Twilight Sparkle hummed happily to herself, her horn glowing with a soft magenta light as she held aloft a fine, blue quill and a yellowed, wrinkled scroll. The scroll was long, long enough that it could not be fully unfurled without risking its already tattered and worn surface on the numerous books, chairs, and other objects strewn about the library’s floor.
Twilight squinted, trying to make out faded ink in the dying light of the single candle she allowed herself, a concession only granted due to magical exhaustion and the late hour. Her eyes traversed the parchment, stopping mid-way down at item number three hundred seventy-six: perfect long-range teleportation spell. She brought her quill to her inkwell with exaggerated care and dipped it in. Equal care was given to ensure that no ink dripped from the black tip as she brought it to the scroll. She closed her eyes as she marked yet another item off The List. A small shudder ran up her legs, across her back, and into her ears as she pulled the quill away and blotted the newly made check mark with fine sand.
With a satisfied smile she scanned her completed items, basking in the knowledge that her List, and her life, were right on track. Until she remembered it: the one item that had thwarted and taunted her. A single blank box in a sea of perfectly lined up check marks. Twilight didn’t really know why she had added it to The List—a filly’s whim, she supposed. Item number fifty-six: go on a date, obtain first kiss. Her brows creased as she stared at the defiant entry. It had mocked her for two and a half years now.
Twilight gritted her teeth, trying to force the thought of her failure from her mind. Not everything had gone according to her plan. Oh, some things had thrown her for a loop and required some liberal reinterpretation, especially after moving to Ponyville. She had yet to attempt some of the newer items she had added to the List, but this was the only remaining item from the original One Hundred Things Every Filly Should Do.
It was a failure of organization. Without organization came chaos. She had been using lists to plan and order since before gaining her cutie mark and they had served her faithfully. Yet here was this list. Incomplete. Disorderly.
“And it’s high time I did something about that!” she proclaimed to nopony in particular. With much less regard than she used for The List, she unfurled a smaller, cleaner scroll and checked “be assertive” off of her weekly planner.
Plans already beginning to form in her mind, she finished rolling her List up, taking less care than she had previously. She slipped it into a polished wooden case emblazoned with a pink six-pointed star, an exact match to the one adorning her flank. Only then did she use her magic to light the rest of the room’s candles. Trotting over to one of the numerous bookshelves, she began reading titles, looking for some self-help book on finding a perfect date-candidate. How to Lose a Stallion in Seven Days and 21 Dishes He’ll Love flew off the shelf and dropped on the floor. It was followed by Formal Dining Guides, which might have been useful for the date itself, but offered no help on who to date. Choosing the Perfect Calendar—how had this gotten here? She’d been looking for this for months. Pulling book after book off the shelves until she had gone through the entire bookcase yielded nothing better than a set of romance novels she wasn’t sure should even be in the general audience section. Adding one of the more promising novels about a lonely librarian to her “read later” stack, she was forced to conclude her shelves lacked any such helpful literature. “That’s not going to stop me this time,” she growled at fate. It was time to get serious.
Since moving to Ponyville less than a year ago, she had accomplished so many of her goals, some in very surprising ways. She mulled over the various techniques for finding a dating partner she remembered from overheard snatches of conversation. She was no longer a student—well, she no longer had classmates—nor was she enrolled in any clubs or other social activities with ponies of her age. That left two choices: dating a friend or hitting the night scene.
The thought of trying to chat up strange ponies in some dimly lit nightclub in Canterlot or Manehatten caused a lump of ice to form in her gut. All those wasted hours spent just seeing if she could get along with a stranger was almost enough for her to give up right there. With all other options exhausted, she turned towards the last source of potential partners.
Her friends had helped her learn and achieve so much; perhaps she could once again rely on them? It shouldn’t be that awkward. The list item in question didn’t explicitly state romance was required. She really only needed a pony willing to help her out, to go through the motions. Yes, her friends were the answer. Now all that remained was choosing who would be the best candidate.
Twilight grabbed a short scroll. This plan would not have as many steps as her usual daily checklists. Her quill made small scraping sounds as she developed her plan. When she was done, she re-read the list to ensure no errors were present.
Make a list of friend’s traits
Decide on whom to date
Ask friend out. Note: this may require additional research
Go on a date. A list of activities will be required
Repeat steps one through four until kiss is obtained
Finish original list
Talk to Pinkie Pie about party
(see standard Pinkie Pie Party checklist)
Twilight beamed. With this many lists, organization was sure to triumph. Giggling at the exhilaration that came with taking control of her life, she snatched five more sheets of paper and inscribed the name of a friend at the top of each. With great care, she drew a vertical line down the center of each sheet of paper, dividing each precisely in half. In one column she wrote “pros” and in the other “cons”.
Quickly she began compiling all of the positive and negative traits of her friends, with a critical eye towards date-ability. She muttered aloud as she wrote. “Pinkie Pie. Pros: is a lot of fun to be around, she’s always doing something new, pretty sure it’s impossible to really be unhappy around her, likes cooking, parties, Pinkie Sense.” Smiling at both her concise list and the thoughts of Pinkie’s positive date-ability oriented qualities, she moved over to the “cons” section. It felt a little odd to be quantifying her friends’ flaws, but she pushed that thought away. This was for a good cause. Besides, non-datability didn’t mean they were bad ponies, just ill suited to helping her.
“Cons: Hyperactive, unintelligible at times, would drive me mad within three days, too many parties, Pinkie Sense.” She chewed on the end of her quill trying to think of any more relevant traits that might tip the balance in Pinkie’s favor. Unable to really come up with any qualities that outweighed near certain insanity, she reluctantly placed Pinkie’s list down and swept up Fluttershy’s.
After a careful moment of thought she wrote a single line in the “con” category and put the paper down. She knew that Fluttershy would do anything to help a friend; she would not want to say “no” even if she was totally against the idea for fear of hurting Twilight’s feelings. Even explaining that this would be strictly scientific would not lessen her friend’s distress. It didn’t seem fair to place undue stress on such a timid pony.
Next up was Rarity. Twilight was able to fill her page on both sides. Generous fought against self-centered, determined faced off with prissy, elegant and high-maintenance added weight to their respective sides. Twilight struggled to contain all of her various thoughts on the single sheet, writing new traits within the margins and white space between words. Her candle burned low before she lifted the quill for the final time.
She rolled her neck, a small popping sound coming from her stiff muscles. Fighting to contain a yawn, she stared at the near solidly inked scroll. Twilight tried to make a decision one way or another, but for every positive influence there was a negative one lurking, and every time she thought she had finally ruled Rarity out, a redeeming phrase seemed to shine. “Gah!” She rubbed her temples with her hooves. “Why does this have to be so complicated?” Brightening immediately, she scrambled to find a bit of space on the right side of her sheet and finally located a small patch of parchment between “obsessive compulsive” and “anti-green”. She wrote “too complicated,” then smiled as she placed Rarity’s list on top of Pinkie’s and Fluttershy’s.
Only two left. She was more than halfway done. Rarity’s ink-soaked sheet stared at her, mocking her hopes of being nearly finished. Hopefully neither Applejack nor Rainbow Dash would be so involved. Grabbing Applejack’s, she quickly began to list traits, starting with AJ’s trademark honesty and devotion to her friends. Twilight’s quill wobbled a bit and caused some spotting as she added athleticism to the pros side. Though she had no intention of taking things beyond a date and first kiss, Twilight blushed thinking about how that trait might come into play in a more serious relationship. She shook her head. “Focus, Twilight.”
Industrious. If there was one thing anypony who knew anything about Applejack knew, it was that she was as hard working a pony as ever lived. Maybe even a bit too hard working; her work often kept her in the fields and orchards when other ponies would have skipped out to visit their friends. Simply finding time when she was free would be tough. And getting the apple farmer to do anything she didn’t really want to was like moving a mountain. She took pride in her stubbornness.
Twilight sat on her haunches to think. Applejack had overcome her bullheadedness when it came to accepting help from her friends, but she was still reluctant to ask for help. It had taken the full force of a hyper Pinkie Pie to get Applejack to open up to them, and it had been entirely due to her family’s pride and stubbornness that she had risked the farm in that cider contest. Recalling that it had been her idea to allow Applejack’s honorary family to help, Twilight underlined stubborn.
Twilight chewed on the tip of her quill once more. It was true that stubbornness was a key trait to her orange friend. Most of the other traits on the paper could be related or traced back to refusing to give in, but Applejack’s stubbornness could be a good trait too. She underlined devoted as well.
Twilight spent several more minutes wracking her brain to come up with anything else to add to the list. She tapped her quill against her desk, scowling when she realized the mess she was making with the ink. She’d have to get Spike to clean that later. Shaking her head, Twilight decided she had been as thorough as possible. She sighed, tension flowing from her along with her breath. She had begun to worry that none of her friends would be compatible enough for this task.
A tingle ran up her spine as she grabbed for Rainbow’s empty sheet. The pegasus represented the final step to completing phase one. Quickly, not caring as much about smudges, she began writing. Loyal, athletic, courageous, all went down in the positive traits. Sarcastic, judgmental, and arrogant went into the negatives list. To be fair to her friend, Rainbow had been much less boastful of late. The Mysterious Mare Do-Well incident had helped tremendously with that. And, as much as Twilight hated to admit it, she was often even more snarky and sarcastic than her friend. She wasn’t going to cross those off the list; they were good and valid points, but the ink on the page made them seem so much more negative than they really were. She almost felt she should qualify the points, but could summon up nothing beyond a slightly protective feeling towards the pegasus.
Twilight closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead with a hoof, struggling to contain another yawn. Surely she had more to say about her friend? Well, Dash was undeniably cool, but was that a trait that mattered? Twilight wanted to write it down, but the analytical side of her mind just couldn’t justify “cool” as a date-oriented quality. She tried approaching it from a different angle, but still couldn’t see a functional difference between “cool”, “awesome”, and “radical”. There had to be something here.
Twilight blinked. During the moment her eyes were closed she could see Rainbow’s air of assurance—the slight spring to her steps, that cocky half smirk she wore when she was faced with an obstacle, those eyes that welcomed a challenge. Even were she more of a Monochrome Dash, Twilight knew she would still command attention. It was just something about the way she moved. Flying or walking, it didn’t matter.
“Confidence!” Her inkwell jumped a little as she pounded her hoof into the table. Dash exuded confidence: she was so self-assured about everything she did. Twilight grinned as she wrote. Well, almost everything. There had been her reluctance to read simply because she had viewed it as uncool. “Right!” Twilight turned and scanned the small piles of books scattered around her study. “I need to remember to get that next Danger Mare book out for her.” Dash had very good taste in fiction even if she still shunned non-fiction. Maybe one of the Wonderbolts had written something? That would get her hesitant friend to read a biography if anything could.
Twilight placed her final page, Rainbow’s page, on top of Applejack’s. With renewed energy, she bounded over to her checklist and mark off phase one. “Score one point for organization!” She double-checked phase two, even though it was obvious what she had to do next. “Phase two,” she read aloud, “decide on who to date.”
She stalked back to her desk, narrowing her eyes and keeping her head down low and her hoofsteps soft. Moving right up against the side of the desk, slowly, quietly, she raised her head, eyes just peeking up over the surface. She stared at the smaller of the two stacks. Applejack and Rainbow Dash, the two ponies she felt exemplified the traits that her romance novels seemed to indicate would complement her own the most.
Applejack, the honest farmer. Rainbow Dash, the exciting flier. She used her magic to spread the two sheets out in front of her. Twilight peered at the two papers, her eyes narrowing further, taking in each word and weighing it. Both ponies had rough edges that would make dating either one difficult. Both had qualities that many agreed were good traits in a partner.
Back and forth between her two friends. Applejack seemed to be the better choice. She was simply far more steady and well grounded than Rainbow Dash, but every time she started to add Rainbow to the pile of discarded papers, she found herself unable to. Flopping onto her back, she stared up at her ceiling. “Ugh! Why does choosing have to be so hard?” Her ceiling did not answer.
She lay there for several minutes, trying to think of anything but Rainbow Dash and Applejack. No answers came to her. No ideas, no sudden bolts of inspiration materialized inside her mind. She sighed and rolled over, a book digging into her side as she gathered her hooves under her. She picked it up and read the title by the light of her own levitation spell. It was the first novel in one of her favorite adventure series, Daring Do. Rainbow loved the series as much as she did and had practically devoured the entire thing during her week of enforced bed rest.
How many couples had she read about who started off with nothing more than a shared interest? This was perfect, just the push she needed. Like she had tried to do so many times tonight, she moved one of the two papers back towards the desk, inwardly bracing for the same reticence that had plagued her for the last half hour. She was pleased and not a little surprised to find she felt only satisfaction at this choice. With no half-formed thoughts nagging her about the decision, she placed Applejack onto the pile with her three other friends.
Twilight leapt to her hooves, dimples forming as she smiled at her selection. Keeping the all-important paper with her, she skipped back over to her list. “Phase two complete!” She reared back and clapped her front hooves together. Her plan was well on its way. Now she had only to ask the blue pegasus on a date.
Twilight froze mid-celebration, her jubilant grin falling into a worried frown. Right, she had no real idea how to ask somepony out. Well, more reading was hardly going to stop her now. She stifled yet another yawn; she couldn’t sleep yet. There was research to be done, lists to be made, and a rainbow-maned pegasus to contemplate. Twilight’s grin widened as she reminded herself of these three points.
With a blast of magic, Twilight cleared a large space next to her desk, shoving everything around it back six or seven paces. Her horn flared, outshining the candles as she pulled out every book that had even the smallest hint of romance in it. She would read until she found a solution that fit her perfectly.
Choosing a book at random, she settled in for long hours of research. Within twenty minutes a puddle of drool had formed on her desk, under her muzzle. The chirping of the birds and her own light snoozing greeted the first fingers of dawn.
Rainbow Dash’s grin deepened as she started into the last segment of her routine. The world spun, earth and sky flipping wildly as she threw herself through corkscrews and rolls. She flared her wings and back-flipped into a dive. The last time she had tried this, it had put her into the hospital. Not this time, no way. She corkscrewed towards the green field and the four ponies sitting on checkered blanket below. All of her closest friends except Applejack had made it out to this picnic and show to watch her practice. The farm pony had said something about her trees needing to be ‘pruned’. Dash tried to snort, but the wind made it really hard to tell if she had. Pruning apple trees, a likely story. Everypony knew prunes didn’t come from apples; maybe kumquats or something, but not apples. That pony really needed to relax a bit and take some time off! And Rainbow really needed to pay attention to her flight path.
Struggling to keep her wings in position and not lose control as she threatened to spin out, Dash pulled herself level with the ground. The bottom of her erratic spiral came within a mere few wingspans on the earth. Fluttershy lay quivering upon the ground, hooves over her eyes as Rainbow passed overhead. Pinkie Pie took the opposite approach, bounding high into the air and achieving a hang-time that would make many of the foals in this year’s Summer Flight Camp jealous. For a minute Dash thought that the pink pony might actually sprout wings and take flight in disregard for reality. Then she passed over the group, hardly able to hear the cheering over the roar of her own wind stream.
She dipped towards the ground and tightened her roll, bringing her back to face the ground mere hoof-lengths away. Then she dove towards the sky, tucked, flipped, and landed, already half way into a bow as she did so. “Thank you, thank you,” she said as her friends cheered and clapped for her.
“Rainbow my dear, that was absolutely stunning. The way your mane and tail flowed was simply marvelous.” The white unicorn’s eyes drifted upwards, no doubt daydreaming about shoving her into some frilly gown again.
“Oh it was so super cool!” Pinkie Pie bounced into the air. “Zoom! Whoosh!” She thrust her hooves left then right in a pantomime of Dash’s flight, ending with a backward somersault flip and a final “Wheee!”
“Oh yes. It was, um, very nice.” Fluttershy offered up a small smile for her fellow pegasus. “The parts I could watch, that is.”
Dash smiled and laughed at her friends’ enthusiasm. “It’s cool, Fluttershy. I know not everypony can deal with displays of such raw speed and talent.” Dash reached out with one hoof and gave her reserved friend a quick hug. “It still means a lot that you came out to see me. All of you.” She turned to beam at each of her friends for a moment.
“Oh, oh, oh, oh!” Pinkie vibrated. “I should totally throw a party for this!”
“Pinkie Pie, you don’t have to throw a party every time I learn a new trick.” Dash puffed out her chest and spread her wings. “You’d be throwing them non-stop.”
“Yeah, but this trick is different! You got really, really hurt last time.” Pinkie’s ears drooped and her eyes teared up. Then she smiled, her ears perking forward and her tears vanishing. “And this time you didn’t! Yay!”
Rainbow laughed. She didn’t really like being reminded of her failures, but now that she had succeeded in performing the trick, the sting was gone. Nopony could learn a new trick without bending a few feathers. “Alright Pinkie, I can’t wait.”
Pinkie Pie zipped off, leaving a curling trail of dirt, dust, and grass clippings billowing outward in her wake.
For the first time since Dash had landed, Twilight spoke. “Well, I guess we’d better all go get ready for Pinkie’s party.” She was met with a chorus of agreements and they all began trotting back towards the town proper, following the still-settling dust trails that Pinkie Pie had left.
Living on the outskirts of Ponyville, Fluttershy was the first to peel off from the group. Giving them a soft “goodbye”, she trotted off towards her home. Dash could have flown up to her house right then, but she was still a bit winded from her performance, and the small talk and chitchat of her friends was pleasant enough, even if a good half of it covered things she didn’t really care much about. She stayed with the group until they got to the center of the village and had to separate. Saying her goodbyes, Dash prepared to take flight and get a quick nap in before the party.
Dash turned towards Twilight, who hadn’t budged since saying goodbye to Rarity. Dash hesitated for a second, and then trotted over to her friend. “What’s up Twi?” Something was a little bit off about the unicorn. Her smile was suspiciously wide, like a used carriage salespony’s. Maybe the workout had worn her out more than she thought.
“Well, Rainbow. I’ve been going over some notes these last few days, trying to find the perfect way to approach this. See I’ve got a new project and I’ve been staying up late the last few nights, making plans and compiling lists for each of you...”
As Twilight rambled on about lists and projects, experiments and data gathering, Dash nodded at what seemed appropriate points. She tried to keep from yawning, but with the thought of a nap already firmly planted in her head, she couldn’t help it. She didn’t mean to be rude, but when Twilight got on about her charts and the process of elimination, it was hard to pay attention. Especially when she really just wanted a muffin and a nap. Giving a little shake of her head, she was surprised to find that she couldn’t actually remember what Twilight had just said. The unicorn didn’t seem to have noticed.
“...and you’re the most logical match!” Twilight stopped, finally. She smiled and nodded, tilting her chin up and looking very satisfied.
“Yeah, look Twilight I–”
“So, do you wanna go out on a date?”
Dash froze mid thought. She must have heard Twilight wrong. “E–excuse me?” she stammered.
“Would you like to go out on a date with me sometime?” Twilight asked.
This wasn’t right. Ponies didn’t just walk up to their friends and ask them out. Despite her best efforts, Dash had picked up that much from Rarity. Twilight should have stammered or mumbled, or tried to spend a lot of time alone with her until Dash got the hint and made the first move, or maybe collected and obsessed over her discarded feathers. She should have pawed at the ground and blushed. Ponies asking their friends out on dates did not just stand there looking like they were talking about the weather schedule. She should be bouncing from hoof to hoof, or ready to run away the second Dash opened her mouth.
Maybe because Twilight wasn’t nervous, certainly not because she was nervous, Dash’s wings rose off of her back, her fight or flight instincts rapidly heading for the flight option. She couldn’t just run off though. One, that was not cool—it was the total opposite of cool, anti-cool. Two, how could she live with herself if she just left Twilight standing there? She owed her friend an answer. She opened her mouth to reply, but had no idea what she was going to say. She tried again, and once more was speechless. Neither a “yeah, sure” nor a “sorry, Twi” could be forced out. She, the fastest pony in Equestria, needed more time. “Uh. Twilight, isn’t this a little, um, sudden?” She pleaded for understanding as she stalled. The smartest pony she knew didn’t disappoint.
“Oh, I realize it’s a bit out of the blue.” Twilight actually smiled, like she hadn’t just put her heart out on the line.
“Yeah, just a little.” She offered Twilight an apologetic grin. “Could I have, like, a day to think about it?”
“Sure, Rainbow Dash. No problem.”
Rainbow Dash was floored. Twilight sounded like she really meant that. No hitches in her voice, no drawing back like she’d been struck. Just, “No problem”. Twilight’s nerves had to be made of ice water or something even colder, like really cold ice water. Heat began to creep into Dash’s cheeks. She really had to give Twilight credit: that amount of cool was beyond pretty much anypony else.
“So, tomorrow then?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, tomorrow. Um. Yeah.” Dash sprang into the air and sped towards her home. Her head was spinning. Twilight liked her? Twilight wanted to date her? Why couldn’t she answer? “Man, I really need a nap.”
Dash groaned as she rolled over again, pulling her blanket over her face. What the heck was Twilight thinking, asking her on a date? She wasn’t the kind of pony who was even interested in that stuff. Why didn’t she tell her ‘no’? She could have ended this whole thing before it even started and enjoyed her nap in peace instead of mentally flying in circles. This clearly wasn’t getting her anywhere and her wings and legs were beginning to twitch, the urge to be doing something growing.
Kicking off her comforter and springing into the air in one swift practiced motion, she flew across her room, opting to use her bedroom window as an exit. She needed to be outside. She needed to think. Flapping a few times to gain a bit of speed, she settled into a winding slalom-like pattern. As the breeze ruffled her coat and tugged her mane and tail behind her, her mind began to clear. She needed to talk to somepony about this. She needed somepony to help her make sense of it all, even if all that pony did was listen as she worked it out herself.
She considered her options as she bobbed and fluttered on the currents. With Twilight out of the question and Pinkie Pie busy doing whatever she did to prepare for parties, Rainbow’s go-to ponies were both out. Rarity seemed like a good option, but the unicorn would probably get all wide-eyed and try to get her to pick out dresses for their date. Dash didn’t need the kind of help Rarity had to offer and she sure as hay didn’t want to spend the rest of the day having bits of fabric pinned to her. Fluttershy was nearly as bad as Rarity: her head was full of that romantic goop she constantly read. Dash’s face twisted into a sour expression as she recalled trying to read one of those stories. Give her Daring Do or Danger Mare any day of the week.
That left only Applejack. Talking with her number one rival about love and dates and other romantic junk wasn’t Dash’s idea of a good time. She’d probably never hear the end of this, but the pegasus was out of options. Applejack was the one pony likely to understand her. Neither of them had ever really been into the whole dating thing, or at least Dash didn’t remember AJ talking about it at all, and she’d certainly never seen the farmer all prettied up, trotting flank to flank with somepony going to a fancy dinner or whatever it was ponies did for these things.
Yeah, it might mean giving AJ material to use against her in the future, but Rainbow was cool enough to overcome any amount of taunting Applesnack could dish out. Her mind made up, she ceased her directionless gliding and shot off towards the outskirts of town and Sweet Apple Acres.
Rainbow Dash twitched her ears, turning them towards the smallest of sounds as she flew low over the orchards. Applejack was probably out bucking apples, or picking corn, or putting prunes in her trees. Maybe she was developing a whole new way to avoid fun.
The sharp snap of hoof on wood echoed through the trees. Dash pivoted towards the noise and shot off in that direction. Sweet Apple Acres was only large if you were forced to trot the whole thing. She located AJ in next to no time.
When Rainbow found her, Applejack was performing her customary applebucking routine with one notable difference. The tree she was pounding was devoid of apples. Dash settled onto a large branch in a nearby tree to watch for a moment. She looked on in confusion as AJ reared up on her front legs and kicked the bare tree, causing a number of small twigs and branches to fall. AJ shook her head, dislodging the debris that had fallen onto her hat.
“Hey AJ! What’s up?” Dash called from her perch.
AJ’s hat swiveled to reveal the orange earth pony’s face. “Well ain’t this a surprise.” The farm pony’s mouth broke into a grin. “Twilight told me about the party and I figured you’d be lazin’ the day away somewhere.” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, “I hope you weren’t thinking of taking a snooze in one of my trees, Dash.”
Dash laughed and she rubbed the back of her head. “No way, not a chance.” She leapt from the branch and glided down to land next to her friend. “I actually just need– wanted to talk.”
Applejack turned and trotted towards the next tree. Dash kept pace with her. “I’m a mite busy at the moment, Rainbow. I gotta get these here trees pruned before the next growing season.” As she turned and got in bucking position, she saw Dash’s face screwed up in confusion. “It means to get the dead and weak branches off of ‘em. Trees need that energy for makin’ apples. A weak branch that’ll fall off before the apples are ripe is just a big waste.” AJ’s powerful legs shot out and thumped into the tree, shaking it. “Well, as you can see Rainbow, I’m mighty busy. Maybe y’all could visit later?”
Small twigs and branches fell all around her and Rainbow was forced to dodge one or two of the bigger ones. “Well, I kinda wanted to talk to you. Maybe...” She wasn’t sure about this. But if there was one pony she could trust to give her straight advice, it was Applejack. “Maybe if I helped, we could talk?”
Applejack lashed out again with her hooves, smirking as Dash scrambled to dodge another torrent of debris. “Sure. If you think you can keep up.”
“Keep up? Of course I can keep up.” Dash crouched, then practically flung herself at a neighboring tree. Her powerful wings pumping as she built up speed in the short distance. She planted her hooves in front of the trunk, swung around, and slammed her rear hooves into the tree sending the whole thing shaking. Dead branches and twigs rained down from above. Balanced on her front hooves, her rear legs still held up in the air, she gave Applejack a triumphant grin. “See? I totally got this.” It was pretty cool and the effect was only a little ruined when a branch the length of her wing landed on her head, driving her to the ground.
Applejack laughed as she trotted over to help the pegasus to her hooves. “Well, I see you certainly got something, sugar cube. Alright, you help me prune these trees and we can talk while we work. It must be pretty important if it’s keeping you from your nap.”
After shaking her head to clear her vision, Dash took up position next to Applejack. “I’ve got a bit of a problem,” she said as Applejack bucked the tree, showering them both. A second later Dash gave a grunt as she kicked out her own legs. “See, after my practice today, I had a little chat with Twilight.” More twigs rained down leaving bits of bark stuck in her mane. She was going to need to fly through a cloud after this, maybe even brush her hair. She hoped she could find her comb. “And well...” Rainbow paused as Applejack reared up for a final buck. “She kinda asked me out.”
Applejack’s eyes shot open wide and hooves missed their mark by a mile. She overbalanced and fell prone to the ground, her hat landing in front of her. She looked up at the pegasus, who wasn’t paying attention to her. “You wanna run that by me again, sugar cube?”
Dash reared up and bucked the tree, pumping her wings to add to the power of the kick. “Twilight. She asked me out. On a date.”
“I see.” Applejack climbed to her hooves. She dusted off her hat and settled it back onto her head before continuing. “And you said...?” She let the question hang between them.
“What do you think I said?” Dash rolled her eyes. “I said I needed to think about it.”
“Um, that’s not–”
“I mean, I’ve never even been asked out before!” Dash half-heartedly bucked the tree again. “It was totally out of nowhere!” She tapped a hoof against the trunk. “I just don’t know what to do.” She hung her head. Saying it out loud sucked. She hated to let a friend down, but she was totally out of her depth here.
“Well.” AJ rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, um. I can’t say it ain’t a bit shocking to me too.” Applejack walked over to her friend and placed a hoof on Dash’s withers. “The question is, do you like her?”
“Of course I like Twilight!” Dash’s head shot up. “She’s a great friend! What kinda question is that?”
“No, you featherbrain.” Applejack cuffed her lightly. “Do you like her? Could you see yourself snuggling up to her and spending your days just being with her?”
“I–” Dash paused for a second. “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about this stuff, you know?” She turned away from Applejack. “I’ve always been thinking of the Wonderbolts as my future and I’ve never put much thought into dates or romance or anything.” Dash sat back on her haunches, slipping out from under AJ’s reassuring hoof.
“I’ve had ponies say they loved me for my flying, or because I saved them.” Dash waved a hoof off in a northeasterly direction. “And the whole Elements of Harmony thing. But I’ve never really had a pony tell me they were interested in me for me. I mean, Twilight’s not some star-struck filly seeing her first air show or a kid I just pulled out of a well. She’s the totally amazingly powerful student of the Princess. You saw her handle that ursa. I mean she’s– she’s practically the– the me of magic!” She turned back to Applejack, her eyes widening. “And she likes me?” She wasn’t sure if that was a statement or a question.
Applejack rolled her eyes, but her grin belied her annoyance at Rainbow’s antics. “I could’a guessed that, RD. Seeing as how she asked you out and all.”
Dash looked up at the sky, her eyes focusing on something off in the distance, her mouth turned up into a slight grin. “Heh. She did.” For a moment, Dash re-lived that memory. “And the way she asked, that was pretty awesome.”
“Oh? And what way was that?”
Dash’s face broke into a grin and she turned towards Applejack once more as her eyes lit up in excitement. “It was really cool. She waited ‘til everypony else had left for home and just asked. ‘Would you like to go out with me?’ She just said it!”
Applejack’s brow rose. “Just like that?”
Applejack let out a low whistle. “Boy howdy, that musta taken more than a bit of courage.”
Courage? Twilight? Dash wouldn’t have pointed that out as one of her friend’s major traits. She was the fearless one. Applejack too. Probably. Pinkie didn’t count; Dash wasn’t sure the pony knew what fear even was. But Twilight?
Applejack interrupted her thoughts. “It all comes down to how you feel about her, RD. If you don’t think you could ever love her, it’s best to say ‘no’ now and save her some heartbreak later. But if you think you might...” She let the thought hang in the air for a minute. “Well, ain’t nopony ever harvest an apple without tending a tree first.”
Rainbow’s brow wrinkled and she frowned, bringing a hoof to her muzzle in thought. What did trees and apples have to do with how she felt about Twilight? How did she feel about Twilight anyway? Well she was the smartest pony in Ponyville and the most magical, even if she never rubbed it in anypony’s face. In fact, she kinda went out of her way not to show off. She was confident in her magic. Dash’s eyes went wide as a thought struck her. Twilight didn’t need to tell everypony how good she was because she simply didn’t care what they thought of her talents. Dash had never thought about it before and she would Sonic Rainboom through the Everfree at ground level before she ever admitted it, but Twilight was far more sure of herself than Dash was. That was pretty cool.
“Heh, yeah.” Dash’s brow furrowed in thought. “Yeah, I guess I do like her enough to try some of that stuff.” Her cheeks were warming again. Neither had mentioned any of the things “that stuff” could refer to, but Dash’s mind teased her with more than a few images. Her expression grew more serious and a hint of worry began to creep onto her face. “It’s not like I’m promising anything if I say yes to one date, right?”
“Nah, sugar cube.” The earth pony dismissed her final concern with a single wave of her hoof. “That’s pretty much the whole point of datin’, seeing if y’all could work together long term like.”
“It’s just–” Dash paused. “What if things don’t work out? Won’t it get weird?”
Applejack’s brow creased and she said nothing for a moment. “Well Rainbow, to my way of thinking, things’re gonna be weird no matter what. Twi’s already seen to that. Saying ‘no’ ain’t too much better than things not working out.”
“Then...” Rainbow’s eyebrows drew close together, “I think– I think I’ll say ‘yes’.”
“Atta girl!” Applejack drew her into a one-legged embrace. “I’m mighty proud that you could bring this to me.”
“Thanks, AJ.” Dash’s face relaxed and her mouth spread open in a broad grin. “You know? I feel a lot better about this.”
“You’re excited?” AJ grinned back at her.
“Yeah. Like– like I’m about to show off my best trick.” Her cheeks almost hurt from smiling so wide. “And you guys are there and the Wonderbolts are there and I’m ten seconds away from pulling off the most amazing stunt in history.”
“I’m happy for you RD, no matter how this date thing with Twi turns out.” Applejack nudged her with her muzzle. “Course you know, I ain’t letting you get off easy now.” Applejack snickered. “You still gotta help me with these here trees, only now I’ve got some music for us to listen to.” As she spoke, she tapped Dash’s forehead lightly with a hoof.
“Music?” Dash’s ear perked up. One of the more boring things about helping AJ was that there was nothing to do but mindlessly kick trees. If Applejack was gonna provide entertainment, maybe the rest of the afternoon wouldn’t be so bad.
Applejack tilted her hat forward. “Yeah, music.” She trotted off to the next tree. Dash’s eyes followed her, brows raised, waiting to see what her friend meant.
Applejack flashed her a predatory smile over her shoulder, the kind of smile that raised hairs and kept Dash up at night. In her best sing-song voice she began belting out the lyrics to a song every foal knows. “A Rainbow an’ a’ Twilight, sittin’ inna tree...”
Dash rolled her eyes and sighed. It was going to be a long afternoon.
Rainbow Dash was late. Pruning the apple trees had been messier than she thought. She didn’t normally spend much time on her mane, but with that many twigs and bits of bark and grass in it, she had needed more than her usual quick cloud bath. She had done the only sensible, logical thing she could think of: gone to the Luxury Lotus Spa. It had been a time saving measure, nothing more. She definitely wasn’t trying to look good for Twilight; they weren’t even dating yet.
Dating. Dash pondered whether or not they would be dating after tonight or if they had to actually go on a date before that applied. Rarity would know, probably Fluttershy too. Whatever. They were going on a date, sometime. If asked, she would say, “Yeah, I’m dating Twilight.” She felt a sort of giddy tightness in her chest, a warmth that made her want to shout and cheer, a fluttering that made her want to scream and run.
She was not nervous. Twilight’s question rang through her mind again. The tone, the normal, utterly Twilight way she had been asked out. It– It didn’t intimidate her, not Rainbow Dash. It was just so utterly cool. She’d have to be equally awesome about the whole thing. No stammers—not that she’d do that—no hesitation. Rainbow Dash wouldn’t be caught dead hesitating. Like the first bend on the sprint track, she’d just have to go for it.
She twirled around in a barrel roll before landing in front of Sugar Cube Corner. Faint music thudded through the wall; it sounded like Pinkie’s party was in full swing. Well, it was her fault for being so late. An idea formed in her head, bringing a smirk to her face. She’d heard this song before. It was dance music and if she timed it right... Now!
Ignoring the ‘closed’ sign on the door, she burst into the bakery, rearing back and spreading her wings. All eyes turned towards her and mouths fell open in mute astonishment as the bass dropped. She’d timed it perfectly: her hooves clopped down on the floor a beat before the drums resumed. Perfect.
It took Pinkie less than three seconds to recover before she zipped over to welcome Dash to the party. “Oh my gosh, Rainbow Dash! That was amazingly superriffic awesome timing! Sometimes when I try to...”
Dash let Pinkie’s torrent of words wash over her. It wasn’t so much that she ignored her pink friend, but her mind had made a sort of Pinkie filter that let her concentrate on the core of what the party pony was saying without having to listen to the individual words. She made some polite assurances—yes she was okay, yeah she knew she was late, yes butterscotch ice cream was an awesome flavor—but she was paying even less attention than usual. She hoped she wasn’t agreeing to be covered in pancake batter or to fly a chocolate fountain in from Canterlot or something annoying like that.
She stared past Pinkie, her eyes fixing on Twilight, her soon-to-be girlfriend. That tingling was spreading. It seemed to encompass her entire body and she found herself fighting back the urge to giggle and rush over to Twilight. So uncool. The unicorn’s horn glowed softly and the music stopped.
“Oh, right! Now it’s time for marshmallows!” Pinkie sang as she shot off towards the kitchen, freeing Dash to walk into the room proper and the presence of her other friends.
“Rainbow darling, what have you done with your mane?” Of course Rarity would focus on Dash’s hair.
Applejack chuckled as she walked up next to the pegasus. “Yeah, RD. What’d you get all gussied up for?” AJ’s knee dug into her flank, just under her wing. “You clean up nice.”
“Oh. Thanks guys. Sorry I’m late, I had a lot of washing up to do–” she shot the orange earth pony a narrow-eyed glare– “after I helped a certain somepony with her farm chores.”
“It looks lovely. Um, did you go to the–” Fluttershy glanced down at her hooves, as though embarrassed to have spoken. “Oh, never mind.”
Twilight’s voice commanded Dash’s attention. She’d never noticed before, but Twilight’s voice always seemed to be on the verge of laughing. “Well, I think it looks lovely.” Twilight smiled at her.
Wow. Rainbow hadn’t realized how intense a smile could be when it came from the pony you were about to go out with. It was like somepony was leaning against her. She was glad her wings were still in flight position from her entrance or things might have gotten a bit awkward. Not that she was nervous about Twilight. She just didn’t want things to get weird.
“Whatever you did, it looks great on you.” Twilight’s complement washed over her. That tingling was getting warmer. Rainbow reminded herself to focus on cool, she didn’t want to be that pony who spent all her time blushing. No way, that wasn’t her.
Low enough only Dash could hope to hear her, Applejack whispered, “Close your mouth Dash, you’ll swallow a bug.”
She snapped her muzzle shut. Had she been that out of it? When had it gotten so warm in here?
“Well my dear,” Rarity said as she flicked her own mane’s curl, “I can only say that I approve wholeheartedly of this new dedication to your appearance. I’ve always said you could be absolutely stunning if you’d just take a little more time to properly care for your coat.”
“Yeah, yeah. Look, this was a special occasion,” Rainbow said. Ignoring AJ’s hissed “I bet,” she continued, “I just didn’t want to look like I flew through a bush and then lost a fight with a dust devil.” She folded her wings back down to her side. “I’ve got to set a good example for my fans, after all.” Twilight wasn’t the only pony who could play things cool.
She turned towards Twilight, who suddenly seemed less like a fluffy cumulus and more like a thunderhead. “Sooo...” she began. She tried to swallow but her mouth was dry. She’d have to remember to hydrate more when helping Applejack next time. “Twilight. Um, that thing we talked about earlier?”
“Oh?” Twilight brightened.
Dash’s heart seemed to seize as Twilight tilted her head a bit to the side and smiled. She had to be cool. Focus on cool.
“Did you come to a decision?”
She needed to be cool. She needed to have style. Absolutely smooth. “Buh-huh.” She gave herself a mental kick and started over. “I mean, yeah, I did.” She straightened her legs and tilted her chin up slightly. She closed her eyes and said, “Yes.”
“Yeah.” Dash relaxed and flashed her best smile at Twilight.
“Um, Twilight? Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy’s soft voice wavered. “What are you talking about? That is, if you don’t mind telling us.” Dash’s face fell as she realized that she had forgotten her other friends were present.
Before Dash could reveal Twilight’s great love for her and the awesome time they were going to have together, dating, Twilight did that thing again. Where she just told everypony. It was kinda annoying, and she didn’t have the proper flair for delivery, but it was also really cool the way she just said it. Rainbow had never given the egghead much credit in the nerves department but today she was almost as fearless as the Rainbow Dash.
“Oh, I asked Rainbow Dash to go on a date with me as part of–”
“And I totally just said yes!” Dash pressed herself up against Twilight. She was not going to be outdone by Twilight. Maybe Twilight didn’t want everypony to know how awesome she was, but that wasn’t how she flew. She would just have to do the delivering for both of them. Dash threw a hoof into the air, her grin fighting with her eyes for room on her face. “You’re looking at Ponyville’s newest, most awesomest couple!”
Pinkie Pie gasped dramatically, drowning out the sounds of shock Rarity and Fluttershy made. “Ohmygosh you guys! That’s soooo great! I’m gonna have to throw you a party!” She popped up between Twilight and Dash, almost yanking them off their hooves with the ferocity of her sudden hug. The party pony’s smile was as wide as only Pinkie Pie could make it. “Wait!” She released both of them and they almost fell to the floor, catching themselves at the last moment. “We’re at a party! Time to redecorate.” With a gust of displaced air, she vanished as quickly as she had appeared.
Rarity was doing her own passable Pinkie Pie imitation. Her grin widened until it seemed to take over her face. She was almost a blur as she danced from hoof to hoof. The thin, shrill, noise she was making, like metal being sheared off, grew louder by the second.
In contrast, Fluttershy was very still. The smile on her face was like that of a teacher as their prized student received their degree. Her eyes seemed to light up and shimmer with their own, soft light. While her gaze encompassed both of them, Rainbow felt like she was the pony bearing the brunt of this gentle congratulation. “I’m so happy for you two.”
Applejack glanced towards Rarity and then shook her head. “Congratulations Twilight, Rainbow. I hope things work out for you.” She smirked at Dash. “‘Cause I don’t wanna hear RD’s bellyaching if it don’t.”
“Oh Applejack, you shouldn’t tease about such things–” Fluttershy’s worried admonishment was cut short by Rarity as the fashionista and number one romantic of the group finally processed the information.
“A date!” she exclaimed. “Oh you simply must let me help you pick out dresses, I don’t suppose I have time to make you new ones, but I’m sure I have something in the shop that will go just perfectly with wherever it is you two will be going.” Like Pinkie before her, she wormed between the two and gave both of them spine-shattering hugs. “Oh yes, I have just the thing, a quiet lilac number with an elegantly worked saddle and a full set of cream shoes, unless, of course, you want to stand out more. I’ve got a striking green saddle and blanket with the perfect cut to make a dashing entrance. It even has a matching bridle if you’re feeling exceptionally bold, Twilight. And for you, Rainbow my dear, a...” Rarity continued to spout possible fashion choices to no pony in particular. By this time both Dash’s and Twilight’s faces were darkening due to the lack of oxygen.
“Rar–i–ty!” gasped Rainbow Dash.
“Can’t– Breathe–” Twilight choked out.
Rarity abruptly released the two struggling ponies, letting them fall to a heap. “Oh my dears, I’m simply mortified. I do apologize, but it’s so exciting, being here at the beginning of such a grand romance!”
Dash clambered to her hooves and, after a second’s thought, helped Twilight regain hers. “We’re just going out, Rarity. It’s not like we’re moving in together.”
“I know dears, and I’m sorry for overreacting, but it’s just–” Rarity brought a hoof to her forehead, her horn alighting and dragging a nearby bench into position behind her. In her best drama-queen voice, she wailed “the best possible thing!” as she fell back onto the bench.
“All done!” Pinkie Pie chirped from behind the group, causing them all to jump a little. Every single balloon and streamer, every place setting, every cupcake and donut in the bakery had been replaced with blue and purple paired versions and were adorned with, or were even in the shape of, tiny hearts. The banner, which had originally read “Congratulations on Avoiding a Broken Wing Although That Didn’t Turn Out So Bad Last Time Did It?” now proclaimed that this was the Rainbow Sparkle and Twilight Dash celebration party. “Now let’s kick this party into gear!” Pinkie chomped a hapless cupcake as the music started back up. “Hey, this is really good!”
Rarity cleared her throat loudly. She had to raise her voice to be heard over the driving bass of Pinkie’s typical party music. “So, when is this date of yours going to be?”
Dash turned to Twilight and poked her in the flank. “Yeah. Where’re you gonna take me, huh? Are you taking me to dinner? Oh, how about a show? I hear there’s some totally radical ones that came out recently.”
Twilight Sparkle blushed. Twilight Sparkle, the pony who was always ready with contingencies and lists, stammered. “Actually Rainbow, I, um, haven’t quite gotten that far yet. This whole plan is still in its early stages. I guess I may have put my cart first a bit, but I was so excited to get things started.”
“Twi–light!” Both Rarity and Dash whined in unison, the latter with an exaggerated pout and the former with a wide-eyed look of distress.
Twilight nervously chuckled. “Uh, sorry?” She grinned sheepishly at them. A bead of sweat trickled down her cheek as she leaned away from those faces. “I’ll um, I’ll have something by– by tomorrow?” she asked.
Rainbow Dash led Twilight Sparkle, her new girlfriend, out onto the dance floor. She felt good, excited, like she was perched on top of Dead Mare’s Drop, the freefall training course in Cloudsdale. She was looking down, following the waypoints to the bottom. It was a long way to fall though she’d have plenty of time to pull out if stuff got too heavy. But right now, perched safely on a fluffy wisp of cumulus, she could picture herself riding the course all the way to the bottom.
Pinkie was right, these cupcakes were really awesome.
Twilight stumbled as she nearly tripped over her front step. The moon was hidden behind thick cloud cover—the weather schedule called for an early downpour in the morning. Even though it was obscured, she could guess that “in the morning” was not very far off.
As she quietly eased her front door open, hoping to not wake Spike, she marveled again at Rainbow’s enthusiasm for this project of hers. The mare had certainly seemed excited about her plans. Perhaps she should have made clear that this wasn’t supposed to be a secret, but Rainbow seemed so very thrilled about their friends’ reactions. She’d never seen the pegasus display such raw magnetism except when she was performing stunts. Dash was a much better actress than she had given her credit for.
Twilight eased her door closed, using her magic to silence the hinges. Dash was a really good actress. Twilight had thought that her portrayal of Commander Hurricane had just been a case of being given a role that suited her personality, but now she was having second thoughts. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought that Rainbow and her were actually going out. For a moment she remembered Rainbow nuzzling her neck again and she felt her cheeks growing warm. A much better actress.
Maybe it was Dash’s playful nature, and her wanting to use this opportunity to play a little prank on their friends. Twilight felt it was only fair she go along with Dash’s plans; the pegasus was doing her a great favor. But still, it would be nice to have been told. She had nearly given away the whole thing! She chalked it up to the playful mare’s spontaneous nature.
She crept up the stairs, wincing at every creak and groan the old staircase gave off. In Canterlot, the floors had been stone and she still had not gotten used to the idea that her home would betray her presence. The rustle of the leaves when a breeze blew was as familiar to her now as the howling of the wind around a stone corner had been, but the way everything creaked underhoof was an entirely different matter. Tonight, the floorboards seemed especially loud. Perhaps Rainbow Dash’s performance had gotten to her a little bit?
As she entered her bedroom, the room she shared with Spike, she realized she needn’t have worried. While the noises of her newest home still occasionally awakened her, Spike had never once stirred.
She cast a longing glance at her bed. A string of late nights and early mornings spent on her spells and List were taking their toll. It had been worth it; it always was. But she couldn’t sleep yet. She had promised Rainbow Dash and Rarity a plan on the morrow and she would have no peace until she had something to show them. Ignoring her bed, she plodded over to her desk and levitated out a fresh sheet of paper.
Perhaps Rainbow’s idea of a play was the ideal first date. She had connections in Canterlot, so tickets shouldn’t be that hard to come by. She’d have to get Spike to send a letter inquiring after them first thing in the morning. She wrote down “Night at the Marequis”.
It certainly was anticlimactic. She had sat down with the expectation that she would be hard at work as the sun began to crest the horizon. It was almost jarring to think that it was this simple. Maybe this dating thing was easier than she had always assumed.
She turned towards her bed, but she was no longer ready to surrender to sleep. The unprecedented speed with which she had finished her task had reinvigorated her. She found her mind wandering to the nebulous future play. Shaking her head, she cleared away the images of Rainbow in her gala dress. She needed something to help settle her mind.
Books, of course. Or rather, some very specific books. She walked over to a bookshelf. Unlike its larger cousins, this shelf housed her own, personal books and those she had checked out of her own library. She knew just the book she wanted too: Daring Do and the Cave of Dreadful Diamonds. Her horn glowed as she gently pulled the well-worn book from its spot on her shelf. With a slight effort of will, she lit the candle next to her bed.
It was funny how much she liked these books. The plots weren’t particularly innovative on the first reading, let alone the tenth. The descriptions and the prose were no better than average, but for some reason she kept returning to this series. She had tried other novels written under the same pen name, but none of the other books or characters had the same life as Daring did. Her sense of humor, her confidence, her never-say-die attitude, these were present in perfect measure and Twilight couldn’t help but be fond of the plucky pegasus.
Twilight cleared her mind of all literary criticism. She liked these books and she wasn’t about to let herself over-analyze her own preference for them all night long. She resolved to read no more than three or four chapters and then get to sleep. She had a busy day tomorrow.
The room was filled with the small sounds of her house: the rustling leaves, the creaking walls, Spike’s light snoring, and the occasional sound of a page being turned. The candle burned lower as Twilight lost herself within the story. She stopped after the promised four chapters, placing the book on her nightstand. She settled into bed and snuffed the candle with a thought. Pulling her blanket up, she closed her eyes.
Twilight was trapped in a dark cave, having been taken captive by the shamanistic lizardmen who would only trade her back in return for power over the moon. The dimwitted reptiles hadn’t counted on the adventuresome explorer and doer of daring deeds, Doctor Do.
She could see the pegasus, shrouded in shadow, as she out-flew, out-thought, and out-dared her opponents until at last the brave explorer could approach Twilight. As the pegasus stepped into the light, Twilight was surprised to note that her coat, rather than a warm tan, was the same color as the sky. Tufts of hair poked out from beneath the domed cap she wore, a full spectrum of color instead of multiple shades of gray. Her rose-colored irises met Twilight’s eyes and all concern vanished.
As she dreamed of her rescue at the hooves of Equestria’s number one doer of dangerous deeds, Twilight hugged her pillow with all four legs. The unicorn’s mouth turned up in a dopey grin as she drooled on her mattress.
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.
“Hey! Hold the door!” Twilight called towards the pimple-faced colt in the red cap. Reversing directions, the colt nearly tripped over his too-long legs as he stopped the double doors from closing. His muzzle curled up into a dopey smile as he watched the pair of mares trot up to theatre’s steps.
The youth tried to hold open both doors, but with the stops removed, there was no way he could manage it. A back leg kicked out as his neck shot forward. Both mares winced in sympathy at the loud crack as the door impacted his head.
“Are you okay?” Twilight asked. Dash’s flank tingled, the hairs of her coat standing on end as she let Twilight slip ahead of her.. The uneven and narrow steps made it hard to run in tandem and they’d have to separate to go through the single pony wide doors in a second or two anyway. She’d wanted those seconds.
Dash pulled up short behind Twilight as her friend, her date, helped the usher back to his hooves. She was short of breath, which was a bit worrying. Keeping just ahead of Twilight had been more about going slow enough for the egghead to keep up with her. Trotting to the theatre hadn’t even been a mild workout. Still, it was an effort to steady her breathing and slow her heart.
Grabbing the flower, that had been genius, one hundred percent pure awesome. The ensuing chase had let her vent some of the nervous energy she had been building up. It must have been because she hadn’t gotten in a practice flight today, nothing to do with Twilight. No pony would blame her for being a little nervous about going on a date with the smartest pony in Ponyville. Ms. Magicpants herself. A Date. Okay, maybe Twilight had something to do with it.
She was still wrapping her head around the fact that this was a date. It had almost happened too fast. “Almost” because there was no way anypony, let alone Twilight, was faster then her. The edges of her mouth curled as she remembered her line, “A different kind of show.” That had given her the upper hoof again, stealing the lead back from Twilight. That mare had almost as much daring and dash as she did.
Twilight had finished helping the colt to his legs. She said something that Dash had missed, but she didn’t miss the look of surprise and adoration on the colt’s face. She had seen similar looks directed at her many times in the past by ponies awed by her tricks. Evidently, he knew Twilight from somewhere.
It shouldn’t have surprised her. After all, Twi had lived in this city for years before moving to Ponyville and asking the Rainbow Dash out on a date. There were any number of reasons he could have known Twilight. Simple, innocent reasons. Dash knew this, yet here she was, stalking towards the youth, ready to knock his muzzle right off of his face. Fighting back the urge to do something she’d regret, she cut between the two of them, blocking his line of sight. “Come on, Twi,” she said, giving her date a quick nuzzle. “We’ve got to get our seats before they kick us out.”
The theatre had seen better days. Loose fabric, moth-eaten and gauzy, hung hastily tacked over the rough stone. A scant two-dozen ponies sat on benches designed to seat a hundred or more. Small dots of light along the eastern wall drew her attention. What was that?
She followed Twilight to a single large cushion and took a seat beside her. The little dots of light continued to hold her attention, and she tried to trace them back to a point of origin. It was then she noticed the ceiling. The circles of sunlight were being let in by numerous small holes along the edge. In Ponyville, such a roof would leave the home it protected vulnerable in the first good rainstorm. Maybe here, in the heart of Canterlot, with no farms to irrigate, the weather teams simply never let it rain. Maybe she could find one and ask? Or maybe...
“Hey Twilight,” she nodded towards the roof, “don’t they have rain around here?”
Twilight opened her mouth to answer when the lights went out.
What had gone wrong? Suddenly her heart was racing, almost as fast as it had been back by the alley. She jumped to her hooves in one fluid motion, her wings snapping open in a rush of displaced air to cup protectively over the still seated unicorn. As her eyes scanned the sudden darkness, she wished the holes in the roof were bigger. Every muscle in her body was taut as she prepared to throw herself at whatever creature dared intrude and try to ruin her date.
The floodlights snapped on, their harsh glare blinding her momentarily. She felt a hoof on her back and heard a soft giggle. “Oh, Dash. I appreciate the sentiment, but I think I can handle a stage curtain and some floodlights.”
Rainbow relaxed, allowing Twilight to lead her back down to the cushion. “Heh, sorry about that, Twilight. Guess I was surprised.” She was sorry, sorry that her awesome display had been for nothing. Had it been a dragon or a griffon army or a pack of apes invading the theatre, it would have been awesome.
“Well, it’s the thought that counts,” Twilight said, nuzzling the side of her neck. “The worst danger we’ll face tonight is probably going to be a bit of bad acting.” Twilight looked a bit worried at that.
The play began with no real surprises. They both remembered this book, Dash because she had torn through the entire series less than a week previous and Twilight because she rarely forgot something she had read. The fact that this was the first public play these students had put on was immediately apparent. Lines occasionally were forgotten and cues missed.
Still, she was enjoying herself, gasping when the jungle guide turned out to be an employee of the evil Dr. Risotto, cheering when Daring escaped from the sand trap, and laughing when the filly playing her favorite fictional hero remembered her sarcastic quips. She could forgive the occasional missed cue; the colts and fillies putting this on didn’t stop and stammer over their mistakes—they pressed on through.
“Bad acting definitely,” mumbled Twilight. She pulled her legs in closer and gave a small shudder. “And it’s cold.”
Pegasi didn’t get cold like other ponies. Maybe it was the thicker coat, or faster meta-ism or whatever, but it was true. At least she didn’t get cold like other ponies. She tuned the play out and looked over to her date. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness around them, she noticed that Twilight didn’t seem to be having much fun. Twi’s mouth was set in a frown and that spot on her forehead between her eyes was creased. Dash vaguely noted a repeated line but paid it no attention. Twilight’s eye twitched.
She nosed Twilight. “Hey, Twi. You okay?”
Twilight lifted her head to smile at Dash. It was far too big and Twilight’s neck muscles stood out with the tension of holding the fake smile in place. “Oh yes! Yes! Everything is fine.”
Dash just stared into her eyes. Twilight’s smile began to falter. She glanced to the left and right, but nothing could be seen apart from the illuminated stage. Finally she dropped her rictus and rested her head on her hooves. “No,” she let out with a pout, ears drooping. “I wanted tonight to be special and fun and wonderful, but instead I took you to a half-baked amateur production filled with kids who only get their lines right half the time.” Twilight hid her face in her hooves. “I promised you a great time and I’ve completely let you down. You probably hate me now.”
Dash rolled her eyes, even if Twilight couldn’t see. “Don’t be silly, Twilight. I’m having a great time. So what if they’re not perfect, you just got to enjoy the good parts...” She nosed Twi again, making the silly unicorn look at her. She smiled into those quivering eyes. “...and forget the bad. Besides, even if this were the worst thing I’d ever sat through, I don’t think I could hate you.” She waved a hoof. “You’d have to ground me for a week before I’d even want to try.”
A hesitant grin spread across Twilight’s face.
“Now, do you have anything that’s really wrong?”
Twilight sniffed once and brushed a tear away with her fetlock. She nodded slowly. When she spoke, her voice was very soft. “I’m cold. I guess I should have let Rarity give me that blanket.” Twilight gave a half-hearted chuckle.
Dash smirked. “Pfft! A blanket!” Her eyes glinted, reflecting a special effect of some kind from the forgotten play. She could see her own face mirrored in Twilight’s eyes. “I can do way better than that.” She lifted her wings and began scooting closer to Twilight until her flank pressed against the other mare’s.
“Rainbow Dash, what are you-?” She didn’t need to complete the question. Rainbow laid her wing across Twilight’s back. She tensed her flying muscles, fluffing the soft down that lined the underside of her wing all while keeping eye contact with her date. A few final squirms to get comfortable and a squeeze of her extended limb to press Twilight’s rump closer to her and she had supplied her purple companion with a blanket that not even Rarity could hope to compete with.
Twilight nodded. Of course she was better.
“So now that you’re watching a show that’s at least seventy-five percent awesome and have a blanket that’s one hundred percent awesome, you have no choice.” She closed her eyes and nodded once. “You totally can’t not have an awesome time.” She cracked open one eye to look at Twilight, but a flash of light from the stage drew her attention. “Oh I love this part!”
Rainbow smiled as Twilight burst out laughing. The villain’s evil ploy had been turned against him at the last second by the plucky little colt with the accent. Dash let out an excited whoop as Daring swooped in and saved the captured stallion from certain doom at the hooves of the crazed cult. The fact that one of “Daring’s” papier-mâché wings had fallen off or that the captured stallion had had to catch her was immaterial. Awesome had triumphed over evil.
Twilight jostled her, trying to stomp her hooves from her prone position. She wasn’t going to complain; it was great to see Twilight laughing and enjoying the play instead of dwelling on the small screw-ups. The kids on stage had spirit, and they had spunk, and now Twi could see it too. It had only taken a few words and reassurances from the most awesome date ever to help Twilight have fun.
The bad guy was captured and the village of donkeys was saved. As the curtains came down on the final act of the scene she stood part way and stretched. Her front legs reached forward, and her feathers trembled as she strained against herself. She groaned a little as her wing joints popped, relieving tension she hadn’t even known was there until it was gone.
The play had been pretty fun and awesome in its own right. So what if a bunch of older ponies could’ve put on a better show? Something about seeing Twilight enjoy it too had taken the night beyond fun and into the realm of amazing.
Twilight stood. Dash watched her girlfriend—she could use that term, right?—step forward, stretching her rear legs in the most distracting way. The motion did interesting things to her cutie mark, really interesting things. Dash shook her head; she was not going to get caught staring no matter how interesting it was. She continued to watch out of the corner of her eye as Twilight finished working the kinks out.
Springing up to her hooves in one motion, Dash exclaimed, “That was pretty awesome, Twilight!” She bumped her shoulder into Twilight’s, enjoying the feeling of her coat brushing against her date’s.
Twilight’s ears perked up, and she smiled at Dash. “Oh! I’m glad you thought so, Rainbow. I was a little worried for a bit.”
The curtains parted again, drawing Twilight’s attention away from her. The cast had come back out for a bow. Both of them were able to applaud much louder now that they were standing. The other ponies in the audience stomped just as loud as the two of them, creating a rolling thunder that filled the little theatre. The cast bowed one last time before disappearing. The floodlights turned off, and the house lights turned back on.
Dash blinked and took an involuntary half step back at the sudden increase in illumination. Had it really been this bright when they came in? Ponies began filing out. Had the room been full, Dash would have sprinted to be one of the first ponies out of the door. She almost did anyway, on the mere principle that being first was best, but Twilight couldn’t follow as quickly. Not only would it be uncool to leave her, she really didn’t want to be apart from her for the minute it would take the unicorn to catch up. No reason to let that stop her from getting some air. With a quick stroke of her wings, she shot into a small loop. Being off the ground felt good. She hovered a few hoof-lengths off of the floor instead of landing and she relaxed, letting her entire body hang from her wings and let out a happy sigh.
Twilight giggled. “Too long sitting, Rainbow?”
She laughed. “Yeah, something like that.” She wanted to say more, that she would totally do it again, that it had been one of the most awesome two hours she had spent on the ground. She didn’t get a chance to before her stomach let out a loud growl. She ignored it, making that an awesome growl and not embarrassing at all. Being cool without seeming to care, that was awesome. Too bad Twilight didn’t notice.
Twilight giggled again, louder this time. “Yeah, I guess it was a bit longer than I thought it would be.” Twilight raised her muzzle and the corners of her mouth turned up into a satisfied smile. “Good thing I already planned on dinner.”
At the mention of dinner, Dash’s stomach growled again. She ignored it. “Awesome, Twilight. I guess I could do with a bite or two.” Or ten.
She had to land to make it through the doorway and then she was outside. Outside, under the open night sky. She looked skyward and felt drawn towards the stars and full moon. Night flying was always relaxing, but she seldom got to do it. Early to bed and late to rise and all that. She had to fight to keep her suddenly trembling wings from snapping outward and rocketing her off into the darkness. She didn’t want to leave Twilight behind. That, and she really was pretty hungry.
She should have been paying more attention to where she was walking. One minute she was trying very hard to think about hunger and not at all about how nice it would be to take off and do a few tricks around the city, the next she could only think about how Twilight’s hip was a lot harder than it looked. “Oof! Sorry.” When the mare didn’t respond, Dash reached out and tentatively poked her flank. “Twilight?”
Something was wrong. Twilight’s ears drooped down the side of her head, her front legs were locked straight and her pupils were small as she stared out across the street. Dash quickly looked over towards whatever horrible, unspeakable evil had rendered Twilight speechless. She didn’t get it. There were only a few ponies lingering after the show, several tables, and a few closed shops. Her eyes narrowed. Maybe it was ninjas, or ghosts, or even ghostly ninjas. “Where are they Twilight? Point me at ‘em.”
Twilight jumped at the sound of her voice. “What?” Twilight shot a confused glance at her. Then she did the weirdest thing, even for Twilight. She hung her head and muttered, “I’m so sorry, Rainbow, I–”
She crept closer to Twilight. “What is it?” she asked.
“My dinner plans. I–” Twilight took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. As she exhaled her head lowered towards the ground until she was nearly resting her muzzle against it. Her voice was low as she spoke. “I was going to take you to a little cafe an old friend told me was the perfect place for a first date.” She lifted a hoof to point at the store with all the tables out front. “But it seems they’re closed. I’m sorry I ruined the date.”
She bent down to try to catch Twilight’s eyes. “Hey now, you didn’t ruin anything. Like the play, remember? Focus on the good stuff, ignore the bad.” Twilight sniffed and allowed her eyes to meet hers. She smiled at Twilight. “Come on, anywhere will be fine. As long as we’re together it’s still the best first date ever.” Twilight’s mouth curled up a bit at the edges. “Now, we can stand here until one of us falls over from hunger–” her stomach growled again, voicing its opinion on just who would collapse first “–or you can name a place and we’ll go.”
“The only place that I know is open is Joe’s, but–”
“Perfect!” She cut Twilight off before the unicorn could say anything else silly. So her plans didn’t go exactly as planned. Improvise! Experiment! Her mouth curved up into a smile as an awesome idea formed. She spun in place, facing away from Twilight and crouched low to the ground, wings flared wide. “Hop on. I think I know the way.”
Twilight’s eyes widened and she snickered as the unicorn’s entire face flushed rose. “Come on, Twilight.” Her tummy rumbled additional encouragement. She flicked her tail, snapping the tip lightly against Twilight’s nose.
“But... I... you...”
“Come on! It’s not like I haven’t carried ponies before.” Dash rolled her eyes. That pony could be so strange sometimes.
Twilight nodded, her cheeks burning bright as she climbed on her back. She closed her eyes, reveling in how soft Twilight’s coat felt, like one of Rarity’s dresses. Twilight’s front legs wrapped gently around her neck. This would only be better if she could see the look on Twilight’s face.
She could feel Twilight’s breath against the back of her ears. Suddenly she was glad Twilight couldn’t see her face; from the burning in her cheeks and muzzle, she was blushing as much as Twilight had been. She coughed. “Okay, hold on and mind the wings.”
She pushed off from the ground and pumped her wings hard. Take off was always the hardest part when carrying somepony else. Twilight’s legs tightened around her neck and she heard, and felt, a soft gasp. Dash’s eyes narrowed. She had just had the best idea ever. Instead of the leisurely glide she originally envisioned, she’d give Twilight that show—that air show—she had promised back by the alley.
Her wings burned as she sped higher into the night sky. The legs around her neck tightened as they ascended. Up she went, until the air began to taste dry. She halted her ascent once she was level with the peaks of the mountains. Small puffs of white came from her mouth as she panted. The cool air only served to make Twilight’s warmth so much more enjoyable.
She smiled as she fixed her gaze on the white speck that was Canterlot Castle.
“Rainbow Dash, what do you think you’re doing?” Twilight’s voice shook with more than the cold.
“You might want to hold on, Twilight,” she called over her shoulder. “You’re in for one wild ride.” She began tipping forward. This was gonna be so awesome.
“Wait, Rainbow!” Twilight pleaded with her, halting her. “I don’t know if I can. I’m scared.”
Rainbow Dash froze. Twilight was afraid. What was she doing? Of course Twilight was afraid. How would she feel if she were dragged up here without wings? She felt tremors from her passenger. She had done that, it was her fault. “Nice going, Dash,” she muttered to herself.
She tilted her head back and to the side until she could just make out the top Twilight’s head in the corner of her eye. “I’m sorry, Twilight. I guess I didn’t think again.” At the sound of her voice Twilight’s head lifted. “I mean, you’ve shared so much with me these past few weeks.” She felt the trembling subside a little and the legs clamped around her neck slacken a tiny bit. “I can’t even imagine not reading now. I guess I just wanted to share something with you. Something that matters.”
For seconds the only sound she heard was the beating of her own wings and the thumping of her own heartbeat. With no response, she admitted defeat. Her ears drooped as she said, “I’ll just– I’ll just take you down now.”
She began to descend slowly, letting gravity pull her hooves first towards the waiting ground.
“Okay,” Twilight whispered. Her voice seemed strained. “S-show me.”
Dash’s ear perked up and her eyes went wide. “What?” she asked.
“Show me your sky.” Twilight’s voice was stronger now.
“Twilight, are you sure you want to do this?” She felt a muzzle rub up and down on the back of her neck. “Then you should really hold on tight.” The legs around her neck tightened. “Twilight. You’ve got four legs.”
Twilight giggled nervously. “Oh, sorry.” Twilight’s voice had regained most of its usual cheer and bubbliness, but she didn’t miss the small tremor that ran through it. She’d have to keep it simple. Her muzzle split open into a large grin as she felt Twilight’s rear legs wrap around her hips. This was perfect. “Here we go!” she shouted as she tipped forward.
Straight towards the ground the two plummeted. She helped gravity speed their fall with several pumps of her powerful wings. The wind pulled her mane and tail back and pressed her cheeks out wide. The legs around her tightened and she felt Twilight’s head press against her neck and her warm breath under her mane. “It’s no fun if you don’t look,” she shouted. Her words were probably snatched about by the wind, but she could hope Twilight could hear them.
She felt the muzzle pressed into the back of her neck move, pulling away ever so slightly. Up it slid, sending chills down her back as it traveled along. She could feel Twilight’s breath against the top of her head.
“Oh Celestia!” Twilight cried, her legs gripping Dash harder.
Dash couldn’t hear Twilight well enough over the roar of the passing wind to know if the mare was scared or excited. Her passenger’s breath continued to warm the top of her head. Either Twilight was enjoying it or the closing ground had frozen her solid with fear. She started into the first, and what could be the last, trick of the ride.
She began pitching up in a smooth curve, the force of the turn pressing Twilight hard against her. Rather than leveling out, she continued the maneuver, pulling the turn into a simple loop. She kept the loop tight, using its force to keep Twilight in place. It cost her a lot of speed, more than she would normally be happy with, but with the roaring of the wind lessened, maybe she’d be able to hear Twilight. As the loop came to an end, she dove once more, but slower this time.
Twilight was shaking or convulsing or something, but if her passenger was saying anything, she couldn’t hear. Straining to pick up some sound, some proof that she hadn’t ruined the joy that was flying for Twilight, she began a series of S-shaped turns, rolling so that Twilight stayed pressed against her. She could almost make something out, if she could only hear a little more.
Laughter. Twilight was laughing. A weight lifted itself from her heart. Twilight liked this. She liked flying! She too began to laugh as she started a second loop, this one much smaller and faster.
Twilight began to cheer. It was the best sound Dash could imagine. Through turns, corkscrews, and tight switchbacks she flew, always mindful to keep Twilight firmly pressed against her, but no longer worrying about scaring the unicorn. Trick after trick after trick she performed, a dizzying array of them. This was flying. Despite how simple the routine was, despite the fact that she was traveling at such boring speeds, this was what it was all about. Twilight’s cheering and joy mirrored the way she felt every time she took to the skies.
Her heart was hammering in her chest as her hooves touched down on the cobbles of Canterlot. She hadn’t done any of her tougher routines and this session was hardly more than a warm up, but there was a warm feeling in her chest. It was the same feeling she got after pulling off a new trick, or when she beat Applejack in a race, or like the one time she’d beaten Pinkie Pie at tic-tac-toe. She hadn’t done anything especially praiseworthy, but she had that giddy, trembling feeling throughout her body that told her that she was awesomeness incarnate. Her cheeks were beginning to hurt from smiling for so long. When had she started? Whatever, her cheeks hurt but she couldn’t stop smiling.
She felt Twilight slide off her back and heard hooves clack against the cobbles. Weight lifted from her and the night air raised goosebumps against her back. Her coat retained much of Twilight’s warmth, but already was beginning to become disappointingly cool.
“Whoa!” Dash heard a clatter of hooves as Twilight stumbled, followed by the dull thump of a pony falling over. Dash looked back to see Twilight sitting on her haunches. Twilight met her eyes and then giggled. “I don’t think I can walk yet, my legs are a bit numb,” she said.
Dash laughed and walked over to Twilight’s side to give her a leg up. “So,” she began after Twilight finally made it to her hooves. “What’d you think? Pretty awesome, right?”
“Oh Dash! It was amazing!” Twilight flung a foreleg around her. The unicorn overbalanced and ended up leaning on her. “I mean, it was scary, but it was a good scary. Like a ghost story or a surprise party. And those flips...” Twilight shook her head. “I can’t even begin to describe it. Thank you Rainbow.” Twilight nuzzled her neck. She felt hot breath against her and something firm press against her coat for a split second. “Thank you.”
“No problem, Twilight.” She wondered if that had just happened or if she had imagined Twilight’s soft kiss on her neck. Well, there was no way she could blame Twilight for it. Night flying with the most awesome pegasus ever? Yeah, a kiss totally wasn’t out of the question. Not that she’d have pegged Twilight for a pony who moved this fast. She could handle fast, she liked fast. Never mind that her heart was suddenly racing and her breath was shallow. She was just tired from carrying Twilight on top of a long day.
Still, there was fast and then there was fast. Two days ago she’d have laughed in anypony’s face who said Twilight, or anypony really, would be nuzzling her under a full moon. It felt right though, like when she had first started reading. Something she had never even considered doing had proven to be more than fun.
Twilight pulled away and smiled at her before trotting past. Dash jerked, jumping several inches as she felt something brush against her shoulder. Looking down in alarm she was just in time to catch Twilight’s tail right on the nose. Blinking in shock, she looked back up at Twilight. The yellow light of the donut store blazed behind Twilight, giving the mare a shining halo. Her pupils narrowed as she stared, the back-lighting hiding Twilight’s features from her, except for a white crescent which split her muzzle in two and the reflection of the moon in her half-lidded eyes.
The silhouetted form seemed to slink forward, every curve in sharp, hard-edged contrast against the store’s light. Twilight wasn’t the athlete that she was, lacking the toning of a pony who lived for sports, but she ate healthy and probably did exactly the required amount of exercise. It must have been in a book somewhere, The Egghead’s Guide to a Shapely Flank or something. Rainbow made a note to thank the author.
“You coming, Rainbow?” Twilight’s cheerful voice floated from the dark shadow.
Dash blinked again. Her stomach growled. Right, she was here for donuts, not to watch Twilight walk. “Yeah Twilight. I was just, um, thinking. About flying and stuff.” She twitched her wings in demonstration.
“Well, come on in.” Twilight laughed and pushed the door open. The smell of sugar and yeast and icing welled out of the shop. Dash’s mouth began watering and she was drawn towards the door and Twilight.
In the wake of her hospital stay, she’d devoured every scrap of adventure and excitement Twilight had in stock in her library. She’d been prohibited from flying more than was needed to get to and from her home. After churning through the action novels, still wrapped up in her own marvel and willingness to try new things, she’d turned to her other friends for things to read.
Applejack’s fables had been interesting, but the lessons learned were things she thought were blindingly obvious. Fluttershy’s fantasies had been alright, but they had been a little too underwhelming and tame in the excitement department. She’d snuck a peek and was not surprised to discover the book was for fillies, ages five to ten. The books—well book as she’d only stomached one of them—her mind turned towards now was the romance Rarity had given her. According to that book, she and Twilight should still be nervously blushing at each other, maybe hazarding a few stammered compliments. She should definitely not be ogling Twilight’s swaying hips or wondering what those lips would feel like pressed against hers instead of lightly brushing her neck. According to Rarity’s novel, they were moving way too fast.
Things were moving fast, but fast was what she did, fast was the way she liked it. She was good with fast. It wasn’t like they hadn’t been friends for over a year now. She didn’t need that stupid, awkward getting-to-know-her deal. That part of the book had dragged on and on and on. This story was much more awesome.
Rainbow Dash smiled; some might have called it a smirk. That book had been awful and if she could go on a date and hang out with Twilight while rubbing the author’s face in his own un-coolness, then so much the better.
“Right behind you, Twilight,” she replied. Lifting her legs high, she pranced through the door into the well-lit bakery. The warmer air of the interior played through her coat, matching the feelings that had been stirring under the surface of her mind for most of the night. So they hadn’t been there last week, that didn’t mean anything. She wasn’t gonna try to take this apart and analyze it, that was more Twilight’s thing. She wasn’t Rarity to demand a grand romance nor was she Applejack to try to demand everything make perfect sense. She liked Twilight and that was more than enough.
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.
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.
Rainbow Dash smiled, feeling the thud of impact as her rear legs connected with a small cloud. A second later, white vapor and fragments flew past her, blasting her with cool dampness. Tiny beads of water formed on the hairs of her coat and vanes of her feathers. With a snap of her wings and a small shake of her legs, she kicked the droplets free, creating a short-lived rainbow halo around her.
Rather than letting it slowly fade, she laughed and pulled a loop-the-loop back through the middle of the halo, dispersing it in a violent cascade of colors. Adding a barrel roll for good measure, she pulled back up to cloud level and scanned the sky above Ponyville for any more clouds that dared challenge her decree of a sunny afternoon. The only ones left to drift over the town today were her home and a small cluster of extra fluffy, extra soft cumulus she had corralled over near Sweet Apple Acres.
A few ominous thunderheads were lurking out over the Everfree, but those hardly ever wandered into Ponyville, and nopony really cared what the weather over the forest did anyways. Rainbow Dash shook her entire body, flinging any remaining moisture from her, and called it a day.
Normally, after a hard day of work clearing the skies, she’d practice her tricks or put on a show for her friends or fan club. Sometimes she’d bed down on one of her hoof-picked clouds or a comfy looking tree branch for a quick snack and a snooze under the warm sun. If she’d had an especially hard day, she would head over to see Pinkie and grab a cupcake or three.
Today she had a different goal in mind. She was going to see Twilight and make sure her girlfriend was alright. She shot off towards the library, a faint rainbow trailing behind her. When she wanted to, she could make it more solid or even look like fire, but she wasn’t showing off for anypony, so the streak remained a simple spectrum.
“Twilight Sparkle,” Dash mouthed her full name. She deviated from her direct route to the library to fly around the town hall, corkscrewing for the sheer joy of it. After a few dozen spins she leveled out on her back, slowly windmilling her forelegs in a pantomime of swimming.
“Oh, Rainbow dear,” somepony called from the ground.
Halting her backstroke, Dash zeroed in on the voice. “Darn,” she muttered under her breath. Rarity was waving at her; her smile was a match for Pinkie Pie’s on a pony’s birthday. Behind the over-exuberant unicorn was Dash’s oldest friend, Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus half raised a hoof and wiggled it back and forth in greeting. Her mouth moved, but Rainbow Dash couldn’t hear anything. With a final half twist and a somersault, she came in for a landing next to her friends.
“Oh, hey gals. What’s up?” She blew a stray lock of orange bangs out of her face.
Fluttershy opened her mouth, her face squared up to offer an apology, but Rarity answered for the both of them. “Oh, nothing much, Rainbow Dash.” The unicorn’s smile grew a little wider. “Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“You’re welcome,” Rainbow preened, drawing herself up to her full height and allowing Rarity’s praise—and Fluttershy’s too, no doubt—to wash over her in waves of appreciation.
“It’s just, oh well, you know... Friendly banter and...” Rarity was sweating now, her smile growing even wider.
“Jeez, Rarity. Just spill it already.” Dash frowned as the unicorn took a half step back. “Come on, what did you want to ask me?” she pressed.
Rarity’s mouth cracked open as she lifted a hoof. She froze, no sound coming out. She closed her mouth and placed her hoof back on the ground. Inhaling, she started once more to speak, but couldn’t force the words out.
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Just say it, Rarity!” she exclaimed.
Fluttershy spoke up, her voice nearing normal conversation volumes. “Oh, um. We were wondering...” Fluttershy’s head turned away from her and addressed the grass. “I mean, we both wanted to know...” Fluttershy pawed at the ground, kicking up a small cloud of dust. “If you didn’t mind telling us that is, um...” She trailed off into silence, hiding behind her long mane and crouching down, making herself as small as she could. Sound floated out from behind that pink curtain, but she couldn’t make out any of the words.
“Look, I like you guys and all, but I’d really don’t have time for games.” Irritation crept into Rainbow Dash’s voice. “So if you two could stop–”
“About last night!” Fluttershy’s wings flared and her voice became strained as she blurted out the end of her question. Had she not closed her eyes, she would’ve seen the smirk on Dash’s face.
Before her timid friend had recovered from her outburst, Rainbow Dash pulled her mouth into a frown and schooled her features. When Fluttershy’s eyes opened at last, she fixed her friend with a penetrating stare. “Last night? You wanna know about last night?” Her eyes narrowed.
Fluttershy let out a quiet “eep” and backed away from her. Her mouth pulled into a grimace and her ears flattened against her head.
“Well, let me tell you,” Rainbow began as she stalked towards Fluttershy. She had to detour around Rarity, whose gaze was now fixed on her mouth, as if she could glean a single nuance of extra meaning by watching her form the words. She took a step with every word, her voice low and scratchy. “Last. Night. Was.” She leapt up, her voice cracking and her eyes opening wide as she blurted out, “Awesome!”
Fluttershy blinked. Her ears came forward at the sudden change in Rainbow’s demeanor. After a moment she fully processed what Dash had said and a smile broke out on her face as tension flowed out of her. “Oh, it was? That’s great, Rainbow Dash!”
“Come dear, you really must tell us more! I–we are so very excited to hear how everything went, after all.” Rarity’s voice had recovered and she was now making up for her earlier inability to speak. “Oh, it’s just so romantic! So exciting! Where did you go?” The unicorn walked towards her as she spoke. “What did you do? Did she–?”
Rainbow Dash pressed a hoof against Rarity’s mouth, both to silence her and to maintain a small bubble of Dash-space. “Look, I’d love to go over the whole thing, but I’m kinda busy right now.” Dash tried to squeeze between her two friends, both of whom were frowning at her. Fluttershy wore a small concerned frown, but Rarity had a full-blown pout aimed squarely at her. “I’m gonna talk to Twilight,” she added, hoping the prospect of romance would remove those looks from their faces.
It did, but not the way she had expected. She had thought that Fluttershy might blush a bit, maybe tilt her mane over her face and paw at the ground. She had thought that Rarity would give her a knowing wink and an encouraging smile. The way their pupils shrank as they drew back from her was completely unexpected.
“Darling, surely you must be joking!” exclaimed Rarity.
“Oh, you really shouldn’t. Unless you– Well no, you just shouldn’t,” said Fluttershy. “Unless you really want to, that is.”
A number of responses flitted through Dash’s mind: from angrily demanding they step aside to deceptively agreeing and then making a break for it. She opened her mouth to convince them with the power of awesome. “Huh?” came out instead.
“Oh, Rainbow Dash, surely you know that you can’t make the next move?” Rarity tossed her head, sending her mane bouncing.
Dash didn’t know of any such thing. It must have shown on her face, because Fluttershy and Rarity gave each other a matching pair of worried glances.
“Oh dear,” said Fluttershy.
“What are you two talking about?” she demanded.
“Rainbow Dash,” Rarity began, resting a hoof on her shoulder, which Dash quickly shrugged off. “Twilight was the one who asked you out, and there are certain–” she paused, searching for a word–” obligations associated with the roles the two of you have assumed in your courtship.” Rarity pivoted around so that she was now alongside her, facing the same direction. “The asked party simply cannot express too much interest too early.” The unicorn placed a hoof carefully on Dash’s withers. “You’ll simply have to wait until Twilight makes another move or the appropriate amount of time has passed. Three days is the standard.”
“What?” Dash recoiled, slipping out from under Rarity’s leg. Her wings flared behind her; she was getting close to just dashing the rest of the way to see Twilight right now. Only her utter lack of experience with having a girlfriend kept her hooves planted on the ground. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!” She looked to Fluttershy for backup; surely this couldn’t be a rule.
Fluttershy was nodding. “Oh, yes! I mean no.” Fluttershy’s nervous half-smile said “I’m sorry” for her. “But it really is true.”
Dash clenched her jaw shut and sneered. No silly little rules had ever kept her from what she wanted before. Her wings shot up and out, cupped for maximum speed. She would see Twilight even if–
Twilight was the smartest pony in Ponyville, maybe even all of Equestria. If there was one pony you could count on to know about small little details, it was Twilight Sparkle. If this really was a rule—and she knew that Rarity and Fluttershy would never play games like this with her—then Twilight would know about it. With a sigh, she lowered her wings. Twilight did like following the rules. She wouldn’t appreciate Rainbow Dash barging in if she was the pony who was supposed to make the next move. Dash slumped, ears drooping and wings lowering until they hung from her sides, dragging on the ground. “This sucks,” she said to nopony in particular.
“Oh, Rainbow,” Rarity chimed in. “Waiting is a very important part of this. You need some time to reflect on your date and decide how you really feel.”
“How I really feel?” Dash straightened, a dangerous spark flashed in her eyes. “I don’t need time to figure that out. I had fun, I like fun!” She pushed her nose into Rarity’s and stared the mare in the eyes. “Twilight was awesome and I totally want to do it again.” Dash backed off and snorted. “That’s how I feel. I just want to tell her that.”
“Rarity, maybe we should let her–”
“Nonsense,” Rarity cut Fluttershy off. “What we will do is escort Rainbow Dash to Sugar Cube Corner. There we shall have lunch and she can share with us every detail about last night.”
Dash rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she said, “but you’re buying.”
“So, the cafe was closed...” Dash paused, pretending not to see Rarity and Fluttershy tense up at yet another interruption; it served them right. So far nothing out of Applejack, but two of four was pretty good. She took a bite of her muffin. “These are really good, Pinks,” Dash said, spilling crumbs out of her mouth.
“Thanks, Dashie!” chirped Pinkie as she bounded over to the table, another tray of pastries balanced on her back. “You should really thank Applejack here, too!” she said as she slid the tray down onto the small table they were all seated around. Dash reached out to claim a turnover of some kind as her next course. Nopony else made a move towards the food, so Dash took a cupcake too, ignoring the way Rarity’s eye twitched. She had done that every time Dash had paused her story.
She finished chewing and swallowed. “Anyway,” she started again. “Twilight was about to do that panicky thing she does when her plans don’t go right. And I told myself, ‘You need to cheer her up, quick’. So I did the only thing I could think of.” She punched the air with a hoof. “I took her for a pegasus ride!” Her wings shifted on her back, opening slightly then settling back down as she relived that memory.
“Ooh!” squealed Pinkie, hopping in place, some sort of hot-sauce chocolate muffin monstrosity balanced on her nose. “I bet that was super fun! I’ve always wanted to go flying!” she said before tossing the baked good a few inches into the air and swallowing it in one gulp.
Dash cocked an eyebrow as she stared at her friend. “Pinkie, don’t you have that crazy candy cane flying thing?” she asked. “And the balloons?”
“Uh huh!” chirped Pinkie, still bouncing in place.
“Well, darling,” Rarity interjected, dabbing a napkin against her muzzle to remove the single crumb her own croissant had left, “I can attest that it is a simply marvelous experience, one that I am glad to have been able to take part in.” She took a sip of her tea, dabbing her muzzle again before continuing. “I could do without the free fall though.” Rarity flipped her mane with a hoof. “Do you have any idea how long it took to fix my coiffure?”
It was Applejack’s turn to roll her eyes. “And I guess hitting the ground woulda been a mite tough on your froufrou outfit, right?” She took a bite of the apple fritter balanced on one hoof. Mouth half full, she pounded her chest with her free fore-hoof, saying, “This is one earth pony who’s keepin’ her hooves on the ground!”
“So, anyway,” Rainbow Dash said, drawing out the final word to shift attention back to where it belonged: herself. “I started off with a huge dive and then I did a flip followed by some corkscrews.” She used her hooves to describe the flight path from the previous night, resisting the urge to embellish some of her tricks. She’d already impressed the one pony who really mattered with them, as simple as they were. As she finished her tale, she drew herself up and closed her eyes, her mouth pulling itself up into a smile as she prepared for a torrent of compliments.
There was only silence. Dash cracked an eye to make sure some creepy wizard hadn’t teleported her friends into his smelly old dungeon or anything like that. Eight eyes stared back at her, each the size of a dinner plate. “Um, what?”
Fluttershy spoke first. She had slipped down under her table so that her eyes were peeking out just over the top of her cocoa mug. “D- did you really do all of that? Oh, poor Twilight must have been so scared.” The pegasus shivered.
“What?” Dash nearly shouted, recoiling from that accusation. She was not scary; she was cool. Her tricks made ponies smile, not scream. As she met Rarity’s and then Applejack’s gazes in turn, she saw the same pity reflected in their eyes. Pinkie’s were rolled up and she was rubbing her chin with a hoof, tongue stuck out the side of her mouth in thought.
“Well, Rainbow. I have to say that it would give me the willies to go through all that, seeing as I don’t have wings an’ all. Fallin’ out of trees is bad enough.”
“No way! I’d never drop a pony.” Her hoof thumped against the table and her wings shot into the air. “And I totally asked her if she was cool with it first.” She relaxed her wings as she thought back to that flight again.
“Well, I know your capacity for aerial rescue better than anypony, Rainbow Dash.” Rarity’s voice had a slight tremor as she spoke. “And I’m sure you would never put Twilight in any real danger, but don’t you think all of that was a bit much?” Rarity gave her a forced grin. “She isn’t exactly the most experienced pony. While she has seen your flying before, I doubt she was quite ready for something like that.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, gals,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her voice like the fresh glaze from Pinkie’s tart. She made sure each of them got a good glare before she continued. “Twilight was totally fine. After the first dive and loop, she started laughing.” Dash ate the rest of her muffin in a single bite. “I was going to keep it simple at first, just a flip or two, but she seemed to really enjoy it.”
“I thought it sounded super fun!” Pinkie said. She zipped around the cafe making whooshing noises. The pink pony somehow balanced on only her rear legs with her front ones held out to either side, like a gliding pegasus’s wings. “Zoom, whoosh, zip!” She finally stumbled over an errant chair leg, crashed to the floor, and rolled to a stop by Dash. Lying on her back, Pinkie looked up at her, produced a perfectly normal looking cupcake, and held it up towards her. “Cupcake?” she asked.
Dash blinked and took the proffered treat, staring at it. It certainly looked like a normal cupcake with normal frosting that wasn’t made out of cement. “Pinkie, how–?” she began.
The pink pony sprung upright, her tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth as a hoof shot into her mane and rooted around. Dash watched her friend dig through her mess of curls in shock. Just when she was going to question Pinkie again, the earth pony pulled a plastic muffin tray out. Two of the four spots were empty.
“What–?” she began.
Applejack’s laugh drew her attention. “Well it seems you picked up some of Twilight’s habits too, sugar cube. You know better’n to ask Pinkie ‘how’.”
“Hush, you two,” Rarity scolded. “Let Rainbow Dash continue. I’m just dying to hear more.” Fluttershy nodded and smiled softly at Rainbow.
“Okay, okay,” Dash said, sitting back down and placing the perfectly ordinary and not at all creepily pristine cupcake on the table. “I was just about to tell you guys about the part where she kissed me.” Dash flashed her signature grin at the group, waiting for the responses.
Each pony reacted differently. Applejack’s eyes opened wide and her brows shot up. Fluttershy clapped her hooves and smiled. Her wings flapping, she rose several inches into the air. Pinkie gasped and tripped. Frozen in the act of falling over, the earth pony somehow managed to balance on one front leg while inhaling far more than anypony had a right to. Rarity quivered and bounced a little in her chair, her eyes growing wide. She brought her hooves to her mouth, trying to stifle the high-pitched giggles that were escaping as one long, continuous squeal.
Applejack was the first to recover, blinking twice and then shaking her head. “Really?” she asked, arching an eyebrow. “Our Twilight? Kissed you on the first date?”
“Yeah, she did.” Rainbow leaned back, placing her forehooves behind her head. Her wings beat slowly, allowing her to remain in her lounging posture without the support other, less awesome ponies needed. “Right here.” She tilted her chin up, exposing the side of her neck.
“I don’t see anything,” Pinkie said from under her chin.
Dash’s legs slipped from behind her head and her wings seized. She windmilled all four legs, trying to catch her balance. In a last ditch effort to avoid the hard, unforgiving floor, she lunged at Pinkie, grabbing a hold of her.
“Silly Dashie, I’m not Twilight!” chirped Pinkie.
“Be careful, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity admonished, now at Dash’s side as well. She pushed Pinkie away from Dash while supporting the pegasus with her magic. Dash had recovered by now, and she used her wings to lift herself back onto her chair.
“Thanks, Rarity.” It didn’t hurt to thank her friends, even if she could have handled it. Rarity was staring at her chest or maybe her neck. The unicorn’s eyes had narrowed and seemed to almost be boring a hole in her. “Hello? Equestria to Rarity?” She waved a hoof in front of Rarity’s face, startling the mare.
“Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity said. Her lips set in a pout, she turned to walk back to her seat, head held low.
“Well, what’s gotten into you?” Applejack demanded.
Rarity sighed, resting her chin on the table and pouting as Dash stared at her incomprehensible friend. “It’s just that… Well, I didn’t see anything either.”
“Oh, Rarity.” Fluttershy patted the dejected unicorn’s withers. “I don’t think Twilight’s the kind to wear lipstick anyway. Even if she had, I’m sure it would have washed off when Dash was clearing the sky earlier.”
“I never saw the point in that nonsense myself,” quipped AJ. Her eyes drifted upwards and she smiled as her lids drooped a bit. “Unless you flavor it.”
“Ooh! Maybe they could make a cupcake flavored lipstick!” Pinkie bounded onto the table and pressed the top of one of her treats to her muzzle. She reached down and grabbed Applejack. Ignoring the snort of protest and the gasps from Fluttershy and Rarity, she yanked her fellow earth pony up onto the table. “Let’s test!” she chirped excitedly as she drove her muzzle towards Applejack’s.
“Whoa!” Applejack held the pink pony at bay with a single hoof placed squarely on her forehead. She rolled her eyes. “You’re gonna be wantin’ to buy me dinner first, Pinkie.”
“Aw. I guess I should have used an apple fritter.” Pinkie dropped AJ, leaving Rarity and Fluttershy to catch her as she licked the frosting off of her lips.
Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. “We’re supposed to be talking about me and Twilight here,” she said, giving the whole group of them another annoyed glower as Applejack righted herself. Fluttershy and Rarity quickly settled back down, the former blushing a bit and the latter focusing all of her attention back where it belonged.
“Okie doki.” Pinkie cheerfully let Dash’s glare slide right past her, bounced once more and then plopped down between Rarity and AJ. The pony barely fit, and Rarity was nearly knocked off of her chair. She scooted over a few inches, giving Pinkie enough room to stand, if not much else.
“Right, anyway,” Dash said, leaning forward, “I haven’t got to the best part yet.” Rarity’s and Fluttershy’s eyes were positively radiating. Pinkie’s lips were pursed and she reined in her hopping to a slight bobbing. Applejack did her best to seem bored, yawning and closing her eyes. The way her ears twitched and swiveled to zero in on Dash revealed the act for what it was.
Rainbow told them about the dinner, skipping the jelly clouds. That was going to be a surprise for Pinkie’s next birthday. She spent several minutes describing the mustache and how awesome it had been. Pinkie tried to give herself a cotton candy one, but halfway through sculpting it, she accidentally ate it.
Rarity had wanted every detail about her teleportation experience. The unicorn couldn’t cast such a powerful spell herself and had never found the occasion to have even a short range one enacted upon her. After telling Rarity she’d fill her in later, Rainbow finished her tale with her delivery of the sleeping unicorn to her own bed.
“Oh, how simply marvelous!” Rarity said, clapping her forehooves together. “Such chivalry and thoughtfulness. If only I could find a pony half so caring.” Rarity’s eyes focused on something far away for a moment before she blinked. “But aren’t you worried at all about how that looks? I know you would never do anything untoward, but being in a lady’s room, alone, at night. Well, it could start a major scandal.”
Dash rolled her eyes and snorted. “We weren’t alone, Spike was there.”
Applejack cleared her throat, forestalling Rarity’s next argument. “Well Rainbow, it seems you had a mighty fine time,” she said. “I guess I don’t rightly know why you’re here with us when you could be spending time with Twilight.”
Pinkie’s mane kept Applejack from seeing the glance that Fluttershy and Rarity shared. Dash had, but she ignored it. Finally! A pony who was making sense. “Exactly!” She banged her hooves on the table rattling the cups and dishes. “I was on my way to hang out with her when these two–” she pointed towards Rarity and Fluttershy– “stopped me. They said something about having to wait three days or something.” She snorted and rolled her eyes as she slumped forward onto the table. “No offense gals, but I would really rather be at Twilight’s right now.”
Applejack’s ears twitched. “Three days?” she asked. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed as she glared at Rarity. “Is this another one of your fancy courtin’ things that nopony in these parts ever heard of?”
“Oh no, Applejack, don’t be mad.” Fluttershy leaned out onto the table to make eye contact with Applejack. “It really is true. All the books I’ve read say so, and well,” she looked down at the table and then back at Rainbow Dash, “I’m sor–”
“A party!” Pinkie shouted, springing up into the air again. Her deafening exclamation left Dash’s ears ringing. Her other friends were rubbing their ears and wincing as well.
“Yeah, Pinkie, I’m not sure how that’s going to help,” Dash began.
“Oh nonono!” Pinkie interrupted. “See, if you and Twilight are invited to an open social event using separate invitations and totally not as a couple then it’s totally okay for you to talk to each other.” She leaped up onto the table, scattering half eaten pastries all over the floor, and placed a hoof over both Fluttershy’s and Rarity’s mouths, silencing their protests. “As long as there is always at least one other pony present at the party, then it’s an exemption from the standard no-contact time span as covered under section seven of the Modern Filly’s Guide to Romance.”
Rarity managed to remove Pinkie’s hoof using a combination of magic and sheer strength. “Pinkie Pie, where could you have possibly learned that?” she asked, struggling to keep from being muted once more.
“Silly Rarity!” Pinkie withdrew her hooves forcing Rarity and Fluttershy to cling to one another or fall over. The earth pony pressed her nose into Rarity’s. “I know everything there is to know about parties!” she said, beaming.
“But–” stammered Rarity.
“Um–” questioned Fluttershy.
“Oh, a muffin!” said Pinkie as she scooped up the half eaten treat and popped it into her mouth.
The cafe was quiet as she chewed then swallowed the muffin. Licking the last crumbs off of her muzzle, she turned to Rainbow Dash. “So, party?” she asked.
Rainbow Dash looked at Fluttershy and Rarity, her eyebrows rising. Could it really be that simple? The two ponies turned around, their backs to the other three. Wrapping a leg over each other’s withers, they began to whisper back and forth. For nearly a minute, she could only make out the occasional word as the two conversed in privacy.
Finally, they turned around, both of their faces severe with mouths set with tight frowns and brows pulled together. “We have conferred,” announced Rarity, Fluttershy nodding along, “And decided that a social situation such as a party when both Twilight and Rainbow Dash are invited separately is indeed an exception to the three-days-rule.”
“But, um, there has to have a reason for the party,” Fluttershy softly said. “Sorry.” She hunched over and tried to hide behind her mane again.
“Yes,” Rarity agreed, reaching out a hoof to comfort Fluttershy. “It must have a real reason beyond simply allowing the circumvention of standard dating protocol. Furthermore...”
As Rarity continued to lecture Pinkie on the various requirements she and Fluttershy had worked out, Applejack leaned towards Rainbow Dash. “I’m so lost,” hissed Applejack, using a hoof to hide her speech from Rarity.
“Me too,” Dash replied in kind.
“Why are you puttin’ up with all this?” Applejack whispered.
“I don’t want to screw this up,” Dash said, waving a hoof in the general direction of the library. “Twilight... Well, she likes her lists and rules. Besides,” Dash smiled, “she’s worth it.”
“Aw, little Rainbow’s growing up.” AJ stuck her lips out in a pout and fluttered her eyelids.
“H-hey!” Dash protested, struggling to keep her voice low.
Applejack smirked at her friend. “Does she call you ‘Dashie’ too?”
“No way!” hissed Rainbow, red showing on her cheeks. Attempting to regain the upper hoof in the conversation, she stuck her tongue out at Applejack. She opened her mouth to counter her chief rival’s last comment when Pinkie’s giggle drew her attention back to her other friends.
“It’s simple!” chirped the bouncing pink pony. “We have a party to celebrate the creation of my new toff-taff-overs!”
“Um, Pinkie?” mumbled Fluttershy. “What’s a toff-taff-over?”
“They’re a delicious combination of toffee, taffy, and turnovers!” Pinkie stood on her rear legs as she made this announcement. From somewhere in the shop a fanfare played, confetti and streamers shooting out from behind her.
Rainbow Dash ignored all of this; something far more important had been decided. She was pretty used to having to figure out what other ponies were talking about from half heard conversations. She couldn’t help it if they sometimes were too boring to pay attention too. “Wait a minute,” she said, her mind turning over the half heard words. “Does this mean I can talk to Twilight sooner?” she asked. Her wings were slowly unfurling as she dared get her hopes up.
“Yes darling, it does,” Rarity answered, smiling.
With a shout Dash jumped into the air. “Yes!” she cried before proceeding to perform flips and twirls within the tight confines of Sugar Cube Corner. She zipped around the room, narrowly avoiding beams, columns, and her friends. Once her excitement was finally under control, she came to a stop, hovering over the table and looking down at her friends. “So when’re we doing this?” the words tumbled out of her mouth as she looked to each of her friends in turn.
Pinkie planted her rump onto the table, knocking the remaining dishes to the ground. The earth pony whipped out a pair of reading glasses and a black planner. Her face grew serious as she flipped through the book. “Let’s see,” she chirped. “How about Monday?”
“That would be awesome!” Dash replied. Only two days of waiting? That beat three any way around it.
“Oh, but... um.” Fluttershy began fidgeting. “Never mind,” she whispered.
“Now Fluttershy,” Rarity began, “you don’t have to be nervous around us, dear.”
The yellow pegasus inhaled and closed her eyes, gathering what courage she had. “It’s just, well... Rainbow said she’d go watch the butterfly migration with me.” She wrung her hooves together, and then glanced up at Dash. “But don’t worry about it, it’s ok.”
“No way, Fluttershy,” Dash said. “I kinda forgot about it, but no way would I leave you hanging.” She turned towards Pinkie and asked, “Maybe we could do it tomorrow?”
Pinkie licked her hoof and began to flip through her black booklet. “Hmm,” she said, tapping a hoof against her chin. “Tomorrow is no good, I have to fold my sprinkles.”
“What?” Rainbow asked. Her friends mirrored her sentiment.
“Huh?” asked Pinkie.
“Whatever. I can’t do it Sunday, that big storm is gonna take all day to clean up after.” Dash let out a scream of frustration. “This’ll never work!” she wailed, causing Fluttershy to fold her ears back against her head.
“Well dear, I know it’s short notice, but is there anything wrong with having our little soiree tonight?” Rarity looked at each one of them as she spoke.
“I reckon some of the work on the farm can wait until tomorrow,” Applejack allowed.
“I just need to check on some of the new bunnies. They have tummy aches, but I’m sure it’s nothing serious,” agreed Fluttershy.
“And I already know how I’m going to make my toff-taff-overs!” cried Pinkie.
Rarity turned towards Dash. “And you, Rainbow Dash? Is tonight good for you?”
Her grin pulled up on the left half of her face, turning her customary smirk into a wide grin. “Tonight is gonna be so awesome!”
“Gah!” Twilight yelled as she balled another sheet of paper up. Her horn flared brightly for a second and the notes burst into white flames, leaving another tiny, ashen grave dotting the library. As she paced from one side of the room to the other, she kicked over several of them, heedless of the char she was rubbing into the wooden floor. “Nopony else works!” she cried.
She had been at this all day, trying to salvage her plan to finish her List. She had failed with Rainbow Dash, much to her continued annoyance, and had started working her way through her other friends again. When she had discarded each of them in turn, she began on her acquaintances. She had even stretched the limits of that, having just incinerated a set of notes on Braeburn.
All of her friends were amazing ponies; each had great talents and could do incredible things. The fact remained that she had found something that disqualified each and every one of them. It was driving her crazy. No matter how hard she had tried to find another pony to go on a date with her, something always ruled them out. No pony had the right mix of dependability and spontaneity she was looking for. None of them had the energy and love of fun that she felt suited her. Not a single one could make her smile just by thinking about walking down the street together or spending a Sunday afternoon curled up reading the same book.
In short, no pony was Rainbow Dash. Twilight rolled her eyes and groaned. Spotting an undisturbed mound of ash, she kicked out a leg, scattering the pile. It did little to satisfy her or calm her mind. Why should she be so stuck on her pegasus friend? Being Rainbow Dash was not a central metric for potential datability. At least, not according to any source she could find. And yet, every time she thought she had finally settled on another prospect, every time she was close to making a decision, she discarded it and her mind came back to Rainbow.
Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash! What was it? Why, when she thought about a candlelit dinner, did the flickering light always timidly reveal a sky blue coat and a mane of every color? Why did the pony who brought her roses and daisies always deliver them with a chuckle and fly circles around her? Why was the shadowy flank of the pony she rested her head against when she became sleepy—when she lay in an open field, staring at the night sky—always emblazoned with a white cloud and a multicolored lightning bolt?
Her mind raced in circles as she walked back and forth. She was on the cusp of some realization. If she could only–
A hollow knocking came from her front door. She was turning to start her three-hundred-and-fifty-seventh lap around the common room and the sudden interruption made her forget her place, both mentally and physically. She moved her left rear hoof instead of her right front one and had to scramble to keep from planting her face in a pile of soot.
“Twilight! Twilight!” a sugary voice called through the door! “Twi-light!” As much as she loved her friends, Pinkie Pie was not exactly the pony she wanted to see right now. However, ignoring her and pretending she wasn’t home never worked.
Twilight toyed with the idea of using her newest spell to teleport to somewhere safe from Pinkie’s intrusions, like the far side of the moon. She decided that answering the door and talking to her friend might be a better solution than a hasty lunar vacation. “Come in, Pinkie,” was what she tried to say, but a curt “What?” came out instead. Shaking her head, she dashed over to the door and pushed it open.
If the pink pony had taken offense at her rudeness, she showed no signs of it. Pinkie was bobbing merrily more or less in place outside her doorway. Her eyebrows went up a little when she noticed Fluttershy standing behind Pinkie. “Come on in, girls.” Twilight stepped back to give them room to enter.
Pinkie Pie bounced into the room and began zipping about, inspecting the little piles of ash. “Oh wow, Twilight! Have you been redecorating? Oh, oh, I know! You’re trying to bake cupcakes! I made a lot of black and crumbly ones my first few times, too!” Before Twilight could say anything, the earth pony’s tongue shot out and licked up a small mound.
“Oh, yuck!” Pinkie stuck her tongue out and tried to wipe off the soot and ash with her hooves. “Twilight, you really should use flour instead of paper. It tastes so much better!”
Twilight narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth. “I wasn’t making–” This was a mistake: she should have tried teleporting away. Pinkie’s cheer and excitement only served to remind her how frustrated she was at the moment. “Oh, never mind,” Twilight snapped. “Look, I’m a little bit busy at the moment. Was there something specific you wanted?”
“Well, there was something, but I totally forgot about it because now I want cupca–”
“Um, actually...” Fluttershy’s voice made Twilight jump. She had forgotten her soft-spoken friend was there. “Pinkie, remember? The party?” she prompted as she picked her way through the piles of ash, careful to keep her mane and tail from dragging through any of them.
“Oh yeah!” Pinkie said, somehow even more cheerful than when she had arrived.
“A party?” Twilight turned her head to glance askance first at Fluttershy then at Pinkie Pie. “Didn’t we just have one of those?”
“What we had was a shindig that turned into a celebration,” Pinkie explained, wiggling a hoof as if to brush away Twilight’s concern. “This is more of a get-together, or maybe just a dinner-party.” Pinkie sat on her haunches and raised her front hooves, eyeing them critically, as if she were holding the very words and trying to weigh their appropriateness.
Fluttershy cleared her throat. “I know it’s a little soon, Twilight, but we would really love it if you’d come.”
She looked back and forth between her two friends. Pinkie muttered to herself as her hooves teetered like scales, while Fluttershy stared up at her, teal eyes pleading. Twilight closed her eyes and made as neutral a face as she could. “I’m sorry, girls. I simply have too much stuff to catch up on.”
“But, Twilight!” Pinkie jumped forward and landed in a crouching position, thrusting her head at Twilight and forcing her to jerk back or risk a collision. “You have to come! It’s super duper extra important!”
Twilight narrowed her eyes and gave the pink pony a sharp glare. “This isn’t some kind of surprise party, is it?”
“No, silly,” Pinkie chirped. The pony pulled away from Twilight, returning her precious personal space. “If it was a surprise party, I’d ask you to come try some new muffins or say that all of the sugar had melted into a super meanie pants magical marshmallow mare and we need you to come fix it!”
“I said I’m busy.” Twilight stomped her hoof and snorted. “This is a very important project and I can’t take time off just because you want to party.”
“Aw!” Even Pinkie’s disappointment sounded too cheerful to her ears. Her teeth ground together. She knew that if she let herself get distracted, she would never figure this out, never complete her goal. That was unacceptable.
“Oh dear.” Fluttershy glanced away from her, turning her head to peek out from behind her mane. She twisted a hoof around, pawing at the floor. “Rainbow Dash is going to be so disappointed.”
Twilight’s ears perked forward and the tension in her neck vanished as she heard that. Had she really been that upset? Maybe she did need to relax a little, but first she had to test the waters and see what Fluttershy meant by that. It would take craftiness and poise to ferret out the information she wanted from her friend. “Huh?” she said. She could have handled that better.
Twilight shook her head, trying to clear away the warring feelings inside her. “Rainbow wants me to come?” she asked.
“Oh, yes,” Fluttershy said, her voice gaining strength as she stood up straighter to smile. “She really wants to see you tonight.”
“Yeah, see!” Pinkie exploded, all four hooves leaving the ground. “I told you it was super important!”
“S-she does?” Twilight’s mouth had trouble forming the words. After all the screw ups —the closed diner, falling asleep, not even getting the kiss that had been the whole point—after wasting her entire evening, Rainbow Dash wanted to see her, specifically?
Like a lightning bolt, a thought entered her mind: she could ask Dash to try again. Her heart began to pound and her mouth was suddenly dry. She could do that, right? It wouldn’t be unfair to Rainbow, would it? No, her friend was perfectly capable of saying no. A weight lifted off of her back and her mouth turned up in a smile. Both Pinkie Pie’s and Fluttershy’s mirrored hers until all three were grinning like idiots. Pinkie was nearly shaking where she stood.
“Okay, I’ll go.”
“Yippie!” Pinkie yelled as she began to leap around the library. “Par-ty!” she cried, careening off of a bookcase. “Oh, we’ll have sparklers and streamers...”
Fluttershy eyed Pinkie warily, but her muzzle still sported a smile and her wings were shifting restlessly on her back, half unfolding before settling back.
“...and sarsaparilla and soda...”
Twilight began to giggle at the two extremes. Her laughter felt good, like a cool tonic to soothe away the last of the burning irritation that had kept her company all day. “Alright girls. I’ll see you there. I really do have some things to do first.” She gestured around at the blackened floor.
“...and cakes and cookies and cotton candy...”
“Um, Pinkie Pie?” Twilight tried to grab the manic pony’s attention. “Pinkie Pie!” she yelled. When that failed to work, she turned her glare on Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus tilted her head as Twilight stared at her. After a moment had passed, Twilight gestured towards the pink rocket and then to the door.
“Oh! Of course, Twilight.” Fluttershy’s wings unfurled and she flew over to grab the bouncing Pinkie mid-jump. She caught one of the pony’s rear legs.
Pinkie landed, not with a thump, but rather a squeak. “Bye, Twilight,” she cheerfully called, waving as Fluttershy dragged her out of the library.
“Bye, Pinkie Pie. Bye, Fluttershy,” Twilight called after them. Closing the door, she turned to survey the extent of the cleaning job she had ahead of her. Her ears drooped as she took in the mess she had made of the common room. Even before her friends had visited, the entire thing had been dotted with the remains of burnt paper. Pinkie’s excited bouncing had left hoofprints on tables and chairs, and at least one set on the ceiling. This mess would take both her and Spike hours to clean up.
If he were here. Spike was out, off doing something with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. He seemed to have developed a sense of when to be scarce. Sighing, her horn lit up as she began the long and arduous process of cleaning the library’s common room.
Rainbow Dash bit her lip and continued pacing, her stride short and her motions jerky. She barely felt the currycomb as Rarity dragged it through her coat. The unicorn tsked at her as she reached the edge of the room, spun around, and glanced back up at the clock for the millionth time; the minute hand taunted her as it slowly ticked over. Nineteen minutes. She had nineteen minutes until Pinkie’s party started.
Dash sighed and tossed her head, drawing a snort from Rarity as her mane was jerked out from under a brush or something. She hardly noticed the tugging. Her short steps took her quickly to the other side of the boutique, where she once again checked the clock. Rarity’s ornate timepiece lacked a second hand and presented the same face it had last time she had looked at it.
She inhaled deeply then puffed out her cheeks, allowing the air to escape with a hiss. That was entertaining for all of half a second. She slumped, hanging her head. At least she tried to. Something was yanked her mane back up. “Ouch!”
“I do apologize dear. I’ve been trying to keep up, but you’ve not exactly been as still as the ponies I’m used to,” Rarity said as she walked up next to her. “Just a little...” Rarity eyed her mane in concentration. Dash could feel whatever it was twisting. “...And there!” Once more free to move, she rounded on Rarity just in time to see the fashionista putting away hair curlers of all things.
Rainbow’s mind raced back, replaying the last fifteen minutes. She had been pacing, then muttering to herself, and then Rarity had asked her something. It hadn’t been “Are you ready to go?” or anything like that. It hadn’t been about Twilight either, so she’d blown it off, answering with a grunt and a shrug. She’d have to try to pay more attention to what ponies said in the future.
Dash was jerked out of her thoughts by a squirting noise right behind her head. A moment later, the overpowering scent of flowers engulfed her. She blinked, trying to quell the sudden burning in her eyes. “Bleh,” she spat. She could taste it. “Rarity! What is this?” No longer able to contain it, she sneezed.
“Oh, do stop overreacting, Rainbow Dash. It’s just a dab of perfume. A little something I picked up to help set the mood. Bold, but not wanton; it’s simply perfect for you.” Rarity levitated an ornate crystal vial with a silver tip up behind her own head. Another squirting sound and Dash sneezed again as she got a second, much more subdued wave of floral abuse.
“Okay, seriously, Rarity. How long does this take to wear off?” She was still blinking away the stinging sensation and her nose was stuffed with more scents than she could name.
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Perhaps I was a bit excessive,” she allowed. “But trust me, Rainbow Dash. This scent is all the rage right now.” Rarity closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “You smell simply divine,” she concluded.
“What I smell like,” Dash grumbled, “is a cheap buffet.” She glanced back up at the clock. The traitor still showed a full eighteen minutes to go. “I can’t stand this!” Turning to Rarity, she pleaded, “Can we just go? Right now? Please?”
Rarity raised a hoof to hide her chuckle. “Oh, Rainbow Dash. We can’t simply just ‘go’. We must obtain a suitable escort to see us to the party.” Rarity’s eyes narrowed. “And we can’t even think of that until we’ve picked out accessories.” Her eyes closed and she began to smile. “I have several dozen fine hat and shoe sets to choose from, not to mention saddles and blankets–” Rarity opened her eyes.
Rainbow could have sworn she was smiling her friendliest smile, even if every other word from her friend’s mouth made her pinions tense and her legs twitch. She must have let something show through, because Rarity stopped cold in the middle of her fashion rant.
“Oh, my dear! I should have realized! I’m so, so sorry, Rainbow.” Dash relaxed as her friend got her not so subtle hint. “I should have realized you’d want a full formal gown. Why I ha–”
Dash’s wings snapped open as she dove towards the door. She pumped them hard, outrunning the visions of herself stuck here trying on dresses for the next forever. There was a decent chance she could get away before Rarity could catch her. The fashionista’s magic was nowhere near as strong as her girlfriend’s, but it could still make escape tricky. Luckily, Rarity just stood there, no doubt stunned by her supreme speed and taken completely by surprise at her un-telegraphed movement. She barreled towards the closed door, her hooves mere inches away. She was free!
Stars wouldn’t stop spinning through her vision and her nose throbbed.
“Rainbow Dash, are you alright?” She heard the unicorn walk up behind her. “Dear, that door only opens inwards.”
Dash slowly got to her hooves. Rubbing her sore nose, she glared at the door, fighting to keep her annoyed frown from slipping into a sheepish grin as she turned to face Rarity. “Sorry, Rarity, but I need to go. Now.” She surreptitiously kicked the door, hoping to pay it back in some small way.
In a final act of vengeance, the wall clock slipped from its nail and landed on her head.
Her vision blurred in and out of focus. She shook her head to try to clear it, relieved to see her foe swim into view. From her position on the floor, she could just make out the face of her tormentor. Seventeen minutes.
“Oh my goodness! Darling, are you okay?” Rarity helped her get to her hooves.
“Yeah, Rarity, I’m fine.” Rainbow Dash shook her head; she’d taken harder hits from failed stunts. No stupid clock was going to get the best of her.
Rarity’s face took on a blank look as her eyes swept over Dash. “Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to be a tad early to the–”
“Finally!” Dash exalted. Turning so fast her tail made a whistling sound as she spun, she bit down on the doorknob and yanked the stupid thing open. Before Rarity had a chance to change her mind, Dash was through the threshold and free. She took to the air for a few brief flips.
Rarity’s hoofbeats sounded out behind her. “Rainbow Dash, you get down here this instant!” The unicorn yelled, allowing her lady-like decorum to slip for a moment. “I did not spend the last hour styling your mane and brushing your coat only to have you tangle it all up again with your wild acrobatics.”
Her spirit and smile restored with the small burst of freedom, she landed next to her fashion-conscious friend. “Sorry, Rares, but this pegasus just had to get a bit of sky.”
Rarity’s mouth curved down into a frown and her brows drew together as she glared at Dash. After a moment, her expression softened. “Okay, Rainbow Dash. Let’s get you to your party.”
“Pinkie’s party. Remember, taff-toff-overs?” Dash smirked as she began trotting off towards Sugar Cube Corner.
Rarity didn’t even try to hide her smile now, as she pulled up alongside Rainbow. “And to think, that Pinkie Pie of all ponies would have been so socially astute. I never realized she paid any attention to courtship etiquette at all.”
Rainbow Dash laughed. “Duh!” she said. “It has to do with parties. I’d be more surprised if she didn’t know.”
The two ponies didn’t have time to stray from the subject of Pinkie’s uncanny party related abilities. Rainbow Dash broke into a gallop when she caught sight of the Corner’s rose doorway. She heard Rarity give a humph of protest, but ignored it. Covering the remaining distance in only a few seconds and not even knocking, she shoved the door open and bolted through.
Pinkie Pie was balanced on the edge of a table, a roll of green streamers in her mouth as she stood on her hind legs, trying to reach one of the many ornately carved joists the bakery boasted. As Dash slid to a halt in front of the cookies, Pinkie spun to face her. “Oh! Hi, Haifow Hafh!” she said. The crazy pony began to wave at her even as she toppled sideways. Dash shot forward, arriving in the nick of time. She was able to get under her friend, catching Pinkie across her back.
“Easy there, Pinkie,” she said.
“Hankh!” Pinkie grunted, seemingly content with being half draped across her.
“Um, Pinkie,” Dash said, rolling her eyes. “It might be easier to talk if you dropped the streamers.”
Pinkie’s head tilted and her brows came together as she thought about that for a second. Turning her head to the side, she spat out the bundle of crinkled paper. “Hi!” she said, her eyes brightening. “Oh, this is much better!” The pony began trying to bounce, but succeeded only in rocking Dash side to side. “Huh?” She held up her front hooves and glared at them suspiciously. “Normally when I do that, I become a super extra bouncy Pinkie Pie, not a wiggle back and forth Pinkie Pie.”
“Pinkie,” Dash said through gritted teeth, “that’s because you’re normally on the ground, not my back.” She waited; sometimes Pinkie needed a few moments.
“Oh yeah!” Pinkie stabbed the air with hoof. “That’s it! Bouncing works so much better when I’m on the ground.” She gasped and her eyes grew wide. “Or a trampoline!” She folded a hoof under her chin and her brows once more came together in thought.
Dash stared at Pinkie for a second. She took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. “Pinkie Pie,” she said, poking the other mare’s nose with her own.
The way Pinkie was beaming at her made it hard to be angry at the earth pony. Anger was hard, but she had annoyance to spare. “Get. Off.” She glared at Pinkie.
Pinkie closed her eyes and smiled even wider. “Sure thing!” she chirped, sliding from Dash’s back. When all four hooves touched the floor, the mare gave a few small bounces. “Oh, hey! This does work better on the floor!” She threw a leg over Dash’s neck in a quick hug. “Thanks, Rainbow Dash!”
She was saved from having to come up with a response that would get through to Pinkie—if such a thing existed—by a knocking from the doorway. Both of them looked up to see that Rarity had finally arrived. Pinkie flung herself away from Rainbow Dash and bounced forward to greet her new guest.
A loud bang from the kitchen drew Dash’s attention. She trotted over and stuck her head inside just in time to see Applejack settling a muffin tray on the stovetop. “Hey, Applejack! I didn’t expect you to be here already. Run out of twigs and prunes?”
Applejack spat out the hot pad she had been holding. “Oh hello, Rainbow.” She glanced up and Dash’s gaze followed hers to another wretched clock. “You’re a mite early, ain’t ya?” Applejack didn’t wait for her answer. “Or maybe you was just pinin’ away in that bit of fluff you call a home!” AJ reached out a hoof and slapped the edge of her muffin tray then kicked a plate into position to catch the muffins before they could tumble to the floor.
“Nice catch.” Dash grinned. “How many did you drop before now?”
Applejack just snorted and rolled her eyes, easing the tray onto her back.
With AJ not rising to her bait, Dash decided to answer. “Nah, I couldn’t sleep,” Dash explained. “I was hanging out with Rarity.”
Applejack chuckled. “And here I thought you was gettin’ all girly on me.” Her grin could cow manticores, but Rainbow let it bounce right off. Applejack’s voice took on the smooth silky tones of The City and she fluttered her eyes as she said “I do love what you’ve done with your mane. It’s simply marvelous.”
Dash halted in her tracks and her wings shot out in a panic. “Oh Celestia! Don’t do that, AJ!” her voice cracked. She folded her wings back and took a breath to steady her nerves. “It isn’t right.”
Applejack’s twang sounded clear and thick, even through her laugh. “I’m just teasing you, RD. I ain’t gonna pretend to be no high class pony.” Applejack stopped and smiled at her again. “Least ways, not unless I can get a rise out of you.”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes as she followed AJ and her steaming treats into the common room. Fluttershy had shown up during her absence and the three ponies were chatting around the sole large table that hadn’t been put away. Applejack trotted right up to the group and Dash paced her.
“Well, howdy Rarity, Fluttershy.”
“Oh, oh, oh!” Pinkie squirmed in her seat with one hoof raised into the air. “Me! Pick me!”
Rainbow and Applejack shared a quick, worried glance. Applejack shrugged then cleared her throat. “Okay,” she started, and then wiggled a knee at the other earth pony, “Pinkie.”
“Surprise!” Pinkie yelled.
Caught off guard, Applejack nearly dropped her tasty cargo; it was only thanks to the fastest and most awesome pony in Equestria that the muffins were saved. “Whoa, Pinkie!” Dash snapped. “What was that for?”
“Duh, it was a surprise!” Pinkie clapped her front hooves together. “And it worked!”
“Well, it certainly was surprising, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity said as she coaxed Fluttershy out from under the table. “But maybe you should keep your surprises to parties? It was a trifle–” she paused, searching for a word– “loud.” Fluttershy merely nodded, clinging to the unicorn’s forelegs as Rarity helped her back into her seat.
“Any more surprises like that,” muttered Applejack, “and I’ll need to borrow Granny’s hearing aid.”
“Aw.” Pinkie pouted, then brightened up almost immediately. “Maybe next time I can use balloons!” Pinkie ducked below the table. Her tail stuck up and it bobbed to and fro as squeaks of exertion drifted up from underneath.
“Surely she’s not...?” Rarity left her question unfinished.
“Oh, um. I think she might be.” Fluttershy ducked behind Rarity, only her eyes and the tips of her mane remained visible.
Applejack squared her jaw and glared at the bobbing mass of curls while Dash struggled to contain her laughter. The tail disappeared under the table and the entire bakery became deathly quiet.
Even though every single one of her friends knew it was coming, even though they were braced for it, Pinkie still carried through. “Surprise!” she yelled, quite a bit quieter, much to Fluttershy’s relief. This time a torrent of yellow and orange balloons, with a few red and green streamers mixed in, was hurled at Applejack. The force of the passing party paraphernalia would have blown AJ’s hat off had she not already been holding it in place.
Rainbow Dash was laughing so hard, she had to unfurl her wings to keep from falling out of her chair. Her eyes were closed and small tears leaked out of the corners. “Oh man, Pinkie! You are a riot!”
“I’m not a riot,” Pinkie said, “I’m a baker!”
“Well since y’all showed up early, you can help us finish,” Applejack chimed in. “Pinkie could use some help on the last of the streamers, and I reckon I could use pair of hooves to help me clean up some of these here pots.”
Dash stuck her tongue out. Cleaning was work, boring work. She started to protest, but AJ’s eyes narrowed when she opened her mouth. “Fine,” she grumped, making sure to drag her hooves and let her wing tips hang downwards as she turned towards the kitchen.
“Oh, Applejack,” chastised Rarity. “Have you no sense of romance? Asking her to clean before she is to be reunited with her soul mate. Why, that’s quite simply the least amorous suggestion I’ve ever heard.”
“My what?” Dash asked. “We just started going out, Rari–”
“I can see it now!” Rarity interrupted her. The unicorn giggled and her eyes focused on something far away. “Oh, it will be so romantic!” she half-whispered to herself. “The studious and clever Twilight meeting the energetic Rainbow Dash at a soirée the day after an enchanting evening together.” She sighed, blinking away small tears.
Dash drew back from her friend as Rarity took a mental trip to Creepytown. The unicorn continued building up her fantasy, giggling to herself until even Fluttershy began to back away. When a small line of drool began to escape from Rarity’s mouth, Dash turned and bolted for the kitchen.
“Sure thing, AJ,” she called. Pots were safer.
The sound of the front door opening drew Twilight’s attention away from her notes and plans. She had no idea who it could be at this late hour. Unless...
She whipped her head around and squinted. When had it had gotten so dark? The wall clock was nearly invisible until she illuminated it with her magic. “Oh no!” she wailed. “I’m late!” She scrambled to put away her notes; Spike did not need to see some of the doodles she had sketched. Her horn remained lit as she scrambled to drag her brush through her mane and insert the flower she’d won back from Dash last night at the same time. She did all of this and cantered towards her front door, the mysterious guest forgotten.
Spike called from the doorway, “Late for what?”
“Oh, Spike!” Twilight skidded to a halt right in front of him, nearly bowling the young dragon over. She reached out and grasped him with her forehooves, pulling him in close until their noses were nearly touching. “It’s terrible, it’s awful!” she wailed. “I’m late for Pinkie’s party!”
“Didn’t you have one of those a few days ago?” he asked. “You’ve never been so worked up about being on time to them before.”
“This one is different!” she insisted. “Rainbow Dash is going to be there!”
Spike slipped out of her grasp and pulled away. He eyed his guardian from a good three hoof lengths out of her reach. “Isn’t she at most of Pinkie’s parties?”
“Yes!” Twilight shrieked. “And she’s going to be at this one too!”
“Okay, Twilight,” Spike took another step back from her. He planted his feet and bent his knees slightly, glancing towards the open door. “Maybe,” he said, while taking a half step towards freedom, “If you’re late, you should go ahead and hurry, now?”
“Oh, right. Thanks Spike!” she scooped him up with her magic for a quick nuzzle and then reared back and bolted for the door.
“Yeesh, that mare gets crazier every day...”
She was far too busy going over every unlikely, horrendous scenario that could arise from her being tar– late to pay attention to Spike’s muttering as she set out for the party.
Some days, she cursed living so close to the bakery and its sugar-packed fare. It was hard enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle with as much studying as she did, and the Corner always smelled so wonderfully tempting. Tonight she was glad of the proximity, any further and she’d be completely out of breath, having galloped the short distance there.
She slowed to a run and then a trot as she approached the venue. There was no pounding music, no flashing lights. Only a pair of balloons tied to the mailbox suggested there was any sort of event inside. Walking up to the door, she strained her ears, trying to hear any sign that this was indeed the right place and time. Raising a hoof to knock on the door, she heard Pinkie’s high-pitched voice followed by a cackling laugh—Rainbow’s laugh.
Her hoof hesitated, hovering an inch away from the door. What if Rainbow was mad at her? What if she said no? The latter idea would send her back to the drawing board; the former twisted her stomach into knots. Her leg began to tremble. “Stop being stupid, Twilight,” she whispered to herself. “You can’t ask her if you don’t go in. Now, knock on the door!”
Twilight had no idea why this was so hard. Just a few days earlier she had explained her entire plan to Rainbow Dash and asked her out without the slightest bit of nervousness. Now, she was getting cold hooves. What had changed? The only thing she could think of was that she had empirical evidence that she and Rainbow could go on a date and enjoy themselves.
The thought of going out again spread warmth and cheer throughout her; the specter of rejection cast cold dread over her, warring with that giddy joy. She bit her lip as she once more raised her hoof into the air. She squeezed her eyes shut tight and knocked on the door.
The door swung open slowly; it hadn’t been shut all the way. The conversation came to an abrupt halt as her friends, with the exception of one, turned to stare at her. Pinkie opened her mouth only to have Rarity shove a hoof inside, silencing her, while the unicorn shushed the rest of their friends. The room now silent, Twilight tuned out the rest and focused all of her attention on the back of Dash’s head.
She watched Rainbow’s wings shift, lifting slightly off of her back, before settling down. In just a few seconds, she’d know if she could even try to ask Dash out again. The smile on Rainbow’s face as she turned quelled the churning in Twilight’s gut, but at the same time, her breath caught in her throat as the pegasus trotted towards her.
Rainbow stopped a few paces away from her. As her mouth began to move, time seemed to slow down for Twilight. She wasn’t breathing; she wasn’t sure her heart was beating. The four ponies behind Rainbow seemed frozen: Applejack with a smirk on her face, as if she were winning some sort of private race with Dash; Pinkie Pie frozen mid bounce, her eyes glowed and her wide smile brought a phantom ache to Twilight’s own jaw; Fluttershy peeking out from behind Rarity, biting her lip like a foal too scared to watch a play, but who didn’t dare to miss anything.
She noticed these details only because some part of her mind had kicked into overdrive and captured every one of them. The mare standing in front of her took the rest of her attention. Dash’s mane shone in the soft light of the Corner. Instead of the jagged, windblown appearance she was used to, the silken strands seemed to caress her blue coat, curling inwards to brush against it before curling away. Twilight’s eyes traced a lock of green from its tip all the way up to where it disappeared behind Rainbow’s head then traversed the other mare’s cheek to lock onto Dash’s own. The rosy irises contained twin images of herself and, through some trick of the light, shining motes dancing around her head.
Her stomach began doing flips again, far worse than anything Rainbow had put her through last night. She had to lock her knees to keep her suddenly weak legs from collapsing. She felt her face flush as her eyes traced slowly, far too slowly and yet not slow enough, down her friend’s face to focus on her lips. Images and feelings flashed through her mind: Rainbow denouncing her as a terrible date brought forth an icy numbness, Rainbow teasing her about her inability to plan kindled burning shame, Rainbow letting her down gently filled her with crushing disappointment, Rainbow confessing her undying love awoke fire and excitement. So many feelings clashed in her mind that she couldn’t say or do anything.
“Hiya, Twilight,” Dash said, smiling. “I– we were getting a little worried you hadn’t shown up yet.” Twilight’s ear twitched as Rarity let out a sort of choking, strangled sound.
Twilight felt her face burn slightly as her mouth curved up into a smile. She chuckled and rubbed the back of her head. “Sorry, Rainbow Dash. I got caught up in studying,î she admitted. There was a muffled complaint, followed by the sounds of a struggle from the table.
“Oh hey, no problem.” Rainbow shook her head and rolled a shoulder, sending her mane cascading down her neck. “I’m just glad you came.” Rainbow started to turn to look behind her, but stopped when her eyes met Twilight’s.
The muffled sound was growing more insistent, hooves banged on wood and somepony else was talking, whispering too low to be heard. “Um, I am too,” Twilight began. A loud crash interrupted her. Dash spun around and she took a step forward and around the mare.
Fluttershy was hiding her eyes with both hoof and wing. Pinkie Pie was being held down on the table by Applejack and Rarity. The orange earth pony had a slight frown on her face as she sat on Pinkie’s rear legs and muffled the struggling pony. The unicorn was scowling, looking for all the world as if she was going to do battle as she pinned Pinkie’s front legs. Pinkie ignored both of them and was straining, arching her back and rolling from side to side, eyes fixed intently on a small cord that dangled over the table. The struggle continued for a few moments until Rainbow Dash flared her wings and shouted, “What the hay is going on? “
All three of the struggling ponies froze, staring at Rainbow.
“Uh, we was just, um, just...” Applejack paused.
“...attempting to... give you two a moment before...” Rarity added.
Pulling her legs free and jumping to her hooves Pinkie shouted, “We were just getting ready to start the party!” She reached for the cord and gave it a mighty yank. Hundreds of balloons drifted out of the rafters, the lights dimmed, and music started playing. She sprang from her position atop the table and whipped a covered dish out from behind a plant far too small to have hidden the large serving tray. “It’s taff-toff-over time!” she sang.
Twilight and Rainbow walked over to the table where Pinkie was unveiling her newest creation. She slid the covered tray onto the center of the table, smiled and grasped the silver knob in her mouth. “Tada!” Pinkie ripped the cover off. Poppers burst, confetti shooting from miniature explosives in all directions, and a trio of balloons floated upward, revealing six deep brown triangles, each twice the size of a hoof and covered in sprinkles. Pinkie had further decorated each of the treats, labeling them with their intended recipient’s cutie mark sketched out in icing.
“Wow, Pinkie!” Twilight said, licking her lips as the baker began passing out the turnovers. “Those look delicious!”
“My dear, you certainly seemed to have pulled out all the stops for this occasion.” Rarity examined hers as closely as she might a fine seam.
“Hey!” Dash exclaimed. “What gives?” she asked, holding up her turnover.
“Oh!” Pinkie giggled. “I ran out of yellow frosting, so I decided to use pink!”
“Pinkie Pie!” Dash whined, bringing a chorus of giggles from her gathered friends.
After the laughter died down, they each grasped their confections. Pinkie shoved the entire triangle into her mouth without hesitation. The other five watched as she chewed, her own eyes looking upwards as she considered. “Hmm,” she mused.
Twilight leaned closer. She noticed her other friends doing the same. “Hmm?” she hummed.
Pinkie stopped chewing for a second before giving the treat one more good chomp, closing her eyes, and swallowing. She opened her eyes and smiled.
Twilight couldn’t stand the suspense. “Well?” she asked, leaning closer still.
Pinkie raised a hoof and wiggled it back and forth. “It was more of a turn-taff-toffee or maybe a taff-over-ee.”
Twilight blinked and looked towards Rainbow Dash. Her friend glanced at her and shrugged. Together they raised the hybrid snacks towards opened mouths. Twilight shared one last look with Rainbow before she closed her eyes and took a bite.
It was pretty bad. The super sweetness was overpowering to the point of drowning out all the other flavors, while the chewiness of the taffy made the whole thing a dental workout, but the chocolaty pastry crust surrounding the whole thing was good.
“Well,” asked Pinkie, “how are they?”
“Oh, um, they were–“ Rarity looked to Applejack and Fluttershy for help– “um... Quite, the um, experience dear.”
“Oh y– yes,” agreed Fluttershy, placing hers back on the table. “Q– quite.” She smiled wide at Pinkie, her whole body tensing. Pinkie just smiled back.
“They sure were, uh, something, Pinkie,” agreed Applejack.
“Pinkie Pie!” Dash tossed her pastry onto the table. “How can you eat this? It’s like, a hundred and twenty percent sugar!”
“I know!” Pinkie chirped. “Isn’t it great?” Pinkie turned back to Fluttershy. “You gonna eat that?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she swept both Rainbow’s and Fluttershy’s pastries into her mouth, chewed for a moment, and then swallowed.
Twilight laughed. “Thanks for trying, Pinkie,” she said pushing her own turnover towards the earth pony, and then she turned to face Rainbow Dash. Now was as good a time as any. She told herself that this would be just like last time. There was no reason to be nervous. “Rainbow Dash.”
Her heart sped up as Rainbow turned to face her. The pegasus’s eyes and mouth both glowed with mirth. “Yeah, Twilight?”
That voice sent her stomach flipping again, it nearly drove all thought from her head. If she could have just sat there all night long, basking in this glow, she would have counted it a night well spent. All of the day’s doubts and apprehension came back tenfold. This was it. She might just be ruining one of the most wonderful memories she had. If Rainbow resented her for last night...
There was still time to back out. She could make a comment on Rainbow’s mane, or ask what she had been up to all day. She could still find somepony else, find another way to complete her List. A cold stone of despair settled in her chest at that thought. She gulped, summoning every shred of courage she possessed and forced the words out. “Um, I was wondering...” She trailed off, mouth suddenly dry. Rainbow Dash just waited, smiling still. “Would you...”
She was vaguely aware of Rarity’s gasp beside her and the music cutting out. If she could have thought at all, that would have meant something, but her entire mind was concentrating on the mare in front of her. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and then asked, “Would you please try going out with me again?” Now that she had started, it was easier to continue than to stop. “We didn’t quite complete the experiment last night and I just thought I should ask you to try again first since we have a baseline established.”
Dash’s knit her brows, tilting her head slightly. “Uh, what ‘experiment’?” she asked.
Dash’s non-answer sent her heart racing. She thought she had done her part, but it wasn’t over. Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead as she forced a cheerful smile onto her face. “Oh, you know,” she said waving a hoof. Dash’s confused expression prompted her for more. Her smile began to slip a little as she further explained. “Like last night?” Dash’s face didn’t change. “When you helped me with my dating experience?”
Rainbow smirked at her. “You make it sound like it wasn’t a date.”
Twilight’s pupils became pinpricks as the implications of Dash’s comment hammered home. Rainbow had thought it was a date—a real date. “Uh,” Twilight stammered, backing away from Rainbow Dash. “You– I–“ She took another step back, her jaw trembling.
Pieces began to fall into place as she reassessed events from the previous few days in light of this new data. The caresses and physical contact during the evening; Dash’s letter left on her nightstand, the way she had announced the date to their friends...
“Twilight?” Dash asked. “You okay there?”
No, she was not okay. She had lied to her friend, all of her friends. She had mishandled this whole thing so horribly that once Rainbow realized what had happened, she’d never want to speak to her again.
Oh Celestia, her friends!
She glanced across the table at the rest of her soon-to-be-former-friends. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie struggled to keep Rarity from toppling backwards onto the floor. Her fellow unicorn had lifted a single hoof to her forehead and then fainted. Applejack was staring at her, mouth open, brows knit. No doubt the bearer of the Element of Honesty couldn’t even begin to comprehend how this had happened.
How had it happened? She quite clearly remembered the moment she had decided to let the date be real. Had Dash had a similar, or even more powerful epiphany? Taking another step away from the pony she’d betrayed, she shook her head. Of course not, Rainbow didn’t work that way. She had to have been convinced of this from the start.
Her mind played back the conversation. She knew she had explained everything to Rainbow. She had to keep it short because Dash was usually pretty tired after practice and loved to nap. In her mind’s eye, she saw the pegasus’s stare as she related her plan; only now it was the blank stare of a pony who was barely listening, who was only vaguely following the conversation. The hesitance and stuttering she had taken for shock and disbelief were now revealed to be exactly what they had seemed: a genuine request for the repetition of information.
“Rainbow, I’m so, so sorry.” She closed her eyes, trying to stem the sudden flow of tears that sprang to life.
Dash’s smirk fell and she reached a hoof out towards her as she took another step backwards. “Twilight, what–?” Rainbow asked.
With her eyes closed, she wouldn’t be able to see the anger in Rainbow’s eyes. She couldn’t bear that. Wanting to be anywhere else right now, anywhere else except here, she channeled her will. Half on instinct, half with desperate purpose she threw all of her considerable magical talent into getting away.
There was a humming, pure tones converging on a single frequency that rattled her teeth and blurred her vision. She gritted her teeth as the resonance began to build and give her a headache. “Please don’t hate me!” she yelled, and then she winked out of reality long enough to be elsewhere. With a crystalline tone and a popping sound, she was in her bedroom.
She threw herself onto the bed, wrapping her legs around a pillow and burying her face in it. Alone in her room, the full brunt of her loss hit her. She had just alienated the best friends she had ever made. She had just destroyed Dash’s heart. She needed to go. They would find her here.
The desire to run vanished with the first tears to leak out and wet her pillow.
Rainbow Dash blinked the spots out of her eyes and frowned. “Anypony want to explain to me what just happened?”
“Um...” Pinkie Pie looked away from her. “I think Twilight just said that she thought your whole relationship was just an experiment and that she thought you knew and she didn’t want you to hate her,” Pinkie said, her voice not quite as chipper as it usually was.
“Oh, this is dreadful!” wailed Rarity, flinging herself back against Fluttershy who let out a squeak as she struggled to support her friend. “Tragedy instead of romance! A friendship torn asunder!”
“Oh please don’t hate her, Rainbow Dash.” Fluttershy’s voice was even harder to hear than normal through Rarity’s mane. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to lie to you.”
“Meant to or not, that’s a mighty big oops,” Applejack growled, adjusting her hat. “But I’m sure she didn’t mean to do it, sugar cube.” Her green eyes pleaded with Dash to understand. “For such a smart pony, she sure does seem to love the taste of her own hooves.”
Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Girls, relax.” Dash waved a hoof, dismissing their concerns. “I don’t hate her.” Eyes narrowing, she shot a glare at Applejack. “And watch it, fruit-flank. That’s my girlfriend you’re insulting.”
Her friends all shared a concerned glance, mouths forming tiny frowns. Rarity stepped forward and smiled at her. Not a happy or encouraging smile; it was far too wide, far too strained, and showed far too many teeth. “Now Rainbow, perhaps you misunderstood? Twilight was just telling us that this whole affair has been another one of her experiments.” Her other three friends plastered on identical smiles and nodded. “She’s just a friend, dear.” Rarity’s forehead was damp and rivulets of sweat began to run down her face.
Dash cocked one eyebrow as she stared at the forced grins. “Relax, girls. I get what she said.”
“Y-you do?” Fluttershy asked.
“I may be too busy being the most awesome pony in Equestria to learn much about romance, but I know my friends.” She shook her head and smirked again. “You just don’t get it. Sure, maybe she decided to ask me out because of an experiment or something,” Dash said, shrugging her wings. “And yeah, that’s not quite the coolest reason to ask a pony out, but you know what? It’s Twilight.” She fixed Applejack with her gaze. “I bet she spent hours trying to figure out who she should ask out.” As AJ’s jaw fell, Rainbow let her gaze drift to Pinkie Pie and then Fluttershy. “And she chose me.”
Turning to pace, Dash continued. “I’ve seen ponies acting before, and last night wasn’t an act. She can say whatever she wants, but that doesn’t change things. Not really.” She stabbed a hoof out towards Rarity. “Besides, nopony who’s ‘just a friend’ spends that much time staring at my flank.” Dash’s smirk deepened into an outright leer.
“So what if she chickened out and ran just now instead of asking me out again? Sure, it’s not cool, but I’ve got cool to spare.” She puffed out her chest, flared her wings, and gave her friends a dose of her second most confident smile. “That doesn’t mean I can’t ask her out. I’m not going to let a chance like this slip through my hooves.” Dash turned and trotted to the door. Opening it, she called over her shoulder, “Sorry to bail Pinks, but I’ve got to talk to Twi before she does something silly.”
Pumping her wings, she shot off into the night. Rainbow Dash made straight for the library. Even if Twilight decided to run, she would have to go there first, if for no other reason than to pick up a few books. Rainbow debated doing things the normal, boring way and knocking, but Twilight might do something silly like not answer. Instead, she flew through the second story balcony window.
It was a tricky thing, flying through a window barely bigger than she was without getting cut up in the process. Then again, she was the best stunt pony in Equestria outside of the Wonderbolts. Twilight’s windows had thick frames, which made it easier to kick them open instead of shattering them. Spraying glass everywhere wasn’t nearly as cool as the stage performances made it seem, not to mention cleaning up took forever.
Luckily for her, Twilight had left the windows secured only by a small latch rather than a more sturdy lock. The latch snapped like a matchstick as she kicked it open. Dash sailed through the narrow opening while pulling her wings in tight, flaring them again just as she cleared the sill.
On any other night, the sight of Twilight’s frazzled mane, wide eyes, and open-mouthed stare would have been hilarious. Tonight those eyes were puffy and red, the coat around them was damp, and there were small dark patches trailing down her cheeks. As silly as it was, Dash felt like part of this was her fault.
“Rainbow!” Twilight croaked.
Dash landed on the footboard of Twilight’s bed, her wings opened wide to help her balance on her perch. “Hey, Twilight,” she said. “You left pretty quick. I didn’t get a chance to say goodnight. Again.”
Twilight rubbed her face against the pillow she’d been hugging tightly to her chest. It didn’t do much more than spread large dark spots on the cover. Twilight sniffled. “W-why are you here?”
Finding out Twilight hadn’t meant last night to be a real date had hurt a bit. Seeing her girlfriend hunched around a pillow and bawling her heart out was a much bigger blow. “I’d have thought an egghead like you could’ve figured it out.” Dash smiled down at the unicorn. “I’m here for you, Twilight.”
Rather than smile in relief, Twilight cringed away from her, ears pressing back against her head. “Oh stars and moon, I’m sorry, Rainbow!” she said, the occasional hiccup wracking her body as she spoke. “I– I didn’t mean to hurt you—to make you hate me!” Twilight pulled her blanket up to hide her face from Dash.
“Oh please, Twilight.” Rainbow pulled the blanket down until she could meet Twilight’s eyes. “I don’t hate you. I–“
“How can you not?” Twilight blurted out. “I lead you on! I pretended to go out with you. I embarrassed you in front of our friends!”
Dash couldn’t stop herself from smacking a hoof into her forehead as she groaned. She took a deep breath, sighed, and then fixed Twilight with her best glare. “Twilight Sparkle–“ her voice grew hard– “you’re one of the smartest ponies I know, but you can be really dense sometimes.” Her wings flapped, lifting her off of her perch. She fluttered over next to Twilight, who tried to hunch down under her pillow.
Dash settled down gently, taking her time but never breaking eye contact. Her voice was softer when she next spoke. “We know you Twilight. I know you.” She gently laid a hoof on one of Twilight’s. “There’s absolutely no way you would set out to hurt somepony, right?”
Twilight stopped trying to fit her entire body beneath her pillow. Her ears were no longer pinned to the back of her head as she nodded slightly.
Dash continued. “Now, you’re feeling pretty down ‘cause you think I hate you.” Dash waited for Twilight’s nod before she continued. “Well, I don’t. As for this ‘fake date’ thing.” Dash moved forward quickly, eliciting an “eep” from the unicorn. She touched the tip of her nose to Twilight’s. Dash could feel her friend’s ragged breathing against her muzzle. “I had a great time last night. And you’re not a good enough liar to tell me that you didn’t, too.” She smirked at the way Twilight’s eyebrows rose in shock. She thought there might be a hint of blush below those eyes, but she didn’t want to look away to find out. “I had fun, you had fun, we had fun. Together.”
Dash lifted her face away from Twilight’s. The other mare’s checks were definitely flushed. Rainbow allowed her smirk to grow a tiny bit. “And it wasn’t all just ‘being friends’ was it? I caught you looking back by the alley, remember?” She let out a single laugh. “By the way, that offer is still open.”
Twilight looked away. Her mouth was clamped shut. As Dash watched, the flushed patches of her cheeks grew until they wrapped over the top of her muzzle and joined. Twilight nodded. When she spoke, her voice was very small, but it wasn’t shaking like it had been before. “But... I still lied. When I asked you out, I wasn’t... I didn’t...”
“Oh, is that the problem?” Dash leered at Twilight. “You went on a date with somepony you didn’t think you liked that way?” Dash thrust out her chest, drew up to her full height, and flared her wings. “Newsflash, Twilight! Going on dates is how you figure that stuff out. Even I know that.”
“But I didn’t and–“
“Doesn’t matter,” Dash interrupted, “It’s done. Don’t care why. You asked me out, I said ‘yes,’ we both had fun, and we like each other. It was real enough.”
“Wait– you? Me?” Twilight’s eyes threatened to pop out of her head. “You like me?”
“Duh!” Dash snorted. “You think I would go out with somepony I didn’t like! At least a little?”
“But it was just an experiment! You didn’t have to–“ Twilight blinked and stopped as Dash gave her horn a sharp bump with a hoof.
“Stop being such a silly filly and use that pretty head of yours. I didn’t know it was an experiment.” Dash sat back onto her haunches and examined the ceiling. “I kinda zone out some times and miss important stuff. Usually though, I can just wing it.” She chuckled weakly at her pun. “But I totally said ‘yes’ when you asked me out, didn’t I?”
Watching Twilight’s face as she finally got the message, Dash couldn’t help but giggle. “Oh jeez, Twilight–!” She burst out laughing as Twilight’s frown wibbled and wobbled its way to an excited, and very dopey, grin.
“You mean, you like me?!” Twilight’s voice rang out.
“Yes, Twilight,” Dash said, letting some of her annoyance creep into her voice. “Now are you gonna ask me out or do I have to do it?”
“Fine.” Dash rolled her eyes. “What’re you doing this Friday?”
“I don’t know, Rainbow.” Twilight closed her puffy eyes and smiled. “What are we doing this Friday?”
Twilight grimaced, using all the strength in her body to pull her left leg back under her. Slowly, the limb slid inwards and her mouth curled into a smile as she triumphed over the treacherous ice. Shaky, but victorious, she stood once more. Sure, she was standing in the middle of a frozen lake and had no idea how to control which way her skates slid, but she was standing.
“Yes!” she cheered, reveling in the moment. Then her left rear leg slid back and her front ones shot out sideways. Again. She strained to hold them together, but with no leverage and no grip on the frictionless ice, it was a losing battle. Pinkie and Rarity slid past her, making it look so easy.
“Easy there, Twilight,” came Dash’s voice from next to her. She felt a wing wrap over her back and pull her up tight against Rainbow’s flank. The extra support was just enough to let her pull her hooves under her again.
“Thanks, Rainbow,” she said, dropping her head, which made her slip again. She fell against Dash, throwing her weight against the pegasus and slamming her skates together to keep them from moving. Dash grunted as Twilight used her to steady herself, somehow keeping her skates perfectly immobile on the ice.
Content for the moment to lean against her marefriend’s neck, Twilight gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry about all this. You went to a lot of trouble to get the weather commissioner to approve refreezing this lake for our second date.” Twilight sighed. “And I’m just falling all over you tonight.”
Rainbow twisted her neck to press her nose to Twilight’s. A smirk split her muzzle and her eyebrows waggled as she asked, “What makes you think that wasn’t the reason I set all this up? Freezing a lake in spring isn’t the easiest thing in the world, y’know.”
Twilight tried to fight down the rising heat in her cheeks. It would have been hard enough to keep from blushing had they been alone, but with Pinkie and Rarity on the ice and Applejack and Fluttershy watching from shore, it was impossible. Casting her mind about for something, anything to derail that train of thought, she latched onto the one thing within her mind’s grasp. “So how did you get them to let you refreeze the lake?” she asked. “Where did they put all the fish and other aquatic animals?”
Rainbow Dash twisted and ducked her head, bent a leg, then scooted back a few inches, flipping Twilight around and placing her front hooves squarely on the ice. Too stunned to move, Twilight stood there with her legs locked.
“Easy,” Dash said, “but you’re looking a bit worn out. Let’s get some cocoa. I’ll tell you on the way.” Dash flapped her wings, spinning in place until she was facing away from Twilight.
“Um, I–“ Twilight began. She was about to point out that, short of teleporting, she had no reliable way to get herself off the ice, but was cut off as Dash shoved her tail in her face.
“Grab on,” Dash said, leering over her shoulder.
There were at least a dozen less embarrassing ways to get off the ice than to be dragged off by her marefriend’s tail. She could try to skate and just sort of slide in that direction, she could teleport, Rainbow could push her: all very good and valid choices, but none quite as intimate. She took up the proffered tail in her mouth.
Behind the lingering scent of flowery shampoo, Rainbow’s hair had a sharp scent, like the metallic tinge left after a lightning strike. It was a bit odd. She had expected each band of color to have a unique flavor or texture, but it all just tasted like hair. She wasn’t sure why she suspected it would be otherwise.
She braced herself, trying to keep her weight evenly distributed as Rainbow began to move. She had a fluid grace on the ice. Where Pinkie’s and Rarity’s two beat gait propelled them across the ice in small spurts, Rainbow Dash’s legs and wings were in continuous motion, sending her gliding smoothly across the ice. Eyeing the way Rainbow’s legs moved, Twilight was able to think of several more very good and completely unvoiceable reasons to let her marefriend drag her instead of push her.
“Well, you have to keep this a bit quiet, Twilight, but I’ve been trying for years to get Cloudsdale to pick Ponyville as their source of water for clouds.” Rainbow threw a hoof wide and pointed a skate off in the direction of the pegasus city, all without disrupting her rhythm. “Trying to get Ponyville on the map, you know?” Rainbow paused for a moment until Twilight gave a muffled grunt of acknowledgement.
“Anyway, they finally agreed to it.” Rainbow chuckled. “I guess saving Equestria twice makes someponies actually listen.” Rainbow looked over her shoulder and winked at Twilight. “Since Highland Reservoir is the only source of water around here big and clean enough, I knew they’d have to use it. It was already emptied of wildlife.” Nearing the edge of the lake, Rainbow let her hooves glide over the ice and relied solely on her wings for propulsion. “I called in a few favors, made a few deals, and got them to help me freeze the lake. No big deal. Hey, Fluttershy. Got any more of that cocoa?”
Rainbow smoothly stepped off of the ice and onto the green shore. Twilight tried to copy the maneuver, but messed up her timing somewhere and ended up stumbling into her marefriend. Dash’s legs bent under the impact. The pegasus tried to step out wide to regain her balance, but one of her skate blades caught on the soft soil. Twilight closed her eyes as she took a face full of feathers from Rainbow’s futile attempts to stay upright. The pair fell over in a heap.
Twilight grunted as she landed, surprised by the softness of the impact. Opening her eyes, she was greeted with the blue of Dash’s chest. Twilight’s gaze traveled upwards along Dash’s neck to where her marefriend was rubbing her head.
Dash cracked open one eye to look at her. “Not that I’m saying ‘no’ or anything, but you might want to wait until the others go home,” Rainbow said, smirking.
Twilight jerked her head up. Somehow, during the fall, the pegasus had landed on her back, legs sprawling wide around Twilight. As fast as she could safely manage, Twilight pushed herself up and off of Rainbow. “Sorry, Rainbow.”
“Don’t worry about it.” The pegasus rolled over in place with barely a hint of effort, but didn’t stand. It took Twilight a moment to realize Rainbow was chewing at the bindings on her own skates, trying to loosen them enough to slip them off.
Her horn lit up as she said, “Here, let me get those for you.” The glow of her magic surrounded the skates and unfastened them in short order. She turned her attention to her own laces as Dash slipped her skates off.
“Thanks, Twilight. Getting in and out of those is always the worst part.” Dash spat into the grass. “The skates taste horrible.” She stood and stretched: rear legs, then front. Twilight couldn’t help but notice how the simple motions she’d seen dozens of times before could suddenly be so much more interesting now that is was her marefriend performing them.
“A-hem.” Applejack’s polite cough was hardly convincing. “I do say, this here is some mighty fine cocoa, Fluttershy,” she said, her voice overly loud and stilted.
“Oh, um,” the other mare stammered. “Thanks, Applejack, but it’s not really anything special.”
“Nonsense,” Applejack said as she picked up the insulated carafe in her mouth. Voice muffled by the handle, she said, “This here is summa the best cocoa I’ve had all year.” Applejack poured some into the two waiting cups.
Twilight watched as Fluttershy smiled at the compliment. A year ago the unicorn would have been shocked to see the pegasus accept a compliment so readily. She’d grown since Twilight had first come to Ponyville; they all had. A year ago, the thought of spending her valuable time just talking and enjoying an afternoon with her friends had been unthinkable.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding Applejack,” Rainbow Dash’s voice drew her out of her reverie. “This is good!” Twilight’s friend—her marefriend—sipped at the steaming cup. “Thanks Fluttershy.” Rainbow turned towards her. “Come on, Twilight. You’ve got to try this!”
With a thought, she levitated her own cup, bringing it to her muzzle and taking a small sip.
“So, um, Twilight?” Fluttershy shuffled her hooves and half hid behind her mane. “Did you– have you told the Princess yet?”
Rainbow Dash laughed. “She sure did! That scroll was the longest I’d ever seen! I thought Spike was gonna choke when she told him to send it!”
Twilight smiled. The scroll had indeed been one of the longest she’d ever penned. She hadn’t told Dash much about what was on it, only that it was her friendship report to the Princess about their relationship.
“Relax, Fluttershy,” Rainbow said, rolling her eyes at the other mare’s concerned frown. “He was fine. It’s not like he had to eat it or anything.” Her friends all laughed at that image. “Besides, it only took her ten minutes to write. Not even I can write fast enough to give Spike’s stomach a challenge.”
That scroll had taken most of her life to write, but Twilight didn’t correct her marefriend. Even if she was assuming too much about how today’s date would end, she was confident the final check mark wouldn’t be a fib for too much longer.
Princess Celestia looked up as the puff of green smoke wound its way towards her. Her eyes lit up as they fastened onto the message. It had been a long time since her most faithful student had sent a report of her own, but Celestia recognized her emotional energy instantly. As much value as she placed on all of the friendship reports from the Elements, Twilight’s still brought her the greatest joy.
The scroll materialized and she caught it up in her magic before it could even begin to fall. This message was unlike every other report she had received from Twilight. Instead of the immaculate, freshly inked and trimmed scrolls her student was wont to use, this one was worn and tattered. It was loosely wound and of far greater length than many of the scrolls she had in her own library. Ink, dulled and faded from years of neglect and wear, marred the entire surface. Lines had been drawn through what might have once been legible text, standing in stark contrast to what was now no more than a dull hint of meaning. The only lettering she could make out still was to be found at the top of the abused manuscript: “One Hundred Things Every Filly Should Do.” Curiosity leading her onwards, she flipped the tattered scroll over. On the reverse side, where no long-faded ink lay, she found crisp, legible writing, still slightly damp.
Dear Princess Celestia,
As we learn and grow, we sometimes realize that things we always thought were important, really don’t matter all that much, and things we never considered necessary can turn out to be what we wanted all along. We might find events spiraling out of control and headed to disaster, unless we keep our minds open. It’s important never to blind yourself to possibilities just because you think you have the answer.
Your Faithful Student
“And that one’s Equuleus. It means ‘the foal.’” Twilight pointed out a dim grouping of five stars. Rainbow shifted next to her, her wing tickling Twilight’s belly. The two were curled up together on the shore of the Highland Reservoir.
“It doesn’t look like a foal to me,” Dash murmured into her neck.
“You didn’t even look,” Twilight accused, grinning as she did.
“The last five didn’t look like anything either.” Dash’s breath tickled her.
“Well, then maybe we should head on back to Ponyville,” Twilight suggested. “It’s getting late, Rainbow, and I’m getting a little cold anyway.”
Dash’s mane slid along her neck as she lifted her head, raising goose bumps that had nothing to do with the temperature. “The lake needs a few more minutes to melt. I’m supposed to stay to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
That unique lightning scent filled her nose as Rainbow settled back into place. Twilight smiled as Dash’s mane tickled the bottom of her chin. Something soft and warm slid over her flank. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rainbow’s feathers fan and then settle into place around her.
A minute or more passed in silence.
“Twilight,” Dash said, “thanks for staying out here with me. You didn’t have to.”
Twilight rolled in place and slid her head back to make eye contact, smiling. “There isn’t any place I’d rather be.” On sudden impulse she pressed in close, her lips meeting Rainbow’s.
Dash’s lips were firm and a little slick. Tentatively, she extended her tongue, brushing it against the inside of Rainbow’s mouth. It was a little shocking when Dash’s own rushed to meet hers, sliding over and under it. She tried to qualify the sensation, but the pegasus in her embrace demanded too much attention.
Their lips parted after a moment. She could still taste Dash, tangy and slightly sweet, with a little hint of–
“Are you...” Dash interrupted her thoughts. “You’re taking notes, aren’t you!”
“Sorry, Rainbow.” She blushed and grinned. She would have looked away, but at some point Rainbow had seized her head.
“Then pay close attention.” Dash flashed one of her signature smirks before thrusting forward and locking her own lips to Twilight’s.
Before I go into any details about the story, I really want to thank the following people for being beta-readers, editors, and for generally helping me out during this. You should read their stuff.
First up, Cloudy Skies. If you read shipping you know the name, or you should. He writes the best Pinkie Pie in our entire fandom. Any mood, any situation and she's still feels like Pinkie. He also has the best take on FlutterDash friendshipping ever. He really helped me out with this entire thing: from planning the original outline to giving me feedback when I was uncertain about characterization, and general cheerleader assuring me this wasn't the worst thing ever written (don't laugh, I have little to no confidence). He even came through and helped me do final line edits, despite being in the middle of editing his own fic for posting. It's safe to say, without him, this wouldn't have been written. So thanks!
Next up is Present Perfect. He totally agreed to read and comment/edit on this back when I was thinking 15k, even though he has his own TwiDash thing. He didn't get around to it until 35k+. Not only did he hammer on some of the weirder things I did, but he also he put up with my inability to master commas. The man is an amazing writer and an amazing editor. Like, a serious superhero of English language. Thanks so much PP.
Whiteout, #mlp-training-grounds' resident baker and general Pinkie Pie pupil, gave me an the idea for a much better ending. Sure I had to rewrite a week's worth of the fic, but it turned out so much better. I think I was blinded by following my outline. What worked for a short cliche was entirely inappropriate for what this story morphed into. Thanks Whiteout.
Fox E and Tchernobog both read parts of the work in progress and gave feedback and encouragement and suggestions. And thanks to everyone else in #mlp-training-grounds who listened to me bitch and moan about this for the last two months!
Several other people helped me hammer out awkward phrasing and more errors or confusing text. So thanks to Cupcakes and Drakmire too.
Thanks guys, this story wouldn't be the same without you.
To the rest of you: thanks for reading; thanks for commenting, even if it was just a quick "I like this story." Every writer loves to get comments, even if you don't think what you're saying is important. If you have questions or anything you wanna ask, but don't want posted, you can totally message me on fimfic or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The "+twilightslist" will route it to the right folder, but isn't totally needed.
Wow. This took a lot longer and became a lot bigger than I could have ever imagined. Both in the sheer size of the fic and the response I got. I started the outline for this on Feb. 7th in response to a post I was linked about a TwiDash contest ending on the 12th or something. I intended to make it a short little thing about Twilight dating Dash for all the wrong reasons and falling for her in the process. Original estimates put the fic at 15k words, tops. Since it's creeping up on 47,000 words, I think it's understandable that it's a month or two late. So it's only three times as long as all the other pony fiction I've written put together.
I have to say, writing this way was different. Completing the full story and just waiting to get line edits before posting was kind of maddening. I spent three months fretting and worrying that it would never get done. That date scene/act lasted forever. Even as I was writing the epilogue, "the end" seemed so very far away. Now, I like the whole "wait until it's done before posting anything" approach. It means people don't drift away. It means I get attention. Yeah, I'm a bit of an AW. It also means that the cliffhangers are dramatic, not annoying, I think. It's almost an experience, waiting for these updates, yeah? For all of you who read since Chapters 1-3 were posted, you know what I mean. The impact just isn't the same reading the whole thing in one go. The nail biting uncertainty as you saw their feelings bloom coupled with the constant reminders of the Sword of Damocles that hung over the whole thing seems to me to be a lot more pronounced if you can't immediately sate your curiosity.
Now, if you've been reading the comments, this next bit'll be old news. I think. This story is modeled on a three act play. Wikipedia has a whole bunch of stuff about what that means, but it boils down to setup (ch1-3), build up (ch4-9), and climax (10, 11) plus epilogue (12). It's a normal, successful form that millions of stories use, but which I seldom seen done "right" in fanfiction. Usually you see stuff go wrong in the tail end of Act II when the author tries to sidequest the whole story to stretch it out.
Twilight's List is also modeled after a classical tragedy. Like Romeo and Juliet (they still make y'all read that, right?) the train wreck is seen coming miles away. You spend a good deal of time yearning for the characters to gain your insight and avert the oncoming storm. Unlike a classic tragedy though, no one dies. Double yay!
Haha! The above makes it seem like I know what I'm doing. Not really. The only "writing" class I have ever taken was writing 102 in university, a thoroughly worthless course, and 325, how to write a resume. So I guess I have a tiny background in creative fiction. But seriously, I read a ton. My account shows 3,000,000+ words on fimfic. That's when I'm logged in. I forget to do that unless I want to rate/track. My "job" as a pre-reader had me reading two or three fics a day until around Christmas when I burnt out and fell to 1 every two days or so. During the posting of this fic, I haven't done anything for EqD.
So what's next? First off, I owe some people big time. I'm going to make sure that I do anything I can for them. Then I need to finish Featherfall. That has languished far too long. After that, I have some utterly reprehensible ideas that branch off of this fic called "Twilight's Lust", because as some of you may have noticed, this wasn't a completely non-physical attraction. Don't worry, it's getting it's own, separate story post as is entirely "for the lulz". Well, as much as End of a Rainbow is "for the lulz". After that? I'm free! I have some ideas for an adventure fic, the desire to do first person noir using Apple Bloom, and an old ship fic I may want to write (PinkieDash, but the PoV is Rarity 100% of the fic). Who knows? I certainly won't until I actually get invested in one.
- Kittyhawk Contrail
People made me FANART
Ice Skating/Twilight stares at Dash's butt.