"Spike! Spiiiiiiiiiike! SPIKE!"

With a sharp cry, Spike's ladder toppled backwards, the piles of books cushioning his fall somewhat as they came crashing down alongside him.

"Spike! There you are. Have there been any recent messages from Celestia while I've been studying?" Twilight Sparkle asked briskly as she emerged from her bedchamber, eyeing Spike as he lay sprawled on the floor.

"No, Twilight Sparkle. I've just been putting away these books like you said." He sighed, rubbing one of his spines, fearfully checking for any breakage.

"Well, you aren't doing a very good job of it, are you? Since you're on a break anyway, why don't you go check the mail? The mailpony's usually dropped it off by now."

"Okay, okay." Spike grumbled, his tail bouncing behind him as he trotted to the front door. He stood up on his tip-toes to reach his hand into the mailbox, but drew back in confusion when he found only a muffin there. "What the ...? Oh." Spike reached down, lifting up the small muffin-basket, which was instead filled up with their mail.

"Mail's here!" Spike called around a mouthful of muffin, stumbling when Twilight Sparkle magicked the basket out of his hands impatiently.

"Thank you, Spike. Let's see - invitation from Pinkie, bill, advertisement from Rarity, bill," She murmured to herself as she flicked each piece of mail into a pile on the table, her magic fading from them as they were removed from her vision. Spike had stopped listening by then, and contented himself with the muffin.

"... bill, bill - wait, what's this?" Twilight Sparkle murmured, looking over the envelope curiously before glancing down to Spike. "It's for you."

"Something came in the mail for me?" Spike glanced up at her, his green eyes widening before he trotted over, claws outstretched. "Lemme see!"

He bounced at her side impatiently as Twilight Sparkle magicked open the envelope, looking over the card before passing it down to him. "It's from Apple Bloom! That would explain the spelling mistakes." She chuckled, but Spike had already stopped listening by the time the card made it to his claws.

Dear Spike,

You are most gracously invited to a date with Apple Bloom, to atend a most fancy tea party at Sweet Apple Acres.
Time: Afternoon
Date: Tomorow
Location: Sweet Apple Acres

Yours most sincerly,
Apple Bloom

"How cute is that? Apple Bloom's inviting you over for a play date!" Twilight Sparkle smiled down at Spike indulgently, ignoring his uncertain expression as she grabbed her saddlebags. "C'mon, we have to get over there! That was mailed yesterday, right? Hop on, we don't have any time to waste!"

"I dunno, Twilight Sparkle, she didn't mention anything about play - HURK!" For at that moment she had magicked him onto her back, an experience that was unsettling no matter how many times she'd done it to him. "I don't know if I should go, this seems awfully formal..."

"Oh don't be silly, Spike! She'll probably have you two making mud pies within fifteen minutes. She's just a little pony, after all." She said briskly, taking off at a gallop, the door slamming behind them.

Unfortunately for Spike, his reservations about this 'play date' were well-founded. Twilight Sparkle didn't notice, of course; once they arrived at Sweet Apple Acres, she'd all but dumped him off her back, ushering him back towards the part of the yard that Applejack had pointed out. And just like that, he was alone, watching Twilight Sparkle take off at a trot to chat with her orange friend.

Feeling more uncertain than he had a right to, Spike made his slow way towards the corner of the yard shaded by two apple trees. As he got closer, he noticed the blanket set out between them, and the dainty tea set set out on top, so undeniably girly it set his fangs on edge.

"Hello, Spike."

Spike turned suddenly, blinking up at Apple Bloom as she strolled towards him, making her slow way down from the house. She looked ... weird. Her hair was all curled into ringlets, kind of like Rarity's, and she had on a necklace with a frilly saddle, and shoes! And he was pretty sure that wasn't her usual hair-bow, either. No, it would seem that this definitely wasn't any kind of playdate.

"Uh, hi Apple Bloom." He answered lamely as she approached, trying to find something to do with his hands. She smiled at him warmly as she approached, moving a lot slower than he was used to. She was usually so bouncy, more like a blur than a pony. "Thanks for, um, inviting me. To the tea party."

"Of course, Spike. You are very welcome." She said regally, being very careful to speak slowly and gracefully. "Your spines look very lovely today."

"Oh! Uh! You, uh, too. Your spines - I mean, your, uh - your - hooves. I like how they, uh, have the shoes, on them." Spike fumbled, turning a wide, panicked gaze on her for a moment before hastily looking away again, his claws clicking against one another nervously.

"Thank you very much." Apple Bloom beamed, and it seemed that she either hadn't noticed his fumbling or hadn't cared. Either way, she walked over to the blanket as gracefully as she could, taking her sweet time about it while Spike simply plopped himself down on the other side. "Would you like some tea?" She asked with a smile, folding her legs gracefully under herself as she held up the tea pot.

"Uh, sure. Thanks." Spike murmured, watching her a little uncertainly as she poured him a cup of the steaming liquid.


"That sounds good!" Spike agreed a little more heartily, reaching out to take one from the proffered plate. Cookies! Dang, was this what all dates were like? Maybe they weren't so bad after all!

Apple Bloom smiled at him as he ate his cookie, ignoring the way he'd shoved most of it into his mouth before realizing that he couldn't eat the whole thing at once, and brushed one hoof over her curls. She waited until he had finished licking the crumbs off of his claws to begin batting her eyelashes at him, just as Rarity had shown her.

It took a moment for Spike to notice the fluttering eyelashes, and a moment longer for him to stare at her in confusion before he spoke. "Are your eyes okay? You look like you have something in them."

"What? No, I - my eyes are fine." Apple Bloom squawked, quickly returning to her demure, dainty voice as she shook her head slightly. With a gentle toss of her head, she sent her curls flying over one shoulder, and she stared out at Spike from under them, the faintest hint of a smile on her lips.

Spike stared at her for a moment in confusion, then looked back down at the plate of untouched cookies. "Can I have another one?"

"Of course." She smiled, knowing she was fairly glowing with 'dainty feminine effervescence,' whatever that meant. But Rarity had said it, and Rarity knew a lot of words she didn't, so she knew it just had to be something good.

She smiled at Spike silently as he took a handful of cookies, keeping her gentle smile in place as he began to wolf them down. But something in her expression must have changed, because Spike glanced back at her a little nervously, gulping down a particularly large mouthful before speaking. "Sorry. I didn't get any lunch."

"No, it's no problem at all." She glowed, as silent and graceful as the moon, and reached down to take a dainty sip from her teacup. But no sooner had she settled the cup back into its saucer (without rattling!) than Spike grabbed his own cup, slurping down his tea with a speed and ferocity that would make Rarity wince.

"That's good tea." Spike murmured, turning the cup nearly upside-down before setting it back onto its saucer with a clank.

"Would you like some more?" Apple Bloom asked, as gracefully as she could, trying to keep her disappointment from showing as she refilled his cup. "It's a special variety from our farm."

"Sure!" Spike grinned, holding his cup out to her, gulping down another half-cup. But his eyes landed on her as he was slurping down his drink (another breach of conduct that would drive Rarity batty), and he slowly brought his cup back down to the blanket. "Apple Bloom? Is something wrong?"

"Wrong? Oh, no, nothing wrong, I ... well." Apple Bloom began, demure and dainty as Rarity had shown her, but her reserve began to fail her as she spoke, and she soon looked down at her own front hooves, bumping them together gently. "I dunno. I thought dates were supposed to be more ... romantic."

Spike nearly choked on the next bite of cookie. "R-Romantic?"

"Well, yeah! Hasn't Twilight Sparkle talked about going on dates? Applejack does, and practically all she ever asks about lately is what happened on Apple Dumpling's last date with that townie boy." She sighed a little, her eyes shining just a little bit brighter at the thought of going on a date with a handsome, brave townie. With a long spiny tail, and glowing green eyes that just SCREAMED heroic!

"What's a townie boy?" Spike asked, tilting his head.

"He's a boy who lives in town! Answer the question!"

"Oh! Uh, okay!" Spike gulped, trying not to be too terrified by the sudden ferocity in Apple Bloom's gaze. "Twilight Sparkle doesn't really talk about - dates. Or boys, even. She spends most of her time reading her books, or hanging out with her friends. I don't think I've ever heard her talk about - any of those things."

"Twilight Sparkle hasn't even been on one date?" Apple Bloom asked unhappily, her ears falling to half-mast. "But - but you know how dates are supposed to go, right?"

"Not ... really. I've never been on one before." Spike shrugged, sneaking in another little nibble of his cookie before Apple Bloom's frown warned him away from that idea.

"But you know how it's supposed to be, right? You got my invitation?" Apple Bloom asked a little unhappily, her eyes darkening as her bottom lip pouted out, just a little bit.

"I thought we'd just be ... playing." Spike said softly, his eyes widening as he heard the tiny sniff from the tiny pony. "Don't be sad, Apple Bloom! I - I didn't mean to make you unhappy! How can I fix it?"

"You can't fix it." Apple Bloom murmured, sniffling very slightly as she looked down at her teacup, at the tiny, beautiful pony staring back up at her.

"Well, sure I can! I'm good at fixing things." Spike insisted, pulling himself up to trot over to her side. "We don't have to go on a date to have fun. I like hanging out with you even when you're not all girlified and junk."

"R-Really?" Apple Bloom asked softly, her mouth a tiny down-turned curve.

"Of course! You're the only person around here who doesn't treat me like a talkative mailbox." He giggled, the sound getting louder when she giggled back.

"At least they think you're useful. All my sister does is boss me around, like I'm a baby." She agreed softly, smiling up at him as he chuckled in reply.

"That's goofy. Those girls don't know anything, don't listen to them. I think you're plenty grown up." Spike grinned down at her, impulsively reaching out to wrap his little arms around her neck in a sudden hug.

She leaned into his hug, as short as it was, no longer caring about mussing her curls. "Thanks, Spike. You're a good friend."

"You're a good friend too, Apple Bloom. D'ya wanna go play?" He asked, trying to squirm away from where she'd wrapped one foreleg around him in reply. He liked hugs as much as the next dragon, but he didn't want to get into a lot of girly cuddling gunk!

"That sounds great!" Apple Bloom chirped, happily climbing to her hooves as Spike smacked her forehead squarely, nearly sending her flying backwards in surprise.

"Tag! You're it!" Spike laughed, taking off at a run as Apple Bloom watched. She stood there for a moment, then slipped off her shoes as she galloped after him, laughing brightly in the afternoon sunshine.