• Published 6th Jul 2012
  • 13,522 Views, 874 Comments

Cutie Mark Catastrophes - Wintergreen Diaries

Cutie Mark Crusaders find their marks and look to new horizons; taming colts for themselves.

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Evening Fell Softly

Chapter 23: Evening Fell Softly

It had been quite the emotion-packed afternoon for two fillies trotting side by side through the streets of Ponyville. While the pink unicorn was fairly certain she could convince Silver to let them in early, spending most of her waking hours that particular afternoon straining to understand what was plain as day had left Ruby drained. There was still an hour or so left of daylight before the sun would completely set, which was plenty of time for them to find another chore or two to help around the town. This would have been cause for excitement if it weren’t for the fact that all Ruby wanted to do was rest. The tired unicorn couldn’t help the smile that spread across her muzzle as Silver Spoon took notice of her condition, and with a gentle word from the earth pony trotting by the unicorn’s side, the remainder of the afternoon was allocated to cuddle time with pillows, possibly a living one. The pair veered off the main road and were soon standing at the door to Ruby’s house, where she immediately muted her mirth and bid Silver Spoon do the same.

“Ok, now we have to quiet,” Ruby cautioned in a whisper, placing her hoof on the handle with all the force of a butterfly.

“Why is that, exactly?” Silver Spoon replied, nonplussed.

“Because I’m super tired and don’t want to deal with my mom going all crazy on me like I know she’s going to the moment she realizes we’re, you know...”




“Whatever, Spoony. Just hush, ok?”

“As you wish, Pinchy.” A rosen hoof hesitated on the handle as the unicorn paused, shook her head, and gently eased open the door. Peering inside, Ruby heaved a sigh of relief as she found the livingroom abandoned.

Maybe I’ll make it through the day unscathed after all. “Looks like the coast is clear. Come on!” Creeping inside and waving Silver Spoon to go on ahead, Ruby gently shut the door and started after her earth pony counterpart, though she soon found herself less focused on stealth and more interested in studying the finer points of the filly’s cutie mark. Such a cute little heart... I knew she had some sweetness in her, and-

“Enjoying the view?”

“Spoony!” Ruby snapped back, immediately covering her mouth as both ponies froze, and listened. Painfully slow seconds ticked by, but after nothing happened, Silver Spoon let slip a muffled giggle and continued on her way. A little sweetness and a whole lot of trouble... Grumbling quietly to herself, Ruby eventually made it into her bedroom just after Silver Spoon, and the moment the door was closed, an exasperated filly coltfriend turned to her fillyfriend, noted her coy smile, and adopted an appropriately reproving frown. “I liked you better when you were easy to embarrass.”

“Oh, I’m sure you could embarrass me if you tried,” Silver Spoon teased, flicking her tail a little as she hopped up onto Ruby’s bed, tossed her mane, and fluttered her eyelashes. “Aren’t you going to join me?”

“No.” Marching a few paces forward so she was at least out of the doorway, Ruby flopped onto the floor with a thud, stubbornly denying Silver Spoon a victory.

“You’re cute when you pout.” Turning her head just enough to stare, Ruby blinked once and looked away, finding it increasingly difficult to assume any kind of control either of the relationship or her emotions.

“You’re cute when you’re quiet.”

“You’re cute when you’re witty.”

“You’re cute when you’re covered in mud.”

“You’re cute when you’re sassy.”

“Yeah? Well, you’re cute when you’re up to your ears in moldy lasagna!” Ruby shot back, rolling to face her assailant who simply grinned, dealing the proverbial deathblow to a unicorn’s failing resistance.

“You’re cute... all the time.”

“...ugh, that is so sappy, it hurts,” Ruby snickered, sticking out her tongue in mock disgust. “Fine, you win this round. Now move over.” A gray filly scooched over to make room for one more, and the soft, giving mattress felt divine as Ruby lay upon her side and closed her eyes, letting out a long, gratified sigh. Cracking open her eyes, she looked at the one respectfully maintaining her distance despite having teased so confidently and smiled: perhaps Ruby did have a little authority in the relationship.

“You’re cute when you’re nervous.”

“Are you really starting that again?” Silver Spoon fired back, and weakly at that. Ruby found her fillyfriend’s hesitancy nothing short of endearing, and it reminded her again of the a rich pony’s softer side: the side that had won her heart.

“Just stating the facts, Spoony,” Ruby murmured, stretching out her weary hooves. “Oh, don’t look so down in the dumps! Come here already, will you?” Giggling as a faint redness rose in the bespectacled filly’s cheeks, Ruby accepted Silver Spoon as she slowly edged over, folding her hooves to her chest and nestling her head in under Pinchy’s chin. The steady rhythm of the unicorn’s heart accelerated as she wrapped her gleaming silver treasure loosely in her pink hooves, accepting the shortness of breath as a small price to pay for the comforting warmth of another pony.

For a time, neither of them spoke. An arduous week, no matter how wonderful the end, was still bound to take a toll, and after having both shed tears and experienced the elation of awe and acceptance, both of the fillies were ready for a moment’s reprieve. There was little contemplation in either heart, as each was too busy sending morse code from one to the other, playing tag with each racing beat, and as the sun continued its path towards the horizon, the two found that bliss was neither pricey nor difficult to find.

“You’re... really warm,” Ruby whispered, giggling as Silver Spoon simply nodded. “I feel like I’ve been drinking some of my Uncle Shiny’s Phoenix Juice with the way my cheeks are burning up. But... it’s not like a fever or anything! It feels nice. Kinda tickles, actually.”


“Sorry, I’ll be quiet...”

“No, by all means, continue,” Silver Spoon laughed quietly. “I was worried it was just me.”

“No way!” Ruby assured her, pausing as a slight shift of Silver Spoon’s muzzle caused her mane to tickle the unicorn’s neck. “I... um... shoot, I was going to say... what was it?”

“...you’re cute when-”

“That’s not gonna help!” Ruby shot back, pulling away and failing miserably and holding a decent glare. Flustering the filly further, Silver Spoon fiddled with her hooves and peered back at Ruby with pleading eyes and a shiver.

“It got really cold all of a sudden... you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Ugh, you are such a pain in the flanks,” Ruby muttered as she gathered the filly close again.

“Sorry, those are still off limits.”

“I wasn’t asking!”

“Oh really?”


“Really really?”

“Double really!”

“Awww... that’s too bad...”

“You’re lucky I like you...” Taking Ruby’s subtle cue to lay off for a little bit, Silver Spoon ceased her fun-having and proceeded with the love-making, though only as much as is acceptable for two young fillies who had only recently begun to bond. Shifting as she pulled out a hoof, Silver Spoon slid one under Ruby’s foreleg and gave a gentle tug, inducing another silence as a world of mystery both frightful and enthralling stretched out before the two, and not just because of their racing hearts. If she were asked of her true feelings regarding their back and forth, Ruby knew she would confidently reply that their teasing was every bit as precious to her as the tenderness they were sharing at that moment. It was good, then, that she was savoring her time alone with Silver Spoon, because it only lasted a few more seconds.


“Wahhh!” With a startled yelp at her mother’s voice and a tumultuous crash as her hasty extrication from Silver Spoon landed her horn first on the floor, Ruby took a few moments to hold her smarting head while the room stopped spinning. When she did open her eyes, she found her mother standing in the doorway with a look that said “I know everything.” “Mo~m! Don’t do that!”

“Do what, sweetie?” Berry replied with a hint of a smile.

“That thing you... just did now, and the... the door opening... thing!”

“But I thought that doors were made for opening?”

“They’re also made for closing!”

“Ruby, this isn’t like you,” Berry Punch soothed in a soft tone, stepping inside and glancing at Silver Spoon. The filly’s cheeks were roughly the same hue as the mare’s coat, and having been secretly watching for some time, Berry didn’t really need an explanation to see what was going on. “Also, it’s quite rude to leave your friend up there all by herself.”

“Mom? What’re you...”

“Go on, Ruby. I’ll wait.” Desperately missing the pleasant kind of burning in her cheeks, Ruby quietly crawled up beside Silver Spoon and purposefully left enough space for two or three young ponies to fit between them. “Now, then... Ruby, Silver Spoon: is there something you’d like to tell me?” Berry had expected the ensuing silence, and let the seconds tick by without interference. With no small amount of hesitancy, the two fillies slowly turned to face each other, held each other’s gaze for a moment, and hastily turned away.

“You tell her.”

“Wait, what?” Ruby cried, leaping upright and whirling to face a pony who was busy examining her bed fabric. “Why me?”

“Because your the col-”

“Don’t even try to pull that! There’s no way you’re just going to dump this on me!” Ruby stated, taking a step closer. “Besides, this isn’t about you, it’s about u- uh... I, um...”


“No, stop that! No fair giving me pouty eyes!” Ruby whined, ignoring her mother completely as Silver Spoon fixed her with a pleading stare. “Ugh, you are so... just... rrrrgh! Fine!” Her pointed stomping lost something in translation, and Berry found it increasingly difficult to maintain a straight face as her blushing daughter turned towards her and averted her eyes. “So, um... m-mom?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“I guess that... you know, I’m... kind of...” Ruby started, her mind darting a million directions at once. “What I mean is, well... Silver Spoon is... and I... we, might, um... sorta... be... something?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure I understand, Ruby. Could you please be a little more clear for your muzzy mother?”

No, as a matter of fact, I can’t! I wasn’t planning on doing this until... some other time! Next week, tomorrow, pretty much any time but today! Ugh, how do I say this? “W-we might... kind of be a... thingy... and, um... do... stuff?”

“You... do stuff with Silver Spoon?”

“N-no! T-that’s not what I meant!” Ruby stammered loudly, fiddling with her hooves and finding her words hopelessly jumbled. “It’s just... she and I... are, um...” A soft sigh escaped unnoticed from Silver Spoon as she glanced over at Ruby, still trying desperately to bumble through her explanation.

I suppose it isn’t really fair to dump all the responsibility on her... Not feeling very confident her in eloquence, Silver Spoon decided that what couldn’t adequately be said with words could likely be shown, and hopefully that would be explanation enough. Ruby was too jumbled to notice her friend slowly, bashfully draw closer, and it wasn’t until two hooves cupped her muzzle that she stopped talking. “You’re... cute when you can’t think.” Without a moment to collect herself, Silver Spoon compounded all the potential awkwardness of a ten minute explanation into a single moment with a sudden kiss.

“Oh! I see,” Berry chortled, covering her muzzle with a hoof as Silver Spoon pulled away with an unsure smile while her daughter sat shell-shocked. “Doing stuff, huh?”

“...y-yeah?” Ruby managed, her voice squeaking. “Um... n-not a lot... of, um... of stuff.”

“Very well. Have fun!” Sauntering out of the room, Berry had just made it to the living room when her daughter’s voice rang out behind her.

“Mom, what... I... that’s it?!?”

“Well, given the circumstances... yeah, I think that’s it,” the mother replied with a knowing grin. “Unless, of course, you think I need to give you a lecture on contraceptives, though I-”

“No!” Slamming the door shut and stomping away, Ruby leapt onto her bed, turned to face the traitorous portal that had granted entry to her mother, and glared.

“That went well.”

“W-well?” Ruby sputtered, turning towards Silver Spoon who knocked away a good chunk of the filly’s ire with a single, radiant smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous and embarrassed in my whole life! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, you... you went and... on my lips!”

“Excuse~ me for trying to help,” Silver Spoon replied with an air of injured dignity. “Next time, I’ll just let you keep digging, if that’s what you want.”

“You could have at least gone for the cheek,” Ruby shot back half-heartedly.

“Yes, well, that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun,” Silver Spoon declared, scooting closer and dropping her smarmy confidence as she nervously scratched at her foreleg. “I... didn’t really upset you, did I?”

It’s just not fair. I can’t stay angry at her for more than a few seconds without wanting to give her a hug. “No, Spoony, you did fine,” Ruby said, relinquishing her frustrations with a sigh. “It probably would have taken me a whole lot longer to explain if you hadn’t gotten sloppy, and-”

“I was not being sloppy,” Silver Spoon interjected with an indignant sniff, pointing her muzzle into the air. “Although... I’m sure that could be arranged?” she teased, cracking open an eye.

“Hah! You wish!” Ruby laughed, prodding the filly’s side and immediately getting a reaction. “Ticklish much?” Catching the mischievous glint in the filly’s eyes, Silver Spoon took to the defensive and leapt upright, slowly backing away.

“Don’t you dare even think about-” It had already been thought, and with a flying tackle and merciless hooves, an overly sensitive earth pony set to serenading the surrounding houses with a gale of piercing squeals. Ruby, however, was just as susceptible, and what little energy may have been stored during their nap was quickly spent. Too wrapped up in their very first tickle fight to notice the door crack open, the clearing of a throat caused the two to pause their antics for an infomercial.

“Alright, Ruby. See, these are called ‘birth control pills,’ and-”


“You’re right, you’re probably already aware,” Berry quipped, slipping away as the filly armed herself with a pillow.

“See what I told you? Total pain in the flanks!”

“Off... limits!” Silver Spoon wheezed, giggling up a storm as Ruby flopped onto her back with a groan. “Oh, come on, you know you’re having fun.”


“Don’t be like that... besides, this was just practice.”

“Practice?” Ruby repeated, sitting up and staring at Silver Spoon like she’d just suggested a bath of molten cheese or something equally ridiculous. “What’re you talking about?”

“We are still going to the tavern, aren’t we? I’m sure all your friends are going to want to know. Don’t worry, Ruby. You’ll probably find it easier the second time around.” The only sound Silver Spoon heard in response was the quiet squeak of springs as Ruby let herself fall back.

“It’s going to be a long night, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” Silver Spoon conceded, slowly climbing up beside Ruby and fixing her with a caring grin. It was the kind of smile that washed away the worries and cares of the world, and her heart was, once again, given cause to skip. “At least... it’ll be a night spent together, right?” A rosen hoof slowly reached out and covered one of silvery grey, and pink eyes twinkled as they beheld a caring violet gaze.

“You’re cute when you’re sappy.”

That afternoon had been very special for Applebloom. Not only had Rumble proven through studious attention to detail and effective application that he may well be a competent apprentice, but he had also done a tremendous job of making it through the lesson unscathed. A number of innocent planks had met an untimely demise, and a loose grip on his hammer had demonstrated his aptitude for making “modern art,” but the newly formed cracks in the barn wall were hardly worth mentioning when set alongside the genuine exuberance brimming from the colt as he put the finishing touches on his first real test.

Applebloom made no effort to restrain the corners of her mouth from lifting into a smile as she observe her colt at work. His face was scrunched up in fervent concentration as he delicately aligned a nail, gave it a few gentle taps, and continued tap tapping away until it had joined the two boards together. It didn’t take Applebloom very long to figure out that Rumble really didn’t know anything about construction, neither the proper handling of tools nor the safety precautions one should take to avoid smashed hooves, nicked limbs, and various other things that could result in blood loss. Things that Applebloom took to be common sense, having spent her whole life on a farm, were soon found to be necessary lessons for her colt, and most of the afternoon was spent giving him the lowdown on how to not land himself in the clinic trying to “help.”

And yet, she couldn’t well say she found playing the teacher all that disagreeable. After all, Rumble was the very model of a perfect student, paying close attention to every word and putting her advice to practice. The only problems arose when the colt got excited and lost his concentration, at which point nails went in screwy, screws got nailed, and hammers were mistaken for frisbees. Still, as the colt trotted over and proudly set his practice project in front of her, nothing more than two boards nailed together and cut to the same length, Applebloom found herself unable to imagine a more fulfilling afternoon. She looked at the work, then back at the colt beaming bright, and concluded that the thrill of progress just couldn’t measure up to Rumble’s smile.

“Alright, let’s take a look,” Applebloom said cheerfully, patting a spot beside her and pulling the project close. “Hmmm...”

“Uh oh...”

“It’s great!”


“Sure! Well, great for a first timer,” Applebloom corrected, grinning as the colt’s countenance fell a little. “Oh, don’t be like that, Rumble. You’re only just learnin’, so of course you’re gonna make a mistake here and there! That’s how ya get better!”

“Uh huh!” Rumble quipped, brimming with excitement once more. “So, um... what’d I mess up?”

“Well, the boards aren’t exactly cut straight, and you used nails just a little too long, see? They’re pokin’ through the bottom. Oh, and ya forgot t’ sand it down.” Rumble furrowed his brow as he frowned at his work before turning his attention once more to the filly who didn’t appear disappointed in the slightest.

“Is there anything I did do right?”

“Ya did tons o’ things right!” Applebloom cheered, throwing her hooves wide. “Yer nails are straight, you didn’t pound ‘em in too much and ding up the board, and it’s stuck together pretty... umph! Really good!” she finished, grunting as she tried to pull them apart. “Maybe you’ve got a knack fer buildin’ stuff ya didn’t know about, Rumble. You sure are learnin’ fast.” The honest filly found herself hastily embraced as her words of high praise filled Rumble’s heart with gratitude, and she let the practice project drop to the floor so she could use her hooves for other things: hugging, namely.

“You’re precious, Rumble...”

“Uh huh...”

“Prideful too, by the sound of it,” Applebloom chuckled, tightening her squeeze just a little.

“Uh huh!”

“Ah can accept that, ah guess,” Applebloom said with tender affection as she pulled away with a playful smirk pasted to her muzzle. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with bein’ proud o’ honest work! But... it looks like we’ll ‘ave t’ start on our project another day,” she commented, looking out at the sky. “Sun’s gonna set soon, an’ ah know fer a fact that the moment ah take up mah mallet, ah won’t wanna leave.” Seemingly countermanding her point, the filly trotted over to the book Rumble had brought and began skimming over the materials and tools, making a mental checklist in her head.

Let’s see... we should have enough wood fer somethin’ like this, though Applejack might put up a little bit of a fuss. Ah’ll need t’ buy some new nails, make sure mah lathe ain’t rusted... been a while since ah used it last. “Caulking... gun?” Curious, Rumble wandered over and took a seat beside Applebloom who pointed at the name amongst a list of other ingredients. “What ‘n tarnation is a caulking gun? Ah’m a farm pony; mallet an’ nails is normally all ah need!”

“Shoot, that sounds familiar...” Rumble muttered, wracking his brain to try and remember. “Do they have a picture of it in the book somewhere?” After a little searching through the glossary, they found a “Know Your Tools” section, and there, for both ponies to see, was a most magnificent contraption. “There, that one! It’s the goo gun!”

“Ah don’t know what that is, but it sounds like fun! Is it... does it shoot glue?”

“It only shoots when you squeeze the trigger super hard, but I played with it all the time when I was little! Made a mess, too. The stuff that comes out is, like, super glue!” Having just blown a little filly’s mind, Rumble ceased his explanation and took a moment to snicker at the huge starry eyed grin Applebloom was giving the schematics in front of her. A device for expelling copious quantities of thick, gooey glue? Poor filly, she simply wasn’t ready to be blindsided with such wonder, and Rumble grimaced as a piercing whoop of ecstasy shook the barn.

“How did ah not know about somethin’ so wonderful? Ah haven’t lived yet!” Applebloom raved, romping in excited circles as she imagined the applications. Rumble sat by, enjoying the show, though he couldn’t help but give a start as she suddenly whirled and thrust her muzzle close. “Do ya still have it, Rumble?”

“Uh... huh?” the colt replied slowly, blushing a little as his fillyfriend’s adorable spaz factor overclocked itself. “It’s down in my basement, and...” Rumble soon found that the thought of glue was, apparently, an aphrodisiac for the young filly, as his tantalizing thoughts of a quick peck were replaced with a gratuitous smooch framed by a whoop of delight. Unaware that she’d just caught Rumble completely off guard, Applebloom romped towards the door in giddy anticipation of the wonders to come.

“Come on, Rumble, we’re...” Applebloom called out, turning to find Rumble scratching at his foreleg and his wings spread wide. “Shoot, ah got a little too excited, didn’t ah?” Applebloom chuckled, smiling sheepishly.

“Uh huh,” Rumble agreed, matching her shy smile with his own as he stood and slowly walked over.

“Ah... suppose ah can hold off fer a bit,” she conceded, meeting him halfway and shoving him into a pile of hay. Applebloom followed up her unexpected display of roughness with a tender embrace as she took her place beside the colt laying on his back with wings outstretched, and any notion he had of calming the tension in his downy appendage was gently brushed aside as the warmth of her back enveloped a wing. With her head resting lightly on the colt’s chest and the colt’s wings timidly wrapped around the filly, Applebloom accepted the tickle in her cheeks with a smile, enjoying the erratic fluttering of Rumble’s racing heart. “So much fer calmin’ down, huh?”

“Uh huh...” Rumble murmured, staring up at the cieling in a daze. The whole stiffness in the wings thing was a recent development, and was thoroughly embarrassing to have happen in public, but alone, with the only filly he’d let anywhere near his wings cuddled up to his chest, he found it difficult to remain ashamed. Feeling very much the same, Applebloom accepted the warmth rising to her cheeks as an acceptable reward for risking a stern lecture from Applejack; cuddling under supervision was one thing, but laying together in the barn was something else entirely.


“Uh huh?”

“Ah just... wanna say thanks fer stickin’ with me.” Cream cheeks were suddenly topped with strawberry as the colt rolled towards the timid filly enjoying a merry ride in a cart full of feels. “Ah know ah said it earlier, ah just... it really means somethin’ t’ me that somepony would stick around an’ watch me work away a whole weekend afternoon, but you... you did a whole lot more than just stick around, even after ah lost mah temper...” A hesitant, pale silver hoof slowly wrapped around the filly’s shoulders, and found no resistance as a gentle tug brought two hearts as close as was physically possible.

“Ah suddenly... don’t feel like traipsin’ through yer basement anymore.” Burying her muzzle as the veiled romance behind the statement lit her cheeks ablaze, Applebloom felt the low rumble of laughter build into a soothing chuckle, and a quick squeeze let the filly know her smooth talking wasn’t lost on the colt. “If anypony had told me a week ago that ah’d be gettin’ all lovey dovey with some pegasus ah didn’t even know, ah’d have told ‘em they’d gotten into a bad batch o’ cider. An’ yet... here ah am.”

“Uh huh! Is that... bad?”

“No, Rumble. It’s... better than glitter glue.” It was Applebloom’s turn to grin as a young chest puffed up with pride, pressing against her own; there was no greater compliment to be given from the filly. Enraptured as they were, the creak of the barn door was lost on the two as Applejack stepped in, framed by the fading light. She opened her mouth to speak, but refrained, choosing instead to observe. Sneaking around behind one of the stalls, the mare eased herself down and closed her eyes, listening intently as the voices spoke up again.

“So, um... how long do you think it’ll take us to finish the boat?” a colt’s voice sounded out, followed swiftly after by Applebloom’s.

“Ah dunno. Forever, ah’m hopin’.”

“You don’t want to finish it?”

“Well, o’ course ah do!” the filly’s voice declared without the slightest tinge of annoyance. “Ah mean... if we finish the boat, then our special project will be over. Ah really enjoyed havin’ somepony workin’ by mah side. Why would ah want that to end?” Applejack strained her ears as a few seconds of silence ticked by, but the mare couldn’t help but smile as the colt gave his answer.

“Um, Applebloom? I know I’m not very good, but I wouldn’t mind if every project became ‘our’ project.”

“Do... do ya really mean that?”

“Uh huh!”

“You’re sure you ain’t gonna get bored an’ quit?”

“Nuh uh!”

“Rumble, you... you’re bein’ serious. You really did have fun?”

“Uh huh... So... let’s shoot for a little earlier than forever, ok?”

“O-okay...” Rising quietly without a word, Applejack slipped out, casting a glance over her shoulder to see the two sharing a tender kiss atop the hay. Even in the dim light, their young faces were flushed, but rather than anxiety, the elder sibling felt something much closer to relief. Strolling amongst the trees as the first few stars twinkled into view, Applejack slowed to a stop and took a seat in the path, lifting her gaze to the jeweled sky.

Ma, pa? Ah’ve done my very best t’ try an’ keep Applebloom goin’ on the right path. Ah’ve been hard on her at times, even when ah know she’s had it rough tryin’ t’ be strong without y’all from the start. Somehow, though, even with so many things that could go wrong, ah think... no, ah really believe that this colt is gonna be exactly what she needs. You’ve always been there, watchin’ over us, so ah’d just like t’ ask... ‘ave ah done alright? Is it time fer me t’ let go?

Tears of gratitude welled in the grown mare’s eyes as twin comets cut a shimmering trail through the skies, and Applejack whispered her thanks to the starry skies that had once again put her heart at ease. A heavy hoof descended on her back as the first few drops spilled onto the ground, and she turned to find her brother’s calm gaze reassuring what the stars had already foretold. “She’s gonna be alright... ain’t she, brother?” Big Macintosh lifted his gaze and pulled his little sister close, studying the sky that was filling with stars by the second. He answered with only a single word, but it was all that was needed, and it was spoken with the confidence she needed to hear.


For much of her life, Scootaloo had opted out of maintaining any standard of girliness, so one may wonder how plunging headlong into the realm of romance would affect her sense of self. The filly really had no idea what would happen when she stepped out of her front door that morning, but as she and Pipsqueak found a lull in their games, chatting quietly as they walked through the countryside, she felt like nothing and everything had changed. Her “sudden” interest in that which she hadn’t dared to dabble before wasn’t actually sudden at all, and while her curiosity may have been stuffed down to the point of feeling nonexistent at times, trepidation crumbled in the face of the overwhelming gratification she felt by finally setting herself free.

Perhaps the biggest issue that remained was finding a balance so as to not seem bipolar, and that was going to take some doing. Scootaloo was still fiercely competitive, had no issue getting her hooves dirty, and was more likely to smack somepony silly rather than keep her calm and leave them humiliated with a clever retort. In and of itself, this wasn’t a problem, but it did strike Pipsqueak as a touch hard to follow when she’d shift suddenly from growling to bashful and then back to monster hunting, all within the space of a few seconds. Pipsqueak, however, was quick to adapt, taking her puzzling moments in stride and gleaning strength from the filly’s exuberance and support, though as evening drew nigh, the pair found themselves merrily exhausted from a jam-packed evening of mostly-fictional conquests.

They’d vanquished the monkey king and his mutant banana horde, escaped multiple zombie pony uprisings unscathed, scaled to the highest peak of the tallest stall, and liberated a wrongfully imprisoned milkshake from the candy fortress. Savoring a time of rest after the final battle, the two sat together in the field, enjoying the spoils of an afternoon well spent. Scootaloo glanced up at the brilliant evening sky, watching the hues shift to match her mane and coat with vivid shades of gold and orange and accented by the softer shades of cerulean and magenta, and then across at her captain, slurping on the last few drops of milkshake. The colt paused and regarded the filly with adorably curious eyes as he found himself being watched, but rather than avert her eyes or stammer out an excuse, Scootaloo shifted a little closer and leaned her head against the colt’s shoulder.

“Is everything all right?” Pipsqueak asked, feeling a tinge of heat light his cheeks as the filly’s soft mane brushed the side of his neck. Still a little unused to hearing him speak without his pirate dialect, it took Scootaloo a few seconds to answer, though they were well spent snuggling closer to her adventurous heater.

“I’m fine... Pipsqueak,” she replied slowly, feeling the butterflies awaken at speaking his name in such a tender manner. “It’s just... this is really nice, you know? We had a ton of fun today, and even though we’re beat and it’s getting cold, I... don’t really want to move. I don’t want the day to end.”

Setting aside the glass cup and making a mental note to return it to Sugarcube Corner at a later time, Pipsqueak fiddled with his hooves a minute before shyly reaching across Scootaloo’s shoulders and pulling her into a loose embrace. She melted like butter, pressing against his side and letting her head fall to his chest where she nuzzled a little, searching for the perfect position to rest. Nestled within painted hooves, the filly let slip an airy sigh and pondered once more why exactly she had considered such activity so abhorrent; it felt pretty nice to her.

“Hey, Scootaloo?” Pipsqueak said quietly, easing the tired filly from her contemplations.

“Yeah, what is it, captain?” she replied, following up with a yawn.

“How long have you liked girly stuff?”

“Oh, gosh,” Scootaloo groaned, laughing a little as she pulled away to collect her thoughts. “Let’s see... I think I’ve always been just a tiny bit curious what it would be like to act all fancy, but I never really considered giving it a shot until around the time I got my cutie mark.” She paused a moment and glanced down at her flank, where a butterfly with wings shaped like lightning had appeared nearly a year prior. “I wasn’t happy.”

“Why? You dance really well.”

“Yeah, but... a butterfly?” Scootaloo defended half-heartedly with a rueful grin. “It’s like... I wanted something that screamed ‘awesome, like Rainbow Dash!’ Even with the lightning wings, it’s hard to call a butterfly ‘fierce.’ Still, I guess I should have paid a little more attention to my legs, because the few times I did dance, I loved it.”

“It sounds like we both have problems listening to our better judgement,” Pipsqueak chuckled with a lopsided grin. “Everypony told me that Ponyville was a much quieter town than Trottingham, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about being bullied, but it took me nearly a year to try and make friends. Still, who would have thought that I’d make friends with a princess?”

“That’s right, I was meaning to ask... how did you and Luna get so close?”

“I thought she was gonna eat me,” Pipsqueak stated without a shred of sarcasm. “I thought she was still Nightmare Moon!” the colt defended as his fillyfriend clutched her sides and let her laughter carry across the countryside. “It was my very first Nightmare Night, and one of the first times I’d actually been able to talk to other ponies my age without worrying about being stomped... how would you respond if a giant winged unicorn landed her chariot not five ponylengths from where you were standing?”

“Duh, I was there, remember? I was one of the ponies running away with you!” Scootaloo chortled, wiping a tear of mirth from her eyes. “You know, that really was a scary Nightmare Night...” Pipsqueak nodded, slightly confused as the filly dropped her volume to a gentle murmur. “Even back then, you were brave enough to face your fears... I’m still just getting started.”

“I had a lot of ponies there to help me feel safe,” Pipsqueak defended, not feeling very worthy of the title “brave.” Still, maybe I’m stronger than I feel. Scootaloo sure seems to think so... “So, what are you still afraid of?”

“Showing you my closet.” Scootaloo grew indignant as the colt failed to contain a gale of giggles from slipping out his muzzle. “I’m serious!” the filly pressed, covering her face in embarrassment. “I’ve never shown anypony my closet! Sure, I’ve let Sweetie Belle and Applebloom in, but they don’t know either...”

“Know what?” Pipsqueak asked, stowing his mirth like a gentlecolt should and drawing a little closer to the filly.

“Gee, I dunno,” she replied sarcastically, peeking out from behind her hooves, “how about the fact that I have a bajillion conditioners and shampoos, more scrunchies and hair clips than Carousel Boutique has ribbons- which I have too, by the way... Oh, and I’ve got no fewer than twenty dresses, a drawer full of socks that nopony save maybe my snooping mother has seen me in, and enough fragrance to put a flower shop to shame. There: now you know, like, everything,” she concluded, folding her hooves across her chest. “My room is secretly a sanctuary of prissy stuff.”

Huh, that felt... really good, getting all that off my chest. Having finished her confession, she couldn’t help but smile a little at the colt sitting before her, either shell-shocked from information overload or simply staring into space. “Uh, are you ok?”



“Huh? N-nothing!”

“I haven’t even asked what you’re thinking about yet.”


“Careful, captain: this flower has thorns.”

“Ahoy, is that a challenge I hear?” Pipsqueak laughed, leaping back and adopting a sparring stance.

“It wasn’t, but it sure is now!” Scootaloo shot back, scanning the ground around her hooves. It didn’t take long to spot a decent sized branch that could be snapped off to a proper length, and the filly sauntered over, shot her captain a wink to let him know she wasn’t at all upset that the thought of her in socks had lingered in his mind, and then adopted what she thought was a proper fighting stance. As eager as he was to get sparring, Pipsqueak realized that he would have to educate Scootaloo on the basics if he wanted anything close to a challenge that night: her defenses had more holes than a changeling eating swiss cheese.

“It seems me flower ain’t properly versed in the arts o’ war,” Pipsqueak said with a low chuckle, raising a placating hoof as Scootaloo shot him an indignant look. “Simmer down, lass, I wasn’t harpin’ on ye,” he assured her, drawing up beside her. “Ye might not think it, but fancy hoofwork is vital t’ swordplay. In a way, ye might say it’s like dancin’.”

“Really?” Scootaloo wondered aloud, intrigued by the correlation.

“Yeah, dancing!” Pipsqueak quipped. “Well, except that you’re swinging around something sharp and trying not to die. Other than that, they’re the same!”

“Ok, that’s cool, but we haven’t even started yet,” Scootaloo continued, dropping her gaze to her hooves.

“Here, um... let me show you.” Flushing lightly as their hooves touched, Pipsqueak moved one hoof forward, another hoof back, and then pressed lightly on her back to loosen her tensed spine. “You’ve gotta be loose so you can adapt. Standing as rigid as you were would make it difficult to parry,” Pipsqueak explained, trotting a short distance away and then turning back around. Oh, good; she’s blushing too. I’m glad I'm not the only one.

“I’ll go ahead and give a little demonstration before we fight, alright?”

“S-sure thing, captain,” Scootaloo replied, setting aside her branch. She watched Pipsqueak as he unsheathed his blade and adopted the same stance that he had shown her, and she felt the warmth within her chest flare a little as he smiled around the hilt of his trusty prop.

“Wtch muh huvs.” Scootaloo was worried at first that she’d have trouble focusing, given that she could still feel where his hoof had touched her chest, but within moments of his first swing, she was mesmerized. Her eyes drew away from the flashy swordplay and fixated on the colt’s hooves; they seemed to reposition with every swing, sometimes by just a fraction of a hooflength and other times taking a whole new stance. With every step, the filly found herself more enthralled, and as the colt finished with a flourish, he grew delightfully bashful from being regarded with such starry eyes.

“So, um... would you like to-”

“Don’t even ask such a ridiculous question!” Scootaloo squealed, recalling the stance she’d been taught and executing it flawlessly. “Anything else?”

“Aye, um... I’ll do my very best not to hurt you, but I might mess up and hit you on accident.”

“Don’t worry, captain,” Scootaloo replied, nodding her understanding. “I’m tough stuff! Just... try not to leave any bruises, especially around the face. Storm would kinda kill you if you left any marks.”

“Well then... may I have this dance?” Shuddering as a wave of anticipation swept her frame like wildfire, Scootaloo snatched up her weapon and stood at the ready. Pipsqueak started the rhythm as he took his first cautious swing. It was, to Scootaloo, insultingly slow, and as the blades crossed, the filly adopted a look of boredom and rolled her eyes. Pipsqueak could see the fire in her eyes. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and he pulled away, nodded, and struck from a different angle with more speed. Scootaloo let slip a grunt as she deflected the blow and was forced to reposition as Pipsqueak followed around for another attack.

“Wtch duh huvs,” Pipsqueak cautioned, pausing a moment as Scootaloo peered down at them. She gave him a grin, and they began again. The colt was blown away by the ease with which Scootaloo adapted, and what was to be a training session became one of the most epic clashes the colt had ever had. Every jolt from every parry carried with it the fevered passion of the filly behind the branch, unwavering even as she was continually bested. Her natural dexterity couldn’t overcome Pipsqueak’s trained hooves in a night, but she held her own, bearing the blows and letting them drive her to greater efforts. Even though she never managed to land a strike on her elusive opponent, she felt nothing but elation as she, just for a time, found the balance her heart desired. It was during those precious minutes under the fading light of the setting sun that she was able to satisfy both her love for a good challenge with every parry and her grace with every skillfully deflected counter.

Ducking a slash and parrying another, the filly shot her best challenging grin at Pipsqueak and launched a counterattack that put her captain on the defensive. Startling the filly with a swipe at her hooves, the colt followed through with a smashing blow that put Scootaloo’s laudable balance to shame, landing her flat on her back. Looking up into the colt’s shining eyes, the filly couldn’t tell if she wanted to smack his smug mug or cup it in both hooves and lean in deep; she was sore tempted to try both.

“Ye did a fine job, lass,” the dashing rogue declared, sheathing his blade with a flourish and offering a helping hoof. Scootaloo flashed a radiant grin, reached forward, and snickered as she yanked hard, landing the exhausted colt on his stomach beside her. “...ye also fight dirty.”

“Winning with wits isn’t underhoofed, and I gotta be able to win somehow!” Scootaloo defended, sitting up and grinning back at the colt. “It’s gonna take me awhile to get as good as you, but... that was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done, so... thank you for dancing with me, Pipsqueak.”

“It was my pleasure, Scootaloo.” They gazed into each other’s eyes... and Pipsqueak noticed a redness around the filly’s muzzle. “Uh oh... I messed up.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it,” she laughed, shrugging it off. “Sure, I’m all sore from getting whacked...” the filly said with a groan, rubbing her side with one hoof and fixing her mane with the other. “...but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” Reaching over, she slipped her hoof over Pipsqueak’s to reassure the colt that her words were genuine. “Trust me, Pipsqueak. It was totally worth it.” Removing her hoof and averting her muzzle so she couldn’t fall victim to the colt, who maintained a laudable charm-rating himself, Scootaloo reminisced over how enthralled she was at finding a balance and pondered what other ways she could combine her interests. Hearing a sigh, Scootaloo redirected her attention to a tuckered earth pony who lay on his back with his hooves adorably tucked up to his chest and felt a flutter in her stomach as desire bred yet another opportunity for balance.

I can’t remember feeling more at peace than when we were sparring. For so long, I’ve felt like I had to choose being graceful or rough and tumble, and then, all of a sudden, I held both in my hooves. Maybe... there can be balance in other ways too? There’s no reason we can’t be romantic and have fun at the same time, right? A tremor of excitement ran through the filly as she fixed the colt in a lurid gaze, batted her eyelashes, and held forth a hoof. “Tis not fitting to strike a queen. Pay your respects, or it’s to the dungeon with you!” Caught a little off guard, Pipsqueak sat up and regarded Scootaloo with a blank stare before noticing the faint redness in her cheeks that wasn’t from his blade.

“A thousand apologies, your highness,” Pipsqueak replied in a regal tone, sweeping a hoof out and around before bringing it low in a humble bow. Peering into the eyes of the pony that filled him with strength, he held her gaze for just a moment before gently cradling her hoof within his own and graced her highness with a respectful kiss on the hoof. It was like sparring, but with lips.

Who would have thought... that what I wanted was so easy? Everypony was right: I just needed to let it out. Pipsqueak’s imagination never really stopped flowing, and it wasn’t with annoyance that Scootaloo regarded the sudden pinch of teeth nipping her hoof, but a rush of excitement that was much stronger than she was expecting. "Ow! What the-" Scootaloo started, squealing with laughter as Pipsqueak shirked chivalry and tackled her into the grass.

"I'm a zombie pony, and I'm gonna gobble you up!" Pipsqueak informed his food, though his snarl came out a snicker as he failed to keep a straight face.

"...ok." With a teasing grin and rosy cheeks, Scootaloo looked into the face of her demise and found it to be quite winsome, while the predator looked upon his prey with fascination and abject confusion.

"Um... but, you... you're supposed to run away, Scootaloo," Pipsqueak informed her, not entirely sure what game was being played.

"Nah, s'cool. I'm too tired to run," Scootaloo shrugged, making no effort to move. Comprehension drew the corners of the colt’s mouth into a warm grin, and he looked deep into the eyes of his meal and shuddered at the beauty.

"So... do I still eat you?" he asked softly, leaning a little closer.

"Just a taste,” Scootaloo replied in an equally subdued tone, blushing hard. “We've got to head to the tavern soon, remember? I don’t want to, you know... be missing any limbs, or whatever..." Blushing, bashful, and verifiably the most caring zombie pony ever to roam Equestria, Pipsqueak obeyed the voice of his queen and spared her limbs as he was graciously permitted a “snack” of his “prey,” whose “cries” of “agony” were nothing more than the soft sighs of a deeply enamored filly. A painted hoof helped the orange filly upright as their kiss was brought to a close, and under the light of the first twinkling stars, the two began their slow walk towards the town, a place where they would both draw upon the other’s strength to lay aside their masks.

From her vantage point atop a scilliant white mane streaked with teal, an awestruck filly brought two small, indigo hooves up to cover her mouth. For one of her plans to come to fruition was a joyous occasion indeed, but even the young foal, just shy of two, had been struck speechless by what she’d been blessed to witness. From the crest of the hill, Dawn watched Sweetie Belle shift closer to her scaled guardian, still shaking lightly from the raw outpouring of emotion that had followed what was, to be sure, the most moving song she’d ever lifted to the heavens. And her protector’s words, whispered quietly in the fading light of the early eve, had been imprinted upon the heart of a filly held close, never to be forgotten.

“Atta colt...” Cerulean whispered, unable to keep from grinning as he cast a glance upwards to make sure his daughter was still breathing. He shook his head a little bit and was rewarded with a gasp that came out as more of a muffled squee, and a warmth against his side drew his attention to a magical mare moved to tears of pride in her student’s progress and depth of resolve. “I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but you’ve really raised him well, Twilight,” Cerulean murmured, reaching around with a hoof and drawing her close.

“It’s still nice to hear, though, so thank you,” Twilight whispered back, grateful that she had been part of orchestrating such a pivotal moment in Spike’s life. “It’s a little strange, watching him grow up... I’m worried he’ll begin to drift away, but seeing him like this... how could I possibly do anything but encourage him?”

“Oh, you and I both know he’s got a ways to go,” Cerulean replied easily, garnering a hopeful look laden with skepticism. “He’s a dragon, and she’s a pony. There are bound to be some bumps in their road to happiness, but he’s proven today that he can, and will, overcome. So do encourage him, Twilight. He cherishes every word, I promise.”

“Only you could make me feel excited and depressed at the same time,” Twilight muttered, chuckling a little as she cleared her eyes. “You’re right, of course, but I hope those times are far off. Spike’s had enough adjusting to do, so I hope... he’ll have some time to just enjoy himself. Being my assistant, he hasn’t really had much of a time to be anything else...”

“Now, now, stop that,” Cerulean demanded teasingly as if he actually had the authority. “If I’m not allowed to be depressing, then neither are you!”




“Nuh uh.”

“Deeply steeped in ire?”

“Dawn, I believe your mother is asking for a bopping?” Cerulean began, turning his gaze towards the filly who still had yet to speak a word. “Hmmm, it seems you’ll be spared. She’s currently too-”

“Woohoo!” Dawn suddenly shouted as she found her voice, leaving her living perch partially deafened. “Spike an’ Sweebelle kissin’! See? They kissin’, daddy!” Unable to restrain herself any longer, the filly dashed, tripped, and tumbled down the hill towards the couple fated to never have a dull moment. Seeing how Dawn had led the charge, Twilight and Cerulean started down after their daughter who was much too stoked to worry about any scrapes or bumps she may have acquired in her hasty descent. Giggling with glee and much too giddy to sit still, Dawn began dancing circles around the starlit lovers, singing her own song of love that mainly consisted of “kissin’, kissin’, yay!"

One would think such an event would threaten the mood, but Spike and Sweetie Belle had been interrupted more times than they cared to remember throughout the last week in search of the moment that they were sharing right then, and they weren’t about to let go. Rather than worrying about the fact that they were most definitely being watched, Spike pulled away just long enough to brush away the last few tears from Sweetie Belle’s cheeks before a knowing smile gave him the go ahead. With his claws around her waist and her hooves around his neck, the starlet and the pianist clung together through the last fleeting seconds of bliss, unwilling to let go, even as Dawn took full credit for the dragon’s success and openly bragged to her parents.

“See? I’ma genius!” Dawn declared triumphantly, kicking up her hooves as her excitement boiled over. “Spike ask me for help, an’ I told him to make Sweebelle a song so he’d gets lots an’ lots of kisses, an’ now they eatin’ face and bein’ happy!” At the phrase “eating face,” Spike was forced to pull away as both he and Sweetie Belle erupted into laughter, much to Dawn’s disappointment. “Awww, it’s over?” she pouted, trotting over and looking down at Spike with pleading eyes.

“Don’t worry, Dawn,” Spike chortled, stealing a glance at the filly failing to get a handle on her giggles. “I’m sure we’ll kiss again.”

“Already kissed!” she quipped, doing a little dance with her hooves. “Now needa go thump thump!” Baffled by the immediate cessation of mirth and awkward silence that ensued, Dawn looked from face to face with naive confusion. Kissing lots meant thump thump after; that’s just the way the world worked, right?

“Dawn? Um... Spike and Sweetie Belle can’t... ‘thump thump,’” Cerulean explained, garnering a frustrated look from his foal.

“Why not? Thumpin’ make a girl happy!” the filly stated with absolute conviction, stomping her hoof.

“Well, Dawn, if they’re thumping, they can’t be reading!” Twilight explained, hoping that touching on such an important subject would make the connection. She was mistaken, and Dawn’s adamant reply was instantaneous.

“Spike not readin’, he’s was kissin’. Spike don’t read, anyways.”

“How about breathing? That’s pretty important,” Cerulean added, taking a seat beside Twilight. Again, Dawn was unconvinced.

“Breath througha nose an’ kiss witha mouth.” Clearly, a certain set of parents needed to exercise a little more caution with their romantic evenings, and the stallion turned to his snickering mare with a smirk.

“This is your fault.”

“Huh? Why me?” Twilight inquired, putting a lid on her laughter.

“You don’t think she got her brain from me, do you?” Cerulean shot back with a grin.

“Oh, stop,” Twilight snorted with feigned exasperation. “We both know you’re not nearly as unintelligent as you act.”


“Ok, are. No, not are... you’re not as unintelligent as, um... you...” Twilight stalled, searching for the right words.

“Daddy’s dumbsmart,” Dawn stated with matter-of-fact eloquence. Spike had just begun to edge his way back towards Sweetie Belle when the statement once more brought him to the ground as everypony burst into laughter. Dawn was thoroughly chagrined by this, and why wouldn’t she be? Here she was, trying to help Spike live the dream while everypony else was talking about things not nearly as important as interspecies smooching. Irate, Dawn was about to bop everypony within a ten hoof radius when the scent of sweets quelled her wrath... and then doubled it as she was again forced to witness the abomination a la Pinkie Pie.

“Sweebelle! I told you not s’posed to put rocks onna cake!” Dawn cried, having flipped open the lid to the cake.

“Oh, hey! That’s right!” Spike all but shouted, licking his lips as he beheld the faintly glimmering treat. “Sweetie Belle, is it alright if I eat it now?”

“Of course!” she quipped, “that’s why I had Pinkie Pie make it! I mean, I would have made it myself, but... I wanted you to actually enjoy it.”

“Oh, I will,” Spike assured her, hurrying over to the filly trying to bore holes into the cake with her piercing glare. “Excuse me, Dawn. Can I eat my cake?”

“That notta cake,” Dawn answer flatly, turning up her snout in disgust. Bowing graciously to the filly, Spike gingerly lifted out the confection and took a moment more to appreciate the effort that had gone into it.

“Sweetie Belle? Thanks.” Without further delay, Spike wrapped the cake with his tongue and lifted the whole thing into his mouth. It caused his cheeks to pooch out in a way Sweetie Belle found strangely endearing, considering the atrocious slurping noises that accompanied the crunching, a sound akin to the gentry of Canterlot all donating their crystal glasses to a trash compactor filled with twigs and mud. Dawn stared wide eyed at the dragon as his eyes rolled back in sheer delight from the taste filling his mouth, Dawn sat stiff before frantically running over to her parents.

“Mommy, Spike breakin’ his teeth onna rock cake!” the filly cried, pointing a quavering hoof at somepony she was convinced would need extensive dental attention, and quickly. While Cerulean took the distraught filly aside to explain the how and why she had little cause for worry, Twilight cantered to the dragon as he finished his meal and pulled him close.

“You sure are growing up fast,” she said quietly, finding her own words to be bittersweet.

“Not as fast as I’d like,” Spike chuckled, returning his mentor’s embrace and dropping his tone as he sensed her worries. “Don’t worry, Twilight. You can’t outgrow friendship.”

“Just keep telling me that,” she said happily, squeezing just a little tighter. “Maybe one of these days I’ll learn.”

“And when you do, it’ll make an awesome letter to the princess,” Spike concluded, pulling away and smiling wide. “Thanks for all your help tonight, Twilight. I’ll tell you all about my day when I get home tonight, but me and Sweetie Belle are actually running a little late. We got kinda... distracted.” Twilight giggled a little as her student’s cheeks flushed visibly in the dim light as Sweetie Belle snuggled up beside him, clearly still a touch clingy given the way she wrapped herself around his claw.

“I look forward to it. Come on, you two, time to go! Dawn, be nice to daddy,” Twilight cautioned the foal, who was currently bopping the living daylights out of her father. Lifting the piano with ease, Twilight cast one last glance behind her before focusing her magic and leaving Spike alone with his fillyfriend in the wake of a brilliant flash of lavender.

“Sweetie Belle?” Startled by the suddenly contemplative tone, the filly turned her attention to the dragon who viewed her with gentle, green eyes. “I know we need to be heading towards the tavern but... would you mind... just a little more distraction?” Making no motion to brace himself as the filly literally threw herself at him, Spike fell back onto the grass and held the filly close. They’d been through the valley, if it could even be called that, so they felt no shame in celebrating coming to the peak; there was really no telling when the next drop would come. That night, however, they didn’t need to know. All they needed was that which they held, cherished in hoof and claw, and that was something they knew would never change.