Twilight lay on her cushion, adjusting the rose Rarity had given her to wear as she watched Rainbow Dash press her muzzle against the window, straining to see the Hurricane Speedway. The steady rhythmic thumping of the trestles and the train’s engine filled the pauses between the excited pegasus’s words as she talked about the landmark. Though she’d seen the Wonderbolts race in the stadium before, Rainbow had an endless well of enthusiasm for the flight team and everything related to them. Twilight watched her date’s eyes grow wide in the reflection of the window as the train passed under the main circuit and Dash’s mouth split open in childlike glee.
Her date. It was still strange to think, to say. Even if it was just a friend helping her out, she still couldn’t help but feel a little giddy to be going out with Rainbow. She was really going above and beyond anything that Twilight could have asked of her. A small smile crept onto her face. Rainbow Dash had been willing to go on a date with her, to have her mane and tail styled, her coat brushed, and her wings preened, but Dash had absolutely refused to sit still long enough for Rarity to fit a dress on her.
Twilight had been forced to beg off Rarity’s help as well, claiming to lack the time for a fitting. Rather than restlessness and the need to be moving, Twilight had been studying. She had studied long and hard, poring over many books as she tried to plan out this date and ensure everything went perfectly. Rainbow deserved that much at least.
She smiled at the flier’s back and once again marveled at her luck to have such a good friend. On the surface she seemed to be a lazy, selfish pony at times, but she was always ready to help out a pony in need.
“...and that’s where Windwing broke the airspeed record for flying backwards!” Dash gushed, tapping a hoof against the window at another of the bleachers set into the side of the mountain. Rainbow turned to face her. The pegasus’s normally unkempt mane bobbed and swayed, framing her face. The setting sun’s light played off the colors, giving the already impressive locks additional highlights. The way her bangs curled down the side of her face...
A half-remembered image of those same rainbow locks peeking out from under the brim of her savior’s hat flashed through her mind. Twilight pressed her lips together and fought down the urge to hide her own face as she felt heat creep into it. Her dream last night was simply the result of an unconscious mind grabbing a number of things she had been thinking about that day. She was preoccupied with this date and had been reading about Daring; it was hardly a surprise that the two concepts had gotten jumbled together in her mind. It was just her overactive imagination, struggling to jam the day’s thoughts into a coherent narrative. It had certainly been a fun dream though.
“So...” Twilight was snapped out her reverie as Dash spoke. “You never mentioned exactly where we’re going.” Rainbow scooted closer to her and reached to touch one of her hooves. “Mind letting me in on the secret?” Dash’s features were schooled, but her wings trembled and twitched, giving lie to her feigned disinterest.
Twilight smirked at her date. “I told you, Rainbow Dash, you’ll find out when we get there.” She gave in to a playful impulse and lightly tapped Dash on the nose, causing the pegasus to blink. “You’ll just have to wait.” Maybe it was her imagination acting up again, but she could have sworn that Rainbow’s cheeks flushed a light violet. When she looked again there was no hint of a blush.
Dash pulled her head away, rubbing her muzzle with an exaggerated hurt look. “I hate waiting.” After a brief pause, she smiled again, all trace of her acting vanished. “It’s okay. I trust you, Twilight. You know all about planning and things. I’m just n– excited.” Dash’s wings blocked most of the streaming sunlight as she pushed herself up onto her haunches. “I can’t wait to see what kind of awesome stuff you have planned for us.”
Twilight giggled at the sudden shift in Rainbow’s demeanor. Dash was certainly enjoying herself. “Well I hope you still think it’s awesome after we get there.” Twilight had been able to get tickets to a showing of a Daring Do performance, it just wasn’t on Bridleway. The drama was being performed by one of the acting schools as a graduation project for this year’s class. Twilight hoped that the students’ enthusiasm would make up for any lack of experience. She was sure that Rainbow would rather see a mediocre performance of Quest for the Ruby Locket than a masterful performance of Waiting for Golden Dough. She could practically hear Dash’s objections in her head: But the stupid baker never even showed up!
The train’s brakes hissed as it pulled into the station. Her date was about to officially begin. According to her plan, they had an hour before the performance began. At a leisurely pace, it would take less than half that time to get to the theatre. All of the literature Twilight had found stressed the importance of being able to just spend time together. She hoped Rainbow wouldn’t mind the extra down time, but she wanted to treat this like a real date; it wouldn’t count if they didn’t observe the traditions, after all.
Twilight followed Rainbow off of the train, checking off the steps she had to take in order to have a successful date. Lost in thought as she once again went over her mental checklists, she didn’t notice Dash stopping at the bottom of the boarding ramp. One second, she was going over a list of complimentary menu items at the cafe across the street from the theater, the next she was wondering why her vision was filled with a silky, flower-scented rainbow.
For a moment she worried that she had somehow entered a dimension full of soft strands of solidified light. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Lilacs. Her eyes shot open as she realized what it was she had run into. “Oh gosh! I’m sorry Rainbow! I–” She hung her head, hiding her face and her burning cheeks. She waited for Rainbow to yell at her, to tell her she was taking things too far; helping a friend only went so far after all.
“Hey, no problem Twilight.” Rainbow twitched her tail, bumping her in the nose again as Twilight shrank away from her friend. “Can’t blame you for getting distracted by my awesomeness.” When Twilight didn’t respond, Dash turned around and put a hoof under her chin, lifting her head up. “It’s alright, Twilight. Really. It’s no big deal.”
The pegasus started to move off but stopped and looked back at her. “Hey, Twi? You never did tell me where we’re headed.” Rainbow gestured with her head towards the station’s exit.
“Oh, right.” Twilight gave her head a shake to clear her nose of the lingering scent and trotted towards the exit. “Of course. The theatre.”
“Theatre?” Dash was hovering beside her now, the cool draft from Rainbow’s wings ruffling her mane. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she felt the lightest touch of a feather brush her withers. “What theatre?”
Twilight closed her eyes and tilted her chin up, doing her best to ignore her earlier faux pas. She grinned. Tormenting Rainbow about this small detail was far more fun than she would have thought. Maybe that was why Dash loved pranking so much. “Theatre? I have no idea what you’re talking about Rainbow.”
“Twi-light!” Dash whined.
She giggled. “Come on, Dash. You’ll see when we get there.”
Dash grumbled, but followed her closely, hovering next to her. The wind from her wingbeats and the occasional brush of feathers on her back were a reminder that no more than a few inches separated the two. Every once in a while, Dash’s leg would brush her mane or her hip, like they were a real couple.
It was only for her List, it wasn’t real. Twilight had to keep that thought in her mind. Dash was just playing her part. A cold weight settled in her stomach as that realization crashed home. Her shoulders drooped and her smile faltered a little. What was wrong with her? Her plan was proceeding perfectly. She might even secure the kiss she needed to finally finish off her original list! The more she tried to convince herself that everything was perfect, the larger that stone in her gut grew.
A wingtip brushed the tip of her ear and stroked down the back of her neck, sending shivers throughout her entire body. Her mouth opened in a silent gasp at the sudden stroke and the hairs of her coat stood on end.
“Hey Twilight, you okay?” Rainbow’s voice wavered. A moment later she heard the sound of hooves on cobble beside her and felt a hoof on her shoulder. She stopped and turned to face her ‘date’. Rainbow had a tiny frown on her face and her eyebrows were raised. “Twilight? What’s wrong?” she asked again, taking another step closer to her.
What was wrong? Her plan was going exactly how she wanted; this was exactly what she had wanted. It was just so real, too real. Her eyes widened as the thought entered her mind. She wanted this to be real, if only for tonight. The laughter, the small talk, the excitement, she wanted it to not be an act, just for the night. Well, why not let it? Rainbow didn’t seem to be having any trouble getting into her role. She could do it. For tonight, she could be on a date—a real date with Rainbow Dash. This one night, she too could pretend this was real.
She shook her head and took a half step to the side, letting Rainbow’s hoof slide off of her back. “Nothing, Rainbow. I’m fine.” She smiled into her friend’s– her date’s face. “I just... was a little cold. That’s all.” She forced her smile wider. She was terrible at lies and Rainbow was going to see through it. Any minute now Dash’s muzzle would crinkle and her scratchy voice would burst into laughter at Twilight’s pathetic dissembling.
Dash’s nose scrunched and she chuckled. “Twilight, you are the strangest pony sometimes.” Dash sprang into the air and flipped several times then landed, facing her. “If you’re cold—“ Rainbow stalked forward, low to the ground “—then maybe you should...” The pegasus leapt at her, her muzzle closing around the stem of the rose in Twilight’s mane. Rainbow was gentle, barely pulling any hair as she stole the decorative blossom. “...Run!” the flower thief exclaimed around the stem. With that Dash was off, galloping down the cobblestone roads of Canterlot, mane and tail streaming behind her.
“Hey!” Twilight yelled after the fleeing pegasus. “Rainbow!”
As Dash glanced back over her shoulder, her beaming smile drove away the last remnants of Twilight’s dark mood. Dash stuck her tongue out without dropping the flower and blew a raspberry as she pulled away.
Twilight laughed, the final vestiges of the chill in her gut forgotten as she galloped off after her date. “Rainbow, you are gonna get it when I catch up with you!” she called.
Rainbow’s laughter was her only response as the two ponies sped down the streets of Canterlot.
Twilight panted as she rounded yet another corner, following the brief flash of her quarry’s colorful tail. She was tired and her hooves were a little sore from pounding on the unyielding stones of Canterlot, but her wide grin dismissed these minor complaints. She dashed towards the next corner at full speed, ready to begin searching for signs of Rainbow. Dash was toying with her; there was no other reason why she always caught just the tip of a tail or a rear hoof before the pegasus vanished.
She rounded the corner and skidded to a stop. Her head whipped left and right, searching for any sign of her multi-hued date. Perhaps Dash had finally overestimated her speed and lost her? Twilight began to grow nervous. If her athletic companion chose to escape her, there was not much she could do about it. She was starting to consider resorting to magic to locate Rainbow Dash when she felt a light tap on her back.
She shrieked at the unexpected touch, her hackles rising as she leapt and turned all in a single motion. Her pinprick pupils focused on the smiling face and closed eyes of her quarry. The pink rose still clutched in her mouth. Twilight calmed her panicky breathing and tried to lower her heart rate as she just stared at Rainbow Dash.
They held their poses for several seconds. Rainbow cracked open one eye, her smile slipping a bit. “Uh, Twilight,” she started. “Are you okay?”
Twilight dipped her head lower, keeping Dash’s face just below the top of her vision. Dash’s other eye opened and her smile faltered, flattening into a concerned line. “Twilight?” she asked, doubt creeping into her voice.
“Mine!” yelled Twilight as she leapt for the rose. Dash’s mouth fell open and she jerked away from Twilight’s sudden assault. She snagged the blossom before it could fall too far. Still breathing hard she turned to look Dash in the eyes. Victory tasted sweet, or maybe that was the rose?
Dash pouted at her. “Hey, no fair!” she objected.
Twilight smirked at Dash. “I won fair,” she said, still panting, “and square, Rainbow.” Speaking of not fair, her companion didn’t even look winded. Twilight took a few more deep breaths and then closed her eyes. Grasping the rose in her magic, she placed back into her mane.
“Alright, you win this time, Twilight.”
“I’ll win–” she really was out of shape “–every time. You can’t... escape me, Rainbow Dash.” She watched as Rainbow Dash bit her lip and looked away. There was definitely the hint of a blush on those blue cheeks now.
“Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I made us late, didn’t I?” the pegasus asked, still avoiding her gaze.
“Not quite.” It was true. They could still make the curtain call. Despite the mad race, they hadn’t wandered far off course. “I know a shortcut we can take, but we’ll need to hurry.” Her mouth and throat were dry, and she was just starting to get her heaving flanks under control. She looked with envy at Rainbow’s sleek physique, tracing the lines of her friend’s athletic form with her eyes. She marveled at the litheness of Rainbow’s toned body. Though she was nearly as strong as Applejack, Rainbow lacked the farmer’s stark, corded muscles. Twilight’s eyes drifted across Dash’s back. Only the flight muscles stood out, and yet, even those seemed right, fitting the light-framed pony. Her eyes scanned further back still.
Dash’s moniker for her snapped her mind out of whatever strange spell the blue pony’s body had placed on her. Oh Celestia! She had been ogling Dash’s flank like a colt at a school dance and yet couldn’t look away. Her pupils widened. She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t move, her knees were locked. She watched, mesmerized as Rainbow strode towards her. The last light of the setting sun played over her blue coat exaggerating the already impossible to ignore curves of Dash’s legs.
“You gonna take me to this not-a-theatre?” Rainbow’s voice was low, meant only for her. The pegasus leaned closer, her rose-colored eyes filled Twilight’s vision. Closer still she came, stopping only when her muzzle was a hair’s breath from touching her own. Those large eyes softened as Rainbow blinked slowly. She could feel Dash’s breath, hot against her muzzle as she whispered, “Or we can stay here and I can give you a different kind of show.”
Her heart was pounding in her chest and she was again short of breath. Her cheeks burned as she struggled to maintain eye contact. She didn’t trust herself to speak, so she nodded a fraction of an inch, gesturing with her horn towards an alleyway to their left.
Dash held her eyes captive for a moment longer, then blinked. Her pupils constricted and she quickly pulled back, looking away as she scrutinized a nearby flowerbed. “Um, a– an air show. Right, an air show.” She wiggled her wings for emphasis, glancing back at Twilight out of the corner of her eye.
Twilight lunged for the proffered excuse, nearly straining her neck as she nodded emphatically. “I would like that. Seeing your tricks. In the air.” There was a sprig of grass pushing up between the cobbles. A slight breeze caused the blade to dance and twitch as she watched.
Neither moved nor spoke for several seconds. Twilight lifted her head and opened her mouth to apologize, to call the date off, to tell Rainbow to hay with the theater. Her voice died as that last thought ran through her head.
Dash fidgeted with her wings, the limbs rising several inches as her feathers flexed and rotated. She settled them back in position on her flanks and finally broke the silence. “We’re late, aren’t we?”
“Terribly late,” Twilight agreed.
“And we should be going.” Dash took a half step towards the alley, studiously avoiding looking at her. “To the show?”
“Right. The show.” Twilight trotted past her date, keeping her eyes locked on the street in front of her. The blush on her face had yet to fade, and she didn’t want to chance it reigniting. A terrible thought beat against her mind, trying to remind her that this was an act, a sham to help her with... with something. She pushed that gibbering objection into the farthest corner of her mind and buried it.
Dash trotted up next to her, a good ten inches between them, as they entered the way between the two buildings. The walls narrowed the alley in the middle, forcing Rainbow Dash and Twilight towards each other. Twilight felt something brush against her flanks. Another step forward and Dash’s wing pressed up against her. As they passed through the choke point, she was forced to press herself up against the rainbow-maned pegasus until she could feel those muscles she had been admiring moments before moving against her own. When the walls retreated, she waited for the cool kiss of air rushing between the two of them again. It never came.
The two mares exited the alleyway, their hooves striking the cobblestone road mere inches apart. Shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, they trotted down the winding streets of the stony city.