Learning to Love

by Leafdoggy

Practice Makes Perfect

“Thank you again for joining me tonight,” Rarity said with a smile.

She and Rainbow Dash were sitting together at a dimly lit booth in a little diner in Canterlot. It was late, already after dark, so the diner was mostly empty, but they had still sequestered themselves off to a far corner of the establishment. The bright, fluorescent lights didn’t quite reach their booth, so the only thing lighting their meals was a flimsy hanging lamp that swayed in the breeze every time somepony opened the front doors. 

“Are you kidding?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “I’d never miss a chance to see a friend win something.” She scarfed down the last big bite of her juicy veggie burger, then wiped her mouth clean on the back of her leg.

Rarity gave her a sidelong look and handed her a handkerchief to use before continuing the conversation. “Well, fashion shows aren’t really about winning, per se. They’re a place for everypony to show their art.”

Rainbow Dash wiped herself clean and handed the dirty cloth back to Rarity, who eyed it nervously. “Hey, there were judges, weren’t there?” Rainbow Dash asked, pointing at Rarity for emphasis. “Judges mean winners, and that means I’m there to see you win.”

“Well, I suppose I did steal the show a bit, didn’t I?” Rarity said. “It can’t hurt to admit it. I mean, it isn’t like my masterpieces made the other ponies’ designs any less fabulous.”

“That’s more like it!” Rainbow Dash told her. “Leave the humble stuff to Fluttershy, she pulls it off better.”

“You’re probably right,” Rarity admitted with a chuckle. “Where is Fluttershy, anyway? I was going to invite her, but I couldn’t find her for the life of me.”

“Oh, she’s off on some adventure with Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash told her. She sighed and waved a hoof dismissively. “I don’t really remember where. Probably just some kinda date again.”

Rarity looked at her quizzically. “What’s the matter, dear? I would have thought you’d be happy for Fluttershy.”

“I am happy for her,” Rainbow Dash said. “I’m just…” She put her head in her hooves and mumbled something under her breath.

“Rainbow Dash, you really must speak up. This moping just doesn’t suit you.”

“I said I’m jealous, okay?” Rainbow Dash snapped, her cheeks flushing red. Then she sat back and lowered her voice again, crossing her legs over her chest. “Sorry. I just hate feeling this way when I should be glad for her, you know?”

“Jealous?” Rarity asked incredulously. “You’re Rainbow Dash, surely you can’t be wanting for suitors.”

“Nah, I’ve got plenty of… ‘suitors.’ But they’re all just flings. Seeing what those two have, I…” She pushed her empty plate aside and leaned heavily on the table. “I realized I’ve never had that. I mean, what, am I gonna settle down with Trixie? No thanks.”

“I could see you getting on well with Trixie,” Rarity said.

“Okay, sure, that one lasted a few weeks. You see my point though, right?”

Rarity nodded and placed her hoof gently on Rainbow Dash’s. “I understand. These things can be difficult. Tell me, why have most of your relationships ended?”

Rainbow Dash thought for a moment. “I just get bored,” she decided. “I’m not really into dates I guess. Like, getting coffee, going on walks on the beach, it’s all so dull! I dunno, maybe it’s just not for me.”

Rarity gave her another look of puzzlement. “Darling, you wouldn’t enjoy any of those things. Why ever would you do them on a date?”

“Cuz it’s date stuff!”

Rarity chuckled. “I think I see the problem. You’re lucky I’m here. Rainbow Dash, I’m going to teach you how to go on dates!” She got up from the booth, beckoning Rainbow Dash along.

“Uhh, Rarity?” Rainbow Dash pointed to Rarity’s plate. “You never ate your food.”

“Oh, yes, um…” She eyed the greasy burger suspiciously. “You can have it. I’m not very hungry, it turns out.”

“Where the heck did that come from?” Rainbow Dash asked.

She was staring at a frilly hat that had somehow materialized on Rarity’s head in the time since they left the restaurant. Now they were walking the streets of Canterlot, the buildings lit by glowing neon signs tempting them towards all manner of entertainment. It was a warm summer night, the air dry and still, making every wayward breeze that found its way to them a glorious relief. Every so often a pony would walk in or out of some busy establishment and a blast of noise would spill out of the open door, but otherwise the air was filled with the chatter of the other ponies on the streets.

Rarity flipped her mane extravagantly. “One can never be too prepared. Imagine what it would do to my image to be spotted on a date without having dressed up! I’d never live it down.”

“So we’re really doing this?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Me and you? On a date? I mean, no offense Rarity, but you’re not exactly my type.”

“Oh, pish posh,” Rarity said. “Types are nothing more than a base attraction. Real connection isn’t something that can be boiled down to just a smattering of character traits.”

“Yeah, sure, but us?”

“I see your point,” Rarity admitted, “but this isn’t a real date anyway. It’s merely a teaching exercise.”

“Yeah, fine.” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Well, where to first, teach?”

“You tell me!” Rarity told her. “It’s your date.”

“Oh. Uhh…” Rainbow Dash stopped walking for a moment to think. “I dunno, coffee?”

Rarity rolled her eyes. “Would you enjoy getting coffee?”

“Not really, but the stuff I like isn’t really date stuff.”

“Humor me,” Rarity said. She gave Rainbow Dash a sly grin. “What would you like to do right now?”

Rainbow Dash was hesitant. “Well, I’m still kinda pumped up from the show. I guess if I was alone I might, like, go find a race track or something.”

“Oh, wonderful idea!” Rarity said. “Come, I know just the place.”

Rainbow Dash was skeptical, but she followed Rarity through the streets until eventually they reached a huge, square building. The signs had no lighting whatsoever, so there was no way to tell what it was from the outside. Rarity led the way around the side to a small back entrance and strutted confidently inside.

“Uhh,” Rainbow Dash said as she entered the pitch black building, “I kinda get the feeling this place isn’t open, Rarity.”

“My, what a keen observation,” Rarity said snidely. Then she flicked on the lights and the whole massive room lit up. A huge, winding track filled the entire building, marked off with mounds of tires or hay bales. Rows of bleachers flanked the raceway on either side, and it was all adorned with colorful banners and huge checkered flags.

“Woah,” Rainbow Dash said as she took it all in. She flew up into the air and zipped around, examining this and that with stars in her eyes. “Since when does Canterlot have a go kart track?”

“Since last week,” Rarity explained. “I was quite enamored with the place and helped to decorate it free of charge. Afterwards, the owner said I was free to come use the tracks whenever I wanted to.” She grinned proudly as she watched Rainbow Dash fly all around the building, admiring her handiwork.

“Awesome!” Rainbow Dash yelled. She flew back and landed face to face with Rarity. “I knew I was friends with you for a reason.”

Rarity scoffed and walked past her. “Please. We both know you like me for more than just my connections and my good looks.”

“Yeah, but they help,” Rainbow Dash said as she followed behind. Then she realized what she had said. “The, uh, connections I mean. They help, um—”

Rarity laughed and turned to Rainbow Dash to stroke her chin playfully. “You’re too easy,” she teased. “Now, are you going to stammer all night, or are you going to race me?”

Rainbow Dash came to her senses and smirked. “You’re on.”

Soon both ponies were geared up and sitting in karts behind the starting line. Rainbow Dash had chosen a brilliant blue one, while Rarity decided on a stylish purple.  Rarity carefully adjusted her hat as Rainbow Dash revved her engine.

“Don’t expect me to go easy on you just cuz we’re on a date!” Rainbow Dash yelled over the noise.

“I don’t plan to let you!” Rarity shouted back.

Then a buzzer sounded, and they were off. 

Rainbow Dash was immediately in the lead, wasting no time in hitting top speed, but Rarity wasn’t far behind. Rainbow Dash was overconfident, taking turns too easily, while Rarity cut every bit she could. Inch by inch, the purple kart closed the gap between the two.

On a particularly tight turn, Rainbow Dash looked back and saw Rarity mere feet behind her. She gasped and almost lost control, swerving wide to the other side of the track, but she recovered quickly.

It was all the opening Rarity needed, though. Just like that, they were neck and neck, neither willing to slow for a moment. Rarity met Rainbow Dash’s eyes and shot her a smug grin.

Rainbow Dash pushed as hard as she could, but the karts just couldn’t go any faster, so she had no way to outpace Rarity. She would get the lead on one corner, only to have Rarity snatch it away at the next. 

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes, leaning forward to put her all into the race. Her driving got risky, scraping barriers on turns and nearly colliding with Rarity’s kart when they pulled close again, but nothing she did gave her a definitive lead.

Then, she hatched a plan. On the next straightaway, she inched her kart as close as possible to Rarity’s and got her attention. Then, when Rarity looked her way and tried to give her another smug look, Rainbow Dash leaned over and flicked the hat off her head.

Rarity gasped as the hat flew away, then glared at Rainbow Dash. A moment too late, she realized that in her anger she’d stopped driving, and her kart quickly fell back.

Her shock had cost her a good few feet, giving Rainbow Dash a clear lead, and the finish line was fast approaching. If she did nothing, she was sure to lose.

On the final turn, Rarity made a desperate gambit. She slowed just enough to let Rainbow Dash start to gain more of a lead. It was a risk, but she had no other way.

Rainbow Dash noticed Rarity slowing down and cheered. She pumped a hoof in the air, celebrating her victory as she rounded the final corner, but in her elation she turned wide, just wide enough for Rarity to push forward again.

It wasn’t going to be enough to net Rarity the win, but she knew what would. Instead of cutting the corner, she turned wide too, drifting ever closer to Rainbow Dash’s vehicle. 

Then she jutted to the side, bumping the back of Rainbow Dash’s kart and sending her spinning into a barrier. She almost crashed herself, but just barely managed to hold on across the finish line.

Rarity hopped out of her kart with a massive smile on her face. She fussed with her windswept mane as Rainbow Dash rushed over, her cheeks puffed out in anger.

“My,” Rarity said as Rainbow Dash approached, “that was just exhilarating, wouldn’t you agree?”

“That was a dirty move!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “I can’t believe you.”

“What?” Rarity said coyly. “Just because I’m pretty doesn’t mean I can’t play dirty now and then.”

Rainbow Dash landed in front of her with a huff. “I totally had you beat.”

“Yes, had,” Rarity responded. “Then you didn’t. Nopony likes a sore loser.”

“I want a rematch,” Rainbow Dash demanded.

“Ah, so you did have fun?”

“Wh—” Rainbow Dash sputtered. “I mean, yeah, of course I did. That was incredible. I never knew you had that in you!”

Rarity laughed. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.” She turned and started walking away, hitting Rainbow Dash playfully with a flick of her tail. “Could you be a dear and fetch me my hat?”

Rainbow Dash stuttered a bit, then groaned and went to find the hat. When she finally got back to Rarity, she found her standing in the open door of a storage room.

Rarity smiled and carefully donned her hat when Rainbow Dash handed it over. “Thank you,” she said. “Now, help me move a sofa.”

“A what?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Why’s there a sofa in here? And why are we moving it?”

“Questions, questions,” Rarity chided. “It’s for the second part of our date. You’ll see.”

Rainbow Dash went along with it and helped move the heavy seat, setting it at the bottom of one set of bleachers. “Okay,” she said after, panting. “So… why did we do that?”

“You’re so impatient!” Rarity said. She hopped onto the sofa and laid down, sprawling out in her usual luxurious fashion, taking up the entire thing. “There. I’m certainly not going to lay on the bleachers.”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “So I just got you a place to sit?”

“You got us a place to sit,” Rarity corrected, patting the empty space between her and the edge of the couch.

Rainbow Dash stepped back hesitantly. “Uhhh…” she mumbled, “you sure? That seems a bit… intimate.”

“Pssh.” Rarity dismissed her concerns. “Please, Rainbow Dash, since when have you been so shy? You can’t run from intimacy on a proper date. Besides, do you want to lay on the bleachers?”

“Yeah, but—” Rainbow Dash looked at the hard, metal stands and sighed. “Ok, fine. Nopony else hears about this, though, understand? I don’t want Pinkie to get the idea that I’m a cuddler.”

Rarity laughed and nodded, and Rainbow Dash slowly trotted over and sat on the edge of the couch. When Rarity gave her a coy look, she rolled her eyes and laid on her back, stretching out beside her friend awkwardly. Rarity smiled and pulled her close, surrounding her in a warm embrace that made Rainbow Dash blush. 

“Okay, we’re cuddling,” Rainbow Dash said. Her voice was almost a whisper. “Now what?”

“Shhh,” Rarity instructed, and then her horn started to glow. All at once, the lights in the building went out, drowning the two in total darkness. Then, from a corner of the room, a faint glow started to build. Blue light danced around, filling the room just enough that they could soon see silhouettes of the space around them.

Rarity pointed to the ceiling, and Rainbow Dash looked up. There, swirling through the sky, were thousands upon thousands of lights, little dots or streaks collecting into a vast starscape. Swirls of cloudy color could be seen here and there, galaxies and nebulas swimming through the inky blackness.

“Woah,” Rainbow Dash muttered.

“I convinced the owner that the ceiling shouldn’t go to waste,” Rarity whispered. Her voice was right beside Rainbow Dash’s ear, and the sudden proximity sent a shudder down her spine. “Of course, I may have gotten somewhat carried away, but really, who wants to see the same stars we see in the sky every night?”

“Wait,” Rainbow Dash whispered back, “did you… make this? The whole thing?”

“”Well, Twilight helped,” she explained. “She knows the science, so it helped to make it all look real. The design is all me, though.”

“Woah,” Rainbow Dash repeated. “Rarity, that’s… incredible.”

“Isn’t it?” Rarity agreed. She pointed up at a spot on the ceiling. “See that cluster there? Pinkie Pie inspired that. It’s why it’s such a jumbled mess. And over there,” she pointed elsewhere, “that one’s Fluttershy’s. See how the lights seem to dance together slowly while everything else spins wildly around it?” Just as she described, the stars were slowly moving through strange, interlocking orbits, perfectly smooth and predictable despite the chaos around them.

“How long did this take?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Oh, only a month or so,” Rarity answered. “It helped to have such wonderful inspirations.”

Rainbow Dash spent a few minutes just taking it all in. Every little bit seemed intricately painted, from the movement of individual stars to the delicate waltz of galaxies in and amongst themselves.

Without meaning to, or even realizing it, while she stared Rainbow Dash subtly readjusted herself to press up more snugly against Rarity. Rarity smiled quaintly in the dark and slowly ran her hoof through Rainbow Dash’s fur.

“Do I have a spot?” Rainbow Dash asked after a few minutes.

“Well, of course,” Rarity said. She pointed up and traced her hoof over a wide arc of the sky, pointing out a long string of stars all connected by swirling clouds of light. “It’s the biggest thing in the sky,” she explained, “and watch.” Her horn glowed again, and the scene started to fast-forward, speeding through millenia. As she did, it became clear that it wasn’t a stationary arc, but rather a trail that sped through the night, looping all around the universe above them. 

“Like it?” Rarity asked.

“It’s perfect,” Rainbow Dash told her.

“The show’s almost over now,” Rarity whispered. “You’ll want to pay attention to the end.”

Above them, the stars sped up more and more, soon swirling into a single spiralling mass. Then, slowly, it all started to shrink, closing in on itself. All the different colors flew in streaks through the spiral, blending together as they reached the center. It shrank, and shrank, until it was nothing more than a single star in the sky.

Then, that star disappeared, and they were left in utter darkness. Rarity squeezed Rainbow Dash gently as they waited.

All at once, there was a blinding light. Stars and galaxies and nebulas poured out from the center, filling the ceiling more densely than ever. Everything seemed to slot into place, slowing over time and finding a steady orbit somewhere overhead.

“And that,” Rarity said, “is Equestria’s sky.”

Rainbow Dash was speechless. She sat there, jaw gaping, staring at the ceiling until the show finally came to an end. Then the lights came back on, dropping them down from the sky back into the go kart track they had started in.

Rainbow Dash looked over at Rarity. Their faces were mere centimeters apart, which made Rainbow Dash blush again, but she didn’t back away. “Rarity,” she whispered, “that was amazing.”

Rarity smiled gently. “Thank you, darling. Hearing that means the world to me.”

“So, um,” Rainbow Dash said nervously, “is there a third part to the date?”

Rarity quietly laughed. “Well, it’s fairly late. I think the next part would be the part where, if the date went well, the two ponies might share their first kiss.”

“Oh.” Rainbow Dash’s face went a deep red, and she glanced away. “Do you think, maybe... We could practice that part?”

“I would love to.” Rarity gently cupped a hoof under Rainbow Dash’s chin, pulled it up to match her gaze, and softly kissed her lips.