"Hello there, Twilight!"
"Is there something I can help you with, darling?" asked Rarity, smiling.
"No. I just thought I'd drop by for a visit." Twilight looked around hastily.
"Well, I could use some company. Come in, come in!" She ushered her inside.
Twilight walked inside the boutique and Rarity followed her to the workroom, shutting the door behind them.
"No thanks," she replied, sitting down on a couch.
"What a frightening adventure the past couple days have been," said Rarity sitting on the opposite end of the sofa. "I'm just glad it's finally over."
"I'm just glad I'm still alive. Thanks to Spike."
"Well...The reason we all went into the forest in the first place was to look for him, but I was the one who made him run off." She looked at Twilight blankly.
"It wasn't your fault, Rarity. I have a feeling those diamond dogs didn't just attack us for no reason."
"What do you mean?"
Twilight sat up. "Well, one of them mentioned something about a white pony when they were attacking us, namely, you. I-I think they were after you, Rarity."
Rarity gasped. "It must have had something to do wit my run-in with them a few months ago!"
"You were with them. Do you think that...they would actually kill somepony?"
"Well...No. I don't think they would. They're only interested in gems. But who am I to judge that, Twilight? They tried to kill you, didn't they?"
Twilight sighed. "I guess you're right." They sat in silence for a few seconds before a sly smile began to twitch at the corners of Twilight's mouth. "Spike seemed awfully happy this morning."
"Did he now?" A sudden look of realisation washed over her face and she bit her bottom lip lightly.
"Yeah, something about what happened in the forest."
A light blush became visible on Rarity's cheeks. "D-did he...tell you what happened?"
"Yes," she said, smiling.
Twilight held up a hoof. "It's alright. I'm happy for both of you."
"No, that's not it. I-I'm really confused about Spike right now."
"What do you mean?"
She shifted about her seat uneasily. "When we were in the forest, h-he told me that...he loves me."
"He-He did?" she asked in surprise.
"Yes. And I knew he meant it." Rarity looked away.
"Well, he's never really had googly-eyes for anypony else before, so I really don't know how he'd react to that kind of feeling."
"He's great and all, and I'm sure he'd make an excellent companion, but...I'm not sure I feel the same way about him."
"You what now?" exclaimed Twilight.
"It's not that I don't like him! I do...but I'm not sure if t's the sae way he likes me." She rubbed her hoof against the back of her head.
"Well...Then why did you kiss him?!"
"He was so sad and hurt...and it was all because of me. I had to do something." She looked down.
"So...you don't like him that way?" asked Twilight, calming down slightly.
"I-I'm not sure! I mean he's a great friend and all...Kind, generous, trustworthy..."
"You'll have to make up your mind sooner or later, Rarity."
"It's just so confusing right now!" she exclaimed, throwing her hooves in the air. "I-I don't want to hurt him but...I don't know if I can return his feelings..."
Twilight stared blankly at the wall. "Is it because you're afraid of him?" she asked quietly.
"What? You mean..." Her mind took her back to the forest clearing. Fire...everywhere... "I-I don't think so..."
"It's okay Rarity. I think...I think everyone's a little scared. But I love him anyway. I know what he did in the forest...That wasn't him."
Rarity stared uneasily at the floor, rubbing the back of her head with her hoof again.
"I think you should talk to him. In fact, he'll be over soon."
She looked up. "Why? Where is he now?"
"He's at Fluttershy's cottage."
"He wanted advice from her. About you. I think he knows that you were unsure about him. He felt it when you...well, you know." She gave Rarity a knowing look.
Her blush deepened slightly and she looked away. "Oh, um, of course." She turned back to Twilight. "But...Why her? I don't think she knows very much about, um, this kind of thing."
"Well, I know nothing whatsoever, asking Applejack wasn't really an option, and as for Rainbow Dash and Pinkie..."
Rarity nodded. "Not a good idea."
"Actually, now that I think about it, on the way here he seemed really distracted. I get the feeling there's more than one reason for his visit." She paused. "Speaking of which, can I see my horn?"
Rarity's face brightened. "Of course, darling!" she said, getting up and walking towards a nearby cupboard.
"Spike!" gasped Fluttershy, taking a step back. I...will kill you... His words echoed through her mind instantaneously.
"Morning, Fluttershy." he said, his eyes looking down.
"Oh, uh, good morning."
"Can I come in? There's something I need to talk to you about."
"You...want to come inside?" Their terrified whimpers... She shook her head vigorously. "Um, of course."
He walked in without making eye contact, and Fluttershy jumped back on instinct. "Eep!"
He didn't seem to notice.
"What do I do?" she whispered hoarsely to Angel, who was standing beside the door.
He slapped a paw to his forehead, then pointed sternly in the direction Spike was walking.
Fluttershy sighed briefly and led Spike to her living room.
He sat down on one end of the large couch at the center of the room, with Fluttershy standing in front of a chair opposite the couch.
"You wanted to talk about something, Spike?" she asked sheepishly, rubbing one foreleg aginst the other.
"Do you remember when that one dragon near Ponyville was making the air all smoky?" he asked in a low tone, staring at the couch, then looking at her.
"The dragon in the cave? Yes, I-I remember." She stood straight and looked up at his face.
"I remember when you guys were getting ready to go find him. I remember the way you were acting. You didn't want to go."
She reamined silent.
"And Twilight told me what happened." He paused. "You-You're really afraid of dragons, aren't you?"
She shrunk her head into her mane. "Y-yes."
"You told me you weren't afraid of me because I was just a baby dragon and I didn't do all those things that other dragons did. But what you saw what happened in the forest..."
"What was it like?" asked Spike. "What was...I like?"
His fangs extended, tongue hissing and that look in his eye... Fluttershy gasped and stepped back.
She shut her eyes tightly before opening them again. "No...no, it's alright. It's just...it was really scary."
"I lost myself. I dunno, I just...I saw Twilight and..." He sighed. "I wish you didn't have to see it." He looked down at his hands. "Because now you're scared of me, too."
"No! I..." Rivers of red liquid flowed near their feet...
"I know you are. I bet everypony is. How could they not be?" He looked away. "I-I'm a monster."
A monster... "You're not a monster, Spike." she said weakly.
"Try telling that to one of the dogs I roasted."
"We all get mad, Spike."
"Not like that. How could I? How could I just...waste them away like that?"
"You-you're still my friend." She looked up at him slowly.
"How? How could you be? If very time you see me, you see...what I did...then how?" A hint of anger rung into his voice.
"Discord is a monster. I'm still friends with him...sort of."
"Discord isn't a dragon. You never saw him kill anyone. You're not afraid of Discord."
Fluttershy found herself looking at his eyes. She remembered vividly what they looked like in the forest. The eyes of a killer. The eyes of a killer...not of Spike. "You're not that...thing I saw in the forest. When I look at you, I don't see. Beast or anything like that. I see Spike."
He twiddled his thumbs briefly.
"You're my friend. Nothing's going to change that." She smiled at him warmly.
"But...that thing...it still exists. Inside of me. I can feel it." He stared at his now-clenched fists.
"You are what you choose to be, Spike. I don't care if that monster exists inside of you. Because whenever I see you, I see a kind, helpful dragon, and one of my closest friends."
He looked up. "Really?"
He got up and wrapped his arms around Fluttershy's neck.
A pink hue dampened her surprised face, but she returned the gesture and nuzzled his head.
Angel silently watched from the corridor and could barely keep himself from squealing.
"Thanks, Fluttershy. You're a great friend too," he said, realeasing her and smiling.
She looked away briefly, hiding her reddened cheeks.
"Um, I was actually wondering if you could help me out in something. I kinda need a bit a bit of advice."
"Uh, sure. Anything."
"Well, something happened between me and Rarity while we were in the forest." It was Spike's turn to blush. "When she found me-"
"I know," she said, looking to the side.
"I...kind of saw you two through the bushes...by accident." She felt a slight sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Oh, um...okay." He rubbed the back of his head as his blush deepened.
"You want my advice on something like this?" she asked, slightly surprised.
"You know Rarity better than anyone."
"When she and I were-er, you know-it felt...strange."
"Like it didn't feel right. There was something...something wrong about it."
Fluttershy sighed reluctantly. "Why don't you just talk to her about it."
"I guess I'm a little nervous." he admitted
"Talking it out with her would be better than staying unsure, don't you think so?"
"Yeah, you're right."
"Glad I could help," she said, smiling somewhat forcibly.
"Well, I'd better get going then. Twilight's probably waiting for me at the boutique." He turned and walked towards the door, Fluttershy following close behind. He walked out the door, stopping to pet a bemused Angel on the head. "See you later, Fluttershy," he said smiling.
Her heart skipped a beat. "Bye, Spike," she said, closing the door.
Angel shook his head.
Fluttershy's thoughts wandered back to the forest, and to what she saw from the bush she had been hiding in. What if he and I- Her cheeks were set aflame at the thought of kissing Spike. She gasped. "Stop it, stop it," she said, thunking her hoof against her forehead.
Angel smiled at her and raised an eyebrow.
She scrunched up her forehead and turned around. "Oh, go munch on a carrot."