...

Heart of Scales

Turn 1: Opportunity

Spike and Twilight arrived in front of the Carousel Boutique late in the morning. Despite the many things Twilight had planned out for the morning, no to-do list in the world could have kept Spike from coming over. Rarity had been particularly busy these past few days, and to Spike, there wasn't a more urgent calling for his services than aiding her in her work. The reason? The Canterlot Fashion Show, where Rarity had finally earned the chance to display her line of clothing and further her career as a fashionista. Spike already knew what kind of opportunity this was for Rarity, and how important this was to her. She had been experimenting for the last few days, declining offers to hang out or spend time with her other friends due to her obsessive working.

Knowing that Spike had his own ulterior motives, Twilight decided to see what she could do for her friend Rarity and her assistant Spike. That morning, she agreed to accompany him to the Boutique, hoping to kill two birds with one stone. Twilight knocked on the front door, from inside they heard Rarity inviting them in. Inside was the 'organized chaos' of Rarity's designing brilliance. Rarity's usually clean and tidy workroom had been completely transformed- measuring tape, spools of thread, crumpled balls of paper and cloth of every color were draped over mostly everything in the room- not to mention the cacophony of noise, the loud clicking of sewing machines, the whir of magic, and the pedal squeaking itself up and down to keep up with the demands of each cut-out pattern. Rarity was but a white blur weaving in and out of her workspace, proving herself to be a formidable multitasker. Her magic only improved her productivity.

"Wow, Rarity, I've never seen you work so hard before, and so fast too." Twilight looked around in awe. "How many days was it before you leave for Canterlot?"

"That would be evening tomorrow," a bespectacled Rarity responded. "Oh, and Twilight, would you be so kind as to fill in as a dressform for a tiny bit? All the others are already in use."

The dressform mannequins, were grouped together on one side of the room, were fitted with what looked like incomplete dresses to intricate scraps of fabric pinned on. These were obviously to be referenced or used later and were not to be disturbed. Twilight walked over to Rarity while she pulled a piece of cloth out from under the sewing machine and began to spread them over Twilight.

"I don't think I've told you before, but congratulations, Rarity," Twilight said, unable to move any part of her body but her mouth due to Rarity working around her. "You're finally getting the recognition you deserve."

"Oh, it's nothing," Rarity giggled. "It's just all that hard work paying off. It's nothing to be surprised at. Besides, the real work begins when I get to Canterlot. Everything I'm doing now is just prototypes of what I'm really planning on putting out on the runway."

"The real work? Can it get any harder than this?"

"There's really nothing I can do about it," Rarity sang as she circled Twilight, making adjustments here and there. "Better materials and tools are provided there. So it's only best that I do all of the planning beforehand so I can just make the dresses."

"Making them has to be harder than designing them. Are you doing it all alone?"

"I've considered hiring somepony for assistance, but who knows how much that will cost. They're more of a burden than they are worth. I've worked with them before and it was just horrible. None of them are familiar with how I work, and they never stop criticizing, as if I'm helping them making their dress instead. No thank you, it won't do. I would be much better off working by myself."

"They can't all be like that, can they?" Twilight asked.

"They might as well be. I've worked with just one, and I'm convinced that they're not competent enough to understand such a talent as mine," Rarity scoffed. "I need a pony that will stay silent and fetch me things. Spike! Be a dear and grab some-"

Spike was like a purple bullet, about ten times faster than Rarity. In a fraction of a seconds Spike had gone from quietly listening in to their conversation to grabbing a basket of items on the other side of the room and back. Spike held up the basket, smoking like a gun barrel after fire.

"Pins, clips, and some extra flowers for the dress hem," Spike listed the contents of the basket.

"Thank you." Rarity rummaged through the basket picking up a few pins without even looking. "That's more like it."

Twilight stayed silent as Rarity continued experimenting with the prototype of the dress she was wearing, the shock of what had just happened took a few seconds to settle before she was able to speak.

"W-what was that?" Twilight stammered, astonished at what she had just witnessed.

"What was what dear? And try not to move," Rarity said through a few pins in her mouth, picking up a few more things from the basket.

"Spike!" Twilight laughed, sounding a bit upset. "I've never seen you move like that before, ever!"

"You haven't?" Rarity and Spike asked at the same time.

"No! He got exactly what you wanted before it even came out of your mouth! It's like he read your mind!"

"It wasn't exact. I was about to ask for some butterflies instead of flowers, but I must say, now that I'm actually seeing it on the dress, I can say that it fits much better than the butterflies would have. Good taste, Spike."

Twilight couldn't help laughing, "You've been a deadbeat since morning, Spike!"

"I was not!" Spike said defensively.

Rarity raised a brow. "Isn't he always like this at home with his chores? I was always so jealous that you had an assistant helping you out, an obedient one at that."

"Is he always like this when he's helping you?" Twilight asked.

"I can say that he has improved over time," Rarity complemented a blushing Spike.

"Why don't you borrow Spike for your time in Canterlot?" Twilight suggested.

Spike almost fell over with his basket.

"Me? Borrow Spike?" Rarity asked, laughing at the possibility. "Are you sure? You probably need him for more than I do."

"That's not true!" Twilight and Spike said at the same time.

She took a moment to glare at Spike before continuing, "I mean, you're really in a tight spot for a good assistant right? Spike is just what you need. Don't be modest, he'll be a great help, I'm sure! I'll be more than happy to let him go."

Spike dare not speak. He wasn't even sure what to say. He only looked back and forth between the two ponies. Sure he wanted to go, but to help Rarity on her biggest project to date? Was he up to the job? Was he even worthy? Everything he's done for Rarity up to now has been simple tasks like holding things, being a pin cushion, and just like he had just now, grabbing things for her. This opportunity changed everything. He was to now hold important things, be an important pincushion, and grab important things for her.

"Well, if you put it that way," Rarity said, giving Spike a look of consideration. "It's up to you, Spike." She smiled.

It would be just him and Rarity, a perfect vacation. There wasn't anything more he could have asked for. It was so simple. All he had to say was yes. Twilight gave Spike an 'I'm doing you a favor' look. He suppressed his astonishment and gave Rarity an answer.

"I'm yours," Spike finally said.

So it was decided...

Rarity's admission to the prestigious Canterlot Fashion Show was no secret to the ponies of Ponyville. It's not everyday a pony represents Ponyville in such an event. It wasn't exactly the talk of the town, but it was a well recognized subject for conversation. Rarity had become just as recognizable as Pinkie Pie. Speaking of whom, Pinkie had prepared a 'Going Away and Back' party for Rarity the night before she left. Applejack happily hosted the party on her farm. A good number of ponies came over to enjoy the festivities and to wish Rarity luck in Canterlot. And where was Spike? Sitting in the corner of the barn, sipping on punch as he happily watched Rarity surrounded by ponies, the center of attention as he knows she enjoys. She was having a good time, and that was enough for Spike.

His view of Rarity was blocked by a group of ponies.

"Hey there!" one of them greeted. "Spike, was it?"

"Yeah," Spike said to the group of ponies he didn't know very well. Once in awhile he'll get those ponies who still weren't used to seeing baby dragons. He was an object of fascination, as most foreigners would relate. Although these kinds of first encounters were becoming less frequent. Most of the ponies in Ponyville were used to having a baby dragon in town by now.

"We heard you were going to Canterlot with Rarity, is it true?" the other asked.

"Why yes, I am," Spike declared proudly.

"I'm so jealous," the third one giggled. "Why is she taking you? If she had room I could have asked her to take me."

"Rarity wouldn't let just anyone go with her to the show of her life," Spike said. "I happen to be her personal assistant, you know."

"Assistant? You know how to design?"

"Well, not really."

"Oh I get it," one of them giggled. "Are you standing in as her pet? I hear the more exotic the better in Canterlot!"

"Aren't you Twilight's?" the other said.

Spike felt his blepharospasm acting up at the sound of the offending word.

"First of all, I'm not a pet. I'm an assistant." Spike emphasized the last word. "Since I was so qualified for the job, Rarity happened to turn to me for my services."

"Assistant? Like fetch, right?" she laughed, unaware of how much they were annoying Spike with their jokes.

"As a matter of fact, it's some important fetching now!" Spike replied impatiently.

"Hey now." another pony joined them. It was Applejack, who had taken interest in the conversation, overhearing as she passed.

"Spike can do a whole lot more than fetch." Applejack put down her tray on the table. "He's the best assistant anypony can ask for. If there was somepony better at the job, Rarity would have taken them instead, so don't be asking yourself why she didn't invite anypony else."

"I can be just as much help as he can," one of the ponies replied.

"All of you need help," Spike said before satisfying his intense urge to walk away before they said anything else. He headed out back to get some fresh air. Perhaps it wasn't for that reason; the air was no different in the barn than it was outside. He just wanted to be away from all the noise. He noticed that Applejack had followed him out as he took a seat on the fence and watched the stars.

"I should be used to this by now," Spike sighed.

"Don't blame yourself," Applejack said. "You know how everypony is 'round here; they can be a little inconsiderate. They don't know any better."

"Don't worry about me. It'll take more than that to spoil my mood right now."

"Speaking of which, congratulations." Applejack smiled. "One week in Canterlot, just you and Rarity."

"You know, I wonder if this is really something to be happy about. The pressure is almost unbearable. You think I'm up to the job?"

"Course ya are. What're ya saying after all that talk back in the barn? Do ya doubt Rarity's decision?"

The final choice wasn't up to Rarity. It was Spike's call whether he went to Canterlot with Rarity or not. She let him decide. It wasn't like she really needed him enough to drag him there, was it? Was she just being nice?

"What if I'm just a burden? What if I mess up? I already feel like more trouble than I'm worth. It's not too late to tell her I can't go."

Applejack pulled Spike off the top of the fence. Spike was face up on the ground looking straight up at her. She had a concerned, serious look on her face, her sharp eyes staring right into his.

"Don't think that for just one second," Applejack scolded. "All this is just your nerves. You can't let them get a hold of ya. This is Rarity's big shot. She wouldn't let anypony spoil it for her, and that includes you. The last thing she's going to do is take some gamble on a cowardly little dragon, shakin' in his boots, afraid of takin' a chance. But she's not takin' some cowardly little dragon. She's taking you, Spike."

"I... guess so." Spike was surprised at being lectured by somepony other than Twilight.

"Let me tell you why. Rarity sees something in you. Something inside, something special. Hay, I see it too. You're someone worth taking to Canterlot, and she wouldn't have unless she was darn sure that you'd be nothing but a big help. It's not easy for her either, you think you're the only one nervous, but she's just as nervous if not terrified at the fact she'll be showing herself in front of all of Canterlot. You don't see her cowering her room because she was scared to take chances. It's as if she doesn't have a care in the world. If there's any relief to her nervousness, it's you. Someone from home, a... friend she can take with her."

"You're right, she needs me."

"And who knows, maybe you can tell her how you feel if everything works out?"

Spike looked at her with surprise on his face and nodded, "So you knew too."

"It's not the hardest thing in the world to work out."

"But... will it work? I'm a dragon... it feels really stupid if you consider the circumstances."

"There you go again," Applejack rolled her eyes.

"Oh, sorry," Spike laughed.

"Would you be alright if somepony had feelings for you?"

"It would be alright if I had the same feelings for that somepony." Spike smiled, staring into the sky longingly.

"That's that and there's nothing more to it." Applejack patted Spike on the back. "It'll work out; all you need is some confidence."

"Confidence, got it. Thanks for the advice. I feel much better."

With that in mind, after the party, Spike thought deeply that night as he lay in his basket back home. It was alright as long as he liked her and she liked him. Did she like him? The proof is there isn't it? He was going to Canterlot with her, tomorrow. He was indeed someone important.

Spike didn't really have anything to pack for his trip to Canterlot. All he needed was food and a place to sleep, all which was provided wherever he and Rarity were going to stay. Still he brought along a small briefcase, it only carried an alarm clock and a few papers and quills and took him a few minutes to pack in the morning.

They were to depart at noon. All of his friends came to the station to wish Spike and Rarity good luck as they boarded their train. They had their own private car. The doors smoothly shut and the train started to progress, Spike looked through the window watching his friends slide away from view. He saw Twilight waving, Pinkie Pie setting off a few leftover party poppers from last night. The last thing he saw was Applejack's encouraging smile as she nodded at him. Soon they were out of sight. Spike left the window and sat down on the seat. It was that very moment that Spike felt that he was truly alone with Rarity. The atmosphere quickly changed into something completely different than what it had been a few seconds before.

Between them was a square table. They sat on seats on opposite ends; the scenery rushing by could be seen from the window on their side. This was going to be a long train ride. Rarity had booked the slower train for the trip. Spike soon found out why. Rarity immediately opened one of her many travel bags and pulled out a pencil and a sheet of drafting paper. She began to draw and design dresses. Besides the soft rumbling noises of the train working across the tracks, the only sound was Rarity's humming and the scribbling of her pencil as she worked it across the paper with her magic. She was deeply engrossed in her work. As much as Spike had expected the train ride to be a good chance to talk to Rarity, Spike felt that the mood for this trip was set. Nothing but work was to be done, no playing around. He didn't want to distract Rarity by speaking. It was fine; they didn't even have to talk at all. Spike was satisfied watching her hard at work, doing what she did best. He began to slip away from his senses.

"Spike?" Rarity said, suddenly snapping Spike out of his trance.

Spike immediately came back to earth, feeling a sort of stiffness in his face; he realized he's had a stupid smile on it this whole time.

"I had thought you'd fallen asleep with your eyes open." Rarity returned to her drawing. "You must be very bored."

"Not at all!" Spike rubbed his cheeks as if trying to wipe the smile off of his face, hoping to ease the stiffness. "Is there anything I can help with? Do you need something to drink? I can go find something for you."

"That won't be necessary. I was worried that you weren't enjoying the ride. You don't get train sick do you? You're awfully quiet."

"I just didn't want to bother you while you were working," Spike modestly lowered his head.

"I wouldn't call this working, but I never did say you couldn't talk." Rarity smiled. "I don't mind, really. I haven't got much to draw; there is this one last dress I have to sketch."

Rarity sat looking out the window, her cheek resting on her hoof as she was spinning her pencil in the air. Spike once again fell silent appreciating watching Rarity when she was in deep thought.

Before Spike was about to lose himself once more in the sight before him. He noticed that Rarity was staring right back. He looked away hoping that he hadn't given Rarity the same uncomfortable feeling he was getting now. He thought breaking eye contact would get Rarity to look elsewhere but she continued to examine him. He didn't know how long he could endure this optical scrutiny.

"Dragons..." Rarity whispered.

"What about them?"

"A dragon themed dress would be lovely." Rarity sat up at once, beginning to work her pencil once more. "Yes, it will have lots of sequins and of course, some purple and emeralds for the green."

"You're basing a dress me?" Spike stood on the seat to get a better look at what Rarity was drawing atop the table.

"It'll be like nothing anypony has seen before! Originality is very important."

As the train began to curve around the mountain faces, much more sun was allowed into the car. The light reflected off of Rarity's pale white coat and was close to blinding Spike. It was as if sunlight was invented solely for her coat. The last time Spike saw this kind of glow was off of Princess Celestia's as she raised the sun last Summer Sun Celebration. She was working so hard and she looked so happy as she was doing it. Even so...

"Aren't you nervous?" Spike couldn't help but to ask.

"Me? Don't be silly Spike, why in the world would I be nervous? The workload was a bit of a concern but since you're here to assist me it's nothing to worry about."

Spike smiled. Of course, there was no need for any worry as long as she had him around. It was just as Applejack said. He began to feel some of that confidence Applejack had suggested. It felt really nice.

"Although, I'm not sure how the social aspect of Canterlot will go," Rarity said with a touch of exasperation. "The best from Equestria are all attending. I best make a good impression if I am to prove fit join them. I can't disappoint. That is why I'll have to make my best dresses."

"They'll be crazy not to let you into their circle," Spike said, feeling that it was best to share some of his new found confidence with Rarity.

"You are the best designer I know. The only designer I know. That doesn't mean you're not the best. I'll do as much as I can to shoulder the workload, that way you'll be able to design with a clear head!"

Before Spike knew it, he was standing on the table, finger in the air, speaking with his eyes closed. It wasn't until Rarity laughed at Spike's sudden declaration that he snapped out of his moment of verbal heroism.

"Is that so Spike? In that case, I'm glad you came along."

"You're someone worth taking to Canterlot," a voice echoed in his head.

"I am aren't I?" he replied. "Rarity needs me. Now, more than ever, I'll give it my all."

The silent atmosphere that once clogged the air was no more. As Rarity continued to design and come up with great ideas for her latest dresses, she and Spike cheerfully conversed about many things. Ponyville, their previous experiences in Canterlot, their friends, it was as if another invisible wall between them was melting away in the gentle sunlight and their warm smiles.