Spike cherished moments like these. It was well into the night, the only light coming from the stars above and from inside Carousel Boutique. Normally, there would be no reason for Spike to be at Rarity's shop at this time. In fact, there would be little reason for him to be awake at all. He was, after all, a baby dragon (a fact that his friend Twilight always had to bring up whenever he passed out) and as such required an early bedtime. But the little guy fought his body's cries for rest as he pushed a wagon full of gems into the shop.
"Here it is, milady the last wagon." Spike said, and bowed to the beautiful white unicorn before him. This knockout was Rarity, fashionista extraordinaire and Spike's secret crush.
"Thank you so much for all of your help today, Spike." said Rarity as she stared intently at a dress doll, assessing it's garb. "It seems I've taken on another order that's too much for me to handle. I'll have to work all night to get it right."
"Nothing's too much for you Rarity. Your designs always look great!" He parked the wagon next to the others, all filled with gems he dug up for his beloved, and then joined Rarity by the doll. "And this one's no exception."
"Are you kidding? It's horrid!" The unicorn frantically indicated each problem with her hoof. "The hem is uneven, the stitching is in plain sight-ew, why did I use frills?, Oh and this color does not match the shoes! I'll have to start all over, not to mention make eleven more. How will I-"
"Rarity!" interrupted Spike. The beauty snapped out of her rant and looked at the dragon.
"It'll be fine. You'll pull it off, you always do. And I'll be right here to help you, even if it takes all night." Of course it wasn't as much of a sacrifice as he made it out to be. He heart was beating at just the thought of spending the whole night with Rarity. She smiled, and moved close to him.
"Oh Spike, you're such a little gentleman. I'm lucky to have you around." She gazed into his eyes. Her eyes no longer showed stress, but something...different. Affection? Whatever it was, it made Spike's face feel hot. And not the "about to breathe fire" kind of hot.
"Lucky? N-no. Any guy would-I mean....I'd do anything for you, Rarity." The lovestruck dragon fixed his gaze on the ground. There's no way he could look into that perfect pony's eyes after admitting such a thing. But that perfect pony extended her hoof and used it to push up his chin. They were eye to eye again, and she didn't seem fazed by his statement. Quite the opposite, she was blushing as well.
"Spike, I must be honest. There's something I've been wanting to say to you." Now she looked down. She let out a little chuckle. "Spike, your pants fell down."
The gorgeous unicorn burst into laughter, and removed her hoof from Spike's face to point. He looked at where she was pointing. Sure enough, there were a pair of pants at his ankles. And around his waist, in plain sight, were his Wonderbolts boxers. He had to wear the Wonderbolts boxers. Rarity dropped to the floor and rolled, still laughing. Spike's face got hot again, but with frustration this time. The perfect moment ruined, his dream girl laughing right in his face. Spike threw his hands up in the air and let his feelings out with a yell.
"Spike. Spike! SPIKE!"
The young dragon's eye's snapped open. He started in front of him for a moment. He couldn't register what was in front of him. He blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes. The purple blob in front of him became sharper and sharper until he recognized his friend.
"Twilight?" Twilight Sparkle, a purple unicorn who was his boss and best friend, stood above him. Her hair was all over the place and her stern gaze made it clear that she had been woken up at a time long before one should be woken up.
"You were screaming, Spike. That's the fourth night this week." Her head moved out of Spike's field of vision, and he saw a familiar ceiling. Which meant that he wasn't in the boutique with Rarity. Which meant...
"I had the dream again." He got up and saw Twilight sitting at the foot of his bed.
"The pants dream?"
Twilight let out a weary sigh. "You don't even wear pants."
"Or boxers. Especially Wonderbolts boxers. Do they even make Wonderbolts boxers?" He asked with a joking tone. But Twilight gave him the look, the one she gave him when he wasn't taking his duties seriously. "Sorry, Twilight."
The apology made her expression change to one of concern. "Spike, I'm worried about you. According to this book I'm reading, recurring dreams usually means that something's bothering you deep down." She looked at him expectantly, as if he was supposed to come clean with some big secret. But he just shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't have any secrets. Maybe I just ate something bad."
"You ate something bad four times? And twice last week?" She continued to look as if she was waiting, but he honestly had no idea what could be causing these dreams.
"I don't know what you want me to tell you." He yawned. " All I know, is that I want to get back to sleep."
"You know you never sleep after having that dream." She was right, as usual. After the dream, whenever he shut his eyes, he was haunted by a laughing Rarity. Which made it very hard to sleep.
"I'll count sheep." he said. And then he laid down and pulled on his covers.
"Actually, I have an idea. A magical one." He heard the unicorn say. This got him back up.
"Yes. A hypnosis spell. And a good one at that. You'll sleep like a baby...Well, like a baby who doesn't have nightmares."
Spike raised his eyebrow. Half in annoyance at the baby comment and half out of skepticism. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"Perfectly safe. It's not even a high level spell, so there's no risk." She smiled confidently. Spike trusted Twilight, she was the best magic user in Equestria, after all. And it would be nice to have a good night's sleep.
"Alright, let's do it."
"All you have to do is look at my horn. The spell will take care of the rest." She said, and then she took a deep breath. She focused, and light came from her horn. It was a faint white at first, crackling with modest power. The crackles soon built up, until they culminated in a burst. This changed the color of the light into an orange, then a red, then a yellow. The colors kept shifting, but they were all warm. And looking at them gave Spike a warm feeling. It was like lying on the grass on a summer day, with the sun shining down. This warmth relaxed his body, and soon his eyes grew heavy. He slumped down, closed his eyes, and let everything go....
The noise woke Spike right up. He rose with a jolt to see Twilight still focused. The light from her horn was fading, and when it finally petered out she opened her eyes. Her face immediately fell when she saw a very much awake Spike looking back.
"It didn't work?" asked the unicorn with a troubled expression. She was never one to mess up a spell, and failure didn't sit well with her.
"It did." replied Spike. "I fell right asleep, but then there was a noise, and it woke me up."
"A noise? What kind?"
Spike looked down and tried to think of how to describe it. "It was...like a pop. Kind of like the sound it made when you started the spell."
"The built up energy must have released." said Twilight, more to herself than to Spike. She shook her head, then explained to her assistant. "You see Spike, the spell requires a continual output of magic in order to sustain the soothing lights." She began to pace. "Sometimes, the continued release of magic results in a buildup, which in turn results in a release. It's a mini explosion of sorts. That mini explosion must have jarred you and woken you up." She turned to Spike. "The solution is to find a way to efficiently release the energy so as not to have such a large release. Understand?"
Spike replied by gawking at her. "Um, no."
"It means I can't do the spell without making that noise." she said with sigh. "I'll have to do some research tomorrow."
"What do I do until then?"
"Count sheep?" she suggested jokingly. Then she added, seriously, "Or do some thinking. Something could very well be bothering you, and you might not even know it."
"Fine, I'll think about it." he said with a tone of annoyance.
"That's all I ask. Good night Spike."
"Night Twilight." She went back to bed, and Spike did the same. The night continued as Spike guessed it would. Despite all of his tossing, turning, and sheep counting, he was wide awake. After about an hour of this, he got tired of laying down. So he decided to take a walk. Maybe looking up at the stars would relax him. And maybe, if he was lucky, the exercise would tire him enough to make him sleepy. He opened the door, said a silent goodbye to Twilight, and went out into the darkness.
Ponyville was silent and empty, what with it being the dead of night and all. Since there was nothing to really see, Spike let his feet carry him and his mind wander. Without really meaning to, he did as Twilight instructed. He wondered if something could be bothering him enough to cause nightmares.
All in all, the young dragon had a good life. He lived in a nice little town, where good friends were never far away. Excitement was never far away, either. Sure, Ponyville was an unassuming place, but amazing things always seemed to happen there. Spike had met several celebrities and VIPs. Sometimes, he even got to work for the ruler of Equestria herself! There weren't many dragons who could say that. Especially baby dragons. Baby dragons....there was that. No matter how hard he worked, no matter how many times he proved himself, Twilight always seemed to treat Spike like a child instead of an equal. A perfect example was earlier, when she was trying to tell him he had something on his mind. Wasn't Spike mature enough to know when something was bothering him? Yet Twilight just had to be a know it all. It was a good thing that Rarity wasn't there to see that. Rarity....
He sighed at the thought of his favorite pony, and looked up at the stars. Did Rarity ever have bad dreams? He shook his head at the thought, as if Rarity would let her beauty sleep be interrupted, and looked at the Carousel Boutique, where his beloved was no doubt peacefully resting. Wait....Carousel Boutique? He stopped walking when he realized he was in front of Rarity's shop. Weird. Why did he go there? And even weirder than that, the lights were on. Spike stood there, watching. He knew that popping in so late wasn't exactly normal, but his curiosity got the better of him. He approached the shop, and knocked on the door. No answer. Of course, why would she answer at this hour? Spike turned to walk away, but then he heard a lovely voice.
"H-Hello?" It was Rarity's voice. Spike turned back to the door.
"Rarity? It's Spike." There was a moment of silence, then Rarity's face appeared in the window. She glanced at her visitor, raised an eyebrow, and disappeared. A second later, the door swung open.
"Spike, good to see you. Might I ask what brings you here at such a late, late hour?" She smiled politely, though she was obviously doing it for the sake of practicing good manners.
He smiled back. "Oh, you know. I was just in the neighborhood, thought I'd stop by and say hi? So, you know...hi."
"Hi." They stood there smiling politely until Rarity broke the silence. "Is that all Spike? I don't want to be rude, but I really have to get to work."
"Work. So that's why you're up so late."
"Yes. It is rather late, but I must work." She kept up her inviting grin, though it was clear that things were awkward.
"Sorry if I'm bothering you, but like you said it's late, so I was just curious when I saw your light on. I wanted to make sure that everything was okay." Her smile faded into a frown. "Me, I can't sleep. I've been having these bad dreams, and they keep me up. That's why I'm walking around." He probably didn't need to offer that last bit of information, but it just came out.
"Oh? I'm sorry to hear that." Another awkward pause was Spike's cue to leave.
"Yeah, I'll get over it. But, um, I should let you get back to work. Because I was just checking to see if you're ok, and you are, so yeah. Good night Rarity." He turned as fast as he could and walked away. He didn't even take five steps before he heard Rarity call out.
"Spike wait!" The dragon stopped right in his tracks.
"Yeah?" he said without turning around.
"If you don't terribly mind, since you can't sleep anyway, could I bother you to assist me?" Spike turned to take a look at Rarity. Her eyes were needy, as if she was begging for his help. He wasn't sure how to take this. Usually, she just asked for his help assuredly, knowing that he would say yes.
"Of course. What do you need?"
"Come inside please." She walked into the boutique, leaving the door open for Spike. He followed her in and, just as he shut the door behind him, he had a thought that made his heart beat faster. He was alone with Rarity! At night! Just like in his dream! He took a quick breath, then calmly joined Rarity by a group of dress dolls. This wasn't his dream, he had no reason to get worked up.
"Spike, I'd like your opinion on something, and be honest. What do you think of these dresses?" She pointed her hoof at the dress dolls in front of them. Each one was wearing a matching dress of a different color. They sparkled due to Rarity's signature use of gemstones. And, lined up as they were, Spike noticed that they made a rainbow.
"Wow, these are beautiful!" He remarked with wide eyes. "Is it just me, or do they make a rainbow?"
"They do. That was the request of the client. Are you familiar with Storm and the Colors of the Rainbow?"
"The famous unicorn band? They're you're client? That's amazing!" Spike beamed at Rarity. She was incredible, getting so many famous clients lately. But she only nodded and looked at the ground. She apparently didn't think so.
"They requested my services in making costumes for their Canterlot show. I was thrilled at first, but it's harder than I initially thought. I've been up all night working, but I just can't get it right!"
Spike took another look at the dresses. They literally shone. "What do you mean? These look great!"
"Look again!" Rarity said as she stormed over to one of the dolls. "The stitching is all wrong here, this headdress has more feathers than that one, the color doesn't match the shoes, and the frills were a terrible choice! It's horrid!" She let out exasperated sigh, then let her head hang. Spike hated seeing her like this. He went over to her and, with a moment of hesitation, put his hand on her shoulder.
"Rarity, they're fine. Better than fine, they're perfect."
She kept her head hung. "No, they're a disaster."
"Rarity, look at me." She picked her head up just enough to meet his eyes. He could feel his heart pounding. He ignored it. "You're an amazing designer. These dresses are some of your best work."
"Really?" She asked with wide eyes.
"Indeed, milady." He said as he bowed. Rarity let out a chuckle.
"Oh Spike, you're such a little gentleman." They were close now, and looking into each other's eyes. Spike's face felt hot. And it wasn't in the "fire breath" kind of way or the "things might get romantic" way. This situation was feeling too familiar for the dragon's liking.
"Me? Gentleman? No, I'm just your average dragon." he blurted out.
"You must give yourself more credit Spike. You always make time to help me out, and you never ask for a reward. You're quite honestly the most thoughtful guy I know." She said this without a hint of exaggeration or flattery. Spike was bowled over, he had never received such praise from the pretty unicorn.
"You really mean that?" was all he could manage to say.
"But of course! Do you not believe me?" He wanted to. He stared at the ground. Something didn't feel right. Something was bothering him. Something that, now that he thought about it, had been bothering him for quite awhile. He took a deep breath.
"It's just that, Twilight's always calling me a baby dragon. But I'm more than that, I know I am. But sometimes I feel like that's all anybody sees me as. And there are..." He glanced at Rarity. "...those around me who I don't want seeing me that way. I don't want to be seen as a child."
He met Rarity's eyes, and saw that she seemed amused. His worry returned. When she opened her mouth to speak, he half expected her to tell him that his pants had fallen. But instead, she said this:
"Spike, you know my sister, Sweetie Belle? She and her friends are in such a rush to grow up, so much so that they often overlook the things that would help them do so. That is the true mark of a child, one who tries to rush adulthood. You are not like that. You use your time to help others. Think of Twilight, she'd be lost without you! No Spike, you are no child. You are a gent of the highest caliber."
She smiled sincerely, and Spike was speechless. This moment was more perfect than any dream. He and Rarity were still close, still gazing into each other's eyes. But instead of the gushy romance of his fantasy, there was a real understanding between the two. Spike knew that no matter what happened next, he would always cherish this moment.
"Rarity, I love you!"
...Unless that happened. The words came out of the dragon's mouth as if they had a mind of their own. He certainly didn't mean to say them. He couldn't tell who was more shocked, him or Rarity. The object of his recently expressed affections stood there blank-faced, speechless.
"Spike." She said without any kind of emotion in her voice.
"Y-yes?" He answered nervously. She stood there poker-faced.
"Rarity what!?" was his panicky reply. This was getting weird. Did he break Rarity?
"Spike..." She moved forward, her face was now inches away from his. He stood frozen, his mouth agape. What should he do? Confront her, run, or... "Spike, wake up!"
"Wake up Spike!"
A unicorn's face appeared. But it wasn't Rarity's. Once again, Twilight Sparkle was standing over Spike.
"What? How? Why?" was all Spike could manage to get out as he shot up. He was in his bed, in the library. And the light coming in from the window told him it was morning.
"Sorry, Spike, but I was afraid that you'd oversleep. It's one of the possible side effects of the spell." Twilight said with an apologetic grin. "But it seems you were able to sleep peacefully."
Spike's mind was racing. There were so many thoughts, so many questions. "The spell? But it didn't work. There was magic buildup and a pop and...I only slept for like five seconds!"
"You slept for longer than that, I can assure you. And there was no magic buildup. Like I said, it was a simple spell, so I had no trouble maintaining the right amount of magic." She said this in the way that she usually talks about magic: matter-of-factly. But Spike was sure that he didn't sleep. He took a walk, and visited Rarity, and....
"The spell....worked? Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?"
"One hundred percent." she said confidently. Spike could feel his face fall. Twilight must have picked up on it too, because she looked at him thoughtfully. "Is something wrong Spike?"
"No, nothing's wrong. I guess I'm just a little tired." He rubbed his eyes, even though he was quite awake. In his mind, he could see Rarity looking at him with sparkling eyes.
"You're quite honestly the most thoughtful guy I know."
But there was no Rarity, only Twilight standing before him, eyes less sparkling and more concerned.
"Did you have any dreams?" She asked.
"No Spike, you are no child. You are a gent of the highest caliber."
"Nope!" He forced an upbeat grin. "Just sleep. Nothing else." Twilight studied him for a moment, then turned away.
"Great!" She replied as she went down the stairs. "Today's going to be a busy day, and I'll need you at your best."
Spike dropped his grin at those words. His best. What was his best?
"...a gent of the highest caliber."
That part was his favorite. The look on Rarity's face, the way she said it, the-
"...Spike? Spike, are you listening?" said Twilight's voice from downstairs. "I need you to send this letter!"
"Coming Twilight!" He hopped out of bed and scurried downstairs. Maybe one day, he really would be a high caliber gent. But for now, he was an assistant. Good ol' Spike, the reliable baby dragon.