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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.