Twilight and Rainbow galloped out the door, and with a short burst of flight, dropped to the library’s ground floor. The alicorn landed with all the grace and deftness of a falling brick, face-planting into the floor and nearly toppling a bookshelf, while Dash expertly touched down beside her.
Rainbow snickered. “Yeah, we’re working on landings for this afternoon’s flying lesson.”
“Now’s not the time for jokes, Rainbow,” said Twilight, brushing dust off her wings as she clambered to her hooves. “Who knows what Spike might have seen?”
“Glad to see you haven’t forgotten me,” Spike said, panting as he ran up behind them. “Some of us don’t have wings, you know.”
The air blurred for a second, and a foot-tall draconequus in a black top hat and tuxedo popped into existence beside Spike. “Ah, Spike, you’re back to watch again?”
Twilight frowned and placed herself between the miniature Discord and the baby dragon. “What did you make him watch?”
Spike reached past Twilight and prodded Discord’s outfit. “And isn’t this my tux –”
“Excellent question, Princess! You see,” Discord began, “somepony in this room is hiding a secret from you, and I think it’s time that the truth came to light.”
Rainbow glared at Discord. “You better not be talking about what I think you’re talking about.” Her voice was menacing but her wings fluttered nervously, and Twilight shot her a curious glance.
“Oh, my dear Rainbow, I’m talking about exactly that.” Discord snapped his fingers, and polka-dotted curtains appeared over the library’s windows, blocking out the light of the midday sun. He strode to the center of the darkened library. “Welcome, welcome, one and all, to the second-ever performance of the Discord Theater Troupe’s latest production: Rainbow Dash’s Deepest, Darkest Secrets!”
Spike burst out, “What kind of secrets could possibly have to do with –”
A zipper closed itself across Spike’s mouth. “Bad dragon,” Discord said, wagging his finger admonishingly. “No spoilers allowed.”
Twilight waved her horn angrily, and the curtains disappeared. “Discord, you have no right to spill anyone’s secrets, and I’m surprised that Fluttershy hasn’t taught you that yet. Now you better take all of this down, or I’m marching right to her cottage and –”
“Cool your horn, Princess, I’m trying to do Rainbow Dash a favor here,” Discord said. Rainbow opened her mouth, but Discord cut in. “Besides, this was all Fluttershy’s idea.” Her mouth clamped shut and her brow furrowed, and Discord took advantage of the silence to turn the windows into panes of red-and-white-striped candy cane, casting the library back into darkness.
A dark khaki pegasus in an olive-green vest burst into the library through one of the windows, sending shards of candy flying through the air. She dropped to the floor, panting for breath, chest heaving. Her disheveled mane hung from beneath her tan pith helmet, grey strands sticking to her sweat-slicked forehead.
“Oh, Rosetta," she said, voice heavy with exhaustion, "you intelligent and kind-hearted unicorn, where are you? I have something I need to tell you, and I... I haven't got much time left.” Her eyes wandered over the bookshelves and tables, and fixed themselves on something on the upper floor.
Rainbow struggled to open the zipper that had spontaneously appeared over her mouth, Spike picked up a piece of candy cane, and Twilight turned to look above her.
Walking down the stairs was a slate-grey unicorn with a rose-red mane, black-framed glasses, and a heavily-stained lab coat. “Daring, you brash and adventurous pegasus, I’m right here. What do you need to tell me?”
Daring flew up the stairs and grabbed Rosetta’s face in her hooves. "Oh, Rosetta, I love you!”
“I love you too, Daring!”
They leaned in and mashed their lips together with such frantic passion that Twilight instinctively put out a hoof to cover Spike’s eyes.
Discord cried, “And... scene!” Daring and Rosetta froze mid-embrace, the windows turned to flocks of hummingbirds and promptly flew away – much to the disappointment of an empty-clawed Spike – and the zippers disappeared.
“Well, what did you think?” Discord asked.
Twilight glanced at the empty window frames. “I think that you’re going to replace those windows, or else I’m having a word with – “
“No no, not that!” Discord paced across the library to Twilight, growing larger with each step, until he was back to his full height. “Don’t you get it? For crying out loud, isn’t it obvious?”
“Discord,” Rainbow interrupted, “this is really uncool of you. C’mon, please, don’t do this.” Her voice was strained, and Spike turned to her with a look of dawning realisation.
“Ah, Rainbow,” the draconequus said, patting her head condescendingly. “Don’t you see? This is all for your own good.” He pointed at Daring and Rosetta, and Daring turned sky-blue and rainbow-maned, and the unicorn in her hooves became a purple-coated alicorn.
Twilight was the first to recover. “Oh come on,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I get that Rainbow thinks Daring and Rosetta should be together, and that these characters superficially resemble us two, but that doesn’t mean she wants us to start dating, right?”
She turned to Dash for support, but the pegasus refused to make eye contact, drumming her hooves apprehensively against the floor.
Twilight froze. “Oh,” she said quietly.
Spike watched on, his eyes wide, but said nothing.
Discord showed no such restraint. “Come on, Rainbow! Ask her out!”
Slowly, slowly, Rainbow dragged her eyes up to meet Twilight’s gaze. “Twilight, do you wanna, maybe... go get some milkshakes after our flying lesson? Except, you know... not like we normally do? But like a date instead?”
“Say yes! Say yes!”
Twilight’s eye twitched and her breathing sped up. “I... I need to think about this. Could you give me some time? Maybe, uh, until tomorrow morning?”
Dash's face fell. “Oh. So... I, uh, guess that means no flying lessons today?”
“Um, no. No, none for today. I, uh, I have to go and panic – I mean think. Yes, think. So I’ll, um, see you later then.” Twilight vanished in a burst of purple light. Seconds later, a clatter of hooves sounded from Twilight’s bedroom, upstairs.
Discord turned to Rainbow, reproach written across his features. “I can’t believe it. Look at all the effort I put in just to get you a date!” He pointed indignantly at Daring and Rosetta, who turned into piles of dried reddish-brown fruit and spilled down the staircase. “But even after all that, you still manage to mess it up. Why do I even bother trying to help you ponies out?”
Rainbow glared at him and flew up to press her face against his. “Help? Help? You call that helping? You just ruined my friendship with Twilight! I oughta buck your face in!”
“You know,” interrupted Spike, “both of you are blowing this way out of prospor – propero – you’re taking this way too seriously. I mean, why do you think that Twilight won’t say yes?”
Rainbow redirected her glare down at him. “What are you talking about? Of course she’ll say yes. Nopony can resist the fastest flyer and all-around awesomest pony in Equestria! No, I’m just worried that she, uh...”
Discord rolled his eyes so forcefully that they kept spinning in his sockets as he talked. “You’re worried she’ll say no. Rainbow Dash, I’ve met ponies whose egos were so huge that they nearly formed gravitational singularities whenever somepony complimented them, and while that would have been delightfully chaotic, it makes your grandstanding look boring in comparison.”
Rainbow crossed her arms and hung sullenly from her wings. “Okay, fine, fine, you got me. I’m just wondering: what if Twilight doesn’t, you know, like mares that way?”
“Well,” said Spike, “I only know of five guys who she’s exchanged more than three words with since she came to Ponyville.” He held up a hand and folded his claws as he counted. “Two of them are in this library, two are related to her, and one enslaved the Crystal Empire. Five, versus dozens of mares. You do the math.”
“Ugh, math. Who needs that?” Discord blew a raspberry. “Come now, Rainbow, wouldn’t she have just refused your offer if she wasn’t into mares?”
Rainbow dropped to the wooden floor, folding her wings at her sides. “Well, just ‘cause she likes mares doesn’t mean she likes me.”
Spike snorted and walked to the library’s checkout counter. “That’s nothing to worry about. You know what Twilight’s gonna do now, right? What does she always do when she needs to make an important decision?”
“I dunno, research?” Rainbow turned to watch as Spike rummaged through the piles of binders and notebooks on the counter.
“Yep. She’s going to look up all of the books in the library on romance. So if we make sure the only romance novels in the library all end up with the main characters getting together...” he trailed off, struggling to pick up a large green binder that looked heavier than he was.
“What, you think Twilight’s gonna date me just ‘cause her books tell her to?”
Spike and Discord stared at her.
“Okay, fine, you’ve got a point. But you seriously think this’ll work?” Rainbow flew over to pick up the green binder, and Spike shot her a thankful look before continuing.
“Rainbow, I’ve made sure over the past year that every edition of The Egghead’s Guide to Corporal Punishment is always signed out, and that at least one copy of The Egghead’s Guide to Positive Reinforcement always stays in the library. When I grew fifty feet tall and nearly destroyed Ponyville, she let me off with a hug. You tell me: do you think it works?”
Discord burst into raucous laughter. “Ah, Spike, you manipulative genius. You’re a dragon after my own heart,” he said, affectionately curling his tail around Spike’s shoulders.
Spike shrugged forcefully, dislodging the tail. “Your approval fills me with shame. But anyway, Rainbow, that binder’s a catalogue of all of our books. Sign out the whole romance section, and come back before the library closes tonight to return the ones you want Twilight to read. I’ll sneak ‘em back in, and she’ll read them overnight –”
“Spike,” Twilight’s voice called from upstairs, “can you bring me Romaneo and Juliet?”
Spike darted over to a bookshelf, pulled out a slim tome, and waved Dash over. He pointed to the book and whispered, “Romaneo and Juliet, Shake Spear’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. Definitely not what you want her to read.” He dropped the book into Rainbow’s hooves.
“Sorry, Twilight,” yelled Spike, “but someone’s borrowed it. Maybe you can read The Modern Mare’s Guide to Dating?”
Her reply came a few seconds later. “But I need a full dataset before forming any conclusions, and how can I get that without reading the complete works of Shake Spear?”
“Just hang on a sec Twi! I’ll, uh, sort something out!” Spike sighed and kneaded his forehead with his knuckles. “Tell you what, you two just grab every book even remotely related to romance, and I’ll stick here to deal with Twilight.”
“Wait, us two? Now I’m suddenly involved in this?” asked Discord.
“Well, duh,” snorted Rainbow, already pulling books off the shelves. “If you hadn’t decided to butt in, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened. So to make up for that, you’re gonna help me win Twilight over. Got it?”
“Ugh, the things I do for you ponies.” A second later, a wheelbarrow made entirely of chocolate sprouted out of the floor.
Dash dumped the books she was carrying into the wheelbarrow. “Hey, Spike, why are you being so helpful? Not that I’m complaining, but shouldn’t you be, I dunno, more protective of Twilight or something?”
Spike glanced around the library warily, and beckoned Rainbow to lean in closer before answering in a conspiratorial whisper. “Rainbow, to tell the truth, I’m also in love with somepony, so I know what it feels like.”
Rainbow found the last of the romance novels and dropped them into the wheelbarrow, which conveniently hid her attempts to feign an expression of surprise. When she was sure that she had it, she turned to meet Spike’s gaze. “Wait, you? No way!”
“Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true,” said the dragon, nodding sagely. “And besides, I figure you two would be good to each other. Especially ‘cause ever since you started visiting more often, Twilight has been acting a lot, well, happier.”
And for some reason, even as Rainbow struggled to push the heavy wheelbarrow out the door while Discord watched and sipped a spontaneously-conjured strawberry smoothie, she felt like her day just got a little bit brighter.