Two-Player Game

by mushroompone

Level Five

“I’m never going to beat this game,” I whined, falling forward onto the controls as the cabinet counted down to my doom.

“You’re doing so much better, though!” Cheerilee put a hoof on my back and rubbed encouragingly between my wings. “I can see it. You’re improving like crazy. You’ve expanded your moveset by leaps and bounds!”

“It doesn’t matter,” I moaned. “I’m never, never, ever going to win. I’m just gonna be number two on the cabinet for the rest of my natural life.”

Cheerilee giggled. “Well, in that case, thanks for making me look good.”


She giggled again.

It was a nice sound.

Like, really nice.


I whipped my head around and looked at the entrance. Starlight was standing in the open door waving to me, looking a little bit frazzled.

“One sec,” I said before zipping off.

Then, on second thought—

I zipped back.

“Don’t you dare beat me while I’m gone.”

Cheerilee laughed. “No promises, Rainbow.”

She took her spot at the controls. After a moment’s hesitation, I did my best to let go of the perfectionism, and went careening back to the door.

“You’re still here?” Starlight asked.

I scoffed. “I mean. Not still,” I said. “I just come here in the afternoon to play Hoof-to-Hoof with Cheerilee.”

Starlight blinked. “You… do?” she asked.


“How many afternoons?”

“Uh…” I scratched the back of my head. “Most of them?”

“And she’s done her grading?” Starlight asked, craning her neck around me to see… well, I dunno what she thought she was going to see, but she sure was looking.

“Yeah, duh,” I said. “It’s, like, way after Hearth's Warming. Grades have been due for ages now.”


Starlight stood in the door, silently and shrewdly observing the situation. Judging by the look on her face, she saw some pretty heinous things, as is expected in the worst restaurant on the planet.

I sighed. “Can I help you?”

Starlight shook her head to clear away the daze. “Uh. I actually just came by to get food, if you can believe it.”

“Great,” I said. “Get food, then.”

Starlight sighed. “If I just leave you to your own devices you’re never going to ask her out, are you?” she asked.

I blinked.

Starlight blinked back.

“I… huh?”

“Wow, that Hayburger food really is rotting your brain,” she said. “She’s been hanging out with you every single day in this smelly awful place?”

I scoffed. “It’s not that bad.”

“I’m literally watching a full-grown stallion drink soda directly from the dispenser.”

I looked over my shoulder.

Starlight was not kidding.

“Yeah, but—”

“Don’t you have to buy food to play the games? What in Celestia’s name are you eating?”

“Mostly just coffee!” I argued. “A-and sometimes hayfries. And one time a sandwich.”

Starlight looked disgusted.

“You’re literally here to pick up food!”

“Not every day!” Starlight argued.

Then she sighed.

"Look. I'm just saying. I wouldn't hang around a place like this unless I really liked the mare I was hanging out with," she said. "And I mean, like… I really liked her."


Maybe that was kinda fair.

I looked back over my shoulder at Cheerilee, who was methodically beating the crap out of yet another pixelated pro wrestler. Her tail swished along the floor.



"You win!"

The very first thing she did when she won was look for me. When she caught my eye, she waved and beamed with pride, even though she'd repeatedly kicked my flank at the game.

I think I just stood there like a statue.

Starlight smirked and waved politely.

Cheerilee had no idea who she was, but she smiled and waved politely in return, only with a twinge of confusion in her face.

"Seriously, Rainbow," Starlight said. "Remember how I said I was your coach?"

I rolled my eyes. "Uh-huh."

"You asked what I was coaching you in?"

"Yeah. I remember."

Starlight smirked and nodded once. "Great. I'm coaching you in life," she said. "Please go ask out the mare who's clearly into you so you can stop hanging out in a disgusting foal's restaurant. I'm literally begging you."

She gave me a pat on the shoulder, not waiting for me to respond, and brushed past me to get in line.

My mouth hung open for a long moment as I tried to think of something witty or snarky to say in return. Nothing came to mind, and so I turned, defeated, and trotted back over to the cabinet.

"You think you're ready for another go?" Cheerilee asked brightly. "Or are you already quitting for the day?"

"I, uh…" I rubbed the back of my head, thoroughly mussing my mane in the process. "Y'know, I think I'm done."

Cheerilee's smile faded. "Oh. O-okay," she said softly. "Well, we can meet back here tomorrow at--"

"Let's not," I said. "I think I'm kinda over this place."

Cheerilee tried to reply, but was cut off by the piercing scream of yet another unhappy foal.

She cleared her throat. "That's… fair," she said, with a forced giggle. "Well, alright. So I guess I'll--"

"Why don't we go someplace nicer?" I suggested.

That caught her by surprise.

"I-it doesn't have to be, like, a lot nicer," I corrected. "Y'know. We could go eat outside at Cafe Hay or something. O-or, if you'd like to play some games that aren't quite as sticky, you could, uh… you could come over my place."

Cheerilee blinked. "Don't you live in Cloudsdale?"

I smacked my forehead with one hoof. "Aw, crap. You're right. Duh."

"Never taken a non-pegasus out on a date before, have you?" Cheerilee asked slyly. She gave me a little nudge and a smirk to match.

My knees practically gave out. Does that happen? Do knees give out?

"Uh. Well, it's not so much that I haven't--I mean, it's not on purpose, I don't--"


I stopped myself. "Uh-huh?"

"I'll meet you at Cafe Hay tomorrow at our usual time," she said. "And, if you'd like, you can come over to my home afterwards. On the ground."

I think I broke out into a smile almost instantly, much as I wanted to pay it cool. "Really?" 

Cheerilee giggled. "I've been waiting for you to… well, I don't know. To at least suggest we go spend some time somewhere else," she said. "I'd be stupid to turn down a date with the second-best Wonderbolt, wouldn't I?"

I forced a laugh. "Don't push your luck, Cheer."