reply to his unvoiced question being one of regret.

I wonder how many times I’ve wanted to tell her how much she means to me, only to get all confused and mess it up? It wouldn’t have mattered to him if he could point to just one time where he’d managed to really show how he felt, but aside from the time he’d held the filly while she sobbed, cut deep when her honest intentions had brought nothing but her sister’s ire, he couldn’t name a single time he’d managed to be the type of dragon he felt Sweetie Belle deserved. I’ll find a way, Sweetie Belle. Just give me some time to think, and I’ll find a way.

With a spry leap and a mildly shocking amount of energy, the dragon left the warmth of his blankets and quietly tiptoed downstairs, taking care not to wake the indigo fiend. Not one to think on an empty stomach, Spike made straight to the kitchen to treat himself to a little brain food. Casting a glance upstairs for fear of being discovered, he fudged on the rules and took a seat on the couch, where he pondered his dilemma over a bowl of ice cream. The task of downing his morning meal didn’t last long in the face of his growing appetite, and thus he turned his eyes towards a different task as he licked his bowl clean, rinsed his dish, and returned to the main floor.

“Typical Twilight...” he chuckled softly, letting his gaze sweep over the cluttered room. There were a lot of books to re-shelf after a typical day of Twilight trying to juggle raising a foal and studying, but Spike met the waiting chore not with a groan, but a grin as he stooped to collect the first tome. The familiar activity allowed his mind to continue its rumination in the background, and it quickly became more of a therapy than a chore. Spike was soon humming to himself as he rolled around on the ladder, getting things ready to be ravaged.

He had just shelved a particularly bland looking tome before taking a second glance, pulling it out and checking the cover again. “Music Theory: Vol. 1” he read aloud, strangely enthralled with the idea. There’s something about this book... It’s like... it’s calling to me. Sliding down the ladder, he quietly shuffled over to the couch and cracked open the book with rising excitement, skipping past the introduction and diving right into chapter one. He read the first paragraph. He read the second. He almost even read the third, and then came to a brilliant deduction.

“Boooring.” Slapping the cover closed, Spike shelved the mass of wasted paper and continued his cleanup, but the dense lines of educational nonsense produced a strange yearning that refused to be ignored. Exasperated, he located the tome, pulled it halfway out, and shoved it back into place. “I’m not gonna learn anything from that,” he reasoned to himself, dismounting the ladder and beginning to pace. “I already know how to read sheet music, and writing it is just as simple. Why the hay do they need four hundred pages telling... whatever it was I just read?” Then, like Pinkie Pie or a freight train on well-oiled wheels, the identity of the strange urge within his mind blindsided the dragon without much warning.

“Music theory... music... of course, the piano!” Spike exclaimed, feeling slightly ridiculous that he hadn’t recognized the desire sooner for what it was. “I don’t want to read about music, I wanna make it!” Until he’d realized how it had given him and Sweetie Belle a way to bond, Spike had never held much of a passion for music. However, the time they’d spent together mashing keys, singing both properly and with reckless abandon, had made the hobby become something a little more meaningful to the dragon eagerly plodding down the steps into Twilight’s laboratory. Leaping onto the bench and cracking his knuckles, Spike gave his claws a wriggle, glanced at the pages waiting to be played, and snubbed them with a cheerful bit of improv.

Simple well-rehearsed stanzas quickly shifted towards the more complex as Spike became lost in the music. It was a common ground that allowed two young hearts of completely different upbringing and background to touch, and a gentle smile lit Spike’s features as he paused with his claws held in place, savoring the melody drifting upwards. “I wish Sweetie Belle were here. I really love hearing her sing...” He wasn’t alone in that, and he knew it. Sweetie Belle had actually garnered quite a following from her nights spent sharing her talent with all who would listen, singing for the tavern folk and even sometimes in the middle of the streets, wherever her heart desired.

She could probably have any colt she wanted in this town. Hay, she could probably even wow some colt from a classy, wealthy family in Canterlot, but no, she chose a tongue-tied dragon. His quiet smile grew a little wider as he pulled his claws away and just savored the filly’s favor. The dragon’s wistful revery came to an abrupt end at the sudden sound of discordant notes reverberating throughout the library, courtesy of an indigo cannonball who proposed with no great amount of subtlety that she’d like Spike to continue.

“Keep makin’ musics!” Dawn squealed, leaping onto the far left of the keys and startling Spike from his stool as deep, bassy notes made him quite certain of his wakefulness. Confused as to why the maestro was sleeping on the job after she’d so kindly given him a wakeup call, Dawn turned around amongst sporadic chords pressed by her delightfully musical hooves and peered down at Spike with a look that crossed perplexion and consternation. “What’re you doin’ on the floor? Can’t play like that.”

“I can’t play with you standing on the keys, either, Dawn,” Spike countered, chuckling as he rubbed his ringing ears. “Twilight doesn’t like you up this early, you know. You get all cranky later when you’re up this soon.”

“But... but you were making pretty musics...” the filly pouted, flopping down with a comical whang and dispelling a measure of her worries for a moment as she turned and stared at her flank. “My rump makin’ magic music.” Heartened by the dragon’s giggles, Dawn clambered down next to him as he took a seat and gathered her mane together, holding it over her lap like a blanket. “Just a little more listen? Please?”

“Ok, but only if you’re quiet!” Spike agreed, immediately stifling an excited squeal with a claw. “Oh, and can you go close the door? We wouldn’t wanna wake Twilight, now would we?”

“No like tired mommy. Mommy gets all rawr~!” Dawn agreed, growling softly and waving her hooves wildly for a moment before quietly making her way up to close the door, taking each step one at a time during the ascent to maximize her stealth. Spike waited patiently while she reached the summit, and the click of the latch signalled the pounding return of tiny hooves as Dawn scampered back down. Spike’s outstretched claw and warning came just a moment too late as the filly’s flowing mane, precious as it was infamous, was tread under hoof and led to her mode of descent shifting from running to tumbling for the last few steps.

“Dawn, are you ok?”

“Face... hurts...” the pouting mass of mane moped, massaging her snout as she stood and tottered over. Sniffling a little as she climbed up beside Spike, Dawn plopped down and gave her mane a justified bopping for being so naughty.

“Don’t worry, Dawn. Music can make ouchies all better!”

“Like kisses?”

“Uh... y-yeah, like those,” Spike murmured, flushing a little as his mind shifted not to a motherly remedy for minor wounds but a different motion shared with a certain filly for much different reasons.

“You thinkin’ ‘bout Sweebelle!” Dawn snickered, pointing at the faint crimson creeping into the guilty dragon’s cheeks.

“Do you want music or not?”

“I be quiet now,” Dawn said quickly, holding both hooves over her muzzle and meeting Spike’s feigned frustration with apologetic eyes. The dragon’s embrace was unexpected, though eagerly received as he leaned over and gave the bubbly filly a quick squeeze, being actually quite grateful for her antics. With his heart on the rising star of Ponyville and an audience of one, Spike closed his eyes and began to play once more. Tiny hooves clapped along with the rousing refrains, and for a time, both were lost in a chamber filled with skillfully conjured melodies, but the clapping slowly came to a halt as Spike paused, gazing off into some unseen land.

“What wrong with you?” Dawn asked, growing slightly flustered that her honest inquiry into the musician’s well-being had resulted in laughter. “I tryin’ to be nice, Spike! Not nice to laugh.”

“Sorry, Dawn, I wasn’t trying to be mean,” Spike assured the filly, grinning back at her. “Say, you’re really smart, right?”

“‘Course! I read lotsa books, just like mommy an’ daddy!”

“Ok, well, I’ve got a problem, and I was wondering if maybe you could help me?”

“Do my best!” the filly asserted with great confidence, turning around to face the dragon fully and nearly sending him into a fit of giggles as she adopted an intense expression of total concentration.

“Well, I’ve got a friend that’s really special to me, and...”

“Sweebelle?” Dawn interjected, needing all the facts.

“Sheesh, is it that obvious?” Spike muttered under his breath, smiling as he dropped his head a little in homage to the filly’s intellect. “Yes, Dawn, it’s Sweetie Belle. See, the thing is, I need to talk to her about something really important, but I know it’s gonna make her sad. I was just wondering if there’s some way I could make it easier for her.”

“Hmmm...” Dawn murmured, cradling her chin in both hooves as she cocked her head to the left, and then to the right, drawing from the well of wisdom. It turns out that it ran deep, and Spike was left in awe to one of life’s greatest mysteries: the wisdom of a pure heart. “Sometimes, daddy puts me in time out ‘cause I be naughty, an’ that makes me sad. But then he gives me hugs, an’ I feel happy! If you make Sweebelle sad, needa make her happy again.” The truth of her simple words were as plain to Spike as Pinkie Pie’s laudable attempt at diplomacy between pony and buffalo and the message of which she sang, and Dawn squeaked in surprise as she was swept from the bench and twirled around.

“Dawn, you’re a genius!” Spike laughed, holding the dizzy filly at arm’s length while her eyes spun circles trying to focus: the dragon seemed to have gotten caught on a merry-go-round, though it was thankfully slowing to a stop. “If I know something’s gonna make her upset, then I just have to make sure I have something extra special to cheer her up afterwards! Oh, this changes everything!”

“I help?” Dawn asked as she was set down, peering up at Spike with hopeful eyes.

“You were a huge help, Dawn!” Spike assured her, giving the ecstatic filly a pound. “Now, if I can just figure out what to get her...”

“Music heals ouchies!” the filly exclaimed, leaping onto the bench and playing a few scattered notes before whirling around. “Play Sweebelle a pretty song an’ make her happy after you be a mean meanie head an’ make her sad!”

“How did you get so smart, exactly?” Spike asked, more to himself than to the filly whose answer was immediate.

“Mommy.”

“Oh? Then how do you explain falling down the stairs?”

“Daddy.”

“That... totally makes sense.”

“Duh!” Dawn explained, rolling her eyes. “I’ma genius, ‘member?”

“Yes, you are,” Spike reaffirmed, joining in on the filly’s giggles with some laughter of his own. “I owe you big time, Dawn. Is there something I could help you with? I could read you a story, or teach you how to make a checklist like mommy, or...” Dawn’s eyes went wide as a rather unladylike rumble sounded from her gut, and after telling her tummy to hush itself, she thought for a few more moments before springing to life.

“Pannycakes!” the foal cried, leaping into the air. “Spike, want pannycakes an’ syrup! Lots an’ lots of syrup, an’... an’ sprinkles! Please~?” the filly begged, latching onto the dragon’s foot and beaming back with eyes that just couldn’t be told no.

“You want me to make you pancakes at the crack of dawn... with syrup that’s full of sugar... and then add even more sugar to it with sprinkles? Do you have any idea what Twilight would do to me?” Spike shot back with an incredulous look. He couldn’t hold out for more than a moment as the filly’s features fell. “Well... alright, you got yourself a bargain, Dawn. You’ve earned it. But you gotta-”

“Yay~! Pannycakes an’ sprinkles!” the filly cried, dashing up the steps and throwing open the doors with a bang.

“...stay quiet,” Spike finished, shaking his head as he followed suit. A mild warning garnered an adequate level of compliance, though Dawn continued to bounce in her seat until being served with the first batch pancakes. As promised, the steaming breakfast confectionary was lathered in liberal doses of syrup and dusted with rainbow colored sprinkles. In the face of such deliciousness, and lacking a strong authority figure, manners were eschewed and many mouthfuls chewed before Dawn stopped halfway to a filly food coma. She offered no resistance as Spike wiped her hooves and muzzle with a warm washcloth before she trudged over to the couch and plopped down onto her side, content to spend the rest of the morning counting the threads in the cushions.

I wonder if it’s strange that I’m looking forward to having kids already... Being Twilight’s faithful assistant had led to a broad range of responsibilities, even moreso since Dawn had come into everypony’s life. While she could be as aggravating as she was cute, he’d spent plenty of hours helping Twilight teach and train, mother and mentor the young filly who lay groaning dramatically in comical lamentation of her gluttony, and seeing the results in even two short years made him sure it would be an experience well worth the trials. “Hey, Dawn?”

“Unnngh, no talk now... ate too much... pannycakes...” the filly groaned even as she licked her lips in search of the last lingering traces of sweetness. Spike himself knew a thing or two about over-eating, and while the filly lay distracted in her despair, he quietly made his way over to the couch. With a knowing grin, he gave the foal a few sharp raps to the back, and was immediately rewarded as a tumultuous belch resounded throughout the library. A wide-eyed filly rolled over to face Spike with a sheepish look, covering her mouth with both hooves before whispering, “‘Scuse me. My mouth just asploded.”

“Feel better?” Spike chuckled, patting the foal gently on the head. She nodded vigorously, taking a moment to thank Celestia her mommy hadn’t been there to witness her breach in manners. “I’m gonna try and write Sweetie Belle a special song just for her, but that means I need to go downstairs. Would you like to come and help?”

“I getta play piano?”

“Sure, I’ll teach you a few things,” Spike replied, leading the way as Dawn left the cushion threads to count themselves. Scrounging around Twilight’s laboratory, Spike found a notebook filled with pages upon pages of musical notation: the remnants of hours spent working side by side with Sweetie Belle trying to craft the perfect melody. A note rang out as Dawn started in early, glancing at Spike to make sure she hadn’t done something wrong before trying another. Generally, she wasn’t allowed near the instrument for fear of her temper and unpredictable foal magic turning the piano into a heap of rubble or landing it on somepony’s head, but Spike found little cause for concern as the golden maned filly tried her hoof at being a musician.

Turning his attention back to the notebook, Spike fell deep into thought. The eraser markers were many, some pages so heavily edited that they ceased to even be readable, but towards the start he found what he was looking for. It was the beginnings of the first song he and Sweetie Belle had ever tried to write together. As simple as they were nostalgic, the notes seemed to play straight from the page and into his mind, bringing with them sweet memories and a healthy dash of longing. While the two had finally nailed down an intro that they were both satisfied with, the direction afterwards had quickly been lost among jovial teasing and frustrating hours spent turning out nothing of use, though his attention was soon drawn away from such memories and back to his frustrated apprentice.

“Spike, help! Not makin’ the right notes,” Dawn said, blowing a teal strand of mane from her face while waving an accusing hoof at the uncooperative instrument. The odds of actually finishing a song that was a month or so in the making struck Spike as far-fetched, even more so should Dawn follow through with her silent threats of random teleportation for such an ill-behaved piano. However, it wasn’t with apathy or defeat that Spike closed the notebook, but a cheerful desire to fulfill his promise, and given that the beginnings of their song followed a theme of simplicity, he couldn’t imagine a lesson on the basics could well do him harm.

“All right, Dawn, I’m coming,” Spike replied in a calming tone, setting the notebook aside as he swung his legs over the bench and motioned for Dawn to sit in his lap. He grunted as the filly clambered into his lap with little concern for the feeling in his legs. Ignoring her lack of grace, Spike reached around the filly, grabbing a fore hoof with each claw and gently going through the scales. Dawn quickly forgot the names of each key and the names for their sound, but she still enjoyed the lesson immensely, and demanded a favorite before she let Spike return to his work.

“Play ladybugs! Ladybug song!” Dawn quipped, hitting one of the keys that she thought was the starting note. She scowled when it didn’t make the sound she wanted, and pounded a few others before Spike caught her hoof and guided it over to the proper key.

“You’re a fast learner, Dawn. Come on, we’ll play it together. Ready?” It’s rare that a child’s attempts to remain quiet ever really work, and Dawn was soon singing happily with the tune of Equestria’s best foal sitter’s favorite dance, unaware that her laughter had beckoned her parents from their rest. Twilight had awoken shortly after Spike began playing, but hadn’t the will to chastise the dragon for practicing so early given the heavy burden on his heart the evening prior, so she instead lay content in her stallion’s embrace, greeting Cerulean and the softly breaking morn with tender whispers. Lured downstairs by the smell of food and the sound of a filly’s laugh, Twilight and Cerulean watched from the steps, quietly taking in the scene as the treasure that it was.

“It seems you were mistaken in doubting your abilities as a teacher,” Cerulean whispered, nudging his mare playfully as she hung her head in defeat. Unable to keep from smiling at the compliment, she gratefully melted into the subsequent embrace as she became a touch misty eyed at the moving scene.

“It wasn’t just me,” Twilight murmured, nuzzling his neck and returning praise for praise. Spike finished one last round and ended with a flourish, leaving Dawn to dance without music as he swiveled around and noticed that, unbeknown to the prancing filly, they were being watched.

“Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake! Clap my hooves an’...” Dawn sang out, leaping as high as she could and landing ready to complete the ritual with a shake... only to notice that the mommy had awoken. “Run away, Spike! Mommy gonna rawr like a mannycore!”

“Oh, come now, Dawn,” Cerulean chided, poking his head under the bench where Dawn lay awaiting maternal fury. “We both know that when mommy growls, it’s more like a dragon than a manticore.”

“Hey! I resent that,” Spike interjected, laughing as Twilight yanked Cerulean back with her magic, held him upside down, and failed horribly at maintaining a decent glare. She soon gave up and set the grinning stallion down, cantering over to Dawn and assuring the unsure filly that she wasn’t in trouble for waking early. Dawn would have accepted her mother’s benevolence were it not immediately countermanded by her mother’s tickling hooves. Shaking the timber with piercing squeals of glee, Dawn attempted a daring escape by hiding behind Cerulean, though this resulted only in further tickle torture, and peace of sorts returned only after father and daughter disappeared up the steps amidst much clamor and joyous noise.

“You seem to be feeling a lot better this morning,” Twilight began, turning to Spike as he once more grabbed his notebook. “I really don’t thank you enough for all the help you do around here...”

“You said that yesterday,” Spike chuckled, lifting his gaze to that of his lifelong friend. “Twilight, Dawn is dear to me, too. Sure, she can be a real handful sometimes, but so can any friend. Besides,” he continued with a grin, “she’s pretty sharp, and she’s been a huge help this morning.”

“That’s great to hear, Spike. So... you know what you’re going to do, then?” Twilight continued, sitting down before her student.

“Yeah! Or at least, I have a plan. I dunno if I’ll actually make it...” Spike took one look at Twilight and knew he could either tell her everything or wait until she had begged it out of him, and really, he didn’t feel any particular need to say no to the mare eager to help him succeed. Spike showed her the notebook, explained the significance and his hopes for the day, and the challenge that it posed.

“It’s funny you should mention all this, Spike,” Twilight said excitedly, leaning forward ever so slightly. “It just so happens I have a book that will be a huge help! It’s called “Music Theory,” and I have all four volumes! They-”

“Boring,” Spike said dismissively, snickering as Twilight’s ears flopped down. “I found the first volume this morning and tried reading it. Even if I did understand what it was talking about, it’d take me weeks to get through all of that! Besides, it doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, I think...”

“Well, if you want it to be extra special, you should probably get some help from somepony who knows music!” Twilight suggested. “That way, you don’t have to spend all day reading, and you still get the song finished.”

“Do you know anypony that could help?” Spike instantly replied, unable to contain his excitement.

“As a matter of fact, I do!” Twilight declared, every bit as excited to help as Spike was to receive assistance. “Lyra happens to live here in Ponyville. She’s quite skilled with the lyre, and she and Bon Bon are two of the nicest ponies you could ever meet. Although...”

“What’s that look for?” Spike asked as Twilight paused halfway up the steps.

“Nothing. Don’t even worry about it.” Spike didn’t. The fact that he might very well have a shot at bringing one of Sweetie Belle’s dreams to life was enough for Spike to go on. Returning upstairs, he stuffed the notebook and a few pencils into a pack while Twilight gave him the address and some instructions on how to get there, though the last bit was unnecessary as many trips as he’d made to the Quills and Sofas shop across town. Not knowing how long his visit would take, but wanting to plan for the worst, Spike whipped out a quick letter, sealed it in an envelope, and asked Twilight to give it to Sweetie Belle if she came by before he got back. Despite her pleas, Twilight eventually caved to Spike’s adamant refusal of permission for her to read, swearing an oath that she wouldn’t snoop despite dying to know what Spike written and agreeing to play the mailmare as Spike prepared to set out.

“Everypony?” Dawn ceased her game with Cerulean as Spike stood in the doorway, framed by the first light of the morn filtering in around him. “I just wanted to say thanks. If everything works out today, it isn’t going to just be because of me. If it weren’t for friends like you, I wouldn’t have a chance.”

“Nonono,” Dawn immediately corrected, “thank you for lotsa pannycakes an’ sprinkles!”

“Wait, you gave her what?” Twilight asked.

“Nothingbye!” Making a hasty exit, Spike slammed the door shut and set out at an eager jog, filled with anticipation and high hopes. He found the residence easy enough, and not wanting to make his first impression being that of a panting mouth breather, he took a few moments outside the door to recover after the sprint through the brisk morning air. Having sufficiently recovered, he raised his claw and prepared to knock when an excited shout rent the morning air.

“Omigosh! I saw them again!” Spike’s claw remained raised and unmoving as the clip-clop of racing hooves and giddy squealing approached without warning, stopping just short of the door before trailing out of earshot. This process repeated several more times before Spike shook off his shock and gave the door a few sharp knocks. He braced himself for the unknown as the pounding hoofbeats blazed a path to the door hastily whipped open, and Spike found himself peering up into the face of a mint green unicorn whose citrine eyes blazed with all the furious insanity of one Pinkamena Diane Pie.

“Uh...”

“They had hands!” Having shared her fervor, the mare romped back inside made a circuit of the dining room table, completing laps with dizzying speed all while raving about Celestia only knows what. Spike remained firmly stationed outside, his arms hanging limply at his sides much like his jaw as he simply stared in utter bewilderment. “I mean, how awesome would it be to have hands? I’d get thumbs! Oh, I just know there’s got to be a way... It’s been so long since the last time I got to see them!”

Them? Thumbs? What the hay did this mare eat last night? Given that Twilight wasn’t one given to dabbling in illicit substances, Spike was unable to conjure even a single chemical that could drive a mare to such madness, save perhaps poison joke. However, that particular herb seemed to target specific aspects of a pony unless skillfully and painstakingly distilled, and to Spike’s knowledge, Silver hadn’t released an instant-insanity formula to the public. So, unless the mare who had just put her horn through the wall in her haste, then shaken it off like it was nothing, was typically as active as a frigid sloth, numb from a potent anesthetic, poison joke couldn’t be held responsible. His attention shifted as a very sleepy, slightly red-faced Bon Bon trudged to the door, shooed Spike back a few steps, and closed it behind her.

“Sorry you had to see... that,” Bon Bon said with a sigh, cringing as a crash sounded within. “I’ve seen you around, but I don’t know that we’ve ever really been introduced. I’m Bon Bon.”

“Uh... Spike,” he replied hesitantly, awkwardly scratching at his spines. “So... I’m not meaning to interrupt anything, and I know it’s kinda early, but was that... Lyra?”

“Yeah,” Bon Bon conceded, shaking her head slowly. “She’s having an, um... ‘episode’ right now. It’s not really a good time.”

“She plays music when she’s, uh...”

“Lucid?” Bon Bon offered with a weak smile, nodding. “Yes, she’s quite skilled with her lyre. Her music is beautiful. Were you hoping to hear her play?”

“Actually, I’m writing a song for a filly I like, and I was hoping she could give me a few pointers.”

“Awww, that’s so sweet,” Bon Bon swooned, grinning as she looked over the pages of the notebook held aloft. “I won’t be of much help, sadly. I never tire of hearing her songs, but I know very little about music itself...” The mare couldn’t help but take a liking to the dragon who stood resolute despite the news, and she turned back to the door with an apologetic grin. “I think there may be something I can do to help, actually. You’re welcome to come in, but... just promise me you won’t go spreading what you see around town, alright?”

“I promise, Bon Bon. I’ll do whatever it takes to get this right for Sweetie Belle.” Taking a deep breath, Bon Bon entered back inside with Spike in tow and was immediately assailed by a jubilant nutcase eager to share all the wonders of her magnificent dream.

“Bon Bon! I had another dream about them!”

“That’s-”

“They had these strange carriages that moved without anypony pulling them at all, and- and they had these magical boxes, right? Get this! They have to stick the little boxes up to their ears whenever they want to talk to each other! It was like- oh, and they had the cutest little fingers! It was... I just... yeeee~!” Down the hall she bolted, and the creaking of springs signaled the bed’s makeshift use as a trampoline.

“I’m really sorry about this,” Bon Bon murmured, glancing back to see how Spike was faring. To her surprise, he was standing calm and mostly collected, and regarding him with faint amusement, she said, “You don’t seem terribly shocked.”

“Bon Bon, you know that purple mare that made it rain poison joke a few years back?”

“Ugh, that was horrible,” Bon Bon shuddered, unable to keep a shiver from racing down her spine. “I ended up coming to covered in strawberry jelly next to some strange stallion with the most disconcerting leer I’ve ever seen. He was just... looking at me, like... like... nevermind, why do you ask?”

“I live with her.” The crash of a miscalculated leap punctated the comprehension dawning within the mare’s mind as Lyra skipped over and planted her hooves with a resounding whump.

“Isn’t it just the greatest day ever?!?” Lyra looked at Bon Bon, who looked at Spike, who just grinned back.

“This is nothing.”

“Nothing? Nothing?!?” Lyra cried, thrusting her face close. “This is nowhere even close to being as nothing as nothing! This is everything, understand?”

“Uh, so, about that help?” Spike said nervously, poking his head around Lyra’s intense stare to look at Bon Bon.

“Right. Just... sit tight.” Seemingly completely unaware of her surroundings, Lyra continued to stare straight at Spike, neither blinking nor appearing to breathe as she bore into him with feverish intensity while Bon Bon discretely cantered out of sight.

“So...” Spike began, chuckling nervously, “what is everything... exactly?”

“Ev... er... y... thing!” Lyra repeated slowly, edging just a little closer before yanking away and looking like she was going to seriously mess somepony up. “It started like a million years ago...” Spike pretty much lost her after that, some story about a giant explosion and sentient monkeys and funny boxes that talk to each other... it really didn’t make any sense at all to him, but appearing to listen worked wonders for the mare. Having expelled most of her eccentricity, Lyra closed her eyes and leaned her head back, humming to herself with a grin of oafish delight stamped on her muzzle. In her mind, she’d just reached her happily ever after, which somehow involved ponies evolving their own set of opposable thumbs.

“Sorry about the wait,” Bon Bon said in authentic apology, approaching with a piece of paper held loosely in her muzzle. “We’re really good friends with the ponies there. Well, I’m friends with them,” Bon Bon corrected, laughing a little. “To Lyra, they’re more like rivals, but they’re two of the most skilled musicians I know, besides my sweet little lump of crazy.” Lyra’s transformation back to a lucid mare of bubbly energy was completed by a tender kiss on her cheek. The mare blinked a few times, rubbing her eyes and yawning before taking a moment to look around, slightly confused as to how and when she’d gotten out of bed.

“How did I get here? Oh, wait, better question! Why is there a dragon on the carpet?”

“Thanks, Bon Bon. Don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul,” Spike said with a grin, offering a quick wave of his claw as he left.

“Hey, wait!” Lyra called out, pouting a little as the door slammed shut. “I don’t get it. Was it something I said?”

“Don’t even worry about it, Lyra,” Bon Bon giggled, nuzzling her longtime fillyfriend as she sauntered towards the kitchen. “Come on, I’ll fix you breakfast.” While the two mares started their day, Spike was racing towards the station as fast as he could go, intent on catching the earliest possible train to Canterlot. Dusk would surely fall sooner than he hoped, and he pushed his legs for all they were worth, arriving winded but with five minutes to spare. There was, however, a slight snag.

“That’ll be ten bits,” the pony at the ticket booth said in a bored tone. Spike found the pony’s apathy slightly unjustified, given that he’d likely only been in the booth an hour tops, but unnecessary moodiness aside, the dragon’s quick search through his pack revealed he’d completely overlooked the possibility of travel. Spike’s heart sank as he frantically searched for a way he could come up with the money in four minutes and twenty seven seconds.

Oh man, I’ll never make it back to the library in time! And the next train doesn’t leave for another few hours... Spike wasn’t above a bit of groveling if it was for a good cause, but the intense look of abject apathy cemented on the stallion’s grizzled features clearly communicated that Spike would be more likely to glean sympathy from a bear woken early from hibernation by nice needle to the bum.

“If you don’t have the bits, move out of line so the other customers can board,” the ticket master ordered, pointing a hoof as if Spike were somehow directionally challenged. Hanging his head in defeat, Spike began to walk away, wondering if his best intentions would only ever be exactly that.

“Ye must be restin’ with a heart o’ stone, sendin’ the lad away like that.” Spike froze, not daring to hope but hoping against hope with all his might that the voice really was that of the resident rogue come to his rescue.

“Gale?”

“Aye, the very same,” the stallion chuckled, beckoning that dragon close. “Ye be gettin’ bold, ridin’ all by yourself. Did ye get Twilight’s permission, lad?”

“No, but this is urgent!” Spike replied, holding out the address Bon Bon had given him. “If I don’t make this train, I probably won’t be able to finish my gift for Sweetie Belle in time!”

“Well, what’re ye gabbin’ me ear off for, then?” Gale exclaimed, turning back to a face that bore absolutely no change in expression. “Two tickets fer Canterlot, ye heartless cad. Oh, and keep the extra fer a nice drink at the tavern. If ye don’t leave smilin’, then it’s on yer own head.”

“Final boarding for the seven-thirty for Canterlot! All~ aboard!”

“That’s us, lad! We’d best be about it!” Racing alongside a pegasus with tattered wings, the unlikely duo made their way onto the cart, commandeering a quiet booth near the back for themselves. It all felt incredibly surreal to Spike given that every time he’d been on the train, he had been with Twilight, and yet, there he was, heading out on his own.

Well, sort of on my own... “Thank you so much, Gale. I was about to give up hope before you showed up back there,” Spike said, smiling across the table at the stallion who had saved his day.

“Ach, don’t mention it, lad,” Gale said in a cheery tone, waving his hoof dismissively. “Ye said yer on a quest to win the heart o’ yer lass; if that’s not worth a few bits, then what’s money good for, aye?”

“Aye!” Spike cheered back, growing confused as the pony who had just helped him now regarded him with a frown, though it was only to conceal his mirth.

“...ye best leave that t’ Pipsqueak, lad. Yer accent be a mite damaging t’ a pony’s ears.”

“He does do that a lot better, huh?” Spike admitted, laughing at himself as the stallion broke into a grin.

“Just a touch, lad. Now, if ye don’t mind, I’m going to try and get a bit o’ shut eye. I went t’ bed late, rose early, an’ I’ve got an alicorn princess t’ tame.”

“You’re going to what now?”

“Nothin’ major, lad. Just goin’ t’ have a bit o’ fun at the castle. Been awhile since I paid Miss Luna my respects, an’ she an’ I have some business to discuss.” He cracked open an eye gave the startled dragon a reassuring grin. “Don’t fret, lad. We’re both fightin’ fer somethin’ o’ great importance today, an’ fortune smiles on those o’ stout heart. We’ll do fine.” Even without full knowledge of the task set before him, Spike couldn’t help but be reassured by the dozing stallion’s confidence. He turned to the scenery as it rushed by, his thoughts drifting back to a certain sweet filly with a voice as clear as a bell, and there they stayed until the warmth of the sun lulled him to sleep.

It wasn’t until the train came to a stop at Canterlot Station that Spike awoke, nudged into wakefulness amidst the clamor of ponies disembarking. Slightly confused that the trip had been so quick, Spike yawned lazily and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, letting most everypony go first so as to not be caught underhoof. He stood to leave and paused, turning to find Gale heading in the opposite direction.

“Aren’t you coming?” Spike asked, tightening the straps of his pack as pony with a coat of midnight blue paused at the window, peering intently into the city.

“Aye, but this is where we split ways,” Gale replied, trotting over and nudging the dragon towards the door. “Don’t worry yer spines o’er a thing, Spike. Ye have a fire burnin’ in yer eyes, an’ I wager nopony will have what it takes to stop ye. Then again, ye ain’t invokin’ a princess’ wrath, either.”

“Huh?”

“What’re ye prattlin’ about now? Think o yer lass, not this sorry rogue’s ramblings,” Gale laughed, shoving the dragon towards the door. Seeing no reason not to comply, Spike stepped off and turned around, though the space where the stallion had sat just seconds before was now empty. Shaking his head in amazement, Spike pulled out the parchment he’d received and glossed over the address. It was in a residential area he was familiar with, and while not the ritziest part of Canterlot by any means, it was still classier than Ponyville in many ways. The dragon didn’t particularly care either way, and he stuffed the paper back into his pack and stepped out with a good claw forward, taking in the the sights as he did so.

I think this may actually be the first time I’ve wandered around Canterlot without Twilight. I mean, sure, I’ve run errands for her when she was staying at the castle, but nothing like this. It all seems so much bigger. It felt like kind of a pivotal point for Spike, a moment that defined how far he’d come as well as how much he’d grown, and he couldn’t help but enjoy the little bit of pride that filled his chest as he adopted a light jog, peering at all the different shops as he entered the shopping district. I can’t stay a baby dragon forever, and this... this could be my first step towards becoming the kind of stallion Sweetie Belle deserves! Er... grown up dragon? Whatever.

Finding the house in question was like presenting a pony with two pieces of paper, one totally white and one with a giant blotch of red ink splashed in the center, and asking them to spot the difference between the two. Spike felt his destination long before the house even came into view, and at first he wondered if there was some kind of parade going: he couldn’t imagine anything else causing the consistent tremors in the ground. In the absence of cheering throngs and marching ponies and all manner of fanfare, Spike continued onwards until he was standing poised outside of a house that had the most curious windows. They seemed to bend outwards in sync with the rhythm giving him a nice foot rub, and he could quite clearly hear the bass beats of club music barely contained by four walls and a roof.

“...this is the house I’m supposed to go to for help writing piano music?” Spike wondered aloud, staring in disbelief. He looked at the house, back at the address, and then back to the house again. “I really hope Bon Bon knows what she was talking about...” Even with the end of his quest in sight, the dragon couldn’t help but wonder how Sweetie Belle was faring, and he paused outside the door, turning his eyes to the sky. I hope she’s doing alright...


For Rarity, falling into a groove and becoming heavily involved in her work seemed tantamount to drawing a lavishly ornate target over the Carousel Boutique as if to taunt the universe, saying “direct untimely distractions here.” It had, for once, been a fairly quiet afternoon, and her skilled hooves and magic had made considerable headway on the mound of orders waiting for fulfillment. Where once a great many matters had cluttered her mind and all but stripped the joy from the wonders of sewing, she once again relished the feel of the fabric passing under her hooves, her discerning eye choosing just the right fabrics to maximize ravishing by a factor of fabulous. Time had escaped her as she worked, and while she had been telling herself a small break would do her good for the last two hours, an intervention of another kind granted her unspoken request with a loud and quite unexpected whump.

“Oh, good heavens!” Falling out of her seat and creating an unsightly stitch that she’d have to undo later, the mare regarded the ceiling with minor agitation as muffled voices and hoof steps beat a path around her roof. “Who in their right mind would simply leap onto another’s roof?” she muttered, adjusting her spectacles and regarding the door with increasing annoyance. Whoever was on the other side had little grasp on the concept of patience, and her curiosity was laid to rest as the door burst open and she was bowled over by a pink blur. Holding a hoof to her head and waiting for the room to stop spinning, all questions were answered without a word as her friend’s face came into focus.

“Ah, that explains it. Hello, Pinkie,” Rarity said in an even tone. “Did you find my roof to be an acceptable jungle gym?”

“Not really. There weren’t any trees or anything!” the mare exclaimed, sounding wronged. “Even I know you can’t have a jungle without trees!”

“Oh, you don’t say? Fancy that,” Rarity murmured, glancing at her pinned hooves and then back up to her captor. “Would you mind letting me up?”

“Hmmm... What’s in it for me?” Pinkie pondered aloud, adopting a thoughtful expression.

“Ugh, I cannot believe...” No, wait, I can, but still. “Pinkie, would you please let me get back to work? You can take anything around here that looks fun to play with, all right?”

“You look fun to play with!” This gave Rarity pause, herself wondering just how hyped up Pinkie was and if her position atop her was simply a tackle or a purposeful hint.

I cannot tell if she means that how I think she means it, or if she really just doesn’t watch what she says. Honestly, it’s so hard to tell with her... “I’m... unavailable.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite.”

“Awww, that’s boring!” Pinkie Pie groaned, flopping onto her back.

“Pinkie Pie, stop flirting with my sister!” Having recovered sufficiently from her brisk tour of the many thatched roofs of Ponyville, Sweetie Belle tottered in on unsteady legs, still slightly dizzy from a transit that felt more like a flight than a ride. Giggling and apparently undisturbed by the accusation, Pinkie Pie leapt to her hooves and excitedly began to explain the real reason for the visit.

“Okie dokie, if you insist! Rarity, do you have any gems you could spare?” Pinkie inquired, prancing in place as she imagined seeing Spike’s smile. “See, Sweetie Belle figured out that she’s been waaay too lovey dovey with Spike and it’s driving his little dragon brain bonkers, so then she decided that she needed to give him a super amazing present so he doesn’t break up with her! Wouldn’t that just be super duper sad? I just can’t even stand the thought!” Pinkie declared, racing over and squeezing Sweetie Belle uncomfortably close for a moment before springing back to life. “Since Ponyville isn’t due for a rainstorm for another few days, I suggested that we make him a cake, but she said that it needed to be extra special, and then I remembered that dragons love gems, and if anypony has gems, then it’s you, Rarity!”

“It is true that I have quite a few, but...”

“Please, Rarity?” Sweetie Belle begged, bouncing up and down as she did so. “Please please pleaaaase?”

Those gems are for the next order I was supposed to finish. It would take me hours to track down more... Seeing the hesitancy in her sister’s face, Sweetie Belle ceased her antics and let her ears droop, though it wasn’t the quivering lip that brought Rarity to her answer. What’s a few hours of work if it brings Sweetie Belle a smile? “All right, Sweetie Belle. You may take what you need from that chest just over there.” Not sparing a moment, Pinkie Pie immediately began rifling through the chest filled to the brim with gemstones of every hue, searching for the “ripest” ones for the cake. Sister hooves wrapped around sister shoulders as Rarity gave Sweetie Belle a fond embrace, listening with quiet contentment as the filly all but sang in her excitement. There was one point that caused her some alarm, though.

“Sweetie Belle, do you really think that Spike is going to break up with you?” The excitement draining from the filly’s features was answer enough for Rarity, who immediately chided Sweetie Belle in gentleness. “Sweetie Belle, Spike is not the type to simply leave the one whom he treasures. Rest assured, he will come back to you”

“Are you sure?”

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, sweetheart,” Rarity admonished the doubting filly, draping a hoof around her and pulling her close. “I guarantee that when you see Spike again, he will welcome you with open arms. However,” she paused, pulling away with a wink, “it never hurts to show him a little generosity. I’m sure he will be more than thrilled with your gift.”

“Enough chit chat, time for baking!” Pinkie declared, trotting over. Sweetie Belle gave her sister a comforting squeeze as her features fell in proportion to the size of the bulging saddle bag strapped to Pinkie Pie’s back, filled to the brim with gems. “Thanks for the help, Rarity! Oh, and you still owe me, so be ready to pay your tab later, kay?” Not stopping to catch Rarity’s indignant rebuttal, Pinkie shot out the door with Sweetie Belle holding on tight, and they were back in Sugarcube Corner sooner rather than later.

“Just sit right there, Sweetie Belle! I’ll have you an anti-break up cake whipped up in no time!” Sitting was exactly what the woozy filly intended to do, slightly shaky in the legs and a little nauseous after riding piggyback while Pinkie Pie traversed half the town using her “shortcut,” which basically amounted to leaping from rooftop to rooftop at blinding speeds. Grateful for a chance to gain her bearings after experiencing flight without wings, the filly took a seat on a stool and rest her head in her hooves, as dizzy as she was puzzled.

I really want to believe what you said, Rarity, about Spike not breaking up with me, but how can I not worry? I’ve made a great big mess of everything trying too hard to be all lovey dovey with him... Sighs were not one of the main ingredient in smiles, and Pinkie wasn’t about to let the slumping filly taint her cooking with frownies, so she flicked a dallop of frosting onto Sweetie Belle’s nose with deft precision, grinning back as the filly blinked out of her daze and tentatively stuck a hoof into the sweet and gooey treat.

“Sweetie Belle, that’s silly! Frosting tastes waaay better when you use your mouth,” the mare chortled, shooting the filly a wink as she finished the batter and began sorting the gems. “Worrying about the future is only gonna get ya down, and if you’re down cause you’re worrying then when it comes time to actually talk to Spike, you won’t have the energy to do anything but go bleh~!” the mare asserted with absolute confidence, gelatinizing onto the floor like a giant heap of putty for a few seconds before springing back to normal with a brilliant grin.

“Yeah, you’re right, Pinkie,” Sweetie Belle admitted. The filly managed a half-hearted smile at the mare’s antics and casual disregard for the unfairly restrictive laws of physics that would constrict her to being a solid before continuing to voice her thoughts. “I guess I’m just a little anxious to make him happy, especially now that I know how upset he must be. I didn’t even realize how hard I was being on him until today, and I just want to patch things up.”

“Well, the cake hasn’t been baked, and I’m gonna make it look super duper extra fantabulous so Spike won’t have any choice but to give you a nice hoof rub and a huge helping of love! Unfortunately, that’s gonna take a little bit of extra time, so why don’t you go see your friends for a bit? Friends are great for keeping away the bleh~!” She was right, even as a liquid, and Sweetie Belle marched over to give her a hug, paused while she pulled herself upright, and then followed through, paying her thanks and swiping a little bit of frosting for the road as she stepped out of Sugarcube Corner, pausing to look skyward.

Sunset seems so far away... A white hoof raised in defense over an anxious heart as Sweetie Belle bowed her head, sifting through the memories of the week. From every moment of laughter shared to the awkward sinking feeling in her gut when she spoke in haste, revealing her affections, and even sitting with her hoof on the door while her good intentions coated the bathroom floor: it was all precious. All it took was a step back for Sweetie Belle to see what she’d overlooked in her haste, but as she raised her eyes once more to the azure sky, she promised herself that she wouldn’t forget again.

I’ll wait for you, Spike. Whether it’s tonight, or tomorrow, or even a year away, I’ll wait, and when we do meet... I’ll make it up to you, somehow. Just... please, let it be tonight.


Aside from being nearly deafened upon entry, Spike soon found exactly why Bon Bon had sent him where she had. Octavia and Vinyl Scratch struck him as an unlikely couple, but there was definitely a strong, if somewhat unconventional, bond between the two. After a short explanation of how and why, Octavia set about Lyra’s “challenge” with gusto. Within an hour, a competitive mare had drafted what she assured her unlikely client was sure to be worthy of a filly’s attention. She snatched up her bow, made sure her instrument was tuned, and left her audience of one feeling mixed emotions.

Impressive? Quite. An absolute joy to hear played by the skilled hooves of Canterlot’s finest? Without a doubt. Way beyond Spike’s skill level? In leaps and bounds. Finishing with a flourish and beaming triumphantly at having overcome Lyra’s test, Octavia’s haughty grin took a hit as she notice her audience staring sullenly at the sheet music of her own design with his brow furrowed in contemplation.

“Was it not to your liking?” Octavia asked, somewhat bemused. “Certainly, with a little more time I’m sure that it could-”

“No, no, it was great, really,” Spike assured her glancing up for a moment before dropping his gaze again. “It’s just... there’s no way I’m good enough to play this! And no offense, but it sounds like something you’d play to prepare for battle, which isn’t exactly the type of tone I’d like to set for the evening.”

“Hmmm, perhaps it is tinged with a bit of competition,” Octavia conceded, regarding Spike an apologetic glance. “My apologies for getting carried away. Let me try again.” She’d intentionally worked many complicated tricks and twists into the flow without making it absolute chaos, and it had in fact turned out much better than she’d expected, but her motives had little to do with reconciliation. In her defense, it had been quite some time since she’d tried her hoof at writing something simple. Suddenly, the blank pages that remained seemed every bit as baffling to her as they had to Spike, and after a rather unproductive thirty minutes, Octavia startled her guest with an elated and dignified yelp.

“Figure something out?” Spike said hopefully, his tail swishing back and forth with anticipation.

“Well, no, not exactly,” Octavia replied, calming herself. “While it pains me to see how difficult elementary music has become, I cannot justify sacrificing your afternoon for the sake of my rivalry; I have more class than that. No, don’t despair,” Octavia said, smiling at the unlikely musician as his features fell. “While I may be unable to help, I happen to have a good friend here in Canterlot who I’m sure can aid you in fulfilling your dream.”

Soothed by the mare’s confidence, Spike bid her farewell and set out in a hurry, noting that if he was going to make it back by sunset, he had perhaps an hour at most to spare before boarding the train home. It was a stroke of good fortune that his destination wasn’t terribly far, but having sprinted the whole way, he was a touch breathless by the time of his arrival. Not wanting to waste a single moment, he knocked frantically until the door was answered by a most unusual looking unicorn stallion.

For one thing, it was rare to see a stallion in bright pink - not red, not even a dark rouge, but Pinkie Pie status pink. His mane was longer than most stallions permitted theirs to grow, though it was well kept and reminiscent of a certain bass-crazed mare as far as color was concerned, and the stallion regarded the gasping dragon on his doorstep with vague amusement while Spike desperately sought to cut corners and save time.

“Hey... I just... music... help!” The stallion blinked once and stared as Spike toppled over backwards and lay panting on his back, an unfortunate victim of hyperventilation and the simulation of a merry-go-round that sometimes came with it. It felt strangely satisfying to lie down, and Spike begged the sun for mercy and a slow descent as he took a few moments to recover. A piece of paper suddenly floated into view, wrapped in a rosen aura and capturing the dragon’s attention with its flowing, graceful letters.

“I do so enjoy word puzzles, and based on your rather cryptic message, I humbly offer my deduction: you’re here to see my wife. Come in when you have caught your second wind. I shall let her know she has a most unexpected guest.” Intrigued, Spike caught the paper as the aura faded and sat up, doing his best to regulate his breathing as the stallion cantered back inside.

He got all that from, like, four words? Whoa, this guy must be super smart! His writing is really neat, too. A little girly, perhaps... Not even Rarity writes this nice. Adequately recovered, Spike entered cautiously, not wanting to be rude or assuming despite having already been invited inside, though all such worries dissipated within moments as a beautiful unicorn mare cantered around the corner and fixed him with a curious smile.

“My, you’ve grown...” Perplexion was hard pressed to win out over the soothing tone of the mare’s voice, and Spike couldn’t help but feel at ease as the mare made her way over. Wavy locks of verdant green mane laced with streaks of pale gold tumbled down around her shoulders, accenting a light peach coat that was more cream than orange. Her calming eyes were a similar shade of green, though a slightly darker hue, and she stopped just short of the dragon who was trying to figure out why this mare, whom he was fairly positive he’d never seen, seemed to know who he was. “It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen you dashing around the markets.”

“Uh... have we met?” Spike offered, reaching deep into his memory.

“No, I suppose not,” the mare replied, shaking her head lightly. “I used to see you all over town, though, tottering after some little filly with your claws piled high with books. I would not be so calm should just any dragon come waltzing through my door.”

“That makes sense, I guess,” he conceded with a grin. “I’m Spike, and I’d really like your help.” A gentle hoof accepted the outstretched claw as the mare nodded once, smiling a little more.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Spike. My name is Clarity, and I will do whatever I can to assist you.” An unplaceable excitement began to course through the dragon’s being as he followed the beckoning mare into a room chock full of instruments of all kinds. Grandiose harps to the diminutive piccolo, it was as if the Royal Canterlot Orchestra had decided to hit the bars in a hurry and tossed all of their gear into Clarity’s house. “My apologies for the mess,” Clarity piped up, glancing at Spike who was taking in the sights. “I’ve been a bit distracted as of late, and have fallen quite behind on my work.”

“What exactly do you do, Miss Clarity?”

“‘Miss?’ I’ll have you know I’m quite married,” she corrected with a giggle, clearing a space for them and motioning for Spike to sit across from her. “While I have never found the talent to play any instruments myself, I have been blessed with a discerning ear for all things musical. Every piano, violin, guitar and clarinet that you see here is waiting for either repairs or fine tuning, but alas... my heart has been heavy as of late, making it tiring to focus on work...” A wistful look clouded her radiance for but a moment before she turned her attention back to her guest with a rueful smile. “Forgive me for rambling. Now, what could I possibly do to help the infamous Dragon of Canterlot?”

“Music,” he declared, whipping out his notebook and opening it to the beginning. Clarity listened intently as he explained the events of the day, from Lyra to Octavia, and finally the crux of the matter: giving an irreplaceable gift to his special somepony.

“I had no idea that dragons could be such romantics!” Clarity tittered, begging the dragon’s patience with a wink as she looked over the notes. “It seems Octavia may need a reminder of the simpler elements of melody before the coming week is through. She’s skilled, but I hardly think this will do for instilling any kind of movement other than rousing the guards for war.”

“I was thinking the exact same thing,” Spike chuckled, flipping back towards the start. “This little bit here is fine, I think. I worked on it together with Sweetie Belle, and we were both pretty happy with it.”

“Did... did you say Sweetie Belle?” Clarity asked, looking shocked.

“Uh... yes?” Spike replied uneasily. “Why?”

“I’m due to give her singing lessons in just a few months time.”

“Wha? But... really?” Spike sputtered, peering back at the mare with fascination. Who would have thought I’d meet her teacher before she would? At least I’ll be able to tell her she has nothing to worry about; this mare is really nice! “Well, that makes this even better!” Spike chortled, rifling through his pack and whipping out a pencil. “See, we originally wanted it to be something for use to perform together. I’d play on the piano, and Sweetie Belle would sing, but we haven’t had much luck as of late.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place, Spike. Wait just a moment...” Standing and trotting over to a smaller sized piano, her horn began to shimmer with a faint rainbow aura as she slid a hoof across the keys, quickly picking out three that were in need of adjustment. Muttering as she glanced hither and yon, her eyes darting around from place to place, she spied a small box and lifted it out. Her movements were quick and skillful, and between her tuning hammer, a few muters, and a spell that Spike couldn’t see the effects of, it was just minutes later that she asked him to take his seat in front of the ebony and ivory.

“Now, this may sound strange, but I cannot help you with the writing of this song,” Clarity said, causing the dragon some level of confusion as he sat.

“Huh? Why not?” Spike immediately questioned, that being the very reason he’d come in the first place.

“Tell me, what do you know of music theory?”

“It’s boring.” Breaching her appearance as a mare of dignity, Clarity threw her head back and quaked with laughter at the dragon’s unabashed reply, and it took several minutes for her to calm down enough to speak.

“It is... is most fortunate that you feel that way, because in this case, it is entirely unnecessary,” Clarity said amidst the fading remnants of mirth. “Spike, if this is truly to be a gift for one you care for, then it should carry with it what is in your heart, and that is something that I cannot know. I see two hearts working together as one in the early pages of this notebook, but after a time they diverged, each trying to perform what can only be done together. I would have you think on this until I return.” Her words weren’t condescending or dire, but there was a power behind them, and Spike found himself able to do little else but incline his heart to such wisdom.

It’s scary how right she is. I hadn’t ever really thought about it before, but when we first started this song, I was just jotting down a tune she started humming. It was even before we both opened up and admitted to liking each other... The days that followed, the focus shifted away from sharing time with one another amidst their common love for music and more about trying to make it “good.” This shift had mysteriously dried the well of creativity and left them confused as to why their work was shriveled and themselves parched with thirst, so to speak. He smiled as he remembered the good times, closed his eyes upon remembering the bad, and opened them as he looked towards the future, waiting to be written.

“Would that half of my clients were as attentive as you.” Spike blinked out of his reverie as Clarity cantered in with the pink stallion from before, smiling once more. “It seems that you have a rare gift in that you are honest with yourself. That is something that takes some ponies many years to learn and a lifetime to perfect.” It was clear she spoke from experience, and she drew close to the silent stallion for support as she closed her eyes, looking peaceful. “This is my husband, Heartscribe. Alone, I fear I would be of little use to you, but together, we may see your dream come true. Play... when you are ready.”

Unsure claws settled over waiting keys as Spike sat poised to begin. There was no music sheet to read from, only a short introduction he knew by heart and a highly respected mare that was dropping everything to help. However, as he closed his eyes, the memories of his relationship with Sweetie Belle rose to the forefront of his mind, connecting like stepping stones across the river of time. Each stone became a note in the dragon’s mind, and he had only to follow the path.

Meanwhile, Clarity had stepped away from Spike and nodded to Heartscribe, each preparing to do their part. A shimmering light danced around the mare’s horn, causing the air above her to distort and sway as ethereal music staves stabilized above her horn. Heartscribe took a seat beside her with Spike’s notebook at hoof, opened to a number of blank pages and his quill held at ready. They hadn’t long to wait before the first few notes filled the room, each one appearing for a few moments in the shining lines above Clarity’s horn before fading to make room for the ones that followed after, but it wasn’t for nothing that she had called her husband in: not a single note was missed, not a single staff left untranscribed to the pages quickly filling with notes as his skill with a pen put every movement to paper.

“I should think that any filly would be touched by such a moving melody,” Clarity said quietly, cantering over as the last note faded and the dragon sat back in a daze, wondering what had just happened. “Taking a step back and remembering what is the source of one’s inspiration is a common obstacle every artists faces, but it seems that yours is fairly clear; Sweetie Belle must be very special to you.”

Spike agreed readily, though he couldn’t help but worry. The music had flowed from heart to keys with fluidity and power, but looking back, he couldn’t remember anything past the basic framework of the masterpiece he’d just wrought. And yet, as his notebook was slid into his lap by the telekinetic aura of a quiet stallion, it appeared that, working together, the couple really had made his dream come true. Everything was there, from the very first notes hummed from a happy heart to the last movement of his own design, and Spike couldn’t have been more grateful to the two as he paid his thanks, noticed the time, and hastily gathered his things together with every intent to make straight for the train station.

I can just make it if I... “Huh? Oh, no way...” Spike muttered to himself, pausing in front of one of the pictures hanging from the wall. Standing beside Clarity and Heartscribe were three ponies he had come to know well over the last few eventful years, from the cheeky blue colt to the nearby filly with a coat of brilliant red and a dress of the purest white, and a tiny foal who couldn’t have been more than Dawn’s age. Even then, he had a brilliantly verdant mane that couldn’t shroud his beaming features and youthful exuberance. “You’ve had a lot of students, huh?” Spike laughed, turning towards Clarity who simply nodded. I guess that explains why Whisper is good at singing. And actually, I’ve heard Cerulean’s writing isn’t half bad, though it’s normally pretty depressing from what Twilight’s told me... I wonder what Crimson does?

“Oh gosh, I’ve gotta go or I’ll never make it!” Spike exclaimed, spying a clock nearby that read half passed time to skedaddle. “Sorry I can’t pay you or anything, Clarity, but don’t worry! I’ll send you my thanks in a letter, I promise!” Vaguely catching the mare’s closing words that had something to do with not worrying about payment, Spike raced through the streets with nary a care for the uptight ponies who seemed to equate his presence nearing theirs with the same level of indignation and distress as the ponies of Ponyville when Nightmare Moon crashed a perfectly good Summer Sun Celebration. Aided once more by Ponyville’s sole night watch and more recent terror of Canterlot, Spike made it on board with a few seconds to spare, and, after thanking Gale once more for his assistance, settled in with his eyes toward the late afternoon sky.

I’m coming, Sweetie Belle. I know this can’t be easy for you... Hay, I’ve been missing you all day, but just... hold on a little while longer. Lulled by the rhythmic chug of the engine two carts ahead, Spike let himself rest as his mind wandered back to his home and the teacher who was instrumental in making his plan come together, but worries were far from his mind; his bond with Twilight was deep, and he gently drifted off to sleep, safe in the assurance that when the time came, she’d be there to help. It was just a little more than an hour before he walked through the door of the library, only to be immediately tackled by his self-appointed piano student, and found that he was right. He had only to ask once, and with the Element of Magic not just ready but genuinely grateful to be part of his plan, the pair set out towards his final destination for the day: the place where everything had started.

Slender stalks bent under the light winds brushing the untamed countryside, causing ripples through the golden ocean of dried grass. It was a place that wouldn’t stand out to the casual passerby, but held a special meaning to one dragon and one pony, and Spike and Twilight came to a halt at the base of a small hill. Approaching quietly, the dragon peeked over the summit and felt his heart leap at the sight of lavender curls and pink locks complimenting a coat as white as snow. There, on a small plateau, sat Sweetie Belle in the very place where she and Spike had first really connected, a single meeting that had changed their lives forever.

The sky had turned a gorgeous mix of gold and softer hues of violet, turning the rustling stalks into a sea of warm magenta. Sparse clouds dispersed the light, turning the celestial canvas into a breathtaking work of art, and Spike whispered some final instructions to Twilight before making his descent. A cavalcade of emotion threatened to rob him of his senses as the filly turned, startled by his approach, but Spike refused to let his mind deny him that for which his heart yearned, and he clenched his claws into fists in silent defiance of the rush that threatened to leave him mute. Taking a seat beside the filly, he turned towards the filly with a wearied grin, nothing that she looked just as run down as he.

“Rough day?” he asked weakly, his lopsided smile receiving one in return as Sweetie Belle let out a quiet giggle, nodding slowly. She gratefully accepted Spike’s embrace as he noticed her shivering, but whether from the chill wind or the mystery of a dragon’s affection working wonders in her heart, she couldn’t say. Right then, she didn’t really care either way, and snuggled closer to the comforting sensation of scales brushing against her coat.

“It’s... really good to see you, Spike,” the filly murmured, closing her eyes.

“Yeah, you too, Sweetie Belle,” he replied with his usual silver tongue. “I actually... really missed you today.”

“Actually, huh?” she teased, beaming as she peered into the dragon’s gentle, emerald eyes.

“Hey, it’s not like you’re always the easiest fillyfriend to work with, ya know,” Spike shot back, though he found his choice of words to be ill placed as he watched Sweetie Belle’s countenance fall. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to...” he started, holding his peace as the filly in his arms shook her head, replying not with anger, but acceptance.

“I know.” She’d been expecting a whole lot worse when Spike arrived, and words would fail her if she tried to describe right then just how much his kindness had touched her, but it was time for her to take responsibility for her actions like any lady should. “Spike, I... I know that I’ve been really pushy this last week,” she began, pulling away and taking a claw in both hooves. “I got so excited about getting a coltfriend that I... went a little crazy. I mean, Rarity always talks about falling in love like it’s the only thing better than gems, and that’s saying something!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed, throwing her hooves wide and taking comfort in Spike’s muffled snickers.

“She always goes on and on about how... it’s the one thing no amount of fame or beauty could ever replace, and having a chance at all that, I... got carried away,” she explained, taking the dragon’s claw into her hoof once more. “I know I can’t go back and fix everything, but I promise I’m going to try and think more about you, just like you’ve always done for me. I’m sorry for being so terrible, Spike. Can you forgive me?”

“Sweetie Belle?” Everything that Spike had dreaded bringing to light had just been laid bare before him, and it wasn’t with a lecture that he was forced to respond, but a simple motion to show that Sweetie Belle owed him no recompense for every hoop he’d leapt through the past week. “I already have.” A lavender muzzle creased into an affectionate smile as another claw was placed over the ivory hooves that held his first, and while he didn’t say anything more, Sweetie Belle knew that he had meant what he said, and her slate had been wiped clean without a second thought. Surely, this was deserving of a celebration, and there was only one thing that could possibly serve as a centerpiece for such an occasion.

“I have something for you,” Sweetie Belle said softly, sniffing back tears of joy as she lifted her present over and caught it in her hooves, gently lifting the lid and blushing lightly as Spike’s eyes doubled in size, reflecting the shimmering lights of the fading light. To simply call the confectionary masterpiece a “cake” would be like simply calling Twilight “smart,” or Pinkie Pie “happy,” or even stating that Rarity is “obsessed with shinies.” To use Pinkie Pies words, it was nothing short of fantabulously splenderific.

Whether by intention or irony, the cake actually resembled Sweetie Belle herself, dusted with a layer of scilliant white frosting studded with gemstones. A ring of amethyst aligned in perfect sequence along the top housed a smaller ring of rubies, and if that weren’t enough, a painstakingly crafted heart wrought of pink sapphires formed the centerpiece. Sweetie Belle couldn’t help but laugh as all the dragon’s efforts to maintain a mature composure dripped out. His tongue unrolled amidst profuse salivation, catching a taste of the grass as he sat riveted in anticipation, and the filly had to wonder if it made her strange that she didn’t find her coltfriend’s actions the least bit undesirable.

“Beefor ah eath thith...” Spike began, pausing midway through his sentence as Sweetie Belle cocked her head in a manner most adorable, not having the faintest idea what he had said. Holding up a claw as he tore his eyes away from taste bud heaven long enough to gather his tongue and stow it back within his dripping maw, he wiped his mouth with the back of his claw, watered the grass with the flick of his wrist, and looked sheepish as he silently apologized for his lack of manners. “Sorry about that...”

“Don’t be. It was cute,” Sweetie Belle chirped, growing confused as Spike exerted stunning willpower and closed the lid of the box.

“As I was going to say, before I eat that, there’s something I’d like to give you, too.” Daylight was fading fast. The warmer hues of orange and gold had deepened into riveting magenta and stunning shades of crimson, and Sweetie Belle blinked in astonishment as a sharp whistle preceded a brilliant flash of light. A burning heart made no attempt to stifle the smile that came as Spike sent his thanks to Twilight on the breeze for her help, and pulling out his notebook from the sack that had appeared alongside his piano and bench, he beckoned Sweetie Belle over and revealed a gift she couldn’t ever had dreamed she’d receive.

“T-this song... it’s...” Sweetie Belle stammered, having only to look at the first few notes to confirm her suspicions.

“That’s right,” Spike said softly. “It’s our song, Sweetie Belle. It took me all day, but this... this is our song, our story. The only thing it needs... is lyrics.” Overwhelmed, Sweetie Belle held the notebook close with trembling hooves until a gentle claw lifted her gaze to one full of gentleness. “Would you... sing for me, Sweetie Belle?” Already on the verge of tears, she could only nod, taking a seat beside the dragon as he stretched his claws, double checked his sheet music, and scooted closer to filly beside him. “Sweetie Belle?”

“Y-yeah?” she replied, unable to shake the feeling that she was dreaming. If she was, she didn’t want to wake.

“Let’s make a melody... together.” She held his gaze until he turned away, and closed her eyes as anticipation filled her to bursting. Skillful keystrokes began to play with flawless precision, but there, at that moment, two hearts aligned and together became something more powerful than one pony ever could be. How could she not sing? What Spike had captured wasn’t just any song, but their song, their melody... their story.

Bathed by the rays of the setting sun
I felt the last of my strength depart...
Exhausted by my never ending run,
I lay tired with a broken heart...

I lifted my gaze to the evening light
and whispered a single solemn prayer:
“I just want somepony to ease the fright,
a voice of comfort for a lonely mare...”

Imagine my surprise
when I opened my eyes
as I heard a voice call me out by name...

...and you said:

“Please, don’t go away.
it’s not my right to make you stay,
but I’ll try my best to make you see...
even in your deepest grief
I’ll be the one who never leaves
because you~ are lovely~ to me~”

Cradled in the claws of a caring heart,
I felt the warmth of a soothing flame.
Every word, every touch: it became a part
of a joy rekindled when you spoke my name.

“Could I hear you laugh? Can I make you smile?”
Soon these questions began to fade...
Selfish desire: it raged all the while -
how much of my debt have you paid?

I’ve tarried too long,
I know I’m in the wrong,
and I hope you believe me when I say...

“Please, don’t go away.
it’s not my right to make you stay,
but I’ll try my best to make you see...
even in your deepest grief
I’ll be the one who never leaves
because you~ are lovely~ to me~”

Overcome, Sweetie Belle leaned heavily on Spike as he played the last few notes. Her muzzle was streaked with tears from the raw emotion she’d poured out in lyric born of genuine affection, and she buried her face in Spike chest as he turned from the ivory keys and wrapped her gently in his embrace, rocking her softly. And then, without any warning, Spike surpassed what one filly could dream even in her wildest of fantasies by doing for her exactly what she’d just done for him, singing softly the final verse that she hadn’t the strength to sing.

I~ won’t go away
there is no reason I should stray
from the one with whom I longed to be...
shelter from the world’s grief
forever yours; I’ll never leave
because you~ are lovely~ to me~”

The week had started with a dare: a product of boredom with no significance. That simple game had led to a chain of catastrophes that had shaken the couple’s perceptions, their sense of self, and their very friendship, but if every trial had been leading up to that pinnacle moment, then Sweetie Belle with gladly re-live them for the rest of her life if it meant that she could share with Spike what she had right then. Lit by the final rays of the setting sun, Sweetie Belle yielded to the gentle tug of the claws cradling her tear-streaked muzzle to be given that which every young filly dreams of: the lovely gift of her very first kiss.