Assumptions VII: Let Me Be Your Guide
What are you going to do, Rainbow Dash?
The question, though unsaid, hung in the air. Rarity inched away from Caramel, staring intently into the pegasus’s eyes. Rainbow Dash just stood still, the wind playing with her mane, waving the coloured strands of her hair through her unblinking eyes. Caramel’s eyes darted from one mare to the other, his head shaking slightly, as if from the cold.
“It’s not wha…” he managed to stutter, before being cut off by the unicorn.
“Oh, Rainbow Dash. You know that’s not true. We’re still here,” she gave her a vicious little smile. “Or is it maybe that you don’t want to admit there being another mare around Caramel?”
“Come on Rarity, it’s not like that…” he protested feebly.
“Really Caramel, then how is it? You are so…” Rarity whinnied as she pressed herself towards him.
“Rainbow…” The colt craned his neck forward, but the pegasus had already turned around and walked into the house.
“Hmph” Rarity backed off, a sly smile on her face. “So, that’s how it is…” she whispered to herself as she turned around, not even giving Caramel a second look.
Caramel was lost in his recollections, barely noticing the motion of the train.
“What a blizzard!” a voice called from in front of him. “Too bad your pegasus friend couldn’t arrange some better weather.”
Caramel did a double take. His eyes focused on the light blue stallion sitting before him. Lucky was pointing out of the small window of the cargo hold; giving is companion a quizzical look.
“She’s not my friend!” Caramel finally spurted out.
“Right. That’s why you eat breakfast and dinner together almost every single day. Don’t fight it, Caramel,” the other colt teased.
“It’s not like that. She just comes as she pleases. It’s not like I have a choice…” Also, the last two weeks she hasn’t said anything at all. Just ate her food and left
“You always have a choice. You could throw her out. But you don’t. What do you think that means?” the light-blue colt enquired playfully, as the first snowflakes fell gently onto the landscape passing in front of them.
“What it means is…” Caramel started, but found himself incapable of finishing the sentence honestly and simply gasped for air.
“Exactly,” Lucky continued, taking his cue from his fellow traveler’s prolonged silence. “It’s cute that you follow her like a small dog, but sometimes you have to colt-up and take charge…”
“Whatever. Just shut up, or this train ride will give me a headache" Caramel replied irritably. "Or do you not want me to help you with Rarity’s bags?”
Lucky giggled. Nothing could ruin his day. Not even hauling is neighbor’s substantial amount of luggage through the streets of the capital. Actually, it was on a night like this, some months ago, when he met the pony of his dreams. The memories of his night on the town came flooding back, giving him the strength to push through the piles of fluffy white snow that began forming on the road. Maybe I’ll propose tonight. I wonder if Caramel will be there and how he’ll take it.
Inside one of the coaches, six mares were preoccupied with their own preparations for the Annual Hearth’s Warming Play. Twilight Sparkle, slouched over a large book, levitating a thick red marker, hastily scribbled a few notes into it and then leaned in even further; shaking her head as she meticulously reread every word. Applejack, seated next to her, craned her neck to see the script, her lips silently mimicking the lines she knew she had to deliver. The slamming sound of a page being flipped tore through the tense atmosphere of the coach. Pinkie Pie, who had previously been shaking vigorously, focused on the book and extended her neck over it with a silent ‘Oooooh’. Fluttershy was curled up into a bundle so tight her entire body was covered by her mane. Rainbow Dash was glaring at Rarity, who was just looking out of the window.
“Say girls, why so quiet? I’m quite certain we’ll do the annual Hearth’s Warming play justice. Please, ‘tis the season to be jolly, after all, isn’t it?” Rarity sighed as she looked at her friends. It’s so aggravating. Who knew they’d be this nervous? Quiet is one thing, but this is discomforting...
“I’m sure all of us will do great. We’ve been practising our lines, doing rehearsals and once we put on the costumes we’ll be proper stars,” she continued with her pep-talk.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you…” Rainbow Dash growled from the corner, still keeping her eyes on Rarity, her brow furrowed.
“Oh dear, I told you, it’s not like that at all…”
Twilight, now shaking her head, put down her book and took a deep breath. “Could you please not argue? Either just sit still or explain yourselves and make up.” She dove straight back into her reading.
“Well, I have nothing to explain…” the speedy pegasus burst out, finally taking her eyes off Rarity, now looking in the opposite direction.
“So what is wrong with you?” Twilight’s eyes, finally tore away from the heavily-scribbled pages as she slammed her script.
“Nothing!” the pegasus stammered.
“Yer sure that’s the truth, sugar cube?”
“Well, it’s just… Rarity once again arranged for Ca… Lucky and Caramel to come with us to Canterlot, this time to haul her baggage to the palace. She just thinks it’s OK to wiggle her flank and any colt will do anything for her!”
“Aha... sure that’s it?” the farm pony enquired.
“Yeah, what else could there be?”
“So this is what it’s all about…” Rarity giggled.
Rainbow Dash threw her another glare. You know this is full well this is not what it’s about.
“Don’t you worry, dear. Lucky is actually visiting the pony of his dreams whom he met in Canterlot last time he brought us around. And Caramel will be having a little family reunion. But of course, you’re just neighbours… So you wouldn’t know this? Right.”
“Don’t be silly, they’re friends. I spoke to Caramel as he was watching Dashie’s tricks one morning.” Pinkie jumped in, seemingly from above. “Speaking of which, would any of my best friends want to party with me tonight after the play?” She quickly leaned towards Rainbow and raised her eyebrows. “AAAAAAnypony at all?”
“You know what Pinkie, I’ll party with you. Canterlot can be quite stuffy sometimes. I’ll stick around a bit after the play, but I can go with you if you’d like,” Rarity interjected.
“Oh,” the pink mare whispered as her mane deflated a tiny bit.
“Don’t be so disappointed. I can be… err… fun” the seamstress looked around for approval as she bit her lip.
Her travelling companions looked at one another, then back at Rarity, then at one another again, their faces blank. Suddenly, a helium-high pitched roar of laughter cut the silence, followed by a hearty, drawling giggle. Within a split second, the rest of the ponies followed suit, and even Fluttershy, nervous as she was, gave a timid, barely audible chuckle.
Pinkie Pie was holding onto her belly as she fell down onto the floor of their coach. “Oh hay! It guess it really is just the play that’s getting to us. You’re right Rarity, let’s kick some major flank on that stage.”
“Well, it is Hearth’s Warming. I guess I can forget about our little strife for a moment,” Rainbow Dash huffed.
“Hear, hear!” Applejack shouted and leaped across the coach to hug her multi-coloured friend. “It’s Hearth’s Warming. Let’s just enjoy it.”
And just like that, the holiday spirit touched almost everypony inside the carriage. Among the chatter and the laughter, Rainbow Dash looked out of the window. In the distance, she saw the warm, twinkling lights of Canterlot castle. As the coach made a its last sharp turn to join to the avenue leading to the great city, she caught a glimpse of the train’s cargo carriage, a its small window illuminating its otherwise dark prismatic form . She blinked and saw her own reflection in the window, her large eyes sparkling, her mouth slightly open and unwittingly curving into a tender smile.
“You know what? I’ll close the window,” Rainbow Dash said and flew across the room to stop the current of cold air from penetrating further backstage. She grabbed the brass handle and pushed against the icy current. Easy. Now, why Twilight couldn’t use her magic to close the window is beyond me. She looked out of the window one last time. The street outside was teeming with ponies, huddling close together, trotting home after yet another successful performance of the annual Hearth’s Warming play. Only one pony stood still, underneath a mistletoe-clad street light, his blue eyes looking expectantly into the window she just closed. He raised his front hoof nervously and gave a tiny wave.
Caramel stood underneath a street light, facing the back side of the Royal Theatre. For a moment, he thought he saw a faint dash of rainbow behind one of the windows. He raised his hoof, but it was gone just a soon as it had appeared. His ears drooped and he hung his head down again, returning to his usual slouched posture. Of course, she’ll just want to stay there, with her friends. It’s not like she wants to hear what I have to say. A gentle tap on his haunch interrupted his train of thoughts. He slowly turned his head, only to find a pegasus mare, suspended in mid-air, upside down, her magenta eyes staring deep into his.
“Boo!!!” she boomed, so that stallion took a few hapless steps back.
Caramel almost collided with a couple of regal-looking unicorns. He managed to stutter an apology and the turned to Rainbow Dash. “You c-came? I thought you’d be busy with your friends.”
“Nah, they’ll be fine tonight. The official banquet is tomorrow evening anyway. And most of my friends will be busy. That’s why they call tonight Hearth’s Warming Eve, you know. So, what do you way?”
“W-well, since it’s Hearth’s Warming, I figured I’d tell you the truth. Y-you see, after the dinner at Applejack's, you just eat your breakfast in silence everyday and leave very quickly. I just want to say I’m sorry about what happened at Applejack’s. Rarity and I ran after Fluttershy, and then she got really close when you showed up. It all happened so quickly…”
“You know, I really don’t care if there’s anything between you two. Plus it’s Rarity, she’s the most desirable mare in town.” Rainbow Dash interrupted.
“The truth is I like Applejack. I don’t know what happened with Rarity or why it did. I mean, it was nothing, really. I’m sure she was just teasing. So…”
Rainbow Dash looked at her friend, confused and replied mechanically. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell AJ.”
“Thank you. You’re the best,” he breathed a sigh of relief.
“But of course, I did just leave my friends…”
“That’s all I wanted to say, you can go see them if you want,” Caramel said as he turned to leave. He shuffled his hooves and took a few steps.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Rainbow Dash’s face was once again upside-down, opposite his. “Twilight is now in the Royal Library with Princess Celestia while Applejack and Fluttershy are being given a private tour of the Royal Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Knowing Pinkie, she’s probably terrorizing the cooks and bakers in the kitchens; eating through all the food that was supposed to be served tomorrow while Rarity’s going through Celestia’s wardrobe for ideas for her upcoming winter line. She wouldn’t shut up about it on the way here…”
“So that means, you want to be with…me?” Caramel pointed his hoof at his narrow chest, puzzled.
“N-no!” the cyan mare stammered and shook her head a little too intensively, avoiding Caramel’s gaze, “It just means that the pegasi of the Royal Guard are not the Wonderolts. And anyway, you need to be more confident. There’s no way that a mare like Applejack would ever fall for somepony who doesn’t consider himself worthy of her. Now come on… Take me wherever you wanted to go!
“Well, I was going to take a long walk, and then meet up with my siblings for a small family reunion in town”
“Do you think they’d mind if I tag along?” the pegasus asked, unsure.
Rainbow Dash trying to be considerate. That’s a first. “Of course not. Now come on. I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen Canterlot from the ground, I’ll show you all of my favourite spots,” he offered.
Caramel took a deep breath and the freshly fallen snow cracked underneath his hooves as Rainbow Dash swirled fluidly around him, her multicoloured mane peppered with tiny ice crystal glistening like diamonds in the bright city lights.
The howling wind had long ceased, but the snow kept descending from the night sky. The pegasus was still swirling around her companion. Caramel, for his part, just trotted on, and tried to ignore the mare’s fluid acrobatics. The city around them became a blur, a stream of ponies, carriages and light that had settled itself into the wide avenues of the capital. Every now and then Caramel had stopped to point out a landmark building, but Rainbow just continued her strange dance, her mane flickering back and forth, her joyous laughter filling his ears and blocking off city’s noise as her presence seemed to envelop him. Some of the ponies on the streets started noticing the strange couple, pointing hoofs and smiling in spite of themselves, as they pulled up their coats and scarves. As the strange couple entered the quieter quarters of the city, a few foals took their cue from the colourful mare and trotted around Caramel for a while, before squealing in joy and cantering back to their homes.
“Why are we stopping?” Rainbow Dash asked, breathless, facing Caramel head on.
“Look behind you,” he pointed his hoof into the distance.
The mare turned around. She was now flying over the edge of a sharp precipice. Beneath her, stretching to the other side of the valley, an intricate, illuminated network spread out, stopped by the pitch black outline of the mountains on the other side.
“So?” Rainbow asked as she flapped her wings and landed next to Caramel.
“When you’re a small, clumsy earth pony, you come here and look at this view. It reminds you of all the beauty that other ponies take for granted, because they’re so used to seeing things like this all the time. Even if it is actually breathtaking.” He looked into her eyes. “It sounds pathetic, I know. But it’s the little things like this that make me happy.” He paused and turned his head towards the sky. He opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue.
“What are you doing?” the mare asked, puzzled.
He turned to her, his tongue still sticking out. “Don’t tell me you never tried catching snowflakes on your tongue as a kid.”
“Not really,” she waved her hoof, “We don’t have any real weather in Cloudsdale, we just make it for other ponies. Besides, I know from experience that most of our products aren’t exactly fit for consumption.”
“Try it, it’s quite fun, besides, you’ll be able to catch many more if you fly to the ones you want.”
“I think I’ll just stay here. You know, do it the earth pony way,” she gave him a small wink, looked to the dark sky and opened her mouth. They sat next to each other in silence, the melting snowflakes tickling their tongues.
Suddenly, Caramel tapped Rainbow Dash on the haunch.
“It’s time for dinner. It’s just here” he pointed at one of the lager houses on the other side of the road that overlooked the valley.
She turned to him, her eyes half-closed and chuckled. “Lead the way.”
Inside the restaurant, a trio of ponies looked outside. Two of the ponies looked almost exactly identical in every aspect but their stature. The large, broad stallion and the slim mare, their coats beige and manes chocolate-brown, three blue horseshoes adorning their flanks observed two ponies with great curiosity.. Between them sat a light-blue stallion with a spiky black mane. All three were craning their necks at the scene outside.
“Who is she?” the mare asked, eyes sparkling.
“Who, her? She’s Rainbow Dash, the Ponyville’s chief weather pegasus,” the blue stallion replied. “They’re never this friendly though. I swear, this holiday brings out the best in everyone. Isn’t it romantic, Lot?” He turned to the large stallion and winked at him.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Our little Mel and a filly. Who’d have thought he’d ever get this far.” the large stallion grumbled, his low voice resonating inside the small restaurant.
“Now don’t be mean, Chance-A-Lot. We don’t want to scare her off. Just be nice. They’ll be ready when they’ll be ready…” the mare gave the large stallion a stern look, at which he lowered his ears.
“Yes sis.” He sighed.
“Now then,” she continued briskly as she glanced out of the window once again, “looks like we’ve got company, be nice.”
When Caramel and Rainbow Dash entered the restaurant, both giggling like foals, the sudden temperature increase seemed only to improve their joyous spirit. Caramel waved his hoof enthusiastically as he spotted the table with his siblings and… Lucky?
“Evening Toffee,” Caramel greeted his sister, “Chance-A-Lot,” he nodded at his older brother. “… And Lucky? What brings you here?”
“You’ll find out soon enough…” maybe you should introduce your lady friend to your family” he said as he nudged Caramel.
“O-oh, sorry. Everypony, this is my, ehm, neighbour,” he replied heavily emphasizing the word neighbour, “Rainbow Dash. She never really saw the city, and I had some time, so I told her she could tag along.”
Dash shot Caramel a piercing glare. “What he meant to say is: I had some time off before the Royal Banquet tomorrow, so I allowed him to show me around.”
The smiles of the three seated ponies around the table froze as they looked at each other, blinking in confusion.
Toffee was the first one to break the silence. “In that case, I hope my stupid brother didn’t cause any trouble,” she offered, punching Caramel jokingly in the flank.
“Nah, he was OK,” the pegasus beamed.
“Very funny,” Caramel protested, and gave his sister a wide grin. “Now,” he said as he gestured Rainbow Dash toward her seat, “tell me again Toffee, how are things in Appleloosa…”
“And now, fillies and gentlecolts,” Toffee said theatrically, “the piece-de-la-resistance of this evening: Caramel Cake,” she finished, her front hooves spread out as the waiters brought each of the diners a large plate of a sponge cake smothered in caramel. “It’s his favourite,” she leaned in and whispered into Rainbow Dash’s ear as she pointed at the slighter of her brothers.
The pegasus took a bite. The warm, silky sauce perfectly complemented the light, fluffy texture of the cake as the desert seemed to caress her palate. She closed her eyes and exhaled in bliss. At least he has a good taste in deserts. I wonder if he could make it for me once. She looked at Caramel who was so focused on his desert that it looked as if he was staring it down. She smiled gently and felt her cheeks burn up as she lost herself in the delight. Her experience was abruptly interrupted by a loud gasp.
“Is this what I think it is?” Chance-A-Lot squealed in an uncharacteristically high tone.
Toffee, Caramel and Rainbow Dash turned toward him. Lucky just was grinning ear to ear, as the broad-chested stallion fished out a large round object from his portion of the desert. The giant’s eyes welled up, as he turned around to face the Lucky.
Lucky beamed at him, his chest puffed up. “Lot, will you make me the happiest pony in all of Equestria?”
Chance-A-Lot leaned to the smaller blue colt and rested his head on the smaller stallion’s shoulder. “No silly. It is I who will be the happiest pony in Equestria,” he whispered gently into his coltfriend’s ear as the couple lost themselves in a mutual embrace.
Toffee nodded her head in approval. Caramel and Rainbow Dash simply stared at the happy couple, their mouths hanging wide open.
“What? This?” Lucky nodded towards the stallion still locked in his embrace. “I didn’t really know I was into stallions as well until the night of the Gala when I met this big lug. After that, we hit it off. And then when I won the lottery this fall, well, I knew exactly what to spend the winnings on.” He motioned towards the ring, which still partially submerged in the desert.
“Well, congratulations to you both!” Rainbow Dash regained composure and raised her glass.
“Why didn’t you tell me? You’re my big brother?” Caramel asked, a speck of resentment mixed with hurt in his voice.
Chance-A-Lot resurfaced and sat up straight again. “I just didn’t want to upset you. Toffee’s already married, and I didn’t want you to feel left out by telling you I was seriously seeing someone. I guess that was stupid, sorry.” He muttered, his head sinking low.
Caramel considered this for a while. I can’t be mad at him for trying to keep me happy. On top of everything, it is Hearth’s Warming today… “I can’t stay mad at you. As for you, Lucky…” he raised his voice, feigning anger… “You better treat him right. I know where you live…”
It stopped snowing by the time Caramel and Rainbow Dash had left the restaurant. Caramel dragged his hooves through the white blanket, leaving behind something akin to a miniature canyon.
“Are you OK? Rainbow Dash asked as she slowly trotted by his side.
“I’m fine. It’s just that now I’m officially the last loner in the family.” he sighed.
“And you will be, unless you do something about it. You’re not as lame as you think. As I used to think.” She lifted his chin with her hoof and looked into his eyes. “You just need to be more confident. I’m sure then you’ll win Applejack over.” The pegasus finished and gave him a friendly pat on the back.
“You think so?” he asked, hopeful.
“I know so. In fact, I could help you a bit, if you’d like,” she said cheerfully.
“Th-thanks.” He stuttered and looked her straight in the eyes. He stared at her for a second, and blushed. “This reminds me, I have something for you.” He turned around and rummaged through his small saddle bag, producing a small, yellow envelope. “I might not have won the lottery, but I was able to get you a front row ticket to see the Wonderbolts in the Cloudiseum. It's their first show this coming season… I know how much you like them. Seriously, I had to explain to those salesponies why an earth pony would ever purchase a ticket for a Cloudsdale show…” He threw up his hooves in frustration.
Rainbow Dash just stood there, dumbstruck. Little did Caramel know that she was a life season ticket holder and had a front-row seat at any Wonderbolts show. But that wasn’t her only worry. Am I ready to see the Wonderbolts after what happened? Despite her fears and inhibitions, she extended her hooves and embraced Caramel, pulling him close.
“Thanks,” she managed to whisper, “it means the world to me”