• Published 12th Jan 2012
  • 18,213 Views, 590 Comments

How to Woo Your Lady in Nine Easy Steps - paleowriter

Spike orders a How-To guide book to win Rarity's heart.

  • ...

Step Eight

Chapter Nine: Step Eight

Congratulations, stallion! Your lady has agreed to accompany you on a date. You are no doubt feeling a variety of emotions: excitement, hope, pride, and let us be honest, a dash of good ol' fashioned terror!

Rest assured, it is completely normal to feel anxious. What you must concentrate on is not allowing those nerves to get the best of you. This is not your first time alone with your lady; previous steps have seen to that. You are already friends with your mare, so it will be easy to find topics of conversation. And you have already planned out your activity of choice, so the pressure is off there as well. Enjoy your date! You have earned it!

For those stallions who may still be nervous, or for those who are simply curious, this chapter will outline several tips for proper behavior on a first date. Topics will include appropriate first date gifts, what to do during conversation lulls, and how to best wrap up the date so that Step Nine may be all set to go when the time comes.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Spike stood in front of Rarity and the floating rose, scarcely believing the turn of events. His heart still pounded like mad, but now it was out of relief, rather than panic. She…she said yes! Oh, Rarity, you'll see! I'm going to make everything better!

Giddiness flooded him, and before he could stop himself, Spike let out a laugh. The second it escaped him, he threw an embarrassed hand over his mouth. No time for laughing yet! You might completely blow this still, and then Rarity may never give you a chance again!

Rarity had her head tilted, and she blinked down at Spike, clearly confused.

Okay, way to start out like a doofus. Spike resisted the urge to hang his head in shame.

"So uh…yeah," Spike said, rubbing one of his arms awkwardly. "Would you like to come to the park with me? I was thinking that before we do too much, it might be nice to uh, have some lunch?"

"Lunch in the park?" Rarity asked. Gosh, it was wonderful to hear her voice again. Her regular voice. Not her angry voice, or her upset voice, or her sad voice. Just her voice.

Spike's determination doubled. Don't mess this up. Don't you dare mess this up.

The dragon nodded. "It's not…it's nothing special," he said, "I just thought…something simple to start out the day. I have other things planned, too," Spike added. As quickly as the emotion had appeared, his giddiness was fleeing. Nerves moved back in, traveling all the way down to the ends of his toes. What if Rarity hates all my ideas?

But then Rarity smiled. "Lunch in the park sounds lovely."

Spike's heart nearly burst.

She doesn't hate your idea! She thinks it sounds lovely!

"Great!" Spike exclaimed. He tried not to sound overly enthusiastic, but it was hard. "So…yeah! Why don't we get going then?"

"Certainly," Rarity replied, tossing her mane lightly. "Just let me duck back into my shop for a moment to feed Opal and to put this rose in water." She bobbed the rose up and down in the air for a touch of emphasis.

Spike flushed. Right. She wasn't going to carry that around all day. "Yeah. Sure. Sounds good," he said. Doofus!

"I'll be right back out," Rarity reassured him, giving him a small smile. She turned and went back inside her shop, the rose trailing along next to her.

Spike twiddled his fingers. Okay. Not bad so far. Just stop being a doofus and everything will be okay.

A voice sounded behind him. "Alright, Spike."

He jumped, spinning. "What – who? Oh."

It was just Twilight, walking up with a floating picnic basket. She had one eyebrow raised. "Nervous much?"

Spike crossed his arms. "Hey, like you wouldn't be!"

Twilight rolled her eyes, but smiled. "Okay, Casanova, everything's packed." Out of her bag, she levitated up a clipboard with a quill. Spike knew the clipboard had to have a checklist on it. "And everypony is in place. Rainbow Dash is flying to Fillydelphia for the tickets, and she'll be back soon. Pinkie's at Sugarcube Corner, Fluttershy is on her way to round up her birds, and Applejack is getting her cart fixed up." She lowered the checklist and looked back at Spike. "You know, I'm proud of you for coming up with all this, but you're lucky your friends are so willing to help. You have a pretty ambitious day lined up."

Spike nodded. "Well, yeah. I had to make it like that. This is my one shot to make everything better," he explained. Doesn't Twilight understand?

"I'm not saying it's bad, Spike," Twilight replied, "Just saying you're lucky we're all so willing to help you out." She winked.

"Oh." Spike shuffled awkwardly. "I'm going to owe all you guys, aren't I?"

"Oh no." Twilight shook her head. "Don't worry about that. We're all happy to lend a hoof." She glanced up at the shop. "But I think I hear Rarity coming, so I'd better get going. I've got a reservation to make, after all," she said, glancing down at her checklist.

"Thanks, Twilight," Spike said, smiling gratefully. He took the picnic basket from his sister. "You're the best."

Twilight tucked her checklist and quill away in her satchel. "Good luck. If you don't hear from me, that means everything is set to go."

"Okay," Spike replied. "Got it."

Twilight cantered away. Spike gripped the picnic basket in his claws and rocked on his feet. It sounded like everypony was doing their best to make sure the day worked the way he planned. Now, it was up to him to not screw things up.

Rarity opened up her shop door and stepped out. "All set," she said. She hoped her voice sounded steady. At least she looked slightly more presentable now.

Since she hadn't exactly had the chance earlier to go through her usual morning routine, Rarity had been almost afraid to look in the mirror and reassess her appearance. Thankfully, it hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. After feeding Opal and putting the flower in a vase, Rarity had then touched up her mane so it fell into its proper curls. Now everything was as it should be, and stepping outside wasn't nearly so embarrassing.

"Oh good," Spike said, and Rarity did a double take. Somehow, the dragon was now holding quite the sizable picnic basket. She could've sworn he didn't have one before... "Well, lunch is in here." Spike hefted up the basket. "So do you want to get going?"

Rarity blinked. Where did that come from? "Um…oh yes, of course," she said, bringing herself out of her disorientation.

Spike's eyebrows knit together, and Rarity realized he must be mistaking her distraction for lack of enthusiasm.

"I mean, I'm quite ready," Rarity attempted to salvage her words and put the dragon at ease. "I was just confused as to where – I mean, you have a – "

Spike's expression continued to scrunch up in concern.

Oh dear. You're just making a bigger mess of this. Rarity flushed. "I – I was just – picnic basket!" she finally got out.

"Oh," Spike replied, looking down at the basket he was holding. "You're wondering about this?"

Rarity nodded quickly, petrified as to just how bright red her face must be. Dear Celestia, whatever happened to your articulation today?

"Twilight brought it while you were inside," Spike explained. "But I packed it! Earlier, I mean. Not just now. Twilight helped, but I came up with it. I mean, not that Twilight can't come up with lunch ideas, but I don't want you to think that I can't think of things that you might like and have to ask anypony else or anything, because I can think of things! But I guess we'll find out soon if I came up with anything good…if you hate all the food in here, we can throw it out! We can get something else! We can – "

"Spike," Rarity interrupted, holding out a hoof to stop his rambling. "I'm sure it's suitable. More than suitable, really. I'm sure it's grand. Well, perhaps grand is a little strong, what I mean to say is that…" A laugh started up inside her, and burst out before she even realized that it was coming. "Oh…oh dear," she said between her giggles. "Spike, listen to us! We can't even get a simple sentence out to one another!"

Spike began to laugh, too. Slowly at first, but it eventually became more boisterous. Rarity had to admit, it was hard to harbor any ill feelings towards the dragon in that moment. His laugh was downright adorable.

"I guess we do sound pretty absurd," Spike commented as they brought their mirth back under control.

Rarity wiped at the corner of her eyes. "Well, I for one am glad that awkwardness is out of the way. I fully intend to do my best to enjoy whatever it is that you have planned for the day."

Something about what she said must've snapped Spike back into nervous mode, because he straightened up and nodded curtly. "And I will do my very best to make sure that you don't need to try too hard," he said, taking a deep breath and puffing out his chest.

The giggles were still inside her, and Rarity had to exercise all of her self control not to laugh at the dragon's earnestness. "Thank you, Spike," she said, barely managing to keep a serious tone. What is with you, Rarity? Less than an hour ago you were crying! "Why don't you lead the way, then?"

"Yes, right, of course," Spike said. He gestured for Rarity to accompany him. "To the park, then."

Rarity stepped forward, and they walked side by side through the streets of Ponyville. Spike carried the picnic basket with both hands in front of him, and it bounced against him awkwardly as he walked. Rarity thought about offering to carry the picnic basket with her magic, but decided against it. Spike might get insulted.

"So…" Spike said as they drew closer to the park. "What have you been up to?"

Rarity's mouth twitched back, and definitely not in an amused way anymore. What have I been up to? Let's see…a lot of crying, some angry pacing, throwing the occasional pillow, and generally ripping my mane out in massive emotional confusion. What have you been up to, Spike? Rarity shifted her eyes to the side to avoid looking at her walking companion. "I've been…working on shop things," she eventually said.

Spike sighed next to her. "Sorry. That was a dumb question."

"That's alright," Rarity said, quietly. Clearly, it had been too much to hope that their laughing fit had erased all of the tension completely. They were still a long way away from getting back to normal.

"It's um…nice weather today," Spike changed the subject.

"Yes it is," Rarity observed. "I don't think there's a storm scheduled for another week yet."

"Yeah, Rainbow Dash mentioned that earlier," Spike replied.

"Oh?" The mention of the pegasus reminded Rarity of something that had been bothering her. "Speaking of Rainbow Dash, whatever happened to her and all the others from this morning? Applejack disappeared nearly as soon as she left my shop."

"Oh…" Spike looked away, obviously trying to avoid Rarity's gaze. "They're…they all had things to do," he said, evasively.

"Alright," Rarity replied. She wondered what Spike had up his sleeve. She sincerely doubted she'd seen the last of their friends for the day.

But before she could ask anything further, they arrived at the park.

"Where would you like to sit?" Spike asked, gesturing to the open space before them.

Rarity glanced around. To the right there was an active ball game going on. She winced. She could just imagine the ball flying out and crashing into their meal. To the left, things looked much more peaceful. A group of fillies played a game of tag, while their parents watched from a couple of benches. There were even a few picnic blankets laid out from other ponies already.

"Shall we go join the picnicking area?" Rarity nodded to the left.

"Sounds good," Spike replied.

They walked over and found a quiet spot under a large maple tree. Spike set the basket down and pulled out a blanket, laying it carefully on the ground.

"Ladies first," Spike said, and Rarity smiled a little before taking a seat. Spike really was trying. That much was obvious. And the little dragon was making it far too tempting to simply forgive him before their day had scarcely begun. Rarity had to keep actively strengthening her mental resolve. A few kind words did not make up for days of manipulation.

Rarity repeated that in her head over and over. Spike had to prove to her that he actually cared. That she wasn't just some pretty bauble for him to collect. That she truly mattered to him.

"Okay," Spike began to take out the items from the basket, starting with plates. "I put together some of those little grass sandwiches you had made the other day," he said. "You didn't eat any then, but I figured if you made them, you must like them…"

Rarity blinked, thinking back to their gem sorting from days before. I guess I never did eat any that day, did I? Pinkie and Rainbow Dash were inhaling them so quickly, I figured it'd be best to let them have the lot. Spike noticed?

"And I also brought some grapes from Sweet Apple Acres," Spike said next, taking out a bunch and setting them on the biggest plate. "And some of your favorite tea leaves." He took out a tea set and a large flask of water.

No wonder Spike was having trouble carrying that basket!

"That all sounds wonderful," Rarity said. "But…" she stared at the tea set, puzzled. "How do we boil the water out here?"

"Oh! Easy!" Spike set the leaves inside the tea kettle, added the water, and then lifted it up into the air over his head. He took a giant breath and then blew hot flames at the bottom of the tea kettle until it whistled.

Rarity stared, wondering how she'd never thought to ask Spike to do that on any of their outings before. "That was…very ingenious of you, Spike," she admitted, as Spike poured tea into two cups.

"Thanks," he said, sounding more than a little pleased. "So yeah…bon appétit!" He sat back and lifted up one of the sandwiches. Then he paused right before he was about to take a bite out of it. He stared at Rarity, shut his mouth, and slowly lowered the sandwich. He looked torn.

"Is there…something wrong?" Rarity asked, levitating up a sandwich of her own.

"Um…" Spike hesitated for a moment. Then, something akin to determination colored his face. "You know what? No."

With that, Spike took a bite of his sandwich and munched away, almost rebelliously.

Rarity shrugged. It wasn't the weirdest thing Spike had done lately, after all. She took a bite of her own sandwich, not even bothering to ask what that had been all about.

The sound of Fluttershy's unmistakably soft cough drew Rarity's attention. She turned, surprised to see her friend approaching from across the park.

"Fluttershy…what are you – ?" Rarity started.

"Oh, don't mind me," Fluttershy said, walking up cautiously.

"She's just here to make lunch just a little more interesting," Spike said. He looked over at the pegasus pony. "Is everything ready?" Spike asked.

"We're all set," Fluttershy replied with a nod.

What in the - ?

But then Fluttershy raised up a conductor's baton, and the tree next to them erupted in bird song.

"Oh how wonderful!" Rarity exclaimed, before she could stop herself. Fluttershy's bird chorus was always such a treat to listen to. Rarity couldn't remember the last time she'd heard it. She turned to Spike. "You planned this?"

"Well…yeah," Spike said. "I thought it'd be nice for you to have some music while you ate."

Rarity raised her eyebrows, impressed.

"By the way," Spike said. "Don't fill up too much. We'll be having dessert, too."

Rarity took a sip of her tea and her eyes traced back up to the tree where all of the singing birds perched. "Dessert?" she asked.

"Yeah," Spike said. "Not here, though. So don't bother looking in the basket."

Rarity's curiosity was piqued, but Spike said nothing else.

The rest of their lunch passed by pleasantly. Almost too pleasantly…particularly with the added effect of their own personal feathered serenade. Rarity was frankly surprised that Spike had managed to come up with the idea.

She frowned. He really was making it difficult to be upset with him. Rarity wasn't sure what to do about that. She'd agreed to give Spike this chance to prove himself, but she hadn't expected him to be proving himself so soon. Maybe he'll screw up later, Rarity thought, finishing off her tea. The thought of him messing up was startlingly comforting, and guilt danced through Rarity as she realized that some part of her was actually hoping for Spike to make things worse. Rarity's eyes grew wide, aghast at her own train of thought. Why are you thinking like this? She set down her tea cup and looked over at Spike, who was busy cleaning up the dishes. The answer dawned on her and Rarity sucked in a breath.

Because being angry at Spike was far easier than the alternative.

"So, are you ready for dessert?" Spike looked up at her.

"Erm…" Rarity tried to answer, but fear threatened to paralyze her. She forced herself to shake it off. "Yes," she managed to say.

Spike was luckily too busy packing away their picnic remains to notice her panic.

"Oh good," he said. "Because we're heading to Sugarcube Corner next."

Rarity nodded, tucking her feelings back away inside her, where they belonged. "Sugarcube Corner it is, then," she said, regaining her composure.

"Thank you, Fluttershy!" Spike called over to where Fluttershy was busy conducting her birds. "We're all set here!"

"Oh! Okay, then!" Fluttershy called back. The tree fell silent once more, and Fluttershy looked back up into it at all of the birds. "Thank you all very much. You were all very lovely today. Remember, I'll have extra bird seed out as a treat for you all later."

"Fluttershy, you are such a dear," Rarity said, walking over to her friend as an excuse to get away from Spike for a moment and finish collecting herself.

Fluttershy shuffled one hoof. "It's nothing, really. I'll wrap things up here, Rarity. Why don't you two go continue to enjoy your day?"

Enjoy our day...Rarity looked over at Spike. Yes...why don't we? She set her shoulders. She wouldn't let either anger or fear get the best of her today. Spike was trying hard, so she would just need to match that and try hard, too.

After folding up the blanket together and tucking it into the basket, Spike led Rarity back into town.

"Okay," Spike started. He sounded nervous again. "Now, bear with me. I know you aren't a fan of mess, but I think you'll like this anyway."

Rarity raised an eyebrow. Like...mess?

"We're going to go help decorate cupcakes for the Cake's," Spike explained. "We each get to eat one as payment. So that's our dessert."

Rarity stared. "We're…going to be working for Sugarcube Corner? With…gooey frosting?" She felt more than a little hesitant, but tried not to let it show. She must have failed spectacularly, though, because Spike immediately launched into more of an explanation.

"Trust me, you'll have fun! At least, I think you will. I know this isn't something you would've volunteered to do on your own, but just think of all the different designs you'll be able to create!" Spike looked at her, his eyes hopeful.

Rarity sighed. "I suppose." She didn't want to crush Spike completely, so she added, "Don't worry. I'll definitely give it a chance." She smiled at him, and the dragon's shoulders relaxed.

"That's good, I'm glad," he said. There was a little bit of skip in each of his steps as they approached the bakery. Rarity watched, a little bemused, as he opened up the door to Sugarcube Corner and walked up to the counter.

"You're here!" Pinkie Pie came crashing into the room, before Spike or Rarity could even announce their presence.

Both of them stumbled backwards. Pinkie had the doors to the kitchen flung wide open, and was grinning in glee.

"Y-yes," Spike said. "Hi, Pinkie."

"Hello!" Pinkie said brightly. "Did you guys have an amazing time at lunch? Did you?" She bounded across the room, leaping in circles around them.

Rarity nodded. "It was quite enjoyable," she said.

"Really?" Pinkie stopped hopping to elbow Spike in the side. "Way to go, Spike!" She winked and bounded back towards the kitchen. Rarity noticed Spike go a little red, and she hoped she wasn't blushing herself.

"So…are the cupcakes ready?" Spike asked, tentatively following the pink pony into the kitchen. Rarity trailed behind Spike.

"Sure are!" Pinkie said.

On the center counter of the kitchen, two trays of cupcakes were set out. By the smell of things, they were freshly baked. Rarity stepped forward to sniff out what flavor they were, but had to then jump backwards as Pinkie slammed a giant bowl of frosting down on the counter. A few splashes of frosting flew out, splattering everything nearby. Rarity glanced down at herself in panic, checking to make sure none had gotten on her. Thankfully, it seemed she'd been spared the horror. Spike, meanwhile, was licking the back of his hand where a chunk of frosting must had landed. Rarity had to hold in a gag.

"Tastes amazing, Pinkie!" Spike said. Then he glanced over at Rarity. "Uh…" he looked down at his hand. "I'll wash up before frosting anything!" he said quickly. He darted over to the sink and began to scrub up.

Rarity followed him. "And I will do the same." Not that she intended on using her hooves to frost, but they had just been outdoors. It was only sanitary.

"Okee-dokee-lokee!" Pinkie said, once they had finished washing and were back by the cupcakes. "So, on this end of the table, you have your basic, yummy, sugar-licious frosting. There's a stack of bowls here and lots of food coloring if you want to make different colors! And then over here – " Pinkie dashed to the other end of the counter. " – You have your decorations! Sprinkles, candy, chocolate chips, cinnamon imps, sugar flakes…the possibilities are endless!" Pinkie danced where she stood, unable to contain herself.

"Thank you, Pinkie," Rarity said, using her magic to levitate a spoon. "I think we'll be able to figure it out from here."

"Super!" the Earth pony replied. "I'll leave you to it, then!" Pinkie trotted out of the kitchen, but not before picking up the picnic basket from Spike and giving him one more wink.

Rarity rolled her eyes.

"Okay!" Spike said, grabbing a spatula. "So it looks like we each have a tray. Did you want to mix any frosting colors? Or just work with the white frosting and use the sprinkles and stuff to decorate?"

Rarity pursed her lips. It was an important question. Her mind reeled with the possibilities. While different frosting colors would add in a variety of options, there was definitely something to the idea of a plain frosting with decorations artfully added for effect…

"Uh…Rarity?" Spike asked. Rarity's eyes flickered back and forth up and down the counter at the varying sugar-filled bowls. "You alright?"

"Fine, Spike," Rarity answered calmly. Her imagination had gone into overdrive, and she could feel herself entering the zone. "Could you please pass me a small bowl, with a portion of frosting and the blue food coloring?"

Whatever Spike had expected out of their trip to frost cupcakes, he could never have guessed at this. Though in hindsight, maybe he should have.

An hour after they'd arrived, two trays of cupcakes sat on the counter, completely decorated. One of them – his – was a barely organized mess. It was embarrassing, to say the least. He'd tried his best to channel his inner artist, but all that had come out was a tray of cupcakes that looked like they'd been frosted by Pound and Pumpkin Cake. Frosting dripped from the sides, and while each cupcake looked somewhat alright on its own (or at least, edible), altogether they kind of reminded Spike of a lumpy mud puddle.

Rarity's, on the other hoof…well, Spike had never seen anything like them. And clearly, neither had Mr. or Mrs. Cake, who had arrived moments earlier and could not stop fussing over the decorated treats.

"Rarity, these are marvelous!" Mrs. Cake continuously exclaimed.

"Are you absolutely certain you don't have the time to work for us, just as a side job?" Mr. Cake asked.

Rarity blushed. "Oh really, you're too much. This was nothing at all."

"Nothing?" Spike asked, still gawking at her tray of cupcakes. "These are the coolest looking cupcakes I've ever seen! You're such an amazing artist, Rarity! I mean, I knew you'd do a good job, but this is just above and beyond anything I'd imagined!"

Rarity laughed lightly. "Oh, Spike. Flatter me too much, and I'll get spoiled!"

"Really!" Spike insisted. "These cupcakes are gorgeous!"

"I don't know how you'll ever choose one to eat," Mr. Cake said.

"That's right! Pinkie Pie mentioned how you would each get to eat a cupcake as a reward for your…er…efforts," Mrs. Cake glanced at Spike's tray, wincing slightly.

"Sorry about mine." Spike scuffed one foot along the floor. "They're not exactly going to sell well, I'm sure."

"Oh, no, Spike, don't worry about that!" Mrs. Cake said quickly. "Your designs are quite – uh – charming!"

"It's just your own unique style," Rarity said. "Everypony has to start somewhere." She smiled at him, and Spike felt his stomach do a little flip.

"Thanks," he said. He picked up the ugliest one from his tray – the one that looked like somepony had trampled over it with tar-covered boots – and ate it quickly. "There," he said. "Now you don't have to worry about selling that one."

Everypony laughed, and Spike blushed a little.

"Well, Rarity?" Mr. Cake asked. "Which will you choose to eat?"

"Oh, I just don't know," Rarity said, knitting her eyebrows together and scanning her tray. "Perhaps this one here on the end? It was an attempt at impressionism, but I'm afraid it just didn't quite come out…or maybe the one next to it? I've always struggled with neo-romanticism. It's just a bit too avant-garde, don't you think?" She looked up at Spike and the Cake's.

They all blinked at her.

"Er…right then," Rarity said, levitating up one of the treats. Spike couldn't tell which of her descriptions that particular cupcake had fallen under, but nodded his agreement with her decision, anyway. She took a delicate bite out of the cupcake, while Spike did the mental math to make sure they had enough time to get to their next activity.

It's almost one thirty…that means Rainbow Dash and Applejack should be out front in just a few minutes. They promised that the trip would take less than an hour, so we should be there by two thirty…and the performance is at three…

Spike just had to trust that Rainbow Dash and Applejack knew what they were talking about, and would get them there on time. "Alright, we should get going," Spike said. "Thank you again for letting us do this!" Spike nodded at Mr. and Mrs. Cake. "And please pass my thanks onto Pinkie Pie, too."

"We should be thanking you!" Mr. Cake said, eyeing Rarity's tray of cupcakes. "These are going to fly off the shelves!"

"You're too kind," Rarity replied. Then she turned to Spike. "So where to, next?"

"Just outside," Spike said, crossing his fingers that the two ponies would in fact be waiting for them out there.

They walked out of the kitchen, heading towards the exit.

"I must say, Spike, I originally wasn't all too keen on the idea of frosting cupcakes," Rarity admitted. "But that turned out to be quite enjoyable!"

Spike puffed up with pride. He'd done it! Yes! "I knew you'd have fun," he said, unable to hold back a huge smile. "I'm so glad you decided to give it a try!"

Rarity nodded. "I am, as well. Thank you, Spike!" She blinked down at him fondly, and Spike's heart nearly fluttered right out of his chest.

They pulled the door open to exit, and Spike was relieved to see Applejack and Rainbow Dash waiting for them.

"Well, howdy!" Applejack said. She was hooked up to a wooden pull cart, along with the blue pegasus. Both of them were smiling. "You two ready for a little trip?"

"What is this?" Rarity asked, looking at Spike.

"Just your ride to awesomeness," Rainbow Dash answered for him. She straightened up and buffed one hoof against her chest. "So are you going to get in, or not?"

Spike looked up at the unicorn. "Just trust me on this one, Rarity," he said. "They're going to take us to something I think you'll really like."

Rarity eyed the cart warily. "Applejack and Rainbow Dash are going to pull us to this place?"

Spike nodded. "Yep, because we'll never get there fast enough ourselves."

Come on, Rarity…please trust me. I didn't lead you wrong with the cupcake decorating, did I?

Rarity looked at Spike, then back at the wooden pull-cart. "Alright, then," she said.

Yes! Spike nearly leapt into the air, but held himself back. "Great!" he said instead. "Okay, come on then!"

Spike climbed up onto the back of the cart, then offered his hand to help Rarity up. She accepted, and climbed in after him.

Spike looked around. "Rainbow Dash, where are – "

"The tickets?" Rainbow Dash finished for him. "In an envelope near the front."

"Ah!" Spike spied it farther up in the cart. He picked it up and opened it, checking to make sure both tickets were there. "Thanks, Rainbow Dash!"

"Tickets?" Rarity walked up, trying to peek over Spike's shoulders. Spike tucked the tickets away quickly.

"Nope! It's going to stay a surprise!" Spike said.

Rarity pouted.

"Y'all ready back there?" Applejack asked over her shoulder.

"I am if you are," Spike said, looking up at Rarity. She nodded at him. "Yep!" Spike called back to Applejack. "We're ready!"

"Then let's get this show on the road!" Applejack said, rearing up. "H'yaw!"

"Just try to keep up, AJ!" Rainbow Dash said, crouched low in a racing start position. As soon as Applejack landed her front hooves back on the ground, they were off.

Spike nearly fell backwards and Rarity had to fling her hooves out to keep herself from sliding out of the back of the cart.

"Whoa!" Rarity exclaimed. "Is there any reason we need to go so fast?" she asked, putting one hoof up to her mane as the wind blew it straight backwards.

"Sorry!" Spike apologized. Way to not think this one through. "It's the only way we'll get there on time!" His voice jittered as the cart bounced along the road and he had to shout just to be heard.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash raced along at whirlwind speeds, and it quickly became obvious that it would be impossible to keep up conversation. So Spike spent most of the hour-long trip sitting in silence, panicking about Rarity's reaction. She sat opposite him, her eyes narrowed in concentration as she attempted to use magic to hold her mane in place. Is she going to be mad about the ride? Mad enough not to let me take her to the show? Spike's stomach churned, and he couldn't tell if it was from worry or from all the potholes they seemed to keep hitting.

After what seemed like an eternity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash came to a stop.

"Finally," Rarity said, standing up and shaking her head so that her curls bounced back to normal. "Fillydelphia?" she asked, glancing around at the town they'd arrived in. "Oh great, I hope I don't run into anypony too important looking like this!" She continued to pat her mane with her hooves.

"S-sorry," Spike said, shrinking away from the unicorn. "I didn't think. I'm so sorry, Rarity. Please don't be angry," he begged.

Rarity turned to him, her eyebrows furrowed. "Angry? Why, of course not. I'm hurt that you'd even suggest that." Her lower lip stuck out in a pout. "You really think I'd get angry at you over something like a little windblown mane?"

Rainbow Dash snorted, detaching herself from the cart harness. "Not like you've got a great track record recently of not getting angry at Spike, from what I hear."

Rarity looked down at the floor of the cart and her eyes began to shimmer with tears.

Oh no, don't cry! "Okay, so you're not angry!" Spike said hurriedly, darting over to her side and patting her on the back. "Don't worry about it, Rarity! Really! Here, let me show why we're here."

Spike took out the tickets, and upon seeing them Rarity's mood took a one hundred and eighty degree turn.

"A Summer Sun Celebration Night's Dream?!" Rarity squeed. "Oh my stars, I didn't realize this week was Fillydelphia's Shakesmare Fest! Oh Spike, you're the best!" She threw her hooves around him, giving him a huge hug, then proceeded to prance off of the back of the cart.

Applejack had undone herself from the cart, and walked over, giving Spike a wink. She must've been the dozenth pony to do that to him today, but Spike couldn't even begin to feel embarrassed that time around. He swayed where he stood, grinning like a fool.

"Don't I get any credit here?" Rainbow Dash complained. "I was the one who had to fly here this morning to get the tickets."

"Oh, of course!" Rarity paused her prancing and turned to face Rainbow Dash. "Thank you! And thanks to Applejack, too, for helping to get us here on time! Oh, this is going to be simply fantastic!"

"Glad yer happy," Applejack said. "Y'all enjoy that show of yers. Rainbow and ah are off to find some water. That was one hay of a run."

Rainbow Dash flew over, punching Applejack in the side. "Weak!" she ridiculed. "Laaa – aaame!" But then her voice ran out and she started to cough. She stopped flying and came back down to the ground. "But maybe you've got a good idea there," she admitted hoarsely.

"We'll meet yeh both back here after yer play," Applejack said. Then she and Rainbow Dash set off.

Spike finally managed to wipe his silly grin off his face, and turned to Rarity. "We should probably get to the performance."

"Oh my!" Rarity's eyes went wide. "Should I have worn something special for this?"

Spike shook his head quickly. "Oh no, it's an outdoor performance. It's advertised as casual. I checked."

Rarity looked down at him sharply. "You…checked?"

Spike blinked. "Well, yeah. I knew you'd want to be dressed appropriately. I wouldn't have let you show up to something fancy without one of your beautiful outfits, Rarity."

The unicorn's eyes softened. "Oh, Spike."

Spike scratched his arm awkwardly, unable to look Rarity in the eye. "It wasn't really a big deal…" he mumbled.

Rarity laughed a little. "Okay, then. If that's what you want, then it wasn't a big deal. Now let's get going. We don't want to be late!"

"Right!" Spike said. They walked into town, following the large banner signs that led them towards the outdoor stage area. "There it is!" Spike pointed to where a gathering of ponies stood.

Rarity squeed again, her front hooves dancing.

"You're really excited about this, aren't you?" Spike noticed, slightly amused.

"Oh yes, this is one of my favorite plays! I cannot wait to see what the costume designers did with it this time around!" Rarity said.

"This time around?" Spike asked, his spirits falling slightly. "So you've seen this one before?"

"Oh yes, but that's half the fun, Spike," Rarity explained. "Rewatching it with new actors and new costumes…it's just so interesting!"

Spike wasn't quite sure he understood, but he nodded anyway. "Well, I'm glad you're still excited."

They headed towards the ticket collector, and Spike hoped this play ended up being everything Rarity was envisioning it to be.

As the play wrapped up later that afternoon, poor Spike looked like somepony had just dragged him head first through a brush field. Rarity had rarely seen Spike so frazzled, and for some reason, she was highly amused by it.

"Thank you for this, Spike," Rarity said as they filed out of the stands. "I'm guessing Shakesmare isn't exactly your thing, but you put up with it bravely for the whole afternoon."

Spike blushed. "I understood some of it. Maybe."

Rarity raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, maybe not most of it," Spike admitted. "But I did find the costumes and the set design pretty interesting. Though I'm sure if you were designing them, they'd be even better."

Rarity allowed for the compliment to pass without dispute. "You're very kind, Spike," she said, unable to keep a smile off her face.

"Applejack and Rainbow Dash will take us back to Ponyville now," Spike said, "For our final activity of the day."

"There's more?" Rarity blinked, surprised. She had sort of figured going to a theater production would be the finale of Spike's plans.

"Of course!" Spike said. "I'm not letting you go home hungry! We've got dinner reservations at Chez Delicious!"

"Chez Delicious?" Rarity exclaimed, her jaw dropping in shock. "Why, that's the number one high class restaurant in Ponyville!" In fact, it was the only high class restaurant in Ponyville. Therefore, there was always a massive waitlist. "You got us reservations?"

Spike coughed. "Technically, Twilight got us reservations. Something about being a personal friend of the Princess gets a pony some added respect around town."

Rarity shook her head, still in shock. "Well, I must say, this is a surprise. And here I thought you were done with all of those!"

"No way, I'm full of them!" Spike boasted. "Er…okay, not really. That's my last surprise for the day," he admitted.

Rarity laughed.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood waiting for them back where they'd dropped them off earlier.

"So how was yer play?" Applejack asked. She was leaning casually against the side of the cart.

"Simply marvelous!" Rarity exclaimed.

"Yeah…it was…uh…" Spike rolled his eyes a bit, and Rainbow Dash laughed.

"Yep, that's probably what I would've thought of it, too," the pegasus said.

Rarity smiled down at Spike. "He put up with it like a champion, though."

Spike laughed sheepishly, scratching at the back of his head.

"So does that mean we're ready to go?" Applejack asked. "Ah've got some business to take care of back on the farm."

"And I'm just bored," Rainbow Dash said.

Everypony stared at her.

"What?" She shrugged. "It's the truth."

Rarity sighed, shaking her head at the pegasus before climbing into the cart.

As soon as everypony was situated, they raced their way back to Ponyville, bouncing at every bump just as before. Rarity didn't bother trying to keep her mane nice this time. Spike said she would have plenty of time once they returned to go clean herself up for dinner and pick out a nice outfit to wear. Her mind was already running in circles trying to decide which of her dresses would be best.

As they traveled, realization was slowly dawning on the unicorn. She was…happy. Extraordinarily happy, if she must admit. Spike had succeeded in giving her a wonderful day, and Rarity couldn't remember when she'd last felt so cared about. Earlier that morning, she never would've believed it but…she was kind of sort of thinking that maybe Spike had actually managed to earn her forgiveness. Rarity just wasn't sure how to tell him.

They arrived back in Ponyville, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack kindly brought Rarity back to her shop.

"I'll be by to pick you up for dinner in about forty five minutes, okay Rarity?" Spike asked as Applejack and Rainbow Dash left to haul the cart back to Sweet Apple Acres.

"Of course, Spike," Rarity said, doing her best to sound casual. However, as soon as he'd left, she raced inside her shop like a mare on a mission. Goodness! Forty five minutes might sound like plenty of time to get ready to Spike, but it certainly isn't enough time for a lady like myself!

Shutting the door, Rarity nearly jumped out of her hooves when a voice piped up behind her.

"Hiya, Sis!"

"Sweetie Belle!" Rarity gasped, spinning. "What are you – "

"Doing here?" Sweetie Belle finished for her sister. "Mom and Dad sent me! They didn't know you wouldn't be home, though. So I just thought I'd wait for you to get back from wherever you were! So, what are we having for dinner?"

"Sweetie Belle," Rarity groaned. "You have to stop just popping over for dinner like this. Don't you ever consider that I might have plans?"

"Plans?" Sweetie Belle blinked. "Like what?"

"Like tonight," Rarity said, walking towards her bedroom. Sister or no sister, she was on a time schedule, and needed to get ready. "I've already got dinner plans tonight."

"Oooh," Sweetie Belle said, following Rarity to her room. "Who's coming over?"

"Nopony is coming over," Rarity said, opening up her wardrobe. "I'm going out."


"Out," Rarity repeated. "To a very nice restaurant, I might add. Where little fillies like yourself would not be welcome."

"Aww," Sweetie Belle pouted. "Fine. So who are you going with?" she asked.

"With…" Rarity trailed off. "Er…"

"Who?" Sweetie Belle scrunched her face up, puzzled. "Didn't quite catch that."

Rarity sighed. Spike would be over soon enough. There was no way to hide this. She'd have to explain. "Now…Sweetie Belle, don't take this the wrong way. I'll be going out to dinner with Spike – "

"You guys are going on a date?" Sweetie Belle squealed. "That's so cute!"

"No," Rarity said firmly. "This isn't a date. Spike is just paying me back for some things."

"Oh," Sweetie Belle sat back on her haunches, frowning. "So…is anypony else going?"

"Well, no…" Rarity replied.

"So it's just you two? Going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant? Which restaurant?"

Rarity continued to flip through her clothes. "Chez Delicious."

"Chez Delicious?" Sweetie Belle gasped. "Isn't that like, the most expensive, most classiest, most romantic restaurant in Ponyville?"

Rarity buried her face amongst her various garments, hiding its redness. "So what if it is?" she said, her voice muffled through the fabric.

"So…you going there with Spike…when you know he has a crush on you…"

"You think I'm leading him on or something?" Rarity frowned, unburying her head and turning to face her sister. "Well, I'm not! He understands what today is. It's just a friend thing. We're trying to fix our relationship."

"Your relationship." Sweetie Belle waggled her eyebrows.

"Now stop that!" Rarity insisted, stamping one hoof. "Spike will be over soon, and he'll just get embarrassed if you say those things around him. Speaking of, I must hurry and get ready."

"Uh huh," Sweetie Belle didn't sound convinced. "Your good friend Spike will be over soon. So that's why you're looking through your prettiest dresses."

Rarity inhaled deeply, fuming. "I'm looking at these dresses, because formal wear is the type of dress code that Chez Delicious requires!"

"For your date with Spike."

"It isn't a date!" Rarity shrieked.

Sweetie Belle giggled, and Rarity chased her out of her room.

"Out! Out! Out!"

Sweetie Belle dashed out of the shop and Rarity slammed the door behind her.

She took several calming breaths to bring herself back under control before going to get changed. However, before she had a chance to calm down completely, there was a knock at the door.

Is Spike here already? She panicked. I'll just need to tell him to wait.

Rarity opened up her door, fully ready to explain to Spike that she needed a few extra moments. But it wasn't Spike.

"Sweetie Belle, what are you still doing here?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.

"I just thought of something," Sweetie Belle said. "Just…you might not think it's a date. But maybe you should make sure Spike knows that. Like, really make sure. Just in case."

Rarity opened her mouth to respond, but found that she didn't know what to say. Spike…Spike knows that already, doesn't he? Today wasn't a date, was it? Tonight isn't one, is it?

"Just wanted to say that," Sweetie Belle squeaked. "Okay, bye!" She raced off.

Rarity shut her door slowly, mulling over her sister's words. He never said it was a date. It's just Spike trying to do something nice for me. A nice dinner out is a very kind, friendly gesture.

Rarity walked back to her room to get changed.

Unless he thinks that it's implied that it's a date. Her eyes grew wide at the idea, and she opened up her wardrobe quickly, desperately looking for a distraction.

Rarity took out a robin's-egg blue gown with purple ruffles and began to pull it on. But putting on a dress was hardly enough of a distraction from the multitude of alarming thoughts now racing through her brain. After changing, she began brushing her mane, barely able to focus.

So now what? If he thinks we're going on a date…well, that just won't do, will it? I can't let him think that. That would just be leading him on. I'll need to talk to him. There's no way we're going on a date. We can't be. That's just…we can't be.

Rarity began opening up the drawers of her vanity, looking for the right jewelry for the evening. If he does think of it as a date, it's just an honest mistake. It's not like he'd be trying to trick me into a secret date or anything. She paused her jewelry search and frowned. Though…it wouldn't be the first time he's tried to manipulate me of late. Her heart pounded in her chest. Oh Celestia, please don't let that be the case. He said he was sorry. He said he'd learned his lesson! He said he'd never mess with my head again! He's been spending all day trying to prove that, hasn't he?

Rarity opened the front drawer of her vanity without thinking, and Spike's fire ruby caught the light and flickered up at her.

Oh, Spike.

Rarity's eyes began to water.

Up until that day, the fire ruby had been the most generous gift anypony had ever given her. But now it was rivaled. Rivaled, by a wonderfully thoughtful day, gifted to her by the same dragon who'd given up his prized gemstone just because she had shown a passing interest.

No. Rarity shut the vanity drawer. Spike isn't tricking me. I…I can't believe that. I won't believe that. Not my little Spikey Wikey. If he at all thinks of tonight as a date, it's because of his own misunderstanding. Not because of any diabolical plot. He wouldn't do that to me. Not after everything that's happened. He…he wouldn't.

Rarity hated herself for not being fully convinced, but she was convinced enough. She continued getting ready, pulling out a few select pieces of jewelry for her ensemble.

We'll just have to have a talk at dinner, that's all. I'll make sure he understands that we're just friends. Sweetie Belle is right. Spending time like this together certainly makes it look as if we're dating. Even if that isn't Spike's intention, it will certainly be brought up by others. And then what do we say?

She looked into the mirror, straightening out her tanzanite tiara and forcing her eyes to stop watering.

A few more hours. One nice meal. And then, Spike's special day will have run its course. And I'll make sure we don't have any more days like this, so nopony gets the wrong idea about us. I'll just explain to Spike that we can't…that we can't…

Rarity hung her head low, misery flooding back into her. She'd had a good hiatus from despair all day, but she should've known that it couldn't last forever. Today was…well, it was a treat, Rarity. And treats aren't meant to be enjoyed all of the time, or one might get spoiled. It's as simple as that. Now you just need to make sure Spike understands, like you do.

Rarity swallowed, looking away from the mirror. Her hooves were shaking. You do understand that, don't you?

Before she could answer herself, a knock sounded at the door.