The next morning before class started, Crystal watched with a small smile as Velvet was swarmed by ponies with questions. They all wanted to see her show off some of her ballet moves and to know what she planned to do now that she knew her special talent.
"Well, I guess you're all alone now," Golden said as she trotted past Crystal's desk with her snout upturned. "Maybe you're not a blank flank after all. Maybe your cutie mark is just nothing because you have nothing you're good at."
Crystal forced a strained laugh, averting her gaze. "Wouldn't that mean I could do anything I wanted, though?"
Golden rolled her eyes. "D'uh, no. It'd mean you couldn't do anything at all."
High Horse, taking the seat beside Golden, nodded. "Exactly. You'd be really good at nothing."
Crystal sighed and looked at High Horse, resting her chin on one hoof. "Oh, Horsey, I know you can be better than that. Why can't you be nice?"
High Horse's ears snapped back and she turned to look at Crystal with a muddled expression. "Horsey?"
"It's, uh, it's a nickname?" Crystal tried to smile, but it didn't seem to help any.
"I don't have a nickname." High Horse frowned.
"Well, now you have a lame one." Golden sighed and put a hoof to her forehead, shaking her head. "Congratulations."
High Horse glanced between them before she faced the front, away from Crystal, her ears pinned against her dark brown mane.
Crystal gave a small sigh, though she smiled lightly. Her gaze returned to Velvet just as the teacher walked in and all the fillies and colts scurried to their seats.
Velvet sat down beside her with a sigh of relief and muttered to Crystal, "I thought they'd never leave me alone."
"That's what you get for earning your cutie mark." Crystal giggled. "Welcome to popularity! Are you sure you can even sit by me now?"
Velvet glared at her. "Oh my gosh, don't you start, too!"
Crystal just grinned back at her.
Ms. Austere cleared her throat from the front of the classroom and raised her chalk to the board. "That's enough, my little ponies. It's time for classes to begin."
Before anypony could approach them at lunch, Velvet grabbed Crystal by the hoof and took her around the corner to the back of the school. She sat down and gave an exasperated groan.
"I don't mind being friends with more ponies, but this is ridiculous!" She buried her face in her hooves. "They don't want to be friends with me, just my cutie mark!"
"Don't worry about it too much." Crystal patted her on the back, then opened her lunch bag. "Something will happen in a few days and that'll be the new talk of the schoolyard."
Velvet looked up at her with hope in her eyes. "Really? So I only have to put up with this for a few more days?" When Crystal nodded, she relaxed. "Oh, thank Celestia!" She opened her bag and instead of pulling out a sandwich or an apple or anything Crystal would have expected, she pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment.
"What's that?" Crystal tilted her head.
"It's my super-duper list of Crystal's favorite things that I know of!" She put on a playfully serious face and turned toward Crystal as she unrolled the paper. "If I'm going to be popular for a few days, then you are, too!"
Crystal laughed. She levitated the paper out of Velvet's hooves and raised it up for her to read aloud. "Reading, talking about reading, roses, cupcakes, braids, pink, princesses—" She lowered the paper so she could look at Velvet with one brow raised. "Princesses? What would that cutie mark look like?"
"I dunno." Velvet shrugged. "Maybe Celestia's face?"
"Oh, yeah, 'cause that's what I want on my flank." She burst into laughter, prompting Velvet to laugh as well.
"Okay, okay, so I just wrote down everything I could think of, all right?" Velvet wiped a tear from her eye as she relaxed into giggles. "A pretty pink rose would look good on you, though!"
Crystal turned her head to look at her bare flank. She squinted, trying to imagine everything from the list taking up residence on her creamy white coat.
Reading would be—a book? She'd like that, actually.
'Talking about reading'? She frowned. A conversation bubble with a book in it? She shook her head.
Roses? She did have to agree that a pink rose would be cute, especially if it matched the pink in her mane and tail.
Velvet similarly stared at Crystal's flank, though instead of imagining cutie marks, she was probably waiting for one, as if the list would spark an epiphany.
However, Crystal burst into laughter once more when she reached 'princesses' and imagined Celestia's face staring up at her from her flank.
"What?" Velvet pouted. "What's so funny?"
"A Celestia cutie mark."
Velvet's mouth tightened into a line as she tried to stave off her own laughter, but it wiggled, squirmed, and finally widened into a grin as she laughed, too.
The parchment returned to Velvet's hooves and Crystal took a bite of her daisy sandwich once her giggles had calmed. She looked up at the sky in thought while Velvet put away the list and started on her own lunch.
"Maybe Golden's right," Crystal finally said in a soft voice. "Maybe I don't have a special talent."
"Don't say that!" Velvet reached out and lightly smacked Crystal on the back of the head. "You'll never discover what it is if you think like that. Everypony has something they're good at, and I know you're good at something. You're just too caught up in your head to see it."
A small smile spread across Velvet's lips as she continued, "I don't think I'd ever have discovered how much I liked ballet if it weren't for you. So, now I'm going to return the favor." Her gaze fell to the ballerina slipper on her own flank. "It's really nice, knowing for sure I'm good at something. It's like Celestia herself came down and said, 'This will work out.'"
Crystal watched Velvet's expression in slight awe. The peace of mind from the assurance that there was something out there that she was meant for showed as a youthful sparkle in Velvet's eyes. It was the wishful feeling of hope she used to get from her posters, a feeling that she had long since lost.
She gave a brief shake of her head and smiled. "Well, I'm sure it'll come to me someday. For now, let's just worry about what you're going to do with yours!"
"Huh?" Velvet tilted her head. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you're gonna have to start going to classes now, right?"
"Yeah. Why is that a worry?" Velvet tilted her head the other way.
Crystal poked at her lunch bag. "That sort of thing takes up a lot of your time. You're really good already, since you're meant to do it, but you still have to learn routines and practice with other ballerinas. We won't get to hang out as much."
This brought silence to both fillies as they pondered this. Velvet glanced up with a shy grin. "Until you discover your talent, you could always come to lessons with me. Who knows! Maybe you'll be a ballerina, too!"
Crystal laughed and stroked her chin. "It can't hurt to try, I guess."
"Great! My first lesson is next week. I'll have Mom see if she can get you added, too!"
Crystal blinked a few times. "Wow, next week? Well, I guess we're going to find out pretty soon if I have what it takes to dance beside you, huh?"
Velvet giggled and playfully punched Crystal's shoulder. "Don't worry! What's the worst that could happen?"
"So, it could have been worse." Velvet tried to smile. She sat in a chair beside a bench in the locker room where Crystal was lying on her back. "You could have broken it." She glanced at the instructor examining Crystal's hindleg. "It's not broken, right?"
The mare shook her head. "It just looks like she twisted her ankle, that's all." She got up onto all fours. "Some ice and rest will take care of it. I'll go get some." She trotted out of the locker room.
Once the mare had left, Velvet's composure fell. Her ears drooped, her lower lip stuck out, and her eyes glossed over with tears. "This is all my fault!"
Crystal laughed softly. "No way! I shouldn't have tried to do a split so soon. Even the instructor said not to!"
"But you wouldn't be here if it weren't for me suggesting it."
Crystal reached out a hoof and placed it on Velvet's shoulder. "I had fun, honest! Well, until I lost my balance and took a face dive and Serenity stumbled over my leg and—" Her gaze fell to the swollen ankle.
Velvet looked as though she might wither away. "I'm sorry." She sniffed.
"Now, now, there's no need to fret, little pony," the instructor said as she walked in with a bag of ice. She placed the ice carefully and gingerly on the ankle. "She'll be fine as soon as tomorrow, so long as she stays off it and rests."
Velvet's gaze darted back and forth before she lifted her head, ears perked up. "I'll just spend the night at your place to make sure you get lots of good rest!"
Crystal paused to consider this, then smiled. "It's been awhile since we had a sleepover."
"Then it's settled!" Velvet threw her hooves in the air. "Sleepover it is! I'll let Mom know. She should be here soon to pick us up."
"I just got here, sweetie. They told me what happened." Sunbeam walked over, looking at Crystal with sincere concern. "Are you all right, pumpkin pie?"
Crystal smiled and nodded. "Yup! I discovered that I am definitely not a ballerina!"
This garnered a small smile in return from Sunbeam. "Come along, you can ride on my back. I'll carry you home."
"I'd normally decline and say I'm fine, but I think we all know I'd be lying, so thank you, Mrs. Sunbeam." Crystal carefully climbed onto Sunbeam's back, wincing as her ankle jostled the wrong way.
Velvet walked alongside her mother as they made their way to Crystal's house, glancing every so often at the injury, worry never leaving her face. Sunbeam raised a hoof to knock on the door, but when it opened seemingly of its own accord, she blinked, startled.
"Oh!" Sunbeam smiled after only a second of thought. "Sometimes I forget you unicorns can do that."
Crystal muttered a small sound of acknowledgment. All the movement, despite Sunbeam's careful steps, had her ankle throbbing with pain all over again. Sunbeam carried her inside and set her down on the couch.
"Dear, is that you?" Jet Set walked out onto the landing and gasped. "What in Equestria happened!" He trotted down the stairs and over to the group. "Who did this to you?"
"Myself, Dad." She winced as she shifted to try and get comfortable. "Can you get me some more ice? Also, Velvet's gonna stay over." She looked up with a weak smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Sunbeam."
"Just feel better, sweetums." Sunbeam smiled down at Crystal, then looked at Velvet and patted her on the head. "We'll see you after school tomorrow, then, I suppose?"
Velvet nodded. "Say hi to Dad for me." She hugged her mother, then turned her attention to Crystal's ankle.
Sunbeam excused herself while Jet Set walked back into the room with a dish towel filled with some ice.
"If this is what's going to happen, then I must say I don't know if I approve of these ballet lessons." He paused to glance at Velvet. "No offense, Velvet."
"None taken." Velvet nodded curtly. "I agree with you, anyway."
Crystal groaned and rolled her head back to stare at the ceiling. "I'm fine, honest! I might need some help getting up to my room in a bit, though."
"Certainly. Just call when you're ready." He paused, then raised a hoof and waved it. "So, I hope we're in agreement that there will be no more ballet lessons for you, dear?"
"Not anytime soon." Crystal lifted her head to look at Velvet after Jet Set left them alone. "Velvet, if you want, you can grab a book from my room and we can read it together. That sounds safe and restful, right?"
Velvet straightened and saluted. "Yes, ma'am!" She hurried up the steps, disappearing from Crystal's sight.
Crystal couldn't help a nervous gulp. Velvet would be alone. Alone in her room. She would just go in and grab a book, right? Her secret would be safe, wouldn't it?
Velvet paused once she was just inside Crystal's bedroom, glanced over her shoulder, and looked back into the room with a grin. She sat on her haunches, rubbing her hooves together with a determined look in her eyes.
"All right, Crystal's room," she said in a low whisper as she surveyed her neat and orderly surroundings. "It's just you and me now."