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Heart of Scales

Turn 17: Honest

Spike made through the dance floor area of the main room with great difficulty, dodging all the kicks and bucking that came with a crowd of ponies dancing. He also had to avoid a few conversations that might keep him too long. Ponies urging him to dance, trying to cut employment deals with him on the spot, it didn't make it any easier to reach the end of the room where he could sit in seclusion with a drink and enjoy the music and atmosphere with the load off his hooves, which was what he had been planning to do with Applejack when they first decided on the plan at the Cooking Center.

That was one of the few things Spike had in mind when he emerged from the crowd to find himself in front of the punch bowl. From there the sitting area was visible nearby. One of the most memorable things that had happened to him today was what Applejack did at the factory just before they parted ways, before he met Rainbow Dash, before he made that confession to her that would ultimately send the whole day spiraling into this fiasco. It was as he stood in surprise, or rather, shock that he almost considered the possibility that Applejack had some feelings for him.

A kiss on the cheek, it sure wasn't his first time receiving one. It wasn't his fault for comparing. How could he not with his past experiences? But sadly enough, he remembered Applejack's kiss on the cheek to be nothing more than that, just a kiss, regardless of how much more sensitive he was to contact as a pony. There really wasn't a high that came with it. There was no feeling of numbness, or warmness, or electricity that he had come to expect from such a thing.

Perhaps he just hadn't been looking for one.

What did it matter really? It wasn't even that big of a kiss. It was considerable small, wasn't it? Why was it such a big deal? Why was it even worth comparing? Wouldn't that be unfair?

Spike looked into the punch bowl with a look of disdain. It was a delicious and attractive pink color that dried out his throat before he had the time to reach for a cup, which he did. As he scooped the liquid with the ladle, a subtle feeling of discomfort came over him. He watched the stream of drink spill into his cup. Pouring punch, even for himself, was something he no longer enjoyed doing. The sting of past humiliation echoed even louder as he was deep in his thoughts. He imagined his head in the glass as it filled, sinking to the bottom, heavy with concern.

Hastily throwing the ladle back in the bowl, he looked towards the seating area for a good spot to settle down and search for Applejack, whom he had started to doubt had remained at the party until his late arrival.

Just as he had chosen a nice spot to relax, he saw the other Apple Family sister break free of the crowd and take the seat that he had decided to take. It wasn't Applejack, but surely, it was the next best thing. It was the first time Spike had seen her since she disappeared from his sight at the bridge leading into the town the late morning earlier today.

Spike's first thoughts were marching right over, lifting her in the air, and shaking her until the world's pieces were back in their place from where she had taken them. Two things stopped him. One, that he would make a scene in the party, leading to curiosity from the other ponies. Goodness knows that he doesn't need anypony else hearing about him and Applejack which could possibly spawn a crowd of advocates with fantasies, fantasies of him and Applejack in that sort of relationship. He'd take Applebloom alone over that, any day.

Two, he wondered what it could be, for somepony to go this far to make so much trouble for him and Applejack. She was the only one who had seen both sides of this story. Maybe not the only one, but certain the one who understands it the best. She just doesn't stop. Even though Applejack had practically asked him to excuse her sister and forget all the trouble she had caused for him. She knew her sister had said that. It would be enough for him to just give up and not go any further before he damaged something.

But Applebloom was still smiling. Spike saw her with Scootaloo sit at the table. Sweetie Belle was the last to escape the crowd and join her friends at the table.

Spike wasn't sure to be agitated or confused. Why was Applebloom smiling after her plan had failed? Was it nothing to her that he had just went through the day worrying about his friendship with Applejack? Was it nothing for her to cause this much trouble and go another minute without remorse for her actions? At least be as discomforted as he was that things could still go horribly wrong for all of them. Now he was here, to pick up the pieces. Applebloom was to sit at the party and enjoy the night as the episode she had started came to an end without her. It was his problem now, only his. And that made him all the more disappointed in her.

Before the Cutie Mark Crusaders could make any small talk at their table, Spike advanced. Applebloom was the first to see him coming, waving to him as her smile intensified. The other two noticed her attention shift elsewhere and sought to find the cause, their eyes eventually landing on Spike as he approached. They quickly retreated, leaving their captain to fend for herself. Applebloom did not budge.

Her smile would have intimidated any other pony, although she was just a filly. The smugness was overwhelming. What would scolding do to her now? What point would it be to get angry at her? It would only make her smile brighter. There was nothing he could get from her, he thought. The thing he needed at this moment was to speak with Applejack. He had thought the trouble between them was over with their previous conversation, leaving them with the party to work out the remainder of any awkward feelings. That was until Applebloom restarted the fire with one last try at Applejack's patience.

Was it over for her now? Was she now free to move onto another victim? Perhaps she'll try him a second time? He wouldn't be surprised if she didn't even give him the time of night to explain himself.

Spike sat down across from Applebloom, oddly calm. Words he could not form into an acceptable sentence were sent to his eyes to become a cold burning glare that he directed at her.

"Why? After Applejack and I had it all worked out." Spike finally spoke after a moment. "Why in the world did you feel the need to make things worse? We agreed to put it behind us, that it was all just you toying with us."

"I wasn't toying with you." Applebloom replied rather simply. "And I'm a bit disappointed that you actually agreed to forget everything I did for you two today. I was serious the whole way. I never toyed with you at all. That was just the both of you putting up resistance."

"Because neither of us want what you want."

"Did you mean it? When you were speaking with Rainbow Dash. That you've liked my sister for a long time."

Embarrassment didn't hit Spike as he had expected from hearing her say this. He knew at the time it wasn't his mind that answered Rainbow Dash's demand for a reply, it was his heart. What he truly felt at the time, regardless of what he wanted to believe or not. Whatever darkness it would lead him into, nothing would ever be over as long he remained loyal and true to his heart, and that was much better off than his heart having never existed. It had been just that.

Whatever darkness... worry, fear, desperation...

Did that confession still stand? Yes, Spike would say. However, things were different now. There were things he had to do, regardless of what he would want to do. No longer did "Ruby" allow him to see the world as a place where he could do as he wished without the chains of his past. No longer could he fulfill his selfish desires. Applejack was no longer an option, as the day had proved to him. This was no longer about his heart. It was about repair what he had damaged. There was no more need to chase.

"It doesn't matter what I feel." Spike gave her an answer "It's never mattered. It's nothing worth making any moves on. Applejack wanted to forget. She didn't want any of it. She doesn't want it that way."

"So it's true." Applebloom asked with an irritating cool. "You must be hurt."

"You have some nerve." Spike growled getting out of his seat to give her that good shaking.

Applebloom slipped away from the table and began to head towards the stairs. An impatient Spike immediately chased after her. They had to go through the dancing crowd once again, but this proved to be a short trip for Spike's desire to catch Applebloom gave him a boost.

Applebloom waited at the foot of the stairs for him to emerge from the crowd, but he had emerged sooner than she expected which startled her. Applebloom gave a quick glance up the stairs. Spike assumed that Applejack had been in the upper libraries all this time, a place closed off to the main party. Without a second to spare he went for the stairs but was blocked by Applebloom. Before he could tell her to get out of the way, she pulled him down to her level so they were eye to eye, and covered his mouth, a gesture that told him that it would be best to not make any noise.

"I need you now to do something." Applebloom had sincerity in her eyes. "Everything's riding on you doing this one thing correctly."

Spike nodded in reply, his mouth still covered.

"Tell Applejack how you feel."

Spike shook his head with narrowed eyes.

"I finally got you to admit that you liked my sister," Applebloom whispered once more with increased intensity. "You're going to be honest with her."

Spike shook his head once more and pushed her hoof away to elaborate.

"We're going to do what she wants me do to. I'm going to tell her what she wants to hear. We're going to put things back the way they were before you had to open your mouth that one last time. Tomorrow, it's going to be like all of this never happened. I'm not going to let you convince me to make some stupid confession while you stand there and watch me make a fool of myself."

"You will be the fool if you don't!" Applebloom whispered through gritted teeth.

"No!" Spike whispered back.

"I have come too far for you to ruin it all because you're too scared!"

"Never." Spike reaffirmed himself, speaking slowly to make sure she got the idea.

"Fine..." Applebloom grimaced. "You tell her what you're going to tell her. You do that, Ruby."

Applebloom blocked his way for just a little longer, hoping that he would change his mind if she gave him enough time. That was not the case, however.

"Are we going to go upstairs or not?" Spike asked in a low voice. "Don't tell me she's not even there."

"She is." Applebloom glanced once more up the stairs. "You stay quiet, stay low, and don't get caught. If you can do that, I'll let you do and say whatever the hay you want."

"Fine." Spike finally found something that he and Applebloom were able to agree on.

Applebloom went ahead and quietly crept up the stairs. Spike followed in silent, soft, hoofsteps. It became darker and darker as they ascended. The light of the stars and moon shone through the windows keeping the upstairs illuminated. The party lights and strobes from below did not reach the tranquil area that they were now entering. Even the loud noises were silenced by the mere difference of floors. Surely this was a curious wooden structure to have such insulative properties, as Spike had already been aware from his time here. However, Spike knew it well that he best not rely on the ruckus below to mask his footsteps, he must not be careless.

Close to the top step, Applebloom turned to him and signaled him once again to remain silent once and for all. He did as instructed, curious to find out what she had planned for him to be sneaking around at all.

His head was right under the level of the floor of the upstairs. He was careful not to accidentally protrude his ears above the floor level and in turn be detected. He could hear fine with his ears folded just enough to be hidden. He was well concealed on the stairs. Applebloom pointed to her own ears, giving him some kind of signal. He thought his ears were still sticking out, but he realized that she was telling him to listen in. An uneasy feeling began to build in his gut, like the one you feel when you hear something every exciting, butterflies they call it, very aggressive butterflies.

Why was he so nervous? He was here to fix things and fixed, things will be.

Leaving him behind, Applebloom went ahead openly, without hiding herself. It was obvious that Spike was required to remain hidden regardless. There was something Applebloom was about to do, and she wanted Spike to hear.

It was all up to Spike's ears now. He could not follow Applebloom with his eyes anymore without being caught. He closed his eyes and sat on the stairs, relieving his legs as they had been put through too much strain for the day to be maintaining a stealthy stance on a flight of steps. He was almost laying down on the stairs at this point, reassuring himself that today's troubles were nearly at it's end, and he was to enjoy a nice day off with Applejack on the farm tomorrow. His only cares were Rarity's upcoming Fashion Show and revealing himself and he carried a small amount of optimism for even those things.

He took a deep and silent breath as he began to hear voices.

"Won't you come downstairs?" Applebloom spoke first to somepony Spike could only guess in the room with her. "You'll miss the party."

Spike held his breath, waiting for the other pony to speak. His anticipation went unfulfilled. There was no reply, not yet. He wanted to at least hear her voice, just to be sure if it was really her that was in the room.

"Too tired, huh?" Applebloom continued. "I saw Twilight not too long ago. She finally came. I guess you don't have to go out of your way to meet her at the party. This is her home after all."

There was a long moment of silence. Whatever Applebloom was planning, it was taking a long time to happen.

"Look, about earlier. You gave me no choice. I thought you were supposed to be the most honest of all the ponies."

"Sometimes," Applejack finally said in a quiet voice. "you have to say things that aren't what you want to say, but you say them because it's what's best for everypony. You put yourself aside and do it for others. That can be... one of the most honest things. You understand, don't you?"

"Not completely." Applebloom sounded as if she was trying to make sense of it, but let it go. There were more important things to discuss. "I hope you were being honest to me. When I say honest, I hope you really meant it, literally."

"What do I have to do to satisfy you, Applebloom? Didn't you already get what you wanted out of me? There's nothing more I can do for you. There aren't any other ways that I can get you to believe what you've already heard from me.."

"I believe you Applejack, sorry for the doubt. I knew you were telling the truth. Just that it was almost too good to be true."

Something inside Spike gave him a slight unsettling feeling. It drove him to slowly inch down the stairs, to return to the festive noise and commotion below where none of this really mattered, where he was originally supposed to meet Applejack and act like nothing had happened. He didn't have to listen to any of this if he didn't want to. He was here at Applebloom's request. He didn't have to do anything she said. He could do what he had been planning all along, forget about everything. It wasn't too late. They could continue being friends, or else... or else what? He didn't know anymore. Just like how he didn't know if it was best to leave or not. Maybe it was him not know for his reason to stay. Stay to find out once and for all what was going on in Applejack's mind, why Applebloom had been so set on all of this.

"Never mind telling me," Applebloom said. "What are you going to tell him?"

"It's already been talked out. I've already settled things with him."

"But what about you? You're not..."

"What about me? I'm just happy that nothing horrible happened. Besides, it isn't going to work, not with me. And I'm not being modest, I've felt it before as we spoke to each other. Best that I don't start expecting anything to happen. I've already seen that it wasn't anything to begin with."

"Not you too, Applejack..." Applebloom sounded crestfallen. "Please, you need to have courage. You asked me what more you could do for me, and that's to tell him what you really feel, what you told me. Not for anypony else, but yourself. Be honest with him."

"I don't want to." Applejack replied in a flat tone.

"You don't want to because you're scared" Applebloom sounded backed into a corner. Neither side was working as she had wanted them to do. "He's scared too. And you don't be honest you two are going to meet, and agree with each other not to do anything, lie to each other because you're both scared."

"What do you know about how Ruby feels? What do you know about how I feel?"

"I know!" Applebloom yelled in desparation. "I've been at it since he came to the farm! I did all the work that you were supposed to do, sis! And You can't even trust me on this one thing!? I know! I know that Ruby's liked you for a while! I know that he won't say anything to you. For some stupid reason he's too scared to make a move! And I know that you're the same! So I know exactly how you feel! I know you're just scared, so stop telling me that you're doing this all for the good of everypony else when all you're doing is lying to yourself and Ruby so you can run away and save face! I'm right! I'm the only one who's been right all this time. Not you! Not Ruby! Me! So just admit it and stop being such a coward!"

Spike began to feel that this was getting out of hand. Never mind leaving. That was no longer an option. Then what could he do? Walk in on them and pretend he had just arrived and didn't hear anything the two were discussing? Maybe then Applejack would settle down. Perhaps she might finally give up. But why? Why was he considering stopping it before anything else happened? Before he heard anything else?

"What in the world do you want from me!? What can I do to get you off my back!?" Applejack's calm demeanor had been broken. If there was any time that what she was saying was believable, it was now. Such emotion could not have been acted. Like Applebloom, Applejack as well sounded as if she was backed into a corner. Spike knew in his gut, exactly where things were going.

"Tell Ruby the truth! Be honest with him! That's all I want, that's all you have had to do!"

"Fine!" Applejack finally yelled. "I'll tell him everything! That I've been a coward all along. That I've been horrified at the possibility of him having different feelings than mine! That I've been trying to convince myself that I'd be happy being just friends! Trying to convince myself that I'd be happy even if he left! That I'd be happy seeing him with somepony else! That I'd be happy if he was happy! All that was just me lying to myself! That I was scared of being honest more than I liked him! Isn't that what you're asking me to do, Applebloom!?

"I love you Ruby! But just in case, please don't crush my pathetic heart! Please stay my friend and stay on the farm with pitiful me! I beg you!"

Spike had already left the cover of the stairs, intending to blurt out some typical interruption like "What's all the yelling about guys?" like some clueless idiot. Pretending not to have heard anything crucial. However, Applejack's confession was more than he had ever expected. He had messed up pretending to have walked in. The lines he should have gotten out before Applejack had even reached the middle of her confession had caught in his throat. He was way past his timing and was now standing right in the open, utterly speechless, shining in the moonlight coming through the window.

The scene that he could only have imagined earlier was now before him. Applejack stood in front of Applebloom by the window, standing between the two. Her hat was on the floor and back turned towards him, not appearing to have even noticed him yet. Applebloom stared at him, as if she had finally shown him what she wanted him to see, or in this case, hear. It was now his move. What she had said before they made their venture up the stairs repeated in his head.

You tell her what you're going to tell her. You do that, Ruby.

Applejack turned around, she would be looking right at him had her eyes not been closed.

"I tell him that I love him... and then what, Applebloom?" Applejack sighed. Spike could see glitters of her tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

"Ask him yourself." Applebloom stormed out of the room, more relieved than happy to have finally gotten her to say it out loud. She went down the stairs as swift as a squirrel and was gone.

Applejack had opened her eyes, which were now wide and glistening with moisture, staring into Ruby's own eyes which were just as wide.

"Y-you love me...?" Spike stammered, in total shock of what he had just heard Applejack say. This was beyond his comprehension.

Applejack covered her face. Not wanting to Ruby to see her in this state. She tried to clean away her tears, but it didn't do much good. They replaced themselves like tissues from a box. In the end she stopped trying to wipe and simply hid her face. If there was anything more than tears to her crying there was no way for Spike to know. She remained completely silent.

"I..." Spike's lower lip trembled as he hastily attempted to form words in his mouth, anything, just anything. As if a cog or a gear in his head went missing, his mind was not there to aid him.

Spike had gone completely blank, unable to consider his options. In this state, he couldn't make anything up. He couldn't simply "make up" an answer. However, an unrelenting instinct to reply drove him to bring forth words from the only place in his entire being that he was able to find an answer, his heart. A place where he could store no lies. A place that was always present, always there to make his choices, a window into his true feelings, desires, and beliefs. Now in his panic and haste to reply, he was revealing these things himself. Spike reached deep down, unknowingly, instinctively, reflexively.

"I..." Spike started again, but this time an answer was making way from his chest to trough his throat, leaving a horrible feeling in it's wake, before he even knew what was about to pass his lips.

Applejack removed her hooves from her face, looked straight at him with her wet eyes, demanding an answer, his thoughts, his feelings regarding her confession. Awaiting his answer as a child would a punishment.

"I can't" Spike uttered staring blankly at the ground. His own answer echoed through his hollow, absent head which had proved him useless in this time of need. Slowly he lifted his eyes, to look at Applejack.

The usual spark in Applejack's eyes had been reduced to an empty colorless mirror that reflected nothing as she continued to stare at him. She wasn't looking into his eyes, but slightly downwards, not even focused, but simply open, not registering anything that it was they were taking in. Her lips ever so slightly apart. It all took Spike a moment to realize what had just happened. What he had just said.

After a few blinks Applejack shut her eyes for a moment. This last blink sent a few glittering drops to spot the floor. With it, all traces that she had ever cried seemed to disappear, with the exception of the slight redness in her eyes. She was expressionless, giving a single nod, and raising her head to look at Spike once more, finding it hard to look into his eyes, having lost any spark she had during their prior meetings.

"I understand." Applejack finally replied. Spike saw her manage a small smile, one tinged with regret and acceptance. He felt a great sadness in the pit of his stomach reach a peak.

At that moment, Spike began to hear screams, screams of panic and terror, sounding faint, but totally clear in his head. Applejack did not seem to have noticed. Spike found it strange how he was the only one that appeared to be hearing it. Time had began to slow down.

"Applejack?" He said once, hearing his own voice echo, oddly distorted. Applejack seemed not to have heard this either. Perhaps his words had gotten stuck in his throat once again. Even the screams began to sound muffled, and they too, echoed. The room suddenly went dim, engulfed in a shadow. Was there something wrong with his eyes? Was his mind playing tricks on him?

"Applejack?" He tried again. His voice sounded like it had just before, echoing, distorted. His eyes were fixed on Applejack as she looked towards the window. He wondered why she couldn't hear him. He wondered why his mouth hadn't even opened the past two times he had tried to call out to her.

The darkened room lit up. Becoming brighter and brighter. The shadows had rapidly evaporated as blinding green filled the room. Applejack's face of terror became impossible to see in the illumination that swallowed her and painfully filled his eyes. Time began to gradually normalize as Spike finally got a hold of himself, forcing his speech to work for there was a great urgency.

"Applejack!" Spike yelled as his senses at last returned to him.

Spike fell backwards as he felt the air in front of him suddenly expand, great heat sweep the room, the howling of the wind, the ominous creaking of all the wood around them as if all the bookcases in the room were whispering to each other, a sound like a flag rapidly waving as it was taken up in a powerful gale, a great crackling like countless small bones breaking.

Most of all, the light, the blinding green light...

And finally the deep trembling growl of a beast...


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