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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.