The sun was well over the horizon when Rainbow Dash finally woke.
At first, she didn't know where she was. The bright blue walls were decorated with elegant geometric designs. Some pony had painted a mural of treble clefs and musical staffs filled with notes all along the ceiling. The bed was... well, 'poofy' was the only word she could bring to mind to describe it. No less than a dozen colorful pillows vied for space at its head, and a fluffy matching down comforter covered the rest. It looked like a room Rarity would sleep in.
Not Rarity, she amended. Sweetie Belle. Memories of the previous night slowly came back as she lolled about on the bed. She remembered the party, and dancing, and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.
There was no rush to get up, so she snuggled back into the comforter. This is really soft. Can you buy them like this?How much would that cost? She mulled over the question absently as she drifted between sleeping and waking. How much time passed in that state of blissful semi-consciousness, she could not have said.
Alas, it did not last forever. The door opened softly and a disheveled Sweetie Belle poked her head in. “Hey sis, are you—whoa! Uh, sorry, sorry.” The head vanished, and the door clicked shut behind her.
Huh. Dash blinked at the door, then yawned and made a face. She needed to brush her teeth and get washed up, preferably in that order. Her tongue tasted like something had died on it.
A few minutes in the washroom got the worst of the taste out of her mouth. She considered her mane in the mirror – it looked like a bird's nest that had somehow survived a paint factory explosion. Not up to regs, Soarin would have said. She scowled at her reflection and ran her hoof under the water, then lightly patted at her mane.
There. She gave her head a shake that splattered the mirror with droplets of water. Perfect.
Sweetie Belle and Rarity were already having breakfast when Dash made her way down the stairs. Rarity managed to look perfect, as though she hadn't spent half the night at a party and the other half passed out. Not a hair in her mane was out of place, her coat wasn't matted on one side like Dash's, and even her makeup was flawless. They had a third place set at the table, and Dash slipped into the seat. Hey, waffles! Nice.
“Good morning, Rainbow Dash!” Sweetie said. She had a huge grin on her face for some reason. “It's great to see you back in Ponyville. And already enjoying my sister's hospitality!”
“Uh, yeah, it's great to be back.” Dash said. Rarity was giving her sister a flat look, and her lips were pursed in that expression she got when something was annoying her but she was too polite to say anything about it but wanted you to know she was irritated anyway so really she wasn't being very polite at all. Dash glanced between the unicorns, wondering what she was missing.
“Rarity was just telling me that she gave you my old room, and she slept downstairs on the couch.” Sweetie Belle paused to take a bite of her waffle and a long sip from her orange juice. “Allegedly,” she added under her breath, giving Rarity a smug look.
“Dash, would you please inform my sister,” the word veritably dripped with acid, “that after we returned from the party, I showed you to your room, and then we parted ways for the evening?”
“Uh... yeah?” Dash couldn't keep the confusion out of her voice. “Wait, you slept on the couch? I thought you had another room.”
“Well, I couldn't let a guest sleep on the couch.” Rarity looked shocked at the notion. Across the table, Sweetie Belle's smug grin faded into a disappointed pout.
That seemed odd to Dash. She made guests sleep on the couch all the time, whenever various Wonder Bolts needed a place to crash. That's what couches were for. She was about to say so when Rarity spoke again.
“Oh, and did you ever find your friend, Sweetie?” Rarity leaned forward over the table. She had a small, dangerous smile on her face. “I was so looking forward to meeting him, too.”
Sweetie Belle blushed, her face turning a brilliant pink that only white-coated ponies could manage. “Oh, uh... well it was very crowded and we weren't able to find you again, and then... hey, let me get those.” Her horn glowed as she stood, and the used plates and empty cups littering the table zipped into the air and followed her as she retreated into the kitchen.
Dash stared after her for a moment. “So, uh, is everything alright between you two?” she asked Rarity.
“Hm?” Rarity seemed surprised at the question. “Oh, of course. I forget, you never had a sister, did you? We needle each other from time to time. It's all in good fun.” She took a sip from her drink. “Except when it's meddling!” she suddenly yelled in the direction of the kitchen. There was a crash, as of a cup being dropped in the sink.
“Er, right,” Dash said. “I don't wanna cause any problems.”
“Oh, darling. Of course you aren't.” Rarity set a hoof on Dash's foreleg. “Believe me, Sweetie is thrilled to see you here. We all are.”
Dash smiled at her. It had been a while since anypony had said that to her. “Hey, thanks.” She fiddled with her drink as she considered her next words. “So, do you have any plans for today? Maybe we could, like, hang out?”
A silence stretched out between them. Rarity blinked, looking like Dash had just proposed to her or something equally absurd. A slithery nervousness twisted Dash's guts, and she was about to open her mouth to rescind the question when Rarity spoke.
“Why Dash, that would be marvelous.” A smile slowly overtook her lips. “In fact, I have just the thing for us.”
Well, that was only slightly foreboding. Nevertheless, Dash stood with Rarity, and together they walked toward the door.
“Oh, Rarity?” she asked.
“What does 'allegedly' mean?”
Rarity's plan for the first part of their day began – and ended – just a few blocks from the Carousel Studio. By the time they reached their destination, Rarity was practically bouncing. Dash groaned.
“Rarity, this is a spa.”
“No, Dash, it's not just a spa. It is one of the best spas.” Rarity's face lit up as she described the Lotus Luxury Spa. “Even in Fillydelphia, there are only a few establishments that pamper as well as this!”
“You know I don't like spas.”
“Again, wrong. You think you don't like spas.” Rarity held open the door with her magic, and they trotted into the foyer. The gentle sound of water trickling over stones filled the air, and some subtle scent teased at Dash's nose. Sandalwood, perhaps? “But today you will learn how wonderful they are.”
“You mean how boring they are.”
“Boring!” Dash blew her bangs out of her eyes again. The damn things kept getting in the way. “Besides, I don't like ponies touching my hooves.”
Rarity rolled her eyes. It seemed like a practiced gesture with her. “No pony has to touch your hooves if you don't want, Dash. In fact, we don't have to do this. We can do something else if you'd like.”
Suddenly, the unease was back. “But... you want to do this, don't you?” she asked.
Rarity gave her a small nod. “Yes. And I think you'll enjoy it if you give it a chance.”
What else do you have to do? Dash's days lately were filled with lots of nothing much. Wake up in the morning, watch the Bolts practice, travel with them to their shows, sign autographs. Make up an excuse for the fans who wondered why she hadn't performed. Crash in some upscale hotel. Repeat. And now that the season was over, she didn't even have that. No wonder they'd begged her to travel. “It'll be good for you. Help you move on.”
Yeah, fat chance. She let out a slow breath and looked back at Rarity and her hopeful expression.
“Okay, I'll try it. But no frou-frou stuff!”
The look on Rarity's face alone was worth the trouble this would be. Even if they did touch her hooves.
“You won't regret this, darling.” Rarity gave her a quick nuzzle, then turned to the counter, which was currently unoccupied. She reached out with a hoof and tapped a tiny silver bell, filling the room with a loud, clear ring.
“Coming!” an exotic accent called to them. Sure enough, a moment later the curtain behind the counter parted, and a gorgeous cyan earth pony with a shell pink mane stepped out. She gasped when she saw her customers. “Miss Rarity! Welcome! Eet has been so long!”
Rarity bounced forward, leaning over the counter to exchange a nuzzle with the mare. “Hello, Lotus! I know, I know! Oh, is Aloe here?”
“Oui, oui. You are lucky, we have just opened for the day. Would you and Miss... Dash, is eet? Would you like to be our guests?”
“You have read our minds, darling. We'll take the works!”
“So, uh, what's the works?”
Rarity's ears perked up at Dash's question. It was the first sound either had made in several minutes, since being escorted into the baths where they were currently simmering. Dash had to admit that the bath, at least, was welcome – her matted coat was now evenly soaked in the hot water, and she could imagine her muscles slowly melting as the heat leached into her body. Her mane was plastered in colorful strings to her head and neck, reminding her just how long she'd allowed it to grow out. Maybe they could fix that here.
“Well, it starts with a nice long soak in the hot tub, as you've probably guessed,” Rarity said. She scooted along the side of the tub until her body was next to Dash's. “Then we'll get a quick splash of cold water to cool us off.”
“That doesn't sound very nice,” Dash said. Rarity's mane was spread out like a fan atop the water, close enough that the silken strands brushed up against Dash's coat. Even waterlogged, she looked beautiful.
“Well, truthfully, it isn't,” Rarity admitted. “But it's very bracing. Trust me, after enough time in this tub, you'll welcome it.”
“Mhm.” Dash doubted that, but whatever. “What next?”
“Then comes the massage, and I suggest you start with light pressure, dear. Much more pleasant.”
“Light pressure, got it.”
“Oh, and then there's the horn filing,” Rarity continued. “Twilight and I used to get that at least once a month. Keeps it nice and smooth, just the way the colts like it.” She giggled and ducked her snout under the water for a few heartbeats.
“Er...” Dash looked up, cross-eyed, at where her horn would be. “Okay. Let's pretend I'm not a unicorn, though.”
She felt a hoof jab her beneath the water. “Yes, yes. Fluttershy usually gets a preening and oiling. You'll probably want that. Finally, there's a hooficure, which you may skip if you so choose.”
And she would so choose, she was pretty sure. The rest didn't sound all that bad, though. “So, what now?”
“Now?” Rarity chuckled and settled back against the edge of the tub. She leaned to the side, just enough to press ever so lightly against Dash's shoulder. “We enjoy each other's company, and soak.”
Easy enough. Dash closed her eyes and rested the back of her head on the tile rim behind her. The warm water seemed to penetrate every sore muscle and tendon, every pore and every bone. The heat seeped in, and slowly, slowly, her cares leaked out. Rarity's soft presence against her side was like a living pillow, soft as any cloud. She worried, absently, that Rarity might not find her as soft.
She lost track of the time as they soaked in the tub. The drip-drip of water echoing in the steamy room and the slow cycle of breath next to her were the only markers of the passing seconds, and eventually they lulled her mind away.
She woke with a start when the door opened, as much from the sound as the rush of cold air that followed it. The steam blew away, and she saw Rarity blinking her eyes beside her.
“Are you ready, Miss Rarity?” Aloe asked. She trotted to the tub with a pair of bathrobes draped over her back.
“Mm, I do believe I am.” Rarity stretched and climbed out of the tub. “I'm starting to get positively pruney, in fact.” Her mane hung across her face like a curtain, framing her huge cyan eyes. She shivered into the offered bathrobe, then gave Dash a glance. “Coming, darling?”
“Er, sorry, yeah.” Dash hopped out of the tub and resisted the urge to shake like a dog. Her wings felt like a pair of huge, sodden mats against her back; the preening and oiling couldn't come too soon. She accepted the bathrobe and struggled into it with significantly less grace than Rarity.
Once Dash was properly clothed, Rarity and Aloe trotted a few steps away to another, smaller tub. Rarity promptly shrugged the bathrobe off, gave it back to Aloe, and jumped into the tub with a loud “Whoop!”
Dash blinked at the spectacle. She wasn't sure which was more amazing: that Rarity would deliberately jump into a pool of frigid water, or that she bothered to wear a bathrobe for the five-step journey to the other tub.
“Your turn, d-dear!” Rarity called. She had climbed out of the cold water and was wriggling back into the bathrobe. And wasn't that a sight.
“Um, can't I skip this part?” Dash asked. That water looked very cold.
“Oh, I suppose you can. I won't judge you for it, and I promise I won't tell the girls you were too... hm, what's the word... ah, prissy. Too prissy.”
So it was like that. Dash narrowed her eyes and shucked the bathrobe off. Prissy my ass! She dipped a hoof in the water, and immediately yanked it out. Cold! “Eee!”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “It's best if you just jump in, darling.” A pause. “Prissy,” she added under her breath.
“Eet is not zat cold, Miss Dash,” Aloe added unhelpfully.
Dash huffed. Clearly there was no avoiding the pool with her ego intact. “Fine. If my heart stops, I'm haunting you, though.” With that she took a breath and jumped in.
She was wrong about the water. It wasn't cold. It was numbing. It was flying through a blizzard at twenty-thousand feet and feeling the ice accumulate in your feathers. It was crashing in the snow on a dark winter night with only the callous moon for company. There should have been a thick layer of ice on the tub. She gasped in shock and clawed her way out as fast as her hooves could carry her.
“Oh, seriously.” Rarity rolled her eyes. “It only feels cold because you were in the hot tub for so long. It's the same temperature as the Ponyville pond.”
That was a lie, Dash was sure. Somehow they had enchanted the water not to freeze. She pulled on the bathrobe and danced in place. “Okay, s-so, what next?”
“Next? Oh, the best part is next. Come along.” Rarity gave her a bump with her flank, and they followed Aloe out of the soaking room.
Next was the best part. Or, at least, it was better than the baths. Not that the baths were bad.
But this... yeah, this was bliss.
Rainbow Dash exhaled quietly as a pair of firm hooves pressed down on her back, forcing the air from her lungs. Right there, right between her wing joints, that was the best thing ever. The hooves pressed again, shimmying along the tight muscles that powered her flight, and a tiny moan escaped her mouth.
“Enjoying yourself, darling?” Rarity asked. She was prone on another mat just feet away from Dash, her white coat glistening in the dim light as one of the spa ponies – Aloe, maybe? She could never tell – worked a generous slathering of oil all across her body. Her mane was pulled to the side, revealing the long arc of her neck. Half-open eyes sparkling with humor matched the tiny smile on her mouth.
“Uh...” Dash had planned for a longer, more eloquent answer, but Lotus chose that moment to run the edges of her hooves down either side of her spine. The pressure teetered on the brink of pain, but her muscles rejoiced at the touch. Relief she hadn't known was possible washed over her like a wave, leaving a pleasant, warm buzz in her mind. It was like being drunk, but without any of the downsides.
“Uh?” Rarity's smile grew. “Can you be more specific, dear?”
“Um... s'good,” Dash managed. “How about... oh wow, that's good... uh, how about you?”
“Mmm, it makes me wish I'd come back to Ponyville more often.” A few seconds after speaking, Rarity's entire body gave a small jerk, and her eyes shot open. Aloe's hooves stopped moving.
“Oh, Miss Rarity, I am so sorry,” she said. “Was zat too hard?”
Rarity settled down almost immediately, but her eyes stayed open and alarmed for some reason Dash could not fathom. “Oh, no Aloe, of course not. I was just... thinking about something.”
Huh. Dash watched as Aloe resumed her expert massage. The hooves running along her own back were momentarily forgotten. Odd. Wonder what that was about. She might have pursued that thought further, but at that moment Lotus gently stretched her right wing out to its full extension, and pressed her hooves into knot of muscle just beneath the joint. Oh Celestia! She's not even a pegasus! How does she know to do that?
“Careful Lotus,” she heard Rarity say. “It's her first time.” The spa ponies laughed along with Rarity.
And now Lotus was twisting her hoof, grinding it into the muscle. That was unfair. Dash held her breath as the pressure grew and grew until it was just on the near side of pain, then exhaled shakily as Lotus relented and gently folded her wing back to her side. She only had a moment to catch her breath before it was the left wing's turn.
“So, Dash.” Rarity was watching her again. Aloe straddled her rump, her forehooves slowly sliding up and down the unicorn's back. Thin runnels of oil painted shining streaks down her side. “I meant to ask last night at the party. Is there anypony special in your life?”
Are you dating yet, Dash mentally translated. She swallowed before answering. “Uh, you know, things have been busy with the team. And, well, it just feels kinda soon.”
Rarity gave a tiny nod. “I understand, dear. You should take all the time you need.”
They were quiet for a while. The only sound was their breathing, and the barely audible rustle of hooves sliding over oiled coats. Dash sank deeper and deeper into the mat, almost as if she were melting.
“But,” Rarity said, “it's not good to go without companionship for too long. Mares have needs.”
Oh, we're talking about that. Dash felt herself starting to blush, and glanced back at the spa ponies. They seemed entirely absorbed in their work.
“Don't worry, dear,” Rarity said. “Aloe and Lotus are the souls of discretion. You need never fear that anything we say will go beyond this room.” Both ponies nodded, their eyes wide and earnest.
“Oui, please, pretend we are not here,” Lotus whispered in her ear. “Just enjoy ze massage.”
The second part Dash could do. The first was a bit harder. She swallowed again and took some time to collect her thoughts. Above her, Lotus pressed her hooves into Dash's withers, gently kneading the stiff muscle until all the tightness and tension were wrung out.
“Well, uh...” The blush was coming back. She powered ahead regardless. “There are other ways to... get... that... you know. That thing you said.”
Rarity tittered. “Oh Dash, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you. Forget I asked.”
“I'm not embarrassed!” It was a lie, and she was terrible at lying. Her face felt like it might catch on fire.
“Of course you aren't.” Rarity, apparently, could lie very well. Still, she didn't press the issue, and they were quiet again as the massage continued.
Lotus's hooves slowly worked their way up the side of Dash's neck, rubbing the flesh in little circles. They traced along her jaw and temples, and then they were on her scalp, tugging it this way and that.
“Miss Dash, your mane is so beautiful,” Lotus said. Her breath tickled at Dash's ear. “You should do more with eet.”
“Mm, I've told her that a million times,” Rarity said. Her head was turned away from Dash as Aloe worked on her neck. “Never listens, though.”
“I listen,” Dash said. I just don't care.
After some indeterminate amount of time, Lotus worked her way back to Dash's wings. Her hooves pressed into the long muscles along her spine, starting just above her hips and sliding all the way up to her neck. A moan, long suppressed, threatened to escape from her throat again. The motion repeated a few times, and each time the hooves ventured lower and lower down her back until they pressed down firmly, just above her tail. It felt like her hips would crack from the pressure. It felt incredible. And then...
“Whoa!” She jerked, her wings flaring in alarm. The hooves pressing against her rump instantly pulled away.
“I am sorry, Miss Dash. Do you not like zat?”
Rarity had turned her head to stare. “Oh, darling, it's a full body massage. Trust me, it feels divine.”
“Yeah, but...” No pony had touched her there since... Come on, it doesn't matter. It's just a massage. She settled her wings back to her side and lay her head down on the mat. “Heh, sorry, just startled me.”
“Eet is no problem, Miss Dash. Just relax.” Lotus waited for her to settle back into onto the mat, then pressed the soles of her hooves flat onto her rump and leaned forward, letting all of her weight compress the thick muscles. She held the pressure for several long seconds, long enough for Dash to start to squirm. Just as it began to hurt, the hooves lifted, and the release itself was almost as blissful as those first gentle touches. Lotus slid her hooves down Dash's thighs and pressed again, using slightly less of her weight this time.
Okay, yeah. That's pretty good. She chanced a look over at Rarity, who appeared to be a bit further along in her massage. Aloe carefully rolled Rarity's ankles between her hooves, then began squeezing her way up Rarity's leg. Dash expected Aloe to stop about mid-thigh, but no, the hooves kept moving up and up, until... She blinked. For a moment, Aloe's hooves had been as high up Rarity's leg as physically possible. Dash stared, wide-eyed, as Aloe repeated the movement on Rarity's other leg.
Rarity caught her staring. A tiny smile quirked the edge of her lips. “Relax, Dash. We're all mares here.”
Yeah, but... These spa ponies definitely weren't shy. She'd barely processed that thought when she felt Lotus's hooves begin squeezing their way up either side of her leg.
Massages. Who knew?
The baths were relaxing. The massage was... well, confusing was probably the best word for that experience. Enjoyable, yes, even blissful, but certainly not the back-rub she'd expected from hearing the girls talk. Definitely something to try again.
“Please lie down, Miss Dash,” Aloe said. The spa ponies had swapped customers after the massage was complete, and now Lotus was laying out a series of files and picks on a tray next to Rarity. Aloe, Rainbow Dash was relieved to see, had only a small brush and a bottle of what looked like oil.
Their new room was brighter and spacious, with room for several ponies and their attendants, rather than the dim cozy confines of the massage room. Apparently this next part wouldn't require as much privacy. That too was a source of relief. She tucked her hooves under her as she settled onto the indicated pad.
“Preening, right? You know how to do that?” Dash asked. Preening was one of the most important hygienic rites for pegasi. Although most of their flying power came from innate magic rather than the flow of air over their wings, flight was impossible unless their feathers were assiduously cared for. “Unhappy as a pegasus with ruffled feathers,” as the saying went. On any given day, Dash would spend up to an hour doing nothing but preening. It was a soothing experience, often shared among close friends, family or lovers.
And, apparently, spa ponies.
“Of course, Miss Dash. Eet is very popular, especially ze oiling.” Aloe indicated the bottle with a hoof, then settled down in front of her, offset just a bit to face her wing. “Please, relax your wing?”
Right, just like with Soarin. Dash sighed quietly at the thought, but extended her wing out to the side as requested. Aloe scooted closer, until her shoulder brushed against Dash's, and she carefully ran a hoof over the wing's leading edge.
“Such strong wings,” she said. “You are a very good flyer, oui?”
“Er, heh. Yeah, you could say that.” Dash put on a grin. Across the room, Rarity suddenly glanced at her. The expression on her face was an inscrutable mixture of emotions, but Dash could swear she seemed surprised. Their eyes locked for a moment, and then both looked away.
Aloe gave her wing another stroke, then leaned down and gently tugged at the feathers with her lips. The tiny covert feathers were still waterlogged from the bath, and Aloe deftly sluiced away the water with subtle motions, careful not to use her teeth. She slowly worked her way down the edge of Dash's wing, then started work on the larger secondary feathers. These she gave a little tug, pulling them back into alignment with their neighbors. The disordered, frazzled mass of feathers slowly smoothed back into a sleek, airworthy foil.
It was incredibly relaxing, even more than the massage. Each little tug on her feathers stimulated the blood vessels in her wing and sent tiny impulses racing along her nerves. A heady buzz slowly filled her chest, and her body reacted instinctively, demanding she lean forward and begin preening her partner as well. She started to dip her head toward Aloe's shoulder...
Except, of course, her partner had no wings. Aloe noticed her sudden hesitation and chuckled. “Eet is okay, Miss Dash,” she whispered. “Every pegasus does zat. I think eet is cute.”
Yeah. Rainbow Dash – cute. She cleared her throat and looked away so Aloe wouldn't see her blush. Her eyes settled on Rarity, who was engaged in some quiet conversation with Lotus while the spa pony ran a thin rasp along the fluting in Rarity's horn. Rarity eventually noticed Dash's gaze and gave her a small smile.
Aloe shifted sides and began preening Dash's other wing, giving each feather such devoted attention that Dash was convinced she'd had a pegasus lover at some point. Where else could an earth pony have learned this? It felt so good! She was still working up the courage to ask, many minutes later, when Aloe backed away to retrieve the bottle of oil and the tiny brush.
Hm, how does this work? She craned her head around as Aloe trotted behind her and took a seat. She set the bottle down at her hooves, uncapped it, dipped the brush in and began carefully painting drops of oil on the shaft of each of Dash's primaries. When each had been similarly touched, Aloe used the brush to work the oil down the feather's length, leaving it glistening like a jewel. By the time Aloe finished, her entire wing sparkled like a waterfall in the sunlight.
“Oh my, that looks simply stunning,” Rarity said from beside her. Apparently she was finished with her horn filing. “It looks beautiful on Fluttershy, of course, but it's just, well... it's so unexpected on you. I hope that's not insulting.”
“Heh, nah.” She gave her wing an experimental flap, setting the towels fluttering. “Feels weird.”
“No, just different. I'll get used to it.” She folded her wing and waited patiently while Aloe finished the other. “How long does it last?”
“A few days,” Aloe said. She recapped the bottle and set it back on the tray with the brush. “Less if you fly everywhere.”
Rarity gave her a quick glance. Dash pretended not to notice.
“Right. So...” She looked around for a cash register. “How much does all this cost?”
Rarity, of course, had been scandalized. “So gauche,” she'd said – whatever that meant – and treated Dash to a lengthy sotto voce lecture on the proper etiquette for “remunerating” professional service providers. And then she paid for them both. Dash still wasn't sure how much it cost.
“...but anyway, darling, I hope you enjoyed that little visit,” Rarity finally concluded. Dash tuned in just in time to hear the implied question.
“You know, Rares, it wasn't so bad.” In fact, it had been wonderful, but it was far too soon to admit she was wrong. Maybe in a few days.
“Mm, well, I'm relieved you didn't suffer too much on my behalf,” Rarity said. She had a sly smile on her face.
They walked together through Ponyville. The streets were far more crowded now than when they had first ventured out, filled with ponies shopping and working and simply enjoying the day. More than a few stallions cast glances their way. Dash tried to tell herself it was Rarity they were looking at.
“So, uh, what now?”
“Now?” Rarity tilted her head. Her lush mane bobbed against her neck. “Let's see what Pinkie is doing.”
First Pinkie Pie, then Twilight Sparkle, and finally Applejack and Fluttershy. They visited all their friends that afternoon, sharing snacks or books or cider or hugs. Rarity's squeal of delight when she saw Fluttershy still echoed in Dash's ears. The unicorn had spent nearly twenty minutes sitting next to Fluttershy, her ear pressed against the pegasus's abdomen as she listened to the tiny foal growing inside. When they finally left that evening, all of their cheeks were streaked with tears of happiness.
Except Applejack's, anyway. She just rolled her eyes at “all that girly stuff.” But that was just how Applejack was, and why they loved her too.
By the time they returned to the Carousel, night had begun to fall, and the sky above was a deep amethyst speckled with a thousand tiny jewels. Shadowed blots of clouds slowly faded into the uniform darkness of the sky, pushed along by a wind that also carried the rustle of autumn leaves and the scent of drying hay. Beside her, Rarity gave a little shiver.
Dinner was waiting for them in the form of a freshly cooked vegetable casserole. Sweetie Belle exchanged a quick nuzzle with her sister, a hug with Dash, and then started setting out plates. After a whisper from Rarity, she added a second helping of the casserole to Dash's plate.
“So, how was your first day back?” Sweetie asked after the last bite of dinner had vanished from her plate. For some reason she had picked all the red peppers from her casserole and set them aside, uneaten, while she devoured the rest. Weird.
“Why, it was delightful! As wonderful as a day could be, darling,” Rarity said. “You won't believe what we did first, but Dash actually went to the spa with me! I know, isn't it amazing? I told you I'd get her in there someday, and believe me she actually enjoyed it. She didn't get a hooficure, alas, but as I always say, a mare has to take what she can get. Oh, it's been so long since I've enjoyed a good massage from the Lotus sisters. Yes, yes, the spas in Fillydelphia are quite adequate, I assure you, but there's something simply delightful about going to an establishment where you aren't just a customer, but a dear friend as well. And then! And then we went to visit the girls! I saw most of them yesterday at the party, of course, but we didn't have time to catch up on everything. It was just like old times, everypony was just like I remember... oh, but what am I saying? Fluttershy is pregnant! You knew that, of course, but this is the first time I've seen her. Oh, to think, our Fluttershy is going to be a mommy! Why, I'm getting teary again just thinking about it. She'll be just perfect, of course, I always knew she would be. She's the kindest of us, and she takes such good care of all the animals, and the Apple family has so much experience with foals... you know, sometimes I wonder what they put in the water out there. Every time I come back to visit it seems like some Apple mare or other is pregnant or nursing or there's another foal running around. Maybe it's the stallions? Hm, now isn't that a thought. But anyway, to answer your question, our day was simply delightful.” With that she drew silent, and took a tiny sip from her water.
Sweetie nodded along with Rarity's monologue. “I see. And Rainbow Dash, how was your day?”
“Eh, it was fine.”
“Fine is good.” Sweetie grinned at her answer.
Rarity shot a pout in Dash's direction. “Just fine, darling? Can't you say more than that?”
“Well...” Dash thought for a moment. “All that stuff Rarity said was cool, too.”
“Again, your eloquence stuns me,” Rarity deadpanned. “Let me help you with those, Sweetie.” She and her sister fussed over the dirty plates, each insisting the other allow them to clean up. Eventually they wrestled the china and silverware into the kitchen while Dash watched helplessly.
They spent the next few hours engaged in idle chit-chat in Rarity's old parlor, now redecorated with musical scores, trophies and medals from Sweetie Belle's budding career as a singer. She'd added several bookshelves as well – nowhere near as many as Twilight's library, of course, but nevertheless it was one of the largest private collections of books Dash had seen in Ponyville. She probably had more than Fluttershy.
Scanning the titles while the sisters talked, Dash realized she had a much more literate collection as well. Volumes of poetry, treatises and essays on musical theory, biographies of prominent musicians, all much higher-brow than Fluttershy's romance novels. She pulled a familiar book of poems from the shelf and trotted over to the couch with it in her mouth. From the sound of their discussion, Sweetie and Rarity were keeping themselves entertained.
For most of an hour she flipped through the book, nodding occasionally in time with the conversation or proffering answers to the few questions directed her way, while Sweetie and Rarity caught up on a year spent apart.
Eventually their was a pause in their conversation. Dash looked up to see Rarity and Sweetie looking at her. “Er, sorry. Say again?”
“I said, did you find a Daring Do novel over there?” The ghost of a smile played on her lips.
“Oh, heh, Daring Do...” Dash thought back for a moment to the happy memory of those books. “You know, I haven't read one of those books in years. I dunno if they even still write them.”
“Mm, what's that, then?” Rarity seemed genuinely curious now. She tilted her head at the book cradled in Dash's forelegs.
“Just some poems.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. Sweetie Belle glanced over at the bookshelf Dash had retrieved the collection from, a thoughtful look on her face.
“I didn't know you enjoyed such... cultured pastimes,” Rarity said.
Dash was slow to answer. She ran a hoof over the page. “Soarin' was really into poetry,” she eventually said. “He used to take all kinds of crap for it from the other Bolts, but it never seemed to bother him. Said that poetry was truth, that it could 'express things for which mere words would always find themselves shallow and lacking.'” She looked down at the book and began to read.
“Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hoof and touched the face of God.”
When Dash looked up, both Sweetie Belle and Rarity were staring at her, as if they were seeing an entirely new mare. She fidgeted with her hooves. “What?”
“Sorry, that's just... well, very unexpected,” Rarity said. “You've changed since we left Ponyville. Grown up, if you don't mind my saying.”
She shrugged. “We all have, Rares. That's just life.” She closed the book and walked it back to the bookshelf, putting it back in the hole left by its removal. Wow, what a depressing thought. Way to kill the mood.
The mood wasn't, in fact, killed, but she'd certainly brought the conversation to a close. When she turned back to the room, Sweetie had climbed to her hooves and was yawning.
“Sorry girls,” she said. “Unlike you, I've got to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow. Don't fight over the couch.” She added the last with a smirk and turned toward the stairs.
“Of course not,” Rarity said. “I shall take the couch. Dash, you sleep upstairs.”
What? No. “I'll take the couch. You slept on it last night.”
“It's my house, darling, and you're the guest. I insist you sleep in the bed.”
“Actually, it's my house,” Sweetie called from the stairs. “But I'd let her take the couch, Dash. She won't stop bothering you otherwise.”
Well, fine. Too generous for her own good, sometimes.
Rarity smirked at her, then trotted over and nudged her toward the stairs. She glanced up at Sweetie's retreating form, then leaned over and whispered, “Don't go to bed just yet. I'll be right up.”
Dash raised an eyebrow, but only got another bump on the flank for her trouble. She shrugged and trotted upstairs, feeling her way by memory through the dark hallway to Sweetie Belle's old room. The streetlights outside cast orange squares on the walls, and made it easy for her to find the bed. She settled onto the covers, her legs tucked under her, and waited.
Less than a minute passed before a gentle knock sounded from the door, and Rarity poked her head in. She saw Dash on the bed, then entered and closed the door behind her. Her horn was glowing with enough light to scatter faint shadows across the room, and a pair of empty glasses floated beside her.
“Hello again, darling. One moment, I know it's in one of these bags...” Rarity opened up one of her suitcases, all of which were still stacked in the room. After a bit of digging she made a delighted “aha!” and trotted over to the bed, followed now by two empty glasses and a tall clear bottle.
Whoa. “Is that what I think it is?” Dash squinted in the darkness at the label.
Rarity tittered. “It is! Grey Pegasus. I'd have opened it downstairs, but Sweetie's a bit too young for this, even if she thinks she's a full grown mare.” She popped the cap off the vodka, then poured a shot for each of them. Her horn glowed brighter for a moment, and an icy blue light surrounded the glasses.
“There. Let it sit for a moment while it chills.” She resealed the bottle and set it by her side, then climbed up on the bed next to Dash. Their sides brushed together, just like in the bath.
“Heh, thanks.” Dash snagged the drink with her hooves and blew on it. A faint tracing of frost built up on the glass where her breath touched it. “Shall we toast?”
“We shall.” Rarity held up her glass. “To dear friends, now and forever?”
Sure, why not. Dash clinked her glass against Rarity's. “To dear friends, now and forever,” she repeated, then tossed back the shot.
Good stuff, Grey Pegasus. She squinted her eyes as the freezing liquid burned its way down her throat, and let out a shaky breath. Beside her, Rarity underwent a similar set of convulsions.
“Oh my, that's stronger than I remember.” She gave another little shake, her coat rubbing against Dash's as she did. “Another?”
Of course. Dash grinned and held her glass out. Rarity topped her off and did that magic-cooling thing, and they clinked their drinks together again. Rather than shooting them back, they sipped at the vodka this time. It was so cold it barely had any taste unless she held it in her mouth until it began to burn. Within minutes she felt the start of a pleasant buzz behind her eyes. Damn, this is strong.
Rarity seemed to be in about the same place. The haughty tilt she normally carried in her head and neck was gone, and in the darkness she looked like a normal – albeit beautiful – mare. She casually sipped at her drink, closing her eyes with each swallow.
“I'm sorry if I offended you earlier, dear,” Rarity said, once their glasses were empty. Without asking she popped the bottle and refilled them both. “About the poems. I didn't mean to imply you weren't literate.”
“Oh, heh. No worries.” Dash couldn't help the grin on her face. It was just like Rarity to worry about something like that. “I never would've thought I'd be into that kinda stuff, back when we lived here.”
They were quiet again as they sipped at their drinks. The alcohol was starting to make her a bit giddy, and she felt herself relaxing, just as she had in the baths that morning. Rarity made a pleased sound and leaned more of her weight against her.
“Poetry was one of the things that made Soarin so great,” she continued. “He was... well, he was incredible.” She swirled the remains of her drink in the glass.
Rarity didn't answer her for some time. Outside, the streetlight finally went out, and the room was plunged into darkness, broken only by the faint glow of Rarity's horn. “He seemed like a wonderful stallion. I'm... I'm sorry I didn't get to know him more.”
“He'd have liked you,” Dash said. She felt her eyes starting to water, and forced the tears back. I will not cry. I will not cry. I am a Wonder Bolt. I will not cry.
“I'm sure.” Rarity gave a quiet sniffle, and took the final sip from her drink. She set the empty glass and the half-full bottle aside. “We were so happy for you. We never... well, I never thought you'd be the first of us to find somepony.”
Yeah, you and me both. Dash downed the last of the vodka, relishing the way it burned. Rarity took it without asking and set it by the others.
“I don't know if anypony told you,” Rarity continued. Her voice had lost its usual society lilt, and was more of a murmur than Dash had ever heard from her. “But afterward, Twilight wanted to ask you to come back and live here for a while. Maybe with her, maybe with Applejack... any of us would have been glad to let you in.”
That was news. Dash blinked a few times and considered the unicorn resting against her side. “Why didn't she?”
There was a pause before she answered. “You were... well, we spoke with Spitfire first. She said it'd be best if you stayed with the Bolts. They'd take care of you, she said.”
And they had. The Bolts had done everything to help her get through the roughest parts. They canceled shows for her. “They did.” She paused to clear her throat. “But I'm glad you wanted to help. I really am.”
Rarity was crying now. Dash couldn't see the tears in the darkness, but the sound was unmistakable. “I just... I just thought you should know.”
I will not cry. I will not cry. I am a Wonder Bolt. I will not cry.
The silence returned, and Dash thought she might have fallen asleep. Her own eyes closed, and she started to drift off as well. The slow-breathing weight by her side was a warm anchor against the night.
Not asleep after all. Dash yawned and struggled through the cotton in her mind to respond. “Hm?”
“Why... why haven't you been flying?”
Ah. “Ask me tomorrow, Rares.”
There was no answer. The darkness became complete, and she slept.
A pair of hooves clamped over her eyes. “Guess who?” Soarin's voice said behind her.
Rainbow Dash chuckled. He never got tired of this joke. “Spitfire?”
“Hm, nope, more handsome. Try again!”
“Oh, definitely Cloud Fire, then.” Dash tried to turn around, but he had her in a pretty good grip. She could probably break free, but that would require escalating things to a level of controlled violence that wasn't appropriate just yet. Besides, she was still sleepy, and the bed was very comfortable.
The body wrapped around her scoffed. “What, him? You're kidding.”
“Oh no. He's definitely the most handsome stallion I know.” She grinned. “Such strong muscles, beautiful mane, and that body... oh, that body. Yeah, I'd do that.”
“Well, guess again anyway.”
“Aw. Can you pretend to be Cloud Fire, then? I'm stuck with some loser stallion.”
“You know, you're not helping my feelings of inadequacy here.” The hooves vanished, and she rolled over to come face-to-face with her lover. Soarin gave her a mock wounded look.
“Oh, you're saying you feel inadequate? Not quite performing up to standard?” She ran a hoof over his broad chest, enjoying the feel of firm muscle beneath his coat.
“Well, you have such demanding standards.” He gave her snout a lick. “Oh, and happy birthday.”
Aw, crap. She made a face. “Is it? How do you remember that stuff?”
“A miraculous invention known as a 'calendar.' If you're good, I'll show you how it works one day.”
“Uh huh. If I'm good.” She snuggled a bit closer, a wicked grin on her face, and pushed her hoof lower, down his tight belly and between his legs. He gave a little jerk as she found his balls and fondled them gently. Not too hard – he didn't like that. Something about “horrible pain that only a stallion can know,” as he'd put it after one of their wrestling matches came to an premature end. Her grin grew a bit wider.
“Yes, good. Good and kind,” he added. He breath was coming a bit faster, and she could feel the tension radiating from him.
“When have I ever been unkind?” she purred, then leaned forward for a kiss. Their tongues danced playfully together. His hoof began tracing its way along her side, and she felt his cock slowly emerging from its sheath. She gave his balls a little tug, just for fun, and pushed him onto his back. He didn't resist, and she rolled atop him, never breaking the kiss.
“Well, sometimes you're more kind than others,” he said when their kiss broke.
“Mhm. Well, let me know how I'm doing.” She gave his chin a little nip, then slowly worked her way down his body, placing tiny bites along his neck and shoulders and chest and belly, until her chin bumped against his cock, now fully aroused and demanding her attention.
And who was she to ignore such demands? She glanced up at his face for a moment, grinned, then placed a kiss on the head of his shaft. It jerked against her lips, as though excited to meet her. She nearly burst into laughter at the thought.
“What's so funny?” he asked. His voice sounded strained.
“Nothing,” she lied. Her tongue darted and licked at his head, drawing an arousing series of moans from him. Her tail twitched involuntarily as her own nethers began to grow hot. She opened her mouth and closed her lips around him, rubbing vigorously at his shaft with her tongue.
He seemed to enjoy that, if his gasps were any indication. His hooves ran through her mane, rubbed her ears and neck, and generally tried to distract her from the important business of suckling the tip of his cock. This lasted for a few minutes, as his squirming grew more intense and her crotch grew hotter and wetter.
“Mm?” She would have said more, but her mouth was preoccupied.
“If you don't... whoa... if you don't stop, you're going to make a mess.”
Hm. She didn't want to make a mess. Yet, anyway. With some reluctance she let his cock slip free. A thin tendril of saliva hung from her lips for a moment before breaking, and she gave him a pout.
“Too kind?” she asked.
“Something like that.” He pushed her off to the side, then rolled over on top of her. The movement wasn't as violent or sudden as some of their wrestling, and she went along willingly. As always, her heart screamed at her to fight him, to bite and kick and punch until she was back on top, but then his teeth found her neck for a tiny nip, and those feelings fled in the face of rapacious desire. The heat pouring from her groin seemed to double, and she could feel the moisture collecting between her lips.
And then he was biting her again, lower and lower. Her chest, her belly, her nipples. She wound her hooves in his mane and tried pushing his head lower, but he would not be rushed. He kissed the inside of her thigh, so close to that desperate spot but ignoring it still. He nuzzled her crotch, teasing her with his nose and chin. A free hoof found her tail and gave it a gentle tug, and her howl was loud enough to be heard several clouds over. Do it! Do it do it do it what are you waiting for do it!
He did. His tongue licked up the length of her slit, pressing with enough force to part her lips and rasp delightfully against her nub. She choked on her own breath as a spike of pleasure shot from her groin straight to her brain. Her entire body jerked, out of her control.
He licked her again. Again. His lips teased her labia, tugging them apart and exposing more of her wet flesh to his tongue. He tugged at her tail again, and at the same moment slid his tongue inside her. The twin sensations tore through her, and she shook with what she hoped would be merely the first climax of the day.
When she recovered her senses, he was above her again. His mouth pressed against hers, and she felt the head of his cock nestled between her lips. She felt him tense, and suddenly he was thrusting, penetrating her. Her lips parted to accept him eagerly, uncomplaining, and the sudden, massive, unrelenting presence inside her nearly sent her over the edge again.
Normally she would have bucked against him, meeting him thrust for thrust. But so soon after her own orgasm, there was little she could do but lie there as he pounded into her. He barely lasted a minute before his thrusts became hurried and uneven, and with a final cry that set her ears ringing spent himself inside her.
They lay there awhile, him atop her, panting. Sweat slowly dried on her coat. He turned his head to place his muzzle against her ear, and whispered—
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes. The weight against her side was not Soarin, of course, but for a moment she almost imagined he was back. Rarity mumbled something plaintive in her sleep and twitched. Apparently she was given to dreams as well.
It was some time before she slept.