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The land of Equestria, Rarity had learned, was a land in which one simply could not predict one’s future with any accuracy. There would always be something unexpected. Something far out of the realm of normality. Something that would, if not change one’s path, at least reroute it significantly.

Rarity herself, in fact, was a perfect example of this. Her younger self could never have guessed that she would meet Twilight Sparkle, temporarily wield one sixth of the Elements of Harmony, have her life made completely (though wonderfully) chaotic by her five best friends...

And she definitely, most assuredly, could never have predicted Spike.

Rarity cast a sidelong glance at the teenage dragon who was trotting down Ponyville’s main street next to her. To think that she, once so enamored with the idea of marrying into royalty, should end up falling madly in love with a dragon who possessed no title at all! True, he did possess all the other qualities of the noble beau she’d imagined: chivalry, wit, kindness, and above all else a deep well of devotion and adoration that seemed inexhaustible...

Well, when she phrased it like that, it wasn’t so strange after all, was it? After two months of dating, he was still revealing new good qualities to her. In retrospect, it might only have been his youth that prevented her from returning his affections from the start, and now that that obstacle was gone, they were blissfully, euphorically happy together.

At least, she was.

Spike glanced over at her, tilting his head when he noticed her gaze on him. “What?”

“Oh, nothing,” Rarity purred. “Just admiring my ever handsome drakefriend.”

His reaction was not what she had hoped. Usually Spike responded to her compliments with a bashful grin and an adorable blush—which, of course, was part of the reason she was so generous with them. But today his smile seemed forced, his eyes tight. He chuckled awkwardly and looked away again.

Rarity’s heart sank, and she dropped her gaze to the ground beneath her. Still acting strange.

He’d been oddly distant for a little over a week. When the ever-energetic number one assistant of Ponyville went quiet, everypony noticed, but she saw the depth of it perhaps more than anypony else. She’d hoped an impromptu lunch date would help to ease whatever was troubling him, but even showering him with more affection than usual didn’t seem to be working. How could she bring back that shining smile she so adored?

“Oh, hello there, Rarity!”

“Oh!” Jarred out of her thoughts, Rarity looked up again, greeted with the sight of two of her dearest friends. “Good afternoon, Applejack, Fluttershy.”

Applejack tipped her hat in greeting. “Hey there, Rarity. You alright? You’re lookin’ a bit under the weather.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Is it about Spike? Is he still feeling down?”

Rarity winced, swiping one hoof across her neck in a cut-it-off gesture. “Shhhhh!” she hissed. “He is right here!”

Applejack snorted. “Actually, he ain’t. Ya left him behind ‘bout half a block back.”

“What?!” Rarity spun around with far less grace than she would care to admit. Sure enough, Spike had stopped walking with her at least a minute ago; he was standing in front of the local bookstore, staring intently at the display window.

“I guess that’s a yes, then...” Fluttershy sighed.

“Most assuredly.” Rarity shook her head, turning back to the others. “I’m so sorry, darlings, but I cannot rest until I find some way of easing my beloved dragon’s troubles.”

“Well, of course you can’t.” Applejack patted her on the back. “Good luck, alright?”

Fluttershy leaned in to give her a quick hug. “Yes, and if we can do anything to help...”

“If I find any way you can assist, I shall let you know immediately. Thank you both so much.”

With those parting words, Rarity trotted toward Spike once again. Her hooves slowed as she approached him. The expression he was wearing was... heartbreaking. Pain and fear mingled together, so intense that Rarity’s heart ached in sympathy. What in Equestria was the matter? “Spike?” she ventured, gently touching his shoulder with a hoof.

The dragon jolted, turning toward her. “Rarity! I—uh—s-sorry, I got distracted.”

“So I saw. Spike...” She brought her hoof up to his cheek, softly caressing his scales while her eyes searched his. “What’s wrong, darling? You’ve been so quiet lately...”

Spike shook himself as if shaking off water, then gave her another of his forced smiles. “Nothing’s wrong! I’m fine, I promise.”

Rarity frowned. “Spike, you are clearly not fine. Please, talk to me...”

That seemed to be the wrong thing to say. Spike scowled and leaned back. “I said I’m fine,” he insisted. “There’s nothing to talk about, okay?”

An unladylike sigh of frustration escaped Rarity’s lips. As much as she loved him, that cursed pride of his could be infuriating. “Very well. I think we ought to call it a day. We both have so much to do, after all.”

His frown cleared, at least, but no happier expression was in line to replace it. “Oh. Yeah, probably.” Spike pecked her on the cheek and started down the street to the library, tail dragging in the dirt behind him. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Yes, later. Good day, Spike.”

Once he was out of sight, Rarity turned her attention to the bookstore’s window. Desperate for any clue she could find, she scrutinized the display in search of the item that had so devastated her dragon. A sample unit of the new enchanted book reader... No. A rack of trashy tabloids, each boasting the best and newest gossip... Definitely not. An adventure novel by one of A. K. Yearling’s many imitators—

Rarity froze at the sight. It was a simple display, as they went. A table stacked high with copies of the book, and a blown-up poster of the cover illustration hanging above it. “Manetana Smith and the Scales of Serpentra,” it was titled. The cover consisted of the heroine, an earth pony mare wearing a fedora and wielding a whip, and behind her, wings spread dramatically...

A fierce, beautiful female dragon.

------

That night, after the chores and tasks of the day were done, Rarity found herself staring into her bedroom mirror.

Her mirror image stared back unhelpfully, offering her no new insights.

She had never before considered the difference between female ponies and female dragons. She’d never even seen a dragoness that she knew of, much less thought to compare herself to one. But now she was, and she didn’t like the way the comparison was turning out.

Rarity was beautiful. This was not a prideful boast, merely a statement of fact. She had been blessed with a natural beauty, and she’d carefully tended to that beauty as the years passed. No one would deny that she was attractive... by pony standards.

But dragons were different. That dragoness in the poster had been sleek, slim, and sinuous, whereas Rarity was all curves and softness. (In fact, she noted with some dismay, she appeared to have put on a couple of pounds recently.) In a beauty pageant judged by dragon standards, it seemed she wouldn’t even qualify to compete.

Could this be what was bothering Spike? As a youth, he’d never been shy about proclaiming her beauty to anypony who would listen, and she had blindly assumed that he would always stay the same. But things changed. Tastes changed. Now that he was older... What if he had realized that it was a dragon he wanted, not a pony? What if... The very idea was almost too horrifying to imagine, but...

What if he didn’t find her attractive any more?

Viewed through that lens, everything suddenly made a disturbing amount of sense. If Spike was no longer attracted to her—perhaps, even worse, falling out of love with her—of course he’d be upset. He was far too sweet and caring to enjoy the thought of hurting her by breaking up with her. And of course her idea of taking him out on a date hadn’t helped the matter! It had only reminded him of the terrible decision he knew he had to make.

There was nothing else to do. She had to let him know that she knew, part ways with him amicably, and then everything would be fine. Rarity nodded at herself in the mirror.

And then she sank to the floor with a wordless moan of despair and sobbed into her forelegs.

Of course everything wouldn’t be fine. She loved Spike. No stallion had ever made her feel the way he did. She’d never before felt so loved, so adored, so much like the princess she’d always wished she was. She couldn’t bear the thought that she would never again feel his claws comb through her mane, or feel the scales on his cheeks warm up when she kissed him...

After a few minutes of misery (with Opalescence hovering over her, unsure whether to comfort her or hide until it blew over), Rarity composed herself and wiped away the tears. Wallowing wouldn’t do anything to fix the situation. There was still time. She might be wrong about Spike’s feelings, and even if she wasn’t... “I can’t just let this happen,” she said aloud. “I have to do something to win him back!”

But what? It would take an unhealthy amount of weight loss to mimic the sleek, skinny look of the dragoness, and she couldn’t, wouldn’t do that to herself, even for Spike. She was a pony, not a dragon, and there was nothing that could change that.

Or was there?

------

The next night, green flames floated into the post office, where Rarity was sending some last-minute packages, and dropped a letter into her waiting hooves. The note said simply, “Is the offer to talk still open?” A mixture of dread and hope rushed through her. This would most likely be Spike’s attempt to break things off, but it was also her best chance to change his mind.

She quickly dashed off a reply: “Always. Let us meet at the boutique as soon as possible.” Ditzy Doo took it with great solemnity and flew off to make the delivery, and after giving her several minutes to complete her task (plus several more minutes’ allowance for getting lost), Rarity ducked out into the night and made for the same destination. The trip was mostly uneventful; at one point she thought she saw Spike, and she ducked behind a building to hide, but it turned out to only be a stallion with a similar coloration. Soon she was at the library doorstep, working up the nerve to enter.

As the door opened, Twilight Sparkle looked up from a large, dusty tome resting on the center table. Her eyes widened. “Rarity? What are you doing here?”

Rarity smiled winningly, batting her eyes. “Good evening, Twilight. Is Spike here at the moment?”

“No... Spike is on his way to the boutique.” Twilight leaned against the table, resting her chin on her hoof and frowning thoughtfully. “Which is where I thought you were supposed to be. What’s going on?”

“Ahahaha, yes, about that...” Rarity crossed the room to settle in next to Twilight. “Before I meet him, I was hoping you could help me with something.”

“Of course! I’ll do whatever I can, you know that.”

“Thank you, darling. You see, I hoped... I was wondering if you could...” Rarity felt her cheeks heat up, and she took a deep breath to steady herself before finishing. “I need a spell that will... transform me into a dragon.” The last few words came out all in a rush.

For just an instant, Twilight stared at Rarity, mouth slightly open. Then: “Pf-hah!!” She slapped her hooves over her mouth, but it was too late. The laugh had escaped.

Twilight!” Rarity cried, cheeks now as red from anger as they were from embarrassment. “What exactly is funny about that?”

Twilight shook her head frantically. “Nothing, nothing! I-I just, I, uh, remembered a funny joke Pinkie told me this morning.”

Rarity’s eyes narrowed. “Is that so?”

“Yes. Yes, it is.” Twilight had a straight face on again, and if it was a facade, Rarity couldn’t see any cracks. “But to answer your question... I do know of a spell like that.”

All thought of laughter was instantly blown away. “You do?!” Rarity gasped, leaning forward over the table.

Twilight flipped a few pages in her grimoire and nodded, pointing to the page. The runic text was incomprehensible to Rarity, but she trusted her scholarly friend not to steer her wrong. “That’s right! I just discovered it in my research today.”

“Really?” Rarity sighed with relief. “Oh, how wonderful! What a lucky coincidence that was!”

“It really was,” Twilight agreed. “So I’m guessing you want me to cast this now? So you can meet Spike as a dragon?”

Rarity cleared her throat and smiled apologetically. “If you wouldn’t mind, dear.”

“Not at all! It’s a fascinating spell. Challenging, but in a good way. This author employs ordinary transmogrification runes in an ingenious way. I’ve never seen—”

“Er, Twilight? Darling?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Twilight hopped to her hooves, lifting the tome up with her. “If you could stand in the center of the room for me?”

With no small amount of trepidation, Rarity stepped away from the table, tossing her mane back and standing tall. As Twilight summoned an illusionary magic circle around her and she felt the energy curl around—and then into—her body, she closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe normally. Once Spike saw her as a beautiful dragoness, she was certain she could find a way to keep his affections for good. Even if she didn’t quite know how, just yet. This was for Spike, she told herself. This was for the love of her life...

A pulse of searing-hot magic surged through her body, and in the next moment everything shrank. Rarity stumbled slightly, the sudden shift in size coming unexpectedly. Twilight only came up to her chin now. Her entire body felt different, too. Her skin felt tough and stiff, her mouth seemed to be stuffed to overflowing with teeth, and there was an unfamiliar heat bubbling in her stomach.

“Twilight, did it—” She froze. Her voice had pitched down easily half an octave! She put one hoof—no, claw—on her throat. “Is that my voice?” she said experimentally. “Is that my voice?”

Twilight giggled a bit, but quickly reined it in. “It certainly is. I’m happy to announce that the transformation was a complete success! Do you want me to get a mirror?”

“Please,” Rarity replied, distracted by the new appendages she possessed. She held one claw in front of her face and watched the four fingers move up and down. It was harder than it looked to get them to move separately. Spike always made it look so easy, deftly writing or picking items up as if he’d done it all his life. Well, of course, he had.

As Twilight left to find a mirror, Rarity began to examine the parts of her new body that she could see on her own. Her scales were a pristine white, of course, and her underside was the light blue of her cutie mark. She was, unfortunately, not as sleek and slim as the dragoness she’d seen on the poster, but while she still had curves, they were less pronounced in this form than in her pony body.

Curling her pointy tail around her, she found violet spines running up her back that were more elongated than Spike’s were. In fact, the ones on her head were so tall that they folded over on themselves, drooping down to one side just like her mane had. She brought her claws up to feel them, also finding pointed fins where her ears had been and a completely bare forehead.

No more magic, but... On a whim, she pursed her lips and gently blew out her breath. It took a few tries, but soon she managed to produce a quick burst of ice-blue flame, which flickered and crackled in the air like frost before vanishing. “How beautiful,” she whispered, briefly awestruck at the power she now possessed.

“Here you are, Rarity!” Twilight was back, mirror hovering in front of her. Carefully Rarity closed her claw around the handle and brought it up to her face.

Oh, now this was more like it. Rarity’s new face was sleek, streamlined, only a faint softness around the cheeks to betray her pony origins. Each ear fin was shaped like a trio of diamonds and colored like her cutie mark. Her blue eyes now had the reptilian pupils she found exotic in Spike, and the effect was striking. She was fierce and powerful but still undeniably feminine, and undoubtedly beautiful.

Rarity grinned wide, showing off her sharp teeth. “Oh, I look marvelous, don’t I?” she purred. “Spikey-Wikey isn’t going to know what hit him!”

“Oh, he definitely isn’t,” Twilight laughed. “Now, the transformation will stick until sunrise. After that, if you decide you want something more permanent, I think I can find a way to stop it from expiring.”

Rarity’s grin froze on her muzzle. Permanent?

“Aside from that, there’s nothing much to say! You know Spike well enough that you shouldn’t have too much trouble being a dragon, right?”

It took a moment for her to gather her thoughts and respond. “Oh... Yes, of course. I shouldn’t think anything will really surprise me, though—ow!”

Twilight jumped. “Oh! Are you okay?”

“Y-Yes, darling,” Rarity groaned, claw over her mouth. “I simply... bit my tongue.”

------

“Permanent”.

The newly draconic Rarity trudged slowly down the street, staring at her claws. Twilight had let her go after a perfunctory magical examination and the extraction of a promise to record any notable observations “for science”. And now she was on her way to the boutique, carefully walking in shadow (although the streets were all but empty this late at night).

The novelty of the change had quite worn off. Rarity’s steps were lumbersome and ponderous. She felt far too big, far too bulky, and it was a good thing there was nopony around, because she kept misjudging her size and knocking over trash cans and mailboxes. It had been an interesting and enjoyable experience at first, but now she was ready to have done with it. She already missed her soft, small pony body—not to mention her magic.

But the boutique was in sight. Soon she would meet her beloved dragon, and then... what?

“Permanent”.

Rarity hadn’t thought that far ahead, caught up in the rush of her supposedly perfect idea. Suppose Spike really did like this new form, better than her pony form. What then? Could she stay a dragon forever, abandon her life as a pony, just for him? Did she want to? She hung her head shamefully. “I’ve always sworn I would never change who I am just for a stallion... and here I am doing it for a drake.”

She stood at her own doorstep for a long time, her inner debate raging. But she’d come this far already. She would go to Spike, get his attention, and they would talk. And if he wanted her to stay a dragon... she would decide what to do if and when it came to that.

The lights were on in the living room when Rarity finally stepped in. “Spike? Darling, are you here?”

“I’m in the kitchen!” Spike called. His voice was high-pitched and nervous; Rarity almost didn’t recognize it. “A-Are you hungry? I’m almost done making dinner.”

Was this a good sign or a bad one? Perhaps Spike thought bad news better delivered over a good meal? Rarity breathed in the delicious scent wafting through her home and decided that he might not be wrong. Was that his eggplant parmigiana she smelled? Ooo, he spoiled her.

She paused in the hallway, looking into the kitchen. She could see two plates set out with the eggplant parmigiana and garlic bread. It looked fantastic, although her dragon stomach insisted there ought to be some amethyst mixed in. Come to think of it, didn’t Spike usually put some gemstones into his portion when he cooked? Both plates were gem-free.

And every moment she spent thinking about dinner was just delaying the inevitable. Rarity took a deep breath. This was the moment of truth. “Hello, Spike,” she breathed, stepping into the kitchen proper.

The other figure in the room straightened up, a bowl of pudding floating (floating?) off the stovetop and next to his head. “Rarity!” he said as he turned. “I was just—Rarity?!”

The bowl plummeted to the floor, and in the same instant, Rarity’s jaw fell almost as far. “Spike?!”

Standing before her was a pony. A thin but handsome young unicorn stallion, with a lavender coat and green mane and tail. The same stallion she’d seen in the street on the way to the library. But those emerald green eyes, round-pupiled and wide with shock, couldn’t belong to anypony else. That earnest voice couldn’t belong to anypony else. This was Spike. Her beloved drakefriend, transformed.

Two shocked minds put the puzzle pieces together almost in unison. So he had... but she had... which meant they both were...

Rarity never did manage to figure out just which one of them started to laugh first. But soon both of them were chuckling, then giggling, then practically howling with laughter. They fell into each other’s embrace, sinking to the floor together, holding on for dear life as they laughed off all their stresses and fears.

------

“I cannot believe that betrayer of a mare knew all along!”

After the pudding had been cleaned up and the dinner consumed, Rarity and Spike retired to her study, snuggling up together on her chaise longue. It seemed too small for her and too large for him, but neither of them had any intention of moving.

Rarity scowled, lip curling to flash a razor-sharp tooth. “Do you know what she did when I asked her for this spell? She laughed! Oooo, we are going to have words when I see her next...”

Spike chuckled helplessly. “Yeah, I think she’s finally picking up that one trait of Celestia’s. You know, the one where she lets you do something stupid so you learn a lesson from it?”

“That is a habit I’d just as soon she not pick up.” Rarity sighed. “If she had just talked to me... Or if you had just talked to me,” she added, tightening her arms around Spike’s body. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that yet.”

The stallion in her embrace blushed and glanced away. “I-I know, I’m sorry... I wasn’t thinking straight.”

Rarity cupped his chin in her claw, gently turning him back to face her. “I’ll forgive you, beloved,” she told him gently, “on one condition. Talk to me now. What was it that upset you so? Why were you staring at that dragoness? And why did you have—”

About to speak, Spike suddenly paused, his brow wrinkling. He held up a hoof to cut her off. “Wait, hang on, you lost me. What dragoness?”

Rarity stared at him. “The dragoness. You know, the one in the poster?” Spike merely blinked at her, uncomprehending. “On our lunch date yesterday?” Still no glimmer of recognition. “In the bookstore window? You were transfixed!”

“The bookstore—there was a dragoness in there?”

“You didn’t even see it?” To Rarity’s astonishment, he shook his head no. “Then what were you staring at?” she demanded.

“The tabloids! I—” Spike cut himself off and sighed. “Okay, I guess I better start from the top. You remember when me and Twilight went up to Canterlot a couple weeks ago?”

Rarity nodded thoughtfully. “I remember. She was picking up some rare books to add to the library’s collection, wasn’t she?” Idly she brought one claw up to toy with Spike’s fluffy mane.

“Yeah, that and some other things. She was arguing with a cashier, so I started flipping through some of those tabloids just to keep myself occupied. And in one of them, I saw an article about... us.”

“Us?” Rarity’s claw stilled. “As in you and I, darling?”

“Uh-huh. They had a photo from when we went to that one play. And the article was...” Spike swallowed. That pained look that Rarity so despised was back, and somehow it looked even sadder on a pony face. “It said some pretty awful stuff.”

“Well, I can’t honestly say I’m surprised,” Rarity said dryly. “I love a bit of gossip as much as the next pony, but those disgusting rags don’t care who they hurt as long as it sells issues. It’s simply disgraceful.”

Spike swallowed. “Yeah... But that made me start thinking about what this...” He gestured between the two of them. “What us would do to your reputation. I mean, it’s important to your business, right? Being known in high circles? And if classy ponies start hearing bad things about you, then—”

“Spike! Is that what’s been troubling you?”

He nodded miserably. “I was trying to have fun yesterday, really, but seeing those tabloids in the bookstore just brought it all back.”

Rarity took him by the shoulders and shook him gently. “You should have said something. Those tabloids don’t matter to me! I could have disabused you of this ridiculous notion days ago!”

“But what if I brought it up and you hadn’t thought about it but then you did and decided it wasn’t worth it?”

“I would never!”

“I know, I know, but I was scared!” Spike pressed his face against her scaly shoulder and hugged her hard, forelegs almost meeting around her torso. “I still wake up sometimes and wonder if I’ve been dreaming all this. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Oh...” Even distressed, Spike had a knack for the romantic. Rarity’s heart ached wonderfully, filled so full of love that it was stretched beyond its limits. She pulled away from him, turning his head to her again, and brought him in for a deep, slow, and passionate kiss.

When she finally released him, Spike wobbled, eyes glazed over. “W-Wow...” he stammered. “Is that what my tongue feels like for you?”

Rarity ignored that comment (and the blush lightly dusting her cheeks) and met Spike’s gaze. “You listen to me, Spike,” she told him. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. If our relationship threatens to stain my name, then let it. My reputation could never matter to me as much as you do. Understand?”

The remaining tension rushed out of Spike’s body all at once, and he relaxed against her. “Okay,” he said meekly. “Sorry, I just... I know the boutique is your dream and all, and I don’t want to hurt that...”

“You won’t,” Rarity assured him. “First of all, personal reputation or no, I believe my work will always speak for itself. And second, any potential client who would take umbrage at our relationship is not a client with whom I wish to associate.”

“Haha, yeah, good point.” Spike actually smiled at that, finally beginning to look himself again. Or, at least, as much “himself” as he could look as a unicorn. “I think I knew as soon as you came in like this, that you cared more about me than what other ponies think... Wait, that’s right!” Eyes wide with realization, he tilted his head at her, gesturing with a hoof. “Now that you know why I went to Twilight... I still haven’t heard your half of the story.”

Rarity blushed, ducking her head bashfully. “Well... As I said, there was a poster of a very beautiful dragoness hanging up in the bookstore. I may have assumed that it was the poster that caught your attention, and I... may have begun to wonder if you no longer found ponies... or one pony in particular... to be attractive.”

Spike practically recoiled at that, jaw slack. “You’re kidding, right? How could I not—you’re still the most beautiful pony in Equestria!”

“Yes, well, ‘pony’ is the operative word there. And you are a dragon, albeit one who grew up around ponies. How was I to know for certain that your tastes hadn’t changed?”

He shook his head firmly. “There’s no way they could change that much. And anyway...” One hoof grazed along her jawline, up to her ear fin. “I crushed on you because of your looks... but I fell in love with you because of you. You know that, don’t you?”

Rarity giggled coyly, feeling a blush of pleasure replace the blush of embarrassment. “It’s nice to be reminded, every once in a while,” she admitted.

“I’ll try to remember that,” Spike responded. “And for the record? You make a gorgeous dragon, but I like you best as you.”

“Thank you, darling. And as handsome a stallion as you are, I much prefer you as your regular dragon self.”

Her coltfriend-for-one-night smiled at that. “So...” He glanced up at the nearest window. “Does yours wear off at sunrise too?”

“Indeed it does. Why do you ask?”

Spike snuggled close to her, giving her the happy grin that always melted her heart. “Well, what do you say we call it an early night? I’m ready for everything to get back to normal.”

Rarity beamed and rested her chin on Spike’s head, allowing her eyes to flutter closed. “I couldn’t agree more.”

------

In the morning, Rarity was awoken by a sliver of sunlight peeking through her curtains. Stretching in her chaise longue, she was delighted to find herself back to her proper unicorn self again, hooves, horn, and mane all in their proper places. And even more delightful was the purple dragon in her embrace, her drakefriend properly her drakefriend once more.

Rarity threw the curtains open with her magic, letting the warm sunlight pour in, and she decided that she’d never quite been so blissfully, euphorically happy.

And when Spike awoke a moment later, all she had to do was look into his eyes and see the shining smile on his face, and there was no doubt in her mind that he felt the same.