Was she imagining it?
No. No, of course she wasn't.
There was something about the way they looked at one another. Something undeniably tender in the gazes they exchanged, in the affectionate little touches they gave, and in the barely restrained lust underlying it all.
Although perhaps lust wasn't quite the right word. Whatever the two of them shared was certainly far too pure to be sullied by such a dirty word. After all, they were so young...so inexperienced.
Well, Pinkie was, at least. Rarity couldn't have said for sure about Rainbow Dash. To be honest, she wouldn't have put it past the pegasus to already be familiar with the ways of the flesh. Still, experienced or not, there was something bright and innocent about the two of them. Even if Rainbow Dash did know a little more about, ah, certain things than Pinkie Pie did, she was likely still ignorant of true passion. Neither of them had ever been in a relationship before, after all; the poor dears likely didn't know where to begin.
But the longing was there. The desire. Even if they didn't actually know what to do with such feelings, Rarity could still see them, and it excited her like nothing else.
What else could it be?
Ah, young love, Rarity thought, a dreamy expression on her face. Such a beautiful thing...
The two ponies in question remained oblivious throughout her entire internal monologue. They lay collapsed on the floor of the bakery's kitchen, giggling like madmares, their manes flecked with white and Pinkie's dainty little tongue stretching to improbable lengths in order to lap at the cream still on her face.
While exploring the basement of Sugarcube Corner earlier, Pinkie Pie had accidentally discovered a stash of aerosol cans of whipped cream and had promptly challenged Rainbow Dash to a whipped-cream-eating contest. But about halfway through, the challenge had stopped being about eating the most cream and had instead become about emptying the cans as fast as possible, even if that meant having a whipped cream fight and crashing about the kitchen in order to spray one another.
Now, the entire bakery was absolutely covered in tufts of fluffy white sweetness. It looked almost as though it had been snowing indoors for some reason. Countless pots and pans were scattered across the room, a direct result of the two of them clattering about the kitchen and bumping into the tables and counters as they'd chased each other.
"Aw, man, that was totally awesome," Rainbow Dash snickered, lifting her hooves to her face to try and wipe the cream off. "But seriously, the Cakes are gonna be mad. We should clean this up before they get home."
"Easy-peasy, Dashie! It's whipped cream, all we gotta do is eat it!"
"Pinkie Pie, you're crazy!"
And the two of them, still caught in the throes of their individual sugar highs and still giddy from the insanity of their afternoon, collapsed into yet another pile of hysterical, giggling laughter.
"Why are we here again?" Twilight hissed urgently to her two companions. "I thought we were just picking them up so we could all go to Applejack's! How did it turn into this?"
Fluttershy shrugged meekly, but Rarity didn't even seem to hear. She was too distracted to notice, off in her own little world.
"...eat it?" the white unicorn repeated faintly.
Straddling the pink mare's waist, Rainbow Dash pushed Pinkie down so that she was laying against the floor. Grinning, the pegasus leaned forward and brushed Pinkie's mane from her eyes.
"Oh, my," she murmured, lifting her eyebrows suggestively. "Look at all this cream...we should probably clean it all up before the Cakes get home, huh?"
Pinkie giggled, low and seductive, before hooking her forelegs around Rainbow's neck and drawing her closer.
"Wanna help, Dashie?" she cooed. "I don't think I can get it all by myself."
"Well, let's see..."
Dash bent her head, pressing a gentle kiss against the crook of Pinkie's neck. This earned her a soft moan in response as her tongue began to flick at the cream, lapping it up. Tongue still peeking out of her mouth, Rainbow began to...
Although Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie remained blissfully ignorant of Rarity's train of thought, upon seeing her glassy-eyed stare, Twilight and Fluttershy exchanged looks of alarm.
"Is she..." Fluttershy whispered, eyes wide with panic.
"No doubt about it." Twilight confirmed in a whisper of her own, nodding grimly. "She's not even upset about the mess they made. This could be bad."
The yellow pegasus squeaked in fear.
"Hey, weren't we supposed to go to AJ's?" Rainbow asked from the kitchen.
"Oh, no!" Pinkie Pie squealed. "You're right! Applejack will be so sad that we forgot! We gotta get going! But--aw, I'm still all sticky!"
Rainbow Dash began to flap her wings, wagging her tail and shaking about like a wet dog, sending even more little flecks of white cream flying into the air. Twilight flinched, quickly casting a magical barrier between the kitchen and adjoining living room to protect the three of them that were waiting so patiently.
As Pinkie scrambled upright, she slipped on a splotch of cream and almost tumbled backwards; but Rainbow Dash swooped down just in time, catching her absentmindedly. Rarity gasped softly at this gallant display of chivalry.
"We totally need baths," Rainbow Dash said casually. "I'm sticky, too. I'll find us a raincloud before we go."
The white unicorn's hooves flew to her chest, clasping them over her pounding heart. "Oh" she whispered, eyelashes fluttering.
The warm water splashed gently as the two mares giggled in the tub they shared. They...
Rarity blinked, shaking her head to clear her thoughts before turning to face Twilight. It was as though she were coming out of a daze. A dreamy smile played on her lips. "What is it, dear?" she asked sweetly.
Twilight Sparkle sighed, rubbing her forehead with a hoof. Fluttershy's gaze flickered nervously between the two of them, but the way she stood at Twilight's side seemed reminiscent of an intervention.
Just then, Rainbow stuck her head through the doorway leading from the kitchen to the room where they three stood. "Sorry, guys!" she called, apparently unaware that she and Pinkie had been speaking plenty loud enough to have been clearly audible until then. "We, um, kinda lost track of the time! Give us a sec and we can go!"
"Why do we always give secs?" Pinkie asked. A single, extraordinarily un-ladylike and immature snort burst from Rarity when she did. "Can't we ever give mins or hours or days or..."
"Of course, darling! Take all the time you two need!" Rarity graciously allowed with a benevolent smile upon recovering. The smile remained exactly where it was as she followed her two friends with her eyes, watching as the two of them practically skipped out of the bakery, still giggling and bumping into each other. Although with Pinkie Pie, there was no 'practically' about it; she quite literally hopped.
The moment they had left in search of their raincloud, Twilight took a firm hold of Rarity's shoulders, twisting the other unicorn around to face her so that they were eye-to-eye.
"Rarity," she said gently. "It's wonderful that you care so deeply about your friends, but this needs to stop. You can't do this again."
Fluttershy silently nodded her agreement, looking ashamed of it all the while.
"Why, whatever do you mean, darling?" she asked, puzzled.
Twilight Sparkle sighed.
"We know what that look means. It means that you're seeing things that aren't there," Twilight patiently explained, trying her very best to sound understanding in spite of her frustration. But it was understandable that she was frustrated, wasn't it? After all, this had to be at least the twentieth time that they'd had this conversation since she'd arrived in Ponyville. "We know you love your friends, and we know we love each other, too. But not that way."
Rarity sniffed, haughtily shrugging Twilight's hooves off her shoulders before daintily lifting her own to brush them off. "I simply don't know what you're talking about."
"Think, Rarity! Doesn't this seem the tiniest bit familiar?"
Twilight groaned, burying her face in her hooves. "Fluttershy, help me out here, please," she pleaded.
"Well, um, what, what Twilight is saying is that you, uh..." Fluttershy stammered, her facing turning a brilliant shade of scarlet. "You, you kind of have a habit of, um...well...you see..."
"You have a habit of making assumptions, Rarity," Twilight cut in after a moment of Fluttershy's nervous stuttering. "You see ponies doing things together--perfectly normal, everyday things--and you take them out of context. We know that you're a romantic at heart, but you can't just assume things!"
"I never assume!" Rarity cried, taking on a grand air. "I'm insulted that you should even imply as much!"
"Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were just fooling around. There was nothing deeper to it than--"
And Rarity gasped. "You saw it too?" she cried, all delusions of grandeur temporarily forgotten as she swept forward, seizing Twilight Sparkle by the shoulders herself. "Well, of course you did! It's so obvious--"
"No, that's just it! They were just being themselves--silly and playful, but that's all. That's what I mean by you taking things out of context!" And again, Twilight sighed in exasperation. "Rarity, please. Ponies can be close to one another without secretly being in love."
"But...but it's so blatant! How can you not see the longing in their eyes when they look at one another? As their friends, shouldn't we be supportive of their blossoming romance?"
"There is no blossoming romance!"
"Fluttershy!" Rarity declared, whirling around to dramatically point at the now-cowering pegasus who "eep"ed in terror as a response. "You're a pony after my own heart, you dear thing! Surely your sense of romance allows you to see what Twilight's missing!"
"Um..." and Fluttershy squirmed. "Uh, well..."
Now that she thought about it, though, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie did seem unusually close. Perhaps not necessarily that close, but, well...they did tend to hang out together fairly often. They could often be found together, pulling pranks, and did tend to turn to one another first whenever the group needed to split up for some reason. And Pinkie Pie was the only one in their circle of friends allowed to call Rainbow Dash Dashie...and nopony else had such a pet name from her...and Pinkie had grown rather jealous of Gilda...
"Actually..." Fluttershy slowly began, voice soft and hesitant. "Maybe..."
"No!" Twilight shouted. "Don't let her get to you! Don't you remember what happened between you and Applejack?"
Fluttershy blanched. With a squeal, she abruptly stopped talking, shrinking behind her protective curtain of hair.
"Oh, darling, I apologized for that, didn't I?" Rarity rushed to reassure the trembling pegasus, affectionately stroking her mane as she shot a glare at Twilight Sparkle. "It was a misunderstanding, that's all. But I truly thought that you two were...you know."
"Yes! Misunderstanding! That's precisely it!" Twilight agreed with a prim nod. "You have all of these romantic notions, and then you find a way to interpret even the most innocent of interactions as evidence justifying a non-existent relationship! It can be endearing, sometimes, but it's also risky!"
"Well, I don't see how it can be risky," Rarity began to argue, but Twilight cut her off with a wave of her hoof.
"Remember that banquet in Canterlot when you had the epiphany that I was in love with Princess Celestia?" she asked curtly, blushing slightly. Rarity at least had the presence of mind to look guilty at the reminder. "Not only were you wrong, but you almost caused a massive scandal! Imagine what ponies would've thought--the ruler of Equestria, the benevolent princess of the sun, carrying out an illicit affair with her underage pupil? It would've been unhealthy and illegal!"
"It would've been cute..." Rarity muttered, but cast her eyes downward all the same, looking ashamed.
"It's...okay to pretend, I guess, but honestly, Rarity, please don't jump to conclusions," Twilight pleaded weakly. "At least, not unless something actually happens. If Rainbow and Pinkie ever actually do get together for some reason, then, well, of course we'll be supportive--but until then, maybe you shouldn't be so, ah, passionate in your support of their love."
"If you have nothing but suspicions to go on, don't act like it's already happened," Fluttershy added in a whisper, seemingly having found her voice. "And maybe you shouldn't try to force it, either? Especially when it doesn't even make sense? It can be kind of scary when you do that. You get so...so..."
"Worked up?" the lavender unicorn suggested, and Fluttershy nodded quietly.
What her friends were saying was logical, she supposed. Although it would have been fun to have gotten to play matchmaker for her friends, giving them just the pushes they needed to realize the true feelings they held for one another that obviously lay just beneath the surface, allowing their emotions to finally erupt like a volcano of fiery love.
But perhaps she should humor them. After all, Twilight and Fluttershy looked so alarmed.
Luckily, Rarity was spared the need to think of an appropriate response by the sudden reappearance of Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, who burst through the door together, crashing back into the bakery as noisily as they had initially entered. Although Rainbow was dry, Pinkie was still dripping wet.
"Okay!" Pinkie Pie sang, hopping in place and sending little droplets of water flying in the faces of her friends. "We're ready!"
"Don't you want to dry off first?" Twilight asked, looking relieved at the interruption.
"Nah! It's super duper hot outside, and this feels super duper good right now!" Pinkie giggled. She had a way of speaking that made every word sound like a laugh bubbling from somewhere deep within her. Then she sneezed.
Twilight rolled her eyes, smiling. "Here. Let me take care of it."
A soft yellow glow enveloped Pinkie, and Rarity could feel the warmth of it from where she stood. Within a matter of seconds, Pinkie's fur and mane had fluffed out once again, fully dried by the light of Twilight's magic.
"Oh, wow!" Pinkie gasped. "That felt amazing! Do it again, do it again!"
"Not now. We'd better get going to AJ's," Twilight answered lightly before trotting towards the door, casting one final meaningful look back at Rarity.
"Twilight, you're amazing! You're the smartest smarty pants unicorn ever! Isn't that right, Dashie?"
"Yeah, I guess," Rainbow answered, sounding bored.
Could it be...?
That made so much sense! No wonder Twilight Sparkle had been so upset! She'd been jealous, the poor dear!
What a scandal...a love triangle, perhaps? Rarity had never even suspected such a thing, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. After all, they were such opposites--the chaotic baker, the strictly structured scholar--each of them clever in their own unique way. And opposites attract, right?
And...and it was so utterly, unbearably, cute...
Perhaps even cuter than Rainbow Pie had been, because Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were so utterly similar, there was no conflict to make it interesting. But this...this made so much sense! The allure of forbidden love; forbidden not by society, but by their own fears and limitations! Them against the world, against all odds! Oh, Rarity could simply die, it was so perfect!
As the five of them walked to Sweet Apple Acres together, Rarity remained silent, carefully observing the couple's interactions. And, contrary to what she had once deluded herself into believing, Rainbow and Pinkie weren't automatically drawn to one another. Actually, Dash flew overhead, with Fluttershy, while Pinkie and Twilight chatted easily together in front.
Was she imagining it?
No. No, of course not.
Rarity had to suppress a squeal of delight.
Later that night, under the cover of darkness, a certain rainbow-maned pegasus slipped unseen into Sugarcube Corner, where she was greeted eagerly by the curly-haired baker within.
"This is so awesome," Rainbow Dash muttered in between kisses.
"It's so funny that nopony even knows about us! You'd think it'd be obvious, huh?" Pinkie giggled before waggling her eyebrows suggestively. "Oh, hey, I think I have some whipped cream left--wanna have some fun?"
Rainbow Dash snorted a laugh. "You're totally crazy, you know that?"
"But that's why you love me!"
"Yup, that's why I love you."
Still giggling, the two of them kissed once more.
And then they had sex.