• Published 31st May 2013
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The Unicorn with Fire on Her Flank - Noradora



When a troubled unicorn flees her home in Canterlot, what kind of life awaits her in Ponyville?

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Chapter 10: Hooves

Wisp rolled around beneath her covers. She was all too aware of the vacancy in her bed and her house on this, the morning of Hearts and Hooves Day. True to her word, Twinkleshine had moved out yesterday, so now she was all alone. There would be no more no more breakfast in bed for her...

It was silly. Childish. She lived just next door again; it wasn't like companionship was far away. But still the house felt empty, and Wisp felt lonely. She could remember a time when she began many of her days in a black pegasus' warm embrace...

Her blanket flew off the bed, soon joined on the floor by her hooves. Lonely or not, that was no way to think. Those days were over.

A small smile graced her lips on the way to the washroom. That's right, I have somepony else now. And maybe, after today...

Pushing past the washroom door, Wisp stared at her reflection. Hey, what are you getting so sappy for? It's just a first date.

As she fiddled with the shower's water faucet from across the room, she tried tasting those words on her lips. "First date..."

Alright, she admitted, It's a first date. Of course I'm excited.

Yes, she thought as she tested the water, but it's still only been three days. I don't need to make such a big deal of it.

Is it so wrong to look forward to it, though?

She stepped into the shower with a grunt. Whatever. What happens, happens.

After closing the shower door, and in turn her eyes, allowing the warm, steamy water wash over her, she said to herself...

"It should be fun, at least."

—————————

The next couple of hours passed by with little incident. Wisp had felt tempted to just sleep the day away and get straight to the good part, but no. Ponyville wouldn't patrol itself, and she wouldn't let herself live it down if she just sat on her plot all day, anyway. Better to pass the time with something productive.

Speaking of productivity, it had been a while since Wisp had read anything besides a spellbook. She really wasn't into most of the things that Twinkleshine liked to read... But maybe she could use a decent romance story about now. She was feeling a bit sentimental.

Or maybe some sort of adventure novel would do her good. Though she had never been particularly interested in Daring Do... As she grew closer to the Golden Oaks Library and the books within, however, her thoughts turned elsewhere. Her progress on teleportation was still terribly slow; After graduating from the School for Gifted Unicorns not long ago, Wisp had finally returned to studying the spell only to let it fall by the wayside. She could teleport things now, sure, but teleporting things where she wanted to go? She hadn't managed that as a child, and she couldn't manage it now. Yet.

All things considered, the spell was challenging and progress was much slower than she would like. If she had somepony to help show her the ropes, so to speak, that would certainly prove a great help. Magic was always easier to learn with personal observation. And she did have a reason to pop into the library, anyway...

Her hooves didn't need any more convincing. It only took her a few more strides to reach the library door and knock.

"Yes, come in!"

As she entered, she was amused to note that, true to her reputation, Twilight had her nose in a book on a round reading table in the middle of the room.

"Oh, hello there," Twilight offered as Wisp closed the door behind her. "Are you here for a book?"

"Actually, I'm more interested in talking to you. If you're free."

"Sure, I'm not busy! Just reading up on some Hearts and Hooves Day history. Did you know that the holiday got its start from a love potion?"

"That old story about the prince and princess, right?" Wisp said as she walked across the room to Twilight's side of the table. "And after taking it, the kingdom falls because of their hypnotized negligence?"

"Yes, the very one. A fascinating insight into the fragility of governmental constructs, don't you think?"

"I guess," Wisp shrugged. "I'm more concerned with how foolish the prince was."

"Oh?" Twilight intoned, quietly shutting the book and curiously looking up at her. She looked pleased to be curious, too. Ever the scholar.

"Well, for starters, he was a royal. I'd hope he would have the education to know there's no such thing as a love potion. What mixtures can be made could only be called poison."

With a nod, she was invited to continue.

"More importantly, I think he was weak. He should have been strong enough to confess and let the princess decide for herself, but he chose what would have been a meaningless love. His entire kingdom suffered because of his weakness."

Twilight nodded again, with a wider smile. "Wouldn't it be interesting, though, if one could induce love with a simple concoction?"

"Interesting, sure. Healthy? I think not."

"I think your opinion says a lot about you," Twilight giggled.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, it fits everything I hear about you. Upstanding, headstrong... and well-read, I presume. Most ponies don't seem very well-informed about holiday history."

"Eh," Wisp shrugged, "You know what it's like. I've had to spend lots of time studying. Might as well read some actual literature now and then."

"Oh, yes," Twilight agreed, "In fact, I've been hoping for a visit so that we could discuss just that. I've met some talented unicorns in Ponyville, but I'm afraid I've yet to meet a another fellow mage. I could just really do with a peer, sometimes, you know?"

"Actually, that's why I'm here," she said. "I've wanted to learn to teleport ever since I was a filly..."

"...And you would like me to teach you?"

She nodded. "Whenever you have the time, I could use the guidance. After what happened back in magic kindergarten, I'm playing things as safe as I can. If I just had somepony to—"

"I'm sorry, wait... Magic kindergarten?"

Wisp coughed and finally took a seat in front of Twilight. "Yeah, I kind of teleported half my class into the middle of the Everfree Forest..."

The other unicorn had looked like she might laugh until the word "Everfree," but Wisp was quick to assure her that everything had turned out fine. The only casualties that day were a few highly-flammable timberwolves.

"That's good... But still, you learned to teleport as a child? That's rather impressive."

"Well, all I'd managed to teleport before then was a pencil," Wisp insisted. "And then I got a little... carried away. Either way, you're Celestia's student—I'm sure you would have done it better at my age."

"I suppose we'll never know. I was only allowed to begin studying it a little over a year ago..."

The conversation continued much like that for a while, just discussing magic and some of their various exploits with it. Wisp had almost forgotten what it was like to talk with a fellow mage... Twinkleshine would always be her dearest friend, but she was skilled only with light-based magic. Wisp, on the other hoof, knew fire magic and some other offensive spells, light magic, sound magic, the cloudwalking spell, rudimentary healing magic, and more. There simply wasn't a whole lot to discuss with her friend when it came to spellcasting. Talking at length with Twilight on was quite refreshing, indeed.

"You know, I don't think I've ever heard of a spell quite like that," Twilight said. "You say the casting involves the use of your own soul? That sounds awfully dangerous."

"It would be, but as Celestia made sure I learned, it requires only a very small 'piece,' and it's returned once the spell is cancelled. However..."

"Yes?"

"Well, being made of a soul, it can detect souls. But it can't distinguish between them unless I infuse another piece into somepony."

Twilight frowned thoughtfully. "I see... So you have to excercise moderation in marking those you care about."

"Exactly."

"I must admit, it sounds useful, but I don't think I'll be asking you to teach it to me. No offense."

"None taken," Wisp shrugged, still on the floor. "I got it with my mark, so I'm stuck with it, anyway."

"It really is fascinating, though. To think a foal would learn such a spell so young."

"You're one to talk," Wisp laughed. "I hear you turned a room of ponies into houseplants when you got your mark."

Twilight failed to hide her blush. The prodigy was was as modest as she looked. "That was just a wild burst of uncontrolled magic... I didn't properly learn transformation magic until years later."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right. It's not like growing an un hatched dragon to adult size is impressive, either."

Celestia's pupil whinnied anxiously. "Are you trying to embarrass me?"

"Heh, sorry," Wisp replied. "I guess Cloudchaser must be rubbing off on me."

Twilight gave her a questioning look. "Cloudchaser?"

"My frie—I mean, my new marefriend. Teasing ponies is pretty much her thing."

"Marefriend? If you have a marefriend, shouldn't you be out spending time with her?"

Wisp shifted uncomfortably. "Well, we have a date at Clover Café tonight, and it seems like she's going to be busy until then..."

"That's unfortunate... Most couples seem to spend the whole day together."

Right, of course they do... And why can't I? Is she really too busy for me?

Maybe her worries were more well-founded than she thought.

Dismayed at her apparent faux pas, Twilight elected for a change of subject. Although, by the look on her face, there was more to it. "Wait, I'm sorry. You came here asking about teleportation, and I still haven't given you an answer."

Wisp looked over her shoulder at the clock on the wall, where Twilight had been looking a moment ago. It read quarter past one.

"Wait, have I actually been here an hour already? Time sure flies..."

"Especially when you're reading a good book," Twilight giggled. "Anyway, let me say that yes, I'd be glad to help you learn to teleport sometime. It may take a while, though. As I'm sure you're aware, it's not the easiest spell to learn."

"Well, it's not quite that I have trouble casting it. I've been practicing with small objects; it's just that I can't get them to go where I want them to."

"Ah, I see..." Twilight nodded. "Yes, I can help with that. Then afterwards we can move up to self-teleportation."

Wisp nodded in turn, and pulled herself up off the floor. Brushing herself off, she said, "Thanks. We can work out dates later, but for now I think I've taken enough of your time. I should get back on patrol, anyways."

Twilight stretched her as she, too, picked herself off the ground. "Oh, you've been no trouble. The surprise visit was well worth the stimulating conversation."

The darker mare responded with a smile as she approached the door. After opening it and stepping outside, before she could say her goodbyes, something more important came to mind.

"Oh... By the way, Twilight,I think you owe Twinkleshine an apology. You never did make it to Moondancer's party."

It was a joy to watch the bookworm's face as the memories came back to her. The way her fellow her face contorted was quite amusing to behold.

"ButI—I... Whuh... If I had gone...!"

"Haha... Don't worry, it's all good. Duty before friendship, I understand."

Twilight's newfound fascination with the ground was amusing in its own right. "So you know Twinkleshine...?"

"Sure I do. She's my best friend."

Wisp laughed her way out the door, and called back to Twilight, "Just say something if you see her around, alright?" as she started again on her rounds.

The purple pony meekly grumbled something and gave a meager wave as she disappeared behind door. Wisp found it a little funnier than it had any right to be.

—————————

A couple hours later, Wisp was really regretting scheduling the date for evening. She had already been out in the town for hours, yet she had hours more to wait, and while waiting she got to see everypony out on their dates. Couples of every color were walking through the streets and flitting through the sky, having a picnic in the park or nuzzling under a tree... What else could she feel but jealous?

At least she had Mr. Waddle.

"Alright, I think that takes care of everything," she said, levitating a jar of honey into the elderly stallion's saddlebags. "Anything else you need?"

"Actually, I think I could use some asparagus... If that's alright with you."

Wisp rolled her eyes, in the warmest way possible. "Of course it is, Mr. Waddle. I'm here to help."

One might wonder why she was helping Mr. Waddle with groceries in the first place, when the little earth pony was capable of taking care of himself. The stallion was old, but not crippled. She must have something better to do, right?

The truth was that no, she did not have anything better to do. She'd already finished her usual trip around Ponyville and found no trouble, as usual. She could go grab Wintergreen and go again, but no... No, she had found someone that actually had a use for her help—crippled or not, a little magic made things a little more convenient for a little old earth pony. Better this than walking around and feeling useless.

"Thanks again," he said as they came up to the asparagus stand. "It's good to see a youngster like you so eager to help."

"It's nothing," Wisp replied, dropping a bit for the stall owner and sending a bundle of sprigs to join the rest of Mr. Waddle's groceries. "It's just what I do."

"Well, let me tell you, Ponyville appreciates it," he told her. "You're a good kid."

"Thanks," she smiled. "I try. But anyway, how's it going with Mrs. Waddle? Anything special planned for today?"

"Oh, yes, everything is swell," he said as they left the stand behind. "We're having a candlelit dinner, same as every year."

Wisp giggled to herself. There was something about elderly couple that made then horribly cute. "Well, if there's nothing else you need help with, be sure to give her my regards, okay?"

"Oh, I will," Mr. Waddle said as he took his leave. "Thanks again!"

Thats the second time you 'thanked me again,' she thought as she waved farewell.

Once he was gone, Wisp took a look around. Without Mr. Waddle, she could use another distraction. Did the fruit stall owner need help with that crate? No, he had it taken care of... Oh, that mare looked like she was having trouble haggling with the cherry salestallion. But... No, she managed to haggle a fair price. And those teenagers over there... looked completely vapid. She could see their utter indifference to the world from here.

Yeah... No thanks.

She sighed. Besides a few others, most ponies on the streets were yet more couples. As would be expected, Ponyville was filled to the brim with them today... Which was good for them and all, but thanks to them, Wisp couldn't keep her mind off of the great gap of nothing separating her from Cloudchaser.

Sigh... Maybe I should just go home and, I dunno, take a nap or something. It I have to see another couple bumping flanks, I'm going to go crazy...

The park might be a preferable napping spot, she thought, but she had already passed by it earlier—definitely a no-go. As she resigned herself to returning home, a rainbow-colored blur shot overhead, swooshing by like a... very fast pony.

Rainbow Dash had been dashing around a lot today, and Wisp had a pretty good idea why. Hearts and Hooves Day sounded difficult for a weather captain: something about picky couples being picky about the tiniest details of their dates, and the tendency of other weatherponies to skip work either to avoid dealing with that, or to pursue their own romantic endeavors. Understandable, maybe, but it left Rainbow Dash having to do pretty much everything on her own.

Wisp figured, at least, that Flitter and Cloudchaser must be helping. Flitter had probably dragged her sister to work, by the ear if necessary, insisting that they not leave Rainbow Dash hanging. Nice and responsible, Flitter was...

In any case, once Rainbow's prismatic contrail faded from view, Wisp turned on her hoof and set off. There wasn't much to say about her journey home: It was uneventful, as things often were. There were still pairs of ponies all over the place, doing various... couple things. She noticed Twinkleshine in the town square as she passed by, though, conversing with Berry Punch. Wisp didn't often get to talk with said pony outside of the bar, but her recent, drunken marriage proposal made things just a little awkward.

Hay, for all she knew, that's what Twinkleshine was talking to her about. All the inebriated flirting. Not that Berry's advances seemed at all serious, as far as Wisp could tell—she didn't even think the earth pony was into mares—and Wiso wasn't the only one she hit in. Either way, that wasn't a conversation she wanted to risk getting involved with.

Giving the pair a wide berth as she trotted past Town Hall, something occurred to her: It had been while since she'd checked in with the captain. Just flopping onto her bed and wasting the day away did sound rather boring...

He's probably out on a date for all I know, she thought, but it couldn't hurt to check in and say hi, if he is in...

As she was trotting towards the building, she was distracted again by the sound of a pegasus dashing by. When she stopped to look up she saw nothing, but then she felt the pressure of somepony leaning against her croup. Her tail flicked with displeasure as she whirled on the offender.

"Whoever you are, I hope you have a good reason fo—"

She blinked. Of course it was Cloudchaser casually propped up against her backside on an elbow. Of course... But Wisp couldn't deny it was a pleasant surprise.

"Hey, babe," the pegasus said, bouncing her eyebrows. "How's it hangin'?"

Wisp just rolled her eyes. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be busy with the weather?"

"What? Nah, I skipped. Sent word to Dash that Flits and I are going on a double date, or something. Wanna go out?"

"Woah, woah, slow down. Double date?"

"Yeah, that's my excuse. I'm not gonna spend the day pushing clouds into just the right place when I could be hanging out with my favorite unicorn instead."

Wisp had to remind herself how absurd it was to carry a conversation with a pony leaning on her backside... But she could make the exception. However...

"You're skipping again? How do you even make any money?"

"Well, it's not like Flitter always joins me... And stuff."

"'And stuff'..." She shook her head. "Well, did she skip today?"

Cloudchaser nonchalantly polished a hoof against her back. "Yeah, she usually does. She just goes out and... Well, you don't wanna know what she does on Hearts and Hooves Day."

Wisp tilted her head. Which was a little hard, given that she was already looking behind her. "What do you mean?"

"What does it matter? She's not here." Then she... pantomimed pulling down a pair of shades from her eyes before changing the subject. "This is about you and me."

Dork.

"Sooo, like I said... Wanna go out? I'm all yours now."

"Well, since I'm stuck with you, sure. If you get off of me."

"You haven't bucked me off yet. I don't think you really mind it that much."

A pegasus fell to the ground as her marefriend slipped out from under her.

"Oh, look, now you've gotten me all dirty," Cloudchaser laughed as she picked herself back up. "How about we go over to your place and clean off?" She laughed again when her mare shoved her away.

"You can be really unbearable, you know."

"It's not my fault I've got all this animal charm."

"Right... animal..."

"Heheh... Seriously, though, I've got something specific in mind. You interested?"

That caught her attention. "Something specific?"

"Uh, yeah," the pegasus snorted, flapping up into the air and crossing her arms. "I was busy for a reason, you know. C'mon, let me show you."

"Alright, but where are we goAAAAAH!"

—————————

Spontaneity was a good quality to have. It lent itself to adaptability and excitement. Life was often more interesting around a spontaneous pony, and interesting was a good thing. Most of the time.

All things considered, she was glad Cloudchaser possessed such a quality. It was the wellspring of her wit—even if that wit could be just as annoying as it was clever—and being quick on the draw would serve her well the event of an emergency. She was just as quick on her hooves (and wings); decisive; dependable.

Wisp just wished this little trip hadn't been so spontaneous.

"So, Cloudchaser," she ventured as they drifted lazily over the Ponyville skyline.

"Yeah?"

"We've been flying around for a few minutes..."

"Uh-huh..."

"And wherever you're taking me, it's supposed to be romantic. Right?"

"You betcha."

"Then why are you still carrying me around like a sack of potatoes?"

Cloudchaser looked down at her. True, she was holding Wisp in her arms, allowing her legs to dangle haplessly in the air... But she had carried the unicorn on her back last time. Variety was the spice of life, right?

"...Variety's the spice of life, right?"

Wisp tried not to facehoof. "Variety is nice and all, but this doesn't seem all that romantic to me."

If not for the mare in her grasp, the pegasus would have shrugged. "Well, I thought you might enjoy the hug, buuut alright. Seat change, coming right up."

Wisp grew a little concerned at Cloudchaser's sudden burst of speed. She grew a little more concerned as she built up yet more speed and began angling upwards, and then officially declared herself worried once they were facing straight up and beginning to flip over backwards. Cloudchaser released her hold and flung her into a backflip, soon leaving her suspended in place before gravity began to pull at her.

As she began to plummet, Wisp felt a breathless scream leave her throat. She felt emptiness all around as she flaile and the earth below rotated into view. She flashed back to her previous flight—if she had fallen then, she would have had some time to think about it, but right now she was only a few dozen feet in the air. The ground would quickly make her acquaintance.

It would be almost comical, really. To think that the end of her life would be punctuated with a series of flips... But she had a chance. If she could just manage to slow her fall enough using telekinesis... She didn't actually know if it could work, let alone at this low height, but she had to try.

Before she could even flex her horn, or scream again, she felt a warmth beneath her. She saw purple. Immediately did the only thing she could think of and wrapped her arms tight around the mare's neck, and immediateky thereafter she felt their their trajectory quickly level back out into a nice, horizontal orientation.

For a few moments, it was all Wisp could do to catch her breath. Long, deep ones... And then, even knowing their target wouldn't see, she glared daggers.

"So... is that better?"

"I hate you."

The pegasus chortled at her. "Aw, c'mon, sweetie, don't be like that. You're so cute when you're scared."

"...Don't call me that," Wisp grunted, more forcefully than she intended.

"'Sweetie'? What's wrong with that?"

"It just doesn't feel right," she grumbled. "When you say it as a joke."

"Oh. Uh... Sorry."

A silence passed over them, and as it grew, so did Wisp's guilt. She wasn't really going to be that touchy, was she? She was just about to apologize when Cloudchaser cleared her throat. "So how's your day been? I forgot to ask."

"Oh, it was alright, I guess. The same as usual. Though I did stop by the library, finally."

"And hung out with the Princess of Nerds herself? How did that go?"

Wisp rolled her eyes. "Well, she did agree to help me with my teleportation. More than that, it was fun talking with her. She's very intelligent. But, you know," she snarked, "I study magic just about as much as she does. Does that make me a nerd, too?"

"Hey, if you're a nerd, you're a cool nerd. Twilight's on a whole other level."

Wisp gave a chuckle. "Well, I think it's kinda cute."

Cloudchaser gave an exaggerated gasp. "You think someone besides me is cute? How dare you!"

"Oh, yes, I'd check her books out any day."

"Not a bad idea, actually. Maybe I should join you."

"Anyway," Wisp laughed, "After talking with her, I helped Mr. Waddle out with some grocery shopping after finishing my rounds. I was just heading home when you showed up. How about you? Just what were you doing that had you so busy?"

"You'll see in a minute... We're almost there."

"Is that so..."

As silence fell between them once more, Wisp entertained herself by theorizing just what this surprise was going to be. They were out in the countryside now, flying low over Sweet Apple Acres. Maybe some kind of romantic picnic? That would risk ruining her appetite for dinner, but it might be worth it... But even if she was right, it wasn't like picnics took much effort to set up. Assuming she was right, it probably had something to do with the weather.

Satisfied with her guesswork, Wisp turned her thoughts to other things. Besides the warmth of the pony beneath her, the first thing to come to mind was the landscape below. She normally held little interest for farms and whatnot, but she had to admit this place was picturesque. There were vibrant and colorful apple trees everywhere, most bearing red fruit, all standing amongst a backdrop of lush grass and rolling hills. The Apples' main barn and farmhouse and barn stood against the green, somewhere in the distance.

The sprawling landscape faded from view as they dipped below the tree cover. Cloudchaser was flying a bit slower now, which made enough sense, but they had been flying low enough already. All Wisp could see now was... trees and grass.

"Hey, what gives?"

"We're almost there," Cloudchaser told her. "Can't go spoiling the surprise."

After a couple of minutes like this, the trees began to thin out, the scenery smoothly changing from a veritable forest into rolling hills with only a sparse population of trees. But even though the view was becoming far less obstructed, Cloudchaser was making a point of hugging the ground as they approached a hill that rose relatively high. As they were cresting the hill, Cloudchaser took a deep breath...

...And let it all out in a rush, much like a popped balloon. "Wh... What? What the hay is this?"

Before them now was a grassy clearing of sorts. The terrain was still fairly "bumpy," but the view stretched on for miles. Which looked nice and everything, but it probably would have looked even better with a large, colorful rainbow standing over it.

This rainbow was anything but colorful.

With its faded, neutral spectrum of "colors" and immense size, it looked unnatural, looming over the edge of Sweet Apple Acres and the plains beyond like a raincloud. Who had ever heard of a rainbow without color?

"How did... Why did...?" The pegasus facehoofed, and hard. "This is ridiculous."

"I take it it's not supposed to look like that?" Wisp asked.

"Of course not," Cloudchaser groaned. "Half an hour ago it was as rainbow-y as could be. And I spent hours on it, too..."

"Is this what you were working on? A rainbow... For me?"

Even as Cloudchaser hung limp in the air and slowly sagged to the ground, she was the one to blush for once. Just a little. "Yeah. Flitter helped, but... I thought it would make a nice little pre-date gift."

"Little? It's huge..." Wisp gave the thing another look as they landed—it looked to be a half mile long, at least. After clambered off her marefriend's back, she looked to Cloudchaser and asked, "How hard did you work on this? And why did you make it so big?"

"Rainbows aren't that hard to work with. It's more that it took a while to set up just right... And I, uh, though a bigger one would be more impressive."

"You big dork... You didn't need to go through all that trouble just for me."

Cloudchaser anxiously rubbed at her neck. "Sure, I didn't have to, but I wanted to. I mean, you're my marefriend, and it's Hearts and Hooves Day. I wanted to do something special for you, ya know?"

Wisp felt a blush growing on her cheeks as she scooted over into the pegasus' side. "And you're the one who acted all casual about this..." She nuzzled her head against Cloudchaser's. "Thank you."

Cloudchaser nuzzled back, and they remained that way for a moment, beneath the... 'graybow'? Is that it should be called? "Rainbow" certainly didn't seem appropriate.

Either way, when it came time for Wisp to reluctantly lean away, she said, "So, um... I think it actually looks kinda cool. Let's say it still had its color: What next?"

"Well," Cloudchaser said, "This is when I'd point you to a conveniently placed picnic blanket... But I decided to play it safe. Don't wanna ruin your dinner, you know."

The unicorn tilted her head. "So..."

"'Just sit and talk' was the plan. I trust you don't mind?"

The pegasus punctuated the question by pulling her into a winghug. Wisp leaned once again into her mare, noting that she was quickly becoming used to this. She was starting to feel like a bit of a glutton, really, but she didn't much care.

"Heh. I'll take that as a yes."

A new blush rose within her cheeks. I guess I don't hide that I like her hugs, do I?

"Well," Cloudchaser continued, "Looks like we're good on the sitting. Now this is the part where we talk."

"Shut up. Since you're the one who wants to talk so bad, what did you have in mind?"

"Actually," Cloudchaser said, turning her head towards her, "I was thinking we could talk about us."

Was it possible for a stomach to flop and flutter at the same time? Wisp was inclined to say yes.

"What about us...?"

"Well, we've known each other for a month, now," she said. "I'm just thinking how we can skip over a lot of the fluff."

All of a sudden, the unicorn felt even more aware of the position they were in. As she looked into Cloudchaser's eyes, her bangs flirting with them as always, didn't help. Wisp really liked her mane.

"And by fluff, you mean..."

Cloudchaser strengthened her hug. "I mean, we already know each other pretty well. It's not like we have to ask each other about what we do or where we're from."

Wisp pretended not to notice her purple muzzle drawing slowly closer.

"Or our favorite colors..."

Wisp's, for the record, was purple.

"We know each other better than that..."

She could feel the pegasus' breath on her face.

"We can just..."

Regardless of how fast her heart was beating, she leaned back and pressed a hoof to Cloudchaser's lips. "Sorry, but..." she breathed, "You're gonna have to work for it, little filly."

Cloudchaser pulled away with a smirk. "Aw, that's no fair, using my own words against me. Not even a little kiss?"

"Nope. You have to wine and dine me first."

Cloudchaser smirked at her. "Fair enough." And then she snuck a quick peck on the cheek and whispered into her ear, "There's a lot more where that came from, though."

Wisp... tried not to think about that. Instead, she turned to something from earlier in the conversation. "By the way..."

"Hm?"

"I actually don't know anything about your goals. You've never said a word."

Cloudchaser's mouth opened in reply, but no words came. Wisp could feel her deflating beside her. "Right... That."

"What? Is there a problem?"

"No," Cloudchaser said, looking over at the graybow. "I try not to think about it most of the time, but I guess it's something you should know."

Ever since the moment they'd met, Cloudchaser had never shown such vulnerability. Seeing her like this was... unusual. Worse, Wisp found herself just as glad to see her open up as she was sad to see her down. Was that selfish of her?

Whether it was or wasn't, she quietly rested her hoof on the pegasus' and allowed her to collect her thoughts.

"Well," she eventually started, "You want to get into your Magi Corps. And I'm sure you'll make it, too. Me... I've always wanted to join the Wonderbolts."

Well, that's not a big surprise. You certainly seem the type...

"Like every pegasus foal, the Wonderbolts fascinated me as a filly. And I always loved to fly, so I thought 'If I'm going to fly, why not be one of the best?' But an orphanage isn't the best kind of place to practice, if you catch my drift."

"I'd almost forgotten you were an orphan... But what do you mean? You could still fly, right?"

"It's not like it was a bad place, but in a big place like Manehattan, the ponies in charge didn't want to risk any of the pegasus kids running away and getting lost, or something. I got my exercise and not much else."

"I see..."

The pegasus fluffed her free wing before continuing. "It was just a flight of fancy back then, though. Just getting by with Flitter was all that mattered. But then I got my cutie mark..."

Wisp nodded. "After you were adopted."

"Right... Once I found Flitter and got my mark, I started thinking 'Hey, if I can do that, who says I can't get into the Wonderbolts too?'"

Cloudchaser sighed. "But I just... I don't think I'm a very driven pony, Wisp. I spend my time having fun, and I don't push myself when it comes to my job. Doesn't sound much like Wonderbolt material, does it?"

"Cloudchaser, what do you see when you look at me? No jokes."

"I see a mare who's making something of herself. Who's good at what she does. Who has a shot at her dream."

"And how do you think I got any good at what I do?"

Cloudchaser's brow furrowed. "By working at it, obviously. What's your point?"

"My point is that I'm only where I am because I put in the effort. You're already a good flier, Cloudchaser, and it's not like you have to change yourself to put in some effort. You have a real chance, too."

Her marefriend shook her head. "I know that. Or at least, I know I should, but... How am I supposed to compete with someone like Rainbow Dash?"

"Rainbow Dash?"

"Yeah, we all know she's gonna get into the 'bolts. She's probably the best flier, you know... ever. She's stupid fast, and strong, she's got technique—"

"Twilight Sparkle."

Cloudchaser's face scrunched up at the interruption... But then she got it.

"I like to think I'm good with magic, but magic is her cutie mark. I know for damn sure she's stronger than I'll ever be—I don't see myself levitating an Ursa Minor all the way to its cave anytime soon." The pegasus was avoiding her gaze now, but she didn't stop. "So what if she's better than me? It doesn't devalue what I do. It's the exact same thing for you—Raindow Dash may be 'better' than you, but that doesn't make you any less good."

Cloudchaser was silent for a minute after that. Or maybe only half of that... It was hard to tell. All Wisp knew was what she said next.

"...Do you give speeches like that often?"

"No," Wisp answered, rolling her eyes. "Do you always have to deflect with a joke?"

The pegasus deflated a little. She hadn't planned on fooling for long... honest.

"Alright, so I don't know what to say. You make a good point, but... well..." She finally reciprocated Wisp's hoof, noe holding it in her own. "You have a way of reminding me why I respect you so much."

Wisp blinked in surprise. "R-respect?"

"Yeah," Cloudchaser nodded. "I've always told you I think you're cool, and I mean it. Because... uh... stuff."

"How very eloquent."

"Maybe," Cloudchaser agreed. "But what you said was pretty cheesy."

"I'd like to see you tell me I'm wrong. Besides, it was... my duty, as your marefriend."

"Riiiight..." the pegasus smirked, even as she gave her a thankful nuzzle. "You're getting used to this pretty fast, aren't you?"

"Maybe," Wisp quipped. "Is that a problem?"

"Nah. Just wanna make sure you're aware."

"Hmph."

—————————

"You can't just 'hang out' before a date like that, Wisp. There are rules!"

"We've been through this before, Twink. You know I don't care for your rules."

"Hmph. Even so, just what were you thinking, buying a rose for somepony else?"

"I was thinking that Roseluck looked pretty down and could use some cheering up. Cloudchaser even agreed with me." Wisp opted not to remind her that the florist had afterwards tearfully refunded the money for their own roses.

"That's well and good, but couldn't you have done, I don't know... anything else?"

She snorted. Quietly. "Not that I could come up with. How would you feel if you ran a flower stand and nopony ever bought you one?"

"I... Well... I suppose you have a point."

"Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, can we get to business already?"

With a huff, Twinkleshine got to work. Whether or not she properly understood the nuances of dating, Wisp did still need to get ready, and so she finally picked up the water bottle and started spraying down her the mare's mane.

Speaking of her mane...

"You know," the love expert offered, "Sometimes I forget how much I like your hair."

"What?"

"I mean, just look at it," she said, setting down the bottle to grab something else. "White and pink go really well with that dark coat of yours."

Wisp's tail swished to her other side. "What's your point?"

"Nothing, really," Twinkleshine said as she doused her mane in mousse. "It'd just look nice if you did it up more often." Giggling as she rubbed the stuff in, she added, "Besides, I'm sure Cloudchaser would like that."

Another twitch, as expected. "Shut up..."

"Come on," she laughed, "I mean it. I'm sure she's going to be blown away when she sees you."

Wisp grumbled incoherently as Twinkleshine continued her work. She certainly hoped she was right...

—————————

"You know, seeing you like this reminds me of the Grand Galloping Gala."

"I still can't believe I ever let you drag me there."

"Come on, it wasn't that bad. We had some fun, and it's always nice to see Princess Celestia, isn't it?"

"I like to have my fun away from the snooty ones. And I saw plenty of Celestia back in school..."

"Oh, whatever," Twinkleshine tutted. "I know some part of you enjoyed the culture."

"Well," she pondered, "I did like the part where the party got crashed by garden animals..."

"...I thought we agreed to never speak of that again."

Wisp's visage twisted into some rough approximation of a particular pony's face. "You're... going to LOVE ME!"

Twinkleshine snorted as Wisp broke into laughter. "You know, that seemed really out of place for a pony like Fluttershy. She's so nice and, you know... shy."

"It is part of her name," Wisp offered. "A pony like her probably has to deal with a lot of crap, and she's too nice to do anything about it. I'm sure there's some pent up frustration there."

"'It's always the quiet ones,' huh?"

She shrugged. "There's always more to ponies than meets the eye, right?"

The other unicorn smirked. "Like how you secretly love being pampered?"

"...Shut up, Twinkleshine."

"Ha-ha. Who's laughing now?"

"Me, when I remind you of the chocolate fondue incident."

"...Anyway," she said, floating a mirror over, "What do you think?"

Wisp peered into her reflection and looked herself over. Her mane and tail were both styled to perfection, sleek and deliberate instead of relatively free and wild like usual. Her mane lay straight, covering her left eye with an alluring fringe that brought one's attention to the right. Her tail was much the same, brushed and moussed and combed straight and smooth.

Alhough, technically, her tail was quite obscured by the dress.

It was a fairly simple garment, favoring practicality over embellishment. In color it was mainly pink with some white accents, and long, flat skirt that flowed up over her back and into a modest front with a dipping neckline and no sleeves. There were no ruffles, no frills, no gems. It was very honest, Wisp thought... And affordable. For what she had paid, it didn't look too bad.

It wasn't really fancy or anything, but then, it didn't need to be, did it? Clover Café, she had learned, was more of a rural town's attempt at a classy restaurant than an actual classy restaurant. More importantly, despite their little "bet" of sorts, she and Cloudchaser both agreed they didn't need to shoot too high on their first time out. They could always go fancier later, and Wisp could always get a more flattering outfit then. What mattered was that it looked right at home on her.

"You know what? I don't think I look half bad."

—————————

Well, this is the place.

Fitting with its reputation, Clover Café's exterior was indistinguishable from its rustic surroundings. Apparently, it had been a humble barber shop before being repurposed into an eatery. This wouldn't be a problem, per se, if it didn't try to maintain a facade of sophistication, but Wisp supposed it was part of the legacy. At heart, it was a Ponyville diner, and it looked the part.

But she had spent long enough taking in the scenery. With a deep breath, she pushed past the few ponies making use of the outdoor seating and went inside.

Trotting through the door was like stepping into another world. Unlike the outside, Clover Café's interior design was a dead ringer for similar establishments in Canterlot—it almost reminded her of Sun's Flank, except with a lot less red. The place still had a dark look and calm atmosphere, but the lighter walls and swan-white table cloths helped to brighten things up .

As for the help, they looked the part... But Wisp could see from here that most of them failed to convincingly act the part. The unicorn stallion approaching her, however, was not one of them.

"Hello, ma'am," he greeted her with a distinguished accent, "Welcome to Clover Café. Might I have the honor of serving you tonight?"

Wisp felt oddly disappointed. She had rather been looking forward to having some cute klutz of a waiter, but it couldn't be helped.

"Of course," she answered, making a quick scan of the room, "But I'm supposed to be meeting with somepony. Her name is Cloudchaser. Do you know if she's here?"

"Purple coat, light mane?" She nodded. "Yes, she arrived just a few minutes ago. Allow me to show to your table."

It's almost like I'm back in Canterlot.

The stallion led her past rows and rows of ponies, past couples young and old, past large families and young waitresses trying to fake an accent. Actually, as far as Wisp could tell, she had wound up with the only believably classy waiter in the café.

She followed him past a couple empty booths to their destination near the center of the room, and immediately felt her blood pressure jump. As she should be, Cloudchaser was sitting in this booth, but she looked... Well, different, of course. It was to be expected, but Wisp hadn't been quite prepared for this.

The rose-colored headband was new. Most of her mane appeared much the same as ever—just a bit more well-kempt—but the front draped over her face like a frozen river, mostly obscuring the right side and exposing the left. Wisp had always liked the hair hanging over Cloudchaser's eyes, but seeing her like this...

Gulp.

As more of her came into view, Wisp was struck by how well her dress suited her. The V-necked bodice was a faded blue, like the shadow of a cloud (or, more aptly, the lighter streaks of Cloudchaser's cutie mark), and had a star-shaped clasp in the center of her chest. And had she been standing up, the long purple skirt, with its cloud-like lining, would have reached the floor. Going by looks, it fit her like a glove.

"Oh, hey, how nice of you to join me. C'mon, sit."

As she quietly obliged, their waiter offered to take their orders.

"Yeah, sure," Cloudchaser said, pushing her menu away. "I'd like some fried mushrooms, hold the dressing."

"Actually, don't hold it. I'd like some, too."

"Good choice," Cloudchaser said, before leaning over to take a sip of water. Wisp then realized that she had a glass, as well.

"Will that be all?"

"Yeah, we'll decide on our main course while you're gone."

"Very well. I shall return shortly."

Once the stallion was out of earshot, Cloudchaser snickered, "Did you see that guy? We must've got the only fancy one in this whole place."

"That's what I was thinking," Wisp replied. "He sure surprised me, the way you made this place sound."

"Yeah, well, I haven't been in a while. He must be new... But forget that," Cloudchaser said, raising her visible eyebrow and looking her over again. "You're looking... great."

"Heh, well... It can be nice to dress up now and then."

"Yeah, I agree... But don't tell anyone I said so. I have a reputation to maintain."

Yeah... Right.

"For real, though, you're killing me with that fringe. Although I think we both had the same idea..."

"I'm not going to complain. I think it really suits you."

"Yeah? You can thank Flitter for it. I might've gone for something different, but what else can I do that looks this good?"

Wisp rolled her eyes. "Oh, I'm sure you could come up with something."

"Anyway, you should probably take a look at the menu. Garçon shouldn't take long."

She sipped on her water as she flipped her menu open. "Hm..."

By the time the waiter returned with their mushrooms, they were both ready with their orders and sent him right back on his way. Wisp was in the mood for a large, crispy Caesar salad, while her partner was having a fettuccine alfredo dinner. The unicorn had herself been tempted to order some pasta, but this was a night for fresh, leafy goodness.

As her mind returned from its food-related fantasizing, she noticed that Cloudchaser was staring right at her.

"Seriously, I really like what you did with your mane."

Wisp wished she still had a menu to hide behind. "Yeah...?"

"Mhm. You look like you, just, you know... sexier. Like you're a pretty mare that knows she's pretty."

Wisp felt a blush coming on. "It's been a while since anyone called me that..."

"What, really? Are ponies blind?"

"I-it's not that I don't get compliments. Just... usually not that one."

"Feh. Let me be the one to tell you that kicking an earth pony's flank doesn't make you any less pretty."

"I... That wasn't anything special. All I really did was slug him for hurting Twinkleshine."

"Yeah, and when you did you almost took him out in one hit, or so I hear. That's pretty impressive for a pretty little unicorn mare."

"Pfft. 'Little unicorn'..." Wisp popped a mushroom into her mouth as she tried not to think about how flattered she felt.

"Well," she said after swallowing, "It's not like I can always rely on magic..."

"You make it sound so simple," Cloudchaser remarked with a smile. "I don't think you give yourself enough credit. But anyway..." Cloudchaser took a moment to munch on some of her own mushrooms—Wisp still didn't understand how a pony could skip on the ranch—and adopted a thoughtful expression. "From what your BFF tells me, it sounds like you're not usually this modest. What's up with that?"

Wisp decided that now was a good time for more mushrooms. She went through one, two, three of them, and was ready for more, but... It wasn't like Cloudchaser was going anywhere. She sighed.

"Well," she began, slow and tentative, "I'm still not proud of what happened in Canterlot."

Cloudchaser might have spit out her water if she'd been taking a drink. "You're not actually still on about that, are you?"

"I lost control of my emotions and my magic, Cloudchaser! I could've really hurt somepony..."

"Your heart was broken and you were stressing out, big time. It wasn't your fault."

"My lack of control was mine and mine alone. And then it happened again with Wintergreen... But it's not just that." She sighed. "It was my own fault I ended up in that situation to begin with."

She was startled by Cloudchaser slamming her hoof against the table. "You're blaming yourself for being cheated on?"

Her lips tightened. "I can't deny the truth in the things she said. I ignored the signs when I gave her too much attention..."

"No, Wisp. Just no. This is not okay."

"I've always had trouble with my temper. Just ask Twinkleshine. I've always—"

"Wisp!"

As soon as she'd cried out, Cloudchaser's hooves were on the table and her eyes trained in hers, staring into her into silence. She looked frustrated and... sad?

"Just... stop. Please."

It was all Wisp could do, just then, to comply.

With that, Cloudchaser relaxed and sighed as she rubbed her face. "Look, Wisp... I know I'm not the brightest tool in the shed, but even I know blaming yourself isn't healthy. Please, don't put yourself down like that."

She nodded again. What could she say to that?

"Clingy or not, it was no one's fault she cheated except hers. And if I ever meet her in person, I'll tell her exactly what I think about it."

Wisp blinked in astonishment. She had no idea the pegasus felt so strongly about this.

"Anyway, we've been over this before. Just cut yourself a little slack, alright?"

"...I'm sorry."

"Forget about it. Let's just enjoy our food, yeah?"

Silence reigned between them as they did so. Wisp had to admit the mushrooms still tasted great, even now. She took some time to savor each one... But as she watched Cloudchaser stuff her face into the basket, she decided she should try and make things a bit more convenient for her.

When all she got in return was a funny look, she just kept nudging it into the mare's muzzle until she finally bit into it. As she repeated the process with another, Wisp started giggling at her own immaturity, and by the time Cloudchaser joined her, the sour note on their night was all but forgotten.

Then, just as they were running out of mushrooms, the waiter returned with two plates in his magical grip, elegantly guided them to their respective places as he arrived, and asked if they would like anything else. Then, as soon as he'd come, he left to tend to other customers.

Cloudchaser was almost snorting up the fumes of her pasta dinner. "Ahhh, this is gonna be good..." Then she looked over at her unicorn's plate and scrunched up her face. "I still don't get why you didn't order some real food like me."

"What, does salad not count anymore? Did I miss something?"

"It's still food, but it's cold food. You're supposed to treat yourself to a meal, filly."

Wisp rolled her eyes. "Whatever. There's nothing wrong with...Oh, horseapples."

"What? Something wrong?"

Wisp poked around at her salad with fork in horn. To be specific, she was poking around at something hard inside it. "I forgot to order it without croutons." She plucked out one of the crunchy things and glared at it. "I hate croutons."

"Just throw them over here, I'll take 'em."

Wisp's face was the one to scrunch up now. "With your noodles? Why?"

The pegasus shrugged. "I might as well take 'em off your hooves if they bother you so much."

"Right. Well, um... Thanks."

As Wisp levitated the wretched things out of her salad and far away, Cloudchaser changed the subject. "By the way, how's it going with old Greeny? Is he still a giant stick in the mud?"

"What, him? Yeah, it's fine, I guess. But he's still about as conversational as a rock."

"Boooring," Cloudchaser scoffed as she stirred the croutons into her fettuccine, with fork in hoof. "And he still hardly goes outside?"

"As far as I can tell," Wisp answered. "But I'm not sure."

"What do you mean?"

She chewed thoughtfully on her lettuce. "Well, after Twinkleshine stopped the bar fight, he came out of nowhere and forced that idiot to the ground. Said he'd been about to hit me while I wasn't looking."

"Huh."

"It's good for me he showed up, but it was kinda weird. I've never seen him in ."

Cloudchaser gave a shrug. "What's weird about it? With you showing him the magic of friendship, he must finally be getting tired of spending his time alone."

"That's the thing, though," Wisp countered. "I'm still not sure if we even are friends. Although..."

"Yeah?"

"When I told him about my crush on you, he actually had plenty to say."

"Oh...?"

"There's not much to say. Basically he thought it was all just hormones and told me I shouldn't ask you out for a year."

"What? You're kidding..."

"Nope. He thought I should wait to be sure it wasn't just a passing interest."

"Ha... Wow. He really doesn't get how this stuff works, does he?"

Wisp gave a shrug as she swallowed another bite of salad. "I dunno. Maybe he just comes from a really conservative family or something. I have no idea, because he never tells me anything."

"Maybe that's the reason he doesn't have friends."

"Maybe..."

I could certainly believe it. He's been difficult since day one... But there must be a pony hiding under there.

"Anyway, enough of that," Cloudchaser said. "I know something much more interesting we can talk about."

When Wisp asked inquired, she told her, "Cutie marks." She flashed her trademark grin. "You still haven't told me the whole story."

"Does it really mean that much to you? It's not as exciting as it sounds."

Cloudchaser just stared.

"Okay, fine." She downed a few gulps of water first, and cast her mind back. "Well, I told you about my botched teleport, right?"

"Yeah."

"Right. So that was back in magic kindergarten, before I even got into the School for Gifted Unicorns. I kind of... snuck the spellbook out of its library, though."

Cloudchaser clicked her tongue. "Oh dear, it sounds like young Wispy was a little hooligan."

"It wasn't a habit or anything. I just... really wanted to learn that spell." She coughed. "Besides, if I hadn't done that I wouldn't have been been invited into the school to begin with.."

"Hilariously ironic. But that doesn't have anything to do with your cutie mark."

Wisp rolled her eyes. "Impatient... Jeez." Cloudchaser just laughed. "Anyway, so like I said, I tried to teleport myself on the playground. But I tried a little too hard and suddenly half my classmates and I were in the Everfree Forest. I think you can imagine how everypony reacted."

"They freaked the buck out?"

"Pretty much. Eventually they started directing it at me, but I was lucky to have brought Twinkleshine along for the ride. She managed to calm them down a little as I tried to teleport us back."

"Which worked, I'm sure."

"Oh, of course. The first one had tired me out too much to do it again, and that's probably for the best. Who knows where I might've ended up if it'd worked?" She shook that out of her head. "Anyway, we tried finding out way out, but let's just say we were hopelessly lost.

"Everypony was starting to get... well, even more worried. We had no idea how to survive in the wilderness, and we'd all heard stories about the Everfree. But then these will-o'-wisps started showing up..."

"Wisps, huh? I think I see where this is going."

"Yep. The kind that tries to lure you to your death."

Wisp ignored the eyeroll and continued her story. "Luckily some of us had heard about Wisps before and knew better than to follow them, but that didn't help that much, since when wisps don't get what they want, they start bringing things to you..."

She deemed Cloudchaser's ensuing "oh" as appropriate.

"Yeah. I tried scaring the things away, but when I hit one with fire, I felt something... weird happen. It felt almost like the air was being sucked out of my lungs, except... not. Next thing I know, the wisp has changed color. I had no idea what was going on, but I went out on a limb and asked it to lead us out."

"Did it?"

"Not at first, but it did when I asked it to take us to Ponyville. The other wisps weren't very happy about it, though... And yes, this is where the timberwolves came in."

She shrugged and looked down at her poor salad. She was beginning to feel guilty for neglecting it. "There's really not much else to say. I set the wolves on fire and eventually we made it out. The end."

"But what about your cutie mark?" Cloudchaser prodded. "When did it show up?"

"Oh. Right." That part was kind of important. "I don't know exactly when it appeared. I was a little too occupied with running to notice."

Cloudchaser decided that was satisfactory as she began hungrily eyeing her forgotten meal. "That really is a heck of a cutie mark story. Mine's got nothing on yours."

Wisp didn't quite agree. "No, mine is exciting and all, but yours is really... well, touching."

The pegasus looked back up and actually started anxiously rub her shoulder. "Heh. I guess you're right." She looked down in the direction of her flank and smiled. "Sometimes I forget how much it means to me."

Then Cloudchaser suddenly reestablished eye contact and donned a smirk. "And speaking of mushy stuff... Where did your little crush come from, anyway?"

"H-huh?"

"I'm just saying, we knew each other for a while before you popped the question. What took ya so long?"

Wisp scuffed a hind hoof against the floor. "I think it just took me a while to realize... I mean, I've had a number of ponies have show interest in me, but I always turned them down. But then Rainbow Dash..."

"Heh. You mean when she thought we were on a date? Go figure."

"Heheh, yeah..."

Cloudchaser scratched her chin for a bit, looking thoughtful. "Hm. I guess this is our second date, then."

Wisp's ears perked. "What?"

"I mean, it was pretty romantic, right? We snuggled and everything."

"...Snuggled..."

"And you know, technically we slept together."

When that earned her a hard glare, Cloudchaser laughed it up. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. But the point is that our little trip meant something." Her mirthful smirk lessened before saying, "For the record, I'm glad this happened. I like you better as a marefriend, I think," she winked.

Crunch.

Fighting a blush, Wisp tentatively extended a hoof across the table. "Well, you know how I feel, so, um... Thank you."

Cloudchaser reciprocated. "Hey, no need for that. It's your fault we're sitting here."

Wisp just smiled.

Crunch.

Cloudchaser winced. "Okay, what is that—"

Crunch.

The pegasus whirled around to face the source of the noise, and came face to face with a familiar... face. Wisp could see her tense as she stared the pony down.

"...Seriously?"

"Oh, Cloudchaser. What a surprise! Want a peanut?"

Wisp's ears perked up again. Wait. Is that... Flitter?

"No, I don't. What I want is some peace and quiet. You know, with my date."

"Oh, of course, of course..." The pegasus waved a dainty hoof at the unicorn in question. "Hi, Wisp~"

...Why is she looking at me like that?

"You know, I'm pretty lonely here, all by my lonesome. Mind if I join you girls?"

Cloudchaser uttered her refusal, but Flitter was quick to trot blissfully on over, and as she came into view, Wisp had to keep her jaw from dropping. The pegasus was wearing a slim, red one-piece dress that did quite a good job at highlighting some of her... features. With her tail protruding from the back, it was able to hang instead on her haunches, and there was a cut along one leg exposing a fair bit of her flank. She looked... Fetching, to say the least.

Which made it all the more awkward when Flitter sat right next to her, close enough to bump flanks... And forcing her to let go of her Cloudchaser's hoof.

"Flitter..."

"What? Do you want me to sit with you?"

"...Whatever."

With Cloudchaser's dismissal, Flitter leaned closer and looked Wisp over. "You're looking great tonight. Did Twinkleshine do your hair?"

Wisp blinked at her. "Yes..."

"You should let her do it more often. It really brings out your feminine side."

"Thanks. I guess..."

"You're welcome! But anyway, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I wouldn't want to come between you two." Then she added with a mischievous giggle, "Or would I?"

Wisp couldn't muster much more than the dumbfounded expression she felt taking hold. That was quite definitely the last thing she had expected to hear.

"What, have you never done that before? Let me tell you, it's the best."

"It sounds like they get around. With each other, if ya know what I mean."

"I-I, uh... think I'll just take your word for it."

"Are you sure? We've both got plenty of... experience."

Wisp found herself blushing in all the wrong ways. "I'm, uh... sure it would be fun, but I'm not planning on anything like that just yet. I just want to enjoy our date right now, so..."

"Oh, I see. Fair enough. There's always later..."

Later? No means no.

"Alright, Flitter, you got your answer. Now you can go."

"Go? But I just got here. At least let me see how you two doing." She reached her muzzle under her wing and pulled out a plastic bag. "Anypony want a peanut?"

When no one answered, she shrugged and popped one into her mouth. "So," she said, even as she chewed, "How did Wisp like the rainbow?"

"She liked it fine," Cloudchaser grumbled. "But it was drained of color when we got there." After a moment she squinted at her sister and inquired, "You didn't have anything to do with that, did you?"

"What? No, I had no idea. Why would I when I was the one to help you make it?"

"Hmph."

Flitter looked down at Cloudchaser's plate, then Wisp's. "Hey, is something the matter with your food?"

"We kind of got distracted," Wisp told her. "I think we should get back to eating, actually..."

"Sure, go ahead."

Crunch.

Wisp sighed and picked up her fork. Well, this is just great...

As Cloudchaser followed her lead and returned to her pasta, the unicorn heaved a mental sigh. Well, my salad still tastes good. I just wish that—

Crunch.

She sighed again. "Where did you even get those?"

"Oh, these? There's a place right across the street. They have amazing fairy floss."

"Don't you mean 'cotton candy'?" Cloudchaser grunted.

"'Fairy floss' sounds a lot nicer to me." Then, fluttering her eyelashes Flitter said to Wisp, "By the way, these aren't the only kind of nuts I like."

"..."

"..."

"I also like macadamias."

Neither of the other ponies' ensuing deadpans could do that justice.

The rest of the meal was comparatively quiet, but it was not a long silence. They had already enjoyed some of their meals to begin with, and now that they were giving them their undivided attention, soon the clinks and clanks of fork against platter gave way to the quiet of silverware at rest, and settling stomachs. And still Flitter crunched away.

With no more distractions at the ready, Cloudchaser breathed deep and laid down the law. "Alright, Flitter. It's been great having you, but I'd like some alone time with my marefriend now. If you don't mind."

The ignominious interloper returned her near-emptied bag to her wing and grinned. "Sure, no problem." As she finally pulled away and began to leave, she called back, "Enjoy the rest of your night, ladies~"

Wisp sighed in relief as Flitter walked away, but then she heard, "Oh, hey, Wintergreen."

WHAT?

Wisp twisted around in her seat to look into the booth behind her, and sure enough there was a white, green-maned stallion looking back at her.

"What... What the hay are you doing here?"

"Keeping an eye on you," he said.

"And you're doing that why...?"

"I should think that would be obvious."

Wisp heaved a deep sigh. "...You know what? Hold that thought." Turning back to Cloudchaser, she said, "Well, I think the mood is thoroughly shot. Care for a walk?"

"You took the words right out of my mouth."

They both picked themselves up, dropped some bits on the table, and headed on their way, and as Wisp passed Wintergreen, she told him, "Look, I don't really care why you're here. But if I see you following us, we're going to have more than just choice words. Understand?" Once he nodded his reply, she grunted and continued forward.

But then Cloudchaser stopped to talk to him, too.

"Hey, you don't get out much, do you? Why don't you come and hang out with us sometime?"

Are you kidding me right now?

After a moment's consideration, Wintergreen replied, "I would like that very much, actually."

"Cool. See you around, then."

Wisp spent the rest of the way out trying to figure out what that is about. At least, until she saw Flitter cozying up next to some thestral stallion near the entrance. Neither pony was paying her any mind, but nevertheless, the unicorn scoffed and turned up her nose as she and Cloudchaser passed by them and out the door.

As soon as the door closed behind them and the cool night air greeted them, Wisp snorted in frustration. "Okay, so what the hay was that?"

The pegasus anxiously fluttered her wings. "I'm sorry. Flitter has... moments."

"What do you mean, 'moments'? I've never seen her like that before."

"...I'm sorry, but I'd really rather not talk about it right now."

Wisp wasn't so sure she liked that answer. No, she didn't like it at all. "Whatever 'it' is, I think I have a right to know if she's going to invite me into her bed. Into your bed."

"Is this really something you want to talk about when we're on a date?"

"Hmph. I guess not. Slight change of topic, then: What's this about threesomes?"

"That," Cloudchaser coughed, "Is that really any more appropriate?"

"I should think so," Wisp grunted, face forward as they walked aimlessly down the street. "I've heard about the two of you 'getting around.' I think that's relevant."

"Right, I guess it had to come up sometime," Cloudchaser chuckled. "So Flits and I have some casual sex sometimes. It's a lot of fun, honestly."

Before Wisp could even open her mouth, she interjected, "I know what you're gonna say, and no, it's not something I plan on doing anytime soon. I have a few friends with benefits, but I don't want to share you, so I'm not going to share myself, either."

"Well, I should hope so," Wisp declared. "But I, uh... I'm glad to hear it." She cleared her throat and added, "But still, I'm curious. It sounds like you two get around a lot."

"Hey, I don't know what you've heard, but Flitter's the one who grabs random ponies, not me. I'd rather sleep with someone I know... But I usually jump in anyway."

"Right... But I mean, why do you do it to begin with?"

"Why? Because it's fun, of course. Don't tell me you don't enjoy a little touchy-feely..."

"O-of course I do. I just don't lift my tail for just anyone..."

"Does it bother you?" Cloudchaser asked, looking right at her. "That I will?"

"I... No, not really," she replied. "I just... want to know what that makes me."

Cloudchaser stepped closer and nudged her with her wing. "You? I just told you I'm not going to go sleeping around on ya; You have exclusive rights to all this. What do you think that makes you?"

Wisp supposed there was no need to answer. She already felt a bit silly for saying that... So she just smiled and drew closer, not really caring where they they were going. Silly or not, she had heard what she needed to, and was content to just walk in silence for a while in the quiet peace that was Ponyville at night. What's more, she noted with pleasure, now she and her mare were getting to bump flanks.

As the quiet settled between them, her thoughts turned to Ponyville. It was a far cry from Canterlot, though not so much in terms of noise; The capital technically was louder, with its streets and mansions and spires of stone, but ponies' activity levels out on the streets were about the same. Around this time there would be the occasional few ponies walking along here and there, or flying by, as was the way of pegasi and batponies. The same was true in Ponyville, as it naturally would be anywhere else, but the humble village had less lighting, less clutter. The view of the sky here was clear and unobstructed... And, of course, on the most romantic night of the year, the stars looked beautiful.

The unicorn felt a sudden, terrible longing to fly amongst the stars, to claim the night sky as her own and leave the earth behind. Probably because I had so much fun flying with her the other day, she mused... But this did nothing to quell the ache in her chest.

"Cloudchaser... Can I ask you a question?"

"You just did."

"Please. I'm serious."

The mare embraced her with a wing and gave her barrel a squeeze. "Heh, sorry. What is it?"

"What's it like, having wings? Being able to go wherever you want?"

"Oh, is that all?" She tilted her head. "If I remember right, your mom's a pegasus. Shouldn't you have had this conversation before?"

"It's been a long time," Wisp huffed, "and this is different."

"Alright, I hear you." Cloudchaser looked up into the sky, at the twinkling stars and moon, and gathering her thoughts. Not that it took very long.

"I could tell you how liberating it is, like any pegasus would," she said. "How the sky is a whole other world, and how great it is to be able to go there whenever I want. But for me, it's a little different," she explained. "You know how I got my cutie mark, but you also know how I like to fly. And how I want to join the Wonderbolts." The unicorn nodded. "My cutie mark is about chasing my dreams... I guess. But it's also, I think, about the speed I strive for. The feeling of the wind in my mane. Flying isn't just about freedom for me, it's also about being good at it."

A light breeze blew by and tickled their manes. It almost hid Cloudchaser's sigh.

"And I am good at it. But with a pony like Rainbow Dash around, always reminding me how much better she is..."

"Cloudchaser..."

"Yeah, I know I shouldn't let it bother me so much, but it's different from you and Twilight. You both do magic, and maybe she's better... But you still have your specialty, right? I doubt she can play with fire like you can. With Dash, it's the exact same thing we're comparing... I mean, how can I compete with a sonic rainboom?"

A solemn sigh from the dark unicorn. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I can say, but... Even if she is faster than you, that's no reason to give up on your dream. I mean, who says you have to compete with her?"

Cloudchaser was holding Wisp close now, not just for the sake of it. "It's just... when I think about being a Wonderbolt, the first thing I see is her passing me by." She sighed and shook her head. "But there's more to it than just Dash. She just gives me an excuse..."

When she didn't continue, Wisp nuzzled her chin. "If you don't want to talk about it, we discuss something else."

"I'd like that."

They walked in silence a while longer, quietly passing by various empty stalls and darkened homes on their way to... wherever they were. Wisp wasn't paying that much attention, distracted as she was by leaning into her mare.

"Er... I've got nothing," she said after a time.

"Well, there is something easy we could default to..."

"And what's that?"

If Wisp's head weren't still resting against Cloudchaser's, she might have seen her almost-apologetic smile. "Wintergreen."

Wisp immediately pulled upright and offered a sidelong glare in the stead of her affections. "Ugh. Do you really have to bring him up? Just Flitter was bad enough."

"Hey, I'm sorry. I was low on ideas, too."

"Sigh... I don't know what to think of it. He was probably sitting there watching us the whole time. Don't you think that's creepy?"

Cloudchaser shrugged. "Kinda, but you're the first pony to hang out with him since forever, right? Maybe he's just being protective of his only friend."

Once again, Wisp turned her head to fully face her companion, this time incredulous. "How do you manage to make it sound like a good thing?"

"Eh," the pegasus shrugged again, "it's a gift."

Wisp rolled her eyes. "When I think about it, I'm more annoyed that you asked him about hanging out."

"Hey, I hear you, but why wait when he's right there? And the sooner we get him socializing, the sooner he might chill out, right? Friendship is magic, after all."

"You keep saying that," Wisp grunted, despite her light grin. However, that grin quickly faded into a frown as she continued, "I just know that Flitter ruined our night just fine on her own. Him being there was the cherry on top..."

Her partner scoffed, rather loudly, and finally turned her own gaze from the beaten path. "Girl, are you kidding me right now? We're having a good time right now, aren't we? I think this is a lot more romantic than eating at a not-actually-fancy place."

"I don't know. I mean, you're right, but..."

Cloudchaser suddenly stopped in her tracks, and with her wing forced Wisp to stop as well. "Well, if it's that important, I think I know how to make it up to you."

"Yeah? And how are—"

Wisp hadn't known what to make of it when Cloudchaser brushed aside the striped curtain of her mane and caressed her cheek. She had been uncertain what to make of it when she redoubled the strength of her winghug.

She knew exactly what to make of it when their lips pressed together.

She was stunned, if only for a moment. Before she knew it, she was holding her hoof against the other mare's chest, and letting herself become lost in the kiss.

It hadn't been long since she had experienced this, but it sure felt like it.

She was pleased to note that Cloudchaser was feeling pretty enthusiastic. It wasn't long before she was gasping for breath, and yet more quickly the pegasus took advantage of it and slipped her tongue into her mouth. It was then she realized just how skilled a kisser her new marefriend was, and she was lost in a raging river of passion.

At least, it felt like a raging river. They weren't slobbering all over each other or anything... But Celestia, did it feel good.

After what must have been minutes—or only a couple seconds, she couldn't tell—of bliss, Cloudchaser slowed down and pulled away. It seemed much too soon to stop for Wisp's liking, but the pressure of a hoof on her own soothed her disappointment somewhat. Either way, they each had to take a moment to catch their breath.

Of course, Cloudchaser was the first one to speak. "So... Feeling better?"

Still panting, Wisp swallowed and said, with but a touch of sarcasm, "What do you think?"

Cloudchaser giggled at that. "What do I think?" Her wing unfurled from the unicorn's side and trailed along her back, brushing against her flank and lingering on her cutie mark. Or, at least, where her cutie mark would be under the dress. "I think you'd like some more. How convenient that we're standing right on your doorstep..."

Wisp blinked and checked her surroundings. Sure enough, they were standing just a couple strides away from her house. "Standing on the doorstep" was a bit of an exaggeration, but...

She swallowed again. "Did you plan this?"

"Leading you here and bringing up dinner just in time for an excuse to kiss you? Yes. Going inside, well... That's up to you."

"Go inside? But... W-we've only just started dating..."

"Yeah, but so what? I know I'm not the only one who doesn't want this night to end just yet. And I know just how to keep it going..."

Right then, Wisp was pretty sure that her blush must be setting records. At this point it might achieve sentience and tap-dance off of her face. Or maybe she was just felt so giddy that she was coming up with outlandish hyperbole just to distract herself.

"I-I... Maybe..."

"While you decide, I should let you know..." Cloudchaser said, as she leaned over to whisper in her ear. "My cutie mark has a third meaning. I'll make you see stars, Wispy..."

The weatherpony deviously giggled as the words took effect. She deemed the way Wisp stiffened up and shivered sufficiently adorable.

"A-alright, fine... Fine. Just let me, ahem... check my mail, first..."

"Of course," she purred as the unicorn brushed past her. She followed close behind—with a modest dress such as that, there was no view to enjoy, you see—and watched as Wisp magicked open the letterbox hanging next to her door and pulled out a single, snow-blue envelope.

"Who's it from?" she asked, genuinely curious. Most ponies just sprung for the basic white.

"Oh, it's just a letter from my family," Wisp explained. "We've been writing back and forth ever since I settled in. I usually get a new one every few days."

"You're lucky, you know. To have a family like that."

"Heh," the unicorn smiled. A wide, pretty smile, at that. "Maybe I am..."

The back of Wisp's dress shuffled around a bit as she was unlocking the door—with magic, of course, as was her way. She had probably been trying make some gesture with her tail, but she got the point. "But what do you care? You crazy mares are only after one thing, aren't you?"

Cloudchaser laughed to herself as the door clicked shut behind her. "You're the one letting me in..."

Author's Note:

Sorry this chapter took so much longer to put out than usual, but it was a bit tougher than the usual fare. Doesn't help that I was having a bit of a Skyrim binge earlier on in it, as well, but here it is.

More than that, though, I have to apologize for putting this story on temporary hiatus. I don't plan on it lasting very long, and may still get working on chapter 11 during said hiatus, but I'm getting really excited about and invested in my coming Fallout: Equestria story. It'll be a while before I have that one going, and I don't want to leave Fireflank in the dust (especially considering that this story will be a sequel to Fireflank, more or less in the way FoE is a "sequel" to MLP), but I am a victim of my own whims.

Coming up with a brand new story, and the plot and characters behind it, requires investment on my part, and I'm going to invest even more in this one. Once it is actually being written, I plan to put it through this one through the ringer—prereading and editing runs with the help of... well, editors. If you like Fireflank, know that for the time being, I just put it out as I go—with Fallout Equestria: Duality, it has a legacy to live up to, and I want it to be the best it can be, and I can't get it anywhere near that point without help.

So, look forward to that, if you're into FoE. Seeing as I suffer the curse of perhaps seeing too little of the quality in my product thus far, I hope to do my readers proud as well as myself. What you get should hopefully be worth the wait.

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Comments ( 16 )

Jeez, it must hurt to have fire constantly on your flank. Maybe she became fireproof after so long.

So the story is about a willowisp surviving the wasteland?:derpytongue2:

Comment posted by Noradora deleted Aug 27th, 2014

4909761

More like her descendant, who will be a character all her own.

We may or may not learn what became of Wisp when the bombs hit, though. :raritywink:

4909127

Perhaps. That would certainly help, wouldn't it? :moustache:

D48

This whole chapter was very cute, although my favorite part was actually the beginning. You really nailed Twilight's character there and the interplay between her and Wisp was great. I also like how you are tying together the characters because it really fits in well with their history and is setting up more potentially interesting dynamics for future chapters. I am especially hoping they manage to drag Twilight out for a night on the town at some point because her awkwardness will be absolutely hilarious when combined with teasing from the rest of the cast. :rainbowlaugh:

Also, I am very happy about that invitation because it means we will be seeing a lot more of Wintergreen in the future which should be fun, especially when someone starts hitting on him, either seriously or as a joke.

4912086

Oh? Well, I do like to think I have a decent understanding of the Mane Six, and Twilight is a perfect excuse to use fancy, scientific terminology. :raritywink:

And thanks. Yeah, you can't have a magically talented Canterlot native without some manner of connection to Twilight, eh? And while going out with Twilight isn't a plot point, it may well happen, and I'd like to either way. Wisp sees Pinkie around when she goes to the Corner, and there's Rarity if she needs an outfit, but it's self-evident that she has more in common with Twilight than anyone else, and like you say, the dynamic there is and could be pretty fun. :pinkiecrazy:

And yeah, it was the/a right time to extend such an invitation, and Cloudchaser is practical like that. ;)

Just wait till I get next chapter up, though. We're going to get to know a couple very particular ponies, and I plan on shenanigans. :moustache:

Its been a while since I've seen a good OC romance, they are hard to find And I'm enjoy them when I find them, Wisp is quite well rounded, And I look forward to seeing more of her.

Although One thing I would like to ask, the cutie mark story Implied that she bent a wisp to her will, but you also said that the spell takes a small part of her soul, does that mean that she assimilated a wisp into herself? bound to her like some sort of Familiar?

Anyway, I look foward to more:twilightsmile:.

5567355

Heh, you think so? I've felt a bit self-conscious about her characterization lately, and more than that Ibe thought that the romance could've had more organic beginnings (it being a surprise felt easy), but I also don't want to give myself too little credit.

So... Thank you, and sorry for that. lol

Now if I can just stop working on my Fallout: Equestria "sort-of sequel" to give you more...

Anyway, I don't really see it that way, re: the wisp spell. My take on it as that Wisp's wisps (heh) are little different from "natural" ones, besides perhaps being tied specifically to her. I figure that "natural" wisps themselves are left-behind fragments of souls (not necessarily of ponies) that tend towards mischief. Buuuut if I'm ever to write anymore commentary on the subject, I certainly don't have it planned just now, so you can take it as being up to interpretation, if you wish. :trollestia:


Edit: Although, indeed, such "artificial" wisps, with my own explanation, may be considered as familiars if one is inclined to do so. Probably sums them up better than the words I would use, at that. :moustache:

(Then again, I've never been particularly well-acquainted with the concept of familiars, but you know)

5578917 A familiar is magical pet that is bound to the respective spell-caster, that are usually more intelligent than there animal counterparts and can aid or enhance their owners abilities. At least that's how I understand them.

Her wisps could be seen to fit that description.

Though I am curious, what did happen to that first wisp, the one she hit with the spell?

5579276

I see. I think that was my original guess of ages past, but at some point I wondered if it was a manifestation of the person's will... Or something. In which case the wisps could possibly be that depending on certain specifics of the spell.

But my own answer is that I haven't thought of it that way. Since part of the idea was that hers (or ones that she influences) are contrary to ordinary ones; helpful instead of lead-you-to-your-death. lol

Anywho, the idea is that, inexperienced filly she was, she accidentally "leaked" a bit of soul into that first wisp after establishing a connection, which made it into a nice friendly wisp. And once she was done with it, that bit of her managed to leak back out before she left.

And then, inspired by all that and her own shiny new buttmark, she educated herself on wisps and managed to begin creating her own. Fortunately, she was within Celestia's notice at that point, who stepped in to make sure she learned how to best use this ability.

5645187

If you mean this/reread this in relation to the changes I'm going to be making... I haven't even started on that. 6_6

But then, the last time you read it was probably a while before even the last time. So bleh. Anyhow, that might change once I get to work, but I'm not sure. We'll see. :twilightsheepish:

5651725

Actually, now that I've reread the whole thing, I've realised there's a lot of things that stick out to me, as far as editing needs and consistency issues. I haven't said anything because of, assuming I'm getting this right, your looking to rework the fic.

As for the rushing part, I (also) realised that the first half of this fix does seem a little bit rushed. As I said, though, I got pretty well hooked onto it the first time through, so I'm not complaining.

5665279

I'm not surprised (nor offended) to hear that. Even with how much the story has changed from the initial publishing 2 years ago, everything currently published has only had me looking at it. However, I'll be finished with the new chapter 1 here soon (likely within the hour--and I did it all pretty much today), and if it serves as any indication, there should be plenty of change and improvement. And that's without even accounting for likely ripple effect or any... rearranging.

Plus, I may have my current editor look at it. The Great Writing Binge of 2014 is long past, and things went pretty well with his looking at my first FoE chapter. So who knows how things will turn out. lol

In any case, the state of things should improve. :yay:

<333 I very much enjoy this. Love the characters

Comment posted by Noradora deleted Oct 15th, 2015
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