Bow Hothoof might not be particularly gifted when it came to gardening, but he could tend to the weeds easily enough. Especially if it gave his wife a nice morning off.
He brushed a bead of sweat from his forehead with a grimy hoof and blew a tuft of rainbow mane out of his face. He could smell hot coffee, warm oats, and pancake batter. With maple syrup from Vanhoover, Bow thought with a tiny smile. My favorite.
Though he tried and tried to spoil his Windy Whistle, she always found a way to one-up him. Not that he could complain, of course. He’d married far above his level, as his friends at the weather factory so happily reminded him each and every day.
It was true enough. Bow Hothoof, the thick-skulled high school jock turned top manager of Cloudsdale’s weather factory, had married the perfect mare, his high school sweetheart, and they raised a wonderful daughter together.
Just the thought of his darling little filly brought a smile to his face. His little girl was a chip off the old block. She’d inherited his athletic talent, demeanor, and mane, but retained her mother’s beauty and wit. Not a day went by that he didn’t thank Celestia for gifting him with such a wonderful family—a mare who loved him, and a daughter who strived for the best and chased down her dreams.
Bow Hothoof, father of a Wonderbolt and national heroine. He sniffed. That filly must’ve gotten more from her mother than I give her credit for. Certainly didn’t get all that from me.
A clatter of glass shattering against hardwood floor made his ears stand up. Bow sat up straight, nearly clipping his ear on a bushel of roses that desperately needed trimming, and stood up. “Sweetheart?” he called, trotting toward the open kitchen window. He poked his head in, his brows knitted together in concern.
His lovely wife, Windy Whistle, sat stock still at her place at their small wooden table. The remnants of her favorite coffee mug lay in disarray on the floor, with a puddle of warm brown liquid slowly seeping over the floor. Her jaw hung open and worked wordlessly.
Confused, Bow placed his hooves on the windowsill and leaned further inside. “Sweetheart, what’s wrong? Did the Thunderheads trade Bolt Hurler to the Sentinels or something?” he joked.
“Come here and look at this,” Windy intoned, her eyes not leaving the page.
Huh? “Windy, what’s—”
Windy Whistle leaped from her chair and swooped over to the windowsill, grabbing him by the shoulders. “Get in here. Right now. And read.” She didn’t give him any time to react. With one quick jerk and a burst of power he’d not seen in years, she pulled Bow in through the window and dragged him over to the table. She snatched the newspaper, the cover page still facing up, and jammed it in his face. “Look at this!”
Bow blinked twice. Then he gently pushed her hoof back enough that he could see clearly. It took a few seconds for the sight to register before his jaw dropped.
There, on the front page of the Cloudsdale Chronicle, was a full spread picture of Twilight Sparkle, the newest and youngest Crown Princess of Equestria, sharing a tender kiss with another mare. Her purple wings wrapped around her in a loving embrace, a mare whose blue coat and rainbow mane was shared with her parents alone.
Above the image, the bold lettering seemed to leap off the page. “Wonderbolts’ Star Flyer and Crown Princess Engaged! Friends, Fellow ‘Bolts, Royal Family Announce Congratulations! Details on pages 1 - 4!”
Bow felt his hindquarters thump against the hardwood floor. “Our little girl …” he muttered. “Engaged? And she didn’t … to Princess Twilight?” He turned to Windy and gaped. “Have we even met—since when did our little Dashie like—”
“I don’t know!” Windy wailed. “I didn’t even know she was thinking of taking anypony, mare or stallion, on Hurricane’s Way! She never so much as sent a letter hinting that there was any sort of special somepony in her life!”
He flinched as though her words struck him physically. “You don’t think,” he said slowly, “that Dashie’s still mad at us about that day with Scootaloo and the Wonderbolts, do you?”
“I—I don’t know. She seemed happy with us afterward, but …” An uncertain whine built up in the back of her chest. Windy’s wings drooped along with her ears. “What if she kept it quiet so we wouldn’t embarrass her again?”
Another blow to the face. Bow stood, shaking his head. “Well, maybe at first. But I’m sure she didn’t mean to keep it hidden after all the progress we made,” he replied. He laid his wing across Windy’s shoulders and pulled her in close, silent comfort for his underwing. An act met with a weak smile as she pressed her cheek against his neck. Nuzzling into her mane, he whispered, “Our daughter loves us, sweetheart. She and her Wonderbolt friends put on a big show just to prove it.”
Windy gave a contented hum as she snuggled against his side. For a moment, the pair stayed quiet, happy to just stand together and offer support.
Then she mumbled, “I want to meet her. This princess our Dashie is dating.” Windy drew away so she could look Bow in the eye. “Can we go today?”
Bow’s grin nearly split his face. “For you, sweetheart, anything.”
“For Dashie and her new fiancée,” she corrected.
“Right. Let’s head over to Ponyville before she gets too busy.”
When little fillies and foals looked back on this day, there was only one word that would be used to describe it: capital-A awesome!
The mare in the mirror grinned back at her through cerise eyes. Her coat was brushed velvety smooth so sunlight highlighted her from every angle, caressing her rounded shoulders, sleek sides, and powerful hips, all the way down to the cutie mark emblazoned on her toned flanks. Not a lock of her rainbow mane was out of place.
Perfect. Styling wasn’t exactly her thing, nor would it ever be, but that didn’t mean Rainbow Dash couldn’t clean herself up for her mare! She had plans today! The biggest, best sort of plans, too! All of them led to one key goal:
Twilight Sparkle, her fiancée, her overwing, grinning that bright, goofy grin and fluffing her feathers like a filly after her first kiss, with a good touch of pink tinging those pretty purple cheeks, too.
Her mare happy like she deserved after a day planned just for her, a night to die for, and then …
Rainbow smiled. Paying Rarity back for hosting a sleepover for the Cutie Mark Crusaders and honorary dragon member would be well worth it if things progressed to the late evening portion of the festivities. And it was even better that Starlight knew a good hint when she mentioned taking a trip to go visit Sunburst or Trixie when they were out by the lake the other day.
Gotta give it to her, she’s new to this whole friendship thing, but Star’s good at catching the nod.
She cast one last glance at the mirror to double check her work, paying extra attention to her mane for any sign of even a single, solitary strand that might fall out of place. The green stripe, namely. That one was always so finicky if she did anything but her usual Rainblow Dry method after a good shower. But today called for looking gorgeous, not for an awesome cover page of Wonderbolts Weekly windswept look.
There was just something missing. Something she couldn’t quite put her hoof on. Rainbow pressed her tongue against her left cheek and tilted her head so she could watch her mane shift. Maybe not something missing from her usual look, but something she could change so Twilight would notice. Nothing too flashy—that might distract from her other gifts.
Something more … simplistic in its beauty, but notable for its flare, as Rarity might say. Rainbow furrowed her brows and made a note never to admit that her friend’s sense of style was rubbing off on her, or she would never escape Carousel Boutique.
Rainbow threw open one of the drawers and fished a sky blue mane tie out from its embrace with a long-forgotten coat brush. With a roguish grin, she took it in her teeth while she reached around to gather her silky-smooth mane into a neat ponytail, then quickly took the mane tie and set it in place. Hesitantly, she let her hooves fall away, her grin widening as she appraised her new style.
Oh, that hot little egghead is gonna flip when she gets a look at me when I show up on her doorstep! She let out a whoop, then dashed out of her bathroom andthrough her house so fast everything seemed a blur of fluffy clouds and Wonderbolt paraphernalia, snatched her saddlebags off the hook, and leaped off the edge of her porch, doing somersaults through the air.
Today was going to be the best day ever! Not counting the day they shared Hurricane’s Way, right up until the day one of them topped it. No special holidays, no birthdays, nothing but her plans to make that beautiful princess melt like hot butter in her hooves.
A strange sound floated to her on the wind. Her ears twitched twice. Rainbow came out of her last somersault with a confused frown etched upon her face. She turned northwest, where the sound came from, and furrowed her brows as she glared off into the endless blue sky.
“What in Equestria was that?” she muttered with a bemused chuckle. “Sounds like my dad the day I won my first race!”
The chuckle died in the back of her throat. Come to think of it, that did sound an awful lot like her dad. No way, Rainbow thought, shaking her head. “They’re way back in Cloudsdale. At home. There’s no way, or I’ll eat my flight suit.” It didn’t reassure her. With her parents, there was always that risk.
After all, they had shown up to a Wonderbolts practice on base because Scootaloo told them she’d made the team. Who was to say—no!
Rainbow shook herself again. “Get ahold of yourself, Dash!” she growled, thumping a hoof against her temple. “You’ve got things to pick up and an egghead to make swoon! Head in the game, mare!” Swooping back up to kick her front door shut and flick the lock, she took off toward Ponyville’s marketplace like a bolt from a Royal Guard’s crossbow.
Nothing and nopony could ruin this day for her. Not Wonderbolts emergencies, not weather team shenanigans, not Discord, and certainly not her parents!
She let out another whoop and kicked in an extra burst of speed. First stop: Ponyville Mail Depot.
Rainbow hit the dirt path leading up to the front door in an eager canter, idly clipping the dangling sign with a hoof and laughing at it squeaked in reply. She pushed the glass door open and waved at the dusty gray pegasus nibbling on a blueberry muffin behind the counter. “Hey, Muffins! How're the muffins?”
“Hi, Rainbow Dash!” Muffins called, one of her cheeks puffed out to hold the remnants of her sweet, fluffy morsel. Her golden eyes, the only thing that could match her sunny gold mane, crossed and uncrossed, but never quite matched up. “How’s it going?”
“Not too bad. Just out picking a few things up. Did my order come in?”
“I think so. Let me take a look!” Muffins swallowed her mouthful down, then hopped off her seat. Humming a little tune, she searched through the shelves behind the counter. “Rainbow Dash … Rain—no, that’s Raindrops. Ah! There it is!” Her ears perked up. She took the package in her mouth and turned around, placing on the counter with a smile. “One super secret, definitely-don’t-give-any-hint-to-Twilight-no-matter-how-many-muffins-she-might-offer-you-Muffins package from Canterlot for you, Rainbow Dash! Just need you to sign the form.”
Rainbow scrawled out her signature on the dotted line with but a passing glance, then let out a happy squeal as she took the package and slipped it into her saddlebag. “Twi’s gonna love this! Thanks, Muffins!” She took to the air with a pump of her wings and threw a jaunty salute. “Say hi to Dinky for me later!”
She took off out the door again, barely adjusting in time to avoid clipping Time Turner’s head with her hind hooves. After a quick apology over her shoulder, Rainbow banked left and shot off toward Berry Punch’s house and Ponyville’s market.
Two more stops left, then she was home free.
Rainbow trotted toward the crystal castle on the outskirts of Ponyville with a fluff in her feathers and a spring in her step, her saddlebags thumping merrily against her sides. A bright smile played upon her lips as she hummed the Wonderbolts’ anthem under her breath. Everything was in place, everything was perfect.
Apple cider, check. Flowers, check. She stole a glance under her wing to check on the bouquet of red roses to make sure they were in good condition. They were, just as Roseluck had cut them. Not a petal out of place or stem damaged. Special order package from Fantasia’s Fantasies in Canterlot, check. Twilight Sparkle, prepare to be wooed—no. Already engaged. Re-wooed. If that’s not a word, it needs to be. I’m making it a thing.
She spared a grin and a nod to Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth as they positioned a few clouds overhead to help cool things off. There wasn’t another shower scheduled until the weekend, but with the midsummer sun beating down on Canterhorn Valley, Ponyville would become a sauna without coverage.
Fortunately, the weather team had been left in capable hooves. Thunderlane might trip over his tongue whenever he tried flirting with the mares, but he could make things run smoothly for the little farming town. Almost as smoothly as Rainbow herself.
A shrill whistling, like a pegasus cutting through the wind at top speed, filled her ears. Rainbow’s grin faltered. She perked her ears to full height and swiveled them about in search of the source.
Her stomach felt as though a block of ice had been dropped into it. She knew that whistle. There were only a few pegasi who could fly fast enough to cut through the wind like that, most of them were on the Wonderbolts. The others …
She knew that whistle all too well.
Rainbow turned just in time to avoid her parents’ patented flying double hug, her wings flared out in defense.
“Dashie!” Windy Whistle cried as she skidded to a halt, kicking up a trail of dust. She and Bow made to leap forward, their hooves outstretched, ready to catch Rainbow in their tight embrace.
She had mere seconds to react. Rainbow stumbled back onto her haunches, hastily throwing up her hooves to ward them off while she babbled, “I’m carrying flowers and glass bottles! I’m carrying flowers and glass! I’m carrying flowers and glass, don’t you dare tackle me!”
To her surprise, it was Bow who took the hint first. He threw his dark blue wing out just in the nick of time to intercept Windy before she pounced upon Rainbow, then tugged her in close and caught her under it in one motion. “Er, sorry, Dashie,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. “We didn’t realize …”
“That you were out running errands,” Windy finished, her ears drooping.
Rainbow winced. The memory of her temper sending them off in tears just a few short weeks prior gave her pause. They’d come all the way from Cloudsdale—granted, unannounced, but that was little reason to act unhappy to see them. Even if it meant putting her plans on hold for a moment or two.
She rose, gently dusting herself off and checking to make sure the roses beneath her wing were in good condition, then offered her parents a crooked smile before approaching and wrapping them in a hug. One they eagerly returned. “It’s all right. You guys just surprised me. Again.” Her brows furrowed, she drew back and tilted her head. “Speaking of, what are you two even doing here?”
“We came to visit you, of course!” Bow said, waggling his ears. His smile faltered a touch. “And to find out why you didn’t tell us about her.”
“Tell you about who?”
Windy produced a copy of the Cloudsdale Chronicle from her saddlebags and held up the front page, tapping a hoof against the cover image.
Rainbow felt her blood run cold. She’d forgotten all about that piece, that whole interview with all those papers. Oh, crud, I’m gonna hear about this forever!
“Why didn’t you tell us about Princess Twilight?” her mother asked, her voice tinged with a note of pain. “We had no idea you were engaged!”
“Or even dating,” Bow added. “Or even seeing a mare! Why didn’t you tell us, sweetie? This isn’t about that whole … the thing we did all those years, is it?”
Her head swam. Rainbow released them from her embrace and held a hoof to her forehead. A flurry of emotions arose in her chest, and a heavy weight settled right between her shoulder blades. There were two answers to that question. One of which would send them home in tears again.
Yes, at one point, that had been the case. She kept things quiet for that exact reason because she was afraid they might scare Twilight off or make her think Rainbow to be some sort of loser who needed mommy and daddy to tell her how special she was in their eyes.
But things had changed. Certainly, there was a risk of them embarrassing her—oh, Celestia, was there ever—but it wasn’t worth hiding her engagement to Twilight. If only this could’ve come up any other day, she thought with a forlorn glance at the bouquet of roses.
No, there was a far simpler answer as to why she hadn’t brought it up since that private show. With a heavy sigh and an awkward rustle of her free wing, Rainbow hung her head and mumbled a few words under her breath.
Bow twitched his ears. “Speak up, Dashie, I can’t hear you.”
“I said it slipped my mind, okay!” she snapped, her muzzle alight with a rosy hue. Sighing heavily, Rainbow looked to each of her parents in turn and let her shoulders slump. “Look. Things have been hectic since joining the Wonderbolts, even between Twi and me. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about our engagement because I was busy trying to make things right with you guys and Scoots. So … yeah, I dropped the ball there. This story …” She gestured to the paper. “That wasn’t my idea. It was a stupid PR thing to get it all out of the way before some punk photographer caught us out in public. Not at all how I wanted you guys to find out.”
Her parents shared a look. Windy bit her bottom lip and rustled her wings, her ears drooping a tad before slowly standing up again. “Well,” she began, “I suppose … I can’t necessarily fault you for getting that mess out of the way.”
Score. Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief through her nose. One crisis averted. Now came part two of her “master” plan—if she came up with any more of these, she was going to have to demand Twilight give her an awesome cape with a high collar to display her brilliance with an added show of flapping awesomeness.
But next came the delicate part of her improvised master plan: how to convince her parents to come back another day, so she could adequately prepare. And so she could cash in on this night of re-wooing she already had in the works.
She fixed an easygoing smile on her face and trotted around them, unfurling her free wing to lay it across their backs and gently steer them along the path leading away from Twilight’s castle. “Yeah, so, now that we’ve got that settled. How about you guys head back to Cloudsdale and enjoy the weekend?” she asked. “We can organize a big get together some other time, like next month.”
“Aren’t you going on tour in two weeks?” Bow reminded with a frown.
Was she? Shoot, yes she was. “Er. Right, forgot. How about after the tour’s done?”
Bow put his hoof down hard and leveled her with a stern look, drawing a flinch. Rarely did he or Windy lay down the law when Rainbow was concerned, but when they did …
Rainbow gave a nervous laugh, withdrawing her wing. “I take it that’s a no.”
“Today,” he said.
“Right now,” Windy added, prodding her in the chest. “I had to find out that my little filly went and took some mare I don’t know on Hurricane’s Way through the papers, Dashie. You’re introducing her to us right this instant, or I’ll go home and get each and every one of your foal pictures and let her see them.”
“No!” Rainbow backpedaled several steps, her wings flared out. “Not the foal pictures! Please! Anything but that!”
“Then you take us to her right now, young mare! I’m not so old that I can’t take you over my knee!”
Caught between a tornado and a hurricane, Rainbow nodded, defeated, and gave her carefully crafted plans a kiss goodbye. She bowed her head, turning to gesture toward the castle, and guided them to the front door. “C’mon,” she grumped as she pushed the door open and stepped inside. “Let’s get this over with.”
The trio of pegasi walked through the crystal halls, each hoofstep echoing about in a way that always sent shivers down Rainbow’s spine. It was times like these that made her miss the old library. Both the constant echo and the awestruck look on her parents’ faces as they tried to take it all in at once made her feathers itch. Any hope that they might conveniently neglect the fact that she was engaged to royalty died a horrible death before her very eyes.
There would be plenty of questions. Plenty of questions, demands of stories, and prolonged explanations to fill the entire afternoon. Quite possibly the evening, if Rainbow knew right.
Re-wooing Twilight this evening was looking to be a lost cause indeed.
Looks like I’ll have to cash in some other time. Rainbow led them down the long hallway toward her study and knocked three times on the wooden door, waiting for permission to enter. One of the few things Twilight insisted upon during visits or stays.
After the first mishap with an experimental color change charm, Rainbow was quite happy to take the extra few seconds and spare herself another day’s worth of Applejack’s snark.
“Come in!” Twilight called, her voice muffled through the wood.
Rainbow pushed the door open and waved her parents inside, following close behind. She watched a moment while Twilight finished jotting down a few notes on whatever had caught her eye on her latest project, then turned from her round reading table to face them with a bright smile that faltered a touch when she noticed the presence of new ponies.
Blinking those big, purple eyes, she glanced at Rainbow. “Um … who are your friends, honey?” she asked.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rainbow noticed her father turning to mouth “Honey?” at her. She cringed. “Hey, Twi …” she began hesitantly. “Remember how you said you wanted to meet my parents? Well … meet Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistle. My parents.”
Of all the things Twilight had expected when she heard Rainbow’s familiar knocking pattern on her door, it hadn’t been this.
After a moment to collect her thoughts, she opted to have everypony adjourn to the sitting room. Her apparent future in-laws sat across from her on the opposite sofa. Bow Hothoof had his wing wrapped around Windy Whistle’s shoulders—the overwing to her underwing, Twilight realized. With a coy smile, she shot a sidelong look at Rainbow, delighting in the way her fiancée squirmed beneath her gaze. Then she unfurled a wing and fluffed her feathers, silent prompting for Rainbow to take her place beneath it.
Rainbow’s cheeks took on a dusty pink hue as she ducked her head to try and hide a smile. But she scooted over, leaning into Twilight’s side and laying her head upon her shoulder while Twilight wrapped her soft mulberry wing around her shoulders.
Windy Whistle brought a hoof to her mouth. “Dashie!” she gasped, a smile tugging at her lips. “You’re an underwing?”
“Y-Yeah,” Rainbow mumbled shyly. “I called for the challenge a bit after taking her on Hurricane’s Way. And … well …” She glanced at Twilight, the pinkish tinge in her cheeks spread throughout her face, all the way to the tips of her ears. “Twi pinned me.”
Her father gave a low whistle. “Impressive.” He looked at Twilight appraisingly. “I hope you don’t mind our intrusion, Princess. We saw our daughter splashed across the front page of the newspaper, announcing her engagement to a mare we didn’t know.” Bow had the decency to duck his head. “Not that we don’t think you’re a wonderful mare, of course. We’ve heard a little bit about our Dashie’s friends, but—”
“I understand entirely,” Twilight cut him off with a wave. “I’ve been pestering her to introduce me to you all for some time now.” Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Rainbow squirming again. Then she caught sight of the bouquet of roses and saddlebags placed on her opposite side. Saddlebags that looked suspiciously full, but covered.
Rainbow Dash was many things. Subtle wasn’t one of them. It took Twilight all of three seconds to connect the dots. Roses and hiding whatever’s in your saddlebags so I can’t peek into them. Somepony was trying to score points, it seemed. And to think Rarity accused Rainbow of being incapable of romance.
Logging the information away for later, Twilight returned her attention to Bow and Windy. “Well, Rainbow’s penchant for putting things off aside—”
“Hey, nothing. I asked you to introduce me to your parents ages ago. The day you took me up to Cloudsdale for Hurricane’s Way, in fact.” Twilight tightened her grip on Rainbow’s shoulders and nosed against her cheek, purring, “Let me have this.”
A low groan sounded from the back of Rainbow’s throat, but she didn’t argue further. She’d learned which battles to pick, and which to let go.
With her fiancée in check and her future in-laws sitting in her castle, Twilight found herself faced with something she’d long been waiting for: the opportunity to meet the ponies who raised Rainbow. Oh, of course, there was Piazzo and his family, a lovely bunch to be true, who had served as surrogate parents. Similar to how Celestia served almost as a second mother for Twilight.
But they weren’t her mom and dad. Nopony could take that bond away, or even hope to imitate it.
An opportunity that she had waited ages for. Really, there was only one way to proceed. Even if it meant putting off her little reward for Rainbow’s thoughtfulness a little longer.
With a smile as bright as the morning sun, she asked, “Would you like to join us for dinner?”
Bow and Windy fluffed their feathers as eager smiles spread across their faces, a stark contrast to the defeated sigh and barely audible “why me?”
“We’d be happy to, Princess,” Bow replied.
“Please,” she said, “there’s no need for formalities. Just call me Twilight.”
Twilight’s horn was alight. She hummed a foalhood song under her breath as she manipulated several tendrils of magic at once, guiding spices from the rack to be sprinkled into the steaming pot of leek soup, pushing a wooden spoon in a slow, lazy circle while she tipped the sizzling stir fry vegetables into a serving bowl.
Why there was so much talk around town that she couldn’t cook, she would simply never understand. It was most likely because Spike did so much of it that other ponies just assumed she lacked the talent or time to prepare a meal for herself.
They weren’t entirely wrong about the latter. But who exactly did they think cooked when he was sick? Or when his birthday came around?
Windy Whistle insisted on helping though and had even prodded Rainbow to set the table. “Honestly, Dashie!” she hissed. “Don’t make your fiancée do all the work!”
“Mom! I don’t!” Rainbow complained as she fumbled a hoof-full of silverware. “Half the time, she just magics it up while I’m in the middle of doing it!”
Twilight allowed herself a hidden smirk as an idea came to her. As Rainbow reached to grab the stack of plates set out on the counter, she cast a quick spell and teleported them over to the table, each popping into place on the placemats with perfect precision.
She caught the flat look Rainbow shot her way in the reflection on the kitchen window, but not without a telltale twitch at the corner of her mouth as she tried to hide a smile.
With a self-satisfied fluff of her feathers, Twilight filled four bowls with leek soup and hovered them over to the table, just as Bow returned from a momentary look around the castle. “Back just in time,” she said.
“I didn’t think I’d find my way!” he replied, laughing as he rubbed the back of his head. “This castle of yours really is something. Didn’t there used to be a library here?”
Twilight winced but nodded all the same. “Yes. It was destroyed during Tirek’s rampage. Now my library here serves as the replacement since I was … well, the librarian.”
“Oh. Sorry.” He cringed and slid into his seat with an awkward half-smile. “Well, I suppose that answers one of my questions. Though I’m a bit surprised to hear that a princess would serve as a librarian in such a small town.”
“Dad,” Rainbow said with a note of warning in her voice.
“I’m just pointing it out, Dashie! It is a bit odd!”
“Yes, but the library is—was a sore spot!” Rainbow’s eyes flitted to Twilight and back to her father, worry shone naked across her face.
“It’s okay, Rainbow.” Twilight offered a small smile and took her seat beside her fiancée, pausing a moment to nuzzle her cheek. Then she turned to Bow and gave her reply, “To be fair, I wasn’t a princess when I first met Rainbow. I was a student of Princess Celestia at the time, and I’d come to Ponyville to continue my studies. Serving as the town librarian came as a side job of sorts, one I found quite enjoyable, so I decided to continue it once I had things situated here.”
Understanding dawned upon him. Bow nodded along. “Makes sense. I suppose that covers a few questions we had about you all at once, come to think of it.” He aimed an amused look at Rainbow and smiled. “A princess and the former student of Princess Celestia? You’ve been keeping more secrets than we realized.”
“Yeah.” Rainbow had the grace to duck her head. “I’m bad about that.”
“One of the few things you’re not the best at,” he quipped.
“Gee, thanks.” Rolling her eyes, Rainbow tossed her mane over her shoulder, catching the high ponytail she’d fashioned her mane into. A motion that drew Twilight’s eyes and made her stop a moment to appreciate the subtle difference in her appearance.
Without her messy bangs covering her forehead and the way she kept ducking beneath Twilight’s wing, she almost looked …
Perhaps, if she were lucky, Rainbow could be convinced to wear it like that more often. A conversation that could happen once her parents left.
Well. Maybe after they enjoyed their evening together. There were still Rainbow’s hidden gifts to receive, and affections to be rewarded.
They ate their meal together, pausing now and then to resume their question and answer session, though not so deeply that the food grew cold. Twilight allowed herself a smile as she noted her future in-laws and bride eating without pause, nor any attempt to shy away from any one part of her cooking.
“The food is delicious,” Windy praised. “I’d make a comment on a princess cooking, but given how you described your life before princesshood, I suppose it’s no surprise at all!”
“I don’t get to cook much these days,” Twilight admitted. “My assistant, Spike, handles most of it because I’m often busy with research or some such study. But my mom made sure I learned. Same with my brother, Shining, though I think eating guard food has ruined his tastebuds.”
Bow’s ears twitched. “Wait a moment. You’re related to the Captain of the Guard, aren’t you?” At Twilight’s nod, he shared a look with Windy. “Quite the impressive family. Service to Equestria in both siblings, and in Rainbow with the Wonderbolts.”
“And both of ‘em are the best in magic,” Rainbow chipped in. “Shining’s blanketed Canterlot in his shield and Twi was able to finish one of Star Swirl the Bearded’s unfinished spells!”
Their eyes flitted to Twilight again. This time, she felt a steady heat rise in her cheeks. She fetched a quick flick of her feathers across Rainbow’s side for scolding, only earning a teasing grin in reply. “We both studied and practiced hard,” she said. “And solving the mysteries of magic is a passion of mine.”
“Ah!” Bow and Windy intoned, understanding flashing across their features. With matching smiles and nods, they resumed their meal.
When they finished, Twilight made as if to clear the table, but Rainbow beat her to it, spurred into action by a sidelong look from her mother. Her fiancée had never moved so fast to take care of dishes, not without promises of a private evening with locking charms and a cone of silence over the bedroom. Clearly, they’d have to have Bow and Windy over for dinner more often.
While Rainbow’s back was turned, Windy slipped out from under Bow’s wing and sidled over to take the empty seat beside Twilight. “You both seem quite happy together,” she murmured.
“More than I can put into words,” Twilight replied. “Though I’m sure you can understand.”
“Oh yes. I know exactly what you mean.” Windy stole a fond look at Bow as he rose and stretched his wings before trotting over to help Rainbow with the dishes. Then she nodded toward her daughter. “I’ve never seen my Dashie clean herself up like that for anypony. Not since I used to brush her coat and mane for her when she was five or six.” She dropped her voice lower as if sharing a secret. “It’s been even longer since she’s done her mane up like that.”
Twilight turned to fix her with a wry look. “Really?” She glanced back at Rainbow, her eyes tracking the colorful mane swaying back and forth with each turn of her head. “Why not?”
“I suppose because ponies kept telling her she looked cute instead of awesome. You know how she is.” With a conspiring smile, she beckoned Twilight closer and pulled out a small three-by-four photograph. She held it under the table so it was out of view should Rainbow turn, but easy for Twilight to see. “This is one of my favorite pictures of her.”
The picture showed a younger Windy Whistle sitting on the lawn before a modest Cloudsdale home, with a young Rainbow held snug in her arms. The little filly couldn’t have been older than five. The beautiful cerise eyes Twilight had so fallen in love with were alight with vitality and foalish glee. Her lips were tugged into a wide toothy smile as she waved a hoof at the camera, proudly showing off a first place ribbon.
But what drew Twilight’s eyes was the way her colorful mane was done up in a high ponytail. It made her look adorable, so young and full of joy, with that extra little something that made Twilight just want to take the filly in her hooves and hug her for all she was worth.
Twilight glanced over at Rainbow just in time to see her swipe a wing a Bow’s ears and fix him with a look, an amused smile tugging at her lips despite the glare she tried to bore into the side of his head as he gave a booming belly laugh. She wasn’t quite the adorable little filly anymore.
She was beautiful. If she’d wear her mane like that more often, Twilight would wager Rainbow could have had stallions and mares alike trailing after her ages ago. Then again, it was to her benefit that wasn’t the case.
“Dashie had her mane done up like that when we ran into her,” Windy said, cutting through her thoughts. “On her way over to see you.”
The gears in Twilight’s head began to turn. Romantic gifts, different mane styles, and, admittedly, no shortage of disappointment and resignation in her posture when she first walked in with her parents. Disappointed that her plans had been scuttled, or so it seemed.
Of course, plans could be altered to suit such changes. Rainbow just hadn’t thought it all the way through.
Fortunately, Twilight had one or two alterations in mind. She looked at the picture again with a fond smile. “I almost want to ask to keep that one, but I couldn’t ask you to give it up. Besides …” She turned to watch Rainbow and her father start a splash fight with soapy water, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. “I’ve got the real thing with me.”
Windy smiled, nodding as she put the picture away. “Yes, you do. And I know I don’t have to say it, but take care of my Dashie. She acts big and tough, but she can be a softy.”
“Oh, I know. Believe me, I do. And I will. I promise.”
With a fluff of sky blue feathers, Windy wrapped Twilight in a tight hug. “Then welcome to the family, Twilight Sparkle.”
Bow and Windy stayed until just before sunset, asking questions about how the girls met, how Twilight dealt with Rainbow’s long absences on tour with the Wonderbolts, and, of course, a bit of playful prodding as to what about Twilight made Rainbow’s heart do backflips. Respectable enough not to push the line between decency and vulgarity, but more than enough to make the Wonderbolts star flush red and cover her face with her wings.
All in all, it was everything Twilight hoped it would be, everything she knew it would be with how Rainbow tried to weasel her way out or putting off introductions. But it was also more. Maybe not so much in terms of content, but now that she’d met them, Twilight could sort of combine their interactions with those of Piazzo’s family and see just how Rainbow Dash came to be the wonderful mare she fell so head over hooves for.
Twilight trotted over to the couch, where Rainbow had flopped down and let out a deep sigh almost immediately after they’d seen her parents out, and slid onto the cushion beside her and wrapped a wing around her shoulders. Dotting Rainbow with a kiss, she said, “Well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be, was it?”
Rainbow cracked open an eye and fixed her with a tired smile. “You’re gonna rub this in, aren’t you?”
Heaving another sigh, Rainbow laid her head on Twilight’s shoulder. “No,” she admitted finally. “It wasn’t as bad as I was thinking when you first mentioned it the day I took you up for Hurricane’s Way, but I think the stuff with Scoots and the Wonderbolts helped. Probably a good thing I held off for so long and then ended up forgetting for a bit, to be perfectly honest.”
“Oh?” Twilight nosed into Rainbow’s mane, taking a second or two to drink in her scent. “Why do you say that?”
Rainbow was quiet for a moment. She heaved another sigh. “Y’know how I told you they worked in the weather factory a lot? So I’d hang out with Piazzo and his family all day, ‘till they came to pick me up?”
“Well, they took that as reason to … really make sure I knew how much they loved me. They cheered and acted like I was the best ever when I started on the junior circuits, even when I finished dead last. So I sorta started pushing harder to get to first, so the other fillies and colts wouldn’t tease me about being the best last place finish in Cloudsdale.” She reached up to rub her forehead, her smile spreading slowly, almost in spite of her tale. “When I finally got to the top, they’d still tease me because my parents were really loud. So I started mouthing off right back, telling them that it wasn’t bragging or going overboard if it was true.”
“It almost sounds like your attitude today was reactionary,” Twilight murmured.
“Sort of. I always thought I was the best. The teasing just made me open my mouth and say it more often. All because mom and dad just wouldn’t shut up about me.”
Twilight furrowed her brows. On one hoof, it sounded a lot like Rainbow’s parents were trying to be supportive and make up for what they felt was lost time. On the other, knowing Rainbow, she could see exactly why she might be embarrassed.
Neither point was particularly without merit.
“Anyway,” Rainbow mumbled, “Scoots gave me some perspective one day. They’re still embarrassing as all heck, but I know they love me. And hit me with a lightning bolt if I don’t love them right back. So … I guess it all just balances out in a way.”
“That much I can understand,” Twilight said, trailing lower to nuzzle her cheek. “Shining’s not exactly innocent in that regard either. And Cadence used to live to make both of us squirm with her compliments.”
“Heh. I bet.” A playful gleam shone in her eyes. “So why haven’t I seen that yet?”
“Because you haven’t come with me to visit without it being a crisis.” Arching her brow, Twilight asked, “So now that your parents are gone, do I get to see the things you brought along with those roses? Or do I need to kiss it out of my underwing?”
Rainbow Dash sucked in a sharp breath through her nose, her cheeks alight. “I-I wouldn’t say no, but … well, this was meant to be part of a thing that involved dinner by ourselves.” She ducked her head, reaching to grab the bouquet and unfasten her saddlebag clips. “But I guess I can share it.”
Twilight accepted the bouquet of roses with a smile, drawing in a deep breath to savor their sweet scent before tucking them beneath her free wing. Then she settled in to watch as Rainbow reached into her bags.
Wings rustling and feathers fluffing, Rainbow pulled out a brown paper package wrapped in thin twine and a bottle of cider from Sweet Apple Acres. “Here,” she said softly, passing them over to Twilight. “Bribed AJ with some bits and promises to have Thunderlane give the farm a little extra attention this summer. The other one’s from that bookstore in Canterlot you love so much.”
Purple ears perked up. Twilight’s tail swished merrily. “You ordered from Fantasia’s Fantasies?” At Rainbow’s nod, she lit her horn and sliced through the wrapping paper to reveal a thick hardcover book, with a blue dust jacket. On the cover was the image of a deep cavern, with glowing reptilian eyes showing from within its depths. Above the image, written in gold cursive, was the title: Caverns of Dragons. A Novel by Mineral Creek.
With a happy squeal, Twilight cupped Rainbow’s cheeks and set upon her with a flurry of kisses and affectionate licks, drawing a bubbling laugh and feigned protests from the pegasus as she guided her to lay back on the couch. Feathers fluffing, she fixed Rainbow with a smoldering look. “You,” she whispered, dotting her nose with another kiss, “are the best fiancée a mare could ask for.”
Grinning like the cat who caught the canary, Rainbow waggled her ears. “Want to crack open that bottle and read with me? Or is that gonna wait for another night?”
Twilight considered the gifts, then Rainbow. The meaning not lost upon her. She nuzzled a slow circle around her love’s nose. “We can read a bit,” she replied, her voice husky. “But afterward … you and I are turning in early and enjoying the benefits of a castle all to ourselves.” Her horn flashed and a raspberry glow engulfed the windows and doors, shutting the blinds and closing all latches with a chorus of clicks. “And I do mean all of the benefits. And perhaps I’ll find some way to convince you to wear your mane like this more often, hmm?”
Rainbow tried to bury her face in her hooves to hide her renewed blush, but Twilight would have none of it. She squirmed a moment before surrendering a nod. “When it’s just us,” she said softly.
“Perfect.” Stealing a fluffy kiss to her soft lips, Twilight whispered, “I love you, Rainbow Dash.”
A soft kiss came in reply. “Love you too, Twi.”