• Published 31st Aug 2019
  • 2,836 Views, 384 Comments

Magic of the Heart - Pegasus Rescue Brigade

In the final installment of the "Shipping and Handling" trilogy, Ditzy and Dinky once again wind up in the center of one of the greatest trials Equestria has ever faced.

  • ...

Chapter 2

The room was silent. Every pair of eyes was fixed on Ditzy. The mare stood, stunned, her mind frantically trying to overcome the shock and form a reaction.

"D-Ditzy?" Breeze ventured, looking increasingly nervous. "Are you... I mean, do you..."

"Seventeen years," Ditzy said suddenly, stopping Breeze's fumbling monologue. "It's been seventeen years since the fire. For all that time, I've lived here, pouring everything I have into my work, and caring for my filly. For seventeen years, I've been a widow, wondering if I'd ever meet another pony as loving and loyal and strong as the one I lost."

Breeze's wings twitched anxiously. "And... did you?"

"I did," Ditzy managed, as a few tears formed in her eyes. "You are that pony, Breeze."

Breeze's eyes widened. "So that means..."

"Yes," Ditzy whispered, stepping forward, closing the distance between them. "Yes, Breeze, of course I'll marry you!"

The oppressive silence in the room broke instantly, replaced with a chorus of cheers, gasps, and congratulatory words. Ditzy embraced Breeze, holding her new fiancé tightly and completely unable to hold back a broad smile.

The familiar flash of teleportation flared beside them, and a moment later, Ditzy felt Dinky press against her as the filly joined the hug. "I'm so happy for you, mom!" she squealed. "Breeze just told me about this last night, but it felt like an eternity waiting for him to finally ask you today."

Ditzy removed one of her forelegs from around Breeze's body and stretched it around her daughter's back, pulling her closer. "I take it that means you're okay with the idea of a new stepfather?" she asked.

Dinky turned her head and gave Breeze a friendly grin before looking back to her mother. "Breeze has never been anything but nice to me since you two got together," the unicorn reassured her. "And I mean... it's not like I remember dad. It won't feel like Breeze is replacing anypony."

"Me and Dinky have always gotten along," Breeze affirmed. "All the family stuff will work out, don't worry."

Ditzy looked back and forth between Dinky and Breeze, her already beaming smile growing wider. "I love you both so much," she giggled. "If the whole family's on board, then I guess it's time to plan a wedding!"

"Three cheers for Ditzy and Breeze!" came Watt's shrill voice, and the rest of the assembled ponies followed along in cheering on the couple. After a few more minutes of hugs and well-wishes from the ponies around her, Ditzy finally began to come down from the emotional high long enough to discuss what was to come.

"Breeze, when should we have the ceremony?" she asked. "We'll need time to prepare, of course, but I don't want to wait too long; after all, Dinky goes back to school at the beginning of March."

"That's in a little over two months," Breeze said, pausing to mentally calculate. "So if we take some time to make all the preparations, but still leave time for Dinky and her friends to get ready to move back to Canterlot after, then the ceremony should be right around..."

The two pegasi made the connection at the same time. "Hearts and Hooves Day!" they announced in unison.

"Simply spiffing idea, you two," Cloudcover. "There's hardly a more appropriate day than that, now is there?"

"That means we'll get to come too!" Clarity sang, prancing around Scuffle and Honeydew.

"Oh my, I've never been to a wedding," Honeydew admitted with a shy smile. "Have either of you?"

"Only boring ones," Scuffle grunted. "Dinky better make sure her mom's wedding is cool."

Clarity and Honeydew laughed. Ditzy and Dinky both giggled at group of unicorns as well.

"As happy as we all are for you," Watt began, darting over to Ditzy and Breeze, "there's one pony left to tell, and I get the feeling he's gonna be the most thrilled of us all."

"Watt and I will keep quiet if we get to work before you," Cloudcover promised. "You two should definitely be the ones to tell our dear Doctor Candyfloss."

Ditzy fluttered her wings in delight at the thought. "Oh, tomorrow can't come soon enough! Just wait until Ponyville's premier shipping pony hears about this!"

On the sunny morning the day after Hearth's Warming, four ponies sat in the upstairs lounge of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, waiting for their boss.

"How d'you think he'll react?" Watt asked, bursting with so much excitement that the entire couch he was seated on was gently vibrating. "Maybe he'll get super emotional, or stunned speechless! Or maybe he'll be so thrilled he'll throw a party for you!"

"Watt, you must remember that not all ponies are quite as inclined to spur-of-the-moment parties as your marefriend," Cloudcover reminded him. "Though I imagine the other options are definite possibilities."

"It's totally a party-worthy event though," Watt argued. "It's just so great that Ditzy and Breeze are—"

"Shh!" Breeze shushed. "We can't talk about it yet. You know Candyfloss; he has a habit of turning up unexpectedly in the middle of our conversations."

"Yes, Autumn Breeze, I suppose I do have a penchant for that sort of thing," came another voice.

The four ponies heads turned in unison, and sure enough, Dr. Candyfloss was standing in the doorway, wearing an amused smile. Breeze just chuckled and shook his head.

"Morning, Doc. True to form today, I see."

"Quite," Candyfloss chuckled, striding in to stand among his employees. "And how are you four? I trust you had a fulfilling Hearth's Warming?"

"That's one way to put it," Ditzy laughed. "We have some big news for you, Dr. Candyfloss."

"Something we think you're gonna be really happy to hear," Breeze added.

Dr. Candyfloss glanced between the two pegasi with curiosity. "Very well then, what might that be?"

Ditzy reached into her saddlebag and extracted the box Breeze had given her. She quickly snapped it open, and her boss's eyes widened slightly before looking back up from the ring to the mare holding it.

"Dr. Candyfloss, Breeze and I are engaged!" she announced joyfully.

There was quiet for a moment. Candyfloss did not erupt with emotion as Watt had predicted. Instead, he simply smiled at the two pegasi, with a so oft seen mysterious twinkle in his eyes.

"Congratulations, both of you," he said calmly. "You two are surrounded by the freshly bloomed love of other ponies on a near-daily basis. It's so heartwarming to witness the moment the love you share maturing into something so much more than that."

"Thanks, Doc," Breeze said. "It means a lot to hear praise for our relationship coming from a pony like you."

Candyfloss just nodded in response to the thanks, and then paused for a moment. Ditzy looked around and noticed the surprised expressions on the faces of her coworkers.

"That...that's it?" Watt complained, throwing his forehooves in the air in frustration. "Two of your matchmakers have become a match themselves, and all you have is a few polite comments?"

Candyfloss chuckled. "Kilowatt Hour, you must understand, as a pony with a special talent in matchmaking, my ability to perceive changes in the nature of the love between two ponies are nearly unparalleled," he explained. "As the years have gone by, I've watched dear Ditzy and Breeze, day after day, observing their love as it grew and changed into something much more than it was on the day they got together years ago. After a while, perhaps months ago, if not more, it had already become clear to me where the progression of a love such as this would lead."

"So, you're saying their engagement was almost a foregone conclusion?" Cloudcover asked.

"Precisely that, my friend," Candyfloss responded, his wispy magenta mane swaying as he nodded. "And the subtle changes in Breeze's behavior in the past week or two gave me a pretty good idea of when it might happen, as well."

Ditzy couldn't help but giggle. "Nothing gets by you, Dr. Candyfloss," she admitted. "I guess that's what happens when you're a master matchmaker."

"You're certainly not a bad matchmaker yourself, Ditzy," Candyfloss reminded her. "Especially, it appears, when it comes to finding the right match for you."

Ditzy blushed. Candyfloss lit his horn and levitated two pieces of paper over to the gathered ponies.

"Now, as happy as the occasion is, I'm afraid we all have work to do," he said. "Cloudcover, Watt, here are assignments for each of you."

Watt darted forward, snatching the hoofwritten address out of the air, and pausing just long enough to wave frantically to his coworkers before bolting out of the building. Cloudcover took his assignment too, and with a quick goodbye to Ditzy, Breeze, and Candyfloss, he exited as well.

"I'll have assignments for the two of you soon, I'm sure," Candyfloss said to the remaining pair of ponies. "But while we wait, there's one more thing I'd like to say."

He motioned for the pegasi to sit down on one of the couches. Wordlessly, they both obliged. Candyfloss approached, coming to stand much closer than he usually did when speaking to his employees. He kept his voice low, as if telling a secret.

"In the years we've known each other, I've always been a bit... vague about the exact details of my shipping career," he began. "I've been bringing the citizens of Equestria together for many years now, using an innate magic that very few ponies in all the world have access to. Not only can I sense the emotions that comprise a relationship, but I can feel those emotions grow and change, often, though not always, for the better, as a pair of ponies' relationship evolves. Even before I opened Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, these powers have allowed me to figure out which ponies are compatible, and almost always know exactly what it takes to bring them together."

"You're an amazing unicorn, Dr. Candyfloss," Ditzy complimented, "but what's this got to do with us?"

Candyfloss chuckled. "Well, my dear Ditzy Doo, as the decades have passed, I've had the opportunity... no, the privilege to witness the lifespan of thousands upon thousands of romantic relationships, lived out by ponies rich and poor, young and old, stallion and mare alike. I've encountered everything from schoolyard puppy love between eager foals to committed marriages that lasted until the day both ponies in such a union passed on. I've rejoiced at so many, many new loves that have blossomed, and mourned so many more that have withered away. I've truly experienced it all. And in all those years, I've only encountered ponies whose relationship is so wholly and completely earnest and true as the one you two share a hoofful of times."

Ditzy blinked. "Wha... really?" she stuttered, noticing Breeze's jaw drop as well.

Candyfloss smiled broadly. "I admit I wasn't at all surprised to hear about your engagement," he continued, pausing for a moment to straighten his bow tie. "But don't let that make you believe I am not simply elated that it has happened. Two ponies who have dedicated years of their time to joining me in my endless quest to lend a helping hoof to the budding relationships of the citizens of this land have now begun to share in a deep and selfless love of their own. Please, my only wish is that you do all of Equestria a favor, and use your time at Equestria Speedy Shipping services to strive to give other ponies a chance to experience a love like yours."

"Doc, I... I don't know what to say," Breeze replied, taken aback.

"I think I do," Ditzy said, springing to her hooves and pulling a surprised Candyfloss into an embrace. "Thank you so much for having confidence in us, Dr. Candyfloss. I know if we all work together, we'll be able to spread love across Equestria for years and years to come."

Her passion for her work and admiration of her boss reinvigorated, Ditzy set off on her next assignment that day with just one thing on her mind: giving ponies the chance to form a bond with the mare or stallion of their dreams. And she smiled, knowing her own stallion would be waiting for her when she returned.

~For she's a jolly good pony, for she's a jolly good pony~

Weeks later, on a frigid day in the middle of January, four unicorn students sat crammed into a booth at a tavern in Ponyville, laughing and singing as they celebrated Clarity's birthday together.

"You're finally eighteen," Honeydew chirped, smiling at her friend from across the table. "How's it feel, Clarity?"

"What kind of question is that?" Clarity laughed, taking a sip of her brightly-colored soda. "I can't say it feels too much different than yesterday, but that's how growing up works, I guess."

"That makes three adult ponies at this table," Scuffle said proudly. "Careful, ladies, we better keep the conversation polite so we aren't a bad influence on little baby Dinky over there."

Dinky snorted. "Sure, Scuffle, cause you're so good at being the mature one in the group," she shot back with a smirk.

Scuffle nickered, indignant. Honeydew and Clarity laughed delightedly.

"How much longer until you're eighteen, Dinky?" Honeydew asked.

"May," Dinky admitted. "We'll be back at school for a while before that happens."

The four unicorns' conversation was interrupted as a plump, cheerful waitress arrived with a slice of cake bearing a single candle, which she set down in front of Clarity. "Happy birthday, hon!" the mare said with a smile before going on her way.

Clarity levitated her fork and was just about to dig in, when suddenly the tiny flame on the candle began to grow larger. In just a second, it had grown into a tongue of flame the size of a pony's head. The red fire rose into the air, changed quickly to bright green, and then was extinguished, leaving in its place a rather large scroll that dropped unceremoniously onto Clarity's cake.

"Dragon mail?" Clarity asked, picking up the scroll and trying to shake off the gobs of frosting that had stuck to it. "Must be something from the Academy. And it didn't come via a normal mail carrier this time, so I guess old Twinkletoes is back from his vacation and sending letters again."

"Well don't keep us in suspense," Dinky urged. "What is it?"

Clarity unfurled the scroll and skimmed the page for a moment. "It's more information about being the Overseer this year," she said. "Looks like it's mostly just instructions, things like what I'll have to do after the opening ceremony when it's time to get the fillies' residence situation sorted out for the year."

The filly idly chewed a bite of cake as she kept reading. After a moment, a big grin spread across her face.

"Guess what!" she blurted. "The colts' Overseer this year is gonna be Tango Trot!"

"Who?" Dinky inquired, tilting her head, and noticing that Scuffle and Honeydew didn't appear quite so oblivious as she felt.

"Oh come on," Clarity complained. "He's been in a couple of our classes now and then. He's got a blue coat and dark brown mane that he keeps slicked back. Speaks with a slight Maregentenian accent. I know you've met him. I was there."

Upon hearing the description, Dinky was finally able to picture who Clarity was talking about. She hadn't even met the pony until at least her second, or maybe third, year at the Academy. He was a friendly colt, but he was usually surrounded with so many of his own friends that Dinky had never really bothered to reach out much. He always seemed more than content with his own group of classmates anyway.

"Yeah, I know who you mean," she said finally. "Have you spent time with him?"

"In class, mostly," Clarity admitted. "I've partnered with him on several projects in classes where you weren't an option. He's smart and outgoing; he'll make a great overseer."

"Yeah, that dude just naturally draws ponies' attention anyway," Scuffle added, "especially as we've gotten older. I see him all the time in the residence towers; he's a popular guy. You've met him too, right Dewey?"

"Uh, I haven't talked to him that much..." Honeydew confessed, "but I know he's not too shabby at Magical Biology..."

Clarity, smiling, returned her attention to the scroll and glanced a bit lower on the page. "Oh, and it looks like there's a training session on 'handling conflict among students' in a few weeks," she continued. "I need to take a trip to Canterlot at the beginning of February to meet with Dean Spiral Script and some of the professors for a class on fostering good inter-pony communication, defusing tense situations, and taking disciplinary actions on small matters if necessary."

"You'll be back in time for the wedding though, right?" Dinky asked, concerned.

"Oh, it's only a two day class," Clarity reassured her, pausing to take a large bite of cake. "I'll only be gone for a weekend, and then it's back to Ponyville for one more month until the term begins."

"Speaking of the wedding, isn't it great how many ponies are happy for your mom?" Honeydew asked dreamily. "That's one thing I love about Ponyville that isn't really the case back home. So many ponies are genuinely happy to celebrate the good fortune of their neighbors."

"I know, isn't it great?" Dinky asked. "It seems like the whole town's talking about it like it's the event of the season: the long-awaited wedding of Ditzy Doo and Autumn Breeze!"

A mare in the booth behind the four unicorns suddenly broke into a loud fit of coughing. Concerned, Dinky and Honeydew turned and peered over the back of the booth, while Scuffle and Clarity, who were seated across the table, craned their necks to see.

"Are you okay ma'am?" Honeydew squeaked.

The mare sputtered a few more times as she caught her breath, setting her mug of coffee down on the table. She was wrapped so tightly in a winter cloak that all Dinky could really see of her was the light blue horn poking out from under her hood. "Fine, fine," she said dismissively, waving a forehoof. "Never mind me, though. I hate to pry, but did I hear you fillies mention Ditzy Doo's wedding?"

"Um, yeah," said Dinky skeptically. "Do you know her?"

The mare dipped her head slightly, slipping further into the shadow cast by her hood.

"You could say that."

Dinky cocked her head. "What's that supposed to mean?"

With a small flicker of magic, a few bits levitated from the cloaked mare's saddlebag and were placed on the table next to the still mostly-full coffee. "I've got to run," she said curtly, rising to her hooves.

Dinky was bewildered. "But, wha—"

Ignoring the fillies, the mare trotted briskly from the tavern and disappeared into the snowy streets of Ponyville.

"Ditzy Doo and Cloudcover, please meet me in my office for your assignments."

The crackling intercom went silent, and Ditzy exchanged a glance with her white pegasus friend. "Looks like we've got work to do," she stated, rising to her hooves.

A minute or so later, the two pegasi squeezed into Candyfloss's small office. The unicorn was writing in his journal, but he quickly tucked the small, battered book back into his desk when his employees entered.

"Good morning Ditzy, Cloudcover," he began, nodding to each of them in turn. "I actually have only one assignment ready right now, but I feel it might be best to send both of you for this one. I just spoke with the client, and she sounds... just a tad intense. It's a slow day today, so rather than overwhelm either of you, I want you to work together on this one."

Cloudcover nodded. "Right-o, boss. Any particular reason you want us on this job, specifically?"

Candyfloss shrugged. "Who can say? My powers hint at the right ponies for the job, but they don't generally tell me why. But don't fret, I'm sure you two will have answered that question yourselves by the time the assignment is through."

He passed a slip of paper with the address to his employees. "Good luck, you two. And do, erm, try to be patient with the client. It sounds like you may need some measure of tact."

"We've been doing this a long time," Ditzy reassured him. "I'm sure we can handle it."

The two pegasi stepped outside and launched into the crisp morning air.

For some time, Ditzy and Cloudcover floated along over the open farmlands south of Ponyville, keeping mostly quiet as they did so.

"Hey Cloudcover?" Ditzy ventured finally.

Cloudcover snapped out of a moment of silent contemplation and turned to meet Ditzy's gaze. "Ah, beg your pardon, Ditzy. I was a bit lost in my own thoughts there. What is it?"

"Uhh..." Ditzy stammered, looking away. "I just need somepony to talk to. My wedding is only a month away now, and I'm thrilled of course, but⁠—"

"You've got a bit of a case of pre-marital anxiety?" Cloudcover finished, nodding knowingly.

Ditzy blushed. "How'd you know?"

"Because I imagine that happens to nearly everypony," Cloudcover chuckled. "Well, that and the fact that Breeze feels the same, but don't tell him I told you."

Ditzy giggled. "Well, you're the most worldly pony I know," she admitted. "I thought maybe you'd be able to persuade me that everything's gonna be just fine."

"I'd be delighted to help," Cloudcover promised. "But it will have to wait just a bit. The address Candyfloss provided is just below us."

Ditzy swooped down and couldn't help but frown as the property came into view. She and Cloudcover had flown over dozens of farms on the way here, but none of them looked anywhere near as barren as this one. An old farmhouse, a windmill, and a rusty silo were the only signs of habitation, and the surrounding fields were rather uneven and rocky. A dilapidated wooden fence cut across part of the property, but what it was meant to enclose, Ditzy could only guess. Perhaps most alarming was the total absence of even a single sprig of plant life all the way to the edge of the property.

"Sheesh," she mumbled as she swooped downward. "Not the nicest looking place looking place."

"Now, now, Ditzy," Cloudcover scolded. "Let's reserve judgement until we've talked to the pony who called us."

Ditzy fluttered down and carefully alighted atop a huge, egg-shaped boulder. She scanned the area for any signs of life as Cloudcover touched down beside her.

"I don't see anypony here," she said slowly. "Let's head over to that farmhouse and see if anypony—"

"Hey!" a sharp voice barked from nearby. "I'm only gonna say this once! Stay off Holder's Boulder!"

Both pegasi looked quickly to their right, where a pony had appeared from a tremendous mound of rocks. She'd been there the whole time, Ditzy realized, but her muted blue coat and pale grey mane blended in so well with the rocks around her that the shippers had managed to overlook her.

"I'm waiting!" the mare screamed, gritting her teeth.

Ditzy wasted no time taking a few frantic flaps into the air, hearing Cloudcover's wings beating behind her. Nervously, the two of them planted their hooves firmly on the soil below.

"That's better," the dull blue mare said, her voice nearly as gravelly as the field she was standing in. "Now what do you want? This is private property."

"Please pardon our intrusion, ma'am," said Cloudcover as politely as possible. "My associate and I received a call from this address."

"I don't suppose you contacted Equestria Speedy Shipping Services?" Ditzy asked hesitantly.

The mare scowled. "Yeah, that was me," she snapped, "but I kinda expected somepony more professional than two goofy-looking pegasi."

Ditzy attempted to reply, but the mare cut her off. "You stand before Limestone Pie," she announced, putting a forehoof to her chest rather self-importantly, "eldest of the Pie sisters and heir to the Pie family rock farm."

"The Pie family?" Ditzy asked. "W-wait, so are you related to Pinkie and Maud Pie?"

"Yeah, and they're exactly the reason I made this call," Limestone said, her frown deepening. "Maud and Pinkie both have coltfriends now, and even my other sister, Marble, had one for a little bit. I think. She doesn't like to talk about it. But if those three could find stallions, it should've been a cakewalk for a pony like me. But for some strange reason, stallions seem to give me a whole lot of room. And although I'm a patient and understanding pony, I'm getting a little fed up!"

The end of her sentence was spoken with such force that Ditzy had to resist flinching. "W-well, we'll fix that right up!" she said, trying to sound more confident than she felt about this mare's prospects. "I'm Ditzy Doo, and this is my friend Cloudcover. We've been helping ponies get together with their sweethearts for years, so just leave it to us!"

"If you would be so kind, Limestone, dear," Cloudcover continued, "could we have the name and location of the stallion you have in mind?"

Limestone raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that your job?"

"Well, we don't have magic shipping powers or anything," Ditzy laughed nervously. "You need to tell us about the target pony before we can get started."

"No, I don't think you get it," Limestone grumbled. "There is no target pony. All I want you to do is get a stallion to go out with me. Any stallion that's roughly my age will do. Even you two basalt-for-brains pegasi should be able to manage that."

"That's... unconventional," Cloudcover dared to say, "but I suppose there's nothing in the company guidelines that forbids such a method."

"Actually, this could work really well!" Ditzy gasped. "We'll set up a series of quick little blind dates for you, so we can see if you really click with any of the local stallions. Why don't you meet us at Sunflower Café in Ponyville in about two hours? We should have enough time to round up a few interested ponies by then."

"Fine," Limestone barked, her frown still unwavering. "You two better deliver on this."

With an agitated toss of her mane, she stormed off. Ditzy and Cloudcover exchanged an alarmed glance and quickly took off back toward Ponyville.

"Doctor Candyfloss was right," she said, earning a somber nod from her coworker. "This... might be a tough one."

After an hour or so of flitting about the marketplace in search of interested bachelors, Ditzy had rounded up four stallions who were willing to stop by the café to meet the mystery mare they'd been informed of. The grey pegasus hurried to meet up with Cloudcover, doing her best not to crash into anything, as her poor vision so often led her to do when she was in a rush. Cloudcover stepped out of the Sunflower Café, just as she arrived.

"Our client is inside, waiting for her dates at the corner table," he reported. "I tried to give her a bit of advice to help them go well, but she's... less than receptive. Perhaps you should talk to her before the stallions arrive. Maybe you'll have better luck."

Ditzy nodded and slipped inside the eatery. She immediately noticed Limestone seated nearby, her forelegs crossed and her expression no less grumpy than usual. Presumably to 'dress up' for the occasion, she'd put on a bit of eyeliner, which really only served to make her glare yet more pronounced and intimidating than it already was.

"So, ready to meet some eligible stallions?" Ditzy asked in as cheerful a tone as she could muster.

"I guess," Limestone grunted. "This better work, Ditzy. I got a lotta work to do at the farm. You better not be wasting my time."

"I'm sure it won't be a waste," Ditzy said, purposely giggling a bit to hide the uncertain quaver in her voice. "But, uh... just to make doubly sure of that, just try to, you know, be conversational! Smile a bit! Since you're welcoming a new friend, make them feel welcome too."

Limestone rolled her eyes. "Ugh, fine, but don't think I'm gonna be all goo-goo-eyed like Pinkie is when she makes new friends."

"You don't have to be," Ditzy assured her. "Now, your first date's name is Noteworthy. He's an earth pony like you. Cloudcover and I will be two tables over, hiding behind our menus, keeping an eye on the situation."

"Whatever," Limestone grunted.

"Good luck," Ditzy said with a wave, before fluttering over to the planned hiding spot. Cloudcover hurried into the restaurant a moment later and joined her.

"Noteworthy is just about to enter," he informed her, quickly standing his menu book up on the table to block the view.

"Well, here we go," Ditzy sighed. "Let's watch, so if it goes poorly, maybe we can give Limestone some extra pointers before the next pony arrives."

The door swung wide and Noteworthy, a blue earth pony with a darker blue mane, stepped into the café. He spotted Limestone and smiled in her direction as he trotted over. Limestone made some sort of effort to smile back, but the expression ended up looking worryingly sinister.

"You must be Limestone," the stallion greeted, seating himself across from her. "Name's Noteworthy. How ya doin'?"

"Bored," Limestone deadpanned. "That's what you're here for. Entertain me."

Noteworthy blinked. "Uh... sure thing," he managed. "I'm sure once we get acquainted there'll be lots of ways for us to have a good time together. What, uh... what's a nice mare like you do in your spare time, anyway?"

Any remaining vestige of a fake smile dropped off Limestone's face. "Spare time?" she asked incredulously. "What spare time? I'm the only pony at the rock farm who keeps up with the work! We'd be out of business if I wasn't out in the fields from dawn to dusk every day."

"Well, there's certainly value in hard work," Noteworthy replied, clearly trying not to annoy Limestone further. "But I mean, everypony has interests. Even if you don't have much time for hobbies, what sorts of things do you like?"

Limestone furrowed her brow. "Rocks," she said finally. "And gems. And being in charge. And yelling at the ponies I'm in charge of."

There was a long silence. Ditzy stopped peeking over her menu and leaned her head low to the table.

"This isn't going well," she whispered.

"I'm afraid it's not," Cloudcover admitted. "But unlike most ponies in our assignments, these two just met. The odds of them hitting it off were lower than usual to begin with."

"I mean, normally, I'd agree, but I think in this case it might have a little more to do with Limestone being... well, Limestone," Ditzy mumbled.

"Tut, tut, Ditzy," Cloudcover scolded, shaking his head. "Sure, she's sporting a rather unique personality, but Dr. Candyfloss says there's somepony out there for everypony. Why, in your first year at the company alone, you helped all sorts of rather unique ponies make connections with others. There was Princess Luna, and the Great and Powerful Trixie... why, you and Watt somehow even shipped a ball of lint with a bag of flour if I recall! I hardly think a pony like Limestone is a lost cause."

Ditzy smiled. "You're right! What am I saying?" she declared. "Candyfloss picked us for this assignment, so let's see it through."

"Welp!" came Noteworthy's voice, which had been gradually growing more frantic as the two pegasi had their hushed conversation. "Looks like our time's up! Great meeting you and I'll, uh, be in touch."

The stallion practically bolted from the café. Limestone watched him go, and then turned her head toward the shippers, clearly irate.

"Well that was stupid," the mare announced. "That pony couldn't wait to get out of here. Don't you have anypony coming by who knows how to appreciate a mare like me?"

"I'm sure we do," Cloudcover said soothingly. "Perhaps, with the next one, you should try leading the conversation. Instead of waiting for them to ask you questions, try asking a few of your own. Maybe you can bring out some part of your date's personality that appeals to you. Once you can both discuss something you have in common, the mood will grow much lighter."

"If you insist," Limestone sighed, rolling her eyes.

Unfortunately, as the afternoon wore on, the blind dates failed to improve. The second pony, Lucky Clover, was rather quickly driven away by the series of rather alarming questions Limestone elected to ask him. The third, a unicorn named Pokey Pierce, fared little better. Once again, Ditzy and Cloudcover cautiously approached Limestone, who sat alone and positively seething.

"Why isn't this working!?" she shouted, pounding her forehoof on the table hard enough that everything on its surface jumped a bit. "It's like these stallions are scared of me or something! Me! Can you imagine?"

Ditzy flapped her wings nervously as she tried to choose her words with care. "Well, Limestone, you are a little... direct, with some of the things you say," she ventured. "Maybe it leaves some ponies... intimidated?"

"Who has time to be indirect?" Limestone growled. "I'm a busy mare. I've got a farm to run. I need to be getting back there soon, and you're telling me to waste time being indirect?"

A yellow and brown earth pony peered into the café. Ditzy noticed him immediately.

"Err... Limestone..."

"You know what?" Limestone barked, her tirade growing more heated. "Maybe this was a big waste of time! I thought I could be living it up with an awesome new coltfriend by now, but here we are, still sitting around like we have been all afternoon!"

"Limestone—" Cloudcover attempted.

"Maybe we could've accomplished something, but considering you two are about as dense as granite, we're right back where we started!"

She pounded a forehoof again, and finally noticed the shocked looking stallion peering into the café. "And what are you looking at!?" she roared.

The stallion made a sound like a frightened puppy and scurried out.

"Uh, Limestone," Ditzy mumbled as the furious earth pony paused to catch her breath. "That uh... that was Caramel. He is... err, was... your last blind date."

Limestone stared at the two shippers, her citrus-yellow eyes burning into them. Then she rose to her hooves, unceremoniously upended the entire table, and stormed out of the café.

The room was silent. Everypony looked at the two pegasi in confusion and alarm. Ditzy quietly passed a small bag of bits to the establishment's owner for the damage, and she and Cloudcover hurried outside. Limestone was just visible at the end of the road, resolutely making her way back toward the farm.

"Limestone, perhaps we can—" began Cloudcover as he and Ditzy quickly fluttered over to her.

"Stuff it," Limestone snapped. "I'm done. You failed. I owe you nothing. Go away."

She left without another word. Ditzy and Cloudcover landed softly on the road, giving each other an uncertain glance.

"Guess it's time to go tell Candyfloss we failed this one," Ditzy admitted finally.

"I'm afraid so," Cloudcover sighed. "It's a shame; she really is her own worst enemy. There must be somepony out there for her, but perhaps today isn't the day she finds that pony."

"Err... excuse me?"

A male voice haltingly interrupted the shippers' conversation. They turned to find Caramel standing behind them.

"That mare," Caramel said slowly. "Was she the one that I was supposed to have a blind date with?"

"Yeah," Ditzy admitted, hanging her head a bit. "Sorry she scared you. I think she was... having a rough day."

"No problem," Caramel responded. "Is she gone though? I thought I'd at least get to meet her."

"We, er, kind of figured you wouldn't want to, after what happened a moment ago," Cloudcover admitted. "That mare's mindset is a little too aggressive for something like blind dates right now, I'm afraid."

Caramel looked out at Ponyville for a moment, thinking. "Ponies around here are usually pretty friendly," he mused, "and if they aren't, there's usually a good reason. I wonder if that mare is just covering up sadness with anger."

Ditzy and Cloudcover exchanged a surprised glance. "I mean... that does happen," Ditzy admitted. "Though I'm not sure I've ever seen it quite as... what was Candyfloss's word? Quite as intense as Limestone."

Caramel shrugged. "Well... I could try talking to her, and find out," Caramel said slowly. "If you two can show me where she went, that is."

A grin spread across Ditzy's face. "We sure can!" she declared. "I guess this assignment's not quite over yet, huh Cloudcover?"

It was amazing how much things changed in the next hour. Before she knew it, Ditzy was sitting in the dully-colored kitchen at the Pie Family homestead, watching Limestone transforming before her eyes.

As soon as they'd arrived, of course, Limestone had been furious that they'd dared to show themselves again, but Caramel had approached her anyway. She'd berated and threatened him as well, but he replied with patience, and slowly, her rage ran its course and was replaced with the usual general grumpiness. Now, inside the home, even that curt attitude was starting to give way to some actual light conversation. Caramel had not only allowed, but prompted Limestone to discuss running a rock farm, which had given the self-important mare plenty to brag about.

"So that's why we have to rotate the rocks each day," Limestone finished, pointing to one of the fields out the kitchen window. "Though I'm surprised; not many ponies usually care too much how things work around here."

"Well that's a shame," said Caramel. "Sure, rocks aren't a typical hobby, but they're what you enjoy, and it's always nice to have somepony to talk to about what you love."

"Well, I have Marble," Limestone muttered, "but she's more of a listener than a talker."

Caramel nodded. "Well, I may not work on a rock farm, but I work for the Apple family, so I'm no stranger to how much work a farm can be," he explained. "And I don't have a lot of ponies to talk to about that, either. I know you're super busy, but maybe we can meet up once in a while? Seems like we both just really need a pony to talk to."

Limestone's small frown faded. It was the first time Ditzy had seen it leave her face all day.

"I mean, yeah, sure," she said. "You better not bore me though. If I'm taking time away from work to chat, they better be riveting conversations!"

Caramel chuckled. "I'll do my best," he promised. "Now, I know we've both got a lot of work to catch up on. See you... Thursday, maybe?"

Limestone thought it over. "Thursday's good," she decided. "Bring some food, would ya? We'll do lunch and chat at the same time. Two birds with one stone."

Caramel nodded. "Sounds great! Seeya then, Limestone!"

Limestone nodded silently, and Caramel showed himself out, leaving Limestone alone with the two pegasi. After a moment, she turned to them and sighed.

"Okay, fine, I get it," she snarled, as if they'd somehow been admonishing her with their stares. "Maybe you two aren't that bad at this whole shipping thing."

"Does that mean you're satisfied with the outcome?" Ditzy asked expectantly.

Limestone smirked. It looked strange; clearly the muscles used for any sort of smile weren't ones the mare used often, but it was some sort of smile nonetheless. "Yeah, I guess," she muttered. "Just take your bits and get going. I've got a whole lot of work to catch up on."

She lobbed a bag of bits in Ditzy's direction, which the pegasus caught with a wing. "Much obliged!" she chirped, "and thank you for giving Equestria Speedy Shipping Services your business."

Limestone cleared her throat as the duo turned to go. "Oh, and by the way, if you touch Holder's Boulder on the way out, there'll be hell to pay," she warned, her usual glare back in full force.

"Duly noted," Cloudcover chuckled. With a final wave, the two of them leapt into the air and began the flight home to Ponyville.

"Well, that assignment took my mind off the wedding for a while," Ditzy laughed.

"Undoubtedly," Cloudcover chuckled, clutching his beret with a forehoof to avoid losing it as they passed through an updraft. "Though now that I'm thinking about it, Ditzy, perhaps that little adventure illustrated just why you have nothing to fear when your wedding day arrives."

Ditzy cocked her head. "How do you figure?"

"Well, we both know weddings are stressful," Cloudcover admitted. "Even with a pony you've been very close to for a long time, a union of that magnitude is a big step. But our dear Limestone and Caramel just demonstrated that, whether it's something as complex as marriage or as simple as having a like-minded pony to talk to, even very different ponies can make things work when they're willing to make their partner's needs equal or greater than their own."

Ditzy thought about Caramel, who could easily have walked away, rather than reaching out to Limestone. And she thought about Breeze, and all he had done for her over the years. She smiled.

"What I'm trying to say, Ditzy my dear, is that Caramel was able to find a way to get through to Limestone by being in tune with what she needed from him," Cloudcover explained. "Once he did that, even a difficult-to-approach pony like her was able to connect with him. As for you and Breeze, each of you has made an effort to take the other's needs into account for the entire duration of your relationship. When you've encountered hardship, you've faced it together, and when times were good, you both shared the joy. As our client just demonstrated, when ponies are willing— really, sincerely willing— to do that for one another, the rest just follows naturally. You and Breeze will be just fine, you'll see."

Ditzy rubbed her misaligned eyes with a forehoof. "Thanks Cloudcover," she squeaked. "You're right. Breeze and I can do it, and in another month, we'll show all of Ponyville we can!"

"It's so cold!" Honeydew wailed.

February had arrived, and the winter weather showed no signs of abating. Bundled in their winter cloaks, Dinky and her friends waited at the train station, intending to see Clarity off as she made her way to Canterlot for her Overseer orientation.

"It has been an unusually chilly winter, at least for Ponyville," Dinky observed, crouching lower under her cloak as well.

"Well, I'm tired of it," Honeydew grumbled, visibly shivering. "As soon as Clarity leaves, I'm going right back to the cottage where it's warm."

"Just lean up against Scuffle," said Clarity casually. "He's the biggest of us. He probably has the most body heat to spare."

Honeydew turned to Scuffle, her wide green eyes peering at him questioningly. "Is that ok?"

"Yeah, it's fine," Scuffle mumbled, trying and failing to sound indifferent. Honeydew, as usual, didn't seem to notice anything odd as she quickly pressed up against Scuffle's side. After a moment's hesitation, the colt carefully put a foreleg over her back, holding her gently against him.

"Much better," Honeydew sighed, as her quivering slowed a bit.

Scuffle shot a somewhat manic glance over Honeydew's head at Clarity. The grey filly just winked at him.

"Anyway, I really can't wait to see how you do as an Overseer," Dinky commented, smiling at Clarity.

"I've got some big horseshoes to fill, for one," Clarity acknowledged. "We've had some really smart and skillful Overseers over the years. I hope I can live up to them."

"My favorite one was the colts' Overseer way back in our first year," Scuffle reminisced. "Remember Presto? What a swell guy."

Dinky giggled. "I think the fillies' Overseer from our first year was probably the most memorable one we ever had, though," she mentioned. "Sparkler was really, uh..."

Scuffle smirked. "She was kind of a bi—"

"She saved all our lives, twice," Honeydew pointed out, cutting Scuffle off. "Maybe she wasn't our friendliest Overseer, but she was a hero, undeniably. If it wasn't for her, we'd either be dead, or Scorpio would be ruling over Equestria right now."

"Or both," Clarity added.

Scuffle shrugged. "Fair point. Sparkler wasn't so bad in the end."

Dinky's ears perked up at the sound of the distant train whistle. "Looks like it's just about time to go, Clarity," she stated.

Clarity's luggage was scooped up in her cinnamon aura. "You guys have a good time while I'm gone," she told them as the train pulled into the station behind her. "I'll only be in Canterlot for two days. Don't do anything too exciting 'till I get back, okay?"

"Eh, I'm sure we won't," Scuffle remarked. "You know me, I'll just wander around town. Dewey will work on her thing with the plants. Dinks will probably manage to blow something up. The usual."

Dinky nudged Scuffle in the ribs. The colt cast her a teasing glance.

Clarity hopped aboard the train and turned around. "Bye!" she called. "See you soon!"

"So long," Dinky called, waving as the train began to pull away. With a puff of steam, it left the station and disappeared around a corner, bound for Canterlot.

"Okay, let's go back please?" Honeydew urged, trying to tug Scuffle along without leaving the warmth he was providing.

"You two go," Dinky instructed. "Pip has off work today, so I'm going to his place for a bit. Make yourselves at home at the cottage though. Help yourselves to those oatmeal cookies mom made, but Scuffle, maybe don't eat all of them this time?"

"I won't!" said Scuffle defensively. "I'll just eat eleven of 'em. Dewey can have the other one."

Now it was Honeydew's turn to nudge Scuffle in the ribs. "Be nice," she chided, giving him a wry smile.

"Yeah, yeah..." Scuffle mumbled, giving both fillies a playful grin. "Alright, me and Honeydew are gonna head back, Dinks. Seeya."

Dinky waved goodbye, and seconds later, she was cantering off in the direction of Pip's home.

Most earth ponies, growing up in a household of other earth ponies, tend to be quite startled if a unicorn teleports into their bedroom unannounced. Alas, this was Pipsqueak's plight when Dinky materialized only inches from where he was sitting.

"By Luna's mane, Dinky, don't do that!" Pip cried, shaking off the shock. "My mum would be awful cross if she caught you sneaking in here with magic."

"Your mom's at work anyway," Dinky pointed out, snickering mischievously. "And we told her I'd be visiting today, so what's the problem?"

Pip sighed. "Oi, you're a hoofful sometimes, Dinky," he laughed.

Dinky nuzzled her coltfriend. "You know I'm just fooling around, right?" she asked with a hopeful smile. "Sorry if I scared you."

"Nah," Pip assured her, waving away her comments with a forehoof. "I've known you for a long time now. I'm sure eventually I'll get used to you appearing out of thin air."

"That's good," Dinky replied. "It's like Clarity told me back when I first met her; once you get used to using magic for everyday tasks, sometimes it's hard not to."

Pipsqueak nodded as he rose from his seat and trotted over to the bed, sitting down on the edge of the mattress and beckoning to Dinky.

"Come sit over here. There's something I wanna talk about."

Dinky considered teleporting the single pony-length distance to the bed just to be funny, but she caught sight of the strangely serious look in Pip's eyes and decided against it. She trotted over and seated herself beside him.

"Is this what you wanted to talk to me about before Hearth's Warming?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yeah," Pip said levelly. "I wasn't totally sure about the details back then, so I decided to wait, but I think it's time I brought it up."

Dinky shifted her weight, slightly nervous. "Okay. I'm all ears."

"This is a pretty random question," Pipsqueak began, "but did you know Uncle Cloudcover was in the military in his younger years?"

Dinky shook her head. "Mom's never mentioned anything like that to me."

"Well, he was," Pip deadpanned. "Or 'Service to the Crown', as he always called it. He doesn't talk about it much; usually when I ask, he tells me that part of his life has passed, and he's perfectly content working as a matchmaker now."

"What's that got to do with you?" Dinky questioned.

"Well..." Pip said, trailing off for a moment. "Dinky, we're both just about grown up now, and I was talking to Uncle Cloudcover about... you know, my future," he said slowly. "And how I can use my special talent, of course."

Dinky instinctively glanced at the two-masted sailing ship on Pip's flank. He'd gotten his Cutie Mark a few years ago, during her second term at Celestia's Academy. She looked back at him with concern as she started to piece together what he was leading up to.

"And... what did you and your uncle come up with?"

Pip smiled, but his eyes betrayed some pain hidden behind the expression. "Well, Dinky... I've decided I want to join the Royal Equestrian Navy, and 'serve the crown' like Uncle Cloudcover did."

Dinky's heart sank. Even without any more discussion, she was more than aware of how big of a change this would be. She leaned against Pipsqueak, trying to keep her composure.

"But... but..."

Pip gently stroked her mane with a forehoof. "I know, I know," he said softly. "But no tears now, Dinky. It was a big change when you stopped attending school in Ponyville to study at Celestia's Academy, but we knew it was what was best for you, and we both managed to stay strong and adapt. This is the same sort of thing."

"I know," Dinky mumbled, "but ever since Twist moved to Manehattan for high school, you're my last local friend left. At least I could come home from the Academy any weekend I wanted to see you. You'll be gone for much longer with the navy."

"That may be true," Pipsqueak admitted. "But I mean, we won't really be apart now, will we? After all, we still have these."

He reached over to his bedside table and grabbed a brass pendant embedded with a half-moon shaped diamond. Dinky immediately thought of her own pendant, exactly like it, safely placed in a drawer in her room at home.

"When we go our separate ways again, we'll keep these on, just like always," Pip reassured her. "Thanks to your enchantment, you'll always feel it when I think of you, and vice versa, of course."

Dinky smiled sadly. "I... I know," she stuttered. "Let's just... spend some more time together before we have to part ways again, okay?"

"Now that I can do," Pipsqueak chuckled, wrapping Dinky in an embrace. The filly sighed and snuggled against him, and the two ponies sat together in silence that mirrored the snow-muffled stillness outside.

It was dark when Dinky arrived home. She trudged through the snow, feeling a little numb, and not just from the cold. Shuffling up to the front door, she briefly considered taking the path of least resistance and simply allowing herself to melt into smoke, seeping through the openings in the wood, and re-forming herself on the other side.

No, she thought to herself resolutely. I may be tired and sad, but there's no reason to go using my dark magic so frivolously.

With a brief flash of her normal, golden magic, the door was thrown wide, and the filly plodded inside. Ditzy, who was seated at the kitchen table poring over some of the legal paperwork surrounding her upcoming marriage, glanced up.

"Hi Dinky!"

"Hey," Dinky mumbled as she walked dejectedly past and flopped down on the couch. Unsurprisingly, she heard the sound of her mother's chair scrape against the floor, and the mare appeared at her side a moment later.

"What's wrong, muffin? Are you feeling sick?"

A part of Dinky considered denying anything was wrong, or perhaps, retreating to her room. But the sincere concern in Ditzy's gaze was enough to get her to rethink.

"Mom, can we... can we talk for a little?"

Ditzy responded by seating herself beside Dinky, draping a wing over her. Dinky, who in her fillyhood years had often used her mother's wing as something of a security blanket, had come to associate the gesture with comfort, and she managed a weak smile. Ditzy returned it with a warm one of her own.

"What's up, hon?"

Dinky sighed. "This afternoon, Pip told me something kinda big," she confessed. "He's joining the Royal Equestrian Navy, and I'm just... scared I won't get to see him anymore."

Ditzy gave a small gasp and put a forehoof to her mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry, Dinky," she said softly, looking down. "That's hard. I know what it feels like, though. After all, there was somepony I loved very much that, all of a sudden, I never got to see again."

Dinky looked up at her mother in surprise, as that topic was rarely breached. "And... how did you deal with that?" she asked finally. "I mean, about a dozen years passed between when dad died and when you met Breeze..."

Ditzy smiled sadly. "Well, I had something, or rather, somepony to remember him by," she replied, lightly poking Dinky's flank on the word 'somepony'. "But that's not important; after all, we're just talking about you being separated from Pip for a while, not losing him forever."

Dinky nodded. "Though I imagine the way to cope might be similar," she said slowly.

Ditzy beckoned the young unicorn with a forehoof. Dinky sat up and waited as her mother slowly wrapped her in a hug, using not just forelegs, but wings as well.

"All I can tell you is, if you love somepony, don't stop loving them just because something changes," she told Dinky. "Cherish the times you're together. Remember the fond memories when you're apart. Write letters when you get a chance, and use that little magic pendant of yours as often as you can. Show him you still care, no matter how long you're apart, and if he truly cares too, he'll do the same. And when you see each other next, you'll be just as close as they day you had to part."

Dinky whimpered. "Are you sure?"

"You and Pip are the only ones who can answer that," Ditzy told her. "You know how you feel about him, and how he feels about you, better than I do."

Dinky smiled fondly. "He really grew into such a great pony," she said happily. "I know when we met, it was just a mutual schoolyard crush, but as time went on, well, he just turned out to be smart and sweet and a lot wiser than you'd expect a pony his age to be."

"Sounds like he takes after his uncle on that last bit," Ditzy giggled. "Cloudcover's just about the wisest pony I know, excluding maybe Dr. Candyfloss."

The pegasus grinned. "Speaking of Cloudcover, you should hear some of the things he's told me Pip's said about you. Things like 'Dinky is more loyal to her friends than anypony I know' and 'She's a passionate, almost fearless filly.' It sounds like he really admires you just as much as you admire him."

Dinky couldn't stop herself tearing up. "I'm so glad," she managed. "I knew you'd know how to make me feel a little bit better. How do you do it, mom?"

Ditzy chuckled. "I've learned a whole lot about how these things work in the past few years," she pointed out. "If anything, thank Dr. Candyfloss for teaching me how to spot the best elements of ponies' relationships."

Dinky smiled. "Well, it seems like both our relationships are about to change in a big way, even though those ways are very different," she realized. "Let's both make sure we face whatever is coming in the best way we can."

Ditzy replied by tightening her hug.

"It's a promise."

Perhaps it wasn't surprising that the oppressive winter weather just happened to start abating halfway through February. It was still brisk, but the skies were clear, and the sunlight reflecting off the snow made things feel a bit more pleasant. That's exactly the kind of day it was when the bells in Ponyville's clock tower began to ring, signaling the event that would soon be taking place at the town hall.

It was Hearts and Hooves Day, and almost everypony in Ponyville had heard about two hearts in particular that beat for each other, and the ponies they belonged to, who were about to be wed.

Ditzy Doo shifted nervously in the big chair in front of the mirror, trying to hold still. Raindrops, a yellow pegasus who was Ditzy's closest friend from her long-gone days at Cloudsdale Mail and Freight, fluttered overhead, inserting bobby pins into the bride's mane here and there.

"Thanks again, Raindrops," Ditzy said for about the hundredth time that day. "There aren't any other mares working at Equestria Speedy Shipping Services these days. Good thing I can count on you!"

"Pssh, don't sweat it, Ditzy!" Raindrops reassured, waving a forehoof. "This is your big day! You've had a million things on your plate for a couple months; it's the least I can do to help you get ready."

Ditzy glanced at the clock. "Well that's a relief," she said. "I'd never have gotten ready in time without your help."

Raindrops finished the final few touch-ups to Ditzy's mane. "No sweat," she chirped. "So how's it look?"

Ditzy carefully stood and examined herself in the full length mirror. Her mane was done up more intricately than she'd ever seen it, and her long white dress fit perfectly and looked stunning. She slowly turned in a circle, examining herself from every angle. Finally, she nodded.

"I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

"Good, cause you've got about five minutes," Raindrops reminded her. "Go get in position. The ceremony's about to begin!"

Raindrops quickly flew out of the bride's room and took her seat out among the guests. Ditzy peered out and took in the sight around her.

Ponyville town hall was the site of many weddings, and with each one, it was transformed from a simple public meeting space into a lavishly decorated ballroom. Colorful banners hung from the railings of the wide hall's upper level, and great gold wedding bells dangled from many of the balconies. Dozens of ponies were seated in rows of chairs facing the platform at the front of the room. Although she was standing at the back, she could make out a number of unmistakable ponies seated way up in the front row.

"You look just... fantastic."

Ditzy turned her head and discovered Breeze standing beside her, looking a bit uncomfortable in his stiff tuxedo, but happy nonetheless. "Your dress, your mane, it's all gorgeous," he continued, looking at her in awe. "I'm at a loss for words..."

Ditzy blushed. "The only two words I hope you'll say to me today are 'I do', Breeze," she admitted.

Breeze grinned, running a hoof over his well-groomed mane. "Don't worry, you will," he promised.

At the other end of the aisle, Mayor Mare trotted up onto the platform to officiate the ceremony. Ditzy and Breeze snapped to attention as she began to speak.

"Good afternoon, mares and gentlecolts," the mayor began. "We've gathered here today for a joyous occasion: the union of two Ponyville residents in the sacred bond of matrimony. If our bride and groom would please approach the stage, we shall begin."

As the wedding march began to play, Ditzy gave Breeze one more hopeful smile, and the pair of pegasi made their way down the aisle, slowly and gracefully, until they stood before Mayor Mare. They turned to face the crowd that had assembled, and Ditzy took a moment to glance at those ponies closest to her, seated in the front row.

The three other employees of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services sat together, all positively beaming up at Ditzy and Breeze. Cloudcover had dutifully removed his hat, which he clutched gently against his chest. Watt was obviously making his most respectful attempt at keeping his natural jittery disposition in check enough that it wouldn't disturb the ponies sitting beside him.

Then there was Dr. Candyfloss. The old stallion wore a smartly tailored suit jacket in addition to his usual gold bow tie. Of all the ponies gathered, the joy in his silver eyes was perhaps the most apparent.

A few seats down sat Dinky, clad in a buttercup yellow dress, and Pipsqueak, Clarity, and Honeydew beside her. Dinky was almost never caught with her mane tied up in any particularly glamorous fashion, but all three of the fillies had gone the extra mile with their hairstyles for the occasion. Honeydew, Ditzy assumed, was probably the pony responsible for that.

Scuffle sat one seat to the left of Honeydew, and looked quite respectable as well; moreso than Ditzy had seen him in the few months he'd spent in Ponyville, anyway. There was a high chance Honeydew was behind that as well.

There was one thing all the ponies had in common: every one of their expressions conveyed nothing but joy for the two ponies about to be wed. Ditzy took a deep breath, focusing on keeping her composure in the emotional atmosphere. After a moment, she turned to face Breeze.

"It is always a delight when two of our fine town's citizens join together in marriage," Mayor Mare continued, smiling at both pegasi before her, "and it is even moreso when they are so loved by their neighbors that their big day draws a crowd like this. Ditzy Doo and Autumn Breeze are thankful beyond words, I'm sure, for the support of the many ponies that have come here to celebrate with them today."

A few ponies in the crowd waved or smiled, confirming their support. Looking out at them, Ditzy felt that nothing could put a damper on the radiant mood.

"Now, are the bride and groom prepared to say their vows?" Mayor Mare asked.

Ditzy opened her mouth to reply with a wholehearted "yes", but she didn't get the chance. Out of nowhere, the large door of the town hall slammed open, letting in a gust of cold air that caused a number of ponies to cry out in surprise.

A pony clad in a hooded winter cloak strode in, ending up standing in the middle of the aisle. "Stop this wedding," came a commanding female voice from beneath the hood.

Ditzy and Breeze, and most of the other ponies for that matter, were stunned into silence by the interrupting pony's audacity. Mayor Mare snorted, looking rather annoyed. "Who are you, and on what grounds would you interrupt this ceremony?" the tan mare demanded.

Slowly, the hooded pony raised a forehoof, and placed it against her chest. She grabbed a hoofful of fabric, and with one motion, flung the cloak off into the aisle behind her. Ditzy watched it fall to the carpet, and felt the flawless mood of the ceremony shatter as the pony beneath came into view.

A blue unicorn mare stood proudly in the center of the aisle now, with a silky blue-green mane and a comet and stars upon her flank. Her dark violet eyes glared at the bride and groom.

Ditzy sputtered, completely unable to find her voice. Breeze, however, took a step forward, narrowing his eyes as he addressed the intruder.

"Cosmic Glow."

"Breeze," Glow retorted with a sneer. "And Ditzy Doo. It's been quite some time."

Cosmic Glow was, quite possibly, Ditzy's least favorite pony in all of Equestria. Once a member of the staff at Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, her attitude had always been a sour one, but her hatred and envy of Ditzy after the latter's employment began led to her attempting to sabotage one of the company's most important assignments of all time, nearly ruining Ditzy's life in the process. The last time anypony had seen her was more than four years earlier, when she'd stormed out of the office for the final time after Dr. Candyfloss had responded to her betrayal with termination of her position.

She was also Breeze's vengeful ex-marefriend. So that didn't help.

"Ah, so you all know each other," said Mayor Mare curtly, adjusting her glasses. "Then what is the meaning of this interference?"

Glow smirked. "Mayor Mare, it's lucky I made it here in time," she said icily. "One of the ponies before you is a neglectful and uncaring parent. That pony shouldn't be entering into a responsibility as serious as marriage when they can't even take care of their own daughter."

Ditzy finally found her voice. "What are you talking about!?" she asked incredulously. "I have never, for even a moment, neglected my daughter."

Glow scowled. "Shut up, Ditzy," she barked. "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to him!"

He jabbed her forehoof in Breeze's direction, looking triumphant.

The hall was absolutely silent. Ditzy slowly turned her head in Breeze's direction and found the red pegasus looking just as bewildered as she was.

"Glow," said Breeze levelly, "I think you've finally lost your mind. I have no children."

"Oh don't you?" Glow asked, grinning darkly. "You never stopped to even consider the possibility that a mare you were in a relationship with in the past might have ended up carrying your child?"

"No," Breeze snapped. "Because the only pony I've ever been together with before Ditzy was you."

Glow's smirk didn't fade. Ditzy looked between Glow and Breeze with confusion. Slowly, the stern expression on Breeze's face began to turn to one of slight concern.

"Glow," he said softly. "You're not... you're not seriously implying—"

"What I'm implying, Breeze, is that many years ago, you cut ties with me rather suddenly," Glow hissed. "You dumped me from your life in one fell swoop. You didn't even have the decency to make sure that no important, life-changing events were underway before you up and disappeared to another town to get away. Events like, say, pregnancy."

There was another round of gasps from the crowd. Ditzy's jaw dropped, and she looked at Breeze frantically.

"That makes no sense," Breeze countered. "Glow, we dated just after we were in high school. That was more than twenty years ago. Our paths crossed again when we both wound up at Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, years and years later. If this mad tale you're making up was somehow true, why wouldn't you have told me the truth as soon as we were both employed there?"

"And tell my young teen, in her most emotionally vulnerable years, that her lousy father who abandoned us finally decided to show himself?" Glow laughed. "No, Breeze, it was far too late by then. That would have hurt her more than it would have helped. It was better to wait until she was an adult, equipped with the knowledge of the harsh realities of life, before bringing her neglectful father back into the picture."

"B-Breeze," Ditzy mumbled uncertainly, feeling rather faint. "Do you... do you think she's bluffing? Could you and her r-really have a filly?"

"I guess it's... technically possible," Breeze admitted finally, looking supremely nervous. "But if it's true, then where is this pony? So far, all we've heard is a big story with nothing to back it up."

Glow's arrogant smile widened and she tossed her mane as she turned her head to the open front doors. "Dear, could you come in here please?" she called. "It's time to set the record straight with your lowlife father."

There was a moment of silence, and then a pony peeked around the corner from outside. Keeping her head low like a wary animal fearing an attack, she carefully stepped into the town hall, glancing uncertainly at the gazes of all the surrounding ponies.

Ditzy thought the new pony was vaguely familiar, but certainly not anypony she knew by name or had ever spoken to. She appeared to be in her early twenties, which was certainly the right age to back up Glow's claims. She was a unicorn, like Glow, and her eyes were the same dark purple color, but her coat and mane were shades of pink and purple instead of Glow's blue.

The mare's silent march forward was interrupted by an incredulous cry from somewhere in the front row of the audience. Ditzy looked toward the sound and found Dinky standing up on her chair with her hind hooves, supporting herself with her forehooves on the back of the chair to see over the rest of the crowd. The filly locked eyes with the approaching unicorn, her mouth dangling open in shock. After a few seconds, she found her voice long enough to choke out a name.