• Published 14th Dec 2020
  • 3,888 Views, 164 Comments

Of Dragons and Maternity - SymphonicSync

When Twilight visits Ponyville to prepare for the summer sun celebration, her assistant Spike develops a crush.

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(8) For A Single Bit

Spike stopped just outside of Sugarcube Corner, staring at the door and the small sign hanging off the handle. It read Out to lunch, back soon!

He watched as Sweetie took the handle and opened the door just enough to slip inside. "Are you sure about this?" Spike asked, glancing at the sign as a slight frown came to his face.

Sweetie beamed back at him. "Yeah! They just put that up whenever there's a bunch of ponies from out of town." She disappeared inside as Spike caught the door and lingering there. He looked down the street to his left, and then to the right. Two royal guards jogged down the street behind the drake. They were out of uniform, but he recognized the cut of their mane and 'I'm still working' look on their faces. The stallions nodded his direction and then kept on their way.

Spike wondered why they seemed so anxious as he followed Sweetie inside. The light was dimmed, the windows half drawn and lamps turned low. She stood before an unmared counter, a hoof to the glass as she craned her neck to get a look in the backroom.

Seeing nopony, she turned and said "Huh, maybe they actually are eating." No later than the last word leaving her mouth, the door to a side room swung open. A blue mare with a red and pink mane walked through as Sweetie swung round to greet her, "Hey Mrs. Cake!"

The mare smiled, or maybe winced, at the sound of the young filly's voice. "Oh hello there, Sweetie Belle," she greeted in return, glancing over the counter, "who's your friend?"

Spike peered around the corner, absently mindedly looking into the room she'd come out of. He started to introduce himself, mumbling "I'm..."

"He's Twilight's so-" Sweetie chirped.

Behind her, the dragon whelp yelped "I'm Spike!" There was a hushed gasp from the side room at the sound of his interruption. Flustered, he looked to his feet as Mrs. Cake blushed.

Sweetie Belle paid little attention to either of them as she peered past Mrs. Cake. The mare shifted on her hooves to block the fillies view. "Is somepony back there?"

Mrs. Cake rushed a response, "Oh, nopony special, Mr. Cake was just helping me find..." A chime filled the room as a lanky orange stallion entered through the front door. He carried bags of groceries past the two children, leaned over the counter to kiss the mare on her cheek, and then continued behind the counter into the kitchen area.

"Was that Mr. Cake?" Spike inquired.

Mrs. Cake sheepishly answered with a crooked smile, "I guess he found what we needed?"

A voice spoke out of the side room, saying "Nopony can say you didn't try, Ms. Swirl."

Spike's posture relaxed. The voice brought a familiar sort of comfort to him, like a melody from his youth. He took a few steps towards the end of the counter as he said "Hey Celestia, how was the-"

"PRINCESS CELESTIA!?" Sweetie Belle squealed as the alicorn's head peeked around the doorframe.

A gilded boot rose over the monarch's mouth as she shushed the filly. "Not so loud; you'll rouse the guard." She bid the two inside, shutting the door behind him. It was a small room, probably for birthdays or other celebrations. Spike had seen ponies at such events on the rare occasions Twilight ventured out into the city. Little leagues, cuteceañeras, anniversaries, ponies seemed to enjoy having reasons to party.

Ponies other than Twilight, at least. She wasn't like the ponies at the parties from what he'd seen. Sure, she'd laugh from time to time, but it was after solving some riddle or learning some advanced spell. Never with other ponies, or at jokes.

She was there, though. Not at a distance but always including him in everything she did. She wasn't like the ponies at the parties; they'd never invited him to anything.

He walked forward and hopped onto one of the stools by the banquet table. Sweetie Belle remained at the door, stuck in awe at the sight of the princess before her. Celestia returned to her seat out of sight from the main room. She motioned to the stool at the head of the table and smiled at Sweetie. "Would you care to join us, my little siren?"

Sweetie took a hesitant step forward, then clambered onto the chair. She donned an anxious face, averting her eyes from Celestia.

Spike looked between the two before addressing the princess. "Weren't you supposed to be on the chariot at dawn?"

"My guards seemed to have overslept, so I thought I'd take some time for myself."

The drake nodded in understanding. "You gave them the slip."

"It is not my fault they forgot to turn their alarms back. Who's to blame, really?" She flashed a grin at him. Sweetie Belle let out a giggle, Spike blushed, and Celestia observed them both. "What's your name, little miss?"

"I'm Sweetie Knell-Belle, Sweetie Belle." The filly spoke faster than she could manage.

"I'm only here to shop the confections, Miss Belle," Celestia promised, placing a hoof on the foal's withers, "there's no need to be so worried. I'd never try to gobble you up." She playfully gnashed her teeth with a brief lurch, as if she were a hungry timber wolf.

Sweetie Belle giggled again. "I'm sorry, I'd just only ever dreamed that I would get to meet a princess."

"You get used to it after a while," Spike mused, placing his chin in a claw, "especially when they're an overgrown pigeon like this one."

Sweetie Belle turned to Spike with a shocked look on her face as Celestia let out a hearty chuckle. "Oh Spike, it's been too long. I knew it was a mistake when I increased Twilight's reading allowance. How long has she had the two of you wrapped up in those studies?"

"Months, she's not even finished Starswirl's Encyclopedia of the Arcane yet."

"Twilight studies under Princess Celestia?!" Sweetie Belle blurted out in astonishment.

"Yeah," Spike confirmed, turning back to Celestia, "She rewrote her last letter about twenty times, she was so worried she'd described it all wrong."

"That sounds like my favorite pupil, alright."

Sweetie looked at the table, bewildered. "Is Twilight like a famous celebrity?" Spike scoffed and Celestia held back a snort.

She recomposed herself and affirmed "Yes, she is to me." There was a warmth in her face, like there were too many words she wished to say but would not have the time.

The door swung open as Mrs. Cake brought a platter of sweets into the room. She set them on the end of the table before the three and announced "Go ahead, it's on the house Princess Cel-"

"Just Celestia is fine, and I insist, I'll pay for what I take. How much do they cost?"

Sweetie Belle stared at the platter, her eyes darting from one dish to the next. Spike gave a bemused look, seeing far too little to eat with far too much decoration. Mrs. Cake extended a hoof, pointing to one of the closer desserts. "This one is 10 bits-"

Sweetie Belle's focus went up to the mare as she said "But." She stopped as Mrs. Cake shot her a glance.

Celestia waved her hoof. "No discounts, Miss Swirl."

"25 bits."

Spike tilted his head at the Princess. Had she grimaced at the price? Celestia declined the offer, “No thank you, sounds a little too fancy for my tastes. Have you got anything a little, simpler?” There was a pause after little, as if she were wondering whether another word would get her meaning across more clearly. Spike knew the process; Twilight would do the same while composing letters. Like mentor, like student…

Mrs. Cake pointed to a plate in the center of the platter. “12 bits?”

“Is that almond flour?” Celestia peered towards the slice of cake, as if she would be able to see the component after baking. “I’m not feeling almonds today.”

“Okay then,” Mrs. Cake remarked, pointing to another dish, “4 bits?” On it sat a small cupcake with a single cherry resting on top of a dollop of frosting.

“Really?” Celestia leaned forward. “Only 4?”

Mrs. Cake shrugged. “Well, technically 5 after taxes, but...”

The princess gave her a nod. “That’s fair.” She placed her hooves on the tray and spun it to face Mrs. Cake. “You know what, let’s have some fun. What could you make me for a single bit?”

“Just one?” Mrs. Cake asked, reluctantly picking up the platter.

“Just one, with another few for your time.” Celestia confirmed.

“Alright Princess, oh! Sorry,” the confectioner apologized, “just Celestia.” She acknowledged Sweetie and Spike with a look towards each. “Anything I can grab for the two of you?”

Spike didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what all the store made or what he would like from it. Sweetie reached into her small coin purse, dug out some bits, and laid a stack of eight on the edge of the platter. “Two cones, please!” She questioned Spike, “Chocolate or Vanilla?”

“Um,” his eyes averted her gaze, “both?”

“Neo and a twist, coming right up.” Mrs. Cake declared as she left the room.

Spike caught Celestia tracing the platter as it left. She’d been eyeing it since Sweetie pulled out the bits. He addressed the princess, “Celestia?”

“Yes, Spike?”

“Why are you being stingy?"

"It's the duty of the monarchy to be frugal."

She was using the same voice as when he was younger and the treasurer caught them sneaking baubles out of the vaults. He hadn't put much thought into it back then when she had explained to the pony how the gems were for her to snack on. It wasn't until several years later that he learned how equines didn't eat minerals. "Celestia, what are you hiding?"

"I... May have an issue." The children watched as Celestia reached up into her yoke to retrieve her purse.

She laid it upon the table. Spike took it to a claw and turned it inside out.

Out fell four lonely bits.