• Published 4th Mar 2018
  • 2,503 Views, 43 Comments

The Root of the Problem - BlazzingInferno



Rarity is turning into a plant, which proves to be the least of her troubles.

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Soiled

For the tenth time in as many minutes, Spike took up Rarity’s free foreleg and cleared his throat. “How are you feeling, Rarity?”

Her other foreleg was draped over her eyes. She hadn’t moved from her fainting couch ever since Applejack and Twilight left. She was as still as a statue. Or a tree. “I’m fine, Spike… aside from an increasing urge to plant my tail in the ground and face the sun.”

Spike nodded. “Twilight said those were the first symptoms. But she’ll be back with the antidote soon. You can sit here and read, or knit, or whatever you want while we wait.”

“Unless I happen to be a plant.”

He squeezed her foreleg, hoping to comfort himself as well. “But you won’t be! Twilight said Zecora probably has all the ingredients for the antidote. You’ll be back to normal by lunch time.”

I hope, he thought.

“And if I’m not?”

“Then… um…”

The front door burst open and Twilight ran in, saddlebags overflowing with leafy branches and wilting flowers. “Okay… Okay.”

Spike met her with arms held out, ready to take a handful of whatever magical herb Twilight had acquired and prepare it for Rarity. “So you’ve got it?”

Applejack came through the door next with a sizable washbasin balanced on her back. “Where do you want this, Twilight?”

“Anywhere is good. Thanks, AJ,” Twilight replied.

Rarity sat up just as the washbasin clanged against the floor before her hooves. The bed of soil within shifted and jumped with the impact. “Applejack, what in the world are you—”

“You’ve got it, don’t you?” Spike said again, this time with more worry than hope.

Twilight looked from Spike to Rarity, her ears folded back and her eyes downcast. “Not exactly. The antidote requires twenty-six different ingredients, and Zecora only had—”

Rarity flopped back on the couch. “And I take it this basin of dirt is just in case she doesn’t?”

Applejack snorted. “Soil, Rarity, soil. It’s my best growing mix, jam-packed with fer—er, plant food, just in case you need it. We’ll get you cured as fast as we can.”

Rarity sat up and wiped away a fresh tear. “Thank you, Applejack. I don’t mean to be ungrateful. I’m simply a tad overwhelmed by the concept of…”

Twilight pulled them all into a group hug. “We’re just missing one last ingredient, from the deepest parts of the Everfree Forest. The rest of the girls and I are heading out there right now.”

Spike stiffened. “But I want to help! I’m the reason this is happening in the first place!”

“It's going to be really dangerous, Spike. Rarity can’t go outside just in case she gets worse, and you—”

“Don't you say I'm too small,” Spike shouted. “I got Rarity into this mess, and I’m helping fix it!”

“Actually…” Rarity’s level tone, lacking her earlier despair, drew everypony’s attention. She sat up on the couch, eyes fixed on the oversized planter before her. “Actually, Spikey, I’d be very grateful if a friend remained here, just to help me survive this ordeal with my wits intact.”

Twilight patted Spike’s head with a smile. “I couldn’t have said it better. There’s more than one way to help, Spike.”

He looked from Twilight’s warm smile, to Applejack’s wry one, to Rarity’s expectant gaze. “Okay. Okay, I’ll stay.”

Applejack patted him on the back. “And we’d better go if we wanna be back before sundown.”

Twilight followed Applejack towards the door, but paused to look back at Spike and Rarity. “You’re going to be okay here, right?”

Spike saluted her. “I won’t leave Rarity’s side for a minute!”

“And I—” Rarity slid off the couch and gave a deep sigh “—well I suppose I'll try to make the best of sitting in a bucket of… ugh… dirt. I don't think I can suppress the urge to do so any longer.”

“Soil!” Appplejack countered through the open door. “Top grade soil!”

---

“Please stop pacing, Spike.”

Spike froze mid-step, unaware that he’d been slowly circling the room while his thoughts carried him across Equestria to wherever Twilight and the others were. He took a deep breath and faced Rarity, who of course was still sitting in the washbasin-turned-planter. Her front hooves were masses of leaves, and her sides now sported patches of smooth wood and the occasional blue flower. The normal, intoxicating scent of her perfume had given way to the strong, earthy scent of plant food, as Applejack had put it.

A careful squint was all it took to picture Rarity simply sticking her head through a cutout in a carnival, ready to have an amusing photo taken of her as some sort of plant-pony hybrid. Reality—the fact that one of his dearest friends was becoming more flora than fauna with every passing second—defied his every attempt to take a deep breath and do something besides pace the room and wonder about Twilight and the others.

“Please say something, Spike,” Rarity said with more than a little sternness. She tossed her mane as best she could, showering the floor with pollen.

Spike gave a quick nod, fixed his eyes on hers, and tried to smile. Rarity had asked him to stay to help lift her spirits. Surely he could do that. “So… uh… Can I get you something?”

That question had a million answers, all of which Spike was accustomed to. For Twilight the answer usually involved a fetching a book or writing a letter. Normally Rarity would want help moving supplies or gathering gems, but neither seemed likely now. Maybe she’d like something to read.

She frowned and looked down. “Could you sit here with me?”

Spike stared at her, dumbfounded. When was the last time somepony asked him that? “Really?”

Rarity began to sniffle. “Am I really that ugly, that you don’t even want to come near me?”

“No!” he said at a shout. In an instant he was seated in front of her. “Why would you ever think that, Rarity? You’re just as—”

“I am absolutely not beautiful or whatever other pleasantry you’re thinking! My mane is full of pollen, my hooves are sprouting… I’ve never been more of a mess!”

“I’m sorry, Rarity. And you do look… different. But—” Spike stared into her eyes “—deep inside, you’re still you, right?”

“Am I?” Her matter-of-fact tone stung worse than her crying. “I know I can hardly expect to feel normal, given the circumstances, but this is entirely different from being cold, or tired, or ill. I feel like I’m less than a pony, like I’m ceasing to be Rarity.”

Spike stood, his heart racing. All she’d asked him to do was sit next to her to lift her spirits, and somehow he was screwing it up. “You’re still you, no matter if you’re a plant, or a pony, or a rock… you’re still you.”

Rarity shifted her head to the left, or at least as far left as her increasingly wooden neck would allow. “If you don’t mind my asking, what was it like when you… transformed?”

“What do you mean when I—? Oh… You mean when I got super-greedy and… yeah.” Spike sank down to the floor. He rarely thought about that incident anymore, about when his greed briefly turned him into a giant, single-minded dragon that terrorized Ponyville and held Rarity hostage.

“I-I’m sorry if that’s too painful or personal, Spike.”

“I don’t really remember much,” Spike murmured. It was painful, and it was personal, but nobody else had ever asked, much less one of his closest friends. “I kept seeing stuff I wanted more, and not the ponies I was taking it from. By the end ponies were just little things that moved… things in my way. I didn’t care who got hurt.”

That last sentence came out as a whisper. Rarity had almost gotten flattened because of him. He could never take that back, no matter how many times she and everypony else forgave him.

“My own transformation is certainly more… contained, but no less frightening, in my opinion.”

“More frightening than a giant dragon picking you up and…” He couldn’t say the rest.

She look down, her neck producing a faint creak. “I can hear things through my roots… faint little whispers from seeds in the soil.”

Spike hunched down and examined the featureless soil at her hooves. “Whoa, really? What are they saying?”

“I don’t really understand it, but it’s far from—Mmpf! Mmpf!”

He stood up and gasped. Rarity’s mouth had turned to wood, half open in an unvoiced scream. Her eyes darted left and right while tears gushed down her leaf-riddled cheeks. “Rarity!”

Her eyes stared at him, relating a single, piercing message that transcended speech: I’m scared.

“Don’t be scared. Twilight will be back really soon, and then—”

Tiny green buds formed on her eyebrows, and somehow her stare seemed all the more desperate.

“I-I’m right here with you, and…” He couldn’t tell her not to be scared when he himself was terrified.

Silence had overtaken the shop, save for his own breathing. Rarity’s frozen scream echoed in his ears all the same. He couldn’t watch anymore. Holding her gaze to give her courage meant losing all of his own. He couldn’t leave, either; running away was inviting and yet unthinkable, especially with his own near-deadly transformation fresh in his mind. “I don’t know what do, Rarity! I’m staying right here beside you, but I know you’re scared and I just wish I could help. I wish I could—”

The abandoned tea service was sitting less than ten feet away, brimming with magical poison. Twilight’s sage advice echoed in his mind: There’s more than one way to help.

He broke into a run for the teapot, shouting “I’m coming, Rarity! I’m coming to help!” in hopes that she could still hear him.

Barely a sip of the tea had fully transformed Rarity inside of an hour. How fast would a full cup work? Spike couldn’t wait. He stepped into the soil, half-hugging Rarity with one hand while the other lifted the nearly full teapot to his lips. “I’m right here.”

Lukewarm tea poured down his throat, and a moment later the floor seemed to fall away from under him. His grip on Rarity tightened as a hundred whispering voices rumbled up from the ground and the shop vanished into darkness. Suddenly he could feel rather than see the daylight, and roots beneath his toes sipped the soil’s sweet water. And then Rarity’s voice echoed through him. “What’s happening? Who's… Spike? Spike, is that really you?”

He couldn’t nod, move, or even see. His perception of the world consisted of warm sun, cold shadow, nourishing soil, and now Rarity’s voice. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“But how did you… Oh dear.”

“I knew you were really scared, and I didn’t want you to go through this all alone. I couldn't!”

Warmth surrounded Spike on all sides, like the noonday sun or a dear friend’s embrace. “Thank you, Spikey. I never expected you to… but thank you! Thank you!”

He would never tire of this feeling. Regular hugs couldn’t compare to this sense of being completely swallowed up in another’s gratitude. Being a plant had its perks, so long as there was somepony special to share it with. “So what do we do now?”

“Well… I suppose all we can do is wait for Twilight to return. I’m so sorry this is how we’re spending our afternoon.”

“I guess it’s not the same as having super-rare tea, but… I’m glad you asked me to stay. This is way too weird and scary to go through alone.”

“And thank you for doing the noblest, most princely thing imaginable in my hour of need. We’ll have to do something truly wonderful to celebrate your gallantry, won't we?”

Spike could feel his own feelings radiating outward, just as Rarity’s had. “It’s just what any good friend would do.”

Rarity’s giggling amusement pulsed through the soil. “I do believe you’re blushing, Spikey Wikey. There’s no hiding it from a fellow plant, apparently. Now tell me, where shall we go to celebrate, hmm? Should we invite the others along or make it just the two of us?”

“I… uh…” If his knees could still bend, they’d be in danger of buckling. “Just the two of us?”

“I don’t see why n—”

Light flooded Spike’s suddenly restored eyes, and a tingling, pine-like smell hung in his nose. He flopped onto the floor, coughing through a green mist hanging in the air. Applejack stepped around the mist cloud a moment later, an aerosol sprayer poised in her mouth.

“Got Spike,” she shouted.

“Aah—oof!” Rarity toppled onto the floor beside him.

Twilight stood over them, another aerosol sprayer in her magic grasp. “And there’s Rarity. Phew, we’re done.”

Spike flexed his toes. Never had such a simple act felt more miraculous. He took a deep breath next, positively relishing the feeling of cool air filling his lungs. “Wow, that was… something.”

Twilight fixed him with a frown and a stare. “What happened, Spike? Was it an accident?”

“I… um… nope.” His gaze dropped to the emptied teapot resting in the soil.

Twilight spotted the teapot and gasped. “Wait, you… why? Spike, that was a huge risk! What if the antidote didn’t work on dragons? What if I didn't have enough of it? What if—”

“I… I just had to?”

Rarity came up beside him and kissed him on the cheek. “And I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you for being such a noble dragon, Spikey.”

Twilight’s eyebrows shot up. “Huh? What happened?”

Spike blushed yet again. “Rarity was scared and…”

Rarity cleared her throat. “Spike is a wonderful friend, Twilight. Let’s just leave it at that for the moment.”

Twilight sighed and shrugged. “Let’s just move all this stuff to the castle. I won’t be able to decontaminate it until tomorrow, but—”

Applejack set the planter on her back. “So long as nopony else fancies turning into a tree… or turning into a tree while hugging one.”

She glanced at Spike and winked.