Pinkie's hair blew in front of her eyes again, temporarily blinding her in a haze of pink as she struggled to secure the flapping picnic blanket with rocks. This high up I-Spy - one of the many large mountains between Ponyville and Canterlot - the breeze was brisk, chilly and making her work very difficult.
Tossing the curls aside, Pinkie lay a fourth rock on a corner of the cloth and rubbed at the fabric to smooth out any wrinkles. Satisfied, she sat back for a breather and admired the view. I-Spy, though not the highest mountain around, afforded one of the best views of Ponyville and the surrounding countryside she had ever seen. The scenery stretched for miles in all directions, domed by the vast, blue expanse of the sky and was unmarred by clouds.
This must be how Dash sees the world all the time, she thought. With a view like this, it's no wonder she doesn't spend much time on the ground.
On cue, Rainbow Dash appeared over the curve of the viewing point. Her wings were beating a rapid tempo against the steep incline, but her athletic body betrayed no sign of tiredness. She caught sight of Pinkie and broke into a grin, landing softly beside the earth pony and nuzzling her forehead against the side of Pinkie's neck in an uncharacteristic show of affection. Pinkie smiled contentedly and shivered as she felt a bead of Dash's warm sweat trickle down her chest.
"So how're the preparations going?" asked Rainbow Dash, pulling away to stretch her wings with some cool-down exercises.
"All set! There's no point in opening the picnic basket until Applejack and Fluttershy get here or the food will just blow away."
"And the bugs might get at them, I suppose."
"Nope. I made them their own picnic. It's over there."
Dash followed Pinkie's pointing hoof to a small handkerchief that had been pinned down in the grass a few feet away. It was piled high with crumbs which some insects were happily chowing down.
"Uh... right. Good idea. Then we'd better go get the lovebirds."
Pinkie looked confused. "I didn't pack anything for the birds. Should I have?"
"I meant AJ and Fluttershy, you doofus," replied Dash, laughing. "But this time I'll get Fluttershy and you get AJ or they'll be suspicious. And we need to get our stories straight first. So I'm going to tell Fluttershy that she needs to rescue AJ from a cockatrice and you tell AJ that she needs to rescue 'Shy from a..."
"... rampaging apple tree," finished Pinkie, nodding in agreement.
"What? No. A stampede."
"That's silly. Why would there be a stampede up here?"
"Why would there be a rampaging apple tree ANYWHERE?!"
"It could be a crab apple tree."
Dash buried her face in her hooves. "You can't tell AJ that it's a rampaging apple tree."
"But I don't think she'll come if I say it's a pear tree."
"Pinkie Pie! Make up something sensible!"
"A big nasty dragon, then."
"She hates dragons. I'm sure she'd come anyway, but we don't want to scare her."
"What if she was being attacked by..." Pinkie glanced around for inspiration, turning a full circle in place and ending up where she started. "... a rampaging Rainbow Dash?"
"I know, silly. I'm just kidding!"
Pinkie broke into a fit of giggles. After a moment, Dash began to laugh, too. She raised her front hooves above her head and loomed threateningly over Pinkie Pie.
"Graaar!" she roared. "I'm Dashzilla and I'm going to gobble you up!"
Pinkie smiled. "Nuh-uh! I know your weakness! Tackle hug!"
Dash felt the wind being driven out of her lungs as Pinkie slammed into her midriff and sent them both to the ground. She found herself flat on her back in the grass with Pinkie sitting on top of her, their noses scant inches apart. Their eyes met and Pinkie's mischievous grin faded into a soft smile as they gazed at one another. Dash could feel Pinkie's breath against her face and the intoxicating smell of...
Rainbow Dash turned her head to the right and saw two slitted, golden eyes looking back. A scaly green head rose from the grass, closely followed by a long, thick neck and a powerful winged body. The dragon had been perfectly camouflaged in the dark grass until it was disturbed.
The creature snarled and lashed out at the two with a clawed hand. Rainbow Dash was left flat on the ground, but Pinkie found herself snatched in a vicelike grip and drawn closer to the dragon's face and its bared fangs. Rather than screaming in fear, she was shocked by how sudden the situation had gone bad and her expression seemed confused that this could possibly be happening to her at all.
Dash, however, took wing, let out a warlike cry and threw herself at the dragon's head, driving her front hooves painfully against its jaw. It roared and blew a gout of smoke at the cyan pegasus, sending her reeling onto the grass, then turned back to its captive. Dash rolled to a takeoff stance and rose into the air again, blasting the smoke away with a gust.
Again she hurled herself at the dragon, which swatted her away with its free hand. Stunned, she barely kept herself aloft and watched helplessly as the creature held Pinkie high and opened its colossal mouth...
"NO!"" she cried. "PLEASE!"
The dragon turned its gaze back to Dash.
"Please," she repeated. "Please don't hurt her."
"Now see here..." the dragon started in a rumbling voice.
"You can eat me instead. Just let her go."
The creature's narrow eyes widened in surprise. "You want me to kill you so she can live? Why?"
"Because I love her!" yelled Rainbow Dash. Tears stained her cheeks.
Pinkie Pie stopped her struggling and stared at Dash. "You... love me?"
The dragon cleared its throat loudly. "If you'd let me get a word in edgeways, I'm not going to hurt either of you. I just had a few choice words to say to this one about big nasty dragons."
Pinkie looked embarrassed and apologised, which seemed to satisfy her captor, who set her down gently.
"Now, please take your picnic somewhere else so I can get some sleep."
The two ponies rapidly gathered up the blanket and basket and set off at a run down the mountain until they judged themselves to be a safe distance away. They collapsed on the grass, panting as the adrenaline wore off. Pinkie turned her head to face Dash.
"Did you mean that, when you said you loved me?"
Dash flushed and stammered out an incoherent response.
Pinkie smiled, then pulled herself close. "I love you, too."
She placed a kiss on Dash's lips, brief and tentative, then pulled back and looked into the pegasus's eyes for any sign of reciprocation. Dash looked back into the earth pony's sky-blue irises in shock. She licked her lips, savouring the sugary aftertaste, then wrapped her hooves around Pinkie's neck and pulled her close, locking them both in a long tender kiss.
Pinkie opened her eyes and pressed her forehead against Dash's.
"It's not too late for that picnic."
Dash smiled warmly. "I can't think of anywhere else I'd want to be."
Applejack paced nervously in front of the door to Fluttershy's cottage, struggling with an internal conflict. Anxiety wasn't a common trait for her, but she had never made a confession of love before.
"Come on Applejack. Nopony else is going to do this for you."
She knocked on the door.