A groovy mystery, gang.
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Are you ready for some crackfic?
We all know that something like half of all ponyfics are venues for shipping. Er. Probably. Don't quote me on that, but it sure seems like a whole lot of em are shipping fics, usually among the mane cast themselves: Pinkie and Dash, Fluttershy and Dash, Twilight and Dash, Dash and another Dash, Dash and everything and everything and Big Mac. Plus occasionally Fluttershy and a straightjacket and Rarity being a MILF/Cougar. All of which can be amusing, but I wanted to do something cracky with pairings nopony would ever expect.
So here we go! Please don't take this stuff too seriously. It's just for fun.
- - -
(1) The Sparkle
- - -
The words Eros Dreaming were written in pony-sized letters across the ship's prow.
It was, without a doubt, the largest airship Twilight Sparkle had ever laid eyes on. The great vessel seemed to stretch on and on, the colossal nose jutting out from the end of the dock and the wide flank bathing in the ocean. A pony could probably cram half the buildings in Ponyville into it. In fact, if she had time to do the math, it was likely the entire town could occupy the massive vessel's volume.
Even from the train, approaching slowly along the coast, she could see the leviathan towering over the nearby docks and piers. Titanic booms - the rigid skeletal airframe of the flight balloon - soon blotted out the sky as the train pulled into the ship’s harbor. It was an artificial canopy of blue and yellow, the latter color added on to make sure no birds or pegasi flew into it out of disorientation. Moored between the twin zeppelins was a ship-like body, the cabin.
On the very tip of that cabin, on the prow, were those pony-sized words.
"Woo-wee! I can't say ah've ever seen anythin' quite so huge!" Applejack remarked, keeping a hoof on the edge of her hat. The berthed ship was large enough to trap the wind against it, making the dockside breezier that one would expect for a clear and cloudless afternoon.
"You can say that again!" Dash had to restrain herself from taking to the air to get a look from up high. "This thing makes dragons look tiny!"
"Speaking of dragons... excuse me, darling, could you...?" Rarity struggled to keep her luggage from spilling out of the dolly it rested on. The task was proving more difficult than pulling a cart full of gemstones; the pretty white unicorn had packed as much as the rest of her friends put together. Flexing just a bit of magic to tighten one of the straps on her half dozen bags, she breathed a sigh of relief.
"As I was saying," she began again. "Speaking of dragons, I do hope Spike has no problems staying with my parents. He seemed very adamant that he could be left to tend to the library."
"Spike never did like baby-sitters," Twilight said with a rueful sigh. "He's getting old enough I was actually tempted to let him take care of things for the next two weeks, but then again... two weeks is a long time. I'm sure he'd get lonely. Even if he wouldn't admit it later."
"Your folks always seemed like stand-up types, Rarity," Applejack reminded her. "Plus, they do have that spare room..."
"Yes, my old room," Rarity said it with a trace of unhappiness.
"You don't have any weird stuff in there, do you?" Pinkie asked, giggling. "Like old magazines hidden under the bed?"
"You don't, do you?" Twilight asked, more concerned than joking.
"Most certainly not!" Rarity objected, waving a dismissive hoof at her friends. "Why I never!" In a more quiet voice, she explained, "I took all those with me when I moved out years ago."
"Things'll be fine in Ponyville without us, just fer a little while," Applejack assured them, starting towards the docked ship and the harbor's boarding terminal. She had two large saddlebags on her sides, each bearing a large red apple design. "Ah can't wait fer the All Equestria Apple Conference ta begin! It'll be a real hoot!"
"And I'm gonna party every night and every-other morning!" Pinkie bounced along behind Applejack, a heart shaped bag strapped to her back. "Parties on the lido deck, parties in hot tubs, parties in pools, parties in night clubs, parties in bars, parties in ball rooms... parties from one end of the ship to the other!"
Fluttershy followed quietly behind, pulling her large rolling hold-all with one wing. A large camera hung from around her neck.
"It'll be cool to relax and hit a few clubs," Rainbow Dash agreed, toting her black dufflebag over her shoulder as she slowly flew by. It bore a single rainbow-stripe and hardly seemed like it could have enough to last two weeks on a first class cruise. At least by Twilight's reckoning. A week's worth of casual clothes was all but required since her books on cruises indicated many parts of the ship would have dress codes.
"Rarity, you need a little help with that...?"
"Thank you so much, Twilight. I didn't over pack, did I?"
"It never hurts to be prepared," Twilight said, levitating a corner of the dolly so she could pull while Rarity pushed.
The boarding terminal was a large, open atrium area with pictures of the ocean along the walls and up to the glass ceiling. Whales breached and exotic creatures frolicked among the sea-grass. The mural was only really broken by booths selling snacks or magazines and a few large pictures of the airship itself in flight. A trio of cart-sized fans did their best to keep the waiting lines of ponies cool, the spinning blades still making less noise than the two or three screaming foals some couple had brought with them.
Showing their first class passes to a security pony, the six mares were ushered to a shorter boarding line. Applejack was here for the convention, all expenses paid, but the rest of them had gotten their tickets from the Princess thanks to an otherwise uneventful friendship report a few weeks back. Twilight had mentioned being interested in going along to experience something new and the next day Spike had coughed up five first class tickets! It was probably spoiling them, but the tickets had come with a note.
A note that said, simply: You've earned a vacation! Have fun!
To Rarity's relief, a trio of ushers appeared to help them with their bags (the loser of a quick rock-paper-scissors match being stuck with her collection of luggage). Then it was just across the boarding ramp and into the ship itself. Inside, the girls were greeted by the latest in Equestrian design and technology, starting with a lovely little processing center. Their tickets punched and recorded, they were ushered up to a vaunted concourse and atrium, three stories high and lined with shops and resturants. The main elevators, disguised behind and within terracotta sunburst sculptures, were a boon when it came to getting all their luggage up to their rooms.
A luxurious suite of personal rooms welcomed them, each one with a private bath and lavatory, princess-sized bed and large glass window-wall overlooking the side of the ship. The current view wasn't very impressive: just the docks far below, but Twilight could imagine how it would look when they were airborne. A complimentary basket of sweets, an activity sheet, and a map of the ship lay on her bed.
An overly enthusiastic knock on one of the doors prompted Twilight to investigate.
"Um.. hello?" she asked, unlocking and opening the door.
"Ohmygosh! Hiya Twilight!" Pinkie blasted through the moment it was unlocked, virtually bowling over the poor unicorn. "You'll never guess what!"
"What?" she deadpanned.
"My room has a door connecting it to your room!" Pinkie explained, raising a hoof as if this were some revelation and not completely and totally obvious by this point. "We can be immediately-adjacent room buddies!"
A knocking from the door opposite elicited a groan from the librarian. "Don't tell me..."
Pinkie zipped over and unlocked the door, gasping at what she saw.
"Pinkie! Guess what!"
"I've got a door that connects to Twilight's room!"
"Wow! Me too!"
Still lying on the carpeted floor, Twilight groaned and rolled her eyes. Of all the rooms on the largest ship in the world...
- - -
Peace and Quiet!
The normally distant, gentle hum of the Eros Dreaming's engines was little more than an innocuous whisper in the ship’s library and observatory. Night had settled on the ship as it roared out of its berth late in the afternoon, but that initial drone had quickly and thankfully muted as the ship's lift system kept it airborne. They were now over a thousand pony-lengths in the air, moving slowly over the dark sea below.
Up in the ship's observatory, the ocean wasn't a point of interest.
Twilight Sparkle gazed into the telescope, smiling to herself at how clear the night sky was. Altitude was the astronomer's ally, and so too was isolation from meddlesome light pollution. The ship's observation studio was built into the rear of the mid-castle, while most of the revelers were partying on the front. It was a perfect place to scan the heavens.
A bronze orrery mechanism ticked away in the center of the suite, but Twilight was otherwise alone. The only real annoyance was a window that had been left open and rigged so it couldn't be closed. It didn't result in much noise, but it was letting in air that was definitely a few degrees beneath comfortable room temperature. It had been that way since she entered, too.
Returning to her telescope, Twilight privately wondered why her friends hadn't joined her. It was a perfect night, and who knew how long the skies would be clear once they hit wilder patches of weather down south and by the islands. Pinkie had wasted no time convincing Rainbow Dash to go with her to a party on the front deck of the ship; Rarity and Fluttershy had availed themselves of a massage parlor, and Applejack had turned in early to prepare for the start of the convention tomorrow.
A soft clop-clop sound came from the other side of the observatory, but not from the stairwell. The sound came from the open window. Curiously turning her head, the studious unicorn saw a flash of blue wings as a pegasus came to a cantering landing. He walked nimbly over to a table next to an expansive star chart, checked something, and headed back out.
"Excuse me," Twilight spoke up, catching him just as he was climbing back out the window.
The pegasus paused, looking back over his shoulder at her. "Oh, hey."
"You left this window open?" she asked and he nodded. "Why? Can't you just use the stairs or...?"
The stallion grinned broadly, caught in the act and a little embarrassed for it.
"Sorry!" he quickly apologized, "but it's the only way to get up top from here and I didn't want to get locked out."
"The top?" Twilight walked closer, her violet eyes examining the ceiling. There wasn't anything above the observatory... except...
"You mean the roof?" she asked.
"You bet!" he replied, wings flapping as he slipped out the window.
"What's up there that's worth all this trouble?"
"A whole wide-open night sky," he answered, chuckling at the question. "Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather not have a roof over my head when I stargaze."
"Oh, I see." Twilight reached the window herself and stuck her head out to look up with the naked eye. The blue pegasus fluttered back to give her room. The wind was a bit chilly, but refreshing in a way, too, as it ruffled her mane. The sky overhead was clear, like she had enjoyed before, but now she could see a great expanse of it with nothing in the way.
"You want to try it?"
Twilight blinked, turning to the pegasus. "It?"
"Checking things out from up on the roof?" he asked, holding out a hoof. "I'll swing you up, quick as can be."
Twilight looked from his roof to the railing two floors down. It wasn't academically much of a fall, but it looked pretty far in the darkness. Besides which, the airship itself was so high up that it was hard to make out anything on the ground or ocean below. She gave the offered hoof a look colored by trepidation. Even if she was tempted.
"I don't know..."
"Hey, don't worry! I may not look it, but I'm a good flyer." He held out his other front hoof, too. "I won't let anything bad happen."
"I guess... oh!" Twilight gasped as he took her hooves and pulled her up close. His wings flapped easily, raising them both up and over the lip of the observatory dome. Twilight crushed her eyes closed as they whirled around. Then, thankfully, her hind legs touched a solid surface and she relaxed.
"Here we go! Last stop; top floor!" The pegasus stallion let her go, making sure she stayed on her hooves and didn't slip. She opened her eyes and noticed him glancing upward at one of the masts of the airship.
"Almost the top floor," he amended, pointing at the crow's nest. Then he smiled carelessly and shrugged. "Close enough, though! Not really room for two up there!"
Twilight nodded and saw down on her haunches.
There was no telescope here, of course, just the slight curve of the observatory dome beneath her, ridged with ascending steps to catch and break up rainwater or ice. The sky was vast and black overhead and completely exposed in all directions. The airship was higher than she had ever been before; higher than Cloudsdale even. She could see the horizon curve all around her and the stars above were bright and sharply in focus.
"Don't get to see a nice night like this very often back home," the pegasus next to her said, leaning back with his hooves behind his head. Twilight chuckled.
"What?" he asked, hearing the laughter.
"Nothing. You just... reminded me of somepony," Twilight explained with a growing smile. "She likes to lounge around like that."
"Nopony lounges around like a pegasus," he joked. "We've got the perfect metabolism for it."
"I'd believe that!"
A gust of wind forced Twilight to smooth out her mane and she took the resulting silence to enjoy the sky. Even unaided, she could see the constellations clearly and even the planets. The Pale Mare, Venus, was faint, but the Celestial King, Jupiter, was bright white in the sky, second only to the Moon herself. The Red Pegasus, Mars, was also visible, and so named for his habit of making turns in the sky. Old mares tales said that, once, long ago, all the heavenly bodies had earthly ones, too, and that only Celestia and Luna were left. It was probably just that - a story - since Twilight knew at least one alicorn with no heavenly counterpart.
Then again, Cadence did have the whole 'love magic' thing often attributed to the Pale Mare. That had to be coincidence, though. Love magic wasn't some big mystery. Neither was raising the moon or sun, even, since ponies had been doing it even before the Princesses came along. It was all just mythology, but that didn't make it any less interesting.
Stealing a look at the pegasus next to her, Twilight wondered what he was seeing, looking at up in the sky. She even opened her mouth to ask, but a moment of shyness struck and she bit her tongue. He didn't seem to be looking at much in particular. Just like Rainbow Dash, he was relaxed and seemingly half asleep even when alert. Not that the similarities went too far: this pegasus was no mare and he had a toned and athletic body quite different from Dash's.
Blushing a bit, Twilight forced her eyes upwards.
"So, uh," she tried to think of something to say that wouldn't end up embarrassing. "What's your favorite star?"
The unicorn mare groaned inside at how corny and nerdy that had to sound.
"The moon used to be my favorite," he answered after a few seconds. "Until we lost the mare in it. It's still bright, but..." He chuckled. "I guess it still feels like it’s missing something. As a kid I used to imagine there was a real mare in the moon, except she was actually - you know - as big as the moon. Guess I was right and wrong."
"Truth can be stranger than fiction," Twilight replied, but 'hmm'ed as she also considered: "Though a moon sized pony would be hard to top."
"I know, right?" Green eyes darted over to find her. "What about you? You have a favorite?"
"I have lots of favorites!"
Twilight pointed up at the twinkling sky. "Orion! Probably my favorite of favorites. It has a nice hourglass shape and it's so mysterious! Nopony knows what an 'Orion' is, except that it's some kind of mythological hunter or predator. Starswirl speculated that Orion was a spirit, though, and not based on a real animal."
"Then, how could I forget? Pisces is another great one! It's so long and complex, curving down and then off to the side." She traced the constellation in the sky for him, adding a bit of magic to make it easier to see. "Pisces actually used to be called The Tail among earth ponies, since to them, it looked more like a pony's tail than a fish. Of course, almost all the treatises on stars were compiled and written by unicorns, so we all use the unicorn naming conventions... but isn't that interesting? How many other stars could have different names if things in the past had changed?"
"And, well, there's Pegasus..." she said, pointing just above the head of Pisces.
"Probably the coolest constellation," the stallion joked, spreading his wings beneath him. He reached up to right next to her hoof, drawing the rearing front legs of the horse, the head and the wing.
"And next to it," he continued, pointing twice. "Equuleus. The foal. Though they never taught us what kind of foal."
"She's next to Pegasus, so she's probably another pegasus."
"She's a she, now?"
Twilight laughed lightly, playfully batting away his hoof.
"I'm actually a little surprised," she admitted, lying back a little. "You knew what I was talking about."
"Some of it," the stallion replied. "Not the history stuff, though, but I learned some things about the night sky. I used to do a lot of distance flying."
"Endurance flying? You know?" He saw she didn't and explained, "I guess there's nothing fancy to it. It's just another kind of racing, but instead of going fast, you have to go far. Sometimes you fly for days, so you have to navigate by the stars. I did a lot of scouting in the air force, too, and it comes in handy."
"A star and the horizon gives you altitude," he continued, gesturing up in the sky and then down at the distant curve of the planet below. "The tail of Ursa Minor up there, the Guiding Star, helps you find your degrees from the equator. With a little dead reckoning, even without calculating azimuth, a pegasus can get a good idea for where he is."
"Though... I'm actually not that great at it. I know ponies who have that kind of thing for a cutie mark. They're really good." He shook his head, not bothered by the comparison. "I just like the night sky because... I guess, when you're just out there flying by yourself, it's like you aren't totally alone." He grinned broadly and childishly. "Just mostly alone, I guess!"
Twilight nodded. "I can understand that."
She didn't want to admit it or say it out loud, but even with Spike around, back before coming to Ponyville it had sometimes felt like she was alone in her apprentice's study. Most of the time she didn't think about it; she was happy with her books, her projects for the Princess, and her number one assistant. Other times, rarely, she had turned to the stars for a little company. Even though this pegasus had admitted to doing the same, Twilight still didn't quite feel comfortable saying she had been in the same boat.
"What were we talking about before, anyway?" he asked.
"Oh yeah!" He inhaled deeply, staring up at the night sky. "Good times. I'm not bad in a short race either, and my acrobatics are pretty good, I think... but it was my endurance that earned me my spot. Riding a thermal and just going with it."
"What do you mean, earned you your spot?" Twilight made a playful production of checking him over. "I don't see any spots."
"I'm kinda on vacation to get away from all that," the stallion admitted, considering his options for a few seconds before making a decision. Holding out his hoof, he smiled at her. "I'm Soarin."
"Nice to meet you, Soarin!" Twilight shook his hoof. "So, uh, what's this spot and this vacation stuff?"
"How about we talk about it over pie?"
- - -
(2) The Shy
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