• Published 21st Aug 2012
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On Pins and Needles - The Descendant

Spike would do anything to stay near Rarity, to spend time with her. Even, it seems, suffer pain...

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Chapter 1: Pins

On Pins and Needles
Written by The Descendant

Chapter 1: Pins

Falling dreams are supposed to be nightmares.

Falling dreams are supposed to make those who dream them come awake with screams. Falling dreams are supposed make the dreamer pour sweat upon their sheets and sit up in their beds and tremble with a thick, palpable fear.

This was no nightmare.

The dreamer did not come awake. Instead the dreamer kept her mind in the moment, fought to remain in the dream.

This was no nightmare. This was the sweetest kind of dream.

Rarity felt the tears in her eyes, but it was not fear that drew them from her. It was not the wind that the dream was whistling past her ears that forced the tears from her. The tears welled up in her from deep within… they welled up as she stared into Spike’s eyes, and once again the little whelp plummeting through the sky with her prepared to say the words.


In the imperfect reality her dreams sheltered her from, there had been no choice but to lift her hoof at that point, place it across his lips.

But here, in the dream, she just stared on as he prepared the words and the tears streamed from her eyes and the smile grew wider across her face.


She pressed her hoof to her heart, pressed the fire ruby closer to her chest.

“Rarity? Rarity, I’m sorry to wake you…”

It was not Spike’s voice. As her mind raced out of the scene Rarity felt herself coming awake, losing the perfect scene once more.

Rarity raced out of the dream. Her eyes opened, blinked, and settled on the underside of the canopy that hovered over her deep, soft bed. Her nap was over. The dream had flown away.

Her hooves rested upon something, and looking down she found them still wrapped around a familiar black velvet box.

“Rarity? Rarity, I-I’ve got to tell you something really, really, really important…”

Rarity placed the velvet box on the nightstand as her eyes settled on the doorway. Fighting to put away the drowsiness of her nap she found a dearly familiar form standing at the threshold of her bedroom.

“Sweetie? Oh, Sweetie! Come in, Dearest, what is so important?” asked Rarity as she lifted her forelegs to her little sister. Sweetie Belle came prancing across the floor, a wide smile on her face informing the older unicorn that whatever was so important it probably didn’t involve anything disastrous, such as another charred interpretation of breakfast.

As Sweetie Belle hopped upon her sister’s bed the smaller unicorn beamed with pride.

“Rarity, do you remember me saying that my class was going to Canterlot, that I was going to be in the national geography bee?” Sweetie Belle asked. Even as she did Rarity’s face grew with pride.

“Sweetie!” Rarity cried, scooping her little sister up in a great vast hug, “Are you saying that you won? My dear little sister is so very smart!”

“Oh, oh… no, but-but I came in third,” interrupted Sweetie Belle, looking back up over her shoulder, her pride seeming to diminish.

It quickly returned as Rarity hugged, squeezed, and tickled her baby sister once again.

“Heh!” laughed Sweetie Belle, turning to her sister and showing off a bronze medallion.

“I’m so very sorry, Dearest, that I could not be there to see you compete,” said Rarity as her voice trembled at the fact. She continued her apology even as she kept reading from the description that sat upon the medal. “I-I had to save all of Equestria from an ancient, nameless, unspeakable evil, you know… being the Element of Generosity and such…”

“It’s okay,” said Sweetie, falling back into her sister’s hug, “I know. You can come to the after party, though, right?”

Sweetie didn’t even have time to turn on her puppy-dog eyes before her sister was promising her that she would.

“Yay!” called Sweetie Belle, hoping jubilantly around the bed, “There’s gonna be cake, music, a high tea, and we’re all gonna wear beautiful new… Oh! Rarity, this is the most important part!”

Sweetie Belle turned to face her sister.

“Sis, would… would you make me a new dress, one special for the party? Please?” said Sweetie Belle.

Rarity replied with a smile that seemed to imply levels of joy that would have been commensurate with being offered a day spent at the spa sipping fine wine and nibbling upon dark chocolate.

“Of course, Sweetie! Oh, I should love to!” answered the older sister, helping the smaller one from the bed. “We shall get started right away, why once Spike gets here he can help…”


“Oh, Sweetie,” answered Rarity once more, “why… why don’t you make us something to snack upon, and then join me in the Inspiration Room?”

Rarity watched with a smile as a gleeful Sweetie Belle bounced from the room, and her heart swam in her little sister's achievement.

She wished that she had always been the type of sister who Sweetie could talk to, who she could share such things with, who she would want with her in important moments.

Alas, thought Rarity, I have not been…

Rarity looked back to the black velvet box that sat on the nightstand. She walked slowly to where it had been deposited, and slowly she opened the top. As she gazed upon what sat inside her thoughts concluded.

… but I’ve always wanted to be, haven’t I? That’s who I’ve wanted to be… for her and for you? I’ve always wanted to be the mare that you think you see.

Twilight Sparkle was generally considered to be among the most educated and intelligent unicorns that her friends knew. She was generally respected as a learned individual.

There was even a certain owner and operator of a noted doughnut shop in Canterlot who frequently referred to her as “a smart cookie”.

Not much would escape her grasp, and even fewer things than that would get past her analytical eye.

One would wonder then why something as normal and commonplace as the growth of someone as close to her Spike would not register with her, as it had during his spell of greed-driven growth. How could it have surprised her so? Why did she need to take him to the doctor just to be informed that he was simply growing?

The simple answer, she would have told you, is because that is not the way that Spike normally grew.

Spike, she would state in a matter-of-fact tone, grew through a series of molts, and had been doing so ever since she had hatched him.

Spike, while this was being explained, would most likely be staring at the floor and blushing.

Yes, Twilight would have gone on to explain, she had helped him through the difficult process at times, especially when he was still a fingerling. She would also have said, with some hesitance, that as he aged the strips of decayed scales had become something of a problem between them.

When Spike had first come to her after his few years in the nursery, they had shared her bed in Canterlot, not unlike siblings would do. That ended as he grew bigger and after a particularly hard spring molt that ended with her sitting in class discretely trying to pull his old scales from her mane.

The next spring had found a young whelp who started to cry as soon as she had placed him in the bassinet the nursery had provided. His tears had continued all that long night. All that he knew was that a filly whom he simply wished would pick him up and share her warmth was not doing so. Instead she was telling him that he was "a big boy now" with his own "big boy crib."

In Twilight’s mind, she could remember seeing how little he understood it, and could still hear him calling out to her that he was sorry and that he would be a good boy, her little whelp believing that he was being punished for something. Twilight remembered sitting up all that long night trying very gently to explain to the wailing child that she simply was tired of waking up covered in his discarded scales and getting odd looks from classmates.

Spike, if he were still within earshot as the story was revealed, would generally blush even brighter and look even more uncomfortable.

Later it only became more problematic. As Spike grew into a little boy, he saw no problem with simply picking at himself during his molt, often doing so at inopportune times and in embarrassing circumstances.

It progressively got worse as he began chasing screaming fillies with hunks of his shriveled flesh, something that caused a rather put-upon Twilight to have to genuinely reprimand him. A younger Spike had spent many spring afternoons sitting in "time out" as Twilight inked letters of apology to foreign diplomats.

Spike, upon hearing that story recounted, would usually blush deeper and run his foot across the floor while desperately avoiding eye contact and praying that Rarity would never hear of it.

Spike, though, was now a mature whelp of some twelve years or thereabouts, and he was safely beyond all of that. He had taken his molting as something that showed his growing maturity…

… well, as mature as a baby dragon could, as his current use of his molt showed that he still had something of a child’s unusual sense of fun about him.

A sense of fun that still was able to gross her out.

“Blegh!” called Twilight, recoiling a touch at the sight of what he had done. “Spike, that’s so gross!”

“Awww, no it isn’t, Twi, it’s cool!” he called back, just finishing up with his markers. “C’mon, Twilight, look! Look at how I got it all off in one piece this time! I’m getting’ to be a pro at this!”

Twilight swallowed her revulsion long enough to approach the molt. Her tongue hung out as she saw how he had apparently spent his free morning stuffing the almost entirely intact shell of his former self with old copies of Equestria Daily and was just now finishing coloring his masterpiece with thick markers, their scent sitting heavily in the room.

“I kinda had to wiggle out backwards so that really messed up the frills and spikes. The eyes are ping-pong balls. I had to make new ones out of cardboard and construction paper so…”

Twilight wrinkled her nose as the thick smell of the markers and the slightest hint of old perspiration wafted from the art project. As she gave a single gagging cough, Twilight turned her attention from the macabre statue and to the body of her little whelp.

Even as he continued to go on and on about his rather unique art project she ran her hoof up and down his newly revealed scales, checking them for any imperfections as she always had.

He was always so soft and shiny afterwards.

Very soft and, yes, just a touch taller. She smiled for the first time since returning home to find he had already completed his molt. As she made him lift his arms she thought about how these soft scales would soon harden, and about how her little whelp would grow into them quickly over the next year.

Don’t grow up too fast, Spike.

“Spike,” she asked, more concerned with his present well being than his artistic endeavors, “did you stretch when you were done with the molt? Did everything feel right? Nothing felt tight?”

“Yeah,” he said, turning back to her, standing beside his counterpart and putting his arm around his own shoulder, “everything came out fine, Twi.”

Spike did a few impromptu jogging exercises and a couple of quick squat-thrusts to show himself to be in proper order.

“Tada!” he announced as he stood.

She then waited for him to catch his breath.

To her surprise he took the arms of his flaky counterpart and made it clap its rather distressing hands in approval.

“Thank you, thank you!” Spike answered. “It was nothing, really!”

“Okay, yeah,” replied Twilight, her body giving a shudder of horror as she watched him readjusting his doppelganger, “this thing is gonna be in the house for about another fifteen minutes…”

“Aw, c’mon Twi, I was thinking that I could put it in the window and…”


“Oh… or, maybe have it hold a sign outsi…“


“Or have it next to the mailbox so that…”

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no…”

She smiled over him as he fumed.

“Spike,” she asked as she ran a cloth over his shiny new scales, freeing them of the marker ink, “why did you even make this thing? Don’t you have anything else you could have been doing? Weren’t you supposed to help Rarity today?”

“Yeah,” he said, holding his arms out to her so she could get the last drops, “but not until noon. Isn’t there anything else I can do for you? Is there anything I can do?”

Twilight laughed a small laugh.

“No, today is your day off, and I’m glad you were being… uh, creative, with the time,” she said, pondering the husk once more with a shudder. “You use it as you see fit.”

“Alright!” called Spike, “Up high!”

The figure shook noticeably as he slapped its hand. Twilight made disgusted sounds as a few loose scales fell to the floor.

Twilight had been just about to tell Spike to take the thing outside and burn it when the clock chimed that it was a quarter to noon.

She watched as Spike’s face began to swim with anticipation. “Are my scales straight? Did my frills come in taller? Am I shiny? Too shiny?” he asked as his attention shifted from artistic pursuits to thoughts of the elegant mare he was soon to visit and assist.

She giggled as she ran her hoof across his frills.

Twilight smiled to herself again as Spike ran about, searching out mirrors and wiping any trace of his artistic pursuits from him with loose towels, napkins, and the tablecloth. Twilight recovered it from him before it became too dirty, and as her magic took it from his grasp, she reminded him of the post-molting protocols they had established long ago.

“Stay clean,” she told him as they approached the door, “and don’t do anything that could crack your scales. You’re still very soft…”

“Right, nothing that could break the scales, gotcha,” he said as he leapt up to grab the door handle, turning it quickly.

He had already begun to walk out into the street, his head in a cloud of expectancy, when an “Ahem!” caught his attention and drew him back to the library door.

“Oh!” he said, turning back to the mare who stood there, and quickly being gathered into her hug, “Sorry Twi, got ahead of myself. Have a good afternoon, okay?”

“You too, Spike. Remember, careful for your new scales, and listen to Rarity, okay?

She released him from the hug. Twilight watched as he waved and then disappeared into the street, moving quite quickly in an impressive effort to be at the side of his ladylove at the scheduled time.

Twilight felt herself smiling.

“Don’t grow up too fast, Spike,” she said aloud.

She felt herself hanging around the doorframe, pondering the cityscape of Ponyville. As she did she thought about Spike, how he was growing, about his crush on her friend… how it, despite how deep and earnest it was, would have to reach some sort of finality. She wondered how long Rarity would humor him, but she knew that the elegant mare had needs… ones that Spike was not able to fulfill.

She sighed as she thought of them, wondered how things were going to work out... how the innocent love of a child could ever be reciprocated without complications. She trusted Rarity, loved her as a friend, and knew that the mare would not hurt him, neither in letting him down from the pedestal on which he had placed her or by taking his feelings too far.

Twilight knew Rarity would not intentionally hurt the whelp, the one they both cared for.

She simply wondered how it would all end.

Twilight began to close the door, but even as she did so she felt a set of eyes upon her, and she jumped in alarm.

Upon seeing whose eyes they were she frowned at herself and answered them with an accusatory glare.

“Oh! Don’t judge me!” she told the husk of Spike’s former scales, the figure apparently having been left leaning on the circular library table in a pose of distant adjudication, “Like you haven’t thought about the same thing!”

Spike slowed himself down as he gained the main square. He lifted himself up to gain a view of Carousel Boutique as ponies passed in and out of his view.

With a few small movements, he subtly gathered up a few flowers from the public garden and then sauntered to the door of the boutique.

As the distant clock tower struck noon he knocked upon the door, and with that he was ushered within.

“Oh Spike, they’re wonderful!” Rarity proclaimed, “And just on time, as always. Such a gentleman.”

Spike blushed as Rarity’s magic wafted the vase before him. Her magic quickly cut off the ends, and with that the flowers sat upon the pedestal nearby as Sweetie Belle explained to Spike all of the distant places that she had described and found to win her medal.

“And I knew everything except where the minotaurs come from. Turns out that they’re from a big island in the Mareiteranean called Crete. That makes them Cretans. Isn’t that unfair?” asked Sweetie as she walked up to the platform upon which Rarity always stationed her models, “I wouldn’t want to be called a Cretan. Would you? Hey! You’re all shiny! Why are you so shiny, Spike?”

“I, oh… umm, yeah, I just molted, so these are my new scales!” he said, foregoing any discussion about unfortunate naming practices and instead focusing on that which would show Sweetie (and far more importantly, her older sister) just how fast he was maturing.

“I’m gonna grow into ‘em over the next year, so right now I’m still kinda…”

Spike’s explanation was interrupted as the soft feel of a familiar, and deeply appreciated, hoof drew across his frills.

“Oh my, Spikey-Wikey, you are positively gleaming,” asked Rarity. “You certainly are growing into a handsome young dragon, aren’t you?”

Rarity walked a few steps away, giggling to herself as she felt the heat of Spike’s blush radiating from him. She listened as the two younger creatures finished their small conversation and ate the snacks that Sweetie had prepared. As they did she finished rolling the fabrics that she wished to use in the dress, make real the images that had already appeared in her mind. Her mark alit inside her, and with that the preparations came to an end.

Across the room, another creature began to observe what was happening, and at once an important thought fell through his mind.

“Ummm… Rarity?” Spike asked, noticing the way the graceful unicorn had laid out her materials. “What, what are we going to be doing today?”

“Oh, we are going to be making Sweetie a new dress, on that she can wear to the after-party for the geography bee!” she said. With that she lifted her design to him, levitating it in her magic.

“Gee Rarity, that’s really nice of you to do that… really nice…” he said. Spike looked up from the drawing to see Rarity looking at him, and he smiled back up at her.

Rarity looked down, saw the expression sitting across his features.

“Do you really think so, Darling?” she asked in a quiet tone.

“Well, yeah…” he replied.

Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes and grinned. Rarity hovered there for an instant, a wide smile upon her face, and then turned back to her carefully arranged materials with a giggle.

I’ve always wanted to be the mare you think you see...

Spike once again looked past Rarity. He looked at the carefully arranged components that Rarity had prepared for the crafting of the dress: the cloth, the threads, the lace, the pins...

The pins.

Twilight’s warning thundered through Spike’s mind.

“Uhm, Rarity?” asked Spike, “What, ummm… what did you need me to do today?”

"Well, Spike, I should be making use of those wonderful tough scales of yours again," she began, "It is so very helpful to me when I have you nearby as I work, you know... it does not interrupt my creative process. Oh, I suppose it lends my work a certain je ne sais quoi when I do not need to go back to my pin cushion or wear it on my... Spike?"

Rarity pondered him. As she did she saw an unfamiliar expression cross his face.

“Rarity, is that… that all I can do for you? Is there anything else I could do, like sort your fabric remnants or…”

“Well,” she said, sharing a confused glance with her sister, “No, not really, I’m afraid. Is there a problem, Spike?”

“I-I mean, really, isn’t there anything else… that I could do?” he asked, the stammer growing in his voice, “So, so that I could help you? I-I want to help…”

“No, there’s really nothing else you could do for me at the moment,” Rarity said, tilting her head back and forth. After a long moment she lowered her head to his, “Do, you not like being my own little pincushion? I-I thought you liked helping me in that manner, in all honesty. You don’t have to…”

Twilight’s implore that he protect his newly revealed scales repeated in his mind.

At once it did battle with the thought of not being useful to Rarity.

Spike reacted quickly, hopping over to where all the finery lay ready for the construction of the dress.

It can’t be that bad, right? I mean… it can’t hurt all that much, and it can’t really mess up my scales, right?


“No, no! I-I like helping you… I like it fine. It’s just that, oh…nothing, nothing,” he said, dancing his fingertips against one another, “Hey, let’s, let’s get started! Yeah! Yeah…”

Rarity pondered him for a few moments. She shared her concern with Sweetie Belle, catching her sister in another glance. Yet it seemed that the child had reached the end of her ability to guess her sister’s meaning, and with a sigh Rarity settled back into her creative mode.

“Very well,” she said. As the first bolt of fabric came undone Rarity began to drape it across the shoulders and withers of her little sister. As the fitting progressed, normal conversation began again.

As she went along Rarity began to pull the pins out of their tiny metal box and place them to her lips, waiting for the correct moment to use them to tie the bunting to the lace that sat upon her sister.

It may have been her imagination, but she could have sworn she heard Spike gasp when she revealed them.

“There, Sweetie, we’ll try something chic this time. Oh, yes, that is quite marvelous…”

As the sewing needle came up and went to work, drifting on the currents of her magic, she slowly removed the pins. As Sweetie’s voice drifted out into the room the sisters made small talk about how things had gone, about what was going on at home with mother and father…

… and out came the pins, and into the tough scales of Spike’s back they went.

Or so Rarity assumed.

It might have been her imagination, but to Rarity the pins seemed to slide amid his scales with suspicious ease. Had he drawn a sharp breath as the first settled amid his scales?

She looked down at him, saw him stare back to her with his usual smile, but perhaps just a slight tremble as well…

Rarity waited a moment, and then continued her work.

“I dare say,” continued the mare, “that this work will meet any critique leveled upon it. You’ll be the envy of any debutante at the party, Dearest…”

“Do you really think so?” asked Sweetie Belle, the younger unicorn giving a small leap of happiness that warmed Rarity’s heart.

Her reflection was interrupted as a few more pins magically wafted to her side, and as they found their resting spot a yelp lifted into the room.

Rarity startled and looked down at Spike. He was biting the back of one of his clawed hands, a distant look crossing his eyes.

It might have been her imagination, but he seemed to be in pain.

The very thought…

“Spike?” she asked, tilting her head from side to side to ponder him again, “Are you alright, Darling?”

“Yeah! Yeah… I, I just bit the back of my arm… is all,” he said with a noticeable tremble.

“Well, yes, I can see that, Spike,” she said as she examined his limb, completely missing the source of his growing torment, “but the question is why, isn’t it?”

“Oh… oh, I… I just remembered a job I have to do for Twilight that I don’t really wanna do,” he said, trying to paint truth into the words.

It was a lie, and it hovered there before him.

It might have been her imagination, but Rarity believed she saw something hidden behind Spike’s smile, and his eyes seemed to be starting to fog. He seemed to be trembling as he spoke with her… shaking, arching his back.

“Yes, well, we’ll have to speak with her about it if it’s causing you that much concern…”

Rarity returned her attention to Sweetie Belle, and as she did Spike turned away. As he did he grimaced, pulled at the rug, tore at it with his claws. He had lied to her! That only added to the pain, made it that more real… the awful foreign feeling of the pins drawing down into his soft flesh, the perfect pain that shot through him from his shoulders to his hips… the lie made it that much worse, burning in his gut.

Each movement brought new agony as the pins drew imperceptibly deeper and deeper into his newly revealed scales and the soft flesh beneath. Spike bit the inside of his own cheek, the very act of walking beside the graceful mare seeming to drive new shocks of pain across his back.

But he didn’t say anything, didn’t want to risk being asked to leave.

At once there was the feeling of a tear, a ripping of his flesh and scale, and he winced again. Now something wet began to slide across his back, and he knew very well what it was. With that he felt the magic of the mare he held dear cross his scales, felt the wet pop as the large hemming pins came out…

… only to be replaced by a new torture as the larger, winged basting pins took their place.

Spike covered his mouth with his hands and attempted to muffle his cry.

“Ewwww! Blood!” called Sweetie Belle as she took a step backwards.

“Oh! Did I stab you with my needle, Dearest?” called out Rarity as she immediately began to check her sister over, “I’m so sorry!”

“No, not on me, on the pin!” said Sweetie as she motioned to the pin that floated in Rarity’s magic, the one she had just withdrawn from Spike’s scales.

Rarity’s eyes flew to the pins that hovered in her purple aura. There, indeed, swam a few drops of red that dripped to the floor in small, almost imperceptible drops. In an instant a horrible insight grew upon the unicorn, and she missed a breath as her mind made a ghastly connection.

“Spike!” called Rarity, spinning to where the whelp had been creeping along beside her. Instead of finding him there she had to pan her eyes across her studio, waiting until Sweetie’s cries of alarm pointed her towards the opposite side of the room.

The two unicorns looked on in horror as a high, shrill call of pain finally escaped the lips of the whelp. As he did he went to the carpet arching his back, trying desperately to reach behind himself, to grasp at the pins that only drove deeper into his new soft scales as he fought them.

“Spike!” she called again, dropping her materials as he began spinning about upon the carpet, fighting against the pain like a wounded animal. At once he collapsed into the pedestal. It fell over him, causing the vase to come crashing down and the flowers to fall around him as he fought to his knees.

A new cry fell from him as he wrapped himself around the fallen pedestal. His claws tore at the alabaster surface, marring it as he called out in pain. “Rarity! He's bleeding!” came Sweetie’s alarmed voice, the little unicorn struggling out of her dress as Rarity rid herself of her accoutrements.

“Spike!” called Rarity once more, racing to him as the slick surface of his scales reflected the mid-day light, the wetness shimmering from where each tiny movement drew new wells of blood from his broken scales.

With a cry of her own Rarity was upon him, and as she grasped him by her teeth she pelted towards the stairs. As they ascended them the rhythmic pitter-patter of his blood on the steps and the sound of his cries echoing off the wall filled the stairwell.