The Last Temptation of Spike
by "The Enduring Man-Child"
All standard disclaimers apply.
With thanks to my beta (who has asked to remain anonymous).
NB: This story takes place in the comics universe, right after the "Nightmare Rarity" arc.
The inhabitants of Ponyville were exhausted. They had just faced an attempted invasion by the remnants of the Nightmare that had once possessed Princess Luna when she was Nightmare Moon, along with its minions—hapless moon creatures who had also been under the Nightmare's control. But this time the vessel it had chosen to conquer its kingdom was one of the Elements of Harmony themselves.
Most ponies had returned home for a well-earned rest, but the Elements were still sitting on a grassy hillock staring up at the full moon. First on the left was Pinkie Pie with her ever-faithful Gummy not far away, then Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle. From the opposite end were Applejack and Fluttershy, and then the unfortunate pony whose ordeal had been the most harrowing—Rarity, the pony the Nightmare had chosen. To her side was her self-appointed knight in shining armor, and the one whose voice had reached deepest to retrieve their friend, the dragon Spike. He was enjoying this respite the most. He had been so afraid of losing Rarity forever. The idea of never seeing her again was to him even a more terrifying prospect than actual rule by the Nightmare. But here he was, by her side, and most wonderfully of all, her right foreleg was draped over him, clutching him to her.
Behind them Princess Celestia also gazed up at the night sky, happy at her sister's victory over the scars she had borne in silence for so long.
"Are any of you injured?" the Princess asked finally.
"No way!" Rainbow Dash answered brashly, "it was nothing we couldn't handle!"
"Especially considering we spent most of the time imprisoned," Twilight added with a chuckle.
Celestia approached Fluttershy. "And how about you, my dear?"
"Oh," the shy pony said in her usual soft voice, "I was scared, but I'm fine now. We're all safe so it's okay. Thanks for asking, though."
"Actually, Spike here did most of the heavy liftin'," Applejack said.
"He sure did!" Pinkie Pie agreed, as happy as ever, Gummy's toothless jaws clamped tightly on her buoyant mane.
Celestia turned to the two figures huddled in the middle. "And you, Spike? Do you need any medical attention?"
Spike didn't answer. His eyes were clenched shut, a smile of pure bliss on his dragon lips. Celestia took that for his answer.
But then came the one who had suffered most. Celestia felt an almost alien reluctance as she approached Rarity.
"Rarity? How are you faring? Do you need medical attention?"
It was a while before Rarity answered. The Princess knew this was not due to impoliteness but to exhaustion.
"No, your Highness. I'm just so elated to finally be back."
"Well," Celestia pointed out, "not all wounds are physical, and I am afraid yours may be very deep. You have had a very dark and painful experience. Would you like to spend the night at the castle?"
"No thank you, your Highness," Rarity answered, "though I truly appreciate the offer."
"Perhaps you and your sister would like to spend the night with one of your friends? I am sure they would all be happy to have you." The other elements all smiled, indicating their willingness to host them.
"As I would be happy to stay with any one of them, your Highness. But," she added with some thought, "after what I've been through, what I most desire is to go home and look after my sister. Home is the best place of all, and that is what my heart yearns for most right now."
"Very well," Celestia agreed, "But please remember, my dear, that I am here if you need me. Please do not hesitate to turn to me or to your friends should you find yourself suffering aftershocks from this dreadful experience. Meanwhile, when my sister returns I will ask her to keep a very close watch over your dreams for a while so that you may recuperate with no fear of being haunted by nightmares."
"Thank you so much, your Highness...and all of you, my good friends. You are all the lights that brighten my life. And again, I am so sorry for having doubted you."
It goes without saying that Carousel Boutique was closed for a while—but then, so were the other businesses in Ponyville as the residents rested up after the attack by the Nightmare. After a couple of days the other Ponyville residents began paying visits to Rarity to make sure she was all right and to let her know that no one blamed her for what happened. When these visits thinned out her fellow elements also called on her. So far there appeared to be no ill effects. Even Sweetie Belle was considerate enough (or perhaps too exhausted) to cause her much trouble. It would be just like Rarity's parents to pull out of town on another of their never-ending vacations just as all the trouble started! Anyway, it was during this time that Twilight Sparkle spoke the words that sent Spike's heart beating like mad.
"Spike, I know that you were the one who worried about Rarity most. Why don't you take the day and go visit her by yourself? I know you've been wanting to so badly, but you've been a good dragon and said nothing about it."
"R—really?" he asked, trembling with excitement.
"You did the most to save her," Twilight acknowledged. "Go spend some time with her."
The speed with which Spike evacuated the library led Twilight to wonder if he had suddenly learned to teleport. Spike had the same perception, as he suddenly found himself in front of Rarity's door, his claw shaking as he prepared to knock. This mystified him a bit, as he hadn't been this nervous around Rarity in a long time. It was as if he were introducing himself to her all over again. He swallowed the lump in his throat and knocked.
After a moment the door opened slowly revealing Rarity in all her entrancing beauty. Her eyes lit up when she saw who it was and she exclaimed "Spike darling! I'm so glad to see you by yourself this time! Please do come in." He gladly obliged, though he noticed the anxiety was back.
She led him through the main room of the boutique to one of the workrooms (Rarity had no "living room" per se, her living quarters consisting of her and her sister's bed rooms, a kitchen, closets, and bathrooms) and pointed out small couch against the wall.
"Now you wait here while I get us some refreshments," she said. "I'll have some tea. What would you like? Perhaps some cola?"
"That sounds wonderful," Spike answered, rejoicing in the intimacy and informality of it all. He found his nerves settling even as an oxymoronic state of relaxed euphoria began to spread throughout his body.
"Wait right here!" she said in that delightful trill, and was gone.
Spike took advantage of the moment alone to think. Right now he was just so happy to have Rarity back and to have a friendship this close to her that he almost didn't care if they two of them did not end up being together forever.
"Here we are!" Rarity's voice broke him out of his reverie and he turned to see her pulling a small cart topped with a tray behind her with her magical field. She sat beside him and drew the cart up close with some steaming tea on her side. On Spike's side were a glass with iced cola and, to his surprise and delight, a bowl of baby sapphires. "An extra treat for you after all you've been through," she explained.
For a while they sat in silence and enjoyed their treats. After they had finished there was still a lingering silence which Spike didn't know how to interpret. Rarity actually looked a little anxious and seemed to avoid looking directly at him for a bit, but before any fears could take hold she turned to him and announced, "Spike, I have two things I simply must say to you at once."
Spike's stomach filled with butterflies. Was this good or bad?
"First of all," she began, embracing him, "Thank you so much for all you did for me. All my friends helped, but you...you helped most of all. Something you said at the end..."
Spike turned red. He recalled his words: You mean the world to me. Please come home.
"I think that's really what broke that horrible thing's power," she said. "What you went through for my sake, I shall never be able to repay. But please know that I am grateful beyond words and that you have a special place in my heart where no other pony—or any other creature—dwells."
Spike was practically floating.
"The second thing," she said, again becoming nervous and suddenly looking at everything in the room except him, "is...is...I'm so sorry!"
At this point she didn't just embrace him, she hugged him to her with a force that rivaled one of Pinkie Pie's notorious bone-breakers. Not only that, but she put her head on top of his...and the tears began to flow.
"R—Rarity..." Spike said at last, "what's the matter? What are you sorry for? Why are you crying? You didn't do anything wrong!"
"I...I know that I didn't, strictly speaking...but...but I saw, Spike!"
"You saw?" he asked. He was thoroughly confused.
She nodded. "What that horrible thing did to you!" she explained. "I saw the whole thing. How it assumed my appearance and offered you an eternity of ruling by 'my' side as 'my' king. And...and you were so happy! It was your dream come true! You wanted it so badly. But it wasn't really me. It was that monster!" Her tone turned absolutely acidic.
"I know that, Rarity," Spike comforted her. "I knew it wasn't really you. That's how I was able to resist. Living eternally with something that only looks like you but isn't you isn't my dream. That would be a nightmare!" He slapped his claw to his mouth over his poor choice of wording.
"I see that now," she said, "but I don't think you understand...I saw and heard everything! And I couldn't do a thing about it! I tried calling to you to tell you that thing wasn't me, but I couldn't utter a sound! I wanted so much to give you strength but I couldn't. It was horrible." She made a most unladylike sound as she blew her nose onto a tissue she had magicked over. "But you didn't need me. You were strong enough on your own. You are strong. Without any help from me." She sounded particularly dejected as she said the last part.
Spike smiled and his eyes seemed to glow. "But that's where you're wrong, Rarity. You did help me."
"The reason I was able to resist...I thought of you. The real you. And it made me strong. That's the reason I didn't get totally zapped and let that thing have me."
"It is?" she sniffled.
"Yeah. Besides, you kinda zapped me first," he said, blushing. "I don't think anything will ever be able to undo that."
Rarity fairly glowed. Even more than usual.
"Thank you again, my dear Spikey. Once again my insecurities got the better of me, but you...you actually dispelled them. I don't think anyone has ever been able to do that before."
Spike grinned again. Then his expression changed to puzzlement.
"I don't get it, Rarity," he asked, "what do you have to feel insecure about? I mean, you're a great businesspony; you're the best seamstress around; you're one of the Elements of Harmony! Not to mention that you're the most beautiful creature in the entire world!" Hearts appeared in his eyes as they usually did when he described his crush. "Every stallion in Equestria is probably in love with you!"
Once again his claw went over his mouth. Way to kill the mood.
Rarity at last ended the embrace and dried her eyes. She even managed a small smile.
"Oh Spikey," she said, "you have such an idealized picture of me in there" (she tapped his head affectionately). "You've always seen me through a romantic haze. To you I must seem like some sort of irresistible enchantress who casts a soul-enslaving thrall on whatever unfortunate male happens to fall beneath my baleful gaze."
Spike tapped his cheek and pondered. "You mean you're not?" he asked.
"No, Spikey. I'm not," she said. She sighed and continued. "You have no idea how consumed with insecurities and self-doubts I am."
"But why?" His tone indicated that he simply could not fathom this.
"Look at me," she said at last. "I'm just a seamstress. That's all I do. I mean," she continued, pausing to draw a breath, "Twilight may be the most magical unicorn to have ever appeared in Equestria; goodness knows what lies ahead for her in the future. And Rainbow Dash? Her boasting is admittedly insufferable, but I must admit that she truly is every bit as 'awesome' as she claims to be. She's the only pegasus to perform a sonic rainboom, and she's done it multiple times! Applejack is not only the strongest of our little group but runs an entire form while taking care of a family; plus she is the economic backbone of our entire town and much of this part of the country. Fluttershy," she continued, "aside from her unique ethereal beauty, exudes an almost supernatural kindness and can actually communicate with animals! All living things seem to be instinctively drawn to her."
"Except for the animals in the Royal Canterlot Gardens!" Spike pointed out.
"Oh my! You're right! I'd forgotten about that."
"What about Pinkie Pie?" Spike queried.
"Pinkie Pie, in addition to being an excellent confectioner, is a force of nature," Rarity observed. "Even Celestia herself probably doesn't know how she does some of the things she does."
"Hey!" said Spike, "Maybe Pinkie Pie is actually a nigh omnipotent creepy extradimensional being who exists eternally outside the universe itself as a series of pulsating lights and who merely assumes the form of a pony here with us in Ponyville because she likes us?"
"Oh come now, that's just an old mare's tale," she responded. "If you ask Pinkie she'll be happy to tell you that she's only a pink pony born on a rock farm just outside Ponyville. At least that's what she told Sweetie Belle," she added, more to herself than to Spike.
"But I still don't see why you should doubt yourself any more than any other member of the gang!" Spike resumed. "Besides, you should see Twilight when she gets worried about failing a test!"
"Twilight's worries do not change who she is, dear," Rarity answered. "Just as my pretensions don't change who I am—a plain old Ponyville unicorn born to a middle class family ridiculously satisfied with its lot in life. If it weren't for that charm tutor my parents hired when I was a foal I'd no doubt be just like them...do-an't cha know-ah?" She let her sophisticated accent drop so her original Midwestern brogue could slip through, which Spike thought was absolutely adorable.
"That's probably where those pretensions began," she continued to explain. "Hence my preoccupation with fabulosity and sophistication. Hence my absorption with externals and my vaunted career as a fashionista, when in reality I am merely a small town pony who sews for a living while flattering myself that I am really on the way up from my utterly mundane and ordinary existence. No rainbooms, no communicating with animals, no coaxing acres and acres of apples out of the earth, no special magical ability."
"And no Pinkie stuff," Spike added helpfully.
"Oh yes. Most of all no Pinkie stuff."
There was a short silence while both looked at the floor before Rarity continued.
"So you see now how shallow and pathetic your 'goddess' actually is. Do my affections seem so desirable now?"
Spike steeled his countenance. "Yes, Rarity. They do. You're still the most beautiful creature in existence as far as I'm concerned, and you always seem confident and sophisticated, however you may be feeling at that moment. Second, the element of generosity chose you, just as the other elements chose our other friends, and you were caught in Rainbow's first sonic rainboom just like the rest of them. Third, all our friends have their own insecurities and self-doubts; I've seen them plenty of times. And fourth: you're as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside. Believe me; I wouldn't say that if it weren't true. And that's a very rare quality," in concluded, seeming to miss the near pun he had just made.
Rarity's face glowed at his words. She gave him another embrace, this one not a romantic one but rather one indicating the very deepest of friendship and gratitude. Then at last she looked at him again, a small scowl appearing on her visage, much to Spike's dismay.
"Very well. You've been such a comfort to me today that I feel I will soon be back to my old self and be able to re-open the shop. But all this leads us to one final puzzle: what does this mean for us?"
Spike swallowed a gigantic bundle of nervous fear that came bubbling up from his stomach. Uh-oh he told himself. So far this has been the greatest day of my life, but I always knew it was too good to be true. Here's where she lowers the boom.
"I've known about your feelings from the very beginning, of course," she told him, "and though I was flattered I said nothing simply because I didn't quite know what to do with you.
"There have been basically three problems: first, I've always had this idealized image of the perfect stallion who would one day gallop into my life and sweep me off my hooves. Needless to say, this problem is not a very big one because, in all honesty, despite all my dreams it seems to be taking its own sweet time to come true. Indeed, so far my limited 'serious' experience with stallions has been, quite frankly, very bad. And I've come to see that every thing I ever desired in a 'dream stallion' you have 'in spades,' as they say. So, without the other two problems, there would be absolutely no question that you are the one for whom I have been waiting all my life—my true knight in shining armor. Or scales, if you will."
This compliment combined with his knowledge that there were still impediments to a relationship between them created a strange combination of emotions within him.
"And the other two?" he managed to say after a while, with some difficulty."
"The second is the species issue. Now, don't give me that look, my young dragon! As a matter of fact, I have actually been doing some research on this issue, and it turns out that while there are no known cases of dragons mating with earth ponies or pegasi, dragon/unicorn unions have actually occurred. They're not common by any means, but they are not without precedent."
Spike's heart dared to let go the breath it was metaphorically holding.
"Which brings us to the third issue, and the only one left standing in our way, which is, I'm afraid, a little more knotty than the first two, and that is the age difference between us. Now I know that a 'baby dragon' is not at all comparable to a 'baby pony,' and that dragons age very slowly because of their great lifespans, but I'm still not certain in what chronological category we are to each other."
Spike's face fell. So he was right. It was too good to be true.
"Now, now," Rarity reacted, "let's have none of that. Didn't you just hear me say that despite the differences in aging dragons and unicorns have made families together? This problem just needs a bit of study; for example, learning what the age ratios of previous dragicorn couples has been. And don't forget that we have friends in the princesses who rule this land and in the most powerful unicorn in Equestrian history—whom you just happen to live with. We'll find a way, my darling. I promise you."
Hearts exploded in Spike's eyes. This was too good to be true...this was his dream come true. Even if he had to wait for a while.
"I...I never hoped to hear you say such things to me," he confided.
"As I said, Spike, though the package is a bit of a surprise, you are everything I've ever wanted in a stallion," she reminded him. "And your devotion to me has been so true and so pure; I don't think I've ever seen its like outside of corny romance novels. Did you really think I wouldn't notice? No, darling. We have a few problems to solve, but I could never break your heart. Because you gave it to me so very long ago."
"So...I can officially stop being nervous now?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes, Spikey. You can stop being nervous," she assured him.
"Please, Rarity," he said, his grin threatening to cut his head in two, "say it. Say the words...the words you know I've been dying to hear from you since the day I first saw you."
"Oh...must I?" she huffed in feigned reluctance.
"Oh, very well then." She widened her eyes as much as she could (which was considerably, by the way) and threw out her front hooves in "ghost story" mode. "Be not afrain, hapless male! Woooooooooooooo!"
They both laughed at that and then merely sat staring at one another for some time.
"Well, would you look at the time?" Rarity said, glancing at the clock on the wall, "I really need to get you home. I think I shall reopen the shop tomorrow—no, no—the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow I shall come to the library and we shall begin our research. Now I can only afford one day during the week off, but I shall take one. Saturday, perhaps? No, no—Saturday is too inconvenient for my customers. Ah...Wednesday! That should be about right!"
Spike briefly awoke out of his trance to see that Rarity had used her magic to float him onto her back, which he found slightly embarrassing.
"Rarity? You don't have to do this. It's still morning. I can..."
"Not another word! I've spent the past week shut up in here while my friends have come to comfort me. I need to go out and get back into the swing of things again! Besides...you're not heavy!"
The residents of Ponyville stared as Rarity at last emerged from her safe refuge, and even more at the little purple dragon on her back. In no time they were at Twilight's library where Rarity made arrangements to have some books on a very specific subject ready for the next day. And as she said good-bye she told Spike, "All right now. I'll see you tomorrow, Spikey-Wikey. Remember that you're welcome at the boutique any time, and that I expect to be taken out once in a while. I want to show you off, after all!"
After she left Twilight gave Spike a congratulatory hug and the night off.
His sleep that night was the sweetest he had ever known.