An Ordinary Day

by Imaginary Valued

First published

Most days are ordinary until we make them special.

Most days are ordinary until we make them special.

An Ordinary Day

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"Today is the day!" Spike declared from atop the stairs.

Twilight Sparkle, who was in the process of solving partial differential equations to maximize magical dynamical systems and produce free, clean energy, decided the announcement at least deserved a small portion of her attention. "And what day would that be?" she inquired bemusedly.

Encouraged by the lack of demoralizing obstructions, Spike placed both claws on his hips and puffed out his chest. "It's one week from Hearts and Hooves Day, and starting from this moment, I'm going to give Rarity an entire bouquet of roses every day up until the big day!"

Twilight blinked at the declaration. "Wow, Spike. That's some goal you've set," she said diplomatically.

Spike grinned widely in what he hoped was a regal display of shining teeth.

Owlowiscious flapped up next to the young dragon. "Hoo?" he inquired.

Spike's swagger turned into annoyance. "Rarity. I'm giving roses to Rarity."

Owlowiscious tilted his head. "Hoo."

Spike scoffed. "What? C'mon, all girls like flowers!"

"Hoo," Owlowiscious pointed out.

Spike narrowed his eyes. "Why do you always hafta kill my buzz?"

Owlowiscious gave a feathery shrug and flew downstairs to perch upon Twilight's back.

"Anyway," Spike intoned, briefly giving his fellow assistant the stink eye as he bounded down the stairs and darted towards the library entrance. "There's no time like the present. I'm off to Rarity's, Twi! I'll try to be back before dinnertime!"

"Spike, wait," Twilight called out after brief struggle of hesitation, just as the dragon opened the door and was about cross the threshold.

"What is it?" Spike replied, his claw still clutching the door knob as he jogged in place.

Twilight paused for a moment with a thoughtful frown. "About this thing with Rarity—"

"Sshhh!" Spike interrupted, frantically gesturing to the mare as he quickly shut the door behind him. "Somepony could've been listening! Then my secret would've been, er, not-secret anymore!"

Twilight rolled her eyes. "As I was saying. About this thing with Rarity, don't you think you might be...coming on a little strong?"

Spike tilted his head, brows raised. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"I mean," Twilight began, moving closer to the dragon, "a bouquet of roses every day for an entire week? It's a very sweet gesture and all, but it could potentially get kind of, well, overwhelming."

"Twilight, Twilight," Spike said in a condescending manner with crossed arms and a shaking head, making the unicorn feel just a tad offended. "This is the reason you'll never find a special somepony."


"You gotta seize the day and do your best if you really want something! 'You wanna play ball, then give it your all'! I learned that from this very helpful book."

Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "Spike, that's a book on baseball."

"Well, yeah," Spike said matter-of-factly, giving the mare a strange look and slipping the aforementioned book back into its proper place. "Shining was always telling me that love is like a baseball field, so of course I'd read up on it. I gotta say, it's kinda boring, but still a lot more interesting than those books on that thawma-dynamite chemistry you keep griping about."

"That's thaumadynamic chemistry, for your information," Twilight said with a pout. "Also, the expression is 'love is like a battlefield,' not some kind of competitive sport."

Spike scratched his head. "Wait, how does that make sense? If love is like a battle, then why isn't every pony out there fighting each other?"

Twilight blinked. "Well, that is, you see, it's interesting because, um, the expression is trying to…"

Spike gave her a pitying look.

Twilight grimaced. "Ugh, okay, so I don't know exactly the reason behind the adage, but it has to hold some merit!" Her gaze softened to one of concern. "That's why I want you to be careful with how you act around Rarity. I don't want you blindsided by something if I can help it."

Spike smiled faintly. "I know you're just looking out for me, Twilight. But I'm set on this. I really, um, like her," he squeaked out with cerise hues blooming across his cheeks, twiddling with the tips of his claws. "And I just want to, you know, maybe make her like me back a little."

"Aww," Twilight cooed after taking a moment to absorb the dragon's admission, and trotted up to her assistant to give him a hug.

"C'mon, Twi," Spike complained albeit with a smile, the top of his head tucked warmly under Twilight's chin. "Quit it~. You're acting like Celestia."


Spike's eyes narrowed. "Seriously, dude, what gives?"

Twilight giggled and patted the dragon on the head. "Okay, Spike. You go ahead and do whatever it is you've planned. Just promise me you'll be careful and watch out for both yourself and Rarity."

"Don't worry, I promise," Spike agreed, thumping a small fist against his scaly chest. After a few more moments of warm smiles and nuzzles, he ran out the library in high spirits. "See you later!"

"Good luck, Spike!" Twilight called after her assistant. Before shutting the door, she took a moment to inspect the outdoors: nice sunlight, clear skies, temperate weather, a comfortable breeze, and no calamity upending the tectonic plates of Equestria. All in all, it was a very pleasantly ordinary day in Ponyville.

Twilight turned to her secondary assistant with a smile. "Guess it's going to be just you and me for the rest of the day. Want to help me use numerical analysis to approximate the rate of dissipation of magical energy?"

Owlowiscious flew out the window.

By the time Spike finally stood before the entrance of the Carousel Boutique, he made a startling discovery.

"Roses are expensive."

The young dragon looked down at his claws, which held half a dozen roses in one while the other held the remaining five bits he got as change. "I really gotta stop making jewel-cakes."

Spike now better understood Applejack's slight vehemence on assuring a steady cash flow for the farm. He decided to later ask Twilight to help him convert some of his future gem-income into bits so he wouldn't literally eat his way towards destitution.

Storing the bits away, the dragon smacked himself lightly on the cheeks and took a deep breath. His enthusiasm may have been dampened comparably to his initial start, but he could make up for the current lack of monetary funds. He just had to alter his plans a little. Instead of bouquet of roses, he could make pastries and tea. He had taken it upon himself in the past to learn and gauge Rarity's reactions and comments in order to discern how best to brew her favorite jasmine tea. Perhaps the time for when he would use that discreet knowledge to his benefit was approaching, but that was a contemplation for another time. Now was a time for action! Helpful or not, he had even read a book to prepare. Twice! This was no time to have his hoof, er, claw-foot stuck in the bucket. It was time to step up to the plate!

Spike cleared his throat and coughed into a balled up claw, taking a prudent moment to make sure his breath didn't stink of recent snack foods, and rapped the same small fist against the door a solid thrice.

There was a rather loud noise of what was possibly a cacophony of tumbling implements and scuffling furniture accompanied by feline screeches that almost seemed enough of a ruckus to shake the entire boutique. As a terse silence reigned in short order, Spike wondered if he should burst in to make certain everything was all right.

"Just a moment, I'll be right there~!" was the melodic response that fortunately allayed the small dragon's concerns. Spike mentally prepared himself, and in a few more moments, the door swept open.

To the young dragon, the opening of the simple wooden doors was somehow akin to the parting of the gates to the royal halls of Canterlot Castle themselves, and the unicorn mare with a pristine white coat and immaculate presence was an otherworldly being of ethereal beauty deserving of such an entrance. Of course, the slightly disheveled mane and the sporadically twitching eyes and cheeks sort of marred that perceived perfection, his logistical side noted, but Spike learned long ago how to ignore that part of his brain in favor of the exuberance that came with being absolutely smitten.

Hey. Hormones.

"O-oh," Rarity more or less squeaked out, and took a quick moment to clear her throat. "Oh, Spike," she began anew with a tired smile, "what a pleasant surprise. Is there something I can help you with?"

Spike opened his mouth and, well, that was pretty much as far as he got. It was as if all the bluster and confidence he built up in privacy and in his internal monologues suddenly got drafted to fight the unwinnable war that was 'walking the talk'. Determined not to look like a complete buffoon, he rallied on through his sudden inability to vocally communicate and thrust the red flowers before the mare.

Rarity looked taken aback, but her eyes soon softened and a small smile formed. "For me?"

Spike looked like he was trying to headbutt something.

With a appreciative smile, Rarity lifted the roses from the dragon's claws and brought them close. "They look absolutely lovely." She took a sniff. "They smell divine, as well." She took a bite. "Ooo, scrumptious, too!"

She was pretty much munching on a good portion of his monthly savings. Still, Spike considered it worthwhile as he marveled again at how the mare before him could look so attractive even while chewing. Twilight usually ate too quick a pace to fully appreciate his cooking in order to adhere to her daily schedule.

Somehow, those slightly tangential musings gave Spike his voice back. "They're still nothing but weeds compared to you, milady."

Rarity blinked before turning away slightly with a giggle, a hoof covering her cheek. "Oh, Spike! Please, you're making me blush."

Spike hovered above the ground through the sheer power of dragon hormones.

Rarity smiled again at the remaining roses she held in her magical grip as she recomposed herself. "Now, while this is a pleasant distraction and I truly adore the roses, I'm afraid I'm rather busy at the moment. Would you mind telling me what this is all about?"

Spike blinked and landed back on his feet. "What's got you so busy?"

Rarity took a glance back into the shop. "Well, you see, it's merely a week until Hearts and Hooves Day, and not only have I received numerous order requests from all around town, I've also been commissioned to produce many custom garments for the upcoming special day from several of the most influential ponies from Canterlot! All this work has been severely taxing, and I'm sorry to say I don't have much time to dillydally."

"Oh." Spike looked down in mild dejection, knowing that the mare of his dreams was probably going to be occupied for the entire week, and thus his plans to increase his chances for a special day with Rarity were drowning in a pool of inopportunity. But he quickly shook those thoughts away. So what if his plans were a bust because Rarity was too busy? He'd just have to make due, by being very busy with her.

Spike looked to the pony in a manner that he hoped exhumed capability. "Why don't you let me help you then? I've done it before, and I promise that I can lessen your workload."

Rarity's eyes twinkled for a moment before she looked hesitant. "That's very kind of you to offer, darling. But there is simply much work to be done, and while I would appreciate nothing more than your help, I'm afraid I would not be the most courteous of mares were you to be my assistant when I enter le Zone." She said the last part with the look of a soldier at war.

Twilight's words of caution sprang up in Spike's mind, and he had a sudden urge to gulp. Again, he shook his hesitation away. Rarity needed his help, and so he would give it to the best of his abilities, it was as simple as that. He was Twilight's number one assistant, and today, he would be Rarity's.

"Please let me help, Rarity," Spike beseeched with a baritone to his voice that surprised even himself. "You can be as demanding as you need to be. Don't worry about me. I'm willing to do anything to put a smile on your face."

Rarity looked taken aback again. Her eyes shimmered. "Oh, my Spikey-Wikey." She leaned down to nuzzle his cheek. "You are a beacon of light in my hour of darkness."

Spike's dragon hormones learned group choreography.

After smiling at the young dragon for several more tender moments, Rarity trotted back into the shop. "Come on then, Spike! There's much work to be done and time is a relentless mistress! Onwards!"

Spike grandly followed. "As you wish, milady! As a noble dragon, I swear upon my code of honor to assist you!"

The following hours can be paraphrased thusly:


"On it!"

"I need more turquoises! Where are those blasted turquoises!?"

"I've got them!"

"I need three rolls of fabrics from shelves number three and seven, now!"

"Right away!"

"Eeek! There's a bug by the window!"

"Shoo, bug off! Heheh, get it? Bug off? Okay, sorry, back to work."

Sweetie Belle walked in. "Hi, Rarity! Are you making dresses? Can I he—"

"Spike, stop her!"

"Sorry about this!"

"Wuh? Aaahh!"

"Pin cushion!"


"Oh dear heavens, I'm sweating!"

"I've got the washcloth!"

Huff. Puff. "Getting tired. Losing momentum. Ego boost!"

"You're the most beautiful, most talented seamstress in all of Equestria! You can do this!"

Fabulosity recovered. "Raaaa!"

After what felt like days of marathon running through blurry adrenaline and blinding fashion, Rarity finally declared, "Aaaand break!"

Spike majestically broke his fall with his own face.

Rarity, on the other hand, was appropriately delighted as she trotted in place at the results. "Splendid! Simply marvellous! I almost cannot believe myself capable of such artistry were I not staring right at them! Rarity, darling, you magnificent mare, you!"

"They look amazing, Rarity," Sweetie Belle complimented from her position bodily tied to the ponnequin. "By the way, is Spike dead? He's not moving."

"Spikey-Wikey!?" Rarity more or less screamed, and hurried to her fallen assistant in almost ferocious panic as she flipped the dragon on his back and cradled his form in her forelegs. "Speak to me, darling! Don't let it end this way! You still have so much to live for!"

Spike groaned. "What I wouldn't do for a couple of rubies."

"Oh, Spike, you're all right! Thank all that is bright in the heavens!"

Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes at the unnecessary melodrama and wiggled against her bonds. "Can you let me down now? I'm thirsty~!"

Rarity coughed as she helped Spike to his feet and magically untied her little sister with a sheepish laugh. "Yes, so sorry, Sweetie, but I just couldn't risk you creating more work. You understand, right?"

"I guess," Sweetie Belle grumbled as she quickly made way into the kitchen for a glass of water.

Rarity turned her attention back to the young dragon by her side. "Thank you so, so much. You've been such tremendous help, darling. We've managed to practically finish two days' worth of work. Why, if we keep this up, I'd have even more time to create even more dresses to fill in the gaps unfulfilled by the other competitors!"

"Whoopee," Spike cheered with the same enthusiasm as somepony suffering from anemia.

Rarity smiled shrewdly, casting a furtive glance towards the kitchen before she leaned down to plant a firm kiss on the dragon's cheek.

Spike felt as if he just ingested ten big ruby sprinkled cupcakes and was ready to take on an Ursa Minor. Or at least a scruffy beaver. Okay, maybe a butterfly. But one that was ferocious and mean and stung like a bee.

"Whoopee!" Spike cheered.

Rarity giggled before the clock caught her attention. "Oh my, it's rather late into the afternoon."

Spike looked as well. "Huh. Yeah, I guess it is. Time sure flew by."

"It seems I've dragged you into le Zone, as well, then," Rarity said with clear amusement. "Time always seems nonexistent when one is all fired up, as it were." She smiled gratefully. "I have to thank you again, darling. You have no idea how much help you've been today."

Spike blushed, touching the place where Rarity's lips had just been. "It's never a problem helping you, Rarity, you know that."

Rarity's smile turned tender. "Be that as it may, I feel I must express my gratitude."

Before Spike he could tell the white mare how much he would fight Twilight to preserve the blessing that was her cheek-kiss, Rarity turned towards the kitchen and called, "Sweetie Belle! Spike and I will be going out for some ice cream!" She turned back to the dragon with a teasing grin. "That is, if a certain gentledrake would be willing to accompany this lady."

Spike's heart fluttered and he performed a quick bow. "It will be my honor, milady."

Rarity giggled and trotted away upstairs. "Just give me a few minutes to freshen up, darling. I'll be right back down."

The moment Rarity was out of sight, Spike jumped for joy. He couldn't believe it. It might have taken a lot of work, but this was practically a date. He was going on a sorta-date with Rarity! That book on baseball was absolutely right. He was knocking the ball out the court, whatever that meant. Nothing could ruin his day now!

Then Sweetie Belle emerged from the kitchen, wiping at her lips. "Ptwee! I think I got rope in my mouth."

Spike looked appropriately apologetic. "Sorry again, Sweetie Belle. Rarity said 'stop her' and I kinda just grabbed the rope."

"It's okay, I think," Sweetie Belle reassured. "It was kind of cool the way you tied me up so fast. Where'd you learn to do something like that? Hey, maybe you can teach me, Applebloom, and Scootaloo! Ooo, ooo, Cutie Mark Crusaders Bondage Extraordinaire!"

Something deep within himself told Spike he was staring directly at the door that led to Trouble. Honestly though, it wasn’t that difficult once you’ve successfully managed to pack six critters into a ball with leashes alone. Thank the stars Opalescence couldn’t speak to anypony about that particular day. Now he just had to keep on hoping Granny Smith was agreeable or senile enough to forget the whole thing. Well, no matter what the case, he certainly couldn’t reveal anything to Rarity’s little sister.

"Uh, I'm not sure where I learned it from. I think it was Applejack. Yeah, go ask Applejack. She knows all there is to know about tying ponies up."

"Oh. Okay!" Sweetie Belle looked around. "Hey, where's Rarity?"

Spike felt a goofy smile creep up his face. "She's just getting ready to go outside. We're going to get ice cream."

Sweetie Belle's face lit up.

Spike blinked in realization and frowned. "Drats."

Around fifteen minutes later, Spike found himself walking alongside the two sisters, with the older one's time, attention, and company appropriately siphoned by the younger one. Rarity was donning a fanciful white summer hat that complemented her mane quite nicely by continuing the trend of the contrasting colors between her coat and hair. It was such a simple decoration, but somehow, the combination of the crepuscular light and her grace made her aglow. Too bad Sweetie Belle was with them.

Spike sighed and mentally reprimanded himself. He shouldn't be thinking in such a selfish way. This wasn't really a date to begin with. Rarity was just showing her gratitude by treating him to some ice cream, so there was no reason her little sister couldn't come along. Besides, the younger unicorn had displayed inordinate patience to being tied to an inanimate object for who knows how many hours. That was probably one of the requirements for sainthood, or something. In addition, if he ever planned on getting closer to Rarity, that automatically meant getting at least somewhat close to Sweetie Belle as well. Thus he'd just have to suck it up, and enjoy the time the best he could. With that decided, he regained some spirit in his strides. He fastened the scarf Rarity insisted he borrow, when a relatively chilly wind passed them.

Sweetie Belle, who was wearing her own scarf that was motherly requested by Rarity, cantered forward when the ice cream shop came within sight.

"Sweetie Belle, dear, no need to rush," Rarity chided, but ended up quickening her pace as well.

Almost as if scripted, a particularly forceful wind blasted from behind them, strong enough that it swept up Rarity's hat in the gust.

When the wind passed fully and the white mare was able to recover her bearings, the hat was already drifting away almost like a runaway balloon. Rarity tried in vain to catch the wayward headwear with her magic but couldn't because of the erratic motion the hat was moving in.

Before Spike was fully aware, he was already on the move by instinct, chasing the floating hat down with surprisingly agile movements. He may still be short and somewhat chubby in the cheeks, but he was growing ever so slowly, and his own adventures often involved running in terror or chasing down critters, so it was a proud moment in his life that he was now able to utilize that certain skill set in retrieving his dream mare's beloved head accessory.

He was a speeding hunter on the move, dodging ponies left and right, leaping over foals and fillies, sliding under wagons and kiosks, never letting the confoundingly aerodynamic hat out of his sight for even a moment. He was a dragon of the wind, swift and true, on a quest to allay his beloved lady’s current woe of losing a supposedly precious summer hat. He would earn her smile of gratitude once again, just as he did before.

But the hat was sailing higher and higher, and soon would reach an altitude unattainable for his admittedly short stature. He was considering his remaining options when an opportunity presented itself: Big McIntosh. The big, red, strong, tall, and sturdy son of gun was leisurely pulling an apple cart just up ahead.

Spike smirked and took his chance. With a hop and a skip, he leapt onto the moving cart, careful not to lose his balance on the pile of apples, and with a heroic shout of action and apologies, stepped onto the red stallion’s back before using his head as a takeoff platform and jumped with all of his might.

Time seemed to decelerate as Spike felt himself practically soaring through the winds. His gaze intensified as he reached for the glistening white hat with a small cry. Just three more inches; just two more inches; just one more inch, and, just two more inches and—

Eyes wide in horror, Spike watched helplessly as the summer hat taunted him from high above.

“Noooooooo~!” Spike bellowed as he fell back onto the cold, merciless earth with a soft thump.

Big McIntosh stared at the fallen dragon. “Eeyup.”

Spike blinked himself out of his stupor and got back up. The hat was pretty high up now, and he couldn’t help but wonder if it was somehow pumped full of helium. Still, he could probably follow it and see where it eventually landed—

Suddenly, a dark grey blur swept across the sky like a whirlwind, removing the white hat from view. Soon, that grey blur landed and revealed itself as a pegasus stallion.

“Hey, kid,” the newly arrived pony greeted through his teeth, the summer hat dangling in his mouth. “You okay?”

“Uh, yeah,” Spike managed to reply, still somewhat rearing from the fall as well as the sudden appearance of the stallion who effortlessly did what he could not, and that made him feel—

“Spike! Oh dear, are you all right?” called Rarity from behind, galloping up to the dragon in worry.

“I’m fine,” Spike assured the mare, rubbing his arm. “Tough scales.”

Rarity breathed a sigh of relief and looked about to say more when the pegasus approached.

“I believe this belongs to you, then,” the stallion said, tilting his head upwards to present the item in question.

“Oh my, yes,” Rarity replied, and quickly retrieved the hat with magic. “Thank you so much for your timely assistance—oh, Monsieur Thunderlane! Goodness, darling, I didn’t realize it was you with your face obscured by my wayward hat.”

Thunderlane smiled in response. “Hey, it was no problem at all. Glad I was able to get it back for you.”

Rarity gave a gracious smile. “I must thank you sincerely. This hat is one of my favorites, you see, and it would have been difficult to replace.”

The scene would’ve appeared normal and polite to any passerby, but that was not what Spike perceived. Not at all. His was a keen eye, honed by necessity due to Twilight's occasional lack in perceptiveness. With his attentive insight the truth of his uneasiness came to light. The stallion, Thunderlane, was throwing on an incredibly charming and dazzling smirk as he presented to Rarity, the beautiful and fabulous damsel, with her rescued head garment. Not only that, but both of them were sparkling under the crepuscular light of the evening sun as Rarity was bedazzled by Thunderlane’s heroic posture.

He wasn’t sure why, but Spike had the sudden urge to fight Thunderlane in the streets.

“Big bro,” a childish voice called from the side, and a young pegasus colt of a light grey coat landed next to Thunderlane, “why’d you fly off for?”

“Just helping out a friend in need,” Thunderlane said, in his deep, stallionly voice. “Don’t worry,” he chucked, as he ruffled his younger brother's mane, getting a small laugh in return, “I wasn’t running off on ya.”

Thunderlane then turned to address Rarity once more, “Me and Rumble here were just off on our way to get some ice cream. The kid’s been craving for some strawberry milkshakes all yesterday, and since he ate all of his carrots today, I guess he deserves a reward.”

“Oh, what a lovely coincidence,” Rarity chimed. “We were just on our way for some desert as well. Would you perhaps like to join us? The more the merrier.”

Thunderlane glanced at his little brother. “We wouldn’t want to impose…”

“Nonsense, dear, you’ve done us a service and it would be the height of impropriety not to show our gratitude. Isn’t that right, Spike?”

“I guess so,” Spike grounded out.

The dragon’s tone went unnoticed, however, and so Thunderlane accepted the invitation with a nod and smile.

Rarity beamed. “Well then, come along everypony. To the parlor!”

“Stupid Thunderlane and his stupid handsome face and his dumb awesome voice and his stupid wings and other things about him that are dumb.”

The ice cream shop was bustling with many ponies, all of them out and about because of the nice weather that resembled a pleasant summer despite the windy drafts coming in through the opening of the parlor door every now and then from incoming customers.

Sweetie Belle sat by her sister, naturally, as did Rumble with his own elder sibling, but both of them were sharing stories about school or trivia about Ponyville in general across the table. Spike himself was stuck between Rarity and Thunderlane, with both of them making googly eyes at each other, in the dragon's perception.

He had tried to salvage some form of dignity he didn't even know he lost by offering to pay for their orders, but was quickly shot down by Rarity when the fashionista insisted it to be her treat for his assistance today. Well, it didn't really matter since five bits definitely wasn't enough to pay for more than a double scoop, but it felt like a double blow after the previous failure.

The young dragon looked to his left, where Thunderlane was talking about something, probably related to how good looking and cool he was, and that he had a dark, shiny coat and was just awesome in general.

Spike grumbled again and tried to just quietly enjoy his double scoop of butter pecan and tuned out the conversation around him, which was admittedly difficult considering Rarity's voice was so darn lively and lovely and right next to him and—

"And that's how we met," Rarity finished. She blinked at Spike's inattention and prodded him with a hoof. "Spike?"

Spike snapped out of his intentional stupor and blinked back.

"Darling," Rarity slightly complained, in a mildly exasperated manner, "I was just telling you how monsieur Thunderlane and I met. You didn't hear a thing, did you?"

Spike tried to look apologetic. "Yeah, sorry. Was busy enjoying the ice cream."

Rarity looked skeptical but didn't push the matter. "Well, now that I have your attention again, do you recall hearing about us visiting Rainbow Dash at the Wonderbolt Academy?"

Spike nodded. That was a rather upsetting day, to have learned later in the day from Twilight that practically all of his friends almost died from reaching terminal velocity.

"Well, Thunderlane here was the hero who saved me on our way back up from that dreadful predicament."

Thunderlane blushed slightly. "Aw, shucks, Miss Rarity. I just did what anypony would've done."

Rarity smiled kindly. "Now, now, dear, no need to wear humility like a shield. I am extremely grateful for your rescue. The Wonderbolts would be lucky to have a member such as you on the team."

Upon hearing the compliment, Rumble stopped slurping his milkshake as his entire face lit up with awe at his older brother. "Cool! I knew you're going to be a Wonderbolt! I can't wait to tell everypony at school!"

Spike almost glared at the foal, silently accusing the oblivious child for rubbing it in, because great, now not only did Thunderlame steal his, well, thunder, he was already acquainted with Rarity by saving her life from certain death as well being a likely candidate for the Wonderbolts. How in the name of Luna's Moon was he supposed to compete with that? The stallion should've been named Thunderthief, or Thundersnatcher, for the ways he was making all little dragons in the world feel inferior. Or maybe not, because those names actually sounded kind of cooler. He decided to stick with calling him Thunderlame in his head.

"Easy there," Thunderlane said with a chuckle. "What did I say about getting ahead of ourselves, Rumble? I might become a Wonderbolt. I'm still just an academy trainee and a long way from being even a cadet. Heck, I'm not even close to being the best flyer in the group."

Rarity waved a hoof. "Pish posh, darling. Modesty is one thing, but don't go selling yourself short. I know for certain that Rainbow Dash herself has noted on your skills on several occasions when the topic came up."

Thunderlane looked surprised. "R-really? Rainbow Dash said something about me?"

Rarity nodded. "Indeed. I'm sure you know how difficult it is to get a compliment out of that prideful pony."

Thunderlane couldn't help but grin.

Spike tried drowning himself in ice cream to no avail. Butter pecan was such a tasty flavor to go to waste, after all.

"Spike, darling," Rarity chided, and tilted the dragon's head up by the chin, "you're getting ice cream all over your face." She levitated a napkin and began meticulously cleaning his face.

Under normal circumstances, Spike would've rejoiced at the chance to being in such close proximity with the white mare, but at this particular moment, he just didn't want her fussing over him as if he was a child. As if he wasn't capable of taking care of himself. As if he was everything but what he wanted to be.

"I'm fine," Spike spat, much louder and ruder than he intended, as he pulled away. Rarity looked a bit wounded, and he instantly felt like the lowest form of scum. "I'm... I'm sorry, Rarity. I didn't mean to snap at you."

"It's all right," Rarity said after a moment of silence. "I should have asked for permission first."

Before Spike could reply, Thunderlane placed a friendly hoof on the dragon's head spikes. "It's okay, we getcha, big guy. Rumble's the same way, always trying to do stuff for himself."

"'Cause I'm not a foal anymore!" Rumble countered, with dabs of milkshake around his nose.

Thunderlane snorted and handed his brother a napkin. When the young colt blinked confusedly at him, the stallion rolled his eyes amicably and went about cleaning the child's face.

Spike watched the two brothers, and felt his rising ire quickly simmer down. When Thunderlane had placed a hoof on his head, there was suddenly a swirl of dark thoughts rumbling through his mind. He wanted to do something. What, he wasn't sure, maybe something that involved setting him on green fire or showing him what type of teeth could crush gemstones, just anything that could prove to everypony that he wasn't helpless and that he was a growing dragon and he could teach that Thunderlame a lesson for being such an attention-stealing, showboating, no-good, rotten—Stop.

Spike sighed. When did he start thinking like such a jerk? Why did he so desperately wanted to challenge a pony who was obviously just a nice guy? A pony who saved Rarity, which in turn saved himself from losing the mare he cared so dearly about? The reason was shamefully simple.

Spike sighed again. He didn't deserve a minute of Rarity or anypony's time with the way he was acting. He turned to the stallion pegasus, formulating an apology that he knew would just confuse the pony when a feminine voice came from the entrance.

"Jeez, thanks for waiting for me, you two."

Rumble pulled away from his brother, expressively excited. "Blossomforth!" the foal exclaimed as he rushed to the newly arrived mare.

"Hello, kiddo," Blossomforth greeted cheerfully before she frowned and took out a handkerchief to dab at the child's nose. "First you ditch me to get ice cream, then you let your cute little brother run around looking as if he was raised by timberwolves! What the hay, Thunderlane?"

Thunderlane got up from the booth and walked over. "You were late. If we waited for you we would've been still stuck in that line there."

"By just ten measly minutes," Blossomforth countered. Satisfied with the state of cleanliness, she smilingly allowed Rumble free movement.

Thunderlane stared at the mare flatly in a way that suggested five minutes were a severe underestimation. "Whatever," he said with a teasing smile, and passed a cup to her. "Here, I got you a smoothie."

"Strawberry lemon?" Blossomforth asked hopefully.

"Strawberry lemon," Thunderlane confirmed. He turned towards the table booth. "We're gonna take off. It was very nice talking to you, Miss Rarity, Sweetie Belle. And Spike," he said in a friendly and somewhat knowing way, "good luck, dude. Hope to catch you around sometime. We can hang then."

"Buh bye!" Sweetie Belle waved.

"Don't be a stranger," Rarity replied pleasantly, while keeping her eyes on Spike.

Spike gave the three exiting ponies a weak wave.

With the chiming of bells signifying the departure of the ponies, Spike was finally able to organize his thoughts and realized that his grumpy attitude, all of his dissatisfactions, all of his moments of dark musings, however fleeting, were more or less unnecessary and unfounded.

Spike shoved his face into the empty ice cream bowl. "I'm such a loser," he announced in a muffled voice.

Rarity, who had been rather quiet for the past several minutes, looked remarkably angry at the young dragon's comment. She reached out a hoof towards Spike several times, but always retracted in hesitation. She soon visibly calmed herself, though, and after disposing her and Sweetie Belle's cups, led everypony out of the parlor.

"Spike, may we talk?"


"Darling, would you kindly take off the bowl? It looks ridiculous."

"Mmm. I mean," Spike said more clearly with the plastic bowl peeled off, "sorry about that, Rarity. You were saying?"

Rarity sighed and walked towards a bench.

Spike blinked as he realized they were in the park, the horizon a bright orange with Luna's moon out early along with tiny spots hinting at stars dotting the sky. He noticed that Sweetie Belle wasn't around anymore. The filly had probably departed unnoticed as he mindlessly followed after Rarity while wearing an ice cream bowl as a protective mask to conceal his self-loathing. He was setting a record for new lows, and nopony would be proud. He sighed.

After dusting the bench briefly with her tail, Rarity seated herself comfortably and patted the space next to her.

Spike gulped, sensing the tension, but soon planted himself next to the mare. He grew increasingly nervous as time went on and the beautiful white unicorn beside him uttered not a word.

"It's rather majestic, don't you think?" Rarity commented.

Spike almost jumped at the suddenness of the break in silence, but managed to rein in his voice, and for the first time for a awhile, allowed his gaze to lift above the ground.

Solid orange, framing the dark distance like an astronomical tapestry. Lines of clouds, left untouched by the weather team, weaving above the horizon like waves through an ocean of orange and red. The pony beside him, glowing with the dimming lights, as everything else around her seemingly coalesced with the shadows.

Spike let loose a quiet breath in exaltation. "Yeah, I think so too."

Rarity smiled lightly, and turned to the dragon. "What's wrong, Spike?"

Spike blinked and scratched at his arm. "N-nothing. I'm okay. Um, it's getting pretty late, I think I should head back to the library and make sure Twilight's still alive and—"

"Spike," Rarity said simply, and scooted closer. "What's wrong?"

Spike sighed deeply and decided to go with partial truths. "I just... I just really wanted to be the one who saved your hat."

Rarity blinked. "Darling, that's just plain silly."

Spike lowered his head further. "I know."

"I know this might sound funny coming from me, but it was just a hat. There is no need to fret over not being able to retrieve it for me personally. Monsieur Thunderlane was kind enough to lend his timely assistance."

The dark thoughts returned, a short review for things best left unsaid.

"And I was worried enough that you could've been hurt over something so trivial. I, for one, am glad that Thunderlane was there to put a stop to such a chase. It would've put a sour note on our outing if we had spent it chasing a silly hat of all things."

The purple dragon felt himself clench his claws.

"Really, it's only fitting that Thunderlane was there. He is strong and agile and I wouldn't have to worry about him getting in over his head—"

"I know, all right?!" Spike shouted, his breaths coming out tersely. "I know...I know that."

Rarity was not taken aback by the outburst. Quietly, expectantly, she waited.

Spike folded his claws. "Thunderlane is a cool guy, I know that. The problem is me. I'm the one with the problem. The only thing Thunderlane did was being nice and reminding me that I'm still...just a kid."

Rarity's eyes softened. "Spike…"

"I thought I was growing up. I finally don't get sleepy every time it's ten o' clock and I even outgrew my old basket. I know I'm still kinda short and weak, but I thought for sure I was growing up. Turns out, the only thing I did was get older. I didn't grow up at all. I was thinking bad stuff about Thunderlane the whole time we were having ice cream because... because, I don't know, he showed me everything that I'm not."

The young dragon heaved another sigh, wondering when Rarity was going to get tired of his self-deprecations and leave him alone on the bench when suddenly an unbearable bout of ticklish sensation covered his belly and he instinctively curled on himself as he couldn't help but laugh aloud. "R-Rarity!"

The white mare laughed along with him, as she continued her assault with a feather plucked from her hat as she tickled Spike here and there with her magic, only stopping when the dragon finally almost completely curled into a defensive ball.

"There," Rarity said with satisfaction, relenting and allowing the young dragon to breathe easy. When the drake's laughter calmed, she smiled and turned his head towards her. "Earlier today, you said you were willing to do anything to get me to smile. What makes you think it's not the same for me about you?"

Spike heard his heart race as he stared into those sincere, blue eyes. He turned away when his face felt as if it was beginning to catch on fire. "I'm sorry."

"Whatever for, darling?"

"For being such a downer today."

"It's quite all right. Just remember, you can tell me anything, should you wish to."

Spike considered her words, and they sounded like an invitation for something, but he was probably just imagining things. "Thanks, Rarity," he said gratefully. "That means a lot to me."

Rarity smiled, before she took on a more serious look. "One more thing, Spike."

Spike blinked at the shift in tone. "Yeah?"

"I don't ever want to hear you refer to yourself as a 'loser' ever again." She pressed on before the surprised Spike could reply. "Addressing yourself in such a manner is a dastardly disservice both to me and to the hero that you are."

Spike looked hopeful, uplifted by the mare's words. But then his previous oafish behavior flashed in his mind and he bit his lips as he turned away. "You’re just saying that to make me feel better. I'm not a even good dragon, let alone a hero."

Rarity harrumphed. "Then tell me this, who was the one to save Ponyville from a rampaging dragon?"

Spike blinked. "Uh, me? Kind of? But I was also the one who—"

"And who fought the Diamond Dogs and called for the cavalry to rescue a dear friend?"

"I guess I was, but you sort of rescued yourself already—"

"Who was the one to risked his life to save the Crystal Empire?"

"Well, Princess Cadence was the one who really did anything. All I did was fall off the tower with the Crystal Heart."

Rarity glared at the dragon with puffy cheeks. "Spike."

Spike hanged his head. "Sorry."

Rarity stared at the sullen dragon with renewed determination. "Who was the one who saved a lady from getting in over her head, saved her from being overwhelmed, and gave her this chance to watch such a beautiful sunset?"

Spike blinked, and blinked. "I...I did."

Rarity smiled. Slowly, she placed a hoof atop a claw. "It's true, you're not an adult. But, you are growing up, believe me. You just can't see it for yourself yet. By the same token though, you should not force yourself to mature. If you do, and succeed, sometimes you'll discover that you've lost more than you've gained."

Spike nodded. He didn't fully understand what was being said and unsaid, but he felt a faint glow of comprehension within him.

"You're not yet an adult," Rarity reiterated. "But then again, what is an adult really? I don't think anypony knows for certain. Sometimes, when I look at Twilight, at our friends, and at you, I realize that I'm not a grown up at all."

Spike almost scoffed. "Rarity, that's silly."

Rarity simpered. "Perhaps. And yet, sometimes we would all panic over something as simple as a runaway hat."

Before Spike could respond, Rarity leaned down slightly, and he felt himself mesmerized by the mare's beautiful eyes again.

"Don't give up. You weren't able to catch the hat today. Maybe because you weren't tall enough, or fast enough, or you just couldn't jump high enough. Who is to know? Perhaps you just weren't ready today. And perhaps...perhaps the hat was simply not ready to be caught either. But don't ever give up, please. Someday...someday you will be ready, and that tricky hat will be ever so closer than you realize. I think…I think it will happen. Someday."

He wasn't certain, but Spike felt as if she wasn't quite talking about the hat anymore, and those confusing unsaids were now somehow taking shape. But those suspicions and reveries quickly dispersed to the ether at the back of his mind as he felt himself smile earnestly back. "Okay, Rarity. Someday."

Rarity beamed and after a small squee, nuzzled him tenderly. "And remember, no matter how much you grow, you're still the cutest darling I've ever seen, and you will always be my hero."

Spike's eyes shimmered. "You really mean that?"

"Pinkie Promise," Rarity whispered.

Spike stared at the mare before him, wondering how he could ever be so lucky. For a brief moment, he glanced at the white headdress, sitting so innocently atop her luscious mane. One day, he decided, one day. One day, he will be ready. He stared into those blue eyes, now not thinking about the hat at all.

The two of them basked in each other's silent company and warmth, as time passed and the all-encompassing sunlight became a candle in the distance.

After everything around the couple dimmed into the silver darkness, Rarity pushed off the bench and got back onto her hooves. She smiled at the young dragon. "Walk this little lady home?"

Spike leaped to his feet with a flourished bow. "As you wish, milady."

Spike looked around the library interior. "Uh, Twilight?"

Twilight took off some sort of protective headgear that resembled a welter's mask and smiled at the return of her assistant. "Oh, hey, Spike, you're back! Did everything go smoothly with Rarity?"

Spike pretended not to hear and observed the ceiling. It looked like it was repeatedly pelted with hammers made out of buckets. "What happened here?"

Twilight tittered, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. "I was testing out my research hypothesis to see if any of the algorithms I constructed could give us an idea on methods to speed up the spell casting process." Her head dipped. "Turns out, I was wrong."

Owlowiscious, now decked out in full avian body armor, flapped his steely wings. "Hoo."

Twilight sighed. "Yes, I know. I should've listened to you and not omit the tertiary variable. But I thought for sure Starswirl's Theorem would've worked!"

"Hoo, Hoo."

"Alright, okay, I admit the extra gravity spell was pushing it. I just thought it was worth trying to see if I could somehow alter the effects of the strong force between the magical particles and increase the rate of activity!"

"Anyway," Spike droned, "did you have dinner yet?"

Twilight blinked and looked at the clock. "Oh gosh, it's already so late? No wonder my stomach was growling."

Spike laughed a little. "Jeez, Twilight, what would you do if I didn't come back to check up on you?"

"Ha ha," Twilight countered. "Do you mind whipping something up? I'll, um, try to clean up here and see if I can't disenchant the canisters while you're busy." She tried pulling one of the stubborn ceiling-bound objects down with telekinesis.

"Sure thing," Spike replied, before a thought crossed his mind and made his way up the stairs. "Just give me about ten minutes. I wanna send Princess Celestia a letter first."

"A letter?" Twilight chirped with interest. "You learned something about Friendship today? Can I read it after you're done?"

Spike simpered. "Maybe when I'm older."

Twilight blinked, and turned to question the dragon further, but Spike had already disappeared up the stairs. The canister she was pulling on finally came loose and tackled her head. "Wah!"

Owlowiscious shook his head. "Hoo."

On the second floor, Spike grabbed a set of parchment and a quill along with an inkwell. Before he settled down on one of the beds to write, he approached his old basket, which had become a bit too small for him before he knew it.

He reached in the pillow and pulled out a piece of sapphire.

It was sort of generic and unassuming, as sapphires go, but it was a gift that abstractly resembled a certain set of cutie marks, and for that alone he thought it beautiful.

He gazed at the gem, bittersweet. "Maybe not today, or even tomorrow. But, someday. For sure."

The dragon nuzzled the gem before returning it to its proper place. He bounced up to the bed, made himself comfortable, and began to write.

Dear Princess Celestia,

Spike paused his writing and pursed his lips at the salutation, contemplating. Soon, he smiled and rolled down the scroll to start anew.

Hey, Mom,

Today was an interesting day, I think it's safe to say, and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

Twilight told me that love is like a battlefield. At first, I thought she was being ridiculous, that she was just repeating stuff she read in books. But after today, I think that expression definitely holds some truths to it. Earning the affections of another pony, or any other creature for that matter, can be hard work, be it friendship or otherwise, and sometimes it could feel as if you're running uphill to fight a losing battle. Like friendship, sometimes we have to do our best and fight for what we hold dear to our hearts. But I don't want to think of it as just a fight, that love can be won by barreling through obstacles or by defeating other ponies and getting a trophy. I'd like to think that there's something extra more to love than a victory to be earned. What that extra something is, though, I still don't know.

I don't think I really learned anything, and if I did, then I just didn't understand the lesson. But I think I understand myself a little better because of today, and while that probably isn't as important as finding out about my origins or learning about friendship, I'd like to think that in time I can look back on this day fondly. And maybe that would be reward enough for a battle well fought.

Spike paused and cast furtive glances about the room before resuming. "I'm also going to tell you a big secret, so you have to promise you won't tell anypony else! I really, really like—"

"Forever~!" Pinkie Pie roared from the pillows.

Spike's scream almost shattered glass.

"Oops! Sorry, sorry! Wrong house!"

After sending Sweetie Belle, who was staying over for the night, off to bed, Rarity began going through her nightly ritual.

She hummed to herself as she stared at her reflection in the vanity mirror, meticulously brushing her mane and arranging it so that it wouldn't be disheveled by her sleep posture. When finished, she gave herself reflection a wink for another job well done and tidied up the implements. She walked to the bed and gently peeled the sheets halfway, but paused before she could slip in when an unbidden thought crossed her mind.

She turned towards to the dresser, her horn alit with magic, and soon the top shelf slid open and a golden necklace encasing a giant red gem floated about. With practiced ease, the mare extracted the jewel from its containment and brought it gently down to herself to hold within her hooves.

As she gazed at the ruby, events of today and numerous yesterdays flashed before her in the gleaming facets of the gemstone.

In her mind's eye, the smooth, hardened exterior of the gem began to soften, becoming soft and organic, but retaining the endearing shape that she often witnessed in the eyes of a certain dragon. She gave a small laugh at herself for becoming so mesmerized by her own imagination. How silly, she thought, until the fleshy object within her hooves pulsed and an almost thundering beat coursed through her, nearly startling her enough to drop it to the ground. She balanced herself in time, however, and realized belatedly after a few nervous breaths that it was her own chest that was thrumming with vigor, and that the fire ruby remained just that, a ruby.

"No, not just a ruby," Rarity said softly, for the silent room to hear. She stared at the heart-shaped gem in her hooves as a small, sad smile formed. "Oh, Spikey-Wikey. It seems...I'm a rather selfish, little pony, but..."

Rarity heaved a sigh, stopping herself. That was enough of that. "At least, for tonight," she whispered, a faint smile still shining through.

The mare placed the necklace back to the top of the shelf but kept the ruby within her magical azure grasp as she made her way to bed. She slid under the covers as carefully as possible as not to ruffle the sheets, all the while holding the ruby between her hooves. As she turned out the lights and allowed her mind to relax, she gently pressed the red gem to her chest. And for fleeting moments in the comforting darkness, she pretended the jewel within her embrace and her beating heart were one in the same.

Soon, she fell asleep, to dreams of ordinary days sprinkled with extraordinary moments.