• Published 7th Feb 2013
  • 1,269 Views, 42 Comments

Love, in Other Words - Mickey Dubs



A story about the varying experiences of some of Ponyville's citizens as they learn the meaning of family, friendship, and what Hearts and Hooves Day means for them and the ones they care about.

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Unreserved

His latest haul had been quite impressive, and he'd spent the last few weeks sorting what gems he had into their various types, qualities, colors, brilliances, and any other conceivable category his little brain could create. He'd been in discussion with royalty and common jewelers alike to find the perfect settings for his beloved jewels. Only the best stones would do, and those which passed his strictest of requirements had been cut, shaped, polished, set in their places, and lovingly polished again until they could shine no brighter.

And now, with his treasures stowed away in his little wagon and every possible problem addressed: Spike went about town to deliver his gifts.

It was the least he could do, of course, to repay what damage he'd done over the past year or so. His history with gift-giving and receiving had thrown his beloved town into a fair bit of turmoil... but with the level of care and attention he'd paid towards his handmade gifts this Hearts and Hooves Day, those lingering animosities were sure to disappear!

Hopefully, in his generosity, they might forget just what he was capable of becoming.

He thought about each of his friends in turn, but none stood out more than Applejack, whose leaves and apples he’d stolen when he’d gone wild. If there was anything that kind farm pony would understand, it would be how honestly he regretted his actions.

But even if he thought his gift would mean a lot to Applejack, there was one pony to whom his gifts meant a whole lot more.


She was the last on his list for that sole reason.


He walked through the morning hustle and bustle of the town en route to Applejack's farm, his head held high as he basked in the warmth of the gorgeous morning. Stretching his limbs to absorb the rays of the sun, Spike inspected the farmers sorting their wares before them and the other merchants flipping their store signs from 'Closed' to 'Open'. He also couldn’t help but notice that the town’s mail-ponies were running a little faster than normal to deliver their parcels. It must have been just a reaction to the normal love-letter influx of the day, but their haste alerted to him that something might have gone wrong which they were sorting out.

Regardless of the tumult, he kept his feet light as he strolled through town, gazing at the trees and the little colts and fillies of myriad colors and races trotting out the doors of their houses on their way to school. He joined them as they moved down the road in a herd, conversing animatedly or passing little paper notes between them, all of them laughing and enjoying the morning and the half-day they had in store. He listened in as his friends Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle talked about what they'd hope to do that day, and in his distraction, he found himself stopping in front of the Apple Family orchard before he even realized he’d made his way there.

Pushing open the gate leading to Sweet Apple Acres, he smiled as Applebloom ran giggling through the tall grass on her way to school, bounding over the fence as her saddlebags flapped at her sides. She leapt gracefully over the fence and disappeared in a flurry of dust, reemerging from the cloud with a bright smile for her friends. When the Crusaders had disappeared from sight, he padded his way to meet up with Applejack. The mare remained by the door of her farmhouse, watching her sister enjoy her day.

By the look in her eyes, it was a revelry she did not share.

"Well howdy, Spike!" Applejack shouted happily, her voice lingering on the wind as he trotted along the path. She smiled weakly as she caught his attention, waving her hat in the air as he waved in reply. Picking up his pace, his little wagon threw a little dust cloud into the air as he sped towards the orange mare who waited patiently for him. When he finally arrived, she gave his head-spikes a little tousle before placing her dusty hat back on her head.

"So, what can I do for ya, Spike?" Applejack offered with a smile. "Comin' to pick out some apples? I just got the first batch of cider bottled, if you want some of that..."

"No no, AJ," Spikechoked out, bending over to recover from his sprint. He took a few seconds to huff and puff, struggled to breathe before steadying his palpitating heart. "I came to...to...give you...something!"

"Aw, shoot, Spike!” Applejack muttered, rubbing her leg with a little grin. “You didn't needta go outta your way to do that..."

"No, I wanted to! It really wasn't any trouble; I just thought I'd make you guys some gifts for Hearts and Hooves Day this year. So I made you this..."

With an excited grin Spike dove his head in his bag to find his parcel, rummaged around inside as his tail whisked the dust below in his excitement. Then, as he returned to his place on the ground, he held out his gift before him with a grand flourish and a hidden smile.

Clutched in his claws, glittering in the morning light, sat a leather hatband encrusted with apple-shaped rubies set in little golden insets spaced apart evenly all around. Glittering from a fresh polish, his offering caught the growing light of the world and shone brilliantly, illuminating the various striations and facets which had entranced his equine companion with their luminous wonder. Steadying his hands, Spike returned from his bow and shifted his gift in his claws, admiring it as much as the mare who stood petrified before him.

"I found a few nice veins of gems just a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd make you guys gifts this year instead of buying them. Do you like it?”

He watched as she stared, dumbstruck, her mouth opened in shock as she gazed at the band in his claws. She looked at him once, smiling broadly before ringing the leather band on her hoof, twisting it around to examine it fully.

"Well I'll be! This is the nicest thing you've ever done for me, Spike! It's beautiful! Here, wanna help me get it on?"

With an excited glimmer in her eyes Applejack swept her hat off, resting it on her hoof as he stretched the band over the top, sliding it perfectly into place at the very bottom of the dusty hat’s crown. The little glittering lights which danced off the rubies' facets caught on the leather brim, and with a deft flick she threw the hat into the air and plopped it back on her head.

"How's it look?" she queried, shooting him a little pose to show off the rubies’ glitter. Spike couldn't help but beam as she looked towards her hat’s brim, trying to imagine what his gift must look like as it rested in its required place. Mentally patting himself on the back for his excellent idea, he folded his arms and gave her a little nod.

"That looks fantastic, AJ... honest!"

"Hey there!" the mare chortled, drawing the little dragon into a noogie as she gave her thanks. "That there's my line!"

She tickled him as best she could given his thick scales, but seeing as he was the most ticklish dragon she knew she had no trouble getting a few giggles out of him. After a few more minutes poking and prodding his giggling little frame, she abandoned her delightful torture and allowed him a few moments to calm down.

"Thank you, Spike," she whispered, grinning as she shuffled her hat in her hooves. "I was feelin' a little down before you came, but this here hatband... well... it’s made things a little better. Thank you..."

"No worries, Applejack! It was the least I could do for taking all your apples a while back... and your leaves... and almost destroying your barn...”

“C’mon, sugarcube! Are you still on about that nonsense?” Applejack queried, catching his eyes where they’d fallen to stare at the ground. “You didn’t do anythin’ more than be yourself, even if you were a big, mean, scaly dragon. I don’t blame ya in the slightest, Spike...”

Raising his eyes, he gave a little sigh of relief when those orbs he’d thought he’d dread to see looked back at him full of kindness and forgiveness.

“You don’t?”

Giving his chin a little nudge upwards, she stood up proud, gave him a little wink, and with a little rumbling in her throat pulled off a startlingly excellent imitation of her older brother.

“...nnnNope!”

With a sad little grin she knew she’d succeeded, and she shyly shuffled her hat the dragon before her tried his hardest not to laugh. His attempts to stifle his howls of mirth failed miserably when that same red stallion’s head poked around the door of the farmhouse to inquire as to what the hay was going on.

Stifling a little giggle as the baby dragon grabbed his stomach and fell on his side, Applejack's heart gave a little hopeful flutter as her little friend roared with laughter. Big Macintosh looked from his sister to the dragon before rolling his eyes and continuing with his work. Wiping off a little tear of mirth as he rose, Spike gave Applejack one last little nod and a broad smile.

“You do that too well, AJ! I’d love to stay and chat, but this wagon’s getting a little heavy. If you don't mind, I have some more gifts to deliver. You have a good day!"

With one last wave Spike trotted down the road, his little wagon bouncing behind him. Applejack returned the gesture before dropping her eyes, admiring her face reflecting off the facets of the gemstones he'd set for her. Applejack allowed herself another little smile as her friend enjoyed the day she couldn't, sending a little thought his way for his continued success.

"I'll try, Spike," she whispered, his little heartfelt gift and her dad’s dusty workhat on which it rested her only audience.

"... I'll try."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The light from the midday sun shone in little beams through the trees as he dragged his little wagon down the dusty road towards Fluttershy's cottage. The trickle of the nearby brook and the twittering of bluebirds were his only accompaniment besides the slight squeaking of his wagon's wheels, but despite his attempts to listen there were no signs that Fluttershy was home. The air wasn't full of her little songs or her hopeful whistles, and he could find no trace of the demure little pegasus among the trees where he usually found her. Peering around the glade in which she’d made her home, Spike glanced quickly around the trees and various birdhouses before turning his eyes skyward.

He spotted her almost immediately: she was floating in the air below a bird’s nest, her wing beats keeping her perfectly stationed a few feet below the branch of a tree. She was smiling calmly as a little troupe of baby birds stepped up cautiously, lingering on the edges of their nest.

"Okay little dears, now all you have to do is jump," she calmly asserted towards the little birds who nervously shifted to and fro on the rim. "I'm going to be right here to catch you if you fall, so don't you worry! Everything is going to be okay!"

Her soft smile and calm eyes shook away any lingering doubts for her avian pupils, and she watched attentively, one by one they spread their little wings courageously. They looked to their brothers and sisters conducting their similar preparations, and then, with little cheeps, each of them went tumbling off the edge, flapping madly as they fell.

She had no doubts they would succeed on their first time, but even so she couldn’t help but emit a heartfelt beam of pride when they caught the air beneath their wings and flew on their own seconds before they would have dropped right into her waiting hooves. Flying in broken circles as they adjusted to their newfound freedom, the little birds merrily circled their yellow instructor, tweeting and chirping wildly as they celebrated their accomplishment.

“Ohh, yay! Good job!” she said, clapping her little hooves together in triumph. “You did so well! I am so proud of all of you...”

“Oh, c’mon Fluttershy!” another voice sneered, this one more gruff and far less jovial. “They’re birds! They always make it on their first time! It’s hard to be a bird and not fly.”

“That’s just not true, Dashie! There are plenty of birds that can’t fly, and you know it,” Fluttershy retorted, her little triumphant smile lessened slightly by the assertion of the bright blue pegasus resting below her against a tree. The daredevil blew her little mug of tea and allowed her wings to warm up in a sunbeam, stretching them to their utmost as she sighed in relief.

Trotting down the path, Spike drew his squeaky wagon along, making his way to the two who happily awaited his arrival. Fluttershy dropped down from her position below the nest to re-seat herself on the blanket she’d cast out for the two of them, giving her Angel Bunny a little scratch on the belly. His toes curling from his caretaker's contact, Angel stretched himself out between the two pegasus mares, lazing around in his own private sunbeam.

“Oh...hello Spike! What’s in the cart?” the yellow mare queried, raising her cup to her lips and giving a little blow to cool it off.

“Well, duh Fluttershy: Spike’s been going around town collecting all his little love letters from all the fillies in town! You sly devil, you...”

Rainbow Dash held out her hoof with a broad smile, and as he sat himself down on Fluttershy’s blanket Spike reciprocated her little hoof bump with his own fist. Taking a page out of Ange's book, Spike leaning back to enjoy the morning heat and relaxed his aching feet.

“Oh... my...” Fluttershy stuttered, looking from Spike to his wagon and back again with a little blush. “That’s... ummm... that's quite a few letters there, Spike. You’re not going to break anyone’s heart, are you?! I mean, I hope you don’t... well...”

Her face only grew a darker shade of crimson as she stumbled over her words, and soon Fluttershy could do nothing more than take another sip from her cup and hide her face as best she could.

“I hope you let some of them down easy...”

“Oh, these?” Spike grinned, looking back to his wagon. “No, no... these are for you guys!”

His lighthearted proclamation made Rainbow Dash spew her tea out over the blanket, cascading Angel in a fine mist. The bunny jerked awake from where he’d been basking, and with a little growl he shot a deathly glare at the blue pegasus nearby.

Rainbow gave a little giggle and a shrug of her shoulder to assuage his anger, but could only laugh further when that little puffball drew two of his fingers to his eyes, pointed them at Rainbow's, and then brought them back to point at his own again. With a little hop, he nestled himself in his owner’s pink tail to find someplace where he’d hopefully remain undisturbed.

Sliding the bag from his wagon with a little grunt, Spike hefted his parcels in front of the waiting pegasi. Then, after he had found his gifts, he paused for dramatic effect before whipping out the first of his two wonders.

The broad straw hat in his hands, shining as bright as the sun above, had a floppy brim and rough edges, evidence that he himself had woven it together. He would have had to, especially if he wanted to work around the bright pink spinel and yellow topaz gemstones he’d placed around the base of the hat’s crown. With a little pause to allow the two mares time to marvel at his gift, Fluttershy gasped in astonishment as Spike, with a little bow presented it to her. Drawing her hooves to her mouth in surprise, the little pegasus was utterly petrified, lost in the dazzling glimmering splendor of his offering.

“Spike! Oh my goodness! You... you made this for me?”

“Well, yeah...” he began, shuffling his feet a little in embarrassment. “Why, do you not like it? I didn't know your favorite kinds of gemstones, so I just had to guess! Spinel and topaz seemed to be your thing, so I just went with my gu—”

He never finished his explanation.

He barely even had time to breathe before the little pegasus scooped him up in her arms and gave him a tight hug, the hat somehow already firmly planted on her head. Its brim was wide enough to hide them from the view of the sun, even though he’d left a few little holes to allow some light to strain through... but even then, it was nowhere near as warm as her squeals of excitement or her broad genuine smile.

“Oh my goodness, Spike: I love it! I’ve always wanted a hat like this, and you just... you made one for me! It must have taken you forever to make this, it's just so... so... oh my goodness! It's beautiful! Oh thank you, thank you!”

Fluttershy giggled with excitement as her little friend's feet swayed over the ground, but it wasn't enough to hide Rainbow's little scoff.

“I hope my present’s not that nice, Spike,” Rainbow’s remarked slyly, reaffirming herself to sampling her tea. “I’m not that huggy, so I wouldn’t want to have to compete with Fluttershy there for the title of ‘World’s Worst Gift Recipient’.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” was Spike’s coy reply, and as Fluttershy set him back down on the ground the dragon trotted over to his wagon. After finding Rainbow’s gift with his claws—and pausing once more to make her squirm in expectation— Spike whipped out his present with a little flourish.

The object in his claws was, by far and away, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. His little offering glinted and shone with a marvelous polish and grand sparkle... but the aesthetics of the present were far less beautiful than the mere fact that he had made it just for her. That little thought filled her with more happiness than she had thought she’d feel on this beautiful day, and as Rainbow took up his gift on her hooves, she couldn't help but lose her voice.

Made from a soft brown leather still stiff from its tanning, her newest goggles, oiled and polished, cut broad swaths of glittering color to mirror the namesake of the mare for whom they were made. Every inch of the band was set with little gemstones of every color of the rainbow: minuscule rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and other precious and semi-precious stones formed a wide rainbow streak down both sides, each tiny gem inlaid individually by his little clawed hands.

Rainbow's jaw dropped a little as the full realization of her gift sunk in. Rainbow looked from gift, to dragon, to fellow awestruck pegasus before dropping her eyes again to look at the goggles...

Her goggles.

“Oh my gosh...”

“What?!” Spike exclaimed, scrambling in alarm towards the mare's side. “Is there something wrong? Is it too small? Is the glass cracked? I thought I might have heard something break on the way over! Oh please, I didn't mean to give you something broken! Is it broken? Tell me what’s wrong, Rainbow!... Rainbow?”

Rainbow's mouth twitched at the edges, her body struggling to find the perfect emotional output to represent just what grand elation she was feeling in this glorious moment. Her next words only reaffirmed Spike's confusion despite her entrancing stare and the broad smile slowly coming to life.

“Oh my gosh. Oh... my... gosh.”

“What, Rainbow? Do you not like it?”

“Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohymgoshOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!” Rainbow screamed, kicking her hooves on the ground in excitement. “OH MY GOSH, SPIKE! This is the best thing anyone has ever given me! You’re the best, you’re the best, you’re the best!”

Hugging his little frame to her chest as she tapped her hooves wildly on the ground, Rainbow's bone-crushing squeeze forced out all that air he'd selfishly stored away after Fluttershy's similar embrace. But this mare had a mischievous glint in her eyes, and as she placed her brand new goggles on her head, Rainbow Dash shot a wickedly mad little grin at the little dragon in her hooves.

“Wanna go for a ride, Spike?”

“What?!... oh no...”

Patting her on the chest in alarm, Spike looking wildly to Fluttershy for some assistance. Fluttershy, on the other hand, was finding her tea a little more fascinating than usual, grinning around her cup’s lip as she listened to Spike plead for her attention.

“Umm, Rainbow? You don’t have to do that, really! I’m going to be just fine here on the GROOOOUUUUUNN........”

His screams of terror and surprise were sucked away as he broke free from the bonds of earth and went soaring into the sky, held firmly clasped to Rainbow Dash’s chest as she rolled, ducked, and weaved through the air, savoring the sensation of her new goggles and the wind beneath her wings. She screamed and whooped in joy, both for how amazing their flight felt and how totally awesome she must have looked, even as the little dragon in her arms shrieked like a filly with utter terror as the world grew small below his claws.


Fluttershy, back on the ground, could do little more than drink her tea as his cries died away, pushing a little cracker to her bunny as she smiled into her cup.

“Angel Bunny, my dear,” Fluttershy stated with a sly wink to her furry companion. “I think we just lost the title.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the time he had landed, stopped his heart from beating out of his chest, and gathered enough breath to heave his lightening load into his wagon, Spike soon found that he was a bit behind his schedule. Allowing himself a few more moments to bask in the praise of his gifts' recipents, Spike gave little hugs to the two blissfully excited pegasus mares on the blanket before trundling down the road with his wagon in tow.

His next gift was destined for that pink and puffy-tailed Pinkie Pie who helped run the sweet-shop in town, but she was the kind of pony who you could never really find when you wanted to. She was always bouncing around, going about her business, delivering invitations, helping others with their errands, and doing whatever things she did to fill up her time when she wasn't baking, tending to the store, selling sweets, or taking care of her employers' high-maintenance foals.

Not that she minded of course: of any pony in Ponyville, she would be the one who would tirelessly work herself to the bone just for the glimpse of an honest and heartfelt smile.

Looking around him at the sunbeams which cascaded through the trees by the side of the road, he plodded along a little faster now that his load was lightening, though it’s weight wasn't the main thing making his trip easier.

With each passing gift and each smiling face he’d seen, his prospects grew a little lighter and his hopes a little higher. Sure, Applejack had been reticent when she’d received her new hatband, but he didn't even need to think twice about if she had meant what she said. She was Honesty Incarnate! She would never lie!

Fluttershy and Rainbow had loved their gifts, the latter of the two so much so that he’d almost had a heart attack and died hundreds of yards above the earth as she cavorted and weaved around the clouds to express her glee. There was little doubt left in his happy mind that the remaining three ponies on his checklist would adore their gifts as well.

There was, however, one pony to whom the little shadow of a doubt still lingered... but hopefully, if all went well, his encounter with her would be as easy and as happy as the others’ had been.

“She’s an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bit finicky, isn’t she?”

Nodding his head in reply, Spike shrugged his shoulders with a sad little smile.

“Yeah...” he said wistfully, sighing as he walked down the road back towards town. “I took a whole lot of time trying to make sure her gift was perfect. I even spent some time in those Diamond Dog tunnels just to... to...”

He stopped for a second before looking towards town, his face contorting in confusion as he looked around. Finding nothing and nopony who might have been there, he mouthed some silent words as his mind churned.

Who am I talking to?

, Spinning around to regard his surroundings, Spike could find no sign of another soul behind him, to his sides, hiding in the bushes, or up in the sky. He couldn't find a single pony with whom he had—or at least thought he had—been talking to. Turning to look back towards Fluttershy’s cottage in the distance, he scuffed his feet.

There was nopony there, and as he turned around he berated himself for allowing himself to get worked up about delivering his gifts. He took another step forward, his eyes downcast...

“BOO!!!”

“GAAAH!!!”

Scrambling backwards as his spikes and spines stood up on end, Spike huddled behind his cart, breathing heavily as he looked around the edge of his wagon to find the source of his sudden renewed heart attack. Finding nothing, he gave one little sigh of relief, followed by a look at his claws.

Was he going insane? Was the stress of delivering his gifts to the remaining Elements taking that much of a toll on him?

Would his final parcel be delivered to a pony who thought he was clinically deranged?

“Ohh, no no no Spike! You’re not crazy!”

Spike listened to the voice another time, a lilting and high-pitched chirp which he had heard many times before. There was only one mare who had a voice like that: you could hear it all the way across town as it prefaced most every smile the ponies in Ponyville had to give. With a little sigh of relief, Spike slumped against his cart and calmed his heart down once more.

“Pinkie? You can come out now!”

He watched as a shadowy dark ball moved over his head, growing in size before the bright bubblegum-pink hooves of that same springy mare landed before him, kicking up a little dust upon impact.

“Awwww! You found me!” Pinkie huffed, giving her hooves a little stomp. “I was hoping you wouldn’t find me, because it was a fun to sneak around and be mysterious! Where are you goin’, little guy? You wanna come with me to Sugarcube Corner?! Oh my goodness, I just made a fresh batch of bubblegum muffins! They’re so totally awesome! Well, at least I think they are... wanna give them a try?”

Holding his head a little as he reacted to her sudden onslaught of words, Spike shook his head and made his way towards his bag.

“Sorry Pinkie. I wish I could, but I have some stuff to deliver.”

“Oh, well...” she muttered, scuffing her hooves again as she walked back towards Ponyville, Spike just a few steps behind her. “That’s okay, I guess! Maybe another time when you’re not so busy. Why are you so busy, Spike? Today is a holiday, and oh what a super-duper love-a-riffic holiday it is! Are those your presents?! HOW DID YOU GET SO MANY?! Not even I got that many, and I gave everypony at least five cards apiece...”

“Well,” Spike smirked coyly as he pulled out her present, sidling up to his pink companion. “Want another present to add to your collection?”

“Me? A collection!?” Pinkie exclaimed, shaking her head feverishly. “I don’t really have a collection... it’s more of an amalgamation of amorous alphabetical arrangements... or a preponderence of pink, polka-dotted, and purposefully positive parcels! But nopony has given me a gift yet, just notes and little letters leaning towards the ‘lovey-dovey’...”

She looked back towards the Spike she’d left behind to find him holding what only could have been her present in his little claws. Looking from dragon to his gift, then back to dragon, then back to his gift so rapidly and so fast he couldn’t keep track of where her head was, Pinkie suddenly sprinted over and wrapped him in the tightest hug he’d received that day.

“SPIKE! These are the prettiest things I’ve ever seen! Can I try them on? CAN I, CAN I, CAN I?!”

“Of course, Pinkie!” he beamed, handing her her new gift. “They’re yours now! I hope you like them.”

Looking from the dragon to the bright pink horseshoes which lay in her hooves, Pinkie rubbed her hoof over the edges of those gleaming and sparkling sapphire and topaz balloons he’d carved, each of them set with silver. She gave a big broad smile when she pressed against the large metal springs he’d cemented to the base, releasing a very audible squee! when her hoof depressed them and suddenly snapped back when she released.

“How could I not like these, Spike!” Pinkie exclaimed, bobbing a little as she moved from hoof to hoof to slip on her new shoes. “These are so super-springy and sparkly I could just die! Oh my goodness! We should try them out together!!!”

“No, no, Pinkie!” Spike shouted, holding onto his still rapidly beating heart as he recalled his flight not twenty minutes before. “Let’s... umm... well, let’s not do that, okay?”

“Whatever you say!” she squealed in joy, her usual bouncing hooves more pronounced as she grew accustomed to her new springy shoes. “Thank you SSSOOOOO much Spike, these are awesome! Are you gunna be at the schoolhouse tonight?”

“Of course, Pinkie. I wouldn’t miss that! Now, I’m really sorry, but I need to run and deliver the last of these gifts.”

Her usually light bounces greatly magnified as her little hooves bounced her higher and higher, and as her head broke over the treeline she pulled a front flip, shooting him a wave as she tumbled.

“Of course you do! They’re a-waitin’ for ya, Spikey!”

His smile only grew wider as she screamed in joy, twisting and tumbling in the air yet somehow always managing to land squarely on her hooves before her new shoes, once again, sent her flying in the air. He kept the image in his head, smiling all the way into town, and he only shook himself out of little daydreams when he realized he’d made his way back home to the library.

Pushing open the doors of the treehouse in which he and Twilight had made their home, Spike entered the wide circular room to find Twilight and an unknown pegasus stallion talking animatedly. The two exchanged little nods and a slight hoofshake before the stallion gave a little bow, a smile of thanks, and then turned to leave. Spike stepped aside as he passed, looking at the stallion oddly as he left.

“Don’t you worry about him, Spike," Twilight said calmly. “I've got everything under control.”

“I hope so,” the little dragon shrugged, giving his little wagon a jerk to clear its wheels from the little bump by the door. Trotting inside, he wheeled himself and his wagon around to face the purple mare reading on the floor, grinning at the serendipitous circumstance which Twilight had unknowingly engendered.

“So, Twilight, ” he said with a grin, rocking back and forth on his little feet between his gift and its intended. “How’s the reading going?”

“Ohh you know: same old, same old,” she muttered distractedly, flipping over a page with her magic as another book floated over from the shelves nearby. “I've got a nice little backlog of assignments and letters to write to the Princess, plus I’m expecting Shining Armor and Cadence soon, so I have a little work to get done.”

“Oh, well, ” he smiled, feigning innocence as he slid a little closer. “Your eyes must be hurting a little... what, with all the reading and all.”

“You know, now that you mention it,” she commented, rubbing out the lingering irritations in her eyes. “They really have been hurting lately. I guess I should take a nap or something, a little break...”

“Or, ” Spike offered, whipping out his present with a wide grin. “You could wear these!”

As she removed her hooves from her eyes, those same eyes grew wide in excitement as she gazed at a little midnight-purple case before her, glittering with little stars as the light from inside the massive tree caught on the facets of hundreds of miniature amethyst stones. Tapping her hooves in excitement as she opened the lid with her magic, Twilight gasped as a pair of purple reading glasses and their attached necklace sat delicately on their own velvet perch, a thin silver band contrasting heavily with the wondrous sheen of her favorite purple stones.

“Ohh, Spike!” she gasped, her hoof gingerly nestling itself over her heart. “You didn't need to get me anything for Hearts and Hooves Day!”

“It was really no trouble!” he said with a shrug, still rocking backward and forwards on his feet. “I got gifts for everyone: you, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rainbow... I just gave Pinkie Pie hers!”

Regarding the inevitable consequences of his gift to Pinkie, Spike added a little addendum to his original statement with a whisper into his friend’s ear.

“I might have to apologize in advance for her gift. It’s a little extreme...”

“No, Spike,” Twilight muttered tearily, enveloping her oldest friend and assistant with her warm embrace. “You don’t need to apologize for anything. You've done so well with your gifts, and I am so proud that you’re willing to show your friends...our friends... how much you love them.”

“Thanks, Twi...” Spike muttered, still lost in the wonderfully warm emptiness of their shared affection. The two of them rested there for a brief moment, but as Twilight moved to relinquish her grasp she found Spike had no similar intention. The dragon only tightened his grip, holding her closer to borrow her confidence... just for a little while.

This could only mean one thing: there was one more mare he hadn't visited.

The only one left on his list.

“Spike,” Twilight whispered, casting her head down to linger there beside his own. “You haven't given Rarity her gift yet, have you?"

Nothing came... nothing save a renewed squeeze and the burrowing of his head into her breast. Stroking his back gingerly, Twilight summoned up a little more courage for Spike to take with him towards his final recipients presence, relinquishing her hold upon it with a soothing whisper.

“Don’t you worry, Spike, ” she crooned, stroking his head-spikes. “I know she means a lot to you, but you don't need to worry about her not liking your gift. She will love whatever you made for her, I know it.”

“But what if she doesn’t?” he gasped tearily, looking back into his friend’s calm eyes. “What if she doesn't like it? What if it’s just one more thing to remind her of how I almost hurt her when I transformed? I've never seen her wear the other gift I gave her... what if she thinks I don’t care as much as I did back then? What if she doesn't care at all?”

“Spike,” Twilight whispered, laying on the floor to meet his eyes. “Rarity knows you care about her, she really does! Nothing is going to change how she feels about you... but it might not be as strong as you feel for her.”

“I know,” he admitted, staring at some imaginary point on her forehead. His shrug was enough of a substitute for a brief moment of eye contact, for had their eyes met what he truly felt might come cascading out against his will.

“I just... I just wish she would.”

“She can’t, Spike, ” Twilight whispered. “The most that she can feel is how she feels for you right now. She is too wrapped up in her little dreams, as lofty and ambitious as they may be, to keep her hooves on the ground.”

Raising his head, she rubbed his cheek with her hoof and gave him a little smile of courage, one which he would look upon and remember even when he trudged towards his hearts’ destruction.

“I want you to go over there with your head held high. You are such a kind little dragon, Spike, and even if she doesn’t feel the same way that you feel for her, I want you to remember something...”

“Anything,” he whispered back, a single tear tracing his little scaly cheeks before dying on the floor.

“Just remember that we all love you, Spike. You will always have a little place in our hearts, even Rarity’s, and we always will... even if we are a little mad at one another or don’t show it right away. Just remember that, above anything else.”

Nodding his understanding, Spike wiped his face and gave his caretaker a courageous wink.

“I will.”

Giving his chest a little nudge, Twilight gave him one last little wave as he grabbed his wagon, checked his bag to ensure his gift was still inside, gave his dearest friend and surrogate mother one last sad little grin, and closed the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike lingered there before the door of her boutique, lacking the will to knock and announce his presence. The various swatches and ribbons which Rarity so effortlessly held aloft whirled and tumbled in the air as she went about her business. She delicately flounced this way and that between sewing machine and dress forms, assembling what creations she needed to make good on her Hearts and Hooves Day deliveries.

She always slaved away, often to her own detriment, to make sure that everyone was happy... that everyone was completely satisfied. Spike couldn't help but smile as he remembered the dresses she’d made for her friends ever so long ago and just how ridiculous they’d looked. He recalled when she’d been nothing but a mass of tangled and unkempt hair after their encounter with the Poison Joke, yet still somehow beautiful.

He looked back on every time he’d been in her presence, every time her hair had caught the light and shimmered, every time her mane and tail bounced as she walked.

Every little grin, every wide-eyed moment of excitement... every scream of surprise when something went either horribly wrong or wonderfully right.

Those little memories of the mare he’d fallen for made him smile, even though his arms grew hollow as he knocked on the door. He barely had the courage to stand, his legs trembling as if some slight nudge might crack them and send him falling to the floor to smash into a million pieces.

He almost couldn’t could hear her high-pitched invitation inside, but as her voice shocked him back into reality he found himself pushing open the door despite his reservations, tiptoeing his way inside even as his heart willed him to turn tail and run back home.

In a blur, he found himself staring at the lovely pearly-white mare strutting around her boutique, levitating her various fabrics and tools around as she tended to her work. The little wheels on his cart squeaked as he drew it close, leaning in to find her gift. Looping his final marvel around his claws, he withdrew it gently and held it close for comfort.

“Welcome to Carousel Boutique!” Rarity chimed, her back still turned to her visitor. “I’m sorry if I’m a little busy at the moment: I have some orders I’ve fallen behind on, so if you’d like to look around and find something you like, I’d be happy to...”

Turning finally to face her prospective customer, Rarity looked around in surprise to find nopony there. The one dragon who remained, however, shook her out of her busy mental state like a dash of cold water.

“Spike? My goodness, I’m sorry! I wasn’t expecting you! Can I do something for you?”

He could do little more than stare at the mare before him, so lost was he in those bright blue eyes of hers that he lost track of what he was doing. Before he had even realized what was happening, he found himself holding out her gift in his claws, staring dumbly back as he watched her face for any sign of emotion, any flicker of the love he’d been hoping for.

Almost in slow motion, every object which she had been holding clutched delicately in her magic dropped to the floor. The fabrics and scissors, needles and thread, and the various other odds and ends which her profession required her to use fell silently to the ground as all vestiges of her concentration broke. Rarity shuffled over to the little dragon, entranced by his offering even as he squirmed and shivered at her approach.

“I don’t... I...” Rarity whispered, kneeling down to examine the wondrous object which his little claws had brought before her. “How did you... why... this, this is too much Spike...”

“No, Rarity, ” Spike muttered, still watching her eyes as they moved to and fro around the object in his hands, widening in awe as they looked over the various little delicate intricacies he’d spent the past few weeks perfecting. “It isn’t too much. If anything, it’s not enough.”

“You can’t be serious!” she gasped, looking to the dragon in shock. “This... I can’t accept this, Spike! This is too much, and I don’t feel comfortable taking this.”

“Please...” Spike whispered, his voice trembling as his courage died away. "I want you to have this, Rarity. I made it just for you..."

“I can’t, Spikey. I couldn’t even begin to think of how to repay you, and I don’t think I ever could even if I wanted to.”

They stood there in silence, the little dragon planted firmly in his place as the mare before him, kneeling on the ground to face him, held his gaze.

“I can’t take this, Spike... I can’t. I know you put so much work into it, and I know you really want me to have this...”

Pressing his gift back to his chest, she gave a little shake of her head, the curls which he had loved for so long bobbing and bouncing in the absence of the same love which kept them aloft.

“But I can’t, especially when I have nothing to give you back. It’s just too much.”

Rolling his gift in his claws, he stared at what he’d made in wonder. It was utterly flawless in every way, and he had spent countless hours and many sleepless nights working and cutting, filing the diamonds into shape with his scales and claws to the point where they fit perfectly in their insets. He had heated the metal onto which those precious stones were stationed with his own fire, stretching and teasing everything into place.

But still, despite his efforts, she would have no part in it. She couldn’t take it, just like Twilight had warned him.

Dropping his gift on the floor with a thud, Spike recoiled from the mare before him, closing his eyes to hide himself from the severity of his declaration.

“No, Rarity! I put everything I had into this present! If you’re just trying to spare my feelings because you don’t want it, just tell me! You don’t have to give me anything back! You never have! I slaved on this... this... thing! I worked forever to make this! I’m sorry if you don’t like it, and I know you’re just trying to be polite, but if you don’t like it, then tell me! I can take it!”

"No, Spike! I do like it, I adore it!... I just can't accept anything so gracious, I just can't."

She recoiled a little as the dragon wailed with fury, his little fists clenched tight to keep himself together.

“I made it for you! I worked on this... for you! I slaved, and I dug, and I filed my claws to the bone to cut everything just so... for YOU! I DON’T NEED ANYTHING BACK! I DON’T WANT ANYTHING IN RETURN! I JUST WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY! I JUST WANT YOU TO BE OKAY! I JUST WANT YOU TO LOVE ME! I JUST... I just...”

Plopping himself on the floor, his legs gave out beneath him as he fell on his tail. His fists still firmly clenched together, Spike gave in with a longing stare at his love's dazzling hooves, holding onto them through the watery glaze of his tears.

“I just... I just want you to be safe...”

Spike's little whisper, as silent as he could make it, lilted through the air... though more for himself than for the mare who listened attentively before him. Staring wide-eyed at the little dragon in awe, Rarity remained petrified as a single tear ran over her foundation and streaked a little line of black on her cheek.

They didn’t move. They did nothing but breathe together, glued to the floor as both willed themselves to make a sound, some flicker of activity which might prompt the other to repair the damage his outburst had caused.

He could only tremble on the floor, breathing heavily as he strained to keep his breaths even.

She could only stare in shock, wipe her cheek, hold his tender face in her hooves...


... and give him a kiss.


It was but a brief moment in time, a few lingering seconds of intimate proximity, but it lasted an eternity for that little dragon. Closing his eyes and pouring himself into what lingering physical contact he had with his beloved, Spike allowed himself to be carried away before Rarity pulled away, ever so slowly, lingering there before him with tears in her eyes.

“I am safe, Spikey-Wikey,” Rarity whispered, stroking his cheek with a trembling hoof. “And I am so, so happy! Ever since you came to Ponyville, you've been so generous, kind, and thoughtful. You've been irreplaceable, even if you've been obnoxiously doting on me at times... even if you do have a shirt with my face on it!”

Spike couldn’t help but give a little chortle at that sad little fact, and as his face grew a little brighter Rarity allowed herself to relax, still holding his face in wonderfully soft hooves to bring her point home.

“I’ve loved you as a little brother, Spike... but we both know I can’t love you any more than that.”

“Why not?...” he whispered, devoid of emotion, as blank and as empty as the bag in which her present, the last remaining gift in his possession, had been but minutes prior. He drew his eyes towards it even as she spoke in her quiet dulcet voice, trying to explain.

What once was full of hope was now but a hunk of cloth, useless without something to hold within itself to keep it safe. That bag was devoid of meaning from the moment he’d drawn her gift from within to leave it on the ground to sparkle in the light.

He wished he could have kept it there, to keep it safe from being scuffed on the floor and away from any harm. He wished he could have kept it for himself instead of giving it away just to be rejected, even though he wanted so badly for her to know it was there... just for her.

He only wished, as they sat there together in the silence, that she knew just how empty she'd made him feel.

But that was something no diamond bracelet or soft, sweet word would ever fully convey.


She was one treasure he would never protect, as much as his brave little heart wanted it to be so.


“Because, Spike,” Rarity whispered calmly, shedding another tear. “Because the place where you reside in my heart is just so full of love that it hurts me a little to see you like this. It kills me to know that I could never hope to match the love you feel for me. I’ve known that you love me ever since you first came here... and as I’ve watched you grow, play, and mature into the brave, kind, selfless dragon you are now: I've only seen you as my own little knight, my brave little protector...”

Removing her hoof from his cheek, Rarity chanced a glance into his empty, trembling eyes and the breaking heart beneath.

“...But nothing more.”

With a comforting smile Rarity slid his present towards her leg, placing her hoof within its arms and adjusting it slightly with the other. What portion of happiness still alive in Spike's miserable heart fluttered with pride as his offering fit her foreleg perfectly. It still pained him to see his gift whole and intact when the heart that had made it lay splintered and broken in his chest, but the way she wore it... it could only have been hers. It would always be hers.

She took a moment to examine his offering, feeling the ridges and bumps of the diamonds on her arm.

“It truly is beautiful, Spike, and it means the world to me that you thought of me when you made it. I know you must feel betrayed, and I'm sorry that I'm the one who did that to you. I want you to be happy, Spike... and if it makes you happy to see me with this on, then I will keep it safe. It's the least I could do to repay you.”

Adjusting the cuff to her desired location, Rarity chuckled a little when her own mascara-streaked face looked back at her in the flawless clear facets of her favorite gemstone.

“Thank you for your gift... and for your love, Spikey-Wikey. I’m sorry than I can’t give you anything in return.”

“...Don’t be.”

He raised his little head from where it had lain to gaze on the floor, a little smile and a flicker of understanding in his bright eyes.

“I understand. I may not like it, but I understand. I can't force you to love me.”

Returning his sad smile, Rarity pulled her brave little knight into her embrace, granting him one last kiss on the head as they rested together. That soft, lilting floral fragrance she always wore still carried with it all that same sweetness, but it lacked that little extra meaning now that everything had been laid on the table, covered with satin and silk, and then smashed into pieces before his eyes.

"It may not be as strong as you hoped, Spikey-Wikey," Rarity whispered, holding him closer. "But I do love you. You never had to force me to do that: you made me love you just by being there for me, for listening to me, for saving me when I couldn't handle things on my own. It might not be the same kind of love, Spike, but it's love nonetheless. I just hope you remember that, even if you hate me for what I've done... even if you regret everything you've done for me."

Spike's eyes closed once more as he savored her embrace, memorizing the feel of her skin and her hair as he pieced those little fragments of his heart back together, ever so slowly, with her memory as his mortar.

She could feel his little heart beating away, slowly calming as that little last hope for her love slid out of his body, forcing him to relax in its passing. One day, it would find its way back in there, brought back to him in the claws or hooves of some other love.

But that was something she couldn’t do, as much as it pained her to see that little spark which kept his hopes alive wither and die as she held him close.

Spike pulled away when he could hold on longer, sniffling as he lovingly stared at her foreleg and the bright cuff he’d made for her. Shuffling towards his wagon, he prepared himself to leave, still hiding his face and the evidence of his despair.

“Just remember... just remember to polish it every so often... and don’t leave it lying around. I don’t want you to lose it.”

Another tear flashed down Rarity's cheek as Spike wheeled his wagon around to walk back towards the door. She smiled as she watched him leave, and almost without her knowledge she found herself clutching his gift to her heart, feeling the little ridges of the hundreds of tiny diamonds which lay encrusted on the surface.

“I never will...” she whispered, beaming as she watched him go.


She never noticed, but for the briefest moment he paused in the doorway as her words, those soft and sweet notes, came fluttering into his ear.

She never saw him smile to the ground outside or saw his heart give another little flutter before he pushed it back down below the surface.


She only saw him leave, taking the time to make sure sure her door closed completely behind him before the sound of his feet grew quieter... and quieter... until, at last, they died away completely.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“C’mon, Spike! We’re going to be late!”

He had barely had time to wake himself from his nap, get his scales all in order, and touch down on the library floor before Twilight scooped him up, hoisting him onto her back as she trotted through the front door towards the orchard and the schoolhouse beyond. The sun had finally set, and that gorgeous day he’d been enjoying still rested in a glaze of august light just over the horizon.

“Are we meeting up with the girls?” Spike queried, holding onto Twilight’s neck as she ran towards Sweet Apple Acres. She looked back and gave him a little nod.

“Of course! Applejack has something she needs to attend to, but everyone else is going to be there.”

“Of course we will be! We wouldn’t want to miss this!”

Twilight gasped in surprise when she turning her head to see Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy flying just above their heads. Spike, resting on his back, gave them little waves as the pegasi kept pace, their gifts resting squarely on their heads where they had been hours before.

“There’s Pinkie and Rarity!” Fluttershy exclaimed, pointing out two more figures by the fence leading to the orchard. One of them was easy enough to identify: a bright jumping ball of pink would be hard to miss, no matter how dark it might have been getting.

Her companion, on the other hand, stood proudly beside her bouncing pony friend, awaiting their arrival calmly. The glittering cuff he’d made for her gathered what remaining light there was in the world and released it in a radiant burst of sparkling iridescence which caught Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy’s attention.

“Oh, my...” Fluttershy sighed as she squinted to pick out the source of the light. “That’s quite... wow!...”

“Did you make that, Spike?” Rainbow snapped, looking from dragon to Rarity’s sizable bracelet in surprise. “Please tell me you didn’t make that!”

“Me?” Spike stated calmly, cocking his eyebrow as he looked from Rainbow to the white unicorn mare standing nearby. Her mane and tail were coiffed just as they always were, but the addition of his glittering bracelet stood out from the beautiful gown she was wearing. A flowing dress cropped just shy of the dusty road beneath her glinted with a silky sheen as the moonlight slowly grew brighter... but nothing she wore could compare to the wondrous cuff on her arm.

Or the great heart-shaped Fire Ruby which shimmered on her breast, trembling as Rarity anxiously awaited his arrival.


She’d kept it, after all this time.


It wasn't some treasure she locked away for herself, or gave to another when she required. It was a gift... his gift... which she had kept nearby, keeping it close and safe from harm. She had taken care of it, polished it, made it shine as if it were brand-new. She’d made sure it wasn't lost, kept it in perfect condition, ensured that nothing would come to scratch its deep crimson facets or the golden necklace in which it slumbered.

She’d kept it safe, even when she’d broken his heart but a little while ago.

She’d had it close when she’d given him his first kiss on the floor of her boutique, holding his lips as tenderly and with as much love as he had for her in his strong little heart, even if it was a love she could never fully reciprocate.

She had worn it when they were falling to a certain doom, her hoof placed over his mouth because she knew how he felt... knew what he would say... knew just what he’d yearned to tell her ever since the first day he’d laid eyes on her. They were words she'd never required to hear, for she had heard them in his actions, in his bravery, his kindness, and his selfless protection of her throughout the years.

They were unnecessary.

The heart which lay on her breast was his own, and she had kept it safe through everything.

“No, Rainbow Dash...” Spike grinned, watching Rarity all the while as her smile beamed, her hair fluttered, and her eyes twinkled when she looked through the darkness to find him staring back.

They shared a little look, his love’s final farewell, before he broke their contact and smiled back up at the blue pegasus above. Rainbow's eyes still stared in wonder at the bracelet which his little hands had made for the mare who had entrapped his heart.

The heart which lay glittering on her breast, beating in time with her own.




“...She’s had that as long as I’ve known her.”

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