Sweetie Belle’s nose scrunched up. He had been doing it every other second. She knew this because she was staring at the clock now, awaiting the next dreaded press of the button. Who takes a math test with a pen anyway?
Someone who isn't afraid to make mistakes, apparently.
“Spike!” Sweetie hissed, her voice highly audible in the silent classroom. “Knock it off.”
“Sweetie Belle, no talking during a test or you get a zero,” Cheerilee sternly reminded her. It wasn’t actually stern—she wasn’t a stern pony after all—but it was clear that her patience was already spent after lecturing for the entire week.
“Any excuse to talk to your boyfriend, right?” Diamond Tiara quietly mocked, giggling as Sweetie Belle fumed in her seat.
Just because Diamond no longer bullied them didn’t mean she didn’t have a fetish for embarrassing ponies. Sweetie Belle found that out the hard way back in the day, and to her chagrin, Miss Cheerilee hadn’t even heard her remark.
Sweetie fought the urge to glare at her teacher, for which Spike silently mouthed her an apology. It was a nervous habit of his to click that stupid pen, but what was he even nervous for? He never got less than an ‘A’ on anything. He probably had Princess Twilight to thank for that, but it didn’t answer her question.
The ticking was gone now, but for some reason, it bothered her that it wasn’t there anymore. Sweetie Belle sat there, idly hacking away at what little remained of her math test while occasionally glancing across at Spike. He still cradled the tip of his pen with one claw, but he’d been done with his test for half an hour now.
Like her, he’d developed an enviable figure of his own. He wasn’t a shrimp anymore, and his height wasn’t the only thing that stood out either. He was lean and had a physique that complimented his frame.
It drew flustered stares from some of the other fillies in class, and for some reason, it left Sweetie Belle bitter every time.
“I don’t know how you do it. That test took me forever,” Sweetie said, nothing short of exasperated. “How much did Princess Twilight teach you before you decided to enroll? Like, everything?”
“No, not really,” he said with a sheepish smile. “I do a lot of studying by myself unless it’s really complex material that I don’t understand. She says that she wants me to be independent, or something.” Spike kept his eyes low to the ground, as if deep in thought. His mind was elsewhere, that much she knew.
“You alright, Spike? You’re kind of spacing out a little,” Sweetie asked.
Spike wasn’t the silent type. His aloofness was apparent the moment Sweetie Belle walked out of the school with him after her friends ditched her. They definitely did it on purpose.
He said nothing for a moment, then glanced over at her. “Have you ever liked someone even though they seemed completely unaware of your advances?” Spike gestured to Sweetie Belle. “I’d imagine someone like you has been in that situation before.”
Sweetie Belle smiled, hiding the wince on her face. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
“Er—have been,” Sweetie corrected with a blush. “I have been, heh.”
There was an awkward pause; pauses were commonplace when the two were alone. That, of course, didn’t make talking any easier.
“So,” Sweetie Belle cleared her throat. “Are you doing anything later today?”
“The usual, I’m helping Rarity today,” Spike chirped. “Thought I’d keep you company as we walked over to the Carousel Boutique.”
“Oh… right.” Sweetie Belle felt her shoulders sag. “I’m sure she really appreciates you.”
“You think so?” Spike rubbed the back of his neck. “I just wish she realized that I—well, you know.”
If this was a comic book, steam would have risen from Sweetie Belle’s ears. She fought back the urge to glare, opting to conceal it with a smile instead. “You won’t get anywhere just by helping her. You have to say something.”
The irony wasn’t lost upon Sweetie Belle: practicing what she preached was never her strong suit. Though, as luck would have it, they had already made it to the Boutique’s front door, and Sweetie Belle had nothing left to say.
“You’re gonna go hang out with the crusaders now, right? I’ll catch you later, Sweetie.” Spike closed the door before she could even form a response, leaving her standing there like a deer in the headlights, but the deer had just been run over by said car, then the car backed up over the corpse again, leaving its entrails strewn all over the asphalt and an antler embedded in the car’s radiator.
The deer looked up, somehow still alive after being thoroughly mutilated by the car’s wheels. In its dying breath, it uttered one last phrase, not a yell but a whimper.
“Yeah,” she said under her breath, “I’ll see you later.”
“You have to say something? Like I’m one to talk. Good going, Sweetie Belle.”
“Why does life have to be so ironic?” Sweetie mumbled, slumping her head on the counter.
Apple Bloom smirked. “Didn’t ya say somethin’ similar way back when? I think you were the matchmaker that time.”
Sugarcube Corner: it was their usual hangout after class, though today felt less like a Friday and more like a Monday. Sweetie Belle slammed her head against the countertop to emphasize that idea.
“You could always do what I did with Rumble,” Scootaloo said.
Sweetie Belle lifted her head off the counter. “Huh? What did you do?”
“Took him to the bathroom and—”
”Oh my god, stop talking!” Sweetie squealed, her voice cracking halfway through the sentence. “Seriously, where’s your sense of dignity?”
“That’s havin’ restraint, Scoots,” Apple Bloom explained.
Scootaloo grinned. “You know I nearly failed Equish, right?”
“I was up ‘till two in the morning last year helping ya study for the final, ‘course I remember.”
“Can you two actually help me?” Sweetie huffed. “I don’t know what to do, I feel like I’m going in circles here.”
“You could just do what I did with Rumble, the castle is big so Twilight won’t hear any—” Scootaloo stopped mid-sentence, a white hoof gagging her mouth.
“I’m going to kill you, Scoots,” Sweetie Belle said as heat reignited in her face. “I have standards.”
Scootaloo took a step back, her grin widening. “I have standards too, they’re just low. Look, Sweetie Belle, you’re gonna have to be direct with him if you want to get anywhere. You know how Spike is, he’s not very good at taking a hint.”
Apple Bloom sighed. “Much as I’d hate to admit it, she’s got a point, Sweetie Belle. He’s kinda…”
“Dense,” Sweetie finished for her. “I just don’t know if I have the courage to do that though. I’m not like you or Scootaloo. I don’t know if I have it in me to just pony up like that.”
“You know, we could set you two up,” Scootaloo said. “Put you in a romantic setting, give him the idea that you’re interested in him. The only thing you’d have to do is hit the last nail on the coffin.”
“...I don’t like that analogy. It doesn’t even sound right.”
“She nearly failed Equish,” Apple Bloom reminded her. “We can help you two out, Sweetie, you can trust us. You know that.”
“I—” Sweetie bit her lip. “What if he says no?”
Scootaloo shrugged. “Well, you’re hot, so he’d be stupid to turn you down. His loss.”
“What?” Scootaloo raised her hooves in defense. “Why are you booing me? I’m right.”
“Tact, Scoots. Ya don’t have any tact,” Apple Bloom deadpanned.
“I almost failed—”
“Okay, we get it!” Sweetie Belle said. “Just… do whatever you need to do. Alright, Apple Bloom?”
“Don’t worry.” Apple Bloom mock saluted. “Scootaloo and I have a plan for ya.”
“Sweetie Belle, would you mind passing me the gold ribbon over there?” Rarity pointed at a nearby shelf before resuming her work. “This is a delicate operation I’m dealing with over here.”
With Spike gone, Sweetie was left helping Rarity with the rest of her work for the day. Knowing he had been here merely an hour ago did nothing to help better her mood.
Sweetie gave Rarity a half-hearted shrug, taking her time walking over to the shelf and picking up the roll of ribbon with her mouth. She made no effort to look Rarity in the eye.
“Er, Sweetie, dear, I know that color-blindness does run in our family, but I find it hard to believe you mixed up gold with neon green.” Rarity offered her a smile, but it fell the moment she saw Sweetie’s face. “Is something wrong, Sweetie Belle?”
She fought the urge to glare at Rarity. “It’s not that anything’s wrong per se, it’s more like nothing is going right.”
Rarity’s ears folded back. “I don’t really understand, Sweetie. Did something happen today? Did I do something to upset you?”
Every word that came out of Rarity’s mouth tempted Sweetie to shout. Instead, she breathed in deep, releasing a sigh through gritted teeth. “Can I ask for… advice?”
“How do you get someone you like to pay attention to you?”
“Oh? Is there something you’re not telling me?” Rarity not-so-innocently batted her eyelashes, causing Sweetie to groan.
“Be serious, Rarity. What if they act like they don’t even know you care?”
“Sweetie, dear, you’re thinking about this all wrong,” Rarity tittered. “It’s likely not a matter of them not caring. Rather, they’re ignorant of how much you truly care for them.”
A familiar fire reignited in Sweetie’s blood, and the venom she was desperately attempting to keep out of her voice finally surfaced. “You’re either more callous than I gave you credit for, or you’re the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met.”
Rarity said nothing for a moment, searching for the next thing to say. After an uncomfortable pause, she sighed. “Do I look like a fool to you, Sweetie Belle?”
“What are you—”
“Because I’m not ignorant, certainly,” Rarity said with a wince. “I… recognize infatuation when I see it, especially when it’s blatantly obvious. Exploitation is a skill I’ve honed as a business mare, but a terrible habit that I’ve come to possess.”
“You should say you’re sorry then,” Sweetie growled.
Rarity’s head hung low. “I am s—”
“Not to me, to him.” Sweetie Belle pointed a hoof at the front door.
“What he needs is someone who can make him as happy as happy can be,” Rarity replied, no longer making eye contact with her sister. “And I know that the only pony who can do that is you.”
“That’s the cheesiest line I’ve heard all day, and I think I’ve heard enough,” Sweetie Belle huffed, walking out the front door and slamming it behind her, not bothering to say another word.
How was she supposed to make anyone happy when she couldn’t even feel it herself?
Nervous—no, that wasn’t the right word—that’s like calling a migraine a headache. This was far worse, worse than the anxiety she had while taking that test earlier today. Sweetie glanced back at the door to the treehouse, anticipating only one pony to walk through.
Or rather, one drake.
Just stick to the plan, that’s all she had to do. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had told her everything she needed to know before she went home, know all she had to do was sit here and—”
“Hey there, Sweetie Belle!”
The countless lines that Sweetie had rehearsed in her head went up in flames. Now she was left with nothing but her rapid heart rate and a tongue that was busy suplexing itself. There weren’t butterflies in her stomach, they were probably closer to locusts than anything else.
“I u-uh, how ya doing, S-Spike?” Sweetie gracefully replied, internally cursing at herself.
He leaned against the door, giving her a grin. “According to Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, there’s some kind of emergency and I was needed here. Is there something you want me to do?”
“I-I mean.” Sweetie slapped a hoof against her face. “I wanted you to talk with me in private, hehe.”
Spike’s eyebrows narrowed. “You’ve been acting strange all day today. Come to think of it, you’ve been like this for a while now.”
“Staring at me during class and thinking I didn’t notice, looking depressed when I told you I was visiting Rarity, what’s up with all that?”
He shook his head. “Even now, the words won’t leave your mouth, why can’t you just—”
“I have feelings for you!”
It was quiet enough in the clubhouse to hear a pin drop, except it was less of a pin and more of a hand grenade. It was supposed to feel like a weight had been lifted off of Sweetie Belle’s shoulders, but the crushing pain she felt across her body showed in her face as she blinked away small tears.
“I… huh. I have to say, I wasn’t really expecting that one.” It was Spike’s turn to be at a loss for words; she found it strange seeing a dragon blush. “How long have you felt like this? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”
“A while,” Sweetie replied, wincing as she uttered the next sentence. “... the Summer Sun Celebration?”
Spike’s eyes widened. “Wait, you don’t mean… the first one in Ponyville I ever went to that was years ago, right?”
The tips of Sweetie’s ears glowed pink, and her posture was akin to that of anemic jelly. She said nothing.
He steepled his claws, breathing in and letting out a deep sigh. “Listen, Sweetie Belle…”
The locusts were dead now, thankfully.
Sweetie Belle approached her pair of friends with a melancholy smile on her face. Apple Bloom was being talked at by Scootaloo and looked like she was trying her hardest not to register anything the pegasus was spouting.
“He said that it’d be good for my teeth and that I should swallow, so I socked him in the shoulder and told him I wasn’t falling for that stupid trick again, the featherbrain.”
“Scootaloo, I love ya, but I’m gonna turn your body into fertilizer if you keep talkin’ about you an’ Rumble.”
Scootaloo stuck her tongue out. “Fertilizer? You can’t use me as fertilizer. That’s made of like, cow poop and stuff.”
Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious? Yer tellin’ a farmer what fertilizer is? Are you—” She paused mid-sentence, just now noticing Sweetie awkwardly standing behind them. “Oh thank Celestia you’re here, Sweetie Belle. I was about to become a criminal.”
Scootaloo tilted her head. “For what?”
“I’ll give ya three guesses, Scoots.”
“I was bein’ facetious, stop talking.” Apple Bloom turned to Sweetie Belle. “So, how’d it go?”
Sweetie Belle idly kicked the dirt with a forehoof. “About that…”
It felt as if the seconds turned into minutes as Spike finally finished his train of thought.
“... I want to tell you the truth, but I’m pretty sure you’re not going to believe me.”
Sweetie sighed in exasperation. “Can’t you just get it over with and reject me already? C’mon, Spike, I know how you really feel, and it’s nothing for me.”
He chuckled. “Well, that’s the thing. I do have feelings for you, I just never wanted to tell you because… well, with Rarity and all—“
“—you didn’t want me to think you were settling for something less,” Sweetie Belle finished for him, feeling her heart beat faster. “So… what is it then?”
Spike walked up to her slowly, wrapping his claws over one of her hooves. She felt small as he stared down at her. “Well, I don’t know if it’s love, but it’s something. I know that much. I understand if you’re mad or confused, but I want to give it a chance.”
His grip tightened. “I want to give us a chance if you’ll let me.”
There was a pregnant pause, then Sweetie Belle giggled madly, swatting his shoulder with the hoof she’d freed. “That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard! Oh my sweet Celestia, d-did you read that out of some romance novel or something?”
Spike blushed. “M-maybe?”
Sweetie’s laughter intensified, keeling over as she struggled to breathe, tears in the corners of her eyes.
“Hey! It’s not funny, S-Sweetie! I prepared for a long time for that!”
Her giggling faded as she stood up, smiling at him as she pecked him on the cheek. “Just take it as a ‘yes’ then, you big dummy.”