Twilight Sparkle wondered why she hadn’t seen the signs until that moment.
Sure, some things could be excused as Pinkie-like behavior. Leaving a three-tier tall cake at her door, but half eaten. A letter sent to her that started off talking about how much she admired Twilight to only then go on for three-fourths of the page about kumquats. Asking her out to a quick lunch at Sugar Cube Corner, and then talking so much that Twilight literally hadn’t said a word in nearly twenty minutes. It was mostly Pinkie behavior. A bit more personal, but still Pinkie.
“Pinkie Pie,” she said, looking at the pink pony at the opposite end of the table from her, “I—”
“Yessssssssss?” Pinkie responded, full of hope and optimism.
Twilight sighed. “Pinkie, I don’t believe that it would work.”
Pinkie’s expression deflated slightly, but her smile remained. “B-but, why not?”
“Well, there are a few reasons,” Twilight started, looking up in thought, “but it’s mostly that I don’t like mares.”
“O-oh...” Pinkie’s smile faded, but then it returned, forced and false. “Well, we can still try it out! I mean, I’ve never dated anypony before, so it could be like, a little experiment, yeah!”
“Pinkie, you know how sometimes, I can, uhm, be a little naïve when it comes to things that I’ve only read about before?”
“Uh-huh,” Pinkie said with a nod.
“Well,” Twilight continued, “when I was about sixteen, I tried dating back in Canterlot. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but at the time I thought it was ‘normal’ for a pony my age to find a date. So I did.”
Pinkie nodded and paused before asking, “Then what happened?”
“I tried dating a colt, but I couldn’t stand him. I then tried dating one of my only friends, Moondancer, and things were just,” Twilight paused, searching for the right word, “off. I couldn’t act like anything but a friend around her. And I’m much closer to you than I was to her.”
“I, but... if we’re closer friends, doesn’t that make it easier?” Pinkie pleaded.
“No, Pinkie, it makes it harder!” Twilight snapped. “Sorry. It’s just, I don’t like mares, and we’ve been friends for so long that seeing you as anything more than a friend might not be possible.”
Pinkie sniffled, and then wiped her nose on her foreleg. “So, you only like colts like that, huh?”
Twilight reached over and placed a hoof on Pinkie’s. “This won’t change anything between us, right? I don’t want to lose our friendship over this, Pinkie.”
Pinkie nodded, a weak smile surfacing. “Y-yeah, that’s okay!
“Good, then I’m glad that’s settled.”
Twilight closed the library door behind her, careful to not make a sound. The only illumination came from the moon, the bright white orb of stolen light revealing the book-ridden floor before her. The library was just as she had left it, reminding her of spike’s absence as well as her own time away from the library. It had been a simple enough idea when she proposed it. It was the summer, and she had been studying almost every day, so she would take a break. Except instead of reading the entire summer like she used to do in Celestia’s school for Gifted Unicorns, she would actually leave the library.
Twilight decided she would aim her vacation for when Spike would be away for a week on business in Canterlot, both because she wouldn’t have to worry about him being home alone all day and because she always found it hard to read alone in the library. So she made a simple plan: spend each day of an entire week with each of her friends. One week’s vacation was more than enough.
The first day she was with Rarity. They went shopping at a local clothing store, Rarity finding her clothing that would fit her budget while still being peak quality. “I’m all for making you girls all the dresses you want, but I can’t give that much of a discount now, can I?” She said at one point. The rest of the day was spent discussing the times each of them spent in Canterlot, sharing tea, and generally sharing each other’s company in passive comfort.
The next day was the opposite. Applejack had work to do on the farm, and Twilight’s schedule couldn’t change the needs of Sweet Apple Acres. Twilight decided that she’d help, and even offered to actually buck apples until she no longer was physically able, instead of using her magic. Applejack shook her head and said, “This ain’t a Winter Wrap Up, Twilight, ya can do whatever ya want to help out. Just don’t hurt yerself.”
So the two spent most of the day in the fields closest to the farm, only taking breaks for lunch and dinner. Each meal brought not only rest that the unicorn was grateful for, but with it the feel of family. At lunch, Applejack and Big Mac poked fun at each other, a quiet competition for who bucked the most trees that day, in ways not unlike she and her brother used to do. At dinner, Applebloom had arrived, and when the entire family dined together, Twilight felt a level of closeness between them all that she wasn’t sure could be described in a single, simple letter to the princess, despite having experienced something like it back home in Canterlot.
Then... present day. Now, finally at her bed after a mile-long trek through her memories and the library, Twilight flopped down to sleep. She had expected the day with Pinkie to be one kind of big party, but it was almost the opposite. They had spent most of the time alone, until lunch. There, the pink party pony of Ponyville had asked her out on a date, and though it hurt to say it, Twilight had to say no. She knew that there wasn’t any chance of it working out, and going along with it would only hurt Pinkie in the long run. It wasn’t fair to her. That was all there was to it.
Feeling like she had the issue settled in her mind, Twilight finally resigned to sleep. She threw the covers off, not wanting to sweat through a hot summer night, and after several minutes of silence, sleep overtook her.
She dreamed of pink.
She slept in.
She could tell the moment she woke up; her internal clock was perfect. She could wake up anytime she wanted, without fear. She knew it was later than she normally woke up. Did she sleep in the last few days? She had completely forgotten.
Oh, stop worrying about it. You’re on vacation! Sleeping in is one of the things you’re supposed to do. She hopped out of bed and waltzed happily over to a schedule she had pinned up against her bedroom door. The day was... the day was...
What day was it again? Twilight scratched at her eyes and looked at the marked calendar. She wanted to look at Thursday, feeling like today was the day that she was going to spend with Fluttershy, but a nagging thought at the back of her mind told her that was impossible, and that it was actually Wednesday.
But... didn’t I spend all day with that crazy pony yesterday? Augh, why is it hard to think...
She looked back at her calendar. There was an X in Monday’s box, and an X in Tuesday’s box. Wednesday was completely empty. No, I’m just being absurd. Of course it’s Wednesday. What other day could it be except—
She heard a knock at her door. Who could that be? She exited her room and headed down the stairs when she heard them knock again, another fury of knocks. Quick but light, Twilight knew for sure who it was. It must be Wednesday then.
She approached the front door and paused, not entirely sure she was ready to open it, having not even done anything yet that day to get ready. She hadn’t combed, showered, eaten, or even looked in a mirror. After a moment, she shrugged. It can’t hurt to at least say good morning.
She opened the door. “Good morning—”
Twilight was knocked off of her hooves, thrown back by the pony who had charged through her front door. A cheerful, peppy voice let out a “Good morning Twilight!” as she was thrown through the air.
The unicorn landed in a pile of books near the center of the room. After a few seconds of sitting still, her mind still taking note of what had just happened, she thought to dig herself out of the mess. When her head surfaced from the heap of text, she was met with a familiar pink face and baby-blue eyes.
“Hi Twilight! How’s it going?”
“Just fine, Bubble Berry.”
The pink stallion stepped back as Twilight pulled herself out of the pile of literature. “Did you really have to charge in here like that?” She asked.
“Well, I was just so excited to see you that I couldn’t wait for you to even get out of the way when you opened the door. So, I just ran through and I guess I didn’t see you there even though I should have known you were there since you were opening the door, but I was too excited to see you that I couldn’t—” his rambling was cut off by Twilight shoving a hoof in his mouth. She took it out a moment later, the pause being enough to end Bubble’s ramblings and leave him standing motionless with a sheepish grin. “Sorry, I’m just really happy to see you Twilight, honest!”
Twilight couldn’t help but roll her eyes and nod. Bubble Berry had been one of her best friends ever since she arrived in Ponyville, but today, she swore it was like looking at him for the first time. He wasn’t very muscular, but he had an obviously masculine build. His mane and tail were both curly and short, and his snout was the same square-ness that all stallions shared. Bubble Berry looked completely normal... but Twilight still felt like something was off with him.
“Hey, Bubble, did you get a mane cut?” Twilight asked.
He immediately turned his head toward her, his expression blank. “Uhhhh,” he said, his expression still unchanging. When he came to an answer, he broke into a smile and said, “Y-yes! Just before I came over, I totally got a mane cut first thing in the morning! Yup! I wanted to look, uh, good! Yeah, good! I couldn’t hang out with you all day with a messy mane and stuff. I mean, just imagine what Rarity would say!”
Twilight let a chuckle escape her lips. “I’m sure she’d have a fit, but you didn’t have to do that for me. Though, just in case we do run into her, I’ll go upstairs and get cleaned up.”
“Sure thing Twilight!” Bubble said, now examining a random open book on a table.
She turned back towards the staircase and headed up. So it was just his mane cut after all. I must be getting paranoid or something.
One shower and swipe of a comb through her mane later, Twilight left her room, finally ready to tackle a day with Bubble Berry. She saw the pony standing at the center of library, patiently waiting, and couldn’t help but shiver. Something still seems off about him, but what is it? “Are you okay, Bubble?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” Bubble Berry responded instantly, “Everything’s fine! Does it look like something’s wrong with me?”
Not intending to upset her friend, Twilight quickly replied, “No, I didn’t mean anything by it! There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, I think you look fine.”
Bubble smiled. “You think I look fine?”
“Uhm,” Twilight paused. I guess he’s worried about how he looks? That’s a little strange, he normally doesn’t care about how he looks. “You look... great! Really great!”
“How great do I look?!” Bubble Berry asked, rushing up far to Twilight, pressing against her in the kind of way that Bubble did.
“Uhm, uh,” Twilight stammered, “You look, uhm.” Come on Twilight, this isn’t hard! What is the word that ponies use when they want to compliment how a boy looks? “You look very handsome today, uh, Bubble Berry.”
Bubble made an inward gasp that was so strong that Twilight wondered how the library had any air left in it afterwards. He rushed up to the unicorn and pressed his face against hers, again, and asked, “Do you really mean it?!”
Twilight gulped. “Uh, sure I do! Why wouldn’t I?”
“That’s just super duper nice of you to say!” He brought Twilight up into a powerful hug.
“It’s, no problem, really,” Twilight said as she gasped for air. “Now if you could let me, erk, down...”
Bubble let go of his friend in an instant and bounced around the library for a moment as Twilight composed herself. Once she was on her hooves, Bubble asked, “So, you ready? Today’s our day to party, right?”
Twilight nodded. “Yup. Beyond meeting you, I don’t have anything planned for today, so we’ll do whatever you want.” She wasn’t sure how she managed to say that sentence without flinching, but she did. A completely unplanned, unscheduled, probably completely random day with Bubble Berry. Well, maybe there’s still time to—
Her thought was interrupted by Bubble grabbing her hoof. “Then let’s get ready to party!” He threw Twilight onto his back, and sprinted off and out the library door, his friend screaming all the way.
Twilight Sparkle and Bubble Berry fell to the ground, giggling wildly. After only a moment, Twilight righted herself and looked over the bush and towards their victim. It appeared as if Big Macintosh did end up kicking away the basket of flowers that were lined with the sneeze-inducing powder, but only after having taken a whiff of them himself. His sneezes, like his affirmatives and negatives, were calm, single syllable noises. Watching his entire body recoil, with such a small sound to accompany it, was too much for Twilight as she once again fell over in a laughing fit.
“See Twilight? Isn’t this fun?” Bubble Berry asked, standing beside the unicorn. “As long as nopony gets hurt, a prank is always fun for everypony!”
“I will admit, Bubble,” Twilight said, once she had managed to stop laughing, “that this has been fun so far, though I’m not sure ‘everypony’ is the right word.” Twilight got to all fours, finally having finished laughing more than she thought she could have laughed in a day. “Actually, this has made me feel a bit less... well, angry, about whatever pranks you and Dash ever pulled on me before.”
“No problem Twilight, I’m happy to help.” With that, the two friends turned and trotted off gingerly back to the main square of Ponyville.
The day had been exciting so far, much more so than the previous two days, not that she liked them any less. The morning had started out with a quick bite to eat at Sugar Cube Corner, Bubble showing Twilight around the store where he got all of his pranking devices, and a few hours of going around Ponyville, generally causing chaos. She had found the activity to give her an unexpected rush; even though nopony was ever really hurt, sometimes the anger made them chase after the two tricksters, giving her a slight adrenaline rush that she wasn’t quite used to having. Something about seeing ponies doing silly things made her feel happier, but she wasn’t sure why. It doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s fun, that’s what matters.
Their stroll was interrupted by a pegasus darting in from above. “Twilight!”
Wind blew past the two grounded ponies, their manes becoming rustled and disheveled in the artificially created breeze. “What’s the matter, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked, somewhat bothered by her mane becoming so ruffled, something she must have picked up from Rarity earlier that week.
“Actually, since Spike is up in Canterlot, I’m here delivering a letter.” She tossed it down to the unicorn. “One of Celestia’s guards came down to deliver it to you.”
Twilight’s eyes went wide. “So why did he take it to you?” Twilight asked.
“He didn’t,” Rainbow Dash responded, landing in front of the two ponies. “I was clearing some clouds when I noticed that he was standing outside of the library. I asked him what he was doing, he said he was delivering a letter, and here we are.” She looked between Bubble and Twilight, and added, “How’s your day with Bubble so far, anyway? You aren’t worn out yet, are you?”
“We spent the whole morning pranking all of Ponyville!” Bubble answered, as Twilight lifted up the letter with her magic and unraveled it.
“Seriously? Did she have to read The Egghead’s Guide to Pranking first, or something?” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Whatever, if you’re having fun, then go have fun.”
“Hey, it isn’t our faults that there’s another wave of the feather flu going through town!” Bubble said.
“Yeah, I know, I just wished we could have hung out at least a little bit today, but I have to run three shifts, and cover both Ponyville and Whitetail Wood.” She took off into the air again and groaned. “I’ll see you later, Bubble.”
The pegasus shot off into the sky, and Bubble simply waved after her. “Bye Dash!” He said. He turned to Twilight, noticing that she was still reading the letter. “You okay Twilight?”
“Yes.” Twilight rolled up the scroll. “Say, uh, Bubble, it’s about lunch time isn’t it?”
Bubble looked up at the sky aimlessly, then down back at his friend. “I guess but what does that have to—”
“I just need to go home really quickly, you know,” she nodded with head toward the letter, “Put this away and all. How about you grab us a table at Sugar Cube Corner?”
“That sounds great Twilight, but why can’t I—”
“No time!” Twilight took a few steps past her friend and turned to say, “I’ll see you in five to ten minutes then?”
“Sure... thing?” Bubble responded, still confused. “I’ll see you there?”
Twilight dashed off, not bothering to give another response in her haste.
Twilight slammed the door to the library behind her. This can’t be a coincidence. Not even Pinkie Sense is a coincidence, and that’s the impossible of the impossible. This can’t be a coincidence either. She opened the letter as carefully as she could, walking towards a nearby table as she read the content another time, making sure she was reading it right.
* * * * *
Dear Twilight Sparkle, my most faithful student,
I believe something of a sinister and magical nature has its hold over Ponyville, or perhaps all of Equestria.
Last night, while I was asleep and my sister was presiding over the night court, we both felt a surge of magical energy originating from Ponyville. At first, we weren’t sure what had caused it, but as the morning came, we both saw that it was the same day that I had gone to bed in. We were repeating a day.
Both scouts from the royal guard, and my sister under a disguise, have been to Ponyville to investigate, but have found nothing to arouse our suspicions. You and your five friends appear to be in perfect health, and everything else appears normal.
There are matters that I must deal with in Canterlot, but I don’t believe the situation is dangerous. I know there is a book in your library that discusses how to find and locate the origin of magical spells. With it should be some method of finding what caused this anomaly.
Good luck, Twilight Sparkle.
* * * * *
She placed the letter on the table, keeping it open so that she could glance at it occasionally, making sure she read it right. Last night, something... magical, happened. And today, I keep looking at Bubble Berry like something’s not quite right, but I can’t tell what. Did something happen to him? Did somepony do something to him? She played the day’s events over and over again in her head, and found nothing strange. He seemed incredibly happy at the prospect of spending an entire day with her, but that was it. It wasn’t that much different from the kind of happiness that Bubble always had, so she was probably imagining it. No, no! That’s probably just what the magic is doing! Making me think that’s right!
With a flick of her horn, she levitated a book off of its shelf and over to the table before her. It was the same book that Celestia had mentioned in the letter, Magical Methods, Maladies, and Mixtures, a book about some general magical practices. Twilight hadn’t read it in a while, but she knew which chapter the princess spoke of. She flipped the book open, scanning the table of content for the right chapter, finding it in an instant. I have to make something? It isn’t a spell that finds the source? Augh!
She tossed the book in mild frustration, and sighed. Well, I can figure this out later. For now, I guess I should go meet Bubble for lunch like I said I would. Twilight walked out of the library, feeling reassured of herself.
Besides, he doesn’t look upset or anything. I think he’s been happier today than I’ve seen him in a while.
This had to be a trick. Something, or somepony, has to be manipulating my friend.
Twilight glanced up at Bubble, the pink stallion sitting across the table from her. Something about it all was confusing. “Well?” He asked. “Do you wanna try? Going out to dinner with me tonight?”
It was that magic that Celestia was talking about. That’s making him do this! This can’t be him!
“Twilight? Everything okay in there?” Bubble asked, lightly tapping her on the forehead.
But then, Bubble’s behavior had been a bit off for a while. That cake at her doorstep, the letter, and this lunch... all of these things are a bit more personal that he normally does things. So maybe he really means it.
The table between them was barren, sans the clean plates and empty glasses. Twilight had eaten a simple lunch of a savory scone of spinach and cheese, and it seemed that Bubble only had cake. Their entire lunch together consisted of Twilight listening to Bubble talk endlessly about parties and baking and even their other friends. She found it odd that Bubble never mentioned her, but after this announcement, she figured it made some sense.
“Bubble Berry,” Twilight started, “This... you’re serious, right? You want to go out? Like on a date? Between two ponies who are in love?”
“Yup!” He answered. Twilight thought she saw relief in his smile, but she dismissed it as her current paranoia. “Well, uhm, not exactly love, but I’ve kind of liked you for a little while, but I wasn’t sure if I should do anything, since, you know,” she waved her hooves as if dismissing something, “if you said no, it would get kind of weird, and that wouldn’t be any fun!” Sometime along his explanation, a blush had formed on his face.
“So, what makes you so sure I might say yes, Bubble?” Twilight asked.
“No reason!” Bubble responded in an instant, “I just figured I could ask on our own day to hang out. That’s it! No other reason, yup.”
“Uh-huh,” Twilight answered. She looked up to Bubble Berry, trying to gleam something from his expression, her own mind clouded with doubts about the entire thing. Can I look at a friend as something greater? And how do I know that this isn’t that magic affecting him? Or even me maybe? Augh, there’s too much... but think about it: he’s your friend. He thinks you could be something greater than a friend, right? So why just say no? That’s not what a friend would do. Right, what would a friend do here? Why should a friend just say yes to a date if they’re just that, a friend?
“Bubble Berry,” Twilight started, “I think that... I’ll be frank here—”
“Frank?” Bubble’s face contorted a bit in confusion. “But you’re Twilight.”
Twilight shook her head and said, “No, Bubble, that means I’m just going to say exactly what I want to say.” She sighed. “I’m trying to say that I still just see you as a friend.” Bubble withdrew to his seat, stunned and curious simultaneously. “This... what you’re asking me, is never something I ever thought of or considered. You, as well as Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash are my friends. But being in love with any of you? That isn’t something that I ever thought about.”
“That’s okay!” Bubble said.
“But Bubble, that means—wait, what?” Twilight blinked.
“I don’t expect you to like me like that right away, silly. These are my feelings, not yours. But I just thought that, like, we could try it! And if you aren’t into it, that’s totally okay too!”
“O-oh,” Twilight stammered, not ready for such a concise response. “R-right. Okay. Um. Then... then I’ll say yes, I’d love to go out with you.” Before she could do anything, Bubble Berry suddenly appeared next to her and brought up the unicorn in a monster of a bear hug, spewing “thank you” at a rate that Twilight wasn’t sure was possible. “B-B-Bubble...” Twilight gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“Yes?” He responded.
“I c-c-can’t b-breath.”
“Oh. Okay!” Bubble dropped her to the ground, somehow unaware of how much of a hamper this was on Twilight. “So I’ll pick you up tonight then?”
“Didn’t you want to hang out today?” Twilight asked.
“You’re silly Twilight.” Bubble chuckled. “If I spent all day with you, that’d be a different kind of date. Which is great but I don’t wanna date you all day, even though that’d be great too but it has to be nice and stuff, at least that’s what Rarity’d say and I think she knows a bit more about it than I do so I’ll see you at seven!” Bubble finished with a bright smile.
“Nothing. I’ll see you later then!” Bubble Berry then rushed out of the room and up the stairs, presumably to his loft atop the bakery.
Twilight sat on the floor for a moment before realizing that she should probably get home. She got up off the floor and swiftly walked out the door of the bakery, her mind now focused on a new task. Time to open up that book and see what I can do about finding the source of that magical disturbance. As for the date... well, he’s picking me up, so I’m sure he has plans. I just hope that this won’t take too long.
The book didn’t so much as give her a method of finding the source of the disturbance, as much as it gave her the design for a device that would. Hours after her lunch with Bubble, the results of her work sat on the table before her. It was a fairly simple device—a black box with a retractable antenna, a small silver lever to turn it off and on and a white screen with a needle and chart for measuring arcane energies.
“Hmmm,” Twilight hummed, levitating the device into the air and turning it over and around as she examined every side of it, “Hopefully it’s working properly, but being the first Arcanometer I’ve ever built, that isn’t a guarantee.” Her horn alight, she hovered a book over next to the counter. With another flash, she cast a spell on the book, changing its cover from the pale brown it once had into a bright blue. Immediately the needle on the Arcanometer responded, moving about one tenth of the way up the scale. “Well, that’s simple enough. Point it at things and see if it reads any magical energies. Easy enough.” Having a suddenly playful thought, she decided to lift the Arcanometer and point it at herself. The needle shot up to half-way up the scale. “Okay, so a simple spell registers at about one thousand, and I’m about five thousand. Whatever magic it was it somehow affected all of Equestria and the princesses, so it must be powerful.” She floated it away from herself, seeing what its effective range was. “Hmm, only about ten feet. That’s a bit less than what I expected.” She glanced to a clock on the nearby wall, noting it was just six o’clock. “Only an hour... so do I wait, or go around town first?”
What you’re really asking is, do you get ready for the date, or forget about it to search Ponyville for something you haven’t the faintest clue about?
“It’s just a night out with a friend,” Twilight said aloud to herself, “it isn’t a big deal.”
It’s a big deal to him, so shouldn’t you treat it as such?
“It’s just Bubble Berry. I’m sure he won’t actually have any plans. We’ll just eat out at Sugar Cube Corner again.”
And what if he comes with actual attire? Also, you’re talking to yourself.
“R-right.” Twilight gulped. She had no idea how serious Bubble was taking this. Yeah, he admitted that he had some feelings for her. But she took the conversation over from there, and he didn’t say much about how he actually felt. Which might be better, since I still see him as a friend... I need advice. She dashed to the section of the library with romance novels and started pulling them out, one by one, searching for a book that might help her predicament. She hadn’t read many of them, but the inner blurbs seemed to never have a situation quite like hers. She then turned to self-help books with the subject of love, and again, found nothing helpful beyond describing how to approach someone you loved. Nothing about approaching ponies in love with you.
I suppose that leaves me with but one recourse.
A short walk later, and Twilight found herself outside of Carousel Boutique. Upon reaching the purple stable door, she noticed the sign over the front of it: “Closing early today, sorry for the inconvenience.” Twilight frowned, but knocked on the door anyway. I’m here as a friend, not as a customer, I’m sure she won’t mind.
It was almost a minute before she heard noises from inside, the steps of a seemingly frantic pony racing to the door, mumbling something aloud. Moments after all sound ceased, the door flew open, and a pony that resembled her friend Rarity appeared.
“There’s a sign on the door, you dim-witted—oh, Twilight! So sorry, I didn’t realize it was you.”
Knowing the comment clearly wasn’t meant for her personally, the student paid it no heed. “Did I come at a bad time? I’m sorry, I just wanted to talk with you for a few minutes.”
“No, no, not at all.” Rarity stood aside and motioned for her friend to come in. Twilight hurried inside and gave Rarity a once over. Her mane was a horrid mess, with split ends everywhere and even somewhat matted in sweat, in a way that Twilight had absolutely never seen before. She was breathing hard, as if constantly out of breath, and her hooves moved less with her usual grace, and in a more lazy, dragging fashion. Her familiar red work glasses only served to accentuate her exhausted appearance.
Once both ponies were inside, the fashionista sighed. “Actually, it doesn’t feel quite right lying to you. I am dreadfully busy with a large number of completely unrelated orders, so I’m busy with both brainstorming all the designs and with actually making them, so I may be a little short with you.” When she saw Twilight’s concerned expression, Rarity shook her head. “Oh, don’t worry about it, it isn’t anything I haven’t handled before. Sweetie is spending the night at Applebloom’s, so I have all the privacy I’ll need to get this work done.”
“Well, I’ll just be out of your hair then.” Twilight turned towards the door. “It wasn’t a very important question anyway.
“Nonsense Twilight,” Rarity said stepping up beside her friend, “I can always make time for a friend. Now, what was it that you wanted to talk about?”
Twilight turned to her friend, and immediately felt like the floor had an unparalleled level of interesting things about it, causing her eyes to be glued to it. “W-well, it’s just that I have a date tonight and—”
“A date?!” Rarity yelped, “Tonight?! Dear you should have told me sooner! Who is the lucky pony?”
“Bubble Berry, actually.”
Rarity blinked. “You’re going out on a date... with Bubble Berry?” Instead of the shocked or stunned Rarity that Twilight was expected, she was met with an excited giggle. “Oh, this changes everything, absolutely everything!”
“H-how so?” Twilight asked.
“Simple.” Rarity gave a playful smirk. “I know exactly what he’s planning.”
“How would you know that?”
“Because he confided in me about his secret.” Twilight gasped. “He told me over a month ago, and I’ve been helping him plan the perfect date ever since.”
Twilight blinked. “So why are you telling me? Shouldn’t that be, you know, a secret?”
“Now that you’re going on a date with him?” Rarity shook her head. “I don’t think keeping that secret is going to help anypony. Of course, it helps both of us, because it means less work for me. All you need to do is put on your grand galloping gala dress, and your date should go swimmingly.”
“My gala dress?” Twilight asked. “Isn’t that a bit formal for a date? I mean I don’t know much about dating but—”
“On any other occasion, I would agree with you Twilight, but what he has planned for this night is a bit... more than just going out to dinner. Oh, I’m almost jealous of you.” Rarity sighed wistfully. “So when did he ask? I assume it was today, considering you planned to spend the entirety of today with him.”
Twilight nodded. “He asked me over lunch.”
“So do you love him then?” Rarity asked.
The question made Twilight’s train of thought come to a full stop. Rarity looked on with prying eyes. “Well?”
“I don’t think so Rarity.” Twilight answered, not giving much thought to it. “I just figured, if he likes me enough to ask me out on a date, the least I can do is say yes, right?” Twilight chuckled. “I mean—”
Twilight stopped when she was met with Rarity’s sharp scowl. The student gulped at the sight of her friend, unsure of what she had said to cause such a reaction. “Twilight Sparkle, you need to reexamine your feelings if you are going to go out on this date with Bubble. This isn’t about being nice or being generous. Going on a date with somepony is seeing if they’re somepony that you can see as more than just a friend. If you,” Rarity poked Twilight directly in the chest, “aren’t ready to see him as more than a friend, then call this off before you build him up even more.”
“B-but I already said yes! How can I call it off?”
Rarity sighed. “I don’t mean to be angry with you, but you have to understand the position he’s in, Twilight.” Rarity walked beside Twilight, placing a hoof over her shoulder. “To him, you are far more than just a friend. You know how Bubble can be, talking on endlessly about things. When it came to you, he hardly ever stopped. He likes everything about you, even how much of a, as Rainbow Dash might say, ‘egghead’ you are. He even likes the natural colors of your fur and mane; he thinks they’re beautiful. You aren’t just a friend, you are a pony he might be able to spend the rest of his life with.”
Twilight gulped. “I-I see. I, uh, didn’t realize it was quite that, uh, intimate.”
“Twilight, do you understand love? You just used the word intimate, even.” Rarity stepped away from her friend and towards the front door. “Have you ever been in love before?” Rarity asked, genuine curiosity in her voice.
“Well, no, not really.” Twilight answered. “I tried dating some ponies back in Canterlot, but that was more because it was normal, than because I particularly liked anypony. So I guess I haven’t.”
Rarity nodded. “Then here’s what you should do. Try and find something about him that you like. Is there something in his personality that can keep you going? Something about him that draws your eyes, perhaps? Something that you could see every day and never get tired of?”
“I-I wouldn’t know anything about that!”
“Well, then use this date to do that. So you can explore what that would be like. If you can’t find anything, then you should tell him that, so you don’t build his hopes up.” She opened the door, motioning for Twilight to leave. “Now shoo, go, get ready for your date. Remember, your gala dress will be all you need.”
Twilight looked at Rarity one last time. “Rarity, I... thank you. Thank you, you’re right. This isn’t about humoring him, this is about seeing if I can love him too. You’re right!”
“That’s what friends are for Twilight. Sometimes we just have to give each other a nudge in the right direction. Now go on, and have a splendid time with Bubble Berry.”
Twilight left the boutique with a new air of confidence that she hadn’t felt in ages. She wanted to skip and jump through the air in a way that she never could have done before her talk with Rarity. It all makes sense now. I can’t believe that I thought so little of Bubble’s feelings, but now I know. I know what I must do to make this date go perfectly.
Make a list!
Twilight stared at herself in the mirror. Everything looked perfect, as far as she could tell. She was squeaky clean, having finished bathing and drying herself over a half hour ago. She used her special grape-scented shampoo, only because she forgot that she didn’t actually own any perfume, something that she would have to correct later, most likely to Rarity’s pleasure. She had her stunning blue dress-and-saddle from the Grand Galloping Gala on, and her light blue slippers covering her hooves. Her forelock was combed back to let the base of her horn be completely exposed, as opposed to her usual style of having her bangs cover the entirety of her forehead. She decided against lipstick, still uncomfortable with its use in general.
She waltzed into the library proper and glanced toward the clock. It read at 6:59. Bubble is being... oddly precise. I suppose if he cares that much about this date then he must want to be perfectly on time as well. Well, this gives me time to look over my list one more time. Twilight walked over to a nearby table, examining the unfurled scroll she had left there. The scroll was simple, and the list was one of her smaller ones, but she figured it was enough for a night like that:
* * * * *
1) Find one physical aspect about Bubble Berry that you could live with the rest of your life
2) Find one mental aspect about Bubble Berry that you could with live the rest of your life
3) Find out what Bubble Berry sees in you in regards to each of these aspects
4) Ask him how he fell in love with you
5) Ask yourself afterwards if you love him
* * * * *
For some reason, reading the last question gave her shivers. I can’t possibly know after one night, can I? What if it’s no? What if after next time, if there is a next time, it’s still no?
What if that ruins our friendship?
Her mind once again filled with a crippling anxiety, which had been stemmed initially by her talk with Rarity, but the fact was that this was still short notice. She was underprepared, and she didn’t even bother to ask Rarity how to get ready for the actual date.
In the midst of her minor panic attack, Twilight heard a knock on the door. It was 7:00, and Bubble Berry had arrived on time.
Okay Twilight... just, just be yourself. Just be you. He is your friend after all, so he knows you. Twilight shuffled over to the door hurriedly, and slowly brought it open.
She was met with the stunning sight of her now supposedly coltfriend, Bubble Berry. He had on a blue suit that was a sight beyond anything Twilight had ever seen before. His outfit for the night consisted of a bright, shining cobalt blue suit with a satin finish, and a pale blue bowtie. The suit looked almost futuristic, and just looking at it gave Bubble Berry an air of importance, even if his silly grin didn’t match it in the slightest. He had a top hat on that was of the exact same colors of blue as the suit and tie, down to even the same finish. While the blue accentuated his bright, pink fur, it did more than that: it made his eyes shine brighter than she had ever seen.
Twilight blinked, and Bubble Berry gave a snort and a chuckle. “Like the suit, huh? Rarity made it! Isn’t it fantabulistic?” Bubble was grinning from ear to ear.
“It’s definitely something,” Twilight remarked. “I’ve never seen such an amazing suit. Even when we met Fancy Pants in Canterlot, he was just wearing a normal black suit, but this is something else.”
“You ready for our date then?” Bubble Berry asked, obviously excited.
Twilight nodded, walking outside and closing the door behind her. “Most definitely.”
“Taxi!” Bubble shouted as soon as the door had shut. Somehow, he managed to yell with a deafening volume, making Twilight’s ears ring.
“T-taxi?” Twilight asked. “But it’s just Ponyville. Where could we possibly be going in a taxi?”
The yellow wagon pulled up next to them, and Bubble Berry hopped on board, motioning for Twilight to follow. “C’mon! C’mon! It’ll be fun. It’s a new place and it’s suuuuuuper fancy and the food is sooooooooo good. It’ll be everything I’ve ever wished—I mean it’ll be perfect!” Something in Bubble’s tone seemed forced, but Twilight couldn’t quite place a hoof on it. “It’s on the outskirts of Ponyville, and I don’t think it would be very fun for either of us to dirty up our hooves on the way there.”
Twilight nodded. Not having to walk would make the evening a bit easier on her hooves, she supposed. “So, where are we headed?”
The driver, a tan stallion with an orange mane, looked back at Bubble as well, waiting for an answer. “To Mare Se!” Bubble shouted, pointing his hooves into the air in some type of exaggerated pose.
“Mare Se? I’ve never heard of it,” Twilight said as the taxi took off, presumably in the direction of the restaurant.
“Well, duh! I said it’s new! It’s on the outskirts of Ponyville,” Bubble said, “on top of this hill that overlooks the entirety of Ponyville. You can see all the way from Sweet Apple Acres on the opposite side of town atop its own hill, down to the entire square, and even past it and giving a glimpse of the Everfree Forest.”
“You sound like you know a lot about this place, Bubble Berry,” Twilight remarked, “It sounds wonderful.”
“It’ll be perfect. Just for the two of us!” He said again, grinning right at her this time. She replied with her own little smile, but something seemed off. Didn’t he just say that before we got in the taxi?
The ride to the restaurant was peaceful. Twilight took the time to examine her environment as they traveled up to the restaurant. The sky was an amazing set of orange and pinks, swirled around the sky seemingly without order. The streets were mostly empty, the ponies around them were quietly making their way home after a long day’s work, the nightlife of Ponyville not yet starting. After a few minutes, they passed by the market as it was closing down. As they were passing through, Twilight noticed Bubble Berry make a quick wave to somepony at a merchant’s stall, some tan stallion with a turban over his head and a red vest.
“Is that a friend of yours?” Twilight asked.
“I bought something from him, uhm, the other day, yeah!” Bubble said hastily, “He’s new in Ponyville, so I totally had to welcome him to town, you know?”
“You’ll have to introduce me sometime! What does he sell?”
“Oh, relics and things from his homeland. Nothing too amazing, nope.” Bubble answered.
He keeps pausing when I’m talking to him. Is there something he’s hiding from me?
They reached Mare Se in minutes, after leaving the Ponyville proper and traversing a couple hills. The restaurant itself was a simple, square building with one floor, the outside made of maroon bricks and windows for the patrons to view Ponyville with ease. Bubble got down from the taxi first, holding out a hoof to help Twilight descent from her seat. Giggling, she accepted it, and the two walked silently together towards the restaurant. They were met with a pair of bright blue doors, with a round, golden handle in the very middle of them. Bubble led the way, opening the door so that Twilight could enter first.
The inside of the restaurant was beautiful, yet immense. The high ceiling gave the place a feel of grandness that she had never felt before. The decoration was simple—white walls and ceiling, a brown carpet hiding copper tiled floor, but what caught her eyes were the chairs at every table: they looked like regular chairs a pony could find in any living room, wooden with complex designs both in the wood and on the cushion. The back wall of the dining area had what appeared to be a complicated, flat wooden sculpture piece hanging over it, giving the wall a homely but artistic feel to it, while the front wall was a series of giant glass panes, giving exactly what Bubble Berry had said: a spectacular view of Ponyville. It was a better view of Ponyville than in her hot air balloon even. But something else caught her eyes again: the restaurant was packed. She must not have noticed it from how quiet and calm the entire place was, but indeed, there were only a couple open tables left in the entire establishment. Ponies of the highest and wealthiest class sat at every table, all dressed in clothes with quality and elegance that she’d expect in the Canterlot elite.
“Bubble... this place is incredible. It’s... so packed. How did you get a reservation?” Twilight asked. “You only asked me out earlier today!”
Bubble chuckled quietly, though not at his date’s expense. “This place opened up a few weeks ago, actually. It’s the best restaurant on this side of Equestria, so ponies from Manehattan and Cloudsdale flock here to eat. That’s why it’s so far away from Ponyville. So they don’t have to go into the town.”
Twilight frowned. “I still can’t believe the ponies I used to talk with in Canterlot all think Ponyville is some backwards village...”
Bubble nodded, electing to not say more on the matter. Guess he doesn’t want to be rude to everypony else, Twilight thought to herself. Twilight, think before you speak!
After a moment, they were led to their table by a waiter. They were seated right up against the glass panes, giving the two a perfect view of Ponyville. Twilight looked out over the town she had come to accept as her home, ignoring Bubble Berry as he took an order for some kind of red wine that Twilight couldn’t even begin to pronounce. She could see every place she had ever been—the library, Carousel Boutique, the square with all the shops and vendors, Sugar Cube Corner, city hall, the school. It looked perfectly quaint and natural, seeing it all from that restaurant.
“Twilight? Hellooooo?” Bubble Berry said, grabbing her attention back from the view.
“Oh, sorry about that,” Twilight said, blushing a bit. “It’s just, it’s such a beautiful view.”
“Well, I’m happy that you’re happy then!” Bubble said. Twilight felt it again, there. That sense that something was off with Bubble. What’s going on?
She decided to drop it, as she really had no idea what was causing her to be so suspicious of her date. Besides, it was just that—a date. It wouldn’t be fair to bring up something like that. “So, when do we get menus?”
“Oh, it doesn’t work exactly like that here,” Bubble explained. “There’s a small salon menu for individual dishes, but normally you order from one of two tasting selections. Each tasting is one six-course meal, and they change both daily, and in accordance to the seasons.”
Twilight’s jaw dropped, both in response to the information and to how Bubble Berry had explained it so thoroughly. “That’s... Bubble, this is beyond a first date. This is—”
“It’s supposed to be perfect, and it’s going to be perfect!” Bubble interrupted. There it is again, Twilight thought, that perfect line. What does that even mean? Bubble followed up with another question before Twilight could ponder any further. “So... how’s your week been, Twilight?”
The evening turned out to be the best and worst thing to ever happen to Twilight Sparkle.
The restaurant was perfection incarnate. Never before had she eaten such succulent, savory perfection. The service had been impeccable, and Bubble had somehow chosen a perfect wine to compliment the meals. The two, somehow, managed to fit in perfectly with the high society of Eqeustria. Bubble even managed to pay for the entire thing, though she didn’t see the check. Bubble blew it off, saying that he had saved up for months to afford it, which could only mean it was obscene.
Her conversations, though mostly light-hearted small talk, seemed to fit the situation just right. Twilight talked about how much closer she had gotten to Rarity and Applejack over the week, and how Bubble Berry had been no exception that day, and Bubble talked about his work at the bakery and all kinds of experimental pranks and treats he wanted to try out. It had been perfect.
But Twilight didn’t check a single thing off her list.
While the night might have been considered great under any other context, she was sure it was the opposite when it came to a date. The idea of “love” never once passed between them. They spoke clearly as friends, an atmosphere apart, words never quite having the same meaning as they might between a fillyfriend and coltfriend. The night had been strictly friendly business, and Twilight saw that in Bubble too. After a few courses, his laughs became quiet and polite, to the point of being nearly nonexistent. His smile became so miniscule that he started to wear a kind of grin that even Twilight could see was forced. It was, if nothing else, immensely disconcerting for the student, to see her friend in such a dejected mood.
It was an hour and a half after their arrival at the restaurant, and the two found themselves in a taxi, making their way back to Ponyville. Twilight looked out at the approaching buildings of the town, then back to Bubble, who seemed to be looking forward as well. I’m tired of this, this... this us not acting like a couple! Time to do take a head on approach. Time to be brave.
Twilight cleared her throat. “Driver, do you mind slowing down a little? I’d like to have a nice chat with my coltfriend here.”
“Sure thing,” he answered. His pace instantly slowed from his jog to a leisurely trot, which by Twilight’s estimation, granted them a fifteen minute ride back to the library.
Twilight turned to her coltfriend, finding him staring back at her. “Twilight?”
“Bubble, you never exactly told me how you fell in love with me.”
Bubble blushed instantly. “I-I, uhm.” He paused, looking for the right words. “Love isn’t the word I’d use... but I felt something when we fought that Hydra. Back in Froggy Bottom Bog.”
Dear Celestia that was the first year we knew each other. “That’s when you... fell in love with me?”
“That’s when I felt something more than just friendship with you,” Bubble answered. “I felt scared for you, more scared than I had ever been in my life. It made me... want to protect you. Want to be there for you all the time. I wasn’t sure for a while what it was. I just thought that ‘hey, now that Twilight accepts my Bubble Sense, then we must just be better friends!’ which is also really super, but that totally wasn’t what it was. I talked to Rarity about it once, and she thought that maybe I had a crush on you.”
Twilight nodded. “I see. That’s... I’m sorry that you waited so long to say anything.”
Bubble giggled, the first time in nearly half an hour. “It isn’t your fault. I never minded just being friends with you. Just being there was enough for me.” He smiled, a genuinely happy smile too, from what Twilight could gather.
“That’s... good! That’s very good! That’s... uhm, okay.” Twilight nodded to herself. One item down... so what now?
“Hey Twilight?” Bubble asked.
“Yes?” Twilight replied on instinct, her thoughts interrupted.
“Do you mind if I... lean on you a bit?” Bubble asked, blushing brightly. “I’m just a little tired.”
Twilight giggled. “Sure, I guess.”
Bubble Berry quickly scooted over next to Twilight, and after another moment’s hesitation, he leaned his head against her neck. It wasn’t quite as awkward as Twilight would have thought, despite being a few inches taller than the student, but it worked out anyway.
Immediately she felt his warmth against her neck, a strong contrast to the evening’s cool air. There was something else about him too though, a certain softness, gentleness to his touch. She brought a hoof around his neck, pulling him closer still. His fur was soft to the touch, and she wasn’t sure if it was because he was washing it right, or it that was just part of who he was.
I think I could get used to this. That’s two.
She closed her eyes only for a moment before a loud cough from their driver got her attention. They were at the library. No, it’s too soon...
“Bubble. Bubble Berry?” Twilight pulled back a little bit, letting her coltfriend wake up. “We’re here.”
“Wha, huh?” He mumbled, scratching his eyes. “Oh, we’re back in Ponyville.”
“So I guess... that was our first date?”
“How about we get out of the taxi first?” Twilight suggested. Bubble nodded, and the two stepped down onto the ground. Bubble paid the good stallion, and the two watched him walk off into the night. They were finally alone.
“So...” Bubble started. She could hear his enthusiasm start to seep into his voice, but he contained himself better than she figured he would. “How was that for a first date?”
“How was eating at what was probably both the most expensive but highest quality restaurant I’ve ever seen in my life, with... with you, Bubble Berry?” Twilight threw her forelegs around her coltfriend. “It was the best date I’ve ever been on! Thank you so much Bubble!”
He returned the hug at full strength, but just short of leaving her out of breath. “It was no problem Twilight. No problem at all.” He paused. “And I really enjoyed it too, honest. It was... it was everything I could have wished for. Thanks for going out with me.”
“You say that like, like...”
“You’re really nice Twilight, I know that. You’re the nicest anypony’s ever been to me, except maybe my parents, or my sisters, or the cakes, or... oops, I’m rambling again!” He chuckled. “It’s just, I can tell that... you don’t see much in me. That we’re just friends.”
That stung. She knew that their night had turned out to be nothing more than friendly discussion instead of spending time getting to know each other personally. I knew I couldn’t hide it from Bubble, he must have known since the beginning... but... what more can I do?!
“But... but we’re dating, right? We’re trying to find out what we like about each other!” Twilight retorted.
“I already like you Twilight, but it isn’t hard to see that I’m just a friend to you.” He looked down, almost ashamed.
Twilight felt like flinching at every word. “What about the taxi?”
“What about it?”
“What about it?!” Twilight repeated, voice raised. “We leaned against each other after you explained why you liked me! How isn’t that what dates do?”
“Well...” Bubble responded, not sure of himself.
“I know that... when I first said yes, at lunch, that in my mind, I was just trying to humor you. And that wasn’t fair of me, not one bit. And over dinner, even in that amazing restaurant, I was still doing it wrong. Well, I want to keep trying. If we’re going to end this, it’ll be because one of us doesn’t like the other, not because one of us didn’t bother to try like the other. I owe you that much for agreeing to this!”
Bubble Berry was staring at her, wide eyed. Other than surprise, there was no hint of emotion on his face. Oh, now I’ve done it. I got mad at him, and he’s going to go home, and we’ll just start being friends and it’ll be awkward because we never talk about this and then—
Her thoughts stopped when Bubble’s lips met her own. His eyes were closed, and she closed hers after a second as well. His breath was warm, and tasted of the cheesecake that had been the final course of their meal. The kiss ended after a moment with Bubble pulling away from her.
His face was burning red, but his words were still reserved. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever tried to do for me. I-I don’t know what to say.”
Still reeling from her friend’s kiss, she just nodded. “Just try and believe that I really am trying here. I know I didn’t at first, but I’m, you know, me. Unless I read it in a book, I don’t get it.” She chuckled at her own expense, but Bubble’s smile didn’t move an inch. “I mean,” Twilight paused for a second, and started to blush as she realized what she was about to say, but let the words flow anyway, “I liked it when we, uhm, were leaning against each other in the taxi. It was, uhm, comforting. Having you next to me. I would, uhm, like to do it again sometime.”
Bubble Berry’s ears seemed to pick up upon hearing this. “Really? I thought I was being silly and annoying again.”
“No, no, really. And, uhm,” Twilight paused. If you let him leave now, will there be another date? Would it be awkward between you two, you unsure of your love for him while he knows he loves you? “Uhm, how about we, uh, spend some more time together in the library? I probably have some drinks somewhere in the kitchen—”
“Drinks? Who needs that?” Bubble said, interrupting his fillyfriend. “I’m still hungry after that dinner! I mean, it was super wowza spectaculmazing tasting and all, but the plates made the food look so small! They were the teeniest tiniest little foods and I’m really hungry after all of that so I could bake us something if that’s okay with you, cause I like baking and that’s what I could do if you would like some!”
Twilight blinked, not expecting a sudden Bubble Berry rave about food and their evening when they were just discussing whether or not to keep dating. “Uhm. Yes.” She opened the door to the library, letting Bubble Berry rush inside. Twilight slowly walked in herself, closing the door behind her, and noting that his suit and clothes now sat in a heap against a nearby wall. She took her dress off as well, laying it over the back of a chair. She glanced towards the kitchen, the light turned on and the sounds of pots and pans being moved about by the pink stallion causing a cacophony of noise to fill the library. Certain it would end soon, Twilight turned to the moon-lit library and started to absentmindedly clean up the library, putting away books and otherwise making room on the floor for the two to sit.
I guess... all it took was to ask him in. I didn’t think he was that eager... but maybe he still really wants to give this a shot. If I loved somepony, wouldn’t I try my hardest to stay with them or help them?
Isn’t that what I’m doing now? Trying my hardest to make this last? Maybe I already like him?
Why do you like him though? He’s Bubble Berry! He’s obnoxious, loud, doesn’t know the meaning of personal space, and that darned Bubble Sense of his doesn’t make any sense!
But... all he does is try to make everypony happy. That’s what he tries his very hardest to do. Just think about tonight: he prepares a date for you, probably months in advance, knowing full well that you didn’t have any reciprocated feelings for him, that you were going out with him to be nice, and he still went through with all of it. Making it perfect. To make you happy. And just imagine that this is him, everyday. It’s why he throws parties all the time. To make everypony happy.
So that’s really it then?
I guess that’s a third item knocked off of the list.
She lit a fire in the fireplace and levitated over two cushions, one for herself and one for Bubble. As soon as she sat down, she felt a rush of wind, and Bubble appeared next to her, taking a seat on his cushion. “Hi!” He said, glowing with happiness.
Twilight couldn’t help but chuckle at his enthusiasm. “Hello Bubble. Are you baking something?”
“Yup! Cupcakes!” He answered. “And, uhm, thanks for inviting me over and all.”
“It’s nothing, really. It’ll just be another sleep over!”
Bubble blushed brightly. “S-sleepover? That’s a little too fast Twilight. No noooo I don’t think I’m ready for that quite yet.”
Twilight also blushed, realizing what she said. “No! No not like that. I just mean... I want to spend more time with you, alone. That’s all. I figured if we waited to try another date, it might get too awkward or something.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to spend more time with you too! I don’t want to leave a date on a little argument like that. It’s no fun.” Bubble nodded sagely. “But I really am hungry. Did you really want any cupcakes?”
“I could use one or two, but I thought that dinner was a lot of food,” Twilight stated. “They were small servings, but there were so many of them that it had me satisfied by the end.”
Bubble shrugged. “I guess my appetite is just too big for their small portions. I mean, one of my cupcakes has more calories than all those courses put together!”
The couple laughed despite each other, and when they stopped, their eyes met another time, as it had on the taxi. Twilight saw nothing but cheer in those eyes. Big, sky blue, cheer-filled eyes that could lift her out of any miserable mood. She wondered what he saw in her eyes for a second, but stopped as she felt her own eyelids droop.
“You okay Twilight?” Bubble asked, quieter than he normally spoke. “Your eyes are getting all droopy.”
“I’m just a little tired, Bubble. I’ve had a long day.” Twilight yawned, leaning her head over onto Bubble’s back. She felt him stiffen up at first, not ready for such a personal touch, but he grew calm after a moment.
He really is soft, like some giant, living pillow, Twilight thought. He felt immensely warm, and as she drew in a breath, the scent of bubblegum filled her head, which she imagined could only come from his shampoo. Heh, it’s funny. I didn’t expect him to use such a girly shampoo... Twilight took another deep breath, filling her mind with thoughts of Bubble Berry, and fell asleep.
She dreamed of pink.
Twilight awoke to the sounds of Bubble Berry bumping into a table, and as she opened her eyes her vision was filled with the red of the cushions she had set down for the two of them.
“Hi Twilight!” Bubble said, examining said table. “Sleep well?”
Twilight glanced to the library windows. Sure enough, sunlight was pouring through them, signifying the time of day. “Did I sleep all night?” She asked, shakily getting to all fours.
“Yup! I thought about waking you up, but you looked sooooo cute sleeping there, that I just didn’t wake you.” Bubble Berry walked around the table again, giving something on top of it a bizarre look. “I got up, took the cupcakes out of the oven, which were really really good by the way you should go get one in the kitchen, and went back to sleep on the cushion where you fell asleep on me.”
Twilight didn’t bother to ask how he moved her head so carefully that she didn’t wake up, and was more concerned with his attention to the table. “What are you looking at?”
“Some black box thingy-majiger!” Bubble called out, poking it with a hoof. “Every time I walk in front of the antenna, it freaks out. It’s really really cool! We should show Rainbow Dash! Oh oh what does it measure? Partiness? How pink you are? What what?!” Bubble kept asking, jumping up and down.
A black box? He couldn’t mean... but it’s reacting to him?! Twilight rushed to her feet and teleported to the table next to Bubble, who seemed totally unfazed by the speed of her movements. The antenna was pointing right at Bubble, and indeed, the needle was at the very end of the chart, going nearly off the scale even.
“You... it was you.” Twilight took a few steps back from Bubble and turned to him, a look of concern on her face. “Bubble, I’m going to ask you something very important, and you have to tell me the truth, okay?”
“Sure!” Bubble said, not realizing Twilight’s shift in mood. “What’s up?”
“Did you... do or find anything, two nights ago?”
Bubble froze up, the only parts of him moving being his eyes and mouth. “I didn’t do anything at all two nights ago hahahahaha what are you talking about?” Once finished, he resumed his cheerful smile and hopping in place.
Twilight grimaced. “Bubble, this device,” Twilight picked it up using her magic, “it’s called an arcanometer, and it measures how much magical energies there are in a given area. Right now, it’s saying that you are radiating a lot of magic.”
“The letter I got from Celestia yesterday morning was a letter informing me that she felt some kind of magical disturbance from Ponyville. That very night, two nights ago.” Twilight turned the device off and set it on the table. “Now, it’s possible that you are somehow the source or outlet or victim of immense magical power, and that there was a nearly immeasurably powerful use of magic the night before we met up yesterday, but I’m willing to bet that it isn’t just a coincidence.”
Bubble was now staring straight at the ground. “I-I’m sorry Twilight...”
“It’s okay Bubble, I’m sure you didn’t hurt anypony or do anything bad. You would have told us if you did.” Twilight scratched her head. “But we were around Ponyville all day and nothing seems off. I’d appreciate it if you told me what happened, so I could get back to the Princesses on it.”
“B-but...” Bubble found himself at a loss for words. “I... I can’t...”
“Look, just show me, okay? If it’s something that powerful, it might be dangerous.”
“He isn’t dangerous! He just did what I told him to!” Bubble blurted out. “Please Twilight, for our sake, don’t ask me to do this, okay? Please.”
Twilight frowned. What’s with him? “He? Did what you told him to?” Twilight rubbed one of her temples. Bubble’s being as confusing as ever. “Look, Celestia asked me to investigate this, and I’m going to. If you won’t help me, I’ll just look around myself.”
“I... okay. Fine.” Bubble sighed, then whispered, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” loud enough for the two to hear, leading Twilight out of the library with small, demure steps.
The pair found themselves in Bubble Berry’s loft above Sugar Cube Corner after a short walk. It was like everything Twilight remembered: a simple room with a pink carpet over hardwood floors, a long table for serving food at parties, a bed, and a closet. It seemed to have no other essentials, but considering how little time Bubble actually spent in here, it made perfect sense.
What was odd was that there was a stallion sleeping in Bubble’s bed.
“Hellooooooo,” Bubble said, reaching over and gently shaking him with a hoof, “wakey wakey nivek bakey, it’s nearly ten in the morning.”
“Eugh, shut up Pinkie Pie, I’m trying to sleep. It’s been a few hundred years you know...”
Pinkie Pie? That sounds like a rather girly name. Twilight thought idly. Why is he calling Bubble Berry that?
Without warning, Bubble Berry shouted, “Wake up!” and slammed his hooves on the side of the bed, catapulting the groggy stallion a few feet off of the side. “Twilight’s here! She wants me to explain, uhm, you!”
“Twilight? That mare you have the hots for?” The pony poked his head up over the side of the bed.
The first thing Twilight noticed was that the stallion had a totally bizarre color scheme for his fur. She wasn’t one to judge ponies based on their looks, but it was certainly not normal for anypony she had ever seen before. The pegasus stallion had bright, lime green fur, and his mane and tail were a shimmering crimson, giving him the appearance of a Hearth Warming decoration. His eyes were a bright pink, and he was wearing a white vest with red trim as well, and a white turban, where his mane poked out the front over his forehead. His cutie mark was three orange stars arranged in a triangle.
“The hots?” Twilight looked at Bubble, who was now blushing profusely. “How much did you tell him about me?”
“He told me moooore than enough.” He got up, walking over to the unicorn. “Huh. You’re not really purple so much as... you’re lavender. Yup, a lavender unicorn.”
Twilight frowned, not sure how to respond to the criticism of her fur. “Uhm... thanks?”
“A bit of a book worm too, I’m told.”
“Look, Bubble,” Twilight said, turning away from the pegasus, “what was it that caused that magical disturbance two nights ago? And why are you friends with... this pony?”
“He isn’t exactly my friend... but—”
“Big magic, huh?” The pegasus replied. “That’d probably be me.” He waltzed in front of Twilight, extending a hoof in greeting. “Name’s Nivek. I’m a genie.”
“Nivek? Genie?” Twilight asked. “Wait, like, ‘rub a lamp and three wishes genie?’”
“That’s the one. The dork really is smart.” Nivek smirked.
“Dork?” Twilight gave him a frustrated look. “Why are you being so rude, anyway?”
“Eh, just how I roll.” He got up on the bed and sat down on it, all of his legs tucked in. “Pinkie, why’d you bring her here?”
“She needs to know what you are.” Bubble answered.
There’s that name again, Pinkie. Now it just sounds familiar. Twilight thought.
“Well, you have one wish left, so you can wish for anything. Maybe that’d show her what I can really do.”
Why does the name Pinkie sound so familiar...
“Uhm, okay... hey Twilight, what kind of wish should I make?”
“Huh?” Twilight blinked and shook her head. “What? Wish? But he can’t be a genie! They’re fiction! They only exist in stories!”
“Oh man, she really has no idea. What a dork,” Nivek said, another smirk on his face.
“You!” Twilight pointed at him, “stop calling me that. Bubble, explain to me what’s going on in more detail, okay?”
“Sure thing Twilight.” Bubble walked over to the table, and took a seat, motioning for Twilight to do the same. She followed, the two now on the complete opposite side of the room from Nivek. “So... what does the name Pinkie Pie mean to you?”
“Pinkie Pie...” Twilight repeated in thought. “It seems familiar, but I can’t quite place my hoof on it. Why, is it important? I noticed he keeps calling you that too. Is that like, a nickname or something? You are very pink, after all.”
“Are you sure it doesn’t mean anything to you, Twilight?” Bubble insisted.
Twilight looked up in thought, hoof at her chin. She went through every memory she could think of involving the pink baker, going from the day she arrived in Ponyville and was greeted by his surprise party, to the reappearance of Discord, and even through the Changeling invasion. All she found was Bubble Berry, and her other four friends. It all seemed completely normal.
“Not that I can find.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird that I’m a stallion, and all the other harmony bearers are female?”
Twilight took the question in stride, now in full-on logician mode. “Not particularly. The elements don’t particularly care what sex you are, so I don’t see why it matters.”
“Look, Twilight. I...” Bubble sighed. “Remember yesterday? Hanging out, lunch, me asking you out, our date, everything?”
“Yes? What about it.”
Bubble gulped. “That was... the second time you’ve lived that day.”
Celestia’s letter mentioned that... she woke up to the previous day. “Okay, so you repeated a day. That, I guess, was one of your wishes. Did you want to make the first date go better, or something? Change something else that happened?”
“N-not exactly,” Bubble said. “Now, since you said you’re so sure that you don’t remember, this’ll sound silly. But my real name is Pinkie Pie. Full name: Pinkamena Diane Pie. I’m an earth pony mare that’s been living in the loft on top of Sugar Cube Corner since I first arrived in Ponyville.”
Twilight laughed. “You’re not a mare, you’re a stallion!” She remarked. “You’ve always been a stallion.”
“You think that because of my first wish.” Bubble said, pausing to blink a few times before continuing. “I wished that... that I had always been a stallion, and that everypony knew me as a stallion.”
Twilight tilted her head. “Why would you want to do that? If you were really a mare, why would you want to change into a stallion?”
“I think... that’s pretty easy to answer, Twilight.” He said, staring at the floor. “Do you like mares?”
“Me? Well, no, not exactly, but I haven’t dated much and—”
“You said no Twilight. The first time I asked you out over lunch. You said no to the date that I had been planning for months.”
“I-I did?” Twilight gasped. “But, so, you changed into a stallion, just to convince me to go on a date with you?”
“Crazy, right?!” Called Nivek, from the other side of the room, laughing uproariously. “I told her that she should just ask me to make you fall in love with her, but she said that wouldn’t be ‘fair’ or something.”
Twilight sneered at the supposed genie, then turned back to Bubble. “So... you did all of that with the genie, just for me? To make me go on a date with you?”
“Not to make you!” Bubble said. “Oh gosh I’d never make you date me, that’d be so mean! No, I just thought, ‘well, if Twilight isn’t comfortable dating a mare, then she’d probably be comfortable dating a stallion!’ So... here I am.” Whatever happiness he generated in that small tirade was erased in an instant, as tears started leaking from his eyes. “And... now you won’t wanna date me anymore because I’m really a mare and I was lying to you the entire time and we won’t be friends anymore because I lied to you and losing the trust of your friend is the fastest way to lose that friend FOREVER!”
Bubble started bawling the second he was finished speaking, tears gushing out of his eyes like fountains. He fell forward and grabbed Twilight in a hug, the unicorn reacting quickly enough to get out of her chair and support her distraught friend. Despite Bubble’s wails, Twilight could make out Nivek chuckling to himself, now sitting over the edge of Bubble’s bed.
“Look what you did to him!” Twilight called out, pointing an accusing hoof at the pegasus.
“What, you believe her without even seeing any proof?” Nivek grinned. “You’re smarter than I thought.” He got off of the bed and walked over, ignoring Twilight’s dark expression. “Look, all I did was grant the wish. What she did with it was her problem, not mine. I gave her the talk every genie gives their master: whatever you wish for will come true. Luckily, she still has one wish left.”
“You seem a lot more eager to help than you did before.” Twilight said, suspicious. “What changed?”
“Nothing. But she can undo all of this if she wants, with her last wish.”
Twilight nodded, patting her coltfriend’s back gently. “Well, it’ll have to wait until he’s, uh, feeling a bit better, okay?”
“Right, right. Emotions and all that. Got it.” He sauntered off to the bed, waiting for his master to stop the waterworks.
Twilight stood at Bubble’s side for several minutes, the unicorn not bothering to keep track of time. Bubble didn’t feel warm or soft or anything like he did the previous night. Maybe it was the tear matting his coat against hers, but it felt worse. Rough, flat. It wasn’t right for Bubble to feel like that, she thought to herself.
Eventually, the tears ceased, and Bubble spoke again. “T-Twilight?”
“Do you hate me?”
Twilight giggled. “Of course not, you big oaf. How could I get mad at you?”
“Well, lots of ways!” He started, “I could poke you too much, say your name too much, talk too fast without stopping to listen to what you have to say, invite you to a party every day—”
“I didn’t actually mean for you to answer, Bubble.” Twilight giggled despite the situation. “But no, I’m not mad that you... used a genie to change your gender and everyone’s memories of you, and that you did that to get me to go out on a date with you. I’m not angry because... well, it worked.”
“Huh?” Bubble, now completely done crying, stepped back from his fillyfriend with a tilted head. “What do you mean?”
“You said that I rejected you as a mare, right?” Bubble nodded. “Well, I said yes when you were a stallion. With absolutely nothing different about you, I decided that, somehow, it mattered what gender you were when you asked me out, and that you being a stallion was a yes, and a mare was no.”
“But you can’t help that Twilight!” Bubble said. “Not everypony is comfortable, you know... seeing somepony else that’s the same gender.”
“Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have tried. Because... I kind of, uhm, like you a bit.” She blushed at her own remark. “I really do. Last night was amazing, and I really want to try again.”
“Really?” Bubble asked, ecstatic.
“Really. But the idea that you were a stallion never once popped up in my mind. I didn’t think you were rugged or handsome or something like that. You were just... you. So I honestly think you should use your last wish to change everything back to normal. If you want, that is.”
“If I want?” Bubble tilted his head. “But... shouldn’t I do it because it isn’t normal? I’m not supposed to be a stallion.”
“Well, I don’t think it particularly hurts anypony.” Twilight turned to Nivek. “Are there any harmful side effects to Pinkie Pie being Bubble Berry?”
“What, you think I can’t accomplish a simple dimensional transition? Huh?” Nivek yelled out. When Twilight didn’t give him the dignity of a response, he sighed. “Nah, bro, it’s cool. No side effects or anything. I always give out my wishes how my master wants. That’s what I do and what I’m good at, so don’t go questioning it, all right?”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Right. Wishes.”
“There is one thing though,” he continued. “Not that big a deal, but even though you know that he used to be Pinkie Pie, and that he’s now Bubble Berry, he’ll always seem a little bit off to anyone who knew him really well before change. You included.” Nivek laughed. “You’ve probably noticed it a little bit, being such a smart mare and all. How he seems ‘off’ all the time? That’s the wish.”
He’s right about that... Bubble’s looked a little... something... since yesterday morning. That must have been it.
“I’ll change back, Twilight,” Bubble said suddenly. “All of my memories are with us as mares still... it isn’t fair to change that for you. I should be what I normally am.”
“Only if you’re sure, Bubble. I don’t want to force you into making the decision.”
He nodded. “It’s okay. You... you’ll still want to go out, right?”
“On another date?” Twilight asked. At his nod, she answered, “Yes. Most definitely.”
That was all the answer Bubble needed. With a single leap, he jumped and landed in front of the green pegasus, and said, “I wish for you to completely undo my first wish: make me a mare again and make everyone remember that I was a mare.”
Nivek’s eyes lit up in anticipation. “Oh man, I get to undo a wish? Never had to do that before. This’ll be fun.” With that, he got off of the bed, and looked Bubble right in the eye. “This won’t hurt for very long, so don’t sweat it.” With that, he suddenly threw a hoof upward, hitting Bubble Berry right in the chest with an uppercut.
Twilight rushed forward at his assault, calling his name in anger, when a pillar of white light overtook both Nivek and Bubble. It was blinding, keeping Twilight from moving. It was like a tornado, both magic and air rushing upwards with impossible power, without destroying anything nearby. After a few seconds, it stopped. Twilight opened her eyes to see Nivek and a mare that looked exactly like Bubble Berry standing where they were just a moment before.
And then the memories hit her. She fell to her knees from the force of the magic, but after a few moments, it was okay. Like a waterfall, she felt a force rip through her mind, taking away all of the memories of Bubble Berry, and replacing them with what was supposed to be there: Pinkie Pie. The element of harmony, Discord, the changelings. Everything had Pinkie in its proper place. The pink, bubbly mare that she had first met in Ponyville now resided in her mind in its proper place.
“Well, pinks, that’s my three wishes. I guess I’ll see you around.”
“I’ll... see you, Nivek.” Pinkie Pie said.
With that, Nivek seemed to vaporize, turning into a barely visible cloud of smoke, which seemed to get sucked into the closet. Twilight dashed forward to where he once stood, looking around wildly. “Where did he go?”
“Probably back where I found him!” Twilight turned to see Pinkie Pie standing at her closet, holding a brass oil lamp in one hoof. “Remember that merchant I waved at last night? He’s where I bought this silly little oil lamp from. When you rejected me, the first time, I spent some time in the square, not sure of what to do with myself. I felt kind of sad, and when we struck up a conversation, he convinced me to buy it. I don’t think he knew it was a genie though. I didn’t actually do anything with it until that night, where I rubbed it, and he came out, claiming to be a genie.”
Twilight walked, over examining the lamp. “It’s just a regular lamp. It looks old though.” Twilight’s horn lit up, and in a flash, the arcanometer appeared before her, teleported to her from the library. She flipped it on, and pointed it at the lamp. Again, like it had with Bubble Berry, the needle went off the charts. “So, if I rubbed this, would he become my genie?” She asked.
“Yup! And like he said, he says he likes to grant wishes the best possible way. He’s kind of mean, but he said he only did that so that people would believe him. We... had a bit of a talk before I made my wishes. I wanted our date to be perfect, and I just wanted to try and be me. That’s why I didn’t wish for you to fall in love with me.”
Twilight nodded. “Well, that was very considerate of you. I’m not sure I would take too kindly to mind control. Just to be safe though, let’s point this at you.” Then, she cautiously turned it to Pinkie Pie. She breathed a sigh of relief when the needle only read about a third or so.
“So? Do I check out doc?” Pinkie asked, her face a look of mock distress.
“You are... a bit higher than most earth ponies, but otherwise...” Twilight said, imitating a doctor. “You’re cured!”
“Yay!” Pinkie took up Twilight in one of her signature bear hugs. “Oh, I’m so glad everything worked out in the end!”
Twilight nodded. “So, can you put me down now? I need... to look at you...” Pinkie obliged, letting down the unicorn easily. Once on the ground, Twilight walked around her friend, making sure everything was in order.
Longer mane and tail, skinnier chest and wider hips, rounded snout... she’s definitely a mare again. “That is strange, though...” Twilight pondered aloud.
“What?” Pinkie asked.
“It’s just, I don’t remember anything about you being a stallion, except for everything since yesterday morning. I remember you greeting me at the door, the date, everything perfectly, with you as a stallion.”
“That’s because those experiences were new, silly! Not just recreated to fill your mind with male-me!” Pinkie answered.
“Uh huh.” Twilight didn’t bother to ask why Pinkie knew that. She looked at the clock. It was only ten thirty in the morning. She yawned. “I need a nap... this has been way too much for me to take in in one day. Heh, look at me, I’m turning into Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie gasped and grabbed Twilight’s shoulders, shaking her. “No, don’t turn into Rainbow Dash! You need to stay Twilight Sparkle! Stay the pretty purple unicorn that you are!” Upon realizing what she said, she blushed. “You’re... you’re still my fillyfriend, right?”
Twilight nodded. “I wouldn’t betray you after you made such a huge decision like that. Besides, I meant what I said. I really do like you.” The unicorn yawned again. “Gosh, that wish must have taken a toll on me, because I feel like I could fall asleep again.”
Pinkie yawned an even bigger yawn in response to Twilight’s own. It must have been even worse for her. Her entire body changed. “Good thing there’s a bed right here!” Pinkie said, jumping onto her bed and patting a spot next to her. “Hop on Twilight, c’mon!”
Twilight groaned, lazily walking over to and climbing onto the bed. As soon as she was safely on top, she rolled onto her side, her drooping eyes closing all on their own. A moment later, she felt Pinkie Pie lie down against her back, one of her hooves draped over the unicorn’s shoulder. Twilight giggled, but didn’t push back.
“Good night, Pinkie Pie.”
“Good night, sleepy head.”