• Published 3rd Jun 2019
  • 1,629 Views, 215 Comments

Where We Belong - BlazzingInferno



Eternal night shrouds Equestria, and an even worse fate awaits Rarity. Or so she’s been led to believe.

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Special Talents

Pushing her blankets aside, Rarity admitted daylight into her tiny cocoon of warmth and darkness. Her dilated eyes could just make out Spike’s tremendous form silhouetted against the cave entrance. “Ugh. Is it morning already?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “But you can sleep in if you want. I’ll go get started on the firewood.”

She held back a well-deserved “you’re too kind” and pushed herself to a sitting position. It would be so much easier to take it easy if he could tolerate pleasantries like “kind” and “generous.” The very thought of trekking across the snow-covered valley again made her hooves ache anew.

Trekking across the valley is exactly what she’d do, of course, because that’s what living here required. Along the way she'd regale him with tales of Canterlot and, if pressed, her humble beginnings. Never would she bring up thorny subjects like Celestia or his imprisonment here in The Pit. Dragons were such fussy, confusing creatures. That didn't excuse her from pulling her own weight, of course. Even princesses had duties that couldn't be ignored.

With a great sigh and an even greater act of will, she joined him by the cave entrance. “I certainly can't let you do all the work, even if all I'm fit for is picking and carrying produce.”

“I’ve got a different idea.”

Rarity blinked repeatedly, wishing for the thousandth time for a shower, or even a comb. Not having a mirror was probably for the best. “Oh? Did you want to be adventurous and gather the food before the firewood?”

“Not exactly.” He held out his clawed hand, revealing a tiny golden sliver that glinted in the light. “I thought you'd like this.”

Rarity took the tiny, slender object with her magic, turning it over and over. “Where did you find a sewing needle?”

“I made it out of some… uh… spare treasure.”

She studied the needle’s imperfect yet functional eye and point. What possessed him to give her this, of all things? “Thank you, I suppose. It's not that I don't appreciate gifts, mind, but why a sewing needle instead of a comb, or a bath, or… well if I get started I'll name every modern convenience known to ponykind.”

Spike laughed. “Look, Rarity, I can handle doing the chores on my own; I’m good at that stuff, and it’s actually a lot nicer when I know somebody else is depending on me. What I don’t have is anything new to look at. I grew up in Canterlot Castle, and these awful curtains are the best decorations I’ve got.”

Rarity hid a grimace behind a smile. “They’re not awful, Spike. They’re merely… rustic… torn… patchy…”

“Yeah, yeah. They’re awful. They're just old traveling cloaks I found in the forest; they keep the cave warm, but that’s about it. So what do you say? You said you wanted to be a dressmaker before, so how about giving sewing another shot?”

Rarity studied the sewing needle again. She hadn’t used one of these in ages, not since leaving Ponyville. “I suppose I could reduce my ruined palace uniform to thread and try my hoof at it. Are all the curtains at my disposal?”

Spike leaned forward and pulled the curtain to his bedroom aside, revealing his treasure-laden nest. “Just try to leave me one blanket to sleep with. Take the rest. Take some gems, even. Make us some curtains, make yourself some winter clothes, make whatever you want.”

“But… your blankets… your gems… are you sure?”

What happened to his greed?

He lumbered towards the entrance, waving with one hand. “See you around lunch time, Rarity. Have fun.”

And then she was alone in the cave, listening to his heavy footfalls fade into the distance. “Well if you insist… I don’t see why not.”

Her magic made quick work of the curtains, first pulling them down and then removing the ancient stitches holding the patches together. In any other situation she’d throw the lot of it in a wastebasket and trot over to the nearest fabric store, or to the nearest clothing store if she were being honest with herself.

Still she worked, pulling the curtains apart, unraveling her old uniform, and sorting the blankets by color and size. The only sounds were those of the rustling fabric and, a few hours in, her own contented sighs. When was the last time she’d spent a morning in total silence and relaxation? Nightmare Moon didn’t believe in vacations, breaks, or mercy, and in that sense she was the living embodiment of high society.

At one time Rarity had thought the galas, art exhibitions, and fashion shows would never stop. Fashion and art evolved constantly, and pausing for a breath meant missing the next new thing, the latest development that would surely catapult her career and lifestyle to new and exciting heights if she could merely catch that wave and hang on tight. And then Canterlot of old ended as abruptly as Equestria’s final moments of sunlight.

The sewing needle darted in and out of the fabric, mating a faded red with an off white and dusting off long-unused corners of her mind. She could feel the cool metal of her old sewing machine, smell the corkboard she’d hung on the wall behind it, and glimpse the quaint dress designs she’d once considered gorgeous. Best of all, she could feel herself smiling, both in the past and present.

Clothing designs, from the functional to the bold to the brash, rushed through her head as she stroked the fabric floating before her. Her supply constraints were extreme, but so was her free time. “Anypony could make something beautiful with enough silk or cashmere, but this—” she lifted a few more hole-riddled scraps to meet her needle “—deriving beauty from the likes of this fabric is a real challenge. A challenge worthy of the fashionista I once proclaimed myself to be.”

Saying that word made her giggle. For a moment she shut her eyes and laughed to herself, swallowed up in a rush of happiness born of creativity that felt more natural than breathing and more fitting than her own cutie mark. Cave or mansion, summer or winter, silk or scraps, she was home again.

“Thank you, Spike. Thank you ever so much.”

---

Rarity absentmindedly tugged at her new jacket’s collar. Perhaps she should've erred on the side of breathability versus attempting to seal in warmth, at least in regards to the neckline. No matter. The rectangles of fabric laid out before her represented a tremendous improvement on her first design of pure, survivalist necessity. Now that she wasn’t freezing, other, larger tasks could be seen to.

A fire-blackened stick suspended in her magic retraced the charcoal sketch she'd made on the floor, rubbing out one straight line and adding a sloping one in its place. “Yes, that's much better. Think now, Rarity. Would his green spines be better complimented by the periwinkle fabric or the maroon?”

Spike’s familiar and completely unexpected voice answered. “I kind of like purple.”

The stick flipped through the air as she gasped in surprise. He caught it with one hand, grinning. “Having fun?”

Once the shock wore off, Rarity gave Spike her warmest smile, one she hadn’t had reason to use in ages. “I can’t describe how illuminating this morning has been, Spike! It’s as if I didn’t even understand my special talent until now. I would’ve been better served earning my cutie mark in a rock-infested gorge than… well that’s another story. The important things to say now are: thank you ever so much, and I do hope I guessed your measurements correctly. I have so much more work to do this afternoon!”

“You’re welcome, but—”

The unstitched fabric pieces left the ground in a blue glow and positioned themselves around Spike, encircling arm, leg, and torso in turn. At each step of the impromptu fitting, Rarity scratched lines on the fabric with her charcoal stick while she hummed to herself. “Hmm. I seem to have overestimated your stature by nearly a hoofspan. I used to have such a good eye for this, too. Still, this is why one measures twice and cuts once, isn’t it?”

He flushed red the moment she looked at him. “W-what are you talking about? I’m as big as I was before, and—wait, why are you measuring me anyway?”

“I’m making you a jacket, of course. Something functional and yet dashing, or at least as close as I can manage with the supplies at hoof. After seeing to my own immediate needs I found I had just enough spare fabric to outfit you as well.”

“Wow, that sounds great! But you don’t have to—”

The fabric froze, and so did Rarity. She fixed her eyes on his, staring into them with the same determination that’d gotten her through her own jacket’s conception and construction in mere hours. “I do, Spike. No other act can possibly convey my thankfulness for reminding me that my greatest joy lies in the creation of art, not the curation or consumption of it. If I had the proper supplies at my disposal, I’d fashion you a complete wardrobe in the finest of Canterlot styles. Ah, speaking of which—”

She raised a foreleg and turned in a circle, hanging the new curtains as she did so. “I’d also like to present you with a little taste of home!”

Seeing Spike’s jaw drop made her smile all the more; pleasing someone else with her talents warmed her heart more completely than a winter jacket and warm fire ever could. In his wide eyes she could see her own creations reflected: three curtains that, though formed from the same fabric scraps as before, were now stitched in elaborate patterns that depicted the outlines of Canterlot’s castle, uptown shops, and train station. Tiny gem fragments made the appliqué windows and streetlights sparkle, as if the sun was just rising.

“Do you like it?”

Spike took his time moving, not to mention breathing. Finally he reached out and touched each curtain in turn, first the exit tunnel, then forest entrance, and finally his nest. He poked at the little Canterlot castle now guarding his nest, smiling more and more. “Wow. I… I—” he sniffled “—I never thought I’d see the castle again!”

Rarity stepped forward and placed a hoof on his side, her previously chipper voice growing solemn. “I can’t promise that I’ll stay forever, you understand, but I intend to make the most of however long I am here. Once your jacket is finished, I’ll scour the forest for a new source of thread, and failing that I’ll find another creative outlet to occupy my time and to beatify our modest surroundings.”

“It can’t get any better than this! Only… why’d you choose Canterlot?”

“Why ever not?”

“Because of how bad you said it was, how much you hated living there.”

“I didn’t hate it, but would you mind terribly if we continued our conversation over lunch? I’m hungry enough to strip one of those flower beds bare, and I haven’t had the chore-laden day you have. You must be starving.”

Her own tone caught her by surprise. Of course Spike deserved her kindness and generosity; he’d more than earned them. That didn’t quite explain this sudden rush of empathy. Was that just part of having a good friend, for a change? The other palace servants hardly counted, nor did all of her old Canterlot acquaintances. Did any of those ponies, wherever they were now, bat an eye when Nightmare Moon carried word of her fate across Equestria?

A pleasant smell suddenly drew her attention. Spike had set out a selection of leaves and flowers by the fire and, to her surprise, was sprinkling something white on top. “Surely you’re not putting snow on our lunch?”

He glanced her way and grinned. “You mean our dinner?”

Her gaze darted to the cave entrance. She pulled the newly hung curtain aside with her magic and gaped at the evening twilight. “But… why are you back so late?”

“I came back and made lunch, but you were too busy sewing. When I asked if you were hungry, you said something about being ‘in the zone’ and told me to come back later.”

Rarity touched a hoof to her aching, empty stomach. “In the zone, you say?”

He nodded, but kept his gaze on his work. “Hungry?”

She trotted to the fire’s edge and sat in the only free spot, mere inches away from him. At the moment she’d sit on his spine-covered head if the experience included a decent meal. “Starving, famished, ravenous, et cetera. Now what is that your doing to our precious rations?”

Her magic caught a few of the white granules he was sprinkling over their meal and brought them closer. Were they tiny bits of ice?

“Try some.” he said with a chuckle.

Seeing that he was dusting both potions of food equally, Rarity cautiously stuck out her tongue and a second later nearly inhaled a cloud of it in a great gasp. “Salt? How in Equestria did you find salt in this accursed, seasoning-free valley?”

A whole flower sailed into her mouth, and a quiet moan soon escaped. “A little salt does wonders! Where did you find it, and how? Please tell me you also found roses and soap!”

Spike laughed so hard he ended up coughing. The whole cave seemed to shake with the rumbling sound, and Rarity couldn’t help laughing too, despite a worrisome realization forming in the back of her mind: a sewing needle had become her most prized possession and salted wildflowers her new favorite meal. She wasn’t the pony who’d set off for the big city at far too tender an age. She wasn’t the pony who’d presided over a royal palace with authority second only to the crown. She wasn’t even the pony who’d nosedived into The Pit. Who was she becoming, and would she someday look back on her current self with hopeless longing, just as she’d done from her lavish palace residence and from her minuscule Canterlot apartment? Life always managed to take a turn for the worse, somehow.

As his laugher finally ceased, long after Rarity’s had soured into silent despondence, Spike passed her another flower. “I was on my way to the garden this afternoon, thinking about how wrapped up you were sewing and wishing I could make dinner extra special just for you, and…”

Rarity stared at him. “And?”

“I almost fell on my face. I thought I tripped on a tree root, but when I looked back I saw this.” He reached towards the cave entrance and picked up a white, crystalline rock that fit neatly into his large palm. “It’s pure salt. I’ve never ever found salt before, but I guess since it’s all white it’s really easy to miss out there in the snow.”

She stared at the miraculous salt block, unwilling to accept it as mere coincidence but more than happy to eat the results. “Indeed… Indeed. Well whatever the source, thank you for thinking of me. This certainly does make dinner special.”

He started eating too, mouthing something about it being almost as good as gems in the midst of a colossal mouthful. She frowned at this poor form, but only slightly. Finally, after swallowing, he cleared his throat and glanced her way. “So… you don’t hate Canterlot after all?”

She shook her head. “No. I have a number of grievances with the place, but—” her face fell “—I only have myself to blame for them, to be honest.”

The cave grew silent, save for the crackling fire. Still she could feel Spike’s eyes on her and sense his next question long before he voiced it.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because… Because no matter how much I’d like to, I can hardly blame Canterlot for failing to live up to my wild fillyhood imaginings. I can’t blame high society for not welcoming in a naive filly with the most basic understanding of culture and etiquette. I can only blame myself for not realizing I'd need to start on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, and have to work my hooves to the bone to achieve the smallest levels of notice and notoriety.”

Spike’s warm, giant hand settled onto her back, a gesture that might’ve been comforting, if he wasn’t an enormous, scale-covered dragon. Still she bore it rather than shying away. He cared that she was upset, and that in and of itself counted for something. Generosity felt as wonderful to receive as to give.

“Just take the fabric for my jacket and make new curtains,” he murmured. “Make some that aren’t going to make one of us sad.”

“I suppose that rules out depicting the Dragon Lands?”

He remained silent, his face impassive. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to get out of him with that remark; aside from a change in subject. Sighing, she willed herself to raise her head, stare into the fire, and consider better times. “The curtains are fine; if they weren’t I wouldn’t have made them. I had plenty of happy moments in Canterlot, I'll have you know.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.”

After a moment’s silence, his clawed fingers drummed against her side with soft impatience. “Such as?”

She rolled her eyes. At this rate she'd be quoting pages from her childhood diary within a week. Couldn't he be satisfied with vague pleasantries, for once? “Such as… ballroom dancing. There was a lovely studio on a hill overlooking downtown where I… well I meant to take lessons there at some point, given the time and funds. My devotion to art and need to earn a living took precedence.”

Spike’s hand left her back, much to her relief. He rose to his full, formidable height, and bowed down on one knee. “Then would you care to dance, Lady Rarity?”

Rarity stared at his outstretched hand, the hand big enough to swallow her whole foreleg, and wrinkled her nose. “And how do you propose to do that?”

“Just take my hand. I studied under royalty, remember?”

“I don't recall the Princess being known for her dancing forte, but… why not?”

Touching her foreleg to his palm was all it took. Two fingers closed around her hoof, and a moment later he'd gently raised her to a two legged pose, guiding her hoofsteps left, right, and left again. Two fingers of his other hand touched her back, leaving only as he spun her with surprising grace.

“How’s this?” he asked.

Their differences in size bordered on absurd. Princess Celestia would make a better dance partner for a dragon of Spike’s size. Rarity was closer to being a toy ballerina swaying in a music box than an elegant lady gliding across the ballroom floor. Still she found herself replying with a smile. Beneath the absurdity and the awkwardness she felt another kindness being offered her, and once again a special joy soon followed.

As the imaginary music accompanying her hoofsteps fell silent, she returned to all fours and bowed to him in kind. “That was lovely, actually. Thank you.”

“No problem. Pardon me for not kissing your hoof.”

She laughed. “Thank you for that as well. And with that I bid you a good night, Lord Spike the Gentledragon.”

To her relief, Spike grinned and did another quick bow. “Goodnight, Lady Rarity.”

She smiled and waved as he retreated to his curtained nest. That title he'd given her, which she'd never officially earned in the eyes of the pony aristocracy, felt strangely appropriate. Perhaps she could be a lady of a different sort: an artist of old cloth, a connoisseur of seasoned wildflowers, and an ambassador to the kindest of dragons. Perhaps she could even remain as happy and content as she felt now.

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