Twilight groaned as a shaft of sunlight lanced through her blinds to strike her square on the face. “No, Rainbow,” she whined softly, “put the sun back...” Her voice trailed off into a light snore as she pulled a pillow over her head. She reached a hoof out to the far side of her bed, gently stroking the– Nothing. She stopped in confusion. Reaching further she once more proceeded to run her hoof over a shapely– blanket?
She bolted upright, flinging her pillow across the room. Her eyes were wide, her pupils dilated, her jaw was clamped shut and her heart was racing. Her bangs swished as she whipped her head around looking for... for something. She was in her room. Her eyes scanned the walls and shelves. Nothing seemed to be missing, but if nothing was gone, why was there a lump of ice in the pit of her stomach?
“Was it all a dream?” she asked her books. Waiting a moment to confirm that the books were not going to answer her question, thus proving this was no dream, Twilight threw off her covers and leapt to her hooves, ready to face a brand new day.
That was the plan at least; the execution was somewhat lacking. Rather than fly to the far side of the room, her covers slid part way off, forcing her to feebly twitch her hind legs to free herself from their cottony embrace. Instead of springing out of bed, she half rolled, half fell to the floor. She lay there unmoving; it was surprisingly comfortable.
She almost drifted off again, until she remembered. Rather, until she realized she didn’t remember. How had she gotten home? The last thing she recalled was drifting through the night sky, Rainbow Dash pressed tight against her. It had been so peaceful. At the time she would have sworn the whole thing, smoldering glances and all, had been real.
Mind now active, she opened her eyes fully and sat up. Her bedroom had an inch deep layer of fog, of all things, spread across the floor. She ran her hoof along her bed skirt and confirmed what she had feared. The fog was very real and very normal. Her linens were also very damp. At least she had not left any books on the floor.
Standing up, her horn began to glow as she willed the window to open and with a thought, she called a gentle breeze to blow the fog out of the room. As the mist began to roil and billow, making its way towards her window, she trotted over to her mirror. It would take a while to clear but the spell wasn’t too draining on her.
Twilight looked at her reflection, levitating a brush as she did so. Her mane was a mess, but that was to be expected with the heightened humidity and her aerial adventures last night. With practiced ease she began to pull the brush through her tangled hair, keeping part of her will focused on the spell to clear the fog. This would take quite some time, though the mist would be mostly cleared by the time she was done getting her tangled mane presentable. She began to hum tunelessly to herself as the brush was set to work untangling her hair. Her muzzle creaked open wide as a lingering bit of sleepiness forced out a jaw-stretching yawn and she gently teased out a tangle.
The fog felt slightly chilly as it blew around her hooves. The brush paused mid-stroke. While there were quite a few unicorns who could levitate multiple things and even perform delicate precision positioning of many objects, she knew of none, living or historical, that could so easily perform two unrelated tasks, especially while more than half asleep. Even Starswirl the Bearded had counted it amongst one of his Great Feats to be able to cast two spells simultaneously.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a unicorn with your raw abilities. It was one of the first things Celestia had ever said to her. That memory, an acknowledgement of her magical prowess, still caused pride to well within her. She had bragged about it as a filly and hid it as a teen. As an adult though, she acknowledged it but didn’t let it swell her head. You really are the Rainbow Dash of magic. Rainbow’s voice filled her head, replacing her mentor’s voice. While Celestia’s comment summoned only pride and the desire to be worthy of such power, Rainbow’s made her giddy and tingly, like she had drunk one more mug of cider than was advisable. As the voice echoed in her head, she saw her cheeks lighten in the mirror. Her dark coat concealed most blushes but it would take a pony with Pinkie’s coloration to hide the burning she now felt.
Blushing brought back more memories: of nuzzling, of her coat rubbing against Rainbow’s, of watching Dash walk away from her. The fire in her face would be visible even were she as red as– as– The only red thing she could think of right now was the outer curve of Rainbow’s cutie mark as it flexed and–
“No!” Twilight yelled as she shook her head vigorously. She shouldn’t be thinking of Rainbow like that anymore. Last night they were dating; today was a return to reality. Concentrating extra hard on her hairbrush, she was determined not to forget that today was real and last night was just pretend. She snarled as her brush became stuck in another tangle, the implement pulling out more than one strand of hair as she forced it through.
For several minutes, the only sound somepony might have heard coming from the room was the sound of a brush being worked through a mane, with the occasional grunt or snarl of frustration. Finally having gotten her mane thoroughly brushed, Twilight turned her attention back to her room. The mist was gone now and the constant airflow had evaporated the dew she had expected to find on every surface. She stomped over to check her sheets and covers again. The fabric was still heavy with water.
Sighing, she quickly began using her magic to strip the bed of sheets. When she yanked the comforter into the air, a scroll fell out. Twilight almost didn’t catch the paper before it hit the ground. Curiosity soothing her mood, she willed the scroll closer. She recognized it as her list of weekly activities, a more detailed version of her monthly meeting manager. “What is this doing here?” she asked the room. There was writing on the scroll, writing that was not hers. Whoever had marked it up had better have a good–
Hey Twilight, sorry to leave you without saying goodbye, but I didn’t want to wake you up. I had an awesome time last night. Thanks for that. I guess it’ll be a little late for goodnights by the time you read this, but goodnight anyway.
Twilight smiled at the note. Rainbow Dash truly was the most loyal of friends. The date had been one disaster after another up to and including her little breakdown at the train station. Yet it was Rainbow who was apologizing. And for something as silly as not saying goodnight. Twilight’s brows knit as she thought. She had not gotten a first kiss last night; surely Rainbow would have mentioned it. It probably wouldn’t count anyway if she wasn’t awake.
Even if she had failed and wasted Dash’s evening from an academic point of view, it had been fun. Maybe she would have to go on a real date someday. A sharp pang shot through her chest and a dull throb settled in her gut. She dismissed the ache in her chest as mere non-localized pain from her empty stomach; it had been a while since she’d eaten after all. That was the logical answer and she was satisfied with it.
She concentrated on that ache. It seemed better than dwelling on her mistake. Well, mistakes, probably. Plural. She had made a lot of them last night. The poor play, the closed cafe, begging off the train ride home, those were all mistakes. A nagging, troubling thought tried to press to the forefront of her mind but she ignored it. It didn’t make much sense but she shied away from examining it. It wasn’t important, it couldn’t be important.
She shook her head and snorted. She would be able to think clearer once she had breakfast, or maybe lunch. She opened her bedroom door and trotted downstairs. “Spike!” she called. “Spi-ike!”
“Oh, you’re finally awake,” Spike growled from behind her. She turned to see her longtime companion and number one assistant curled up in his basket, tucked away to the side of the staircase. The dragon sat up and stretched as he yawned.
“Spike, why are you sleeping down here?” Twilight asked.
Spike flopped back down onto his blue blanket. “When Rainbow Dash brought you home last night, she said that anything on the floor might get wet. So I moved down here so I wouldn’t get damp.” Spike rolled out of his bed. Even the baby dragon couldn’t pretend he needed more sleep. “Next time you’re going to be bringing clouds home, tell me beforehand. I hate getting woken up.”
“I’m sorry Spike, I didn’t exactly plan that.” She smiled apologetically.
Spike snorted and glared at her and crossed his arms. “Twilight, I’m pretty sure you plan when to sneeze.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes and prepped her teacher’s voice. “Now Spike, you know the value of forethought and planning. Without a schedule and a clear–”
“–Clear direction of what needs to be done...” Spike mimicked her, bringing his third best “I’m Bored” expression into play. “I’ve heard this one before, Twilight. I figured Rainbow Dash wouldn’t let you keep to your plan anyway.” His number three bored expression shifted into his number two disinterested one as he pretended to examine his claws. “I bet she just got bored during your show thing.” Though his eyes were fixed upon his claw, he managed to keep her in the corner of his eye, giving him a fully unimpeded view of Twilight’s smirk. He nearly skewered his own palm trying not to look surprised.
“Actually, she loved it.”
Dropping all pretense of disinterest, Spike faced her, his eyes growing wide as he scampered over. “She did?” he asked, eyes going wide in shock.
“Oh yes.” Twilight delivered that answer in the same voice she used when presenting a particularly clever solution to a tough problem. “I’m pretty sure she said it was ‘at least seventy-five percent awesome’. She really liked the part where Daring wrestled the hydra.”
Spike mouthed the word “wow” and sat down, one claw scratching his head as his eyes focused on something far away. Just as she was about to ask him to start breakfast he spoke. “Hey Twilight,” he said. “Do you think Rarity would like to see that show?”
A smile spread over her face as she remembered the play again. Dash cheering at Daring’s last minute escapes, booing at the villain’s misleading traps, and groaning at the sidekick’s obliviousness. Rainbow, telling her to just enjoy the good parts and not worry about the mistakes. A blue wing draped across her back.
“Twilight?” Spike’s voice trembled a little. “Are you okay?” He waved a hand in front of her face. “You’re not getting sick are you? You’re turning kinda red.” He reached up and laid a hand on her forehead.
She shook off his hand. “No, Spike, I’m not getting sick. I was just thinking about Rai– Rarity. I don’t think she’d like that theatre too much. It wasn’t really up to her standards.”
“Oh.” Spike’s shoulder slumped, his back curving downward until his claws touched the ground. He turned and dragged himself into the kitchen. He plodded a few steps towards his morning duty before straightening suddenly. Zipping back over to Twilight, his eyes wide with excitement he asked, “Do you think you could take me to one of those someday? They sound really fun!”
Twilight laughed at how quickly Spike recovered from his heartache. “Sure thing, Spike,” she said, giggling again as her assistant pumped his claw in the air. She watched as he shot off into the kitchen, a loud whoop of victory echoing in his wake.
While Spike cooked she would attempt to analyze last night and see what she could learn from her failed attempt at obtaining a kiss. Retrieving a fresh scroll, she began jotting down notes from the previous evening.
Twilight was jerked out of her daydream by the sound of a plate being dropped onto the table in front of her.
“Here you go, Twilight,” Spike said, “steamed oats and honey.” His chest puffed out as he announced today’s meal.
“Oats and honey?” she asked. “What’s the occasion?”
“Aw, come on, Twilight. Can’t a dragon do something nice for his pony once in awhile?” His smile showed every single one of his teeth as it was pulled extra wide. The little guy was a worse liar than Applejack.
“Spike,” she drew out his name, her voice pitched flat, “what are you after?” Her eyes narrowed and she fixed Spike with a stern gaze.
The dragon began to sweat under her gaze but his smile didn’t slip. If anything it grew tighter and wider. “What are you talking about, Twilight?” A lump traveled down his throat as he swallowed. “I didn’t ask for anything.”
Twilight raised a single eyebrow, but did not lessen the intensity of her gaze. For a long moment, neither moved. Twilight’s eyes slowly grew narrower as she fought the urge to blink. Spike was now positively dripping with nervous perspiration. Her eyes were beginning to burn, but she could not give in.
Spike gulped and looked away. “Well,” he said to the floor, “it’s just that Sweetie Belle was saying that Mrs. Cheerilee is going to take her class on a trip to Horshey tomorrow to see the chocolate factory.” He looked back up at her, his eyes were wide and shined as he blurted out, “And she said that the trip was open to friends, not just the class! Sweetie Belle invited me to go along with her! Can I go?” Spike fell to his knees, his hands clasped together. “Please Twilight? Ple-ease?”
Unable to contain herself, Twilight burst out laughing at Spike’s overwrought expression. “Of course you can go. I’m sure Cheerilee will have everything under control.”
“Woohoo!” Spike cheered, throwing his arms around her neck. “Thanks, Twilight. You’re the best!”
“Just don’t give yourself a tummy ache, I don’t want to have to take you to Redheart. Again.”
“Ah, phooey,” he dismissed her concern with a wave of a claw. “It was just the one time.” Spike grabbed his bowl of honeyed oatmeal, sprinkled with cracked ruby, and tipped the entire thing into his mouth. After licking the bowl clean he flopped onto his back and let out a loud, satisfied belch.
“Spike!” Twilight admonished the baby dragon. Only a bite or two of hers had been eaten.
“Sorry, Twilight, but I slept in too long,” he explained from his prone position. “Not that it doesn’t sound good, but this is why I could never hibernate.” Spike yawned.
Twilight finished her own meal at a much slower, and healthier, pace. Once finished, she stacked the bowls and levitated them over to sit next to Spike, who was now groaning softly and holding his belly. He would be fine in a few minutes, after his dragon physiology made short work of the oats.
Leaving Spike to his current lesson on the value of patience, Twilight returned to her notes. A blank sheet of parchment lay upon her desk. She didn’t really recall having filled an entire page, but the thought of already having so much material to analyze filled her with warmth. Dash had sure given her a lot to consider. Having been interrupted with breakfast, she’d lost her mental place. Thinking back, she couldn’t remember any specifics of what she had written. The whole morning’s writing, all fifteen minutes of it, was a sort of vague haze. She knew she had been thinking about last night, but that’s where memory failed. Twilight smiled as she removed the blank sheet to get at her already completed one. She’d simply have to re-read her previous notes from the beg–
Twilight’s thoughts stopped dead in their tracks. Instead of the rows of orderly thoughts and bullet points with the occasional diagram she had expected, there was only a single large doodle. At the top of the page was a sketchily outlined cloud, like the kind Rainbow was fond of sleeping on. From it a bold-lined lightning bolt sprang, smoothly curved save a single jagged interruption in the middle. The bolt was divided into three sections, each crosshatched in different tones. When had she done that?
Colored images of that cutie mark flexing as its owner swayed away from her flashed through her mind. Her face flooded with warmth and she began to feel light headed, as if she had been spun around in circles. She didn’t try to distract herself from the memory, allowing the scene to play through again in her mind. The fact that she had given her mind permission to trod down this path caused more warmth, more blushing. Her face burned.
Finally, the memory moved on. She could all but feel Rainbow as the two trotted down nameless alleys on their way to the theatre. The warmth subsided but did not entirely disappear. She could at least think again. She skimmed over the play, thinking only of how much more fun she had had once Rainbow had helped her relax. As the flight started, she tried to distance herself from her own memory, not wanting to burst into flames, but the pure joy that had coursed through her once she had let herself go and placed her trust in Dash still brought a smile to her face. She should be writing this down, but had no desire to stop replaying the date. The donut store and Rainbow’s enthusiasm for her magic, that ridiculous mustache, her ride home, all passed quickly as she lightly skimmed the memories.
As her memory approached the end of the night, she felt a wave of trepidation well up within her. She tried to halt the remembered advance of time, freezing that memory of her and Dash snuggled together on a cloud, high over Equestria with only the stars as witnesses. She had been unable to stop time then, and she was unable to do so now. The date played out, drifting off into blackness. She had reached the end of her memories.
That ache in her belly was back. She glanced over towards Spike, who still clutched his own distended stomach and moaned wordlessly. She was torn between snapping at the dragon to clean up the remains of breakfast and lying on the floor joining him. Perhaps the oats had spoiled; that explained her symptoms.
Twilight grimaced. She couldn’t let this distract her, she needed to take notes if she was to learn from her mistakes and have a better date with the next pony she asked. The next pony...
Twilight’s will was an impressive thing. She had bent nature with its power, had bested Nightmare Moon and Discord with the strength of her mind. She had even had the mental fortitude to confess her dislike of herpetology to her teachers as a filly. She had once written an entire term paper while suffering through the late stages of Gryphon Flu. She should have been able to ignore this tearing feeling and write on. When she wanted to accomplish something, not even reality itself would long stand the attentions of her iron will.
Instead, she lay there hoping that whatever Spike had fed them both would pass quickly. She didn’t notice when, after a short moment and a loud burp, Spike retrieved the bowls and scampered off to the kitchen to begin the long process of cleaning.