Twilight took a bite of the sprinkle-covered donut and nodded. Dash had been explaining to her the difference between how to buck a cloud to dissipate it and how to coax lightning out of one. She’d learned the basics and theories of pegasi and earth pony magic in school, but had never had interest in what she couldn’t practice or study directly. Somehow the way Dash explained it just seemed to make the whole thing interesting.
“...And then, you kind of pull the tingly feeling into your hooves. If you pull too hard, you get zapped, but if you don’t pull at all, the whole thing just poofs away.” Dash flipped a donut into the air and snapped her head forward, devouring the airborne treat in one quick bite. Rainbow chewed only a few times before swallowing, as if racing to see who could pack away more of the sugary delights the fastest. The pegasus wiped her muzzle on the back of her hoof then licked the traces of icing off. “Hey, Joe! Can we get some more of the cream filled ones? Thanks!”
She waited as Dash greedily watched the stallion bring another tray of donuts to their table. She shared a quick smile with the older unicorn. He’d caught on quick when they walked in together, giving them the table for two off in a dim corner of the shop away from the other late night customer and then keeping his muzzle out of the way. She’d have to find a way to make it up to him.
“Thanks,” Dash said before diving into the pile and hauling out a pink frosted treat. “’Ur pw’tty awesom’.”
“Thanks, Joe,” Twilight said while Rainbow was occupied with her banana cream filled treat. “And,” she paused, “thanks.”
“No problem, Twilight,” Joe said, his gruff voice softened by a smile. “Just make sure you invite me to the wedding,” he whispered, causing her cheeks to flush. Joe laughed as he made his way back to his counter and several other waiting ponies.
Twilight turned her attention back to Rainbow. The pegasus had finished her donut and was licking cream off the tip of her nose. Eager to pick up where they had left off, Twilight prompted, “So what if you wanted to go through it, but not disperse it?”
“Huh?” Rainbow blinked. “Oh, if you want to punch a hole in the cloud, you’d have to push out around your hooves,” Dash’s own legs spread in demonstration, “but also pull in everything else.” She pressed her hooves together, tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth. She concentrated on the space between her hooves as she strained to just keep them from touching, as if squishing a small invisible ball between them.
“So, when you dive through a cloud from below and then stop on top of it, is that the same thing? Pulling and pushing?” Twilight wondered how much of what Dash did was intuition and how much was study. She took another bite of her donut followed by a sip of her coffee as Rainbow launched into another explanation. It was all stuff she had studied, moisture resonance and basic dew theory, but couched in vague words about “tasting” the air and “stretching” the breeze. It was so much more personal. So much more, well, magical this way.
Twilight glanced at her coffee. On a normal night, Twilight wouldn’t dare drink the stuff, but she had every reason in the world to make this night last as long as she could. That dark thought tried to enter her mind again, but she stubbornly forced it back to the depths of her mind. Tomorrow she’d face reality; for tonight, this was real.
This was actually really fun. Some of the talk she half remembered from classmates in Canterlot had made dating sound like so much boring work. Pretending to be a completely different pony just to engage a date’s interest didn’t sound like fun. Maybe she was doing it wrong, but she didn’t feel like she had to be anypony other than Twilight Sparkle. Maybe it was because it was Rainbow she was with. She tried to imagine dating somepony else, but the pony in her mind kept morphing into her friend. The pegasus was simply too much fun for her to imagine being with anypony else right now.
“Hey, check this out!” Dash held a hoof over her own steaming cup, cider instead of coffee. Her eyes narrowed and she stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth. Twilight couldn’t help but notice the way her nose crinkled as her mouth curled into a smirk. Rainbow stared at her cup as if daring it to try something.
The stream was beginning to ball up under Rainbow’s hoof. Conventional thinking said that it should billow around the blue appendage, but it stayed put, becoming more and more opaque as steam continued to rise. When the ball was thick enough that Twilight couldn’t see through it, Rainbow lifted her hoof, dragging the tiny cloud she had made with her.
Rainbow held up the small puff of water vapor proudly. “See! It doesn’t even have to be a real cloud!” She tossed the baby cloud from one hoof to another. “You can do it with steam or fog or even the spray off of waterfalls.” Rainbow twisted her hoof, allowing the ball to roll down the back of her leg. She dipped her head and the ball rolled behind her neck then down her other leg, where she deftly flicked the fluff up into the air and caught it on her nose. “And if you’re as awesome as I am, you can even do it with a pony’s breath when it’s cold enough.”
That was impressive. Twilight opened her mouth to say that she’d very much like to see that when Rainbow head-butted the white fluff at her with a sudden, “Think fast!”
Later she would reflect on the irony of failing that challenge. For now she managed a mere “Huh?” before the puff impacted her face. She flinched back and shut her eyes, expecting to feel scalding pain at any second. Instead she felt a cool damp breeze, the scent of apples and cinnamon filling her nose.
She carefully opened one eye. Rather than a scalding ball of death, she saw Rainbow, her body shaking with barely contained laughter. Her other eye quickly followed and both fixed Rainbow with an unamused glower. Under the scrutiny of her gaze the rainbow maned pegasus burst out into full laughter, pounding a hoof on the table, narrowly missing several donuts in the process.
Her eyes narrowed as an idea came to her, and now it was her mouth that curled up into a smirk as she focused her will. Dash’s hoof came down and a jelly filled pastry whizzed across the table. She needed perfect timing and positioning. Think fast? How was this for fast? The filled donut slid into position just in time as Dash’s hoof slammed into it. Two things happened: first, Dash stared down in confusion; and second, the raspberry filling shot out of the small hole in the side of the confection to cover the chest of the raucous pegasus. Some had even made it to her nose.
Dash stared down at the sticky red mess Twilight had made of her, her eyes wide in shock. Twilight cringed, ears flattening against her head. Had she gone too far? She had only been trying to get into the spirit of things. She watched, heart pounding as Dash’s ear twitched.
“Twilight!” Dash complained. “I was totally gonna eat that!” Dash’s mouth jutted out in an overly exaggerated pout, her lips quivering. Twilight struggled to keep her own mouth straight. They stared at each other for a few seconds before both burst out into new fits of laughter.
“That was a good one, Twi!” Dash said as she tried to wipe the filling off of her chest but just ended up spreading it around. With an annoyed sigh, Rainbow gave up on her hooves and attempted to lick off the jelly. Twilight’s jaw nearly fell off as she watched the pegasus’s tongue lap at the red goo. For several eternities, Dash worked at cleaning herself before giving a low growl. “You got a towel or something?”
Twilight blinked. “Um, hold on, let me try something.” She concentrated, focusing her will and ignoring the interesting images that flashed through her mind. Her horn began to glow and she directed her magic towards Rainbow. She closed her eyes, needing her full attention for this. While many thought that lifting large things was harder—and they were right, to a point—Twilight had always found very small and numerous things more difficult. It was just one thing about Rarity that she envied. She gently laid her magic upon Rainbow.
She opened her senses and allowed herself to feel through her magic. The tingling of the sky and the cool mist of a cloud, that was Dash’s coat. She pressed further until she felt the strain of muscles and the scent of a hard day’s work. She inhaled, even though the phantom smell was just a projection, an allegory dreamed up by her subconscious. She spread her magic out, looking for anything that was not Rainbow Dash.
The sound of giggling crawled across the surface of her mind. She noted it and stowed it away, to be heeded at some future point. For now, there was only the cool burning sensation of dry wind and the scent of a summer day. Then she found it, a happy tingly taste, so sweet it would deaden the taste buds for hours to lesser snacks. She surrounded the flavor, making sure she sensed nothing of the flier and then she pushed. The taste of burnt jam filled her mouth.
Twilight opened her eyes to see Rainbow’s eyes wide in shock. A red mist floated before the pegasus. Rather than try to pull or scrape the jelly off of Rainbow, she had opted for simple, controlled vaporization. Dash poked at the dissipating mist and jumped back, her eyes growing even wider as the expanding cloud was shoved away from her.
“Jelly clouds?” Rainbow focused on her again. “Twilight, that is so awesome!” she squealed. “We’re totally going to have to do that next time Pinkie throws a party!” Dash cackled, rolling onto her back, her wings keeping her hovering at table height. “I can’t wait to see the look on her face!”
Twilight grinned at that. Pinkie Pie would indeed enjoy the prospect of clouds made of vaporized sugar. Lost in thought, she didn’t notice Rainbow rise up and over the table until the pegasus’s face was mere inches from her own. The pegasus was hovering over the table. Rainbow wasn’t focused on her face though. The pegasus’s eyes were locked on the top of her head.
“Got any other tricks in that thing?” Rainbow asked, giving her horn a delicate tap with her forehoof.
“Thirty-seven,” she replied instantly. The moment the words escaped her muzzle she wished she had a thirty-eighth that could recall them. Images of Trixie and a taunt of “magic-schmagic” echoed through her head. On an intellectual level, she knew that none of her friends saw the accurate assessment of her abilities as bragging. She had penned a letter to Princess Celestia about that very event. Still, she was uncomfortable deliberately drawing attention to her magic.
“Wow, Twilight. That’s pretty amazing. I thought most unicorns had like four or five things they could do.” Rainbow poked her horn again. “You really are the Rainbow Dash of magic!”
Twilight made sure to exaggerate her eye roll. Rainbow sure did buy into her own image sometimes. But she was also forced to hide her smile by taking another sip of her coffee. Magic was her talent after all, and it was nice to have somepony compliment her on it, even if that somepony was self-aggrandizing all the while. “Well, maybe you’re the Twilight Sparkle of flying,” she said, almost as surprised as Rainbow was as the words exited her mouth. “Ever think about it like that?”
Dash’s open-mouthed stare lasted for less than a second before curling up in a smug grin. Rainbow drifted down until Twilight felt a bump against her nose. “Alright then,” Dash said. Her voice cracked and her eyes took on a hard, competitive edge. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Oh, well–” Twilight stammered but didn’t break eye contact. “M-most of them aren’t really showy or anything. Not like the jelly cloud thing.”
“Come on, Twilight! I know you’ve got something. Lighten up! Show me!”
She wanted to, she really did. Normally her magic was a thing she did for herself or to help a friend. It was special, she knew it was, but she had never used it just to make herself look good. That wasn’t what Rainbow wanted, was it? She really just wanted to see. She wished she had some flashy trick or something awesome enough for her. Given some time she could probably replicate a lot of Trixie’s spells, but she had never seen the need for spells that had little practical use. That attitude suddenly seemed very silly and wrongheaded.
“Rainbow, I don’t think–”
“Good, don’t! Just do it!”
“No buts!” Rainbow stabbed the air with a hoof. “More magic!”
She narrowed her eyes and stared at Rainbow, who met her gaze, her own eyes narrowing. For several moments, they held each other’s gazes in an unblinking battle of wills.
Why didn’t she do some magic for Rainbow? It’s not like she didn’t like practicing or that she had nothing she could show her date. What was she worried about? And she was worried. Once the thought had crossed her mind, she knew it was true. She latched onto that and dug, trying to find the source of her doubt. Was it because she feared Rainbow would think it wasn’t cool enough? As the thought clicked home she blinked.
“Hah! I win!” Rainbow crowed. Dash pulled away from her and her hoof now pointed squarely at Twilight as the pegasus laid out her demands. “Now you have to show me something.”
Twilight felt her lips curl up as the perfect spell entered her mind. “Oh I do, do I?” she said, voice dripping with satisfaction. She was gratified to see Rainbow’s confident demeanor slip a tiny bit at her honeyed tone. “Well then, how about this?” She closed her eyes and forced her will out through her horn.
Her horn lit up with magenta light as she concentrated.
Her magic reached for Rainbow and enveloped the hovering pony’s muzzle.
It was harder with a mare than it had been with Spike. Probably due to magnitude of the change.
“Twenty-five!” she exclaimed. She ripped her eyelids open, not wanting to miss Rainbow’s reaction.
With a small pop and a flash of light, a glorious, multi-colored, full-bodied handlebar mustache appeared on the end of Rainbow’s muzzle. With the tips unwound, it would stretch nearly the mare’s entire wingspan, but was less than half that length due to the tight curls. Rainbow’s eyes crossed as she tried to look at the thing, her mouth dropping open in an “O” of astonishment.
“Twilight,” Rainbow deadpanned, “This. Is. Awesome.” She grabbed the ends of her mustache and pulled them out and down, straightening them. The slick hair slipped from her grasp and snapped back to its pristine position. “Oh! How long do I have before it goes away? It does go away, right?” Dash’s smile faded a tiny bit at that.
Twilight finally allowed herself to laugh. “Yes Rainbow. It should last around two hours.”
Dash flipped in a full loop, narrowly missing the lamp above the table. “Awesome,” she said. She landed on her chair and deftly flipped another donut into the air. “So,” she began, pausing to snap the falling donut from the air, rainbow whiskers bobbing. “What other tricks do you got?”
Twilight smiled, any discomfort at showing off her magic had been dispelled by the utterly ridiculous antics of her friend. “Well, there’s number four, which makes–”
“Hold on,” Rainbow cut her off, “Number four? Seriously? What kind of name is that?”
Twilight shrugged. “It was the fourth trick I ever created.”
“Yeah, but that’s a really boring name, Twilight. Don’t you– Wait, fourth you created? So you made thirty-something spells yourself?”
“Wow. So like, you know even more? Like Rarity’s gem finding thing?”
“Yeah, but they aren’t my spells, just ones I learned.”
“Yeah, but learning somepony else’s trick can be just as hard. It took me ages to finally do Fleetfoot’s Cannonball Burst or Spitfire’s Slipstream Storm.” Dash looked at her, eyes narrowing. “So, counting all of the spells you just ‘learned’,” Dash made air-quotes with her hooves, “how many you got in that pretty little head of yours?”
She looked up, trying to think. Did Shimmer Tail’s Super Swift Stain Suspender and Roseheart’s Rapid Fabric Rinser count as one or two? “Around two hundred and forty. Three. Roughly.”
Rainbow’s voice was very raspy as she whispered, “Whoa.” For a few seconds, Dash just stared at her. Twilight began to think that maybe she had said something wrong.
“So what are they, already?”
“Well, as I was saying, before somepony, who shall remain nameless, stuck her bushy nose in–”
“Hey! This,” Rainbow twirled one tip of her mustache, “this is awesome. I didn’t think I could get any cooler, but you’ve managed to make it happen.”
“A-hem!” Twilight feigned clearing her throat. “Number four makes an object glow in the dark. I made it one night after my night light went out and Celestia wouldn’t make the moon full for me. I wasn’t allowed a reading lamp at the time.”
“You should totally cast that one on me!” Dash’s eyes had grown wide enough that Twilight thought they would pop out of her head.
“Sorry Rainbow, it only works on little things.”
“Oh,” Dash said, ears drooping as the dreams of being Equestria’s first glow in the dark stunt flier dissolved. She stroked her mustache half-heartedly.
“But I think you’ll like number eleven,” Twilight cheerfully said.
Dash perked up. “Oh? What does number eleven do? And you really need better names, Twilight.”
She laughed as Dash glared at her while twirling the end of her facial hair. “Well...”
As she explained her various spells and tricks to her attentive companion, the nervousness over listing her own achievements fell away. She stopped worrying about whether Rainbow would think she was bragging or whether a trick was cool enough and just talked. She told Dash about her trick to make a pony’s coat white and the one that made bean sprouts disappear. She talked about the spells she had learned from others and added a monocle and top hat to Rainbow’s wardrobe. As the night wore on, Twilight rediscovered and reveled in the simple joy of just talking about magic with a pony who was listening. It had been far too long since she’d been able to just relax and enjoy an evening like this.
“...And that’s why I don’t cast number seventeen anymore,” Twilight sheepishly muttered.
“Wait a minute,” Rainbow Dash said, “so is that why Celestia is always...?” she said, circling one hoof around another, not wanting to say it aloud.
“Yeah,” Twilight said, glancing away from Dash.
Rainbow laughed and banged her hoof on the table. The extra motion made her temporary, but oh so awesome, mustache bounce and tug at her muzzle. She tried to focus on it again. The monocle made everything in the left half of her vision blurry, but it was too cool and too temporary to take it off for a single instant. “I’m surprised she didn’t ground you for a million years or something.”
Twilight giggled. “I think she was tempted to. I used to think she’d throw me in the dungeon if she even got a hint I was trying that again.”
Dash laughed again. “So how did she get rid of–” She was cut off by a staccato of popping noises as her glorious handlebar mustache, monocle, and top hat vanished. “Aw!” she complained, “You said those would last for a few hours.” She put on her best sad-look and pouted at Twilight, who wasn’t even paying her any attention. Her features quickly moved from overly distraught to slightly annoyed. She wasn’t an actor, but that didn’t mean she didn’t like audiences.
“Uh oh,” Twilight said. Her cup and the donut she hadn’t touched for a while clattered to the tabletop.
“Uh oh? That’s not a good sound.”
“Rainbow, I think they lasted as long as they were supposed to.” Twilight pointed over her shoulder at something high up on the ceiling. “Look.”
She leaned back and looked up. Nothing. She kept leaning back until she fell onto her back and bumped her head on the floor. “Ow,” she said. In the top of her vision she could just make out a clock. “Oh.” She rolled onto her belly and the leapt up to her hooves. “We can still make it if we hurry.” She darted for the door and hauled it open so Twilight could sprint through.
A purple blur did not rush in front of her nor did the clatter of hooves echo through the store as Twilight scrambled to exit the shop. Instead, she heard the quiet scraping of a chair as Twilight pushed it back under the table, and the small jingle of change as she levitated some bits onto the table. “Thanks for everything Joe,” Twilight called out, “we’ve got to get going!”
She tapped her hoof, the clicking noise dulled by the fact that she was outside and Twilight was inside. She swore that Twilight didn’t know the meaning of haste. They were almost late, and she was never late; it didn’t fit with her image. There was showing up after something started and then there was missing it. One was awesome, the other wasn’t. Finally, Twilight made it out of the donut shop, still calmly walking. “Come on! We’re going to be late!” she implored.
Twilight chuckled. “Oh, Rainbow, there’s absolutely no way I’d be able to run all the way to the train station. Even if I could, I’m not as fast as you.” Twilight smiled nervously, like she was saying something that would make her annoyed at the unicorn. “I had a different idea.”
Rainbow caught on now. It was so obvious. “Oh yeah!” she exclaimed, turning away from Twilight and crouching down. “Mind the wings,” she cautioned. After several seconds of not feeling Twilight’s hooves or the soft fur of Twilight’s belly on her back, she turned towards the mare, shooting her an annoyed glance. “Well?”
“Actually, I had a different different idea. You already took me flying once. I figured I could show you my latest spell.”
One eyebrow shot up. “The one with goldfish?” she asked.
Twilight giggled, her sides vibrating in a pretty awesome manner, but that wasn’t getting them to the train on time. “No, silly. The long range teleportation spell!”
Skepticism entered her voice. “I thought you said that spell would only take you.”
Twilight’s eyed closed and a sly grin spread across her face as she puffed out her chest. “And whatever I’m carrying.” The unicorn stayed like that, as if waiting for something. Dash continued to stare at the purple pony. Maybe, if she stayed still long enough, it would make sense.
One of Twilight’s eyes cracked open. She continued to stare at Twilight. The other eye followed and the smile slowly melted. Still Dash focused on Twilight. “Um, Rainbow?”
It had worked. Of course it had worked! It was her plan, Rainbow Dash always had the best plans. “Yes?”
“You need to climb on my back.” Twilight lifted a rear leg, which made her flank twist in just the most perfectly awesome way.
“Oh. Yeah! I knew that!” She flapped her wings, taking off before Twilight could dispute her claim. Positioning herself over Twilight and making sure to be gentle, she landed on the unicorn’s back. Twilight evidently had some sort of back problem because the unicorn made a sort of grunting noise as she landed. She rolled her eyes. Twilight really needed to quit overreacting. It wasn’t like she was heavy or anything.
“Okay, Rainbow,” Twilight said, “just hang on.” Twilight’s head tilted forward and her horn began to glow with that pinkish color—not Pinkie pink, but the same pink as her cutie mark, a Twilight-pink. Hearing a humming sound that seemed to come from all around her at once, Dash jerked her head to the left, to the right, then up. The light display in front of her intensified. Instead of the sort of clearish light Twilight normally had, it was a solid pink, maybe with a bit of white at the center. She had to look away. As the humming increased in volume and pitch, she closed her eyes.
Even through her eyelids, she could see the blazing aura of Twilight’s horn. Her vibrating teeth added a clicking noise to the humming. She forced her ears against her head and clamped her jaw tight as the noise grew to almost painful levels. Her head felt like it was going to melt. Forcing her jaw to unlock, she tried to scream, “Twilight!” Her cry was lost in the roar of Twilight’s magic. She squeezed Twilight now, her contact with the other mare reminding her that this was not the work of an evil sorceress. Then the bottom fell out of the world.
She was falling in all directions at the same time. Her wings and eyes snapped open and she tried to regain control of her motions with several hasty flaps. She couldn’t see anything yet; the brilliant afterimage of Twilight’s spell still half-blinded her. With just enough presence of mind not to let go of Twilight, she opened her mouth to ask what had gone wrong.
She blinked, and like that, it was over. Reality snapped back into being and she was greeted with a riot of pastel colors, the coats of dozens of ponies gathered in a small space. Behind the throng, the brown walls and yellow roof of train cars. She let out the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Her voice was dry and scratchy as she croaked, “Are we– did we make it?”
“Yep! And just in time too!” Twilight cheerfully informed her.
Groaning, she slid off of Twilight’s back. With her weight on her own four legs again, she found she could barely stand. She had to lock her legs and use her wings for balance to keep from tipping over. “I don’t think pegasi were meant to teleport, Twilight,” she said, trying to take a step without stumbling—stumbling was for amateurs. She regained her balance after only a few failed starts she hid behind the guise of stretching. “If you do that again, I may have to call it a night.”
“All aboard!” cried a nondescript brown stallion in an engineer’s hat, “Last call for number nine to Ponyville, Manehatten, and Trøtsheim!” As many of the waiting ponies filed into the open passenger cars, the earth pony ducked inside the engine proper. Moments later, steam began to shoot out of various parts of the engine with a hiss.
Rainbow reared back and galloped off towards the open passenger door. Running, moving with her body, felt good. Even a short gallop made her feel better, more focused. Turning to grin at Twilight and finding nopony next to her, she braced her hooves against the stone and skidded to a halt. Twilight was still standing back where they’d poofed into existence on the boarding platform. Twilight’s head was bowed, her dark bangs hiding her face.
“Um, Twilight? This is our train.” She cantered back to her friend and poked her shoulder. No response at all. “Twilight,” she asked, the smallest hint of worry creeping into her voice, “what’s up?”
Twilight’s voice was so quiet that she had to strain to hear it. “I just– we get on that train,” Twilight mumbled, “with all of those other ponies and it’s over. This night is over.” Twilight’s head jerked up to look her right in the face. Her friend’s eyes threatened to overflow with tears. “I don’t want this to be over!”
Dash flinched. What had she done? Her date had been going great, even if they’d been forced to cut and run early, late, whatever. Where had she gone wrong? Scratch that. What could she do about it?
Twilight sniffed and wiped her nose with a hoof. Her coat was darkened where she had wiped away tears. “I’m sorry Rainbow. You must think I’m crazy.” The unicorn made a sound that might have been an attempt at a laugh and her mouth pulled back into what might have been a smile, but her acting skill was less convincing than Applejack’s.
“Hey, no problem.” She put on her best grin, the one that made fillies, colts, and Pinkie Pie hop around and giggle themselves silly. “If you don’t want it to end, we’ll just skip the train.” Her ears twitched as the steam whistle let loose a shriek.
“But... we have to get back to Ponyv–” Twilight’s protest was muffled as she stuck her hoof in the unicorn’s mouth.
“Twilight. Between the best flier this side of, of everything,” Dash said with the wave of a hoof, “and the most magical of magicky ponies herself, I’m sure we’ll find a way home.” She locked eyes with Twilight, refusing to blink.
Twilight stared back. The strain slowly melted from her face as Dash watched. There was a hiss and then a protest of metal hinges followed by the sound of a dozen doors closing. Neither of them moved. Dash’s gaze bore into Twilight’s eyes and the unicorn’s seemed to be searching her own as if some hidden answer lay behind them.
Twilight closed her eyes, and when she reopened them, all traces of the tears that had threatened to fall had vanished. The smile on her face was real now as she whispered, “Okay Rainbow, you win.”
“Right. Of course I do!” Dash looked around for something, anything that could serve. Worst case, she could carry Twilight back to Ponyville; that would be fun. Her wing joints throbbed at the thought. It was a long flight after a long night and Twilight wasn’t exactly the lightest thing she’d ever carried. Maybe she could find a cloud to rest on or–
A cloud! That was it. Sometimes she amazed even herself. “Wait here a minute, Twilight,” she said. Rainbow Dash launched herself into the air. She swooped back down to hang upside down over Twilight’s head. “You do still have that walk-on-clouds spell, right? You probably want to cast that one,” she said, then zoomed back into the sky.
She scanned the night sky carefully. Clouds were actually pretty easy to see at night. They tended to block out the stars and moon and whatever else was up there. In Ponyville, she never had trouble finding a stray cloud. Even on moonless nights she could spot them. To be fair, that was because she usually stashed a few just outside town in case she had the need for a sudden nap, or if Applejack made any snarky comments about her awesomeness. Yet here in the capital, she couldn’t find a single cloud of measurable size.
“What kind of weather ponies does Canterlot have?” Dash muttered to herself. “Boring ones, that’s what.” The kind of weather ponies that taught classes, the kind that made sure clouds were all regulation shape and size, the kind that would actually measure fog depth before calling it a day. Most importantly, the kind that wouldn’t leave a fluff of cloud bigger than a hoof in case some poor pegasus needed a quick bed or a hiding place.
Rainbow sighed, letting her entire body slouch for a minute, hanging from her wings. She’d just have to gather the little balls of fluff and try to build something resembling a cloud out of them. It was gonna be a lot of work, but her alternative was to return and tell Twilight she’d failed. With a snap of her powerful wings, she was off.
Her flight path darted and veered wildly. Rainbow snatched small puffs whenever she came close to them, even ones that were invisible against the dark horizon. Twilight would say she was using her pegasus magic to extend her senses and locate small pockets of water vapor, but she would say it was just a tugging. However a pony would describe it, it was slow going. Just because they were super boring and uncool didn’t mean the Canterlot weather ponies were bad at their job. A less awesome pony would have given up. A slower pony would have been at this all night. She was neither of those things. In just under four minutes, Rainbow Dash had gathered a cloud about twice the size of a pony. It wasn’t the softest or the fluffiest of clouds, being made mostly of fog and mist, but it floated and it would hold a pegasus—or a particularly clever and magical unicorn.
She carried her hard won treasure back to the train station, making sure not to clip the fence or the awning. The thought of having to gather and make a new cloud and spend all that time flying without a single pony to be amazed by her skill made her take her time and be careful with her cloud.
Twilight was staring at the ground and Dash could hear a soft murmuring, something about “only one night”. Twilight must be pretty stoked about how far they’d come on this first date, too. Dash’s smirk widened as she closed and realized that the unicorn hadn’t heard her approach. She crouched behind her prize with her eyes just peeking over the rim at Twilight. Those eyes narrowed as she carefully, quietly floated closer. She rested her weight on the cloud and glided the final few yards, bringing her makeshift platform into position behind the mare. Rainbow let go of the cloud and silently gained a few yards of altitude. She rolled upside down and floated over her date. Hopefully Twilight had cast her spell by now. If she hadn’t...
* * *
“Boo!” The shout sent her heart into a panicked overdrive. She jerked in surprise as Rainbow Dash’s face popped into view from above. By the time she realized what had happened, she was already two hoof-lengths in the air, her heart racing. “What are you doing?” she tried to ask, but was cut off as Rainbow scooted a cloud under her. She impacted with an airborne ball of fluff, driving the air out of her lungs despite its cushy surface.
It took Twilight a few moments before she could do more than hyperventilate. Once her breathing was back under control, she shot a glare at the pegasus. “Oh very funny, Rainbow.”
Rainbow floated down level with the cloud. She folded her forelegs and rested her chin on her hooves, still chuckling to herself. “Sorry Twilight, but sacrifices have to be made.” Her nose crinkled as she smirked. “It was totally for a good cause, though,” she said as she tapped Twilight on the nose.
Twilight rolled over onto her belly. The cloud was big enough for her to sit on and leave a rim for Dash to hang on to. “So was this the plan? Scare me out of a week of my life?” She raised one eyebrow, a little irritation creeping into her voice. “Because I think I preferred the train.”
“Haha! Nah. That was just a bonus.” Dash dropped below the level of the cloud and popped up behind her.” This was what I wanted to do.” Twilight was forced to brace herself as Rainbow heaved against the cloud, pushing it out over the empty tracks. The cloud slowly spun as it drifted clear of the train station. Rainbow disappeared under it and for a minute, maybe two, Twilight was alone, rising into the sky.
Instead of the barely controlled power of Rainbow’s sprint like her previous flight, this ascent was smooth and calm. The ground seemed to sway as she watched it. Were it not for the shrinking buildings, she wouldn’t be able to tell she was moving at all. She closed her eyes, trying to shake the feeling of falling.
Her eyes snapped open in alarm as she was rocked by something squeezing onto the cloud next to her. Her hooves shot out, trying to steady herself. Her left legs were pinned by a warm, soft, but heavy weight, and her right legs swung out into empty space. She began to tip and just as a scream was working its way out of her throat, Dash grabbed her. She clung to the pegasus and held on for dear life.
“Whoa there, Twilight! Sorry.” Rainbow laughed. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Rainbow!” she nearly sobbed in relief as she squirmed around to face the pegasus. She tried to scoot more onto the cloud using Dash as an anchor. When she was situated in a much less precarious position, pressed up tight against Rainbow, she asked, “What happened?”
“You,” said Rainbow, tapping her on the forehead lightly, “fell asleep.”
Twilight blushed. She had drifted off and it had almost ended in disaster. “Thanks Rainbow. For catching me.”
“Hey,” Dash smirked, “just part of being as awesome as me.” She nuzzled Twilight and whispered, “Besides that one was kinda my fault. Don’t tell anypony though.”
Twilight smiled. “It can be our little secret,” she said. She snuggled into Rainbow’s side and looked out over Equestria.
The night sky filled her entire field of vision, everywhere she looked were glimmering stars. She was floating on a cloud through a sea of lights so high that the ground was noticeable only as the absence of stars. By all rights she should be out of her mind with the fear of falling, but instead of mind numbing terror she felt only peace as the two of them drifted.
She closed her eyes and cautioned herself not to fall asleep. Rainbow was here, and there was no way anything could happen to her as long as the mare who was hers, even if only for the night, was nearby. Earlier she had dreaded the coming end, not wanting to face reality again. Maybe it was her weariness, maybe the dearth of oxygen or some combination thereof, but she could face it calmly, rationally. She would say good night to Rainbow, and go home, and tomorrow they would be just friends again.
The thought still hurt, almost as much as she imagined abandoning all her friends to return to Canterlot would. She took solace in the fact that she would always have this night. She and Rainbow had shared this moment and nothing would change that.
Half asleep she mumbled, “...Wish it could last forever.”
“Twilight?” Dash asked softly.
Twilight drifted off to sleep, answering Dash’s question with a light snore. She didn’t hear the pegasus chuckle quietly to herself, nor did she hear Rainbow’s whispered “Sweet dreams, egghead.” The brush on her cheek mingled in with her dreams as she spiraled off into a world filled with laughing pegasi darting amongst the stars.