Hello, readers! I'm back! Back with a new, multi-chapter fic!

This story is not a sequel to How to Woo Your Lady in Nine Easy Steps, or related to it in any way. Nor is it related necessarily to any of my oneshots. This is its own tale. I wanted a chance to explore the Spike/Rarity relationship from a new angle. Instead of Spike driving the action like in HTWYLINES, this story is Rarity-driven. It's also less of a slice of life, and more of an adventure story. Also, I wanted to tackle the issue I did not tackle in my last big fic: the issue of age. Last time, I ignored that issue entirely, because I was writing as closely as I could to the show, and the show doesn't address that issue very much. However, since it is a major deal in the "Sparity" fandom, I thought I'd put my own spin on it. In any case, even though this story will have a slightly different feel from my other major fic, I hope it manages to live up to standards!

Cover image generously loaned by fongsaunder at deviantArt.

As always, I do not own My Little Pony.

Of Age

Chapter 1

Dear Princess Celestia,

Rarity lowered her large feathered quill and stared at the paper in front of her. Was this really what it'd come to?

She slumped her shoulders. Yes. Yes it was. Rarity sighed her most dramatic, drawn-out sigh, even though she was alone in her shop.

It was just her luck that Twilight, the keeper of any and all books a pony could dream of, had no books on the life history of dragons. It was just her luck that none of the doctors in Ponyville, not even the veterinarian, knew anything about the growth rate of dragons. It was just her luck that dragons clearly had some odd method of maturing that made it impossible for her to figure out Spike's relative age to her. Er...to her and her friends, of course.

Rarity pushed the letter far away from her across the table.

It was just her luck that Applejack had to walk in on her and Spike's luncheon.

Now, they weren't doing anything beyond sharing a plate of hay fries, but Applejack had raised an eyebrow, and Rarity had known she hadn't heard the end of it. Sure enough, later that evening, just as she'd finished tucking away her thread for the day, Applejack arrived at the shop.

"Hey, Rarity."

"Er – hello, Applejack."

"Ah don't have long, so ah'm gonna cut to the chase. Yeh should really be careful. Yeh know. With Spike."

"Why, whatever do you mean?"

"Ah mean, spendin' extra time with him, treatin' him special…yer gonna give that lil' guy ideas. He's so young, and yeh know how the kid feels about yeh."

Rarity lifted her head high, pushing the memory to the back of her mind. While Applejack's words cut deep as diamond, there was no use obsessing over them. She was already doing all she could to figure out just how much of a…er…"kid"…Spike really was.

The unicorn magicked the letter back over to her and looked down at it once more.

Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I am writing with an inquiry, rather than a report. Twilight was uncertain, so I was wondering, on the behalf of Spike of course, if you knew the growth rates of dragons, and the age at which they reach maturity.

Rarity let out a groan, dropping the letter on the table. No matter how innocently she tried to phrase it, her question still sounded like it was in very poor taste. For a second, she imagined Applejack somehow getting a hold of the letter, and her face flushed.

"Yeh know how the kid feels about yeh." Applejack's voice repeated in her mind.

Yes. Yes she did know how the…the…

Rarity jabbed her quill into her inkwell harshly. Applejack just couldn't be right. Spike wasn't a kid. Not really. He was older than Sweetie Belle, at the very least. And who knows how much aging is done inside a dragon egg, anyway? It's a well-known fact that different species mature at different rates, after all. Spike was obviously old enough to encompass the body of a fully grown, monstrous dragon. His birthday proved that. He couldn't have achieved that if he was truly still a baby. At least, not by the pony-standard definition of baby. No way. He…he…

The ink dripped off the quill, slowly falling back into the inkwell that Rarity hovered her pen over. She watched each drop fall, trying to use its steady rhythm to keep her breathing in check.

She wasn't really having feelings for a…child…was she?

No. She couldn't be.

Rarity jabbed the quill into the inkwell once more. Spike was…he was far more mature than the fillies and colts that ran around Ponyville. But how to prove that to the world? If somepony who knows him as well as Applejack couldn't even see it, how would anypony else?

The shadows in her shop got longer and longer until it was clear that the day had drawn to a close. Rarity magically lit several lamps, providing enough light to illuminate her immediate area and the letter in front of her.

She had to finish it. She had to know.

Taking a deep breath, she went back to writing.

Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I am writing with an inquiry, rather than a report. Twilight was uncertain, so I was wondering, on the behalf of Spike of course, if you knew the growth rates of dragons, and the age at which they reach maturity.

I will be honest in this letter, dear Princess. While I am asking for Spike's sake, I am also personally curious about all things dragon. Their culture, their biology, their behavior, etc. Anything and everything you could pass on to me would be most appreciated.

Thank you for your time.



There. That didn't sound so bad.

Rarity set down her quill. Perhaps she'd been worrying for nothing. Her wording was innocent enough. As long as Princess Celestia didn't do one of her annoying "see-right-through-what-you're-saying" things, she should be alright.

Now to send it.

Spike opened up the library door to reveal a dark evening sky and the beautiful white unicorn who stood in contrast to it.

"Rarity!" he exclaimed, unable to keep back a huge smile.

"Hello, Spike," Rarity replied. A slight tremor colored her voice, and Spike furrowed his eyebrows, stepping aside to let her in. "I was wondering if I could ask you a favor?"

"Anything," Spike agreed quickly. He trailed after her as she wandered farther into the library, watching her carefully. She seems nervous...but why?

"Is Twilight in?" Rarity asked, glancing around.

"Yeah, but she's busy star-mapping up on the balcony," Spike said. "I can get her if you want, but I don't think she wants to be interrupted…"

"Oh, that's alright." Rarity levitated a rolled-up parchment out of her saddlebag. "I really just came by to see if you could send this letter to Princess Celestia for me."

A letter. Of course. She's not here to visit me… "Oh. I see," Spike said, trying not to sound overly dejected.

As Rarity levitated the letter towards him, he noticed it wavering in the air unsteadily. It was almost as if…She doesn't have her usual magical control. What's gotten her so worked up?

"Anything the matter?" Spike had to ask.

"Oh, no. Nothing's the matter at all, Spike. Just sending a letter. Just a simple letter. Short. Concise. Just wanted to write the princess. You know…" Rarity trailed off.

Spike eyed her. "Yeah…" Something was bothering her. It couldn't have been more obvious if she'd had the word UNSETTLED written across her forehead. But Spike said nothing else, and instead just caught the letter out of the air from where it hovered.

He took a deep breath in preparation to send it, but as he did so, Rarity took a tremulous step forward.

"You're sure you want this sent?" Spike asked, looking over her way. She sure didn't look sure.

"Of course," Rarity replied, edging one corner of her mouth up in a forced smile. "Completely sure. Just…please hurry up and do it."

Spike shrugged. If she wasn't going to tell him what was going on, he wasn't going to ask, as much as he wanted to know. He inhaled deeply and breathed his green fire at Rarity's letter, sending it the princess's way. "There you go," he said, once it had fizzled away into the night.

Rarity's smile relaxed into a more genuine expression. "Thank you, Spike." She bent down and nuzzled his cheek. "You're always so quick to help out."

His world blurred and Spike temporarily forgot all about whatever weirdness had been going on with Rarity as he leaned into the warmth of her cheek. Rarity's smell wrapped around him and he had to struggle to stay upright on his feet. "Yeah…" he managed to say. "You know it's never any problem helping you."

"I know," Rarity whispered. She pulled back and looked down at him. The worry was back, Spike noted. Just barely…it was just a little crease in her eyebrows. "Spike, how…that is to say, if you were…that is, compared to…" The unicorn bit her lower lip, her hooves dancing slightly.

"Yes?" Spike asked. Half of him wanted to help her worry go away, but the other half was wondering how he could get a picture of her with that adorable expression on. Oh, the indecisions of love…

"Nevermind," Rarity said, stopping her hooves from moving. "It's nothing. I'll just be going now." She began walking back towards the door.

"You could stay, you know!" Spike darted after her. "Twilight's being boring tonight. I could use the company. I've just finished baking a batch of cookies." He cut in front of her, looking up hopefully.

Rarity smiled down at him. "Thank you, Spike. But I think it's for the best if I go home now. I, er, have a big day planned tomorrow, and will need my beauty sleep. Another time?"

"Aww," Spike didn't bother to hide his disappointment. "Alright. Another time. That's a promise."

She blinked fondly at him and Spike's insides scrunched up, gleefully flipping over themselves. "It's a promise," Rarity said. "Have a good night, my little Spikey-Wikey."

Spike stepped to one side and let her out the door. "Good night, Rarity." He watched her walk away into the night, and sighed to himself. How did I ever get so lucky? She could just ignore me, especially after I…His face flushed a little, remembering how he'd pretty much spilled his feelings for her back on his birthday. …well, after that whole…incident. But no. She doesn't ignore me.

She's even sweeter to me than she was before.

Spike stood at the door, watching the darkness for long after Rarity left, allowing the cool nighttime breeze to flow in around him. Owlowiscious hooted his annoyance at the cold from his perch behind Spike. The bird was finally awake, at least. Twilight had been asking after him for over an hour now. Speaking of birds, though…

"That's enough mooning over your crush for the night, Spike," the dragon told himself, heading back inside. "Peewee needs to be fed."

Spike headed upstairs to take care of his littlest charge, replaying his encounter with Rarity over and over in his mind. Especially the cheek-nuzzling part.

Why would she do that if she didn't care…at least a little?

Rarity wasn't an easy pony to understand, but Spike had allowed himself the tiniest of hopes of late…the tiniest of hopes that she might feel something for him in return.

After all, she didn't treat any of her other friends the way she treated him.

Rarity dropped a silk flower on the floor, startled as a knock sounded on her shop door. Spike walked in half a moment later.

"Good morning, Rarity!" The dragon sounded chipper.

"G-good morning," Rarity stammered, staring at the rolled-up letter he carried with him. She abandoned the hat she'd been working on and trotted over to the dragon quickly. Has Princess Celestia written back already?

"Got this this morning." Spike held up the letter. "Figured it was probably a reply to you, so I didn't open it," he said, relieving Rarity's biggest fear before she even had a chance to voice it.

Her shoulders relaxed. "Why thank you, Spike," Rarity replied. "Such a gentlecolt." She graced him with a smile, and watched him melt a little.

Then she frowned slightly, as Applejack's words came back to haunt her. She chased those words to the far corners of her mind. He's not a child. I don't care what anypony thinks. He might be a baby by dragon standards, but as far as ponies go…

Rarity snatched the letter out of Spike's grasp, perhaps a bit too greedily, as the dragon stepped back in surprise.

"Important, then?" Spike asked.

"Er…yes," Rarity said. No reason to lie about that, at least.

"Alright," Spike replied. "Then I'll let you get to reading it."

He turned to go, and a sudden panic rose up in Rarity. "Spike, wait!" she called out. What happens if I read this and the princess says…what if…what if…? She swallowed hard. "Spike, I…"

The dragon stood in her shop doorway, tilting his head at her.

Rarity winced inwardly. How could she ever put into words to Spike what she couldn't even sort out for herself?

"I just…I just wanted you to know that…I…you…" Rarity blabbered. To cope with the utter embarrassment she was feeling, a little part of her mind envisioned her smacking her head into a wall repeatedly. "I just want you to know that you're a good…friend to me, Spike," she finished lamely.

"Oh. Okay," Spike said.

There was silence.

"Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day," Rarity concluded. It might have been the most incoherent ramble she'd ever given, but confound it if she didn't finish it off politely. She was a lady, after all.

"Thanks," Spike said, "You too." The dragon turned and wandered back out of the shop, and Rarity had to exercise her full willpower not to rush him out faster.

As soon as he was finally gone, Rarity flipped the sign in her shop's window from OPEN to CLOSED and tore the ribbon off the letter from the princess.

Her eyes moved back and forth over the paper, taking in every word, and getting wider every moment.

"Why, that wasn't…that wasn't the point at all!" Rarity gasped, dropping the parchment. "What is this?"

The paper floated down gently to her neatly swept shop floor.

Rarity gaped down at the letter, steadying herself against the wall with one hoof. Staring back up at her was the following message:

Dear Rarity,

Thank you so much for your letter. You have impeccable timing. Few know of this, so I would thank you to keep it to yourself for the time being.

The dragons and the sea serpents are on the brink of war. Our Equestrian pony emissaries have all been turned away from the conflict by one or both sides. They simply refuse to allow us to mediate.

However, the sea serpents did mention that they would allow one pony to step in. Just one.

That pony is you, Rarity. I am unsure as to why they have requested you, or what you may have done to win their favor, but they seem to hold you in a high degree of esteem.

I was on the fence as to whether I should contact you and request your help, when your letter arrived. Your expressed interest in dragon culture and society was a clear sign that I could indeed rely on you for this important mission.

If you feel comfortable accepting this task, please meet with me in Canterlot tomorrow at noon. I will explain everything then. If you do not feel comfortable, please consider meeting me anyway, to gain a better understanding of this situation.

Thank you for your time. If you would, please send a response back via Spike. And please do not mention this to him, or to anypony else. This is a matter of utmost secrecy.


Princess Celestia

Rarity stared at the letter on the ground.

A matter of utmost secrecy.

Please send a response.

The unicorn sat back, her mind racing. "Opal…dear…how do you feel about spending tomorrow at Fluttershy's?"

Yay Chapter 1! I'm pretty excited about this new story. Let me know what you think in the comments, and thanks for reading!