The Price of Generosity- DRAFT
Darkness was all around her. She would hardly be able to make out her front hooves, only catching the slightest outline of their shadowy form, and that was when they were placed directly in front of her eyes. Her room felt small, the walls expanding around her as she pulled the blankets further up her body so the fabric brushed lightly under her chin. But the snugness didn’t scare her quite as much, for at the moment she wasn’t alone.
Sitting in a small chair beside her was Spike. His claw was gently resting on her hoof as he sang at a low voice.
“Some days feel like the rain will never stop,
when pain will sting the heart.
Some days feel like all hope is lost,
even if a light is in the dark....”
He paused and laughed, massaging his throat. “Sorry if my voice isn’t doing this song justice. It’s more difficult than I thought it would be.”
“I thought you sounded lovely.” Rarity said, her voice somewhat hoarse as she tried to hold back tears.
Spike laughed, “Thanks.”
“Will you please continue, listening to you sing that song is so calming.” Rarity reclined back further, her muscles relaxing as if she were receiving the highest quality of massages.
“Sure thing,” Spike chuckled, clearing his throat before he continued to sing.
“But even in your darkest days,
I pray you’ll consider this.
That maybe you’ll see,
Even when you feel alone,
That you’ll never be.”
Rarity turned away from Spike, biting her lip. She couldn’t let him know that she was crying, even in the darkness she feared he’d be able to tell by her soft whimpering. Her mind drifted back to the night it all happened, a night that had she not taken great action the warm hand holding her hoof would be cold and lifeless, as would the dragon who possessed it.
It was late autumn, and Rarity was enjoying one of her nightly strolls. Hardly anypony knew about them, she didn’t advertise that she left home to prowl around at night like some creeper. She further hid herself by wearing a black cloak, which gave her the appearance of a phantom stalking through Ponyville.
But she found that whenever she did so, she was able to release the stresses that had built up within her over the day from filling out various orders at her boutique to simply caring after her hoof-full of a sister whenever her parents dropped her off.
The air was brisk and refreshing, fitting for the season. Rarity trotted along under the starlit sky, every now and then gazing up at the crescent moon. She would have preferred a full moon, but a crescent one was just as welcome. With each breath she took, steam formed from her mouth and nostrils.
She had been walking for approximately twenty minutes and was planning on making her way back home when an ember glow crossed her vision. Looking up she saw what appeared to be smoke billowing in the direction of Golden Oaks Library. Her eyes widened in fright.
She galloped off towards the plume of smoke, ever-growing in the indigo sky. As she got closer to the library, she could feel her fur start to warm. The darkness gave way to an eerie mix of orange, pink and blue light, which intensified as she drew closer. She then found herself in front of the smoldering heap that had once been Golden Oaks Library. The entire top was engulfed in a spectrum of oddly-colored flames, dancing around majestically and twirling with such beauty that Rarity couldn’t help but admire it even though it was destroying her friend’s home.
Rarity was horrified by the scene, worried that her friends were inside. But then she remembered that Twilight was away, accompanying Celestia on her travels so that she could learn how to become a diplomat. Owlicious would most likely be outside hunting for rats at this time of night. This didn’t mean, however, that there were no occupants of the burning library.
“Ahhhh!” Shouted the familiar voice of a young dragon.
“Spikey!” Rarity screamed. She ran over to the door and flung it open only to be met with a massive cloud of noxious, sweet-smelling smoke. She started gagging, her eyes burning and watering. She started to see double, the world around her expanding and contracting as if it were breathing.
She wiped the wet from her eyes with the back of her hoof and squinted into the flaming library. Her cloak and exposed fur were already covered in ash, making her hesitant to go any further- If not for the mortal dangers that the fire presented, for the fashionable dangers it posed. But hearing Spike’s screams, she realized she couldn’t let her fears get the best of her. She knew very well the dangers that awaited her inside. Still, she took a deep breath, pulled her hood further over her head to protect her face, and bolted into the raging inferno.
Passing through the outer shell of colored smoke, Rarity started to gag. She scanned her surroundings around in a desperate attempt to find Spike. Books were burning to a crisp, the entire roof was engulfed in flames, making her nervous for the potential of a cave-in. She heard strange noises, like screams and laughter. Looking up, she saw what she thought was a cluster of books flying from the shelves. Their covers flapped like bats’ wings, their pages blowing around beneath them.
The books suddenly made a dive for Rarity. Screaming, the unicorn fell to the ground and covered her head, waiting for the screeching of flying books to pass her. But they never did. Shaking her head, she looked around. The only books she saw were burning ones; none were flying.
Shaking off the incident, she looked towards the stairs leading up to Twilight’s bedroom. They were crushed by flaming pieces of ceiling that had fallen onto it. There was a large hole in the stairs through which flames from the ceiling beams blazed. Normally this would have been a mere observation among the overall reality of the hell that she had brought herself into, but then she spotted Spike at the top of the stairs.
His eyes were wide his body was trembling. He was staring up at the towering flames with the utmost fear. It was as if he weren’t looking into the dancing, multi-colored fire. It was like he was looking into the jaws of some terrifying beast was looming above his cowering frame, threatening to pounce on him.
“No! That’s not me! Stop it!” He screamed. “Close your eyes, I can’t take it anymore!”
“Spike, hold on!” Rarity shouted. She knew that she was running short on time. The falling debris from the ceiling and the suffocating effects of the smoke made it essential that she act quickly if she were to get both herself and Spike out of the rapidly collapsing library in one piece.
Rarity focused her aura on the baby dragon and lifted him from where he stood. She ran closer to the stairs to meet him as she slowly lifted Spike over the flaming gap in the stairs and brought him down so he was directly in front of her. He was breathing was rapid, his eyes wide and his chest expanding and contracting rapidly. Quickly, she brought him close for a hug. Spike started to struggle.
“Gah! They’ve got me! Somepony help!”
“Calm down! Spike, it’s me! Rarity!” Rarity shouted to the wiggling dragon in her embrace. She pulled her hood back slightly to reveal her face. Spike looked up at her, and she grimaced when she saw his wild eyes, his body still trembling. Slowly, as the light shone upon his savior’s face to reveal her identity, Spike’s eyes grew even wider. But they were not wide from horror, they were wide from hopeful shock.
“Rarity?” Spike asked. “Is that...is that really you?”
Rarity gave Spike a comforting smile and nodded. A matching smile spread across the dragon’s face. He then wasted no more time before wrapping his arms around her in a tight hug. “Oh thank you! Thank you! You have no idea how grateful I am that you’re here right now!”
Rarity silenced him with a hoof. Spike looked up at her. “It’s all right. You’re okay.” Rarity said before her curiosity took over. “What were you screaming about up there, anyway?”
Spike turned and pointed up at the stairs, “There were timberwolves up there! I could see my reflection in their eyes. I was growing into an adult dragon! I was becoming a mon- “ Spike was interrupted when a massive, flaming beam came crashing down on the top floor, right onto Twilight’s bed. Both Rarity and Spike watched in horror.
“We have got to get out of here.” Rarity said.
Spike nodded. Both he and Rarity turned to leave. Debris started to fall all around them, blocking their path to the exit. The smoke started to grow so thick that the air became nearly un-breathable, and when Rarity did inhale she found herself entering her own deranged hallucinations: flying books, laughing furniture, and even what sounded like howls. She looked up to see what appeared to be transparent silhouettes with feral, green eyes approaching her.
Rarity started to feel exhausted, too weak to use her magic. All she could do was pull both of them towards the door, trying her best to avoid the flaming pieces of wood. She guided herself and the coughing Spike towards the exit. She tried to ignore the bone-chilling howls by convincing herself it was all her imagination.
“Rarity...Rarity” Spike moaned, coughing into his arm. “I hear the howls...the timberwolves...they’re coming for me...for us...”
“No Spike...you’re simply hallucinating. Come on, we’re...almost out of here.” Rarity said just as weakly, coughing in-between words. The howls grew more and more distant as they duo neared the door. Less bombastic hallucinations did continue, some flashes of rainbow-light crossed her vision, like tiny little versions of the tails Rainbow Dash left behind her when flying. But she paid these minor distractions in her mind no heed. They were almost home free, almost safe from the deathtrap.
But just as they were about to reach the exit, one final, massive part of the ceiling came crashing down directly above them. Taking notice and feeling her energy return for a brief moment, Rarity grabbed Spike and ran out from underneath the falling debris. She brought the dragon close to her body and wrapped him up. It didn’t matter that they were both out of range of the beams, it was instinct. Even the slightest chance of splinters being shot up at them when the beams made contact with the floor was enough for the unicorn to throw herself over the dragon.
Unfortunately, in Rarity’s case, the beams were not what she had to worry about.
A ball of fire shot up from impact and caught onto her cloak and fur, torching it to ash and scolding the unicorn’s back and the side of her face. She let out a howl of pain as she could feel her fur burn off of her body. Still she held onto Spike for dear life, even as the pain grew worse. She could hear Spike yelp a little before collapsing under her.
She quickly burst through the last wall of smoke with Spike to finally reach safety. Rarity instantly collapsed onto the soft grass and rolled around to extinguish the flames. She did so quickly, but even then the damage was already done. With the fire finally out, Rarity weakly lay on the ground, deeply inhaling the fresh, night air. Her body throbbed in pain, like tiny little bubbles were bursting all over her. But even in such pain, her mind was on one thing. Spike.
Rarity looked up with her good, left eye to find the baby dragon she had rescued. He was about a foot away from her, on his knees and gagging. But he was alive. His arms were wrapped around his stomach as he continued his coughing fit until his eyes rolled back and he fell forward. He was unconscious, but his breathing slowly started to steady back to normal.
“Spike,” Rarity whispered hoarsely, reaching out her left hoof towards him, her right one in too much pain to lift. She could hear sirens as the fire-ponies had finally arrived. Rarity watched as a wagon pulling up and a group of ponies dressed in stereotypically red uniforms making their way towards the downed duo. She looked back at Spike, who was moaning in his sleep. Suddenly the pain hit her like a ton of bricks, and her body grew weary, her eyelids heavy and consciousness leaving her.
Spike, she thought before finally giving in to exhaustion.
One of Twilight’s newer inventions, a self-perpetuating scribe, had been the cause of the fire. Before leaving on her journey, Twilight had created the device in order to record her observations overseas into blank books at home. Princess Celestia had given her a special quill that would allow her to take vital notes on her experiences- from meeting notes to journal entries- while the scribe at her library would receive information from said quill and copy whatever Twilight wrote in her home.
Unfortunately it had been overworked due to Twilight’s excessive notes and “short-circuited”. When this happened, sparks of magical energy shot off and caught onto some of the nearby drapes and books before spreading all over the library. It was due to the magical sparks that there was hallucinogenic smoke which caused Spike, upon waking up, to believe he was turning into a full-sized dragon, and why Rarity had seen the flying books and heard the imaginary howls of Timberwolves.
The white unicorn learned the details of this event nearly two days later upon waking up in a hospital bed.
“Now, on the Inside you should expect a full recovery. Your lungs look to be in good shape and the magic has worked its way out of your system nicely.” The doctor pony said with a slightly optimistic tone. He stood at the foot of Rarity’s bed. Rarity listened, though the pain medication had made her drowsy and caused her eyes to grow heavy. The doctor’s expression then turned somber. “But the outside is a different story entirely.”
“What do you mean?” Rarity asked, pulling the blanket closer to her like a young filly afraid of strange noises coming from their closet at night.
“You’ve suffered third degree burns on your face and body. When I remove the bandages where will be a significant amount of scar tissue, as well as many areas without fur. I’d like to say that it will grow back, but chances are it won’t.” the doctor continued.
The words were like daggers to Rarity’s heart. “So what you’re saying is that...I’m permanently disfigured? That for the rest of my life I’ll have to parade around with a scarred body?”
The doctor closed his eyes and sighed,“Over time some of the scarring might smooth out, but the majority of the damage will most likely permanent. I’m so sorry, Rarity.”
Rarity started to shake her head. “This is a dream...this has to be a nightmare.” Her breathing increased. She started to feel lightheaded and the doctor, knowing the signs of a patient going through vasovagal, quickly took action with the nurses, putting a cold compress to the exposed half of Rarity’s face and laying her back. The world around her started to spin like a wild ride. Then the world went black for a moment before she woke up, the doctors and nurses standing above her. Her blackout wasn’t long, a mere fifteen seconds, but it was enough to make her initially think that she had been dreaming.
Then she noticed the bandages covering her body.
She closed her eyes, convincing herself that by doing so, she’d wake up in her bedroom without a scratch on her body, realizing that it was all a dream. She imagined the relief she’d feel. But when she opened them to find herself still in her sweaty hospital sheets, the doctor and nurses standing around her, she started to weep.
Her depression persisted over the next few days. She hardly ate any of the food she was given, not that she was the biggest fan of hospital cuisine at any point in her life, but the fear she felt made it impossible for her to stomach more than a few bites before feeling queasy.
Eventually, the doctor stopped by and told her that it was time to get the bandages off she fought against it, too afraid to see what she’d look like. Too afraid of the truth. She even refused to look under the blankets at her body, though bandages covered the wounds there as well.
When all of her bandages did finally come off (the doctors decided it was best to do so in one-revealing rather than do it piece by piece) and Rarity saw her reflection, she immediately wished that the bandages were left on permanently. Every fear she had regarding the extent of her injury was realized.
Almost the entire back and right side of her body was nothing but scarred skin, not a strand of fur poking through for even the roots were burnt. While the left half of her face was virtually unscathed and showed the beauty she once boasted, the right half was as scorched as her body and puffy from the swollen skin.
She kept staring at herself in awe. But it wasn’t an awe that felt particularly good. It was an awe that left her wanting to burst into tears.
In her eyes she was a freak, disgusting and vile. Because of one selfless act, because she displayed her element of generosity to save Spike from the raging inferno of the library, her life as she knew it was gone, and her future endeavors became nothing more than a dream.
“It’s true...I’m...I’m hideous...” she squeaked through her dry throat, finally finding the strength to look away from her reflection.
“Now Miss Rarity, you look fine,” the doctor said reassuringly. “It might not be what you’re used to, but I’m certain that soon enough you’ll learn to love your new appearance.”
At these words, ‘new appearance’, Rarity turned away from the doctors and covered her face with her hooves, the right one pink and twisted from the burns. But she didn’t care about her hoof when her mind was fixated on the idea that she was nothing more than a twisted beast.
“How...how can I love my new appearance?” She said with a shaky voice. “How can anypony?”
There was a silence for a few moments, the only sound coming from Rarity as she continued to fight back the tears. But she couldn’t stop the tiny little whimpers from escaping her partially opened mouth.
“Would you like be alone?” the doctor asked. Rarity gave a small nod. She heard the doctor pony let out a sigh as he and the nurses he had brought in with him left. Once the door closed, Rarity turned herself over so she was back to laying face-up, staring at the ceiling. Her eyes were both as azure and elegant as ever, even if the right one was surrounded by twisted pink flesh.
But all she could see was what remained of her once near-perfect face. She felt as though she wore a mask, one that she was cursed to wear for the rest of her life. A mask that would greet her whenever she stepped in front of a mirror, and greet anypony that saw her. She managed to keep herself from sobbing, but she noticed her vision starting to fog. Still she stared up, tears dripping down the sides of her face.
For the next few days Rarity remained in the hospital, recovering both emotionally and physically from her injuries. In that time she received dozens of requests for visits, but only accepted Sweetie Belle and her parents (and only after the hospital staff convinced her she needed to speak with someone).
Her friends, including Twilight (who cut her travels short when she heard the news) had wanted to see her and on their first visit they entered the room only to have Rarity throw the sheets over her face and ordered them to leave. She told the staff to let her know when she’d get visitors from then on.
Several other ponies, including some reporters working for the Ponyville Express (who wanted to interview the hero that saved the baby dragon) stopped by the hospital to see her. Time and time again she’d refuse.
For a few days Spike was in a room down the hall from Rarity’s, mostly to make sure he was okay after inhaling so much magical smoke- much more harmful than it sounds- and to make sure a burn that he suffered on his arm would heal. Since he was a dragon, however, the latter was more precautionary than anything. Every now and again he’d stop by her room, the door almost always closed, and ask the nurse outside if he could enter.
Rarity told the nurse the same thing she told her when almost anypony else stopped by - not to let him in. In fact, she was even more adamant that he not lay his eyes on her. She liked to imagine Spike still looking at her as he always had, and how could he if he saw what she had become? She pleaded with the nurse not to let the little dragon in, even though her heart hurt saying such things.
The nurse would reluctantly walk out and tell Spike that she didn’t want to see him. She could hear him continue to try and convince the nurse to let him in, but she was resolute. He gave up and left. Rarity but down on her hoof from guilt before burying her face into the pillow, not caring about how much the cotton stung her tender skin.
Finally, the staff deemed that she was ready to leave. Unfortunately for them, Rarity didn’t share the same sentiment. She begged and pleaded to stay in the hospital, not wanting to go outside looking how she did.
After hours of persuasion, the staff was eventually able to coax her to leave by offering a paper bag with two holes for eyes. They seemed uneasy, but Rarity was so frantic in throwing the cover over her disfigured face she hardly took notice. She then allowed the doctors to check her out and she was free of the hospital.
Her parents and Sweetie Belle guided her home. Some ponies along they way stopped and stared, scratching their heads at the mysterious sight of a mare with a bag over her head. Rarity could feel her good cheek warm up, her scarred one still numb. Her head felt like a balloon, light and disconnected from the rest of her body. She wished her entire body felt like that, thinking then she could float away from the rude observers.
When they reached Rarity’s house, her mother approached her to remove the bag when Rarity stepped back, placing a hoof atop of it.
“Sweetheart you don’t have to be worried,” Rarity’s mother said, “we already have seen what you look like. It’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad!?!” Rarity shouted, feeling her rage start to grow. “Are you serious!?! My body is ruined and my entire future of owning a boutique and becoming a world-famous fashion designer is over! And you’re telling me it isn’t that bad!?!”
“Now who said you need your looks to be a good designer?” Rarity’s father asked only to get jabbed in the stomach by his wife. He looked at her and she scowled at him. “Oh, I mean not that you look bad. You look wonderful, Rarity.”
“Like magazines would really take a pony that makes her living enriching fashion, when her face is anything but fashionable?” Rarity pointed to her bag-covered head.
“But Rarity, just because you had an accident doesn’t mean you can never become a famous designer.” Sweetie Belle said.
Rarity looked down at her little sister. Her giant green eyes gazing at her like planets.
“Sweetie Belle, I appreciate your encouraging words. But quite frankly you don’t know the way of the world, especially Canterlot. Why I would be scored before I could even show them my first dress .” Rarity closed her eyes, sighed, and turned towards the stairs. “If you need me I’ll be in my room. Don’t turn the lights on if you come up to check on me, I want darkness.”
Before her parents or the now saddened Sweetie Belle could say anything else, Rarity trotted up to her room. She entered and slammed the door shut. She removed the bag from her head, but kept the lights off. She slowed the drapes so that the only light that was able to enter the room did so through a tiny gap in-between the two cloths. She hopped onto her bed and took the bag off of her head. She lit her horn up in a blue aura to create a light so that she could see. She lay on her side and gazed at her open closet. Inside she could see so many different kinds of clothes that she designed, that she came up with. Each was more unique and fabulous than the last, but it didn’t matter. They might as well have been burned; torched until they broke apart and turned to identical heaps of black ash.
It was early the following morning, just as the tips of the Sun’s rays finally started to break through the horizon. Rarity pulled herself out of bed and trotted over to the draped window. She pulled the velvet drapes back ever so slightly and peeked outside. Ponies trotted by her boutique, some smiled while others looked as though they were headed to their execution. Rarity sighed and let the drapes fall back over the window, extinguishing the sunlight, save for the same thin ray that always managed to slip through.
She got back in bed and lay down, not sure what to do. Should she get up and make breakfast? Should she stay in bed and mope around all day? She picked the latter.
Rarity closed her eyes, deciding that sleeping would make the day go by faster. Plus she was still extremely tired. She could feel her mind slowly starting to drift into the realm of subconsciousness when there was a light rapping at her bedroom door.
She sighed, “Mother, is that you? I thought you weren’t stopping by until later.”
“No. Actually, it’s me.”
Rarity’s eyes shot open as she recognized the voice. She sat up just in time to see the door to her room creak open, sending light through. Spike slipped through, pushing the door increasingly open so his body could fit through. As if a reflex, akin to flinching when somepony rears back a threatening hoof, Rarity quickly pulled a pillow out from behind her and held it up to her face.
“Spike, what are you doing! Close the door, you’re letting light in!” She screamed.
“Sorry, sorry.” Spike quickly kicked the door closed which shrouded the room back into the same darkness it had before. “I won’t turn on any lights or anything. Sweetie Belle told me all about your worries.”
Rarity nodded, lowering the pillow from her face and placed it back behind her. She was still worried about what her close friends would think of her, especially Spike due to the obvious affection he had towards her. The way he always lent her a helping hand when she needed an assistant, doing everything from digging diamonds in the fields outside of town, to handing her sewing and measuring supplies. Rarity suspected that if she had asked Spike to swim through ice-cold water he’d do so without hesitation.
The way he always looked up at her with a pair of tired-looking eyes and a blush in his cheeks. Though Spike never told her how he felt, he never needed to, it was all too obvious.
She should have been grateful that he was visiting her, and deep down she was. Unfortunately, on the surface her vain side was overwhelming and she found herself in a perpetual “woe is me” state of mind, fearful of the baby dragon seeing what had become of her. Worried that the compassion he displayed would vanish once the lights came on to reveal what a truly hideous creature she had become, only to be replaced by disgust, terror and, ultimately, rejection.
She remembered back to the day Spike had grown to the size of an adult dragon before going on a greed-fueled rage through Ponyville and kidnapping her. After he turned back to his normal self, as they were both plummeting to the ground, Spike wanted to tell Rarity something, but she silenced him with a hoof. She already knew what he was going to say, and saw no need for him to state the obvious. So all she did was smile with tears in her eyes as the baby dragon smiled back.
How could he possibly feel the same way about me now? Rarity thought as Spike slowly maneuvered over towards her side of the bed.
“You’re pretty good at moving without any light,” Rarity said.
“Well, when you have had to feel your way around the dark to get a midnight snack as many times as I have, it becomes second nature.” Spike laughed, now mere inches away from Rarity. The unicorn could barely see him in the dark, only the thin ray of light creeping through the blinds gave her a slight glimpse of the right half of his face.
Rarity didn’t chuckle. Leaning back against the pillow, she looked straight ahead with too much shame to even face the dragon that had come to visit her.
“Are you okay?” Spike asked, his voice filled with concern.
“What do you think?” Rarity asked with a sigh.
“Look, I know that you’re really upset about everything and...and I feel awful about it,” Spike’s voice started to crack, causing Rarity to, ever so slightly, turn her head towards him. “I could never pay you back for everything you did. You saved me in that house twice and in doing so you...you....” Spike swallowed hard before he started to cry. “It’s my fault. I’m the reason you’re like this. If I just didn’t imagine those timberwolves- ”
“Oh Spike,” Rarity said just above a whisper. She watched Spike’s arms reached out and hugged her right, pressing his face into her chest and crying.
“I’m sorry....I’m sorry...”
“Please Spike don’t blame yourself, what’s done is done.” Rarity placed a hoof under Spike’s chin and lifted his head up. She couldn’t see his eyes in the dark, but was certain that he was looking at her own silhouette. “And...and I would do the same thing again if given the chance.”
Rarity shuddered at the thought of running into the library a second time with the knowledge of the outcome, but deep down she knew that Spike’s horrified screams would bring her inside to rescue him. She cared about him, as the scars on her face demonstrated.
Suddenly Rarity was nervous, looking down as Spike clutched onto her still partially-bandaged torso. She moved back slightly, but Spike didn’t let go of her. She sighed, deciding that he couldn’t feel, or didn’t want to bring up, the obviously fur-free, exposed flesh in his embrace. Besides, feeling the warmth of his body against her own soothed Rarity and made her feel a bit more comfortable.
Spike released her and stepped back.
“Hey um...do you...do you like music?”
Rarity’s ears perked up slightly. “Music? Why yes, of course I do. What pony doesn’t? I mean, so long as it isn’t that “rock and roll” or “hip-hop” stuff I hear belting from Vinyl and Octavia’s house every day.”
“It isn’t,” Spike said, “anyway...I could” Spike swallowed nervously, “I could sing for you...if you want.”
“You? Sing? Spikey-wikey I had no idea you were such an artist.” Rarity said with a slightly teasing tone in her voice.
“Well I’m not that good, if anything I’m passable. I don’t sing often so I wouldn’t call myself an artist or singer but...”
Rarity chuckled, imagining the blush on Spike’s face. “Oh hush. You don’t need to elaborate dear. I’d love to hear you sing.”
Spike smiled and cleared his throat to start singing. Almost as soon as he began, Rarity’s jaw dropped in awe, his voice so much more enchanting than she could have imagined.
“I was alone, secluded from the world,
Nopony to be by my side,
But not now, not as I stand beside you,
Your warmth flowing through my veins.
Now if I’m alone, and I have nopony to turn to,
At least in my mind I’ll be with you.”
His voice was low and soft, matching the mood in the room. Rarity could feel herself start to smile. Her eyes started to water ever-so-slightly as the dragon continued to sing the song with a voice more gentle than the beat of a dove’s wings. He continued singing for about three minutes before he stopped.
There was silence in the room, neither of them moved a muscle. Rarity let everything sink in, her body still swimming off the dream-like effects of the song.
“That...that was beautiful,” Rarity said. “My word, I never would have guessed that you would have such a lovely singing voice.”
“Now I know you’re exaggerating.” Spike said with a small laugh.
“I’m not, Spike.” Rarity said, taking Spike’s hands into her hooves and slowly stroking the back of it. “Why if you ever did performances I’d go to each and every one..you know, if I could fashion myself a felt bag with eye-holes.”
“You don’t need to wear a bag,” Spike whispered. There was another silence that followed. The good feeling Rarity had slowly leaving her. She was reminded of her predicament, and felt like curling up and turning away from Spike. The silence persisted until Spike leaned back away from the bed and stood back up. “You know, I could stop by again tomorrow with a new song.”
Rarity smiled, “I’d love that.”
Over the course of the week, Spike made sure to stop by once a day, each time bringing a new song to perform to his shaded beloved. He also made a daily habit of trying to convince her to turn the lights on so that they could see each other face-to-face, but Rarity kept her adamant reluctance to revealing herself.
One day Spike finished his ballad and Rarity gave him her typical applause. The baby dragon took a humble bow in the darkness of the room.
“Well done Spike, another brilliantly performed piece.”
Spike stood back up and nervously rubbed the back of his head. “He-he, gee Rarity anymore compliments and my ego will be bigger than Trixie’s.”
“You should have a little more pride, you’re quite good.” Rarity giggled. “By the way, how have you been feeling?”
“Oh,” Spike held his shaded arm up to his face and shrugged. “Okay I guess. My cough was gone before I left the hospital, and my arm didn’t suffer too much damage. Besides, flesh and scales heal quickly on a dragon. If you look at it now there’s hardly a mark. What about you? How are you doing?”
“Same-old,” Rarity sighed. “Grotesque and truly unfit for public viewing.”
Spike sighed. Rarity felt him place a reassuring hand onto her side, “Please don’t talk about yourself like that. You could never be grotesque.”
“Easy for you to say, you haven’t seen what I look like,” Rarity said.
“Well I think it’s time that I changed that.” Spike said. Before Rarity could say otherwise, Spike reached out to her bedside lamp and pulled the string, lighting up the room. Rarity yelped and threw the blanket over her head to hide from Spike, her body shivering like a leaf as she pulled the blanket over herself.
“Come on, Rarity. You need to stop this.” Spike said, reaching out towards the blanket and taking it. “Please put the blanket down so I can see you.”
“No!” Rarity screamed back. “I’m disgusting!”
“Rarity I already told you that I would never think that you’re gross, please lower the blanket.”
“No!” Rarity said, pulling the blanket back against the dragon’s grip. She felt Spike gently pull at the blanket, trying to get her to lower it, but she pulled back. Soon both of them were tugging at the blanket like a rope, and Rarity felt herself start to get angry.
“Spike, let go!”
“No Rarity, this is for your own good!”
“Why can’t you respect my wish to not be seen?”
“You can’t keep this up, and I already said you don’t look-” Spike couldn’t finish his sentence for in that instant the sheet that covered his love was torn and he fell back on the ground while the bit of blanket covering Rarity fell off, revealing her scarred face. Spike shook his head and looked up at her. Before he could react, Rarity grabbed the pillow propped against her back and pulled it in front of her face.
“Rarity, I’m sorry I just- “ Spike started in a guilt ridden tone before Rarity cut him off.
“No, Spike!” Rarity said with a harshness she never expressed to the baby dragon. “I told you I didn’t want to be seen! You have lost your visitation privileges.”
“I was just trying to- “
“Get out of here!”
“Now!” Rarity roared, turning over while smothering her face with a pillow as tears streamed from her eyes. She listened as silence lingered in the room for about a minute before the door closed. As soon as it was completely shut and she heard Spike’s footsteps grow more distant, she couldn’t help but cry harder.
She wrapped the tattered remains of her torn blanket around her and continued to sob quietly. She left the light on, too weak from her break-down to muster the strength to roll herself over and pull the string.
There she lay, forelegs crossed over her chest, her eyes glassy as she let out tiny whimpers, shaking. Slowly she felt herself starting to get tired. Unwilling to fight it, and feeling angry at herself for snapping at Spike, Rarity let sleep claim her.
Rarity found herself deep in a dense forest. The sky was dark, the air silent save for the occasional wisp of prickling wind. Rarity shivered slightly as she walked, but it wasn’t chilly, rather unsettling. She felt paranoid, like someone was stalking her. The sounds of twigs cracking all around made Rarity spin, her breathing quick and heavy. But what she found was limited to thick vegetation. Still, the sounds of snapping persisted.
“Who’s...who’s there?” She asked, her voice shaky. “Show yourself! I’m warning you, just because I’m a lady doesn’t mean I’m weak and defenseless.”
As if to answer her call, the pounding of hoofsteps started to quickly approach her. In a panic, she bolted further into the forest. She had to escape the beast that was following her.
Suddenly her hoof caught onto a looping root and she fell face-first into the dirt. Scrambling up, she looked behind her to see a shaded figure with two glowing eyes making its way over to her. It wasn’t going fast rather it meandered as if it was savoring the look of pure fear in the mare’s eyes.
“S-stay back you beast!” Rarity shouted.
“I can’t stay away from you,” the monster snarled in a raspy voice, that was somewhat similar.
“Stop!’” Rarity sobbed, “Please stop, I can’t take this anymore.”
“Take what?” The beast asked.
“The running, the hiding...” Rarity answered, curling up. “The evasion, it’s all too much!”
“From me?” The beast asked with a sly, spine-tingling grin. It’s teeth glowed in the dark like two rows of pearls.
“No more...no more...” Rarity could see the beast standing above her, casting a dark shadow over her entire body. The air got chilly. She clenched her eyes shut as she listened to the sound of her own teeth chattering.
“Look at me.”
Rarity shook her head.
“Pretending that I’m not here will only keep dragging you into your little hole of self-pity. Look at me, Rarity.”
She didn’t want to. Every muscle in her body tense, unwilling to move. That’s when she felt a warm hoof on her shoulder. Slowly, she looked up to meet a pair of azure eyes. It was like looking into a mirror- if one’s reflection was living, breathing and independent. Slowly she stood up to see herself, her scarred, mutilated self, with half of her face charred and her torso red and seared.
Rarity’s fears slowly started to vanish. It wasn’t a monster, it was herself.
SHE wasn’t a monster.
The ‘reflection’ Rarity looked into Rarity’s eyes, “There, isn’t that better? To acknowledge me instead of running. To accept the truth instead of shrouding yourself in denial?”
“But...but...wha.....” Rarity trailed off in a drawl of confusion.
“You mustn’t keep running from yourself. In doing so, you’re pushing away those that care about you.”
Rarity looked down, “What if they don’t like me...anymore? I mean, look at me. Look at YOU.”
“I am you, darling.” The reflection said. “And you need to accept that. Sure you might have a few deformities- ”
“I’d hardly call half of my face and body being burned a FEW deformities- “
“All right, all right,” the reflection waved her hooves, “what I’m trying to say is that you can either let something trivial like your physical image define you. Or you can strive above it and show that you’re more than that. Who you are isn’t based solely on appearance.”
Rarity slowly nodded, suddenly feeling less and less self-conscious. Staring into the beast that she feared- herself- and hearing what she had to say made much of the depression, fear, self-pity, and anger she felt since getting the bandages off of her face leave. There she was, laying on the ground in front of herself, her hooves pressed into the soft dirt that was sprinkled with her tears. Wiping her eyes, she got to her hooves.
“You...you think everything will be okay?” She asked.
“I’m certain it will,” the reflection said with a smile, “but there’s only one way to be certain.”
The reflection gave Rarity a wink and trotted off.
Rarity turned, “Hold on! Where are you going?”
The reflection kept walking off as she answered. “Your dream is almost over and I think it’s best to recede into the background.”
“A dream?” Rarity asked in confusion before it hit her, “Wait a minute. This is a dream?”
“Yes, and its conclusion draws near.” The reflection replied, her voice no longer mimicking Rarity’s. It now had an even higher elegance, as if it belonged to someone of great power.
The reflection stopped, turned back and gave Rarity a smile. Suddenly, a dark blue light surrounded it as it grew in size and changed shape. When the light vanished, Rarity was no longer staring at herself, she was staring at Princess Luna.
“P-princess Luna...wha....” Rarity trailed off.
Princess Luna chuckled and gave her a small wink before launching herself into the air. Before Rarity could say anything else, the entire world around her started to rip apart- trees being pulled from their roots, wind rushing past her as she watched Luna fly above her.
“Remember what we have told you, fair Rarity!”
Rarity’s hooves left the ground and she felt herself flying high and towards the moon. She screamed as her surroundings got brighter and brighter.
“Gah!” Rarity yelled, flailing her hooves and sending the piece of blanket that still covered her into the air. She was panting, her fur and exposed skin matted with sweat. Standing above her with a very worried look on her face was Twilight, a small golden crown atop her head that she often wore while out in public. She wasn’t particularly a fan of doing so, especially since it made her stand out like a banana among a bushel of apples, but Princess Celestia encouraged it, saying that doing so was customary for a Princess. So she begrudgingly wore the crown.
To Rarity the sight was still surreal, having her friend become a Princess.
“Twilight...what are you...” she stopped as she realized that the lights were on and that her friend could see her clear as day. Panic returning to her, she reached out to grab the blanket and pulled it close but stopped, holding it just under her eyes. She looked down at the blanket, the shroud that had concealed her from others. She sighed and let it fall down, revealing her wounded body to Twilight. “What are you doing here?”
“Spike said you yelled at him when he turned on the lights,” she answered. “Why did you do that?”
Rarity let out a sigh, feeling guilty as she remembered how she exploded at Spike. “I guess I got a little carried away with my looks. It’s just that I’m just so ugly that I couldn’t bear to have anypony see me. Especially Spike.”
Twilight tilted her head, “Rarity, do you really think Spike would judge you based on appearance?”
Rarity shrugged, “I’m not sure, but I was too scared to wait and see. I wanted him to remember me as I was when he pined after me, not as I am now.”
Twilight sighed, “Rarity, there’s something you should know.”
Rarity closed her eyes shamefully, “What is it?”
Twilight swallowed hard and shook her head uneasily. “Spike would hate for me if he found out I’m telling you this.”
“Telling me what, darling?” Rarity asked, straightening her posture slightly.
Twilight took a deep breath, slowly exhaling before she looked back into Rarity’s eyes. “He’s known what you’ve looked like since he started visiting you.”
There was a pause. Rarity raised an eyebrow, not quite understanding what Twilight was saying, or perhaps so surprised by what she said that she was incapable of believing it.
“I’m confused, what do you mean he’s known what I’ve looked like? He didn’t see me in the hospital with my bandages removed, and the lights have always been off whenever he’s in here.”
“Exactly, Rarity. He’s a dragon, and dragons have eyes that can see in the dark better than ponies. Their vision might still be limited in darkness at long distances, but at the short distance Spike was from you, sitting at your bedside, he could see your appearance almost as good as he would have been with the lights on.”
Rarity stared in disbelief, her jaw hanging and her eyes wide. “So...he saw me yet he kept coming back?” Rarity’s voice started to crack a little.
Twilight nodded, “You know how Spike feels about you. Of course he’d come visit you every chance he got.”
“Even when I’m so appalling?” Twilight nodded. Rarity looked down at her hooves, nervously rubbing them against each other as she started to feel uncomfortable.
Twilight put a reassuring hoof into her friend’s scarred one, she also wrapped one of her newly-acquired wings around her friend, encompassing Rarity’s burned back and side. “Spike doesn’t care what you look like. Heck, none of us do. We just want you to be happy and healthy. Now that you’re out of the hospital, you’re halfway there. We just need to work on that other half.”
Rarity nodded. “I understand...and I appreciate it, really.” She smiled and sat up, swinging her legs off of the edge of her bed. She looked down for a moment, closing her eyes to let everything sink in.
She was exposed. Every disfigurement and scar could be seen. Yet it didn’t matter, because at the end of the day her friends would look at her no differently. The only one seeing her differently was herself, as Princess Luna had so eloquently demonstrated to her in her dream, if not a bit creepily so.
If that was even Luna, that is. Rarity still had her doubts.
She opened her eyes and looked up at Twilight, “Is Spike back at the library?”
“Yeah, and he’s pretty down.”
“I need to talk to him. Would he be mad if I showed up?”
“Of course not. He’s not angry at you, he just feels bad that you’re so down on yourself.”
Rarity nodded and hopped from her bed. Twilight stepped back, giving her unicorn friend some space. When her hooves first made contact with the carpet, Rarity felt her legs wobble a little. Clearly laying around for days on end with very little movement had left her with some muscle atrophy. Once she readied herself, she looked up with a newfound determination before trotting out.
She made her way down the steps, her heart beating faster and faster as she neared the door. Once she reached it, she stopped, too scared to proceed. In the brass doorknob she could see her reflection, and through the glass window of the door she knew that passing ponies could see her. But there was still a barrier between the two, and she was afraid to cross it.
She then felt something warm drape itself around her. She turned to see Twilight beside her, giving her an encouraging smile. She nodded to the door, “Go ahead, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Rarity turned back to the door, and took a deep breath. “It’s on, world.”
She pushed her way out and stepped into the bright sunlight. The air felt warm against her body, soothing almost. Ponies passed by her, some looking at her with confused expressions as if they didn’t quite recognize her. But once they did, their confusion was replaced by kind smiles as they nodded and went on their way.
Rarity was stunned. “I don’t believe this, why is everypony acting so friendly?”
“Ponyville might not be perfect in how they treat individuals that are different,” Twilight said, trotting beside Rarity, “but when you’re known as the mare that ran into a burning house to save my number one assistant, they’re typically willing to look past your superficial appearances and see you for who you are.”
Rarity smiled and looked around. She saw Caramel and Thunderlane pass by, each giving her a smile and nod. Lyra and Bon Bon passed as well, Bon Bon seemed to be in a grouchy mood- not out of the ordinary- while Lyra gave Rarity and enthusiastic wave. Even the sales pony Rarity knew as Davenport gave her a small wave and said “Glad to see you outside, Miss Rarity.”
“Thanks,” Rarity said, feeling her cheeks blush. She then felt all of her anxieties leave her.
“See, nothing to worry about.” Twilight repeated.
“You’re right,” Rarity took a deep breath, “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a certain dragon to apologize to.”
“Spike, are you in here?” Rarity stepped into the library. It was quiet and still showed damage from the fire. Repairs seemed to be coming along rather well (magic made fixing up even the most damaged building quick and easy, even if it was a tree), though the seared walls and still-smoky air served as a reminder of the past horror that occurred there many moons before.
Rarity was there alone as Twilight still had errands to run- or so she said. Deep down Rarity couldn’t help but feel that her alicorn friend made up an excuse to give her and Spike some alone time.
Rarity stopped at a charred, black spot on the wood floor near the entrance. It seemed to form a crescent moon shape, as if something obstructed the flames. She remembered it as the spot where she instinctively pulled Spike close to her to protect him from the falling beams, and in effect brought her fate upon herself.
She suddenly felt the burned side and back of her body heat up, memories of the flames spreading across her suddenly flowed back into her mind. With a shudder, she placed a hoof onto her side, flinching a bit in pain at the tenderness. She slowly massaged the area, trying to smother the ‘ghost-flames’
She opened her mouth to call out to Spike, but stopped herself. Fear gripped her, not only because of her looks but because of her pride. She still felt guilty for how she spoke to Spike earlier and going to apologize only intensified the butterflies she felt fluttering in her tummy. She trotted over towards the staircase, deciding that she should check on the second floor when her eyes caught sight of a book placed on the desk. She walked over to it and looked down. The cover read ‘Journal.’ Letting her snoopy side reveal itself, as she had before when rifling through Sweetie Belle’s saddle-bag, Rarity used her magic to open the book up to the first page. On it was written ‘Songs to a Beauty’ in black ink that looked as though it had dried only days before.
Her curiosity piqued, she turned to the next page to find narrow passages of neat writing, like that of a professional scribe. That wasn’t to say there weren’t scribbles here and there, marking places where old words had been substituted for fresher ones as if editing the draft of a novel.
But what grabbed her attention the most was the words themselves. Squinting, she read them aloud to herself.
“I was alone, secluded from the world,
Nopony to be by my side,
But not now, not as I stand beside you,
Your warmth flowing through me.
Now if I’m alone, and I have nopony to turn to,
At least in my mind I’ll be with you.”
The words had a certain familiarity to them, and as she read on she realized why. They were the lyrics to the song Spike had sung a few days before. But they weren’t printed, they were hoof-written, or hand-written. They were original.
She then turned the page to see the lyrics to the song that Spike sang the following day. She turned again to find the third day’s song, and the fourth’s, and so on until she was on the final page where a couple of new lines had been written. Lyrics to a song yet to be performed.
“Rarity, what are you doing-?” Came a familiar voice from behind Rarity.
Shrieking, the nosy unicorn slammed the book shut and turned around to see Spike standing behind her with a terrified look on his face, his cheeks bright red. “Were you...were you reading my book?”
“Spike...I um...sorry...I was just...” Spike looked away, his eyes closed and his face completely red. Rarity stopped her nervous diatribe and calmed herself. “I was just curious, Spike. I’m sorry.”
Rarity stopped for a moment. An awkward silence hung in the air. She then pointed towards the book. “Did you write all these lyrics yourself?”
Spike turned back, shaking his head.“No! I mean...well I kind of....” His face calmed to accepting his fate. He sighed and hung his head. “Yeah, I wrote them. I mean, I took inspiration from other songs I like, but these are my own.”
Smiling, Rarity trotted over to the baby dragon, who looked back up at her, “What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you didn’t want to be seen. I thought you were too self-conscious.”
“Well I didn’t, and I am.” Rarity took a seat beside Spike. “But I also know that if I keep moping around like some hapless invalid that keeps thinking ‘woe is me, I’ll never get anywhere’. Besides, I understand now that I have a wonderful group of friends who will never abandon me.”
“I can’t believe you doubted us at all,” Spike glanced critically at Rarity, like a father disappointed in his child. “We don’t care what you look like.”
“Yes, I understand that now,” Rarity said, looking into the face of the dragon who had sung to her every day since she had come to the hospital. “And I also wanted to apologize for how I yelled at you. It was wrong and totally uncalled for.”
Spike shook his head, “No, I’m sorry for forcing the blanket off of you. I should have been more understanding.”
“Yes you should have,” Rarity said. Spike looked away guiltily, when Rarity reached out and placed a hoof onto his shoulder. “But I’m glad that you weren’t.”
Spike looked up at her, his face lighting up as his smile returned. Rarity couldn’t help but feel her heart beat faster. This was the dragon that stuck by her side despite how clearly he could see her. He never judged her or drew attention to her appearance; he treated her the same as he always had.
“So...” Spike trailed off, rubbing the back of his head nervously.
“He-he, yeah.” Rarity added. Both of them looked at each other, smiled and started to laugh. Their laughter intensified until they both found themselves laying on the hardwood floor of the library. As their giggling fits slowed, they turned to each other. Spike gazed into Rarity’s eyes, showing the same affection he had when she had been whole. Even now, Rarity could see, with half of her face scarred, the little dragon loved her as he always had.
“You’re an amazing dragon, Spikey.” Rarity said.
“Yeah, well, it’s hard not to be when you’re such an amazing mare.” The dragon said with a goofy smile.
Before she could stop herself, she felt her lips moving closer to Spike’s. She could see Spike doing the same. His eyes stayed open, fixed on her. They made contact, lips pressed, eyes open and only centimeters apart, separated by the distance created by their noses.
Slowly they broke apart and looked at each other with half-closed eyes and content smiles. Both were breathing heavily, their cheeks red in ecstasy.
“That was nice,” Spike said.
“Yeah...” Rarity said.
Spike slowly reached out and placed his hand onto Rarity’s scarred cheek. “I love you so much, I know I haven’t said it, but I do.”
Holding back her tears, Rarity reached out and placed her healed hoof onto Spike’s arm, which she remembered as the one he had burned, even if it didn’t show it anymore. “I love you too, Spike.”
They scooted closer to each other so their bodies were touching. They then continued to kiss.
Meanwhile, in Canterlot, standing before a giant mirror, Princess Luna watched the two beings engage in their kiss, despite their appearances. Even though one was a dragon, and the other a scarred pony their love was true and pure- everlasting.
“Luna, what are you doing?” Princess Luna turned around to see Princess Celestia standing in the doorway, a plate with a slice of pink-frosted cake hovering in front of her.
“We are just checking up on our subjects, sister.” Luna said with a smile.
“Right,” Princess Celestia nodded before taking a mouthful of the cake. “If myou nweed mwe Iwll brwe in twhe twrowne wroom.”
Luna couldn’t help but smile at her sister’s hilarious attempts to speak with a full mouth. Celestia trotted out of sight and Luna turned back to the mirror, Rarity and Spike laying on the still-charred floor of the Golden Oaks Library, holding each other lovingly as her sister’s sun radiated off their bodies.