At around the same time that night, Pinkie Pie was still wide awake. Although she wanted nothing more than to go to bed, she still had to clean up Sugarcube Corner enough for it to be presentable the next day. That was the problem with parties: it might be fun to have them, but setting them up and tearing them down was a lot of work.
It reminded Pinkie of her night. There had been a bit of hard work in the beginning, a really fun part in the middle, and a bittersweet ending. The only problem was that the party usually lasted much longer than the set-up, while her romantic experience with Twilight had lasted only five minutes. That fact had her worried. Romance wasn’t exactly something she was used to – in fact, she’d never had a marefriend before.
“But is she really my marefriend?” she asked Gummy, even though she knew the alligator could not respond. Sighing, she walked over to the other side of the room and started cleaning up. “I feel like I ruined everything. That was my first kiss, too!” Reaching down to grab a fallen streamer, Pinkie was surprised to see a much larger, hoof-shaped object in its place, and instead of the purple of the streamer, the new thing was bright blue. Soon, the mare noticed that the hoof connected to a leg. And that leg connected to …
“Rainbow Dash? What are you doing here?”
Grinning shyly, the speedy pegasus answered. “Well, I was just coming by to see if the party was over.”
“Really, Dashie? All of my parties end two hours before midnight. You know that.”
“Well what time is it now?” asked Dash, scanning the wall for a clocks but not finding any.
“It ended an hour ago. And you know what’s fishy, Dashie? I didn’t see you at all after we talked. And then I looked for you, and when I couldn’t find you I looked for somepony who knew where you went, and the only pony who knew anything was Rarity, and all she said was that you left and she didn’t know why.”
“Well, yeah, I left the party. That’s all there is to it.” Rainbow was surprised that Rarity hadn’t already told Pinkie about how they’d followed her and Twilight to the pond. She knew she would have to think everything through if she didn’t want to give herself away.
“Why’d you do that?”
Desperately, Rainbow tried to think up a lie, but as the seconds ticked on, Pinkie was still there, because as much as Dash wanted her to disappear at that moment, she knew that wasn’t happening. She also knew she was taking too long to answer.
“Dashie, did something bad happen?”
That was it. She had to tell Pinkie the truth, because at that point, anything else she said would sound like a blatant lie. She had to come clean, at least partially.
“Sort of, I guess.”
Pinkie smiled comfortingly, leading Rainbow Dash over to a table with a few standing chairs around it. Ironically, it was the same table at which Pinkie had asked for a friend’s advice earlier that evening.
“Okay, so tell Auntie Pinkie Pie what happened.”
Not in the mood to point out that Pinkie was not her aunt, Rainbow responded. “Well, It’s actually been going on for awhile.”
It seemed as if Rainbow was determined to set the Equestrian record for most meaningless words said in one sentence. “I, uh, well … this is kinda, well, hard to say. I’m sorta embarrassed and stuff.”
Pinkie just laughed. “Oh silly, you can tell me anything. I can keep a secret!”
“You know what? You’re right,” Dash admitted, taking a calming breath. “I can trust you; I’ve always been able to trust you. I should just get this out of the way, cause I’m not going to wimp out of this now.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Pinkie, cheering her on.
“Okay, here it goes … I have, um, a crush on somepony.”
Pinkie’s face lit up even more than it normally did. “Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting! I mean, I figured this would happen eventually – I mean everypony falls in love right? – but it’s so awesome!”
“Wait, what have you been waiting for, exactly?”
“One of my friends to fall in love, silly!” Pinkie could tell that Rainbow didn’t understand, so she explained herself. “Well why wouldn’t I want that, Dashie? Love makes everypony so happy; it’s, like, the greatest thing ever!”
In response to this, Dash gave only an empty chuckle. “Pinkie Pie, I really wish that was true.” Now it was Pinkie’s turn to stare in puzzlement. “It’s just that, well, I can’t tell her how I feel. I’ve tried to a bunch of times, and I just … can’t say it. And now with this stuff that’s happened between you and Twilight … I just think I should’ve done something a while ago.”
“Aw, you don’t need to feel pressured by me asking Twilight. Besides, I’m not really sure how much is going to happen between us.”
“Really? Everything seemed to be going fine at the pond,” said the athletic pegasus without thinking.
“Dashie, how do you know what happened at the pond?”
Rainbow’s eyes widened as she realized her mistake. “I … uh … what pond? I have no idea what you’re talking about Pinkie!” she out for a few seconds, hoping the pink mare would drop the subject. However, as the seconds ticked by, she knew she’d been caught red hooved. “Okay, fine, we followed you there.”
“Did you say we, Dashie?”
Rainbow made a mental note to start thinking things through before she said them for what seemed like the thousandth time in her life. Fortunately for her, this one was easier to worm her way out of. Besides, fessing up to it herself was one thing, but pointing a blaming hoof at Rarity wasn’t something she was prepared to do.
“Oh, sorry, I meant to say I.”
“Oh, okay then. So why were you hiding in the bushes watching me and Twilight kiss?”
Rainbow shifted around in her seat nervously. “Well, I saw you find Twilight after we talked … and I was curious. Also, I left right after you started kissing,” she said truthfully. “But you never answered my question.”
“So you know that I know what happened. But everything seemed to be going awesome when I left. What happened?”
“Oh, it’s nothing bad … I just sort of … accidentally pushed her into the water.” Dash’s attempts to control her laughter failed spectacularly within seconds of being put into action. It took awhile for her to control herself, but when she did, one look at Pinkie’s angry expression deadened it. “Um … sorry about that, I just … y’know … couldn’t help myself. You know what I mean, right?” Instead of answering her, Pinkie just stared her down, which in turn, made Dash feel very uncomfortable.
“Yeah … so, Twilight’s okay, right?”
Pinkie was unable to hold the glare after that comment, looking down at the table rather than into Dash’s eyes. “Yeah, she’s fine … but I still feel like I ruined everything.”
Rainbow put a comforting hoof on Pinkie’s shoulder. “Do you really think you ruined it? Like, really?”
“I don’t know. I mean, one minute we were both super happy about it, and then that happened, and then Twilight wasn’t that happy and I wasn’t either and then we had to rush back to the party because somepony would’ve noticed we were gone … and I didn’t see you at the party when I got back. Where were you?”
Ignoring the second part of her friend’s statement, the pegasus continued. “Pinkie, I’m no good at this romance stuff, but I guess what I’m trying to say is you didn’t really ruin it.”
“But how could that not have ruined it!?” Pinkie’s voice was steadily rising in volume as her anxiety increased. “The mood was great, and everything was perfect-” she banged a hoof on the table angrily, a stray tear running down her face. “-and then I made Twilight fall into the water, and—”
“I messed up, okay?!” She stood up, screaming the last words. Soon after, she slid back into her seat, having apparently let out all of her anger. Meekly, the repeated her former statement: “I messed up.”
Rainbow could only stare wide-eyed as she took in what her friend had just said. She wanted to say something to make Pinkie feel better, but at that moment, she was drawing blanks. “Where are the Cakes?” she asked, giving Pinkie a weak smile.
“Taking a vacation for the next week. On some island resort...” For a moment, Pinkie’s expression went back to normal as she tried to remember. “It was the ... Marebean, or something like that.” As quick as her face had changed, it went back to the somber and teary-eyed look she’d worn moments ago.
“Pinkie, look at me.” A pause. Seeing that her words hadn’t fostered a response, Rainbow grabbed Pinkie’s shoulders and tried again to get her attention. “Look at me!” Pinkie looked up, sadness in her eyes, and in that moment, Dash knew exactly what to say.
“Pinkie, love is just like that. You said it makes everypony happy, but a lot of the time, it doesn’t. But with you, at least you sort of know how Twilight feels; I’ll bet she probably feels the same way. If I were her, I’d feel like it was my fault for falling over. I mean, I never lose my balance, but this is just an example, I guess. And either way, it’s loads better than spending every day thinking about a mare and trying to build up the courage to just say something for once and then not being able to do it!”
Dash banged her hooves on the table, burying her face in them soon after. Belatedly, Pinkie realized how derailed the conversation had become, and remembered why Rainbow was at Sugarcube Corner in the first place. Putting a hoof on Dash’s shoulder, she slowly coaxed her friend out of her despair.
“I’m sorry Dashie,” Pinkie offered, not able to release Rainbow’s face from the prison that was her front hooves.
“Sorry for what?” Dash said, her voice muffled by her hooves.
“I completely forgot why you came here in the first place. You needed somepony to talk to, but I made it all about me.”
“It was kinda my fault for bringing up the pond,” she replied. Just when Pinkie thought Dash would lift her head, she buried it even deeper, much to Pinkie’s disenchantment.
“Yeah, I know,” said the pink mare dismissively, not letting on about her disappointment. “But still. I really want to help you, because you were right: I really haven’t ruined it with Twilight.”
After a second’s pause, the pegasus lifted her head a little. “So you’re saying we should pick up where we … uh … left off?”
“Okay, then,” said Dash, leaning her cheek on her hoof and staring off out the window. “So I was saying I have, well, y’know…”
“You can just say it, silly!”
“I don’t want to.”
“You already did.”
“So why say it again.”
“Just do it for me!”
“Just say it!”
“But I don’t want to!”
“Say it, say it, say it!!” Pinkie chanted.
“Fine! I have a crush on Rarity! Happy?” As soon as she said it, Rainbow covered her mouth with her hooves, but the damage was already done.
Pinkie gasped. “Wait, you’re in love with Rarity? Wow, I didn’t see that coming!”
Meanwhile, Dash’s eyes were so wide that they looked like they were going to pop like balloons. Shaking her head, she started beating her hoof against it, punctuating each impact with the chant of “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.”
Before she could do any serious damage to herself, Pinkie grabbed Rainbow’s hoof and forced it down. “Dashie, it’s okay. I’m not going to tell anypony.”
Rainbow sighed, blowing a strand of her mane out of her face. “I know Pinkie, it’s just that, well, I didn’t want anypony to know, y’know?”
“Well of course you didn’t. That’s really hard to say. I mean, if you hadn’t made me all confident at the party, I never would’ve told Twilight how I felt either.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot easier giving advice than doing it yourself,” Dash grumbled. Pitifully, she stared down at the table rather than meet Pinkie’s gaze.
Pinkie Pie saw the other’s lack of confidence, and after looking for a better option but not finding one, enveloped her in a supportive hug, trying her best to give some equally supportive advice. “Hey, you’ll be alright. I mean, I’m new to this romance thing, but your advice worked for me, and I bet it’ll work on Rarity too!”
Rainbow looked up at Pinkie with hope. “You really think so?”
“Well, I can’t see the future Dashie … well, at least, not without my crystal ball … but I lost that so yeah, I don’t really know. There’s one thing I do know: you can’t just keep going on feeling like that. Rarity’s always going to be your friend either way. You have to believe!”
“But I don’t even think she likes mares!”
“Either way, you’re going to have to do it eventually, or do you really want to go on like this forever?”
Dash couldn’t think of an answer right away, so she took a second to think about it. “I could just move away,” she whispered.
“And leave all your friends behind?” asked Pinkie. “Come on, where’s the good ol’ fearless Rainbow Dash I’m used to?” Jumping up into the air, the pink mare took in a deep breath as background music started to play in the background. Just when she was about to belt out the first note, Rainbow muffled her with a hoof.
“I don’t really need a song right now … but you’re right. I think it’s about time I get this off my chest.”
Pinkie, who had been getting hang time for the last five seconds or so, dropped to the ground, as if on cue. “Really?”
“Yep,” said Dash with renewed confidence. “I mean, I’m not just going to go over to the boutique and say it. I’m going to build up to it … and stuff … but I’m not sure how to do it. I think I’m going to need a wingmare.” For the first time since she’d come, the mare smiled for a second, only to be captured in one of Pinkie’s bone-crushing hugs.
“Of course I’ll help set you up with Rarity! I mean, I basically owe you for helping me with Twilight.”
Dash’s smile widened. “You’re a great friend, you know that, right?”
Pinkie nodded, offering a hoof for a hoof bump. Rainbow returned it without hesitation.
“Let’s do this!”
From all the excitement at Sugarcube Corner, the two mares inside had probably forgotten how late it was. But across town, a young dragon was all too aware of this fact. The time wasn’t the only thing he was keen to, because despite the late hour, his guardian had not yet gone to sleep. She was lying in bed, but there were a few things that told Spike she was awake. Firstly, she wasn’t moving, and she always shifted around a lot when asleep. He’d always thought it was stress-caused, although he didn’t think about it too much.
Also, her breathing seemed off. Spike wasn’t an expert on sleep, but he remember that back when he’d started having night terrors, the mare had forced him to sit through a two-hour lecture on oneirology. The terrors had gone away eventually, but from lesson, he knew that she should be in deep sleep by now.
Of course, he should have been too, but Spike hadn’t been able to sleep since arriving at the library. On the way back from the party, he had failed to notice Twilight’s state. But when they’d gone in, she hadn’t said a word to him, even when he’d asked her a question. That had finally clued him in that something was bothering her. It wasn’t an imminent threat to pony civilization or a new, malevolent arrival to Ponyville like usual; if it were one of those, Twilight would be pacing. It was something more trivial, but at the same time, something worth worrying about.
The first thought that had come to Spike’s mind was that it was a friendship problem, but again, her response didn’t match up with that. If it were a friendship problem, Twilight would probably have confided in him as she usually did. Also, it would have to have happened at the party, and Spike didn’t remember anything particularly bad happening there.
So he was still left with the question: What was wrong with Twilight, and why wouldn’t she tell him? Sighing, he pulled the covers a little higher over his head, shifting around in his basket. Closing his eyes, he hoped he could find an answer in a dream, although at the moment, that seemed as unlikely as him getting any sleep at all.
Shifting around some more, he hoped that whatever was bothering Twilight would work out in the end.