The bed stood quietly by the wall, enticing her with its soft, inviting pillows. The blankets were slightly disheveled, leaving an opening just wide enough for the sleepy pegasus to slip into.
Maybe I could just close my eyes for a couple minutes…
Rainbow Dash shook her head fiercely and pressed her hooves against her forehead in an attempt to forcefully drive the fatigue out of her body. On any other day, she would still be in bed, comfortably dozing through the early morning hours. She had woken herself up far earlier than normal, even before Celestia herself, to clear the skies above Ponyville, getting all of her work out of the way ahead of time so she could take the rest of the day off.
A slow smile broke out across her face as she thought about what was held in store for later. The smile was short lived however, a frown returning as she remembered the task at hoof: a vicious contest of intellect, wits, and hoof-eye coordination. Looking down at the mess laid out before her, Rainbow Dash could feel the knot returning in her stomach. Hours of work, and all she had to show for it were several torn wads of wrapping paper, two ears tied down with ribbon, one conspicuously gift box shaped hole in the wall, and exactly zero successfully wrapped presents.
No matter how many different ways she tried folding it, the paper refused to match the contours of the box. And she still hadn’t figured out how she was supposed to accomplish tying the ribbon around anything using her hooves. Except, for reasons she would never fully understand, her ears.
Where’s a unicorn when you need one?
Dash briefly contemplated what her life would be like if she could use magic. Images of wowing the Wonderbolts by shooting fire from her eyes in midair swam through her head.
She sighed as she returned to reality. This wasn’t a job for a cool pegasus like her. She didn’t need to wrap any gifts. She was busy doing much more important things. She could if she wanted to, but it just wasn’t her style. What she needed was somepony more inclined to wasting their time with those types of finicky niceties.
Realization shot through Dash’s head like a bolt of lightning. She knew just the finicky unicorn for the job. She briskly gathered up the remains of her attempted gift wrapping and bolted out the door.
Meanwhile, at the local library, Twilight Sparkle groaned aloud as she examined the state her home. The normally tidy main floor of the library had been transformed into a disorderly confusion of literature. Piles of books were strewn haphazardly across the room without any hint of organization. “This is a mess,” she complained, stating the obvious to no one in particular.
If it was rare for ponies to check out books from the library, it was downright unheard of for ponies to actually return them afterwards. After months of failed nagging and tracking down missing books, Twilight had decided enough was enough. She brought to bear the most powerful weapon in a librarian’s arsenal: threats of late fees. Fearful of that terrible monster, the few patrons of the library had returned every single checked out book. All on the same day.
Twilight rubbed her sore temple, hoping to assuage the headache that had been plaguing her all morning. Just when it seemed the pain in her head was beginning to clear, an angry voice shot out from somewhere in the labyrinth of books.
“This is ridiculous!” Spike yelled. “It’s going to take weeks to get this all cleaned up.”
Twilight groaned again as her headache returned at full force. “Spike, I already told you, Rarity and Fluttershy both promised they would come by and help. Between the four of us, we should be able to get it done today. Stop whining”
Spike muttered something angrily under his breath, too quiet to make out. Twilight thought she had a pretty good idea of what he was probably saying though.
She inspected the book pile beneath her with a sigh. Glancing at the title on the first cover, An Incredibly Interesting Study into the Flying Patterns of Migratory Ducks, she floated it in the general direction of the Non Fiction section and moved on to the next. Daring Do and the Dastardly Drafty Door went to Fiction, and I’m on a Boat but I Don’t Want to be on a Boat went to Self Help.
Twilight noted happily that she had reached the bottom of the pile. She looked down at the final book, The Progressive Mare Egghead’s Guide to Dating. She began levitating the book into the air when she was stopped by a sudden idea. Anytime was a good time do a little research. After checking to make sure Spike was still busy working, she laid the book back down and began reading the table of contents.
”For the guide to dating colts turn to page 1, for the guide to dating mares turn to page 64.” Twilight re-read the sentence and then looked at the title again to ensure it was indeed The Progressive Mare Egghead’s Guide to Dating.
That doesn’t make any sense, she thought to herself. Mares dating… mares?
Baffled, Twilight quickly flipped through pages, looking for the number “64” to appear in the corner. A gentle knock at the door broke her from her reverie. “Come in!” Twilight called, pushing the book aside.
She absently wondered when ponies would finally realize that it was a public library and that there was, in fact, no need to knock before entering. At that moment, two such ponies trotted into the room, one yellow coated pegasus and one pearly white unicorn.
Twilight felt a wave of relief wash over her at the sight of her friends. “Thank you two so much for coming. There’s no way Spike and I will ever be able to finish this by ourselves.”
Rarity winced as she looked over the library’s condition. “My word Twilight, I know you said there was a mess, but this,“ she said, theatrically waving a hoof through the air, “is a catastrophe.”
“It’s not that bad,” Twilight replied, rolling her eyes. “We’ve already gotten a lot of work done.”
The other unicorn snorted as she trotted towards the open book lying on the floor. “Work?” she asked sarcastically. “It looks to me like you were reading.”
Twilight opened her mouth to argue, but was cut short by a dramatic gasp from Rarity.
Fluttershy quickly flew to her side. “Oh no, what’s wrong?”
Rarity began excitedly giggling and bouncing in place. “Nothing’s wrong. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This is fantastic!” she cried, letting loose another delighted shriek. “Twilight Sparkle, how could you keep this from me?” Rarity pursed her lips in a short pout before smiling again. “So, who is he? Do I know him? How did you meet? Tell me everything!”
Twilight, who was now truly and wholly dumbfounded, gave the only logical reply she could think of, “Huh?”
Rarity cocked her head and passed Twilight a sidelong glance. “Don’t play coy with me darling. It doesn’t suit you at all.”
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, Twilight,” Fluttershy said softly after looking over the book on the ground herself.
Twilight blinked, it seemed her two friends had both just completely lost their minds at the same time, which was surprising because there were very few documented cases of simultaneous mental breakdowns in Ponyville. “I have no idea what you two are talking about.”
“Then explain this,” Rarity challenged, levitating the book in front of Twilight’s face, The Progressive Mare Egghead’s Guide to Dating stamped boldly on the cover.
Twilight felt her face begin to burn in embarrassment. “No, it’s not like that at all. I was just conducting research!”
“Oh yes, of course you were,” Rarity said with a sly smile.
“Listen to me!” Twilight’s voice was reaching a higher pitch than normal. “I was organizing the books when I noticed there was a section in that one about dating mares and—“
She was interrupted by yet another dramatic gasp from Rarity. “It’s a mare?! It isn’t Rainbow Dash, is it?”
“What?” Twilight cried, more of statement than a question. “No! Why would you even think that?”
“I’ve seen the way you look at her,” Rarity replied, pointing an accusing hoof.
Twilight’s face was now glowing a bright red hue. “No!” she screeched, her voice cracking slightly. “I just saw the section about mares and I was curious because I’d never heard of anything like that before!”
Rarity placed a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. “Dear, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Fluttershy appeared on her other side with a wide smile. “Twilight, I think this is wonderful, and who ever she is, she’d be lucky to have you as a marefriend.”
Twilight’s jaw dropped but remained silent. She racked her brain, trying to figure out exactly at what point her day had taken such a horrifying turn. Straining to keep her voice steady, she began again, “Listen, I am not in a relationship with anypony, nor do I want to be.
“Also, I am not attracted to mares,” she explained adamantly, feeling her face grow warm again. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything about that. I was just doing research in the dating guide because I was curious. Nothing more. End of story.” With the last word she stamped her hoof on the ground, praying it would bring the matter to an end.
“Oh Twilight, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” Fluttershy said, drawing away.
“It’s okay, no harm done.” She looked to her other friend. “Rarity?”
Rarity eyed her suspiciously. “So you really don’t like Rainbow Dash then?”
“No, I really, really don’t.”
Rarity turned away, suddenly seeming very interested in a nearby stack of books. The silence stretched on for several long moments, until Twilight decided to move forward. She figured there would be no better time to obtain the information she wanted, especially now that the subject was already out on the table.
“So,” she started delicately, “that’s a common… er… situation then?”
Rarity turned to face her again. “What is?”
Twilight fought down another blush and continued on, “Mares who are attracted to other mares instead of stallions. It isn’t uncommon?”
Rarity’s mouth crumpled as she considered the question. “I suppose not.”
“Which are you attracted to then?” Twilight asked, watching as her friend’s eyes opened wide. She had learned long before that, as a researcher, it was best to be as direct as possible. Unfortunately, this directness tended to take other ponies by surprise.
“Stallions of course,” Rarity answered hastily.
Twilight looked towards Fluttershy, who had been moving farther and farther behind a nearby pile of books throughout the duration of the conversation. “And how about you?”
Fluttershy lowered her body close to the ground, apparently attempting to meld into the flooring. “Oh, w-well,” she stammered, “…I don’t really… it’s not…”
“Twilight, this is not a polite topic of conversation,” Rarity said, coming to the flustered pony’s rescue. She looked at Twilight disapprovingly. “You should never interrogate others about their private—“
“What in Celestia’s name are you guys talking about?” The interrupting voice was emanating from a swaying stack of books that had just indignantly marched in among the group. “And why am I the only one working?” The load finally toppled over, revealing an angry baby dragon.
“Spike, this is no time for playing with dusty books,” Rarity exclaimed. “Twilight is in love!”
Spike snorted. “What, did the newest edition of Encyclopedia Equestria come out or something?
Twilight shot her assistant a quick glare before addressing Rarity. “How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not in love with anypony!” She brought her voice back down to a more neutral level. “And besides, I just dusted the library’s entire collection two days ago.” Nopony could ever say Twilight Sparkle didn’t take her job as librarian seriously. Since she had moved in, she’d worked nonstop to keep the library in superb condition.
Rarity began to speak when she was interrupted yet again, this time by a loud pounding at the door. “It’s open,” Twilight called. “Like always.”
The door blasted open and a tired looking pegasus swooped in, holding what appeared to be a heap of trash between her hooves. “Twilight have you seen—“ Rainbow Dash’s face suddenly brightened as she recognized the other unicorn in the room, “Rarity! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” She threw the mass of garbage down on the floor. “I need your help with this.”
Rarity cautiously prodded the pile with a hoof. “What is this?”
“Well duh, it’s a present,” Dash answered, rolling her eyes. “I need you to wrap it.”
Spike burst into a laugh so violent he had to clutch his stomach to keep from falling over. “The amazing Rainbow Dash doesn’t know how to wrap a present?”
“I could wrap the coolest present ever if I wanted,” she declared, hovering towards him.
“Then why don’t you?” Spike asked.
“I’m busy,” Dash responded importantly. “Awesome ponies like me have lots of stuff they have to do.”
“Yeah? Like wh—“
Rarity cleared her throat loudly to draw their attention. “Of course, anything you need Rainbow Dash. I’m always happy to help you.” She beamed an animated smile. “I’ll have this finished in mere moments.”
She began organizing the mess of paper and ribbons, levitating them into neat piles. “I must say, the design on this box is quite fetching and it matches the paper and ribbons perfectly. I always knew you had an aesthetic eye.“ She winked at Dash playfully. “Who is to be the recipient?”
Rainbow Dash’s face went blank. “The who is the what now?”
“Who are you giving the present to?” Rarity asked, still looking down at the box as she perfectly centered it onto a sheet of wrapping paper.
“Oh well it’s…” Dash’s voice wavered.
Fluttershy and Spike leaned past Rarity’s shoulders on either side, examining the gift. “This says ‘To Pinkie Pie’ ” Spike commented, reading a gift tag.
“Oh… uh…” Dash nervously looked around the room, as if the answer lay somewhere among the mess of books surrounding her. “It’s for her birthday!” she said abruptly.
“But Pinkie’s birthday is months away,” Twilight pointed out.
Dash rubbed a thoughtful hoof against her chin. “No, I’m pretty sure it’s today.”
Fluttershy spoke for the first time since the other pegasus had arrived. “Rainbow, it really isn’t. That isn’t what tonight’s party is for.”
“What party?” Rainbow Dash asked, dropping her hoof.
“Spike!” Rarity exclaimed. “It isn’t proper to rummage through other ponies’ things!”
Spike, who either hadn’t heard or didn’t care, pulled an elongated paper tube out of the box. “What is this?” he asked, balancing it in his hands.
Fluttershy examined the paper closely. “Is that one of your Wonderbolts posters?”
“Yup, I got it signed by the whole team,” Dash replied, puffing out her chest.
“What would Pinkie Pie want with that?” Spike questioned, a quizzical expression on his face.
Dash’s chest deflated. “What do you mean? Anypony would kill to get a present like that.”
“Well, gifts are supposed to be things the other pony would want, not things that you want,” Twilight answered. “Pinkie Pie isn’t nearly as big a fan of the Wonderbolts as you are.”
“You really don’t think she’ll like it?”
“I know I would fully appreciate any gift from you, dear,” Rarity responded distractedly, still absorbed in her work.
“I think she’ll love it,” Fluttershy said with a smile. “Just knowing that you cared enough to give her a present should be enough.”
Dash still looked worried. “But I want to give her something she’ll actually like.”
“Why are you giving her anything in the first place?” Spike asked.
Dash’s expression changed from worried to annoyed. “I told you already, it’s her birthday.”
“And I told you already, it isn’t,” Twilight interjected.
“Whatever!” Dash cried, “I already got her the present, I might as well give it to her.”
“Fiiiiniiished!” Rarity called. “There you are, all ready for tonight’s soiree.” She levitated the now extravagantly wrapped and ribboned box through the air.
Rainbow Dash held the gift up in her hooves excitedly. “Rarity, this is perfect! Thank you so much.”
“No problem at all.” Rarity smiled lavishly. “Just remember, anytime you need help with anything, I’ll be delighted to help.” Dash didn’t seem to notice what her friend was saying, her attention consumed by the newly decorated box.
“Were we all supposed to bring gifts?” Fluttershy asked, raising a hoof to her mouth. “Oh no, I didn’t get one.”
Twilight reflected on the letter she had received earlier that morning. It had arrived tied to a balloon and, in typical Pinkie Pie fashion, played an impressively elaborate musical number when opened. “My invitation didn’t say anything about presents.”
“What’s going on?” Rainbow Dash asked, finally becoming aware of the conversation taking place around her. “Presents for what?”
“Pinkie Pie’s throwing a party tonight,” Spike responded. “Weren’t you invited?”
“What?!” Dash practically shouted. “How could Pinks throw a party today of all days?”
Spike passed her a puzzled expression. “Why? What’s today?”
“Did you just call her Pinks?” Rarity asked in a startled voice.
“What’s the party for?” Dash demanded.
“The invitation said that it’s supposed to be a surprise. Pinkie will tell us when we get there,” Twilight answered.
“Hmmm…” Dash turned away, staring absently at the wall.
The silence stretched on for over a minute as the four waited for their friend to explain. When it became apparent that no such explanation would be coming, Twilight decided to move on. She had learned from experience that it was fruitless to attempt to find out what was going on in Rainbow Dash’s head if she wasn’t being forthcoming.
“So,” she began, once again trying to be as delicate as possible, “I was doing some research with Rarity and Fluttershy, and was wondering if you could answer a question for me.”
Rarity threw her a displeased look. “Twilight, what did I just finish telli—“
Twilight pressed forward before she could object further. “Are you attracted to stallions, or mares?”
“What?!” The outburst came from Spike. “That’s what you guys were talking about while I was working? Gag, I’m out of here,” he said, trudging away and making a face.
“What did you just say?” This time, the question came from Rainbow Dash.
“I asked if you were attra—“
Dash narrowed her eyes. “That is not funny!”
“I didn’t mean it as a joke,” Twilight responded, talking as civilly as possible.
Rainbow Dash began to advance towards the surprised unicorn, her face contorting with anger. Twilight struggled to understand what was happening. Moments ago her friend had been acting normally, now she appeared to be on the verge of exploding.
Dash stood face to face with Twilight, their snouts nearly touching. “I am not a fillyfooler!”
“A what?” Twilight asked, still attempting to make sense of the situation.
Rainbow Dash let out a mock laugh. “Yeah, you’re so funny.”
“I really wasn’t jok—”
“Egghead!” Dash shot. “See? I can do it too.”
“Rainbow Dash, that’s enough!” At some point Fluttershy had managed to come in between them. “You need to calm down.”
“You too?!” Dash shouted angrily.
“No, Twilight is your friend,” Fluttershy said calmly, “and so am I. You know neither of us would ever say anything like that.”
“I can’t beli—“
“Rainbow Dash, please!” Fluttershy pleaded.
Just as quickly as it had come, the anger left Rainbow Dash’s face. She backed away slowly, her legs quivering. Reaching down quickly, she picked up the wrapped present. “Th-thanks for wrapping this,” she said, looking towards Rarity, her voice shaking as she spoke. “I… uh… I gotta go.” With that, Dash jumped into the air and dove out a nearby window.
Fluttershy sighed and turned to examine her friend. “Are you okay Twilight?”
“Yeah, but what in the world was that about?” Twilight rubbed her temple with a hoof. Her headache had returned with a vengeance.
“I told you that wasn’t a polite topic of conversation,” Rarity chided. “Some ponies are offended by that sort of talk.”
“I don’t know, that was pretty extreme,” Twilight responded. “Something’s up with her.” Rainbow Dash could become competitive and even annoyed with her friends at times, but Twilight had never seen her so angry before.
“It’s a shame how close minded some ponies can be,” Rarity said, a wistful expression on her face.
Fluttershy looked thoughtfully out the open window. “I think you’re right, Twilight. I wonder… ” Her voice trailed away.
“You wonder what?” Twilight asked impatiently.
Fluttershy jumped. “Oh, I’m sorry, I really don’t know,” she said, looking down at her hooves. “But, I think I should go talk to her, if that’s alright with you, Twilight.”
“Of course it is. I really need to get back to work anyway.”
“Thanks,” Fluttershy said, walking towards the window. She nodded towards Rarity. “I’ll be back soon.” She followed her friend out of the library window and into the open sky.
Rainbow Dash flew toward the cloud she’d spotted near the library, positioning herself high above it. When it was directly below her, she folded her wings against her sides. Her stomach lurched at the sudden feeling of free fall until she hit the cottony surface with a poomf. Lying face down on the cloud, Dash played the scene over in her mind again.
Why, of all things, did Twilight have to make a joke about that, she wondered. In all the time she had known the unicorn, Dash had never seen Twilight tell a joke at another’s expense. It had to have been some sort of misunderstanding. She thought back to her own reaction.
She probably thinks I’m an idiot now, she mused sullenly.
She heard a gentle flutter of wings in the air above her. “Are you feeling okay, Rainbow Dash?”
Dash looked up at the pegasus who had just landed beside her. Fluttershy, of course she would be the one they’d send to talk to her. “Can you tell Twilight that I’m sorry? I didn’t mean to act like such a foal.”
“Of course I will,” Fluttershy said as she lay down on the soft cloud, curling her forelegs beneath her chest. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” Dash replied, rolling onto her back. She could guess the question her friend was going to ask. Should have just wrapped it myself…
“Why are you giving Pinkie Pie a present?”
Dash held the gift box up in the air, rolling it between her hooves. At some point, a large dent had appeared in the corner and one of the ribbons was torn. “I’m not, you know, like that.”
“I know,” Fluttershy responded, frowning. “And no pony ever said you were.”
Rainbow Dash merely grunted in reply. Her soft-spoken friend had always supported her, but even her kindness had to have limits. “Did you mean it when you said she’ll like it?” Dash noticed a puzzled expression on Fluttershy’s face. “The present,” she clarified.
“I’m certain she will,” Fluttershy answered. “It’s very thoughtful of you.”
Dash lay in silence for several moments. “Thanks.”
“So are you fee—“
“Well, I’ve gotta get going,” Dash said abruptly, standing up. “See you later.” It would be best to end the conversation as soon as possible.
“Oh, okay then.” Fluttershy grimaced, clearly disappointed by her friend’s standoffishness.
Rainbow Dash raised herself into the air with one powerful flap of her wings.
Fluttershy looked up at her. “You know, you can always talk to me if something’s wrong.” She looked down again. “That is, if you want to.”
Dash began climbing higher into the sky. “Yeah, I know.” With another beat of her wings, she was speeding away again, this time in the direction of the town’s bakery.